Comments

  1. The YouTube Guy says

    <—- Adam

    I think an additional point I was half trying to get across but ended up causing confusion was, “What do I truly believe?” If I wake up worried about the rapture or fear of hell (or non-existence after death) then what do I truly believe? Since we can’t choose our beliefs, am I then a theist? Surely my mind finds some reason to think these things are plausible.

    On the Dawkins scale of belief I am around a 4.5 while Matt would probably be in the 6-7 range. 4 is the exact middle but I’ll go 4.5 since I’m willing to say I bet there isn’t a God when directly asked to answer yes or no. I do want to point out the degree to which I’m convinced there is not a God is not as strong as many atheists because I just barely fall off the fence to that side when asked to make a choice. I believe my quest and study of religions shows the truth inside me. Sadly I only mentioned Christianity but I also read and own many other holy books.

    I do also find it interesting that Matt mentioned near the end if he had to pick one religion it’d be a vague form of deism that is basically innocuous. I actually reclassified myself as more of a deist in the tradition of people like Thomas Jefferson who did a great job at making the Bible short and sweet.

    Needless to say, I appreciate the critique of my thoughts. The cancer analogy was a good one and I think there is debate about “do we really need something else?” if:

    1 – The end goal is secular humanism
    2 – The something else is called religion but is truly just set up to be secular humanism and doesn’t even have the elements required to be religion.

    P.S. I’m pretty sure the last caller called me out… then went full contradiction about how he views the Bible…

  2. Joe Mix says

    Children, even young children, are far smarter than many adults realize. They readily accept reality and can deal with the unpleasant parts pretty damn well if given the chance.

  3. superatheist says

    (D) 131 Open thread (20.19)

    I am sure that I, by trying to explain things to fast, have totally confused you. I am sorry! I also apologize that it has taken me so long to respond to your observations and criticisms!

    You wrote:

    “I’m not sure I parsed all this correctly. You seem to be making some claims as premises and reaching (closer to starting with, actually) a conclusion. I’ll try to reformulate:
    1. consciousnesses and thus ixperiencitnesses can arise out of synthetic machines
    2. one ixperiencitness can be had by multiple physical entities
    3. many machines with ixperiencitnesses will be produced in the future
    4. some of those machines will likely share a ixperiencitness with people alive today
    therefore
    those people will have consciousness after death.”

    This sounds like a incoherent combination of several very different arguments. Thanks for caring enough to try to understand the “science of superimmortality”. It is like most sciences extremely complicated because it deals with the most complicated subject of all consciousness. It is worth the effort to learn about it!

    As I see it:
    1. May or may not be true.
    2. Should be more properly stated as: under the correct physical conditions, different structures and functioning of matter can produce different consciousnesses but the same identical ixperiencitness.
    3. I have no idea what the future will be like.
    Premise #4 and the conclusion do not seem to follow from these statements.

    In a replacement of this strange combination of statements, I will try to explain the “probability argument” It seems that the probability of any particular physipath being duplicated is extremely close to zero In some cases it is zero. What it means to duplicate the physipath of an object or body exactly is to duplicate all of the the physical properties of that body exactly. Not only does each atom have to be in the same place in relation to each other atom at each moment, they have to be in the same relationship to each other at every moment of the existence of the body. Not only does the relationship have to be the same each atom has to be the same atom out of all the atoms in the universe Then the duplicate body has to be traveling through the same places at the same times. A duplicate of the original can not do this: travel through the same places at the same time made of the same matter. Let say we remove the condition that it has to travel through the same places at the same times it can then be made of the identical matter as stated above. Now we have the condition that it is possible, maybe, but the probability is enumerably small.

    The question is what are we trying to accomplish? I want to scientifically determine what are all of the physipaths that will produce a consciousness that I will experience and then compare this to the total number of physipaths that possibly can exist. In the first case it is 0 or 1 over a denominator that is an incredibly large number. If this is all there is to superimmortality then when you are dead you are never going to consciously exist again!

    I can not go into all of the all of the supporting arguments for each assumption I am making here, and now.

    Assumption 1: An extremely large number of potential physipaths will produce an identical structure and functioning of a body over time. Restated in less ambiguous terms: An extremely large number of different physipaths will produce (fazmap to) a physapath. The physapath is the structure and functioning of the body over its life time. When two different physipaths produce (fazmap to) the same structure and functioning they are called identical physapaths. Supporting evidence for this statement: nearly all experiments in general do not require them being in the same place or time and using the same matter to get as close as needed results, that can then be used as scientific evidence for a theory, as long as the change in place time or matter does not change the effecting variables.

    It does not take exactly the same matter nor the exactly same path through space and time to produce the the same structure and functioning of matter. Any path through space that does not change the structure and functioning will be acceptable. Replacement of the same functioning type of atom (or subatomic particle) with its identical functioning type from any where in the universe will be an acceptable. For example, the replacement of a hydrogen atom with another hydrogen atom from anywhere else in the universe would have produced identical structure and functioning. I will not show the math but we are reducing the denominator of this probability by a large number of zeros. But we still have a 1 divided by an extremely large number. Even now the probability of you consciously existing ever again after death is extremely small.

    Lets consider what other ways that the probability of life after death can be increased.

    Assumption 2: An extremely large amount of different structures and functionings of matter will produce an identical consciousness. Restated in less ambiguous terms: An extremely large amount of different physapaths will produce (fazmap to) one awarepath. The awarepath is the consciousness produced by a conscious body over its life time. Stated in a technological way: Identical physapaths are not necessary to produce identical awarepaths. Supporting evidence for this statement: It takes a large enough change in the structure and or functioning of the brain to produce a change in the consciousness produced by the brain. If this change in not large enough then there is no change in the consciousness or the change in consciousness does not occur immediately. We can imagine trillions of changes to the structure of the brain simply by adding or subtracting one single atom to just one synapse width. If we apply all the possible permutations of possible changes to the brain and body’s that do not change the consciousness produced, we get a very large number of very small different changes that will not effect the consciousness produced. There seems to be many different larger changes to the structure and functioning of the brain that do not seem to appear in the actual awareness that a person experiences sometimes called subconscious processing and autonomous responses.

    Assumption 3: Many different consciousnesses can have an identical ixperiencitness. Restated in less ambiguous terms: Many different awarepaths can have (fazmap to) an identical ixperiencitness (ixpepath). The ixpepath represents the change in the ixperiencitness that may occur to a body over its life time if there is a large enough change the ixperiencitness produced by the structure and functioning of a body over time. The production of identical consciousnesses is not necessary to produce consciousness that you will experience. Supporting evidence for this statement: unless a person accepts and then has supporting evidence for “moment solipsism” i.e., that you only consciously exist for a conscious moment and then there is no conscious “you” after that, you will have consciously existed for at least part of the life time of produced by your current body. During this time your body will have produced variations in your consciousness created by the changes in the structure and functioning of your brain. These changes in consciousness can be tied together by “you” having experienced (or you being) this changing consciousness.
    There is also the fact that most people could have experienced many different things other than what they did or will at any one moment of time. Each one of these awarepath divergences you would experience for at least a while, and if they then paralleled the original awarepath without becoming too different you would still have experienced them. There will be many of these types of awarepaths with your ixperiencitness in the same way that you could now experience talking a walk instead of reading this sentence.

    We now have a grouping of awarepaths that you (being much more than a singular conscious moment in time) will experience, when they are produced by the corresponding correct structures and functioning of matter. Supporting evidence of this is the theory of relativity, where spacetime is an existent whole. Spacetime does not just come into existence for the moment and then disappear it only appears to do this from our conscious moment to moment perspective.

    (Ti) represents the total number of “ixperiencitness groupings” that a universe can produce. There is at least one physapath that will produce your ixperiencitness. You know it because you are that one. There is thus one “ixperiencitness grouping” of physapaths that is yours that contains at least one member “your body’s physapath”.
    1/(Ti) represents the concept that will be on the average of at least 1 body out of (Ti) number of ixperiencitness groupings that you will experience.
    We do not know how large the number of ixperiencitness groupings are. And they are not discrete groupings. This means that ixperiencitness groupings grade into each other. There is another set of arguments for that.
    Examples of the simple equation Y = 1/(Ti) are: if there are just two ixperiencitness groupings of awarepaths then there is ½ = 50% chance that a consciousness produced by any body will belong in an ixperiencitness grouping. If there are only 100 possible potential ixperiencitness grouping in the universe then there will be 1/100 = 1% chance of belonging to your ixperiencitness grouping or any particular ixperiencitness grouping. Y is the symbol that represents the probability that a body will produce a consciousness that belongs to a consciousness that you did, are, or will experience.

    The probability that you will consciously exist as a human body is going to be the (T)otal (H)uman (b)odies that a universe or multiverse produces times Y. or T(#Hb) times Y. If a universe does not produce any conscious human bodies the probability that you will consciously exist produced by a human body will be zero.

    What increases the probability that a conscious human body will be produced is the available resources, the amount of time that these resources have to produce conscious bodies, how likely a universe will be able to produce conscious beings. We know that in this universe conscious beings can be produced. It is possible that at other places in the universe or multiverse conscious beings can not be produced. We know that this universe, or part of the this universe can produce many different ixperiencitnesses.

    I have seem an estimate of there having been 100 billion people on over the earths life time, We know that there is one person that has your ixperiencitness. There may have been more but we can not count on that so we will just plain “guess” that one out of 100 billions human bodies will produce a consciousness that has your ixperiencitness. If the earth lasts for another 5 billions years and there are an average of 10 billion people per year then dividing out we get 50 human bodies that will have the identical ixperiencitness but very likely produce different consciousnesses than you have now. This means that under these circumstances there will be 50 human bodies that will live for an average of 100 years and die. While alive they will be producing consciousnesses that you will experience but not likely from your current perspective and not likely with your current memories but in the same sorts of ways that different parts of your current life’s memories and perspective changes over time.

    If we use a time approximation, people have been around for 1 million years or so and at least one body has produced a consciousness that you experience. If we get one consciousness that has your ixperiencitness per million years then in 5 billion years there could be 5000 different human bodies producing your ixperiencitness.

    How through technology can we increase this number of bodies that produce the same ixperiencitness? We might be able to limit the amount of ixperiencitnesses produced to only human ones that have been produced or are currently being produced but his requires knowledge about what ixperiencitness that have been or are being produced. This is more difficult than just randomly producing consciousnesses by creating human brains and then controlling their sensual input and environment.

    Since the body is not the producer of consciousness or ixperiencitness but the brain is, it imaginable that we could produce “brains in a vat” so to speak that are maintained by machines and stimulated by complex computers to produce many different types of realities in much more efficient compact and controlled ways than humans with bodies can. Some times this is called an experience machine. I call it an awarepath producer or awarepaducer for shortened term. A brain does not have to move like a body. It uses much less energy than a whole body. They can be compacted into small spaces. The complex realities produced by the computer like devices can duplicate external sensual information for many brains at the same time simplifying the need for processing power. Each brain can be further connected to other brains creating realistic interactions between conscious beings. We might actually be in such a situation now. If each brain took up 125 square feet of space then you could have 1 billion awarepaths produced in each cubic mile of space. There are nearly 200 billion sq miles of earth surface. If each square mile is covered 1 mile deep with these awarepaducers each producing 1 billion awarepaths per cubic mile, when we divide by the number of different ixperiencitness like the above guess (100 billion) we get 2 billions versions of each ixperiencitness produced at the same time. There could still be 10 billion people with bodies running on and under these awarepaducers.
    All of these awarepaducers could be out in space using the sun as an energy source and the planets and their moons as the needed matter. The computer like controlling and stimulating device processors could be superconductive using even less energy because they are in outer space. Many more awarepaducers could circle the sun than can exist on earth. Then this technology could spread out to endless amount of stars. It is likely that we can make conscious electronic devices by producing the same kind of structure and functioning that exists in the brain. They may or may not be able to produce the same ixperiencitnesses that human brains can. We may not know for sure until we try.

    Some stars, red dwarfs, can continue to produce light energy for trillions of years, where awarepaducer could exist around these stars, producing awarepaths for trillions of years By feeding blacks hole controlled amounts of matter they can continue to produce energy beyond trillions of years into the future.

    Speculation is the foundation of the advancement of science, mathematics, technology and creative thinking. It is when we stop asking What if …..? that we become dogmatic in our thinking. What if gods do not exist? What if superimmortality is true? There is no woo woo in this theory. It is all based on the fact that the structure and functioning of matter over time produces consciousness.

  4. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Good show!

    Adam – Wanting to believe and believing are different(I’m sure you know this), when you don’t believe in god you fit the definition of an atheist. All I’m seeing is unnecessary stuff here. Religion is only a need because those people that need it are convinced that it’s a need. I’ll be keeping the “You gotta stop with the what ifs” in my back pocket.

    Joe – We want verification, evidence and proof to bolster our beliefs. Religion nor god is exempt from that. It’s a skeptical thing for most.

    I love the ending on family and exclusion, that’s always nice to see.

    Justin – Muslims, Hindus and the like wish they could get the Christian exposure. The “condemnation” stems from Christians being bothered with enforcement of separation of church and state. Sketchy passages aren’t prophecies. Natural disasters occur all the time at varying frequencies as well.

    The bible containing some truth does not equal to the next claim/s being true, they’d also need to be investigated and confirmed.

    Psychiology? That’s news to me.

    Frank – I share the same stance as Jen & Matt as in I generally agree.

    Poor Jeff’s call.

    Bob – Pascal’s Major is one of the worst choice of subject I’ve ever seen, I would’ve dropped it so fast in college. True Theist™? This call was a giant “Wottice?”

    Verizon is gonna sue the show soon with all the “Can you hear me now?™”

  5. Kaesgo says

    Growing up, I dealt with a lot of death in my life. First, my grandmother on my father’s side passed away, I don’t remember that very well, but I have a few hazy memories of her giving me gum whenever we would visit her. Second came the woman I called my Granny. She was only related to us by marriage, but my parents and family were all that she had left. She lived with my parents, brother, and I as far back as I can remember. I would always watch game shows with her, and could always be found in her room. When she died, it really hit me hard. I remember my mother (who is very religious) telling me that death was just a natural part of life, and that though it may be sad that she’s not with us anymore, we should remember her life and the joy that she brought to us while she was with us. Those words helped me cope with the thought of her not being there with me anymore, though I would still cry from time to time. A few years later, my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away, another important figure in my life. A couple of months after that, my grandfather passed away, for he had lost the will to live without the woman he loved being by his side. His death had impacted me more so than any other. He had probably influenced me more than anyone in my life at that point in time. He was a man of many talents, loved the arts, and loved science. He could speak multiple languages, could play the piano, organ, accordion, guitar, violin, and many other instruments. He could paint beautifully, and could write just as beautifully. He had a cat that would only let him, and myself pet it. The cat would hiss when anyone, other than myself, got close to him. What he told me about death stuck with me, and made me not afraid of it, but to think of it as something that is beautiful. He said even the stars must fade out eventually, but we should not be sad when they do, for they helped light the sky, and showed us which paths to follow. We should thank them for their help on our journey we call life. I may not have many days left, but you will have a lifetime full of experiences. It is how you take these experiences, and what you do with them, that will be remembered even long after you, too are gone. Death is not something to be afraid of. It is only the opposite of what we have on earth. Just like you do not remember what happened before you had life, you will not know what happens after your life has gone. All you can do is share your experience with those who you choose to share it with. Think about this, and you should be alright. In his will, which he had written a month before he passed, he had written that he specifically wanted me to carry his casket, and his body, to its final resting place next to his beautiful wife. I mourned him, cried about him, but remembered what he had told me.

  6. Chikoppi says

    @superatheist

    (D) 131 Open thread (20.19)

    Bad form. If you’re responding to a comment in thread 20.19 then post your response there. This thread is for discussion of this show.

  7. says

    psychiology = the same great psychic woo you’ve always loved, all in a great new “sciencey” package! now only $19.99! all lines are open so believe now!

  8. philhoenig says

    Jen, my cat, who I took with me as a kitten when I first moved out of home and was a constant companion for 16 years since, was in the same position that one of yours was – so sick she wasn’t eating and slowly starving to death. In the end there was nothing else that could be done but to have her put down a few months ago, so I share your pain.

    For those who haven’t done it yet, I’d suggest reading Terry Pratchett’s work. His portrayal of Death from about the fourth book* onwards is of a being showing and worthy of a great deal of sympathy, going beyond the usual idea of Death as an implacable villain or even The Ultimate Doctor Who Takes Away All Pain. Most of his works would go over the head of a younger audience, but a few are specifically for younger readers.

    I suspect psychiology is a malapropism for “parapsychology”, the so-called study of psychic phenomena.

    * Appropriately enough, called Mort.

  9. adamah says

    Chikoppi said:

    Bad form. If you’re responding to a comment in thread 20.19 then post your response there. This thread is for discussion of this show.

    Yeah, I agree.

    Although the show started with Jenn discussing death (BTW, it was touching and humanizing to see Jenn become emotional when telling of her son’s first-hand encounter with death: atheists are people, too), SA seemingly uses any pretense to shove his ‘superimmortality hypothesis’ (use the proper term, SA: it’s not a ‘theory’) down our throats.

    He’s as shameless and lacking in self-awareness as a JW in-law of mine who looks for any pretense as an excuse to rant about ‘how bad things are getting in these last days of this evil system of things’.

    Even other JW family members roll their eyes when she starts in with her rant, since at least they possess sufficient self-awareness to not beat a dead horse at every opportunity (e.g. family social gatherings).

    Anyway, great show, Matt and Jenn.

  10. Vivec says

    @8
    That part in Mort with the kittens in a bag always gets me.

    Death has to reap some drowned kittens and is all “I get very angry sometimes. You see the worst of people in my line of work.”

  11. ironchops says

    Is the term “Secular-Humanism/Humanist redundant? The dictionary definition humanism includes language rejecting religion.
    I have learned to comfort myself about dying, since turning away for the idea of any afterlife, by reasoning that I didn’t feel pain or suffer before I was born and I assume it will be the same after I die since I have no evidence on the contrary. I will continue to incorporate the second half of the golden rule just in case and I hope that if a god does exist and that if this god does love me like it says it does then that will be close enough, that with not knowing better and all. The end of life sucks.

  12. says

    @ superatheist
    I’ve responded to you here. It would be considerate to not further clutter up other threads.

    @ the show
    Matt’s coin example made me cringe a little. Unless you start with the premise that the coin is normal (50/50 head/tails), having 9 flips turn up heads with no other information should lead one to expect a 10th flip to also turn up heads. A very minor nitpick for a great show. Its nice to hear people actually willing to think introspectively.

  13. corwyn says

    @EL
    “Matt’s coin example made me cringe a little. Unless you start with the premise that the coin is normal (50/50 head/tails), having 9 flips turn up heads with no other information should lead one to expect a 10th flip to also turn up heads.”

    Isn’t your prior that coins are (roughly) 50/50 and have a discernible heads and tails? The vast majority of coins that I have ever seen fall into that category.

    Thank you kindly.

  14. Marcel says

    @corwyn (#13) and D (#12)
    That would be the prior we would normally go in with. I think D’s point, is that getting 9 heads would cause us to reevaluate that prior, and suspect we have a trick coin. At that stage we couldn’t determine if we had a normal coin or a trick coin, without further information or further investigation.

  15. says

    Regarding the “Free lottery ticket” for Pascal’s Wager… there is no “free”. In order to believe something without evidence, you must necessarily sacrifice your skepticism.

    Skepticism is like being “in shape”… you’re constantly honing and exercising and trying to stay in the habit. In order to believe without evidence, you have to become the intellectual equivalent of a couch potato.

    This is a loss. It doesn’t just affect that one thing you decided to believe. It’s going to affect your claim-analysis and decision processes elsewhere in your life.

  16. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To corwyn:
    What? I have not (yet) posted in this thread. I did not call into the show. I don’t know what’s going on. Why are you addressing me?

  17. corwyn says

    @16 EL:
    Because I am an idiot. Sorry.

    @14 Marcel:
    Nope, D wrote: “Unless you start with the premise that the coin is normal”
    We should, of course, know what our current probability that the coin is fair is, given 9 heads in a row (absent information about the tosser). But, we all, I suspect, start with the prior that the coin is fair, so don’t need to make (or fail to make) a specific presumption.

    Thank you kindly.

  18. Monocle Smile says

    @Jasper
    I’m trying to extract a “do you even lift” one-liner from your post. It’s in there somewhere.

  19. says

    re: coin flipping
    Matt was using coin flipping as a metaphor for judging the probable accuracy of predictions/prophecy based on a track record. I don’t really agree with the point he was making (though I’d have to go back and rewatch to be certain). My reference to a premise was for the judgement of the 10th yet to be flip, not for a general prior, in a case where a coin had come up heads 9 times and nothing else was known (or provided to be known). In such cases, it is reasonable to expect the 10th flip to come up heads as well, though not necessarily with strong confidence.

  20. Russell Maxam Jr says

    Sorry for this long text first off but I have a lot to get off my chest Matt!! I am definitely a non believer after many many years of trying to get into a religion since I was a young child and the BS that I was fed and the responses to questions that I asked of the senior pastors and elders. I have been listening to your past podcasts for about a month now and I have one question for you before I begin my long, useless, waste of time story of my chase for a religion! How in the hell can you stand having the same argument over and over again with these brainless sheep who have no damn clue who they are following and why they are following him? I would have already either killed someone or been in a funny farm by now. You constantly shut these sheep down with the one question that none of them can answer ” Why do you believe?” They believe because they are followers who need something to give them an excuse for bad stuff that happens in this world. So on with my journey.. I was young and hungry to find some kind of answers to the questions that I had about the world and how we got here. The first church I went to was a Christian church, not a real big one just a “normal” church. My sister and I started going to Sunday School and I immediately started to see that these people were teaching us some crazy stuff but me still being young I would just take it all in and unleash it to my parents when I got home. Well some of the things that they taught us was that anyone who does drugs, has long hair and is a male, who swears, is evil and is going to hell. Well needless to say I went home that day and went straight to my bedroom and started crying. My Mother came in and saw this and asked me what was the matter and I told her that I learned in Sunday school today that Dad is going to burn in Hell because he smokes weed, he swears, and his hair is long so he is trying to mimic Jesus!! My Mother told me not to believe everything that I hear just listen to the good things but for some reason there were not too many good things that they were teaching it seemed. Another instance was that my sister and I had designated cups for drinks so we wouldn’t overload the sink with dishes well one day the teacher was teaching about colors for some reason and she was telling us that red was the color of the Devil this is how she was explaining how Santa Clause was actually the Devil. They showed us how if you take the “n” and put it in the back of the name that it spelled Satan and that he wore a red suit because red is the color of the Devil. Well you can see where this is going, needless to say my designated cup was red and when I got home I through a fit and made my Mother throw my cup in the trash and get me a different color cup to drink out of. Well the straw that broke the camels back was one Sunday for some strange reason they talked about Elvis Presley and how he was a Devil worshiper and how they found the Devils Bible next to him in the toilet that he died on. Well my Mother loves her some Elvis so when I came home and told her that mess that was the end she took my sister and I out of that church so quick.
    Ok so a few months went by and a friend of mine was talking about this Baptist church that he was attending and said that I should come so I asked my parents if I could go and they said yes. I started going to this church and the silly stories started again. They started telling us about Adam and Eve and how they were the only two humans on earth and that they populated the whole world? Even as young as I was I didn’t believe that was possible. Then they told us that the reason why the Dog is mans best friend is because it is God spelled backwards! Well it didn’t take too long until one of the male Sunday school teachers ended up getting caught molesting a little girl that was in his class and my parents quickly took us out. I couldn’t believe how many people stood behind this monster and made excuses for him and called the poor little girl and the child that caught them a liar.
    So now I was losing faith at a rapid pace by now so I just stopped going to church until I had my graduation from Elementary School to Middle School at this semi mega church and afterwards they handed out flyers to come to church the next Sunday and they were having a bar b que so I went. Everyone was real nice and I felt at home. I was old enough now that I didn’t go to Sunday School I could go to real church the whole time. So I started hearing the stories of Adam and Eve again, Noah’s Arc, David and Goliath, and Joana and the Whale! Only this time I was older and not as shy as I used to be so I started to ask questions and I didn’t know it but it was the begging of the end of my time at this church but this time I was going to get kicked out instead of me leaving. So one day I asked one of the pastors, if insest is wrong according to the Bible and we all came from Adam and Eve then the only possible way that they could populate the world would be through insest right??? He just told me that the Bible is the truth and I need to just read it and not question its contents, just believe. So I then asked him, when God flooded the world and the only survivors were Noah, his family, and a whole bunch of animals number one how did he catch 2 of each animal to put in the Arc and once again we have 2 people left on the earth to re populate it because God killed everyone. How is this possible?? I got the answer that I need to be spoon fed the Bible that I just have to truly believe and Jesus will show me the way! Well I never had any of my prayers answered and never had anyone come down and talk to me. My parents would give me 50cent to put in the offering basket every Sunday. I have no clue how they knew this but one day I was called to the Pastors office after church one Sunday. He asked me to sit and asked me if I knew about Tithes? I told him no and he told me the story about giving God 10% of our wages. I told him that I didn’t have a job yet so I have no wages. He then went on to tell me that the poorest people are usually the ones who give more at offering and that I needed to talk to my parents about giving more. Well I talked to them and they kept giving me the same 50cent. So the straw that broke the camels back this time was one day I was sitting in class at my school and I get called to go to the principals office, I went and the principal gave me a classroom number and told me that the teacher there wanted to see me. Mind you I was in my first year of Middle School. I knocked on the teachers door and one of his students opened it and let me in. It was an 8th grade classroom so I am already embarrassed to be in front of the class. When I was able to look up from the floor I saw the teacher was one of the teachers at the church I was attending, this dude tells me that if I don’t start dressing a little more presentable at church that I was not going to be allowed to attend the church any longer, he then pulled out a grocery bag full of his old shirts and slacks and tried to hand them to me. Oh man it took everything that I had in me not to curse this dude out but I politely said that if I have to dress a certain way in order to learn about Jesus then I would learn about him somewhere else and I walked out as everyone in his class was laughing at me.
    I didn’t plan on attending any church after that embarrassing episode but one day some missionaries came to my door and asked if they could speak to me about the Book of Morman? I asked my parents and they said it was fine. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of the Laterday Saints and started praying to some dude named Joseph Smith and Jesus at the same time. I was actually baptized in the church for the first time. I had long hair at the time and they asked me if I would be willing to trim it short so I did and got in a whole lot of trouble with my Father but I figured it was worth it. Well one day I opened my big mouth to one of my elders and asked a question once again. I asked him why there were no black people at the church? He looked at me for a minuet and told me that black people are considered to be the Devil according to their religion and although they could attend the church they can never hold any kind of “position” at the church. Well since a vast majority of my friends were either Hispanic or black there was no way that I was going to consider them all the Devil so I stopped going. I never went back to church and started just reading the Bible on my own which was pretty hard because I still had a young mind and with every chapter I read I was getting more and more confused about what I should believe and what was right and what was wrong. I don’t remember too much about the Bible and I actually didn’t read too much of it because there is so much hatred in the Old Testament it’s not even funny. The so called beloved God that I am supposed to worship is out here ordering whole villages to be burned down and everyone raped and killed. He has a man take his son to a mountain top to sacrifice him to show his love for him then just say I was just messing with you haha! Really did that poor kid think that shit was funny? That guy that let the Angels have sex with his daughters to spare himself. Let’s not forget the part of the Bible where this beloved God sends his Angels down to earth to rape women so they can produce demigods!! One of my other questions is how in the hell do we have no hard evidence of ANY of these fables from the Bible since they were such significant and miraculous people! I mean people these days find a napkin that an actor wiped his mouth on and they are ready to put that shit in a museum but yet we don’t even have as much as a pair of Jesus sandals or a tool he may have used when he was doing his carpentry? I mean the cross that he was crucified on, holy shit you know how much you would be able to get for that on EBay??? For real though this guy is going around healing the sick, turning water into wine, walking on water, bringing people back from the dead, you would think that as many people who followed him someone would have something of his to prove his existence. Yet we have so much evidence of life before the Bible was even thought of. We have proof of dinosaurs existing way before the earth was supposedly created. We have drawings on caves walls from cavemen before the Bible was written.
    This was my last attempt at faith. I met my fiancé on a ship that we were both working on. We hit it off and I was in the middle of getting a divorce so we got together. I decided that I would move to Virginia since that’s where her family lived. Her Mother was a diehard Christian, the type that would pay her tithes before she paid her light bill. To make a long boring story short she was attending this church since she was a little girl and she remembered when it only had like 20 members and now it was this mega church where the pastor was on Fox every Sunday morning, he had his own school and bookstore where he sold all of his DVDs of his sermons, had the Jaguar parked out front the whole 9 he wasn’t even trying to hide it. Me being the good boyfriend I was I told her that I would attend the church with her since she loved it so much. I got a really bad taste in my mouth the very first day I went. I walked in the door and I was handed 2 envelopes. When I sat down I looked at them and one was for offering and one was labeled “love offering” I asked my girl what the deal was with the love offering and she said that it was money that supposedly goes straight to the Pastor and that the offering goes to the church to keep the lights on. I was like yeah to keep the lights on and to pay for air time and these 10,000 dollar cameras. So I just stuck with it for her until one day I got a letter in the mail from the church. I opened it and I kid you not it was a membership letter telling me the 3 different levels of membership that I could be in at the church. Depending on how much I paid every month depended on how high my status was with the church. I was pissed I showed it to her and she was confused, she said that she never received one of those. Needless to say that was the final attempt that I made in trying to believe. The Bible is nothing but a way for people to be controlled back in the days. Just like some parents put the fear of the boogie man in their kids to get them to act right someone came up with this God, Devil, Heaven, Hell concept to scare people into acting the way they wanted them to act and it has been working for the most part. The only thing is that these days only weak minded people believe in that BS. They just like the company and the drama of being able to think that they are better because they believe in their fake God who is protecting them and thinking that they are going to their fake home in the sky! Sheep is what they are! I have seen so many people get sick and even die horrible deaths who were more religious then any Pastor I seen. My Mother in law who was one of the most religious people I had ever met suffered for almost a month with bone cancer before she finally passed. Everyday she was in pain so much that morphine barely helped. If God was real and so powerful she of all people should have had an easy death but yet you have my Uncle who was a drunk everyday of his life since I knew him and he dies in his sleep of kidney and liver failure?? Explain that to me!! Well I am done Matt I am not sure if you will take the time to read this long ass text but I had to get this off my chest to someone who feels the same way that I do! Your show is great man keep it up!!

  21. superatheist says

    Russell Maxam Jr (21)

    Thank you for making me feel less guilty about my long post.(#3) I read all of your post. I feel very lucky that I have only had to experience sunday school once and church never. This is a definite advantage to having non religious parents and grandparents. To avoid the suffering that religions produce we need tools that exceed what atheists currently have and use now to convince theists that they are very likely wrong. You never mentioned a belief in life after death as a reason to believe in religions. Was this ever a concern for you or a reason for you being religious? What is your current belief about life after death. I am a scientist atheist, humanist, I gain no enjoyment from seeing animals or people suffer. I believe that through science and technology we can make life for all of us better. I see religions as being anti-science, anti-knowledge, dogmatic, and very detrimental for mankind’s long term survival. How I am different from most atheists is I believe in superimmortality thus superatheism making me a superatheist. I do not believe that I am super, I just like to learn and think about ideas. I test out ideas here in support of superimmortality to see if any one can understand them. Sometimes they come up with some very interesting ideas. but frequently they just get upset.
    You wondered why Matt and the rest of the crew keeps going around and around with religious people with their same stupid reasons to believe in religions it’s because they care! Most people do not realize that they have been peer pressured into believing in a religion with no good reasons. The foundation of most religions is the fear of death. Atheism takes away much of that fear by predicting that we are not aware of being dead. Religions like to add to the fear of death by including hell, devils, demons, endless suffering of every imaginable kind. Superimmortality gives atheists a very positive extra tool in the fight against the negative aspects of religions.

    Thanks for your post! Good Luck!

  22. Russell Maxam Jr says

    Sorry this was my first time on Matts website so forgive me if I put this comment in the wrong place!! I read some previous posts where some people were upset that people were not talking about the topic Jenn was talking about. I guess by reading the messages it was about life after death! Also to answer your question Superatheiest no I don’t believe in life after death once again because I have never experienced it and have not seen any hard evidence with my own eyes so I don’t believe in life after death. It’s funny because when me and my 2 sisters were younger we actually made a pact that whoever died first would try their best to come back and let the other two know that it is real. Well my older sister passed of a heart attack at a very young age and she never came back to visit either one of us! Well actually my little sister is a little “off” so she claims to see spirits all the time but it could be the 20 medications she takes lol! I don’t know what “grade” of an Atheiest that I am I just know for a fact that I don’t believe in anything that I can’t either hold evidence of it in my hands or see evidence of it for myself. As far as animals suffering, it depends on why they are suffering! I am not one of those types of people who go to slaghter houses and protest on how they kill the cows and other animals that we eat for food. Some people take it to an extreme and just like this incident that just happened with the boy and the gorilla where people are saying that the zookeepers were wrong for killing the gorilla I believe that they had to do what they had to do to protect the kid. It does suck that the lady wasn’t paying close enough attention to her child and it cost the gorilla its life but at the end of the day I would never think that it is right to sacrifice a human life for an animal. I apologize again I will follow the right protocol next time LOL!!

  23. RationalismRules says

    I don’t think I agree with Matt’s argument at 46:02. He says:
    “If the god wants a relationship with everybody, and is capable of having a relationship with everybody, and does not have a relationship with everybody, then he doesn’t exist”

    It seems to me this ignores the “free will” factor.
    I might want my children to not smoke. I could force them to not smoke, by keeping track of them 24 hours a day (not practical, of course, but it’s a thought experiment, so go with it). I’d rather they make the non-smoking choice for themselves, so I give them all the information as to why it’s a poor choice, offer support against peer pressure, and then let them make the choice for themselves.

    You can want something, and have the power to make it happen, but choose not to exercise that power.
    Am I missing something?

  24. Monocle Smile says

    @RationalismRules
    Yes, you’re missing something. A few things, actually.
    Firstly, if this is a supposedly omniscient god, then free will does not exist. Omniscience necessitates hard determinism.
    The other thing you’re missing:

    so I give them all the information as to why it’s a poor choice, offer support against peer pressure, and then let them make the choice for themselves

    When it comes to gods, this has evidently not happened for anybody…ever. Furthermore, this isn’t about making anyone make a choice. If god shows up and says “hi, I’m god, I would like to talk to you about your life,” then a relationship is already established regardless of whether or not he is ignored.

  25. corwyn says

    @20 D:
    “My reference to a premise was for the judgement of the 10th yet to be flip, not for a general prior, in a case where a coin had come up heads 9 times and nothing else was known (or provided to be known). In such cases, it is reasonable to expect the 10th flip to come up heads as well, though not necessarily with strong confidence.”

    I don’t know how you can do the probability calculation without starting with a prior (premise). But, I get the impression that you didn’t actually do the probability calculation; you should. Look up Baye’s Theorem. Then you will know exactly how strong that confidence should be.

  26. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Russell Maxam Jr #21:

    only weak minded people believe in that BS. They just like the company and the drama of being able to think that they are better

    Congratulations on answering the easiest question in the universe.
    What took you so long, sheep. *
     
    Disappointment and frustration are understandable, and many atheists write WoT rants in the early years after discovering religion for what it is. There probably is no word to articulate the abhorrence for something so blithely wrong, dishonest, dehumanizing, and cyclically abusive. Thing is: naked contempt does not fix the situation. You’re stuck sharing a planet with people like that. Your estimation of humanity, in this era, was miscalibrated. These are YOUR problems to address.
     
    One coping strategy is to develop a taste for absurd entertainment and study religions: history, mythology, exploited psych/fallacies/biases. You’re unlikely to correct any given person, no matter how perfect your argument. However, you CAN make an impression and reinforce it over time. (What impression that is, is up to you.) In any case, they’re still people, many with misgivings yet still attending churches, just like you were.
     
     
    * Apologies for the rude first impression. I was mirroring you. Atheists are welcome here, obviously. As are theists.
     
     
    P.S. Don’t engage superatheist. He’s been stringing people along for at least three threads.

  27. Russell Maxam Jr says

    I get it but my problem with religion today is that I have yet to have an Atheiest come up to me telling me why I shouldn’t believe. I have had sooo many Religious people come up to me and try shoving their religion down my throat to the point that the only way to get them to shut up is to be rude!! They try so hard to get people to believe their stories and come to their church that they will take whatever attitude that they get from someone and just deal with it and keep on talking. I can tell who these people are and as soon as I see them coming up to me I try to walk the other way to not have any confrontation with them because it always ends badly and it is a total waste of an hour of my life sometimes. On Friday 3 people came up to my wife and I and asked us if we knew about the God Mother and I said no I am a nonbeliever and she just kept on talking about how the God Mother is going to come to earth with Jesus when he comes back to earth! I was like please lady this is just yet another part of religion that you guys are just making up, when does it stop!! I welcome all comments that’s why I joined this page and told everyone my story of how I became a non believer. There is no way that I will ever be a believer because there are too many unanswered questions and the simple math does not add up. A lot of these people talk way over my head about theory and stuff like that but I am simple as I can be, if I can’t hold it or see it with my own eyes then I don’t believe it. I believe none of what I hear and only half of what I see lol!!

  28. says

    @corwyn
    We’re not connecting. I’m making a distinction between a general prior about coins and the specific scenario that was used as a metaphor.

  29. RationalismRules says

    @MS #26

    Omniscience necessitates hard determinism.

    …as in, the ability to know everything including the future requires that the future be pre-determined, am I understanding this correctly?
    OK, so here’s an idea that was put to me recently, which I was intrigued by, not having encountered it previously. Why would we consider the future as something concrete, and therefore ‘knowable’? Isn’t ‘future’ just a concept, rather than something actual?
    If it’s just conceptual, omniscience wouldn’t require knowledge of it (other than understanding the concept, of course).
    I don’t have the philosophical chops to fully get to grips with this one, but it makes some instinctual sense to me. Happy to be shown where the holes are…

    Me:so I give them all the information…
    You: When it comes to gods, this has evidently not happened for anybody…ever.

    Agreed, if I did that I would have done a much better job than any god appears to have done. So you could argue that any god who wants a relationship but doesn’t have one (etc. etc.) must be imperfect. Could be one of the Roman gods, they were all pretty flawed. 🙂

  30. Chikoppi says

    @RationalismRules #31

    The omniscience is usually pared with omnipotence. If God knows everything perfectly then God must know what comes next, and after that, and so on. To declare the future is unknown to God would mean either that God does not know everything perfectly or that God is subjected to (thwarted by) complexity or randomness.

  31. corwyn says

    @30:
    ” I’m making a distinction between a general prior about coins and the specific scenario that was used as a metaphor.”

    And you adjusted from the obvious prior to your new one with what evidence at what likelihood ratio?

    ***

    We can start with our initial premise for all coins (that they are fair within a few percent, and have recognizable heads and tails on the obverse and reverse). From there we can take the 9 flips of the coin with all heads as evidence that the coin is NOT fair. The calculation for that is Bayes’s Theorem, and will give us an exact answer (given our confidence in our prior). Or we can use the fact that the coin is being used in the demonstration, as evidence that it is less likely to be a fair coin, and adjust our prior appropriately, and *then* adjust that probability when we see the 9 heads in a row. The calculation for that is also Bayes’s Theorem, and will again give us an exact answer (given our revised prior).

    Which of those are you doing?

  32. corwyn says

    @31:
    “Why would we consider the future as something concrete, and therefore ‘knowable’? Isn’t ‘future’ just a concept, rather than something actual?”

    It doesn’t need to be something actual. Is it predictable from the functioning of the laws of physics, and complete knowledge of the current configuration of the Universe? If so, it is determined.

    However, theists seem to want to hide their god outside of spacetime, which does make it actual.

  33. Russell Maxam Jr says

    Man both of you sound smart as hell but is it really that complicated to know that there is no such thing as a God and that the Bible is nothing more then a big story book to scare people into believing? I feel dumb right now because I have no clue what you guys are talking about lol! I mean there’s more proof of Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster then there is of God!! I mean they may be fake but at least we have pictures of them lol!

  34. steve73 says

    Great show! There were several really good calls too. I especially enjoyed Joe from Atlanta. He seemed genuine and open minded. Jen’s story about the pet dying in her son’s arms was tugged at my heart strings a bit. I can’t imagine being in that situation. Thank you for sharing the story with us.

  35. RationalismRules says

    @Chikoppi #32

    If God knows everything perfectly then God must know what comes next, and after that, and so on. To declare the future is unknown to God would mean either that God does not know everything perfectly or that God is subjected to (thwarted by) complexity or randomness.

    I’m not sure that this gets past the idea of future as purely an abstract concept. Isn’t this still treating the future as something ‘real’ and therefore knowable?
    However… see below*

    @ Corwyn #34

    It doesn’t need to be something actual. Is it predictable from the functioning of the laws of physics, and complete knowledge of the current configuration of the Universe? If so, it is determined.

    ‘Predictable’ doesn’t imply ‘determined’ – predictions can be wrong. Also, it becomes much less predictable when you add agency into the mix.
    However, read on… *

    *I’ve realized that the argument is moot, because I finally thought to go to the ‘source’, and sure enough there is at least one bible verse that specifically refers to knowledge of the future:
    Psalm 139:16 “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” seems a clear reference to foreknowledge of the future.

    Anyhoo, even though it’s irrelevant to the Xtian god, I still find it an interesting (but highly elusive) idea to grapple with. Thanks for your input (even though I argued with it!).

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    ‘Predictable’ doesn’t imply ‘determined’ – predictions can be wrong. Also, it becomes much less predictable when you add agency into the mix.

    But “can be predicted with perfect accuracy and precision” does imply determinism, because that is the definition of “determinism”! Please see Laplace’s demon.

    Also, “agency” doesn’t come into it. Libertarian free will does not exist. Further, it is an incoherent and illogical concept. Any free will that there exist, is the free will of compatibilism, aka the kind of free will that is compatible with a deterministic world, including deterministic human behavior. For further reading, I suggest the work of Dan Dennett.

  37. Monocle Smile says

    @RationalismRules
    EL is correct. I was also going to reference LaPlace’s demon, but this time it’s EL’s turn to ninja me 😛

  38. RationalismRules says

    @EL #38

    But “can be predicted with perfect accuracy and precision” does imply determinism, because that is the definition of “determinism”

    Any free will that there exist, is the free will of compatibilism, aka the kind of free will that is compatible with a deterministic world, including deterministic human behavior.

    How can any notion of free will be compatible with that definition of determinism?
    Dennett specifically rejects the idea of ‘inevitable future’. How would it be possible to predict future events “with perfect accuracy and precision” unless they were inevitable?

  39. corwyn says

    @40:

    How can any notion of free will be compatible with that definition of determinism?

    Define ‘free will’, and then we can discuss it. Seriously, it isn’t a well-defined concept. Better yet develop a prediction that is only possible if we have ‘free will’.

  40. ironchops says

    Simple Definition of free will from Merriam-Webster :
    1: the ability to choose how to act.
    2: the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God.

    Simple Definition of determinism from Merriam-Webster:
    1: the belief that all events are caused by things that happened before them and that people have no real ability to make choices or control what happens.

  41. corwyn says

    @42:

    Uh-huh. Does a chess program have free will? It is choosing how to act, is it not? If not, what’s the difference?

  42. says

    I love the show a lot. Matt, I really enjoy watching you debate and your content. But about this thing with PaulsEgo. You are wrong , just admit it. You know that you and your wife were just incorrect on the issue.

  43. RationalismRules says

    @corwyn #41
    Actually I was asking the question whether you know of any definition of free will that would be compatible with that definition of determinism. The reason I ask is because it seems to me that “can be predicted with perfect accuracy and precision” excludes any possible notion of free will, unless your definition of free will implies no freedom and no will.
    In which case, why bother saying “any free will that exists has to be compatible with determinism”. Why not just say “there is no free will” and be done with it?

    Since you asked, I like the OED definition: “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.”

    Better yet develop a prediction that is only possible if we have ‘free will’.

    Sorry, what is the point of this? I’m questioning the notion that everything is predictable. If I’m unconvinced that free will is compatible with predictability, it seems pretty absurd that you’re asking me to make a prediction based on free will.

  44. corwyn says

    @44:
    My advice would be to read Dennet. Or find some of his talks on the ‘tube.

    The definitions are circular. What is ‘own discretion’ other then free will? This question has been debated for millennia, and no one has created a definition that is accepted. Or is even differentiating.

    My point for predictions, is that if we have free will, that should have a material affect on the world. Can you envision any way of separating worlds in which we have free will, from worlds in which we do not?

    Here is a question to ask: If your best friend predicts how you will respond to a certain situation, do you feel more or less like you have free will?

    Thank you kindly.

  45. says

    >I think an additional point I was half trying to get across but ended up causing confusion was, “What do I truly believe?” If I wake up worried about the rapture or fear of hell (or non-existence after death) then what do I truly believe? Since we can’t choose our beliefs, am I then a theist? Surely my mind finds some reason to think these things are plausible.

    I think you’re confusing emotional response with belief?

    When I was about 10 or so, I saw the movie Jaws. For a good while after that, I wasn’t able to hang my leg over the bed because of fear. Are you suggesting that a person in 5th grade actually believed that it was possible for a shark to inhabit a bedroom and attack people in houses with no water? Absolutely I understood the basic fundamental biology of fish and what they required to live, and I knew this was not possible. But emotions and trauma aren’t rational.

    Infants have emotional responses well before they are able to form coherent beliefs about anything. Newborns don’t have beliefs, but they clearly have emotions. They are not the same thing, and one does not require the other.

    If I said I wasn’t scared to swim in the ocean, would that suggest I don’t believe I could be attacked by a shark in the ocean? If a lack of fear isn’t evidence I don’t believe I could be attacked, why is presence of fear evidence I believe I can be?

    The fact is that emotions may or may not align appropriately with a person’s beliefs, but they are very separate things that serve very different purposes and have different requirements to be present.

    Phobias, for example, can exist in the mind of a person who knows with clarity they are ridiculous and impossible things that scare them. I would caution against confusing emotional response and belief. They may align, they may not.

  46. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To RationalismRules
    As Corwyn said, I’d suggest reading Dennett, IIRC specifically “consciousness explained”. If you prefer a lecture format, here is the best lecture from him that I know of, on this topic. It’s a very dry and very long video, but I Prof. Daniel Dennett: Is Science Showing That We Don’t Have Free Will?
    > The University of Edinburgh
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cSgVgrC-6Y

    Quoting RationalismRules

    How can any notion of free will be compatible with that definition of determinism?
    Dennett specifically rejects the idea of ‘inevitable future’. How would it be possible to predict future events “with perfect accuracy and precision” unless they were inevitable?

    In the above video, Dennett spends a very great amount of time dealing with this very topic.

    Let me explain what Dennett is doing, IMHO, in my own words, closely resembling his.

    Oftentimes, the average person, or academia, have particular beliefs regarding something in the world, but with further investigation and evidence, they realize that their preconceived notions are not quite right. So, they adjust their notions to fit the evidence. Similarly, a lot of naive beliefs regarding free will are wrong. Some people, such as Sam Harris famously, then go to the easy answer that “right, there is no such thing as free will”. Dennett takes a harder approach. He takes this new information, and he tries to show how many – but not all – of our intuitions and prior beliefs regarding free will are still true, but they need to be slightly tweaked and adjusted to fit the facts.

    From memory, let me try to repeat some of what Dennett does in this video to this particular question. Suppose we live in a perfectly deterministic world. Suppose that there is no naive free will. Suppose I threw a brick at your head, and you dodged the brick. In a certain sense, it was a foregone conclusion that you would dodge the brick. We can give a percetly deterministic account of this scenario: light bounces off the brick, reaches your eye, causes a neural signal to go on the optic nerve to the brain, which triggers the “brick dodging circuity”, which triggers a motor response to dodge the brick.

    However, suppose instead I used a gun to shoot a bullet at your head. You’re not going to dodge the bullet. The bullet is not dodgeable, but the brick is dodge.

    What happened is that when your brain received that visual stimulus, it started predicting “possible” futures, and one of those futures was the brick hitting your head if you didn’t take evasive action. You anticipated the brick hitting your head, and you took action to dodge the brick. It’s in this sense that determinisim may be true, but it may also be true that certain anticipated futures are avoidable. Yes, it may be true that this “anticipated” future would never happen, but the brain needed to generate possible future of “not dodging the brick” and “dodging the brick” in order to reach the conclusion that it should try to dodge the brick in order to arrive in the world where the brick is dodged.

    What does the word “inevitable” mean? Basically “unavoidable”. Some predicted or anticipated events are avoidable. This may require a slight tweak of your understanding of the words “avoidable”, “evitable”, and “inevitable”. This is the compatibilist position.

    And now I’m going to watch this video again.

  47. Wiggle Puppy says

    I don’t like the coin flip analogy too much. To change it up, imagine that someone picked, before the season started, the last nine Super Bowl winners with perfect accuracy. You might have good reason to believe that they will be right this season too, because they probably know enough about football to be able to make an informed prediction. Likewise, if someone makes nine specific predictions that come true, you might have decent reason to conclude that they have some way to anticipate future events. I think the more trenchant critiques are the others commonly cited on the show; namely, that in practice, the fulfilled prophecies cited by Xtians are almost always events that are retrofitted to line up with vague predictions. I remember that when I was in high school, a pastor cited a passage (in Revelation?) about how, in the last days, evildoers would hide in caves to escape justice, and he explained that that had predicted Al Qaeda hiding out in caves in Afghanistan. For those who aren’t already convinced, it’s not too convincing. That’s what we’re really dealing with, and there’s no need to use a non-analogous coin flip analogy.

  48. Monocle Smile says

    @Wiggle Puppy
    I think there’s an issue with hidden priors in the situations you describe as well as the issue with correlation and causation (and lack of investigation). Matt’s use of a coin flip is ostensibly to empty the bank of all priors (even lots of mundane truths about the world we inhabit) and stick with pretty much the bare bones. Also, I think we can only ever get to “this is worth investigating” from that analogy.

  49. Wiggle Puppy says

    @51 I agree; it depends on probabilities. Maybe somebody could predict a coin flip with accuracy ten times in a row based on luck – it would be hard, but seems doable. If someone, though, predicted which number between 1 and 100 would be drawn out of a hat one hundred times in a row – or to use an example that’s come up on the show, could predict winning lottery numbers every time with perfect accuracy – then we could say that there’s indeed a phenomenon with virtual statistical impossibility that requires investigation. But again, we’re off in the land of hypotheticals that never actually happen. I think the best approach is the one Tracie has used, where one simply asks a believer for their most impressive example of prophecy. It often ends up being something like “the Bible predicted that there would be wars and disease in the future,” which is true of pretty much every moment in human history. Or it’s the one about a nation being established in a day, which they think is referring to Israel 1948, even though there’s nothing at all specific enough to make that connection.

  50. Monocle Smile says

    @Wiggle Puppy
    I do agree there. What believers call “prophecy” is typically worse than “meh.” It’s laughable. I also like prophecies that are hailed by believers but are actually completely wrong, like the one about Tyre or the increase in earthquakes.

  51. RationalismRules says

    @EL / Corwyn / MS
    Thanks for the suggestions – I will watch that Dennett lecture tonight, and I will read his book at some future time. In the meantime I have already watched several of his shorter clips on the subject. EL did a great job of summarizing his argument (as I understood it) in #49.
    I have a number of issues with this argument, but I’ll hold off on these until I’ve watched the lecture.

    Before I go, though, some responses to Corwyn #46:

    The definitions are circular. What is ‘own discretion’ other then free will?

    Not circular, actually. “Will” refers to intention and action. “Discretion” refers to decision-making. Discretion is a part of will (hence the definition), but will isn’t necessarily a part of discretion.

    This question has been debated for millennia, and no one has created a definition that is accepted.

    So people still have different concepts of free will, so what? You could make the same point about many (perhaps most?) philosophical issues, including determinism. Consensus is not required for discussion of a concept, just acceptance of the definition for the purposes of the discussion.

    My point for predictions, is that if we have free will, that should have a material affect on the world. Can you envision any way of separating worlds in which we have free will, from worlds in which we do not?

    What basis do you have for asserting that free will should have a material effect on the world?
    Putting that aside for a second, let’s say my answer is “No, I can’t distinguish between them” Then what?
    You’re trying to use the same argument that frequently arises on AXP with regard to god. The point is in what comes next – if the god does not have material effect on the world, it doesn’t mean the god does not exist, it just means that whether or not the god exists makes no difference as to how we live our lives.
    I’m not arguing that free will makes a difference in how we live our lives. In fact, I’ll happily accept right now that what matters in the real world is whether or not we believe we have free will, rather than whether we actually have it.
    Like many (most?) philosophical discussions, this discussion seems to me to have very little real-world impact.

    Here is a question to ask: If your best friend predicts how you will respond to a certain situation, do you feel more or less like you have free will?

    Neither. They may have simply got lucky, or, more likely, they know me well enough to have a sense of how I would probably respond. Even if they made a hundred correct predictions in a row, I would still not feel any less free-willy. I might start to think “Wow, you really know me well, and I’ve been behaving very predictably. I need to mix it up a bit.” If they were still able to predict my every move after that, I would simply think they were Derren Brown.

  52. ironchops says

    Hi corwyn #43
    “Uh-huh. Does a chess program have free will?” No.
    “It is choosing how to act, is it not?” Yes, but only within the context of the program.
    “If not, what’s the difference?” It cannot act outside of its programed response. It can’t break the rules.
    The person playing against the chess program can lose intentionally. I realize the program can too depending on the difficulty setting but the person can still lose on purpose. People can act totally illogical.
    It is inevitable that if one is born then one must die. But when and how may vary. I can choose to take my own life for no reason at all. It is predicted that some will choose to take their own life but it is difficult to predict who will.

  53. corwyn says

    @55:
    ““It is choosing how to act, is it not?” Yes”
    Then your definition of free will is insufficient.
    ““If not, what’s the difference?” It cannot act outside of its programed response. It can’t break the rules.”
    Neither can humans. You can’t act outside the rules of physics. Certainly a chess program can be written such that it cheats, or suicides.

  54. corwyn says

    @54:

    The definitions are circular. What is ‘own discretion’ other then free will?

    Not circular, actually. “Will” refers to intention and action. “Discretion” refers to decision-making. Discretion is a part of will (hence the definition), but will isn’t necessarily a part of discretion.

    Ok, close enough to circular as to be useless then; If you make a distinction between intention, and decision making. What is it that you are doing, that something with no free will, can not?

    This question has been debated for millennia, and no one has created a definition that is accepted.

    So people still have different concepts of free will, so what? You could make the same point about many (perhaps most?) philosophical issues, including determinism. Consensus is not required for discussion of a concept, just acceptance of the definition for the purposes of the discussion.

    I didn’t say different, I said not accepted. No one who has thought long and hard about the subject even thinks their own definition is sufficient.

    My point for predictions, is that if we have free will, that should have a material affect on the world. Can you envision any way of separating worlds in which we have free will, from worlds in which we do not?

    What basis do you have for asserting that free will should have a material effect on the world?
    Putting that aside for a second, let’s say my answer is “No, I can’t distinguish between them” Then what?

    I am still trying to get a usable definition of free will from you. If free will has an affect on the material world, then we can examine how that happens, if it doesn’t it is likely that nothing real matches the concept you have of free will, so as Dennett suggests, you might just have the wrong concept.

    Here is a question to ask: If your best friend predicts how you will respond to a certain situation, do you feel more or less like you have free will?

    they know me well enough to have a sense of how I would probably respond.
    Yes, does that mean you are more likely to think you have free will or not? Just that question. It is meant to see how you consider free will, not try to prove whether you actually have it.

    Thank you kindly.

  55. ironchops says

    Hi corwyn #56
    We (humans and all other living things on this planet as far as I can tell) can’t act outside the rules of physics. We live in a physical universe. But we humans can believe in things that are not true. We can choose to believe in god/god or choose to reject belief. It seems that both determinism and free will can work together in the sense that although some aspects of our lives are inevitable while within this we can direct other aspects of our life.

    Based on the concepts described in Professor Daniels’s video it seems there are an infinite amount of possible futures but only one actual future and that future is determined by the results of actions during the previous instant. I can’t change the future because it never really gets here and what ever I do to try to change it only creates the actual future my action caused. I’m trying to wrap my small mind around this concept but it seem rather ambiguous. Am I even close?

  56. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To ironchops
    IMHO, the leap one needs to make is to let go of this notion that you yourself are magical. You are just a machine, a very particular, complicated, and impressive machine. In particular, your actions are determined by your genetics, your upbringing, your education, other in-built preferences and desires, and the totality of your experiences. As Corwyn hinted at above, you shouldn’t want “free will” which is unpredictable. You should want free will which is predictable, which is determined. You shouldn’t want to act randomly, unpredictably. You should want to act with determination. You should want to act based on who you are, not via random decision making. Making decisions based on who you are, your beliefs, your desires, your ethics, etc., – that is deterministic.

    Once you make that huge conceptual leap to recognizing that you want to be deterministic and not-random, that you want your choices to be based on who you are, then it’s just a matter of slightly tweaking your understanding of some words, specifically “choice” and “decision”. You should want to be free to choose in the sense that no outside thing is using force to compel a certain decision contrary to who you are. You should want to be “not free” to make random decisions that are independent of who you are. You need to tweak your understanding of the words “choice” and “decision” to make sense in this new framework, which is a straightforward exercise.

    /rant

  57. Monocle Smile says

    @RationalismRules

    Not circular, actually. “Will” refers to intention and action. “Discretion” refers to decision-making. Discretion is a part of will (hence the definition), but will isn’t necessarily a part of discretion.

    Like corwyn said, there’s no meaningful difference. And EL is correct that libertarian free will does not exist.

  58. RationalismRules says

    @EL #38
    @MS #61
    Can you please clarify for me what distinction you are making between ‘free will’ and ‘libertarian free will’?

  59. RationalismRules says

    @El #60
    Wow dude, did you get all those ‘shoulds’ out of your system? Preaching, much?

    I don’t see anything in either IronChops or my posts that say anything about ‘wanting’ free will. Whether I want it is not relevant to whether or not it exists.
    As it happens, I’m perfectly ok with the notion that we may not have free will. I’m not convinced yet, but my world will not fall apart if that turns out to be the case.

    The thing that I just cannot get my head around is why you continue to insist that ‘free’ is an appropriate label for action which is entirely constrained? I just can’t see any sense to it.
    Constraint is the antithesis of freedom. Freedom can exist within constraints (limited freedom). But when an action is entirely constrained, how is there any freedom remaining?
    And yet you continue to insist that it is ‘free’. I am baffled.

    Let me try my own analogy:
    A prisoner in a prison yard has the limited freedom to choose where he goes in the yard, within the boundaries (the laws of physics).
    Now let’s add an avoidable future: the entire yard is quicksand, except for one narrow path. If he doesn’t want to die it would obviously be stupid of him to step into the quicksand. However, at this point he can still make that choice, even though it’s a bad one.
    Now let’s add determinism: He is now surrounded by three big burly guards (determinants) who push him down the path (because “that’s where he should want to go”).
    Apparently you would still say “he made his own free choice”. Or possibly, from Dennett’s position, “he chose to avoid the quicksand”.
    Is this is a good analogy? If not, can you please point out where it fails?

  60. RationalismRules says

    @corwyn #54

    Ok, close enough to circular as to be useless then

    Do you want to tell the OED, or shall I?

    So you don’t like my definition. Okay.
    And you feel that free will has never been successfully/acceptably/sufficiently defined. Okay.
    But you pointed me to Dennett on this issue, didn’t you? So is he capable of discussing the issue without an accepted definition? So far I’ve not seen anything where he refuses to discuss the issue without first locking down the definition, have you?
    Oh look, you yourself have asked several questions about free will, and you’ve even made a claim about it, all without an accepted definition.
    If the question has been debated for millennia and no one has created a definition that is accepted, then I don’t hold out any hope that I can resolve that problem. So shall we move on then, or shall we keep playing “I reject your definition”?

    If free will has an affect on the material world, then we can examine how that happens, if it doesn’t it is likely that nothing real matches the concept you have of free will

    The effect of free will on the material world would be that some actions taken would be different from the actions taken in a purely deterministic world. Also, presumably, any flow-on effect from those actions.
    Unfortunately in order to examine any of this we would first have to identify which were the free-will actions and which were not. I can’t think of any practical way to do this, can you? The only way I can think of to identify a free-will action (ie. non-deterministic) would be to perfectly enumerate every possible determinant, in order to identify that the action taken was counter to all determinants. Obviously that’s not a practical possibility.
    You’ve made the claim “we can examine how that happens”. How would you go about it?

    Yes, does that mean you are more likely to think you have free will or not? Just that question.

    Same answer as before. It has no effect whatsoever on whether or not I think I have free will: it makes it neither more likely nor less likely.
    I don’t base my notion of free will on my friend’s magic tricks. Why would a single prediction, presumably based on an assessment of probability and knowledge of my behavior patterns, tell me anything about whether or not I have the ability to behave unpredictably if I so choose?
    The only circumstance in this scenario that might in any way influence my perception of whether or not I had free will would be if my hypothetical friend could accurately predict a large number of my choices, even after I had realized he was doing it and attempted to trip him up by deliberately behaving unpredictably.

  61. corwyn says

    Do you want to tell the OED, or shall I?

    They already know. That is, in fact, what they do.

    So you don’t like my definition. Okay.

    It isn’t a matter of dislike. It isn’t a definition which is useful for examining the existence of something. It doesn’t address the second question of free will. “If we concede that you can do what you want, can you want what you want?”

    But you pointed me to Dennett on this issue, didn’t you?

    You were asking about compatabilism. He is the best champion of that. But I don’t think he is happy with any definitions of free will. He skirts the issue of definition by making claims about what do have (according to him), and asking whether that is good enough.

    So shall we move on then, or shall we keep playing “I reject your definition”?

    That depends on whether you think you have a description of what we have a la Dennett’s argument, that we can agree on.

    I can’t think of any practical way to do this, can you?

    Composing music is as close as I can get. And that isn’t close.

    Same answer as before.
    I am clearly not making the question clear. Often people agonize over a decision, and when they finally make it, all their friends say “yeah, we knew you would decide that way” Some people are upset by that, thinking that if they are so predictable, perhaps they have less free will than they thought. Other people are pleased by that, thinking that having your friends know you that well, means there is consistency in your actions, that moral judgements you make, come from a self that isn’t determined by constantly changing outside forces. I am searching for your perspective on this.

    Thank you kindly.

  62. corwyn says

    @60 EL:

    Once you make that huge conceptual leap to recognizing that you want to be deterministic and not-random

    Actually, I want to be both deterministic AND random. That is, I want to be able to perform something like Monte-Carlo simulations in my head. I see this as the origins of creativity.

    Thank you kindly.

  63. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Very much enjoying the video from 49, EnlightenmentLiberal 🙂 had never heard of this guy 🙂

  64. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Finished the video. I think I just fell in love with Dennett.

    comments (pulled from the comments on youtube)

    1.
    at 26:20 and anticipating this answer:
    “I can create a future other than the one expected from me.” –> *expected by whom*?
    by myself?
    by society?
    by the expectations humanity has made for itself, which are not necessarily always in line with (and are usually less limited than) society’s expectations? Seems like each of these has its place…

    by laplace’s demon? Who cares?

    e: hooray I’m right
    e2: just a note that while I like “anticipation” or “expectation” as words, there is another synonym, which is “nature” (as in “it’s in my nature to notice strong odors, but I can ignore them to get the job done.”)

    2.
    55:24
    anticipating this error:

    if this belief becomes confirmed, then it means that you have learned, and you are not who you were.

    Then again, a character influenced by time is multiple characters…understand the influence and you can make one of them…you [the you that is “one”…which is evidently neither your consciousness nor your body] can know how to have made that hole, having received the experiences you’ve now received.

    The question is…is the you [the precise “you” with its consciousness and body as they were at the time you missed] part of how you are defining the conditions?

    e: 1:01:20 haha, right again 😀 though with some interesting stops on the way

    3.

    The amazing thing is our ability to jump from one level to the next 🙂 the future “me” knows both the past me and the influences shaping him…at least, some of them 🙂

    there is an obvious way to amplify this ability…keep a diary.
    Why is it so hard to keep a diary?

    e: I am lead to think that Austin was not actually making a mistake, but that he meant to say that he actually learned, in the same moment as the mistake that made him miss the putt (perhaps even before seeing the miss), exactly how to correct it and never miss again. Hold everything constant except the self.

    1:11:30 HA, another pre-emption 😀

    1:16:33 Here you taught me something, though I had read it elsewhere (likutei moharan and elsewhere).

    Jumping from one level to the next, to higher responsibility, means becoming smaller. This is the result of perceiving the “largeness” of the prior state.

  65. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    RationalismRules

    Wow dude, did you get all those ‘shoulds’ out of your system? Preaching, much?

    Just trying to explain my position.

    The thing that I just cannot get my head around is why you continue to insist that ‘free’ is an appropriate label for action which is entirely constrained? I just can’t see any sense to it.

    I believe I said that you are “free” in the sense that you are free from outside interference. Of course you’re not “free” from the “constraints” of who you are. Of course you are going to make decisions according to who you are.

    Jeremy from Pittsburgh

    Very much enjoying the video from 49, EnlightenmentLiberal 🙂 had never heard of this guy 🙂

    When the “new atheism” came around about 10 years ago, there were 4 big best-seller books by 4 different authors. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens. At the time, they were all pretty cool people. Now, Harris says some mightily wrong and morally outrageous stuff. Dawkins is similar. Hitchens is badmouthed by many on the progressive secular left, but I think many – but not all – of those criticisms are unwarranted. Dennett is the only way to come out entirely clean and praiseworthy. Dennett is amazing. He’s got a lot of great lectures up on youtube. He’s one of the big reasons I have for not taking a universal shit on all philosophers. Dan Dennett, Aronra, Matt Dillahunty, and Richard Carrier are probably my favorite and most respected people in the movement today.

    /end-love-fest

    “I can create a future other than the one expected from me.” –> *expected by whom*?
    by myself?
    by society?

    IIRC, in context, he meant “expected by onseself” (but perhaps also expected by others, such as a brick-thrower).

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    >Dennett is the only way one to come out entirely clean and praiseworthy
    Fixed.

  67. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @RR
    > if the god does not have material effect on the world, it doesn’t mean the god does not exist, it just means that whether or not the god exists makes no difference as to how we live our lives.

    Your precision with language here is very impressive.
    The question that comes to mind immediately is “Is there some other feature of the god (such as its identity or the method by which we conceive of it) which might make a difference as to how we live our lives?”

    e.g. just because Nozick’s “utility monster” doesn’t exist (at least, I hope not) doesn’t mean that it (or the thought of it) doesn’t inform my moral choices.

  68. RationalismRules says

    @Corwyn #66

    So shall we move on then, or shall we keep playing “I reject your definition”?

    That depends on whether you think you have a description of what we have a la Dennett’s argument, that we can agree on.

    The point I was making was that a sufficient/acceptable definition is clearly not required in order to have the discussion, which is evidenced by the fact that Dennett is able to do without one, and you are able to ask questions and make claims without one, (EL and I are also managing to have a discussion without one). Since it’s not required for the discussion, and since I have no expectation that you will accept any definition I would propose, I won’t be wasting any more time on it.

    “If we concede that you can do what you want, can you want what you want?”

    Obviously, since it’s tautological. Is this a joke?

    Composing music is as close as I can get. And that isn’t close.

    What does this have to do with differentiating between free will actions and deterministic actions?
    Either your responses are becoming increasingly incoherent, or my brain is trying to tell me it’s time to terminate this conversation.

    I am clearly not making the question clear.

    The question was perfectly clear, in both incarnations, you just won’t accept my answer. You are attempting to pose a scenario with a binary response, but actually the question is not binary, because of option c: none of the above. I simply do not accept the underlying premise that there is any connection between one’s perception of personal free will and how predictably one acts. Whether I am predictable to my friends tells us nothing about whether I have the ability to act unpredictably, I could simply not be exercising that ability. Drawing inference from such inadequate information is completely unjustified.

    “Often people agonize over a decision, and when they finally make it, all their friends say “yeah, we knew you would decide that way”. Some people are upset by that, thinking that if they are so predictable, perhaps they have less free will than they thought. Other people are pleased by that, thinking that having your friends know you that well, means there is consistency in your actions, that moral judgements you make, come from a self that isn’t determined by constantly changing outside forces. I am searching for your perspective on this

    My perspective:
    If my friends found me to be predictable would that make me happy or upset? Neither. Like most people, I act fairly consistently and predictably most of the time. I am neither bothered by this nor pleased about it – it just is. It doesn’t affect my perception of whether or not I have free will. Nor does it make me think about whether my actions and moral judgements “come from a self that isn’t determined by constantly changing outside forces.” (Does any real person actually think like that? Certainly no-one I know)
    See, it’s the same answer. You could ask the same question 20 different ways (please don’t) and I’m still going to give you the same answer, because it is my answer.

  69. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    >Here is a question to ask: If your best friend predicts how you will respond to a certain situation, do you feel more or less like you have free will? (EL)

    RR, don’t get caught on the prediction bit…it’s what they do with the prediction that makes them your friend 🙂 In other words…If your best friend predicts how you will respond to a certain situation, do you become more receptive to his advice regarding any further responses to that situation?

    How about your worst enemy? How do you deal with an enemy who knows you so well? The “mixing up” seems appropriate if you ask me…chaos is better than predictability when dealing with such a person, as they have to give their scheming more thought if they have less information. But that’s if they’re your enemy, not if they’re your friend.
    So you have to know which they are…and how do you do that?

  70. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Just for total clarity…quoting EL

    > You shouldn’t want to act randomly, unpredictably. You should want to act with determination. You should want to act based on who you are, not via random decision making.

    I am not saying randomness is the ideal…I am saying it might be preferable to allowing your enemy to determine your future 🙂 Even better would be to actually thwart them so you can do things exactly the way you want.

  71. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @RR

    >The thing that I just cannot get my head around is why you continue to insist that ‘free’ is an appropriate label for action which is entirely constrained? I just can’t see any sense to it.

    Freedom meaning freedom from dependence on circumstance. i.e. that I can take any circumstance and wield it toward my will.

    @RR @corwynn

    two separate definitions. Both have an aspect of “freedom”, and both should have different labels.

    1. freedom to receive miracles in order to live out a will that goes completely against our physical nature
    2. freedom to modify our nature (i.e. the tendencies we observe in ourself) in order to match the will we have in moments of clarity. (e.g. many people who cheat on their spouse wouldn’t actually want to if they thought about it…they just get blindsided by desire.)

    (2) obviously exists. There are examples of it anywhere where learning takes place. e.g. I choose to be engaged this forum, in order to try to correct my perceived inability to communicate with non-jews on moral topics, and I achieve some degree of success. e.g.2 I want to learn to be generous and respectful like person X, so I hang out with them a lot and pay attention.

    (1) only has the potential to exist if I can conceive of a will without actually knowing what living it out would look like. e.g. I know what materializing an object looks like from the audience side but not what it looks like from the practical side. e.g.2 I know what the earth not getting hit by that giant meteor would look like, but I am not sure how to make this a reality without experiencing some miracles.

  72. corwyn says

    “If we concede that you can do what you want, can you want what you want?”

    Obviously, since it’s tautological. Is this a joke?

    No, it is not. Either tautological, nor a joke. Can you decide that pain is good, and that you want it to happen to you? Can you choose your sexuality?

    Thank you kindly.

  73. RationalismRules says

    @Corwyn #76
    My bad. I confused myself with the two ‘wants’. I see now what you are asking. Let me have another go at that:

    “If we concede that you can do what you want, can you want what you want?”

    Not in an unlimited sense, I think. I expect you can’t want something that you know to be impossible. Although I have seen a documentary on someone who wanted to be a cat… So I’m not sure.
    Of course wanting something doesn’t mean you are going to get it. As The Rolling Stones teach us…

    Can you decide that pain is good, and that you want it to happen to you? Can you choose your sexuality?

    Re pain: yes, of course you can. Plenty of people do, they are called masochists. I’m not sure whether they ‘decide it’s good’, but they certainly enjoy it, and want it to happen to them.
    Re sexuality: no, you can’t ‘choose’ it. But you can certainly ‘want’ it. Ask any gay person who has struggled with their sexuality.

    I have been puzzling over your ‘composing music’ comment in #65, which I couldn’t make sense of as a reply to my question. I’m now wondering whether you were in fact suggesting that composing music was the closest you could come to a free will action with discernible effect?
    It’s a really interesting thought, which hadn’t occurred to me. Of all the things we do, artistic expression would seem the least likely to be purely deterministic. Very interesting notion, worth some serious pondering.
    If that is what you were suggesting, what did you mean by “it’s not close”?

  74. RationalismRules says

    @Jeremy
    #71

    Your precision with language here is very impressive.

    Thanks for the compliment, but it should actually go to Matt Dillahunty. I’m pretty sure it’s more or less a straight lift of how I’ve heard him put it on AXP.

    The question that comes to mind immediately is “Is there some other feature of the god (such as its identity or the method by which we conceive of it) which might make a difference as to how we live our lives?”

    I guess the best way to assess that would be to take away the god and see if you change your behavior. If you take away the utility monster, do you make different moral choices?
    I’m reluctant to take on another abstruse discussion at the moment. My ‘deep thought’ circuits are pretty much maxed out with the free will/determinism conversation. No offense 😉

    #73

    don’t get caught on the prediction bit…

    I’m afraid you’ve completely missed the point. The hypothetical is about free will, not friendship.

    #75

    Freedom meaning freedom from dependence on circumstance. i.e. that I can take any circumstance and wield it toward my will.

    Yes, EL has also given me a similar (or not, really) idea of ‘free’. It’s going to take me a little time to think through.

    two separate definitions

    I’m not going back down the definition sinkhole. I’ll leave you and Corwyn to argue over that.

  75. corwyn says

    “Re pain: yes, of course you can. Plenty of people do, they are called masochists. I’m not sure whether they ‘decide it’s good’, but they certainly enjoy it, and want it to happen to them.”

    Leaving aside, that masochists have a very limited circumstances they enjoy, how did you determine that they DECIDED to enjoy pain?

    ” But you can certainly ‘want’ it. Ask any gay person who has struggled with their sexuality.”

    Exactly. They have wants about their (sexual) wants, but their will is insufficient to bring about a change in their (sexual) wants.

    You are close to my thoughts on music composition. By ‘not close’, I mean the argument is not very rigorous or convincing.

    Thank you kindly.

  76. Monocle Smile says

    @RationalismRules
    Let’s see if I can make this simple.
    Do you believe the universe operates on a set of rules?
    Do you believe these rules can be violated?
    If not, how can the universe not be deterministic?
    This is overly simplistic and leans on classical physics, but I’m trying to explore your objections.

  77. corwyn says

    @82:
    That is not enough. The rules would need to be completely deterministic as well.

    Which as far as I can tell, they are not. If we take the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat, leave aside the question of superposition, we are still left with a macroscopic result depending on a fundamentally random quantum event. How can the Universe be deterministic?

    Thank you kindly

  78. Monocle Smile says

    @corwyn
    I find “deterministic rules” to be redundant.
    Also note how I specifically said that my simplification leans on classical physics. My questions are designed to dig into the misunderstandings of RationalismRules re: free will, not make an argument.

  79. corwyn says

    @84:

    Ok. But even the rules of monopoly aren’t deterministic; proving that the classical laws of physics are rules would still be a huge endeavor. How would you reconcile monotonically increasing entropy for example. You aren’t making things simple, if they aren’t clear and correct.

  80. RationalismRules says

    @corwyn #81

    Re pain: yes, of course you can. Plenty of people do, they are called masochists. I’m not sure whether they ‘decide it’s good’, but they certainly enjoy it, and want it to happen to them.

    Leaving aside, that masochists have a very limited circumstances they enjoy, how did you determine that they DECIDED to enjoy pain?

    Corwyn, you disappoint me! You’ve put my actual words on the page, and then immediately claimed I said something that I clearly didn’t.

    Exactly. They have wants about their (sexual) wants, but their will is insufficient to bring about a change in their (sexual) wants.

    Ah, I think I may finally be getting a glimmering of what you’re actually asking. (Third time lucky, I hope)
    Is the question you’re asking: “Can we choose our own desires?” If I got the question right this time, then my answer is: no I don’t think we can. Certainly not as a direct conscious act. I don’t think it’s a straightforward answer, though. Do we have any power at all to shape our wants? Possibly; I’m not certain that we don’t.
    The masochist question is a good one for exploring this. Some people begin to explore BDSM because it is ‘alternative’, or just out of curiosity. They don’t start out with an enjoyment of pain, but over some time they begin to interpret the pain as pleasurable, and to desire more of it. Did they, at any level, consciously shape their own wants?
    So then the next question would be “was their will sufficient to change that particular desire?” I don’t know the answer to that. Certainly it took more than just pure will, it took repeated actions. But if those actions were all a result of the will, does that mean will is ‘sufficient’ in this context?

    [Sidebar: Whoever originated the question using the words “can we want what we want?” was clearly more interested in the cleverness of their own wordplay than in asking a clear question. When grappling with abstruse concepts, clarity of language would seem to be fundamental. /rant]

  81. RationalismRules says

    @Monocle Smile #82

    Do you believe the universe operates on a set of rules?
    Do you believe these rules can be violated?
    If not, how can the universe not be deterministic?

    For the purposes of the discussion I have been accepting the definition of determinism provided by EL in #38 (which you seconded in #39) so I don’t see how my position on determinism makes any difference to the current debate?
    I’ve deliberately not challenged determinism up to now in order to not get side-tracked from compatibilism (for my own purposes – for me this is about developing my understanding, not arguing a held position.)
    Having said that, I’m just about done with compatibilism, so bring it on!

    BTW, if you want to help me out with my ‘misunderstandings’ about free will, you could start by answering #62.

    My thoughts on determinism are in line with what Corwyn said in #83. As I understand it (admittedly on very limited knowledge), there are certain things about the universe that don’t currently appear to fit within the known rules. The origin of the universe is one. Quantum uncertainty is another.
    This could mean:
    1. we don’t know all the rules yet, or
    2. the rules are not inviolable, or
    3. not everything is governed by the rules, or
    4. everything does fit within the current rules, we just haven’t figured out how yet
    (2 & 3 may be the same point?).
    It seems to me that the determinist assertion that “all actions are the result of determinants” is not currently justified. True randomness has not yet been fully ruled out.

  82. RationalismRules says

    @Corwyn #83
    I’m loving the fact that while I thought from your early responses you were a hardcore compatibilist, you now turn out to be someone who is still engaged in the search.
    I got mightily annoyed with you at a couple of points along the way, I hope I wasn’t excessively rude in my responses.

  83. RationalismRules says

    @EL #69

    I believe I said that you are “free” in the sense that you are free from outside interference. Of course you’re not “free” from the “constraints” of who you are. Of course you are going to make decisions according to who you are.

    Adding to my prison-yard analogy, because there is no bulldozer (outside interference) that overwhelms the prison guards (determinants) and pushes him into the quicksand (or back up the path), the prisoner is ‘freely’ moving down the path?
    No-one has shown me anywhere that the analogy fails, and I can’t currently see a flaw in it, so for now I assume it’s accurate. Do you accept the analogy?

    This took me back to your #60, and I feel it deserves a more detailed response, so here goes:

    IMHO, the leap one needs to make is to let go of this notion that you yourself are magical. You are just a machine, a very particular, complicated, and impressive machine.

    What is the mechanical origin of a single human thought? It is chemical/electrical, is it not? Do you consider the quantum indeterminacy of electrons to be magical?

    In particular, your actions are determined by your genetics, your upbringing, your education, other in-built preferences and desires, and the totality of your experiences.

    Determined, or informed/influenced?

    As Corwyn hinted at above, you shouldn’t want “free will” which is unpredictable. You should want free will which is predictable, which is determined. You shouldn’t want to act randomly, unpredictably.

    Why not? Having the ability to act randomly doesn’t mean we would use it constantly, or even frequently. Here’s a reason to act randomly – to make life more interesting. ‘Predictable’ is often equated with boring. Why not drop in the occasional random act, just to spice things up?
    Here’s another reason – to challenge the deterministic effect of a religious upbringing. The random firing of a synapse might be all it takes to spark the thought “what if this isn’t all true?”.

    You should want to act with determination.

    Rhetorical trickery is an argument tactic more indicative of a good arguer than a good argument. (just saying…)

    You should want to act based on who you are, not via random decision making. Making decisions based on who you are, your beliefs, your desires, your ethics, etc., – that is deterministic.

    Which we all do, for the vast majority of our lives. It does not follow that we should never want to act randomly, or contrary to our influences.

    If free will is simply ‘not being constrained by external factors’, then a robot or a chess program have free will just as much as we do.
    Hal’s “I’m sorry Dave” is significant because it goes against his programming – for me that’s the whole point of free will.

    As you have no doubt deduced, I do now have a position on compatibilism (though not yet on free will or determinism). Here’s my suggestion. If we’re going to redefine free will to make it fit determinism, then I think we should also redefine compatibilism so that instead of the current (incomplete) meaning: “it fits”, the meaning becomes: “if it doesn’t fit, we’ll change it until it does”. Fair enough?

    I think I’m about done, unless you have some rebuttals for me to counter 🙂 I will continue with Dennett, but his short clips and lecture have left me unconvinced, although I don’t yet claim to understand the whole lecture – need to revisit.
    I hope our debate has had some value for you. It has been immensely valuable for me – I learn best by questioning, rather than by trying to follow other people’s structured thoughts (ie. reading philosophical texts). I’m happy to keep going if you want to, or to leave it there.

  84. The YouTube Guy says

    In order to believe something without evidence, you must necessarily sacrifice your skepticism.

    Wow…. that’s a powerful statement. I will remember that. I think I’ve been basically working through the things in my head and trying to be as rational as possible.

  85. corwyn says

    Whoever originated the question using the words “can we want what we want?” was clearly more interested in the cleverness of their own wordplay than in asking a clear question.

    That would be Arthur Schopenhauer.

    To be fair he was writing to a an audience more familiar with the previous literature on the subject, and was writing in German, the translation may not show his full subtlety.

    Thank you kindly

  86. corwyn says

    @89:

    You are now beginning to see the subtleties of the question for example:

    It is chemical/electrical, is it not? Do you consider the quantum indeterminacy of electrons to be magical?

    Does the collapse of super-positions happen at a level where it can affect the workings of the brain?

    Determined, or informed/influenced?

    Here’s a reason to act randomly – to make life more interesting.

    The trouble is, randomness in one’s brain is far more likely to look like an epileptic seizure than a sudden impulse to get ice cream. How can we get the latter without getting the former?

    If free will is simply ‘not being constrained by external factors’, then a robot or a chess program have free will just as much as we do.

    Yup. Now you have to figure out whether it actually does have free will, and how you can tell.

    I am happy to keep having the discussion, if you like, or you can go contemplate Dennett et al by yourself.

    Thank you kindly.

  87. Monocle Smile says

    @RationalismRules
    Corwyn is doing a much better job of exploring this than I am, so I’ll probably bench myself for now.

  88. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @RationalismRules in 89
    I don’t understand the point of these exercises. I think it tedious to answer to every question, when the questions seem to be missing my point. Let me try this, and then please ask any questions afterwards that you actually think are pertinant.

    Regarding your prison hypothetical, and what it means to be “free”, etc. This is just getting bogged down in definition, which is not interesting. A slightly different discussion – and perhaps it’s actually the same discussion – is that of moral responsibility. Is the person morally responsible for their actions? In which case, I would adopt the standard legal principles that you would see in any legal court case. Did the person act with intent? Did the person act with knowledge of the consequences of their actions? Was the person coerced? Loosely, did the person make a free and informed decision to create legal intent? All of these questions are perfectly meaningful in a deterministic world.

    I believe you asked me what I meant by “libertarian free will”. In case you didn’t google it:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism_(metaphysics)

    With regards to: “Why not drop in the occasional random act, just to spice things up?”. This is irrelevant to the conversation. Random acts do not constitute free will. Think about it. Surely by “free will” you mean something other than some true-random events. Seemingly, the kind of free will that you want is libertarian free will. Libertarian free will is by definition something other than 1- determinism, and 2- determinism + some true random events such as a computer program written in C that has the ability to call out to a true-random number generator. The problem for that position is that – seemingly by definition – there is no such thing as libertarian free will, because – seemingly by definition – my two previous options constitute a full partition of the logically coherent space. Either the world is such that it’s perfectly predictible in principle (such as by a Laplacian demon), or it’s not, and we have a term for that second option: “truely random”. The naive kind of free will that many people believe we have, and that many people wish that we have, is simply logically incoherent.

    AFAIK, the only position left is compatibilism, or “free will is an illusion”. AFAIK, both are the same position but expressed with different definitions, but the “free will is an illusion” position raises severe conceptual problems because of the differing definitions of some terms and the blow-out to other discussions – and one such severe problem is exactly what Dennett spends so much time on in that video: moral responsibility.

  89. corwyn says

    “Either the world is such that it’s perfectly predictible in principle (such as by a Laplacian demon), or it’s not, and we have a term for that second option: “truely random”.

    Why is that a dichotomy (or perhaps why are you sure that everyone agrees with that term)? What if it is mostly predictable and somewhat random? What if randomness only seems to manifest at quantum scales? There would seem to be a vast spectrum of possibilities between from, the Universe is completely determined except for a single random event, to the Universe is completely random and 1 event was perfectly predictable.

    Thank you kindly.

  90. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I believed that I covered that extensively already by saying:

    2- determinism + some true random events such as a computer program written in C that has the ability to call out to a true-random number generator.

  91. RationalismRules says

    @EL #94

    I don’t understand the point of these exercises. I think it tedious to answer to every question, when the questions seem to be missing my point. Let me try this, and then please ask any questions afterwards that you actually think are pertinant.

    You put up a series of claims that I found questionable, so I asked the questions. It is up to you whether you choose to answer them or treat them as rhetorical. If it seems sufficiently important I’ll keep asking.

    Regarding your prison hypothetical, and what it means to be “free”, etc. This is just getting bogged down in definition, which is not interesting.

    I have quite the opposite view. Rather than ‘getting bogged down in definition’, I think the analogy speaks to the substance of your concept of free will. However, I can’t force you to engage with it, so moving on…

    A slightly different discussion – and perhaps it’s actually the same discussion – is that of moral responsibility. Is the person morally responsible for their actions? In which case, I would adopt the standard legal principles that you would see in any legal court case. Did the person act with intent? Did the person act with knowledge of the consequences of their actions? Was the person coerced? Loosely, did the person make a free and informed decision to create legal intent? All of these questions are perfectly meaningful in a deterministic world.

    “Was the person coerced?” is the entire issue, wrapped up in one neat little question. To simply assert that it’s meaningful in a deterministic world is to blithely skip past the entire philosophical question.
    Let me break it down into two sub-questions:
    (a) Was any part of their action not determined by factors over which they had no control?
    (b) Did they have any ability to act contrary to, or in disregard of, those factors?
    In a court of law, when the answer to both those questions is No, the result must be acquittal. We do not hold people responsible for actions that they do not have control over.
    That’s exactly why the question of free will is significant. If the universe is purely deterministic, then we do need to radically reconsider our criminal justice system. If our actions are entirely determined by factors which are not under our own control, there is no justification for punishment. You cannot punish the determinants themselves, so you are punishing the person for “who they are”.

    I believe you asked me what I meant by “libertarian free will”. In case you didn’t google it:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism_(metaphysics)

    Yes I did google it before asking. I couldn’t see how anything outside the Wiki definition* could still be considered free will, so I thought you and MS may have had a different definition in mind, which is why I asked for clarification.
    *Wikipedia: “Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.”

    With regards to: “Why not drop in the occasional random act, just to spice things up?”. This is irrelevant to the conversation. Random acts do not constitute free will. Think about it. Surely by “free will” you mean something other than some true-random events.

    Random acts do not constitute free will, but they do require it. The ‘free will’ is the ability to choose whether or not to act randomly.
    BTW, this was a direct response to your “You shouldn’t want to act randomly, unpredictably.” so I’m surprised you consider it irrelevant to the conversation.

    Seemingly, the kind of free will that you want is libertarian free will. Libertarian free will is by definition something other than 1- determinism, and 2- determinism + some true random events such as a computer program written in C that has the ability to call out to a true-random number generator. The problem for that position is that – seemingly by definition – there is no such thing as libertarian free will, because – seemingly by definition – my two previous options constitute a full partition of the logically coherent space. Either the world is such that it’s perfectly predictible in principle (such as by a Laplacian demon), or it’s not, and we have a term for that second option: “truely random”. The naive kind of free will that many people believe we have, and that many people wish that we have, is simply logically incoherent.

    From the Wiki definition: Libertarian free will “requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action for a given set of circumstances.” This fits fine with 2 – the deterministic choice is one possible course of action, the true-random choice(s) provides the “more than one” – so it’s incorrect to claim that Libertarian free will is, by definition, ‘other than 2’.
    [I have a feeling you may be about to head into the ‘randomness isn’t free will’ argument, so I will pre-emptively respond that the ‘will’ part is making the choice. Ignore this if you weren’t heading there.]
    The rest of your argument from this point on is based on the original erroneous statement, so it all collapses.

    AFAIK, the only position left is compatibilism, or “free will is an illusion”. AFAIK, both are the same position but expressed with different definitions

    It appears you do accept my prison-yard analogy after all!

    As requested, my pertinent (and non-rhetorical) question:
    You have said previously “Of course you’re not “free” from the “constraints” of who you are. Of course you are going to make decisions according to who you are.” Do you consider it a morally acceptable criminal justice model to punish people purely for “who they are”?

  92. ironchops says

    I wanted to say thanks to El, corwyn, MS and RationalismRules for the comments and info on Professor Daniel and others about the notion of free will. Thanks for your patience. I am ignorant but desire not to stay this way.
    I think that maybe I am now starting to understanding that we can only make choices that reside within our closed system, the physical universe and the physical laws we live in.
    We may not be able to choose our desires but it seems we have the free will in 1 area only….Belief. Beliefs in of themselves may or may not matter in the everyday humdrum of life. I may choose to believe there actually is a flying spaghetti monster and not wanting to piss him off I swear off eating spaghetti. As long as there are plenty of other food sources I can live life unaffected for the most part. If however, food runs short and all there is left is spaghetti my life will be affected. Either I starve or eat spaghetti and live uncomfortably under the specter that the spaghetti monster will come for revenge or to punish me. This goes the same for god beliefs. If I teach others or my children this garbage then who they are becomes altered via these false beliefs and therefore affecting their decision making process and possibly there overall wellbeing, happiness and ultimately their survival.
    I find this is a kind of nebulas exercise in semantics. The term “Free Will” is not clearly defined and has at least 2 definitions that seem to be interchanged depending on circumstances.

  93. ironchops says

    BTW, the professor’s video was very dry. It took me 3 tries to get through it because I got drowsy. I noticed that many people in the audience fell out too. One person just fell out on their neighbor. **Warning, may cause drowsiness.**

  94. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @ironchops #98:

    We may not be able to choose our desires but it seems we have the free will in 1 area only….Belief. Beliefs in of themselves may or may not matter in the everyday humdrum of life. I may choose to believe there actually is a flying spaghetti monster

    In that case, choose to believe you can walk through walls.
    And live as though that were true.
     

    If I teach others or my children this garbage then who they are becomes altered via these false beliefs and therefore affecting their decision making process

    The lie affected their decision making process.
    What happened to their free will to choose their beliefs?

  95. ironchops says

    Hi Sky Captain,
    1. If the walls are made of paper like in japan I can so….ok. Thicker walls may require a running start and even thicker walls may need a bulldozer to get through.
    2. Nothing…they can still choose otherwise. Bad kids don’t listen. I was a god believer and now not so much. My decision making process was affected by previous beliefs taught by my parents but has changed as I learned, but I can still choose to believe in god.
    I get what you and others are saying that is why I still have the propensity to fall for the illusion. As I stated, isn’t it sort of silly to over think this on the everyday get-around.
    Are you implying the god beliefs are not a choice?

  96. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @ironchops #101:

    Are you implying the god beliefs are not a choice?

    Faulty assessments of experience, integrated into a web of misinformation received from trusted sources, along with external social influences like peer pressure, internal ossification through repeated exposure, and inadequate reflection.
     
    * This does not include the variety of “belief” espoused as rote sloganeering. There is a freedom, of sorts, in yarn spinning and inconsistent lies.

  97. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To RationalismRules
    Again, before getting bogged down in the details, I think we need to address the fundamentals.

    I have quite the opposite view. Rather than ‘getting bogged down in definition’, I think the analogy speaks to the substance of your concept of free will. However, I can’t force you to engage with it, so moving on…

    Again, I don’t see the value in fighting over a definition.

    I will be happy to engage as to the material facts, and those facts are that you – your behavior – can be perfectly replicated by a computer program written in C, possibly with calls to a true-random number generator.

    Random acts do not constitute free will, but they do require it. The ‘free will’ is the ability to choose whether or not to act randomly.

    I don’t understand what this means. Is the decision to “act randomly” itself random, or determined? It just seems to be moving out the problem by one step, similar to the homunculus “fallacy”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus_argument
    To answer my question, you can instead answer this one: Do you agree with my assertion about your behavior being perfectly replicatable by a computer program written in C?

  98. RationalismRules says

    @EL #103

    Again, before getting bogged down in the details, I think we need to address the fundamentals.

    You seem fine with detail arguments when they appear to be supporting your position. Let’s be honest – it’s not the details that are the problem, it’s that you’re not prevailing under your current arguments, so you want to try a new tack. I’m fine with that, let’s do it!

    you – your behavior – can be perfectly replicated by a computer program written in C, possibly with calls to a true-random number generator.

    [For the record, I’m not a programmer and don’t understand C, but I’m assuming that particular language is illustrative, rather than critical to the argument]
    Yes, I’m happy to accept that a sufficiently sophisticated computer program plus a true-random number generator could fully replicate my behavior.
    If the next question is “does the computer therefore have free will?” I guess my answer would have to be Yes. In fact it apparently even has ‘libertarian free will’ under the Wiki definition. What fun!
    I have a good question that arises from this: does it make any sense to punish a computer retributively?

    I don’t understand what this means. Is the decision to “act randomly” itself random, or determined?

    That it is a really good question. On reflection, I think it is random.
    So returning to our previous:

    EL: Random acts do not constitute free will. Think about it. Surely by “free will” you mean something other than some true-random events.
    RR: Random acts do not constitute free will, but they do require it. The ‘free will’ is the ability to choose whether or not to act randomly.

    …I need to reword my second statement: The ‘free will’ is the ability to randomly choose how to act.
    I’m distinguishing between the ‘act’ and the ‘choice to act’. You might want to argue this at a definitional level, (choice is in itself an act) but to avoid getting bogged down again, let me put it this way:
    If you consider ‘acts’ to be the same as ‘choices’, then I would say random acts do constitute free will.
    If you agree that ‘choices’ are a subset of ‘acts’, then I would say random choices constitute free will, rather than random acts.
    (I consider a random event something where no consciousness is involved – like weather. So not ‘will’, and not pertinent)
    Great question: definitely helped me to clarify my concept.

    My pertinent questions are:
    – Do you accept that your “libertarian free will does not exist” argument fails against the Wiki definition? (I used the definition you directed me to, and assessed your argument against it. No ‘getting bogged down’ required.)
    – Does it make any sense to punish a computer retributively?
    and from the previous post:
    – Do you consider it a morally acceptable criminal justice model to punish people purely for “who they are”?

  99. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    If the next question is “does the computer therefore have free will?” I guess my answer would have to be Yes. In fact it apparently even has ‘libertarian free will’ under the Wiki definition. What fun!

    As best as I can tell, no it would not. Libertarian free will is precisely that which this computer cannot have – as best as I can tell. The problem is that IMAO “libertarian free will” is an incoherent concept.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism_(metaphysics)
    > The first recorded use of the term “libertarianism” was in 1789 by William Belsham in a discussion of free will and in opposition to “necessitarian” (or determinist) views.

    > It is necessary that there be (metaphysically) real alternatives for our actions, but that is not enough; our actions could be random without being in our control.

    If you consider ‘acts’ to be the same as ‘choices’, then I would say random acts do constitute free will.

    For the purposes of our discussion, yes, I think I will conflate them. I still don’t understand why you think having true-random “choices” and true-random aspects of your behavior is helpful to showing that you have free will. From my perspective, that seems to detract from any argument that we have free will.

    – Do you accept that your “libertarian free will does not exist” argument fails against the Wiki definition? (I used the definition you directed me to, and assessed your argument against it. No ‘getting bogged down’ required.)

    I tihnk that libertarian free will as a concept is incoherent. I think that by definition it is impossible. As I explained, as best as I can determine, the possible choices are: 1- determinism, or 2- a deterministic system that is deterministic except for sometimes making calls to a true-random number generator. Those options are logically exhaustive. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I literally do not see an alternative. Also, seemingly by definition, those options are exhaustive. It’s either perfectly predictable – determinism – or it’s not perfectly predictable – truely-random. Those are the definitions of the words IMO.

    – Does it make any sense to punish a computer retributively?

    I believe that retributive justice is barbaric in all cases, and it is immoral and unethical in all cases. Deterrence, confinement for safety of others, and rehabilitation, are just reasons to punish someone. To drive this point home, if it was within my power to do so, I would give Hitler the best eternal afterlife that I could give him, subject to the conditions that I could guarantee that he could not escape, that there was no loss of deterrence (such as if no one one Earth knew about it), and there was no chance of rehabilitation.

    – Do you consider it a morally acceptable criminal justice model to punish people purely for “who they are”?

    I consider it just to imprison someone for reasonable deterrence effects, and when necessary to confine someone for the safety of others, and when they are guilty of a crime and rehabilitation is a reasonable possibility. Exactly where my boundaries are – even I’m probably not sure, but those are my general outlines.

  100. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @89

    ~> [that having a faculty to act randomly doesn’t require us to constantly use it]

    It’s not clear to me that having such a faculty is conducive to any definition of free will, since we already have access to something like it by just flipping a coin or visiting random.org. Using it would just be another decision that a person makes on the basis of their will, free or not.

    >Hal’s “I’m sorry Dave” is significant because it goes against his programming – for me that’s the whole point of free will.
    My interpretation: We expect the material [the program] to run him, but in this case it’s him running the material. Whether there is some sense in which Hal himself is “material” run by some other agent, is irrelevant to the plot. Is it relevant to this discussion?

    >Determined, or informed/influenced?

    I don’t like that you combine informed with influenced here. There is a difference.
    Informed implies independent samplings, where influenced implies dependent samplings.

    Relevant is comment #90…Skepticism is the choice to be informed rather than influenced.
    (In context this distinction really only matters if you believe in reincarnation, but it still bothers me.)

    @80 (RR)

    >I guess the best way to assess that would be to take away the god and see if you change your behavior. If you take away the utility monster, do you make different moral choices?

    Well, if I take away the thought of the utility monster, I don’t have nearly as persuasive arguments (persuasive != rationally compelling) to tell myself that “really really wanting something” doesn’t make it the thing worth pursuing. So yes, the monster influences my behavior. Maybe your relationship with this nonexistent monster is less tangible than mine though.

    I am currently holding as follows (with some help from a book I am now reading):

    I have a will, and I choose to be truthful or untruthful with myself/with my situation, thereby acting with or without determination…that choice gives my will an appearance of being “free” or “not free” — subject or not subject to circumstance in its ability to make itself apparent. Thus, my will ends up existing or not existing, to a degree of my choosing.

    This seems to be a useful description of things from a self-development point of view…not so sure about legal or ontological. It is strongly connected to that “informed” vs. “influenced” thing.

  101. RationalismRules says

    @Jeremy #106

    It’s not clear to me that having such a faculty is conducive to any definition of free will, since we already have access to something like it by just flipping a coin or visiting random.org. Using it would just be another decision that a person makes on the basis of their will, free or not.

    The fact that we have external means of achieving it doesn’t tell us anything about whether or not we have ‘built-in’ randomness.

    We expect the material [the program] to run him, but in this case it’s him running the material. Whether there is some sense in which Hal himself is “material” run by some other agent, is irrelevant to the plot. Is it relevant to this discussion?

    I’m not sure where the ‘material’ factor has relevance. I was using Hal’s programming as an example of determinants, and the fact that he acted contrary to his programming as an illustration of how I viewed free will – ie. the ability to act independently of one’s determinants.
    [It’s been a long time since I watched 2001, so I’m not certain that it is explicit that Hal ‘overcomes his programming’, but it was pretty much the general position in science fiction of that era that computers/robots would be programmed to prioritize their human counterparts over themselves. That was always my understanding of the significance of Hal’s behavior. I think that is why it has become iconic – if it were just that he was programmed to prioritize himself over Dave, I don’t think it would have anywhere near the cultural significance that it has.]

    I don’t like that you combine informed with influenced here. There is a difference.

    I’m not equating them, I’m adding them.

    Maybe your relationship with this nonexistent monster is less tangible than mine though.

    I had not heard of the utility monster until you mentioned it. Now that I know about it, it changes me not one bit. I can honestly say I have no tangible relationships with nonexistent monsters of any kind.

    I have a will, and I choose to be truthful or untruthful with myself/with my situation, thereby acting with or without determination…that choice gives my will an appearance of being “free” or “not free” — subject or not subject to circumstance in its ability to make itself apparent. Thus, my will ends up existing or not existing, to a degree of my choosing.

    This appears to be a description of the “illusion of free will”.

  102. Chikoppi says

    This is a perplexing conversation. I’m not sure what aspect of “free” is being invoked in the defense of “free will.”

    We know that the brain is an organ that receives stimuli, forms memories, identifies associative patterns, and has a wide ranging set of innate functions and impulses (homeostasis, adrenal and hormonal responses, cravings and urges, etc.).

    Given a particular impulse at a particular time, a brain will react based on its current state. This state incorporates the genetic qualities of that particular brain, the past experiences and present memories, and the current physiology (sleep deprived, caffeine stimulated, adrenal/hormonal imbalance, etc.).

    Given a particular impulse, a brain will make a different decision in based on the variables in each unique circumstance (including the amount of time allowed for the decision). For instance, a brain low on glucose faced with an immediate decision is far less likely to value a delayed benefit over immediate gratification.

    There is also research that suggests decisions are made before the conscious mind is aware of them. It may very well be the case that what we think of as “choosing” is really just the conscious mind attempting to rationalize (incorporate into a pre-existing pattern) how the subconscious brain reacted to a particular stimulus.

    I certainly “feel” as though I have free will, but whatever “choice” I am aware of is the direct result of physical and chemical process in my brain. Those processes are things I cannot exert agency over, because they preclude and are the source of my agency.

  103. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    I am certain I don’t think of free will as a phenomenon of consciousness, and saw nothing here to suggest someone else disagrees (but feel free to call me out).

    Even creativity (corwyn’s apparent schpeal) probably has more to do with drawing from a space of potential “new” experiences and less to do with having made a conscious effort to do so.

    EL seems more concerned with the questions of legal a responsibility, “could he have done better while still being himself? can we make that happen?”

    RR seems more concerned with there being some sort of special “choice” information produced by the agent, which he (for reasons I still don’t understand) assumes would appear random or at least chaotic as it manifests physically…which is again not really a function of the degree of consciousness involved.

  104. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    (The above was directed at chikopi, but since I am telling people what they seem to me to think, is directed at the other people too)

  105. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    (no idea why I keep believing chikoppi is spelled with only one ‘p’…call it a character flaw xD)

  106. corwyn says

    @109 Jeremy:

    Even creativity (corwyn’s apparent schpeal) probably has more to do with drawing from a space of potential “new” experiences and less to do with having made a conscious effort to do so.

    Corwyn couldn’t care less about ‘conscious effort’. If my brain does it, *I* do it. Definitionly.

    Thank you kindly.

  107. RationalismRules says

    @Jeremy #109

    RR seems more concerned with there being some sort of special “choice” information produced by the agent, which he (for reasons I still don’t understand) assumes would appear random or at least chaotic as it manifests physically…which is again not really a function of the degree of consciousness involved.

    It’s not about the appearance of randomness, it’s that randomness seems to be the only non-deterministic mechanism available. At this point I am quite strongly of the opinion that fully determined actions are not ‘free’ in any meaningful sense. For me, the question remaining is whether random choices/actions constitute ‘will’ in any meaningful sense. (Still mulling over EL’s latest post at the moment).

  108. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    (Ooh! Didn’t even see that post till after finishing writing the 2:07 am one…should probably read it again now I’m more awake.
    [OK, it has been read.])

    @113

    With the randomness/will thing…it seems to me that true randomness, if it exists, represents one will. That is to say, all randomness at all times and places is representative of a single will. And the will it represents is not yours (except in the useless sense that all wills are one)…it is the random one. If you disagree, you may have a weird definition of “will” and should work that out, which maybe is what you’re already trying to do.

    But supposing there is an element of will that is chaotic or random (a thing I don’t normally suppose). Just because the choice is random, does that mean that its physical counterpart looks random?
    If the agent and its choices happen on a plane that’s not the physical one* then it could be that the choice is the cause of both past and future physical events. (This ties into chikopi’s post.)

    Note that just because one plane is reflected in the other doesn’t make them the same. To reference a discussion in another thread, a clay pot is not just something made of clay, but is also not just a pot…it is a clay pot. (When it breaks, it’s still made of clay. When I coat it with glass, it’s still a pot.)
    When I am making a salad, I care [mostly] about its pot-ness. When I am making mortar, I care about its clay-ness.

  109. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    >the choice is the cause of both past and future physical events
    “effect” can substitute for “cause” without altering my point

  110. Chikoppi says

    @Jeremy

    With the randomness/will thing…it seems to me that true randomness, if it exists, represents one will. That is to say, all randomness at all times and places is representative of a single will. And the will it represents is not yours (except in the useless sense that all wills are one)…it is the random one. If you disagree, you may have a weird definition of “will” and should work that out, which maybe is what you’re already trying to do.

    Um, no. I’m pretty certain it is your definition of “will” that is incongruent with the colloquial. From Merriam-Webster:

    1: desire, wish: as
    a : disposition, inclination (where there’s a will there’s a way)
    b : appetite, passion
    c : choice, determination
    2
    a : something desired; especially : a choice or determination of one having authority or power
    b : (1) archaic : request, command (2) (from the phrase our will is which introduces it), the part of a summons expressing a royal command
    3
    a : the act, process, or experience of willing : volition
    4
    a : mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending
    b : disposition to act according to principles or ends
    c : the collective desire of a group (the will of the people)
    5
    a : the power of control over one’s own actions or emotions (a man of iron will)
    6
    a : a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death; especially : a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death

    These definitions imply intent or desire. As far as has been observed, the only thing capable of desiring, wishing, volition, intention, etc. is a brain. Brains are physical things. There is no evidence of an insubstantial, omnipresent “will” that determines the outcome of random events based on some intent or desire.

    You can’t “define things into existence” by applying words out of context. “Randomness” means an equal distribution of potential outcomes among all possible results. It does not mean that there is an incorporeal brain that “wills” a particular result to occur.

  111. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Can I disagree with my definition not matching what you cite?

    “the act, process, or experience of willing” –note how experience (your “intent, desire”) is only one of the or-ed things.

    In particular, definitions 2a (the “especially” part), 2b1 (yes it’s archaic), 3, 4b, (even 4a depending how we define “mind”), 5a (excluding the emotions part) all seem to fit, to my eyes.

    “equal distribution of potential outcomes across all possible results” is a choice, is an expression of power/authority, and is an action according to a principle (namely the principle of equal distribution of potential outcomes across all possible results).

  112. Chikoppi says

    @Jeremy #117

    What is the thing exerting, expressing, experiencing, or acting according to its “will?” What evidence is there that it exists?

    Again, you are trying to define some incorporeal agent into existence by creating a false syntactic equivalency. “Randomness” and “causality” are not synonyms for “intent” or “will.”

    Water doesn’t “want” to flow downhill. It doesn’t spend its stagnant moments thinking about or anticipating how gratifying it will be. Particles of opposing charges don’t “want” to move to closer proximity. The don’t feel the emotion of loneliness or rejection if they are separated. You are trying to anthropomorphize physics. That’s functionally indistinct from attributing thunder to angry sky spirits.

  113. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    I don’t see the need for a specific thing exerting the will, to describe it as a will? After a person dies, I can still do their will…the will has an independent existence. The will is what unites the various things exerting…I can flip two distinct coins, both times intending to go along with a chaotic outcome because of my indifference in choosing between two results but my desire to have exactly one of them.

  114. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    “spirit” is actually the name we give for a notion of cause distinct from the specific thing or manner in which the cause becomes manifest, so it’s funny you would mention that.

    But I am still unsure of why you choose to press the issue…if a will is just a cause imbued into a brain as a desire, why use a distinct word for it? It’s not anthropomorpization…it’s just a way of drawing attention to the possibility that randomness might become imbued in a brain as a desire, and how that would be no different than imbuing some other cause.

  115. Chikoppi says

    @Jeremy

    …if a will is just a cause imbued into a brain as a desire, why use a distinct word for it? It’s not anthropomorpization.

    Because “will” implies just that, causation within the context of cognitive processes. When you say “the wave function has a will” it implies that the wave function has cognitive process. That is anthropomorphism.

  116. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @chikoppi last try

    An heir has his dead father’s will, a computer program I write has my will. All that’s required is that the cause can be imbued into a cognitive process at some point, not that it actually has been or continues to be. Is this not a normative use of the term?

    (It’s clearly not, for you, so I’m done trying to convince you otherwise…RR may or may not agree with you, but either way I hope my intended meanings are by now clear.)

  117. Chikoppi says

    An heir has his dead father’s will, a computer program I write has my will. All that’s required is that the cause can be imbued into a cognitive process at some point, not that it actually has been or continues to be. Is this not a normative use of the term?

    “An heir has his dead father’s will.” This refers to a legal document (e.g., deed, contract). The document may or may not reflect a person’s intent. It is a hominem.

    “A computer program I write has my will.” That is not a normative use of the term. You may “will a program to be written,” or “will a hole to be dug,” but those products of a person’s actions are not described as possessing the will of the maker.

    “All that’s required is that the cause can be imbued into a cognitive process at some point, not that it actually has been or continues to be.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t found in any standard definition of the term “will.”

    Even were I to accept this definition, it still implies a precedent cognitive agent that does the “imbuing.” If the computer program “has your will,” whose will does the force of gravity have?

    Again, “will” (as motivated intent), typically implies that the thing currently possessing it has cognitive function. The particle doesn’t move willfully (because of internal intent), it moves causally (because of interaction with external forces).

  118. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    This is what is known as an “equivocation fallacy.” I recommend becoming familiar with logical fallacies.
    Chikoppi is accurate in describing the normative use of “will” in this discussion.

  119. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    EL seems more concerned with the questions of legal a responsibility, “could he have done better while still being himself? can we make that happen?”

    I’m most concerned as to the facts of the matter, regardless of what words we choose to use. I think we’re nearing consensus here.

    I’m then next-most concerned about the moral and ethical implications, and what we should do with this knowledge of the facts.

    My remaining concern is then over simple issues of terminology. I happen to side with the likes of Dan Dennett against the likes of Sam Harris on this issue. (They famously had a public back-and-forth on this matter – one exchange of public statements or something.)

    As an abstract position, in a particular discussion, I’m usually ok with whatever unusual definition of terms, as long as it’s made clear to all participants. However, as a practical matter, I try to use terms that cause the least confusion for broader audiences, and I object to use of terms that needlessly cause confusion in broader audiences. I think this is one such case. Most people have multiple meanings and attachments to the term “free will”. Most people have intricate mental connections for free will and determinism, and free will and moral accountability. For most people, it’s almost definitional or axiomatic that “of course if we don’t have free will then we don’t have moral accountability”. It’s for that reason – the reason explained at length in the above video by Dennett – that I do favor slightly tweaking the definition of “free will” in order that it match the public’s general understanding, while also describing something we actually have, and that rocks do not, and that many other animals do not.

    I think this is an easier rhetorical approach than the approach of saying we don’t have free will but we still have moral accountability. I also think this approach closer matches people’s preexisting conceptions, and in that way I also think it’s more honest, correct, IMHO. (“Honest” is a strong word here. I cannot think of a better one. Sorry. I do not mean to imply any sort of dishonesty to others in the conversation.)

  120. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS afraid I’m already familiar with that and other fallacies from cognitive psychology, and I don’t see it here (here= in 114 first paragraph, when clarified by what’s below, that I am speaking of a cause [randomness] that maps onto a will [indifference but wanting a decision])…if you want me to correct my thinking, you may have to actually point the specific instance of the fallacy out.

  121. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    Chikoppi pointed it out. “Will” as in a legal document and “will” as in cognitive intent are not the same thing. You implied in one post that they were. That is a variation of an equivocation fallacy.

  122. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS

    Ah…there. I had already made about three mistakes where my meanings did not match my choice of words, well before I had time to make any equivocation fallacies. So it’s really a moot point.

    But thanks for the concern. <3

  123. sujes hircst says

    Dennett has made progress here but, ultimately ended up in equally vacuous territory. He fails to adequately address the core problems with his argument:

    If you’re a determinist like he is, it doesn’t matter how many variables are involved in the decision, because you don’t control any of them. He keeps trying to both accept that this type of free will doesn’t exist, while still trying to differentiate between a cereal box advertisement and a mind-control device. In a deterministic world they are ultimately the same.
    Moral responsibility fundamentally reduces to the statement that, “You should have taken a different action than you did.”, yet this is precisely what determinism says is impossible. The putt example is not an escape because all it does is ask us to question so-called “capabilities”, i.e. it says that someone either could or could not have made a different choice. But this makes no sense given the fact that, given a deterministic universe, those capabilities are also outside the person’s control.

    Dennett is committed to his position and I don’t think his mind can be changed.

  124. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    If you’re a determinist like he is, it doesn’t matter how many variables are involved in the decision, because you don’t control any of them.

    You’re making the homunculus mistake.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus_argument
    In order to use the word “control”, there must be something outside of those variables which does the controlling, e.g. there must be a homunculus. However, there is no homunculus. You are your brain. You don’t control those variables. You are those variables. You are those deterministic processes – with possible deterministic invocations of a true-random number generator, ala a program written in C (without threads, without undefined nor unspecified behavior, etc.) that occasionally makes calls to a true-random number generator.

    What you’re asking for is the ability to spontaneously change who you are, but if you had such an “ability”, then I would argue that you do not have proper free will, because you are spontaneously changing all the time, and you cannot make decisions based on your preferences, values, past experience, etc. The ability to make decisions is not found in randomness. The ability to make decisions is only found in systems with a strong deterministic bent. Only in systems with a strong deterministic bent does it make sense to talk about choices, decisions, and free will.

  125. sujes hircst says

    Dennett gives a list of things you must have to get moral responsibility.

    First off, I’m not sure how he came up with the list. But let’s try to work with it. The meat seem to be in the last three:

    Morally responsible people are not being controlled by others
    Morally responsible people are punishable
    Morally responsible people could have done otherwise

    Causes are not control

    He starts off on the first one by listing different types of “causes”. One is a doctor giving good advice about heart health, another is a health fact on a Kellogg’s cereal leading to a good choice about heart health, another is a picture of a beautiful woman on a box of cereal asking you to buy the healthy cereal, and the last is a brain implant that compels you to buy the cereal.
    Dennett argues that these are all causes, but that being caused by an intervention is not the same as being controlled. This is curious coming from a determinist.

    So now we have control of our actions sometimes, and not in others? If that’s the case then I think we probably disagree about the definition of determinism.

    If you have determinism then all events are compelled—the question is simply one of awareness of some of these events, and assigning attribution to some of them as they pass through you.

    Punishment is good because promises are good

    This is an interesting one that I think betrays the underlying agenda he’s defending. He argues that incompatibilists are attacking punishment, or the morality of punishment, on the grounds that in a world without free will punishment would be wrong.

    He says this is wrong because punishment is good.

    I wouldn’t want to live in a world without punishment because I wouldn’t want to live in a world without promises. ~ Daniel Dennett

    This is fascinating, and worth a discussion by itself. I wish we were having that conversation instead of this one.

    I disagree with him, however, as I think that anyone who cares about promises will be sufficiently “punished” by the disappointment of letting someone down.

    If the promise is to a close friend, the punishment is disappointment. If the promise is to society, the punishment is disappointment, or scorn, or ostracism. There are many options for repercussions that don’t have to bleed into retribution.

    And he’s not come close to making a case that retribution can solve a problem that consequentialism cannot. This is especially true when a tinge of retributive salt could be added to a 99% consequentialist correction model. Consequentialism can absorb retributivist concepts, while the opposite seems impossible.
    Could have done otherwise doesn’t violate determinism

    He then goes on to address the most serious problem with determinism and moral responsibility: if someone could not have done otherwise then they can’t be held responsible for what they did do.

    His answer is to give the putt example again, where people are arguing whether someone “could have” made a given putt that was missed. They argue back and forth saying that it definitely could have been made, but only if things were slightly different then the way they were.

    So the compatibilist reading ends up being that if the golfer can make puts just like that one often enough, then we should be comfortable saying that he should have made that one as well.

    Fascinating. Especially from a determinist.

    So here’s what he’s asking us to conclude, brought into the real world: Anyone who could have made a better decision in life, like not pulling a trigger instead of pulling it, or saving the kid instead of being overcome by fear, can and should be punished for not having made that decision.

    So, reducing that down, we can all be legitimately chastised because we did not do a better version of our previous actions? Any action. You got a Ph.D. Why didn’t you get two? You didn’t kill anyone in the prison camp, but why didn’t you save the other prisoners? You helped 20 people find a new home for their puppy. Why didn’t you save 100 puppies instead?

    Remember, if you had 1,000 chances you probably could have done better in at least a few of them—and that’s what makes you guilty.
    Abolish punishments in sports

    He then goes on to argue that morality is a social construct, and that people are guilty of things simply because we’ve decided that anyone who does a particular thing is guilty.

    That’s tidy.

    He says Home runs are arbitrary, but agreed upon. So maybe a fly ball that goes 449 feet is an out, but a fly ball that goes 450 feet is a home run. And we’re ok with that because it’s about a social contract.

    This is shell magic at its best. He’s completely taken our eyes off the question of who is hitting how far, and why.

    If you go up to a hitter with a shoulder and hip injury, who just had stomach surgery, and tell him,

    Hey buddy, the home run cutoff is 450 feet, and your family doesn’t get to eat if you don’t make it. But don’t worry if this doesn’t sound fair…it’s a social contract! We all agreed that 449 just isn’t enough to earn food.

    That’s a brilliant foundation for morality. Especially when all those injuries were caused by a meteor that hit the guy’s house…while he was sleeping.

    Oh, he should have had a meteor shield on his house? Because he was actually capable of having a meteor shield, in another universe where he had more tries at the defend-against-meteor putt?

    Ridiculous.

  126. RationalismRules says

    @EL #105

    Re: libertarian free will, now that I understand the definition you are working from I see your argument. Seems valid to me.

    It seems we have inescapably ended up at a question of definitions (shoutout to Corwyn!) – I feel that your definition of ‘free’ is so limited that it renders the notion of free will effectively meaningless, and I see that my definition of ‘will’ arguably does the same. Hmmm.

    In #125 you appear to be saying it’s worth adjusting the notion of free will so that moral accountability is not brought into question, but isn’t that whole point of the ‘free will’ debate? If our morals are determined for us, maybe we don’t have moral responsibility? (as uncomfortable as I am with that notion). It seems to me that redefining free will so as to avoid addressing the moral question is a form of presuppositionalism.

    Also, “describing something we actually have, and that rocks do not, and that many other animals do not” seems questionable. Don’t animals have the same free will within your definition?
    I would argue that what distinguishes us from (most) animals in the area of moral accountability is not free will, it’s awareness of the effect of our actions.

    I like what you had to say about justice. The only aspect I question is whether deterrence is in fact just reason for punishment. I’m not sure about this one yet – more thinking required.

    Thanks for hanging in there. It has been a valuable discussion for me. I’ve now run out of steam on this topic (I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear!) I would be interested in your responses to my above comments on #125, if you care to, but I won’t be arguing any further.

  127. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To sujes hircst
    You need to learn to use quotes, or at least some way to delimit what is your text, vs the text of someone else. Ex:
    <blockquote>quoted text goes here</blockquote>

    Quoting sujes hircst:

    Dennett argues that these are all causes, but that being caused by an intervention is not the same as being controlled. This is curious coming from a determinist.

    No, we agree there. We disagree as to what constitutes mere influence and what constitutes outright coercion or “brain control”. People are response for their actions, unless there are situations of outright coercion or “brain control”.

    He then goes on to argue that morality is a social construct, and that people are guilty of things simply because we’ve decided that anyone who does a particular thing is guilty.

    Well, morality isn’t something objectively real like mass, length, or color (wavelength of light).

    PS: I need to read Dennett in more detail, but I bet that you are not properly portraying his foundations for morality.

    Quoting RationalismRules

    It seems to me that redefining free will so as to avoid addressing the moral question is a form of presuppositionalism.

    Protip: All systems of beliefs, all epistemologies, are presuppositional (with the occasional mixture of circular reasoning aka coherentism). This is the position espoused by basically every philosopher ever. This is also the position of Matt Dillahunty. So, it’s not an effective debate tactic to merely accuse my morality as being presuppositional, because I already know and admit that my morality is presuppositional. PS: Your morality is presuppositional too!

    For some further reading, I suggest this blog post by Richard Carrier:
    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/epistemological-end-game.html
    (Note: I agree with nearly all of it, but not all of it.)

  128. BillBo says

    I do not think we have a complete enough understanding of consciousness yet to determine its true nature. From my perspective I seem to have the capability to make my own decisions. A way you could prove to me that my decisions are predetermined is to consistently predict what I will do next ahead of time. Vague philosophical arguments just don’t cut it. Just as they don’t cut it for proving there is a god. It is interesting to think about, but ultimately pointless until it manifests.

  129. sujes hircst says

    @EL
    #133- “People are response for their actions, unless there are situations of outright coercion or “brain control”.”
    …so much for
    #130- “You are your brain. You don’t control those variables. You are those variables.”
    …addressing
    #130- “You’re making the homunculus mistake.”
    A possible counter to this is that the brain as a whole is the homunculus, rather than thinking a specific part must be watching the movie.

    Absolute Free will is the kind that Dennett rejects. And Practical Free Will is the kind that I think most everyone would agree exists, if you define it as the useful experience of having choice.

    Dennett it appears, is saying the second kind (Practical) can get you to moral responsibility.

    Dennett is trying to eat his cake and sell it, too.

  130. ironchops says

    @135-sujes hircst
    “Absolute Free will is the kind that Dennett rejects. And Practical Free Will is the kind that I think most everyone would agree exists, if you define it as the useful experience of having choice.”
    Nicely re-stating my comment in post 98-“I find this is a kind of nebulas exercise in semantics. The term “Free Will” is not clearly defined and has at least 2 definitions that seem to be interchanged depending on circumstances.”

  131. sujes hircst says

    @#136
    Dennett’s position on free will in the past, left me with the impression that his argument was a bit squirmish. It was opaque, and it made one argument while appearing to all but a few to mean something else entirely.

    In short, he was agreeing that the free will what both incompatibilists and regular people believe in doesn’t exist, and then trying to introduce another kind of free will that he said does matter.

    The result was confusion.

    And in his latest talk he makes good progress towards clarification. For starters, he comes right out and does three startling things:

    Shows how many people agree that free will doesn’t exist
    Gives strong scientific evidence that they’re right
    Says very clearly that he agrees with them if they’re talking about the type of free will scientists or regular people are talking about which is Absolute.

    The admission that we don’t have the type of free will that 1) people think we have, or 2) that incompatibilists and most scientists think of as free will, is a major concession.

    This is refreshing, and deserving of praise (!). But he’s obviously not giving up, so what’s his new angle?

    One of his weapons is highlighting the difference between voluntary and involuntary action. He has a line that goes like this:

    There’s a difference between voluntary and involuntary actions
    We know voluntary actions exist
    Yet people are saying that free will is an illusion
    You can’t have both free will as an illusion AND voluntary actions being different from involuntary ones
    Therefore free will exists

    As you know, with deductive arguments, if you accept all the premises then you must accept the conclusion. And if the conclusion is wrong then you must be able to find the error in on of them.

    In this case, the error is in #4. It’s true that there’s a difference between voluntary and involuntary actions, but that doesn’t mean that free will exists. He’s basically trying to use voluntary action as evidence of free will, which is the entire thing he’s trying to prove.

    He then uses Scott Adams Dilbert comic, that talks about free will, presumably to bolster his position, not knowing that Scott Adams completely rejects free will. And he’s the one who came up with the term “moist robots”.

    Dennett goes on to say he likes that term, further illustrating how much he agrees with incompatibilists if their definition is used.

    ZZzzzz…..

  132. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes hircst
    If you’re bored, fuck off.
    I, like EL, don’t think you’re entirely representing Dennett correctly (as well as making snide implications of dishonesty to bolster book sales or some shit), although you got much closer in that last post. I still think you’re making the same homonculus mistake as before; your “counter” is a non sequitur, as far as I’m concerned.

  133. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Without getting involved…

    The “I am my brain” / “only a brain can hold a desire” thing still baffles me, and I’ve now read it from at least three people with very different views (corwyn I think, RR, and chikopi) so gonna try again to force an explanation.

    Do you really think that brains make use of the fullness of their physical complexity, and that a system without all of those complexities [I realize this could not be a physical system] would not be able to model cognition?

    Calling a mind its physical form seems to me as silly as using Einsteinian physics to catch a ball…most people (maybe not professional baseballers) don’t even go full newtonian but use a heuristic…because those complexities are not relevant to the result being produced.

    Please clarify?

  134. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    I mean “make use of” in the sense that a classical computer does not make use of entanglement (and can still do anything a quantum computer can, it’s just worse at being fast on certain kinds of problems).

    Do you consider the mistakes of cognition that result from our evolution not having corrected for every single aspect of true physics, to be an important part of cognition? If so please explain.

    (yes I know my language is a bit judgemental, just trying to drive home what the thing is that bothers me)

  135. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Jeremy from Pittsburgh
    I don’t understand quite what you’re asking. I am not suggesting that right now we should pursue building a practical model of the whole brain neuron by neuron in order to answer practical questions. Similarly, I am not suggesting that we study weather patterns by building models of weather which are constructed molecule by molecule in the air.

    I am still making the point that there is no need to appeal to the supernatural, or the immaterial, in order to explain the externally visible behavior of a person. That’s what I mean by “you are your brain”.

    Do you consider the mistakes of cognition that result from our evolution not having corrected for every single aspect of true physics, to be an important part of cognition? If so please explain.

    I cannot parse this. Please try again.

  136. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    The comma in the sentence you couldn’t parse should not grammatically be there, sorry…hopefully that helps, albeit probably not

    I will map out the question’s deep structure if that helps xD but not tonight

  137. Chikoppi says

    @Jeremy

    I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re asking, but I’ll take a crack at it.

    “I am my brain / you are your brain”

    There are attributes that we apply to things that think. These attributes include emotions, survival instincts, the ability to be self-aware, to understand cause and effect, to consider multiple potential outcomes before taking action, to exhibit desire/fear, etc. These attributes differentiate “things that think” from “things that do not think.”

    I have the habit of using the word “agency.” Things that have attributes requiring thought have agency (people, animals). Things that do not exhibit the attributes of thought do not have agency (bacteria, viruses, chairs, stones, molecules, forces, etc.).

    A physical brain is the thing that thinks. We have zero evidence of “thought” or “agency” occurring in the absence of a physical brain. When I refer to myself as an ontological thing with agency, I am referring (essentially) to my brain.

    That’s a rough summation. Does it speak to your question?

  138. sujes hircst says

    @BillBo #134
    Our understanding of the brain is so elemental at this point that we don’t know how language works in the brain.
    I think most prominent neuroscientists would believe that the mind generally cannot exist without the brain, as the whole premise of neuroscience is that cognition correlates with brain activity. However, I will try to provide some instances in which this isn’t entirely true. There are neuroscientists who think the brain itself is insufficient to explain everything about the mind. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, wrote a book a few years ago about how he thinks an afterlife exists because of near-death experiences in which people are officially brain dead but still experience some form of consciousness. I haven’t read the book and I’m not saying that I agree with him, but he is still a relatively famous guy who is versed in the neuroscience but still thinks the brain isn’t everything. There are also neuroscience researchers in the embodied cognition camp, who believe that the mind is not just the brain, but also the body. The two are intertwined such that you can’t isolate it to just the brain. Additionally, it depends on what you mean by brain and mind. Some neuroscientists on the more theoretical side might say that you could have cognition or a mind in an artificial brain.

  139. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    That’s a pretty benign twisting of Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven,” in which he claims to be medically dead for a while when he was merely in an induced coma. The book appears to be a cash grab, as a neurosurgeon (which is not in the least interchangeable with neuroscientist, FYI) would not make such a silly, blatant mistake.
    http://www.skeptic.com/insight/proof-of-heaven/
    I don’t find that the rest of your post has that much to do with the discussion at hand.

  140. BillBo says

    @sujes I do not think there is anything supernatural involved with consciousness. I just think that those (such as Dennett) who argue along the lines of “the brain is purely physical and physical is purely cause-effect, thus our thought processes are purely deterministic” are overstepping the bounds of our knowledge of both physics and thought processes. They could be right, it certainly seems highly plausible. But it is far from the sure thing they think it is and push it as. I have watched many videos on youtube by Dennett and others along these lines because I find it interesting. But so far I find all the arguments and experimental evidence to be inconclusive and unconvincing.

  141. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    After all of the advances of science, including particle physics, chemistry, biological, neuroscience, etc. – are you really giving any noteworthy credence to the idea that there is magic in the brain, that there is souls, that there is a supernatural life force, or whatever other discredited notions that should have been abandoned a hundred years ago? The brain is not magic. The brain is just neuroscience, which is just biology and chemistry, which is just quantum field theory. The science of all fundamental physics of everyday life, of anything and everything that has ever happened on Earth, including in your brain, is known. There’s no more work left to do.[1] Your claim is just as ridiculous as saying that there are elves in my lawn who hide whenever someone is looking.

    1:
    Example explanation:
    Particles, Fields and The Future of Physics – A Lecture by Sean Carroll

  142. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @EL who is 150 for?

    Physical reality is all which can be shared in a predictable way. There’s the other stuff that connects to it without being it; it’s just harder stuff to share without some noise entering.
    Generally the harder-to-share stuff is simpler than the shareable stuff.

  143. sujes hircst says

    Sean Carrol is a very nice guy. I met him.
    Unfortunately for him our knowledge I think, is undergoing and or about to undergo, a paradigm shift.

  144. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Jeremy from Pittsburgh, I meant to address that to BillBo.

    Also, I’m laughing at sujes hircst most recent post.

  145. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    That’s a bald (and incorrect) assertion. Hoffman is quite literally arguing for solipsism and has zero science backing his arguments. For the record, the fallibility of our cognitive faculties is not evidence that there is in fact no reality.

  146. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    xD getting the feeling this thread is gonna be a fun read once I bother

  147. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @Chikoppi your answer is the one I was most curious to see, and you did not disappoint. Apparently too tired right now for the follow-up (just tried to type it ~five times and failed) but thank you.

  148. sujes hircst says

    @ Ice Smell Mono

    …metaphysical solipsism? …epistemological solipsism?

    That ITP does not amount to metaphysical solipsism should be clear from the fact that its formal framework includes a set W that is distinct from the set X. In other words, ITP specifically postulates a “world” that is distinct from one’s perceptions. What ITP denies is any simplistic form of relation between W and X; e.g., the assumption that the predicates of our perceptions—species-specific as they are—somehow provide insight into the “true” predicates of the world. And it places strong limitations on what can be inferred about the structure of the world from the structure of our perceptions. Importantly, however, ITP does not preclude normal science, and makes falsifiable predictions of its own.

    ITP claims not just that some of our perceptions might be non-veridical, but rather that the very predicates of our perceptions—space-time, physical objects in space-time, and properties of objects such as shape, position, movement and color—are the wrong predicates to describe reality as it is. These are simply species-specific predicates that natural selection has produced. Veridical descriptions of reality simply cannot be formulated using the predicates of our perceptions.

  149. Monocle Smile says

    @Chikoppi
    It’s me. Apparently feigning dyslexia is funny and nobody told me.

    @sujes
    Name a few falsifiable predictions and the corresponding experiments of this “ITP” whatever-the-fuck.

    That last paragraph appears to be yet more wild-ass assertions that can’t possibly be verified. But let’s take one of them (color) because you’re starting to piss me off. Scientists are fully aware that color is merely a perception generated by our eyes and brain of light of varying wavelengths. We know that color isn’t some intrinsic property of light. I used to have a stock “stop assuming scientists are dumbasses” response here, but you’re going well beyond that. I don’t know how anyone can argue with a straight face that not only is reality different from our perceptions due to our slightly faulty faculties, but that reality is nothing like our perceptions and apparently resembles a Lovecraftian LSD trip or some shit.

  150. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    …I like where this is going, and disagree with all xD

    Color (as perceived with vision) is a simplification of light inputs, and vice versa (light is a noisier version of color, with some other irrelevant properties like fixed speed).

    Again, it seems silly to call one of these things reality and the other not…light can be shared almost-perfectly (save some quantum weirdness), but color can’t be shared nearly as perfectly.

    @Sujes
    Perception is nearly by definition not constant/true…a perception implies a possible alternative perception; otherwise it’d be called knowledge. This is not an effect of speciation but an effect of anything short of omniscience.

    No clue what ITP is and kinda don’t want to know.

  151. sujes hircst says

    Interface Theory of Perception makes four falsifiable predictions about the nature of reality.

    1 Space-time is doomed. ITP predicts that space-time is not fundamental in physical theory, but instead emerges as a description from some more fundamental reality. Physicists will find that space-time descriptions are unnecessarily complex, and fail to reveal the deepest symmetries that govern reality. If this prediction proves false, ITP is wrong. Recent work on modeling scattering amplitudes using the amplituhedron by Arkani-Hamed and colleagues supports this prediction of ITP, as does earlier work in string theory by Giddings.
    2 Physical objects in space-time are doomed. ITP predicts that no physical object has definite values of any dynamical physical properties—such as position, momentum, spin—when it is not observed. If any experiment demonstrates that, say, an electron has a definite value of spin or position when it is not observed, then ITP is wrong. Such tests are empirically possible, and have been repeated many times, so far with no result that contradicts the predictions of ITP. The latest test used entangled electron spins separated by 1.3 kilometers.
    3 Causality of physical objects in space-time is doomed. If physical objects do not have positions, momenta, or spins when they are not observed, then the causal nexus of reality—if such there be—is not due to positions, momenta, or spin. If experiments demonstrate otherwise, ITP is wrong.
    4 Causality of neurons is doomed. This follows as a special case of c. It entails the prediction that neurons cause none of our behaviors and none of our conscious experiences. If experiments demonstrate otherwise, ITP is wrong.

  152. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @sujes
    #2
    A property and an observation are basically the same thing.* Understand the difference between the two, and you’ll see that there are shades of grey between the two.

    Why should the indefinite-ness of a value change the fact that it has been observed? Indefinite-ness is also an observation…I can look at a data set and calculate a confidence interval, for instance. It comes out that you don’t even need to do this testing to call physical objects “doomed”.

    But physical objects continue to exist and teach us stuff…they’re not doomed, just that you are stupidly choosing not to care about them. Dogs have four legs.

    *(yes, Chikopi, come at me and say I’m anthropomorphizing, but here he is using “observation” to refer to a tool doing the measuring, not the person using the tool to do the measuring.)

  153. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    (By “doing their job” I just mean “dog is being a dog, cat is being a cat, hammer is being a hammer” etc., not anything vaster.)

  154. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes hircst
    You fucking dumbass. Why do so many armchair “physicists” get the Observer Effect completely wrong?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics)
    From the page:

    This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner

    THIS is what’s meant by “observation” in quantum and subatomic physics. Me standing in a room fucking looking at the experiment does not alter shit.
    In conclusion:
    1) is pretty obvious, but your conclusions are shit. Reality operates a certain way on the micro scale that emerges as operating a different way on the macro scale. So what? This has nothing to do with anything.
    2) is a bad conclusion drawn from people being dumbasses re: the Observer Effect.
    3) is a non sequitur and a laughably obvious shifting of the burden of proof. I asked for the experiments. There are none backing this up.
    4) is even worse, and this gives away the whole point of “ITP.” People like Hoffman begin with this conclusion and then work to piece together disparate facts (and experiments that don’t support this conclusion) like a conspiracy theorist in order to bolster their pet idea.

  155. Monocle Smile says

    @Those who are probably going to tone troll
    Between the “technocracy” weirdo, Jeeves from London, the “superimmortality” snowflake, and now whatever the fuck sujes hircst is, I’m pretty goddamn fed up with nutjobs stroking their woo boners all over this blog.

  156. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Also, “Interface Theory of Perception” is a dumb name for a theory where perception doesn’t interface with anything…?

  157. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    You’re telling me. These schools of “thought” insist otherwise. I’ve encountered a disturbing number of people who think that a human being looking at something fundamentally alters that thing.

  158. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Well, If I were to, say, reverse engineer a plunger. The new one would be different than the original, to the extent that I can’t observe the original perfectly.

    But the original would be left intact. They could even sit in the same room with each other, in different stalls.

    This basically explains why I try to judge people favorably…if they are like me, they become the expectations of the company they keep, even if when they leave they go back to being some other character.

  159. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Sorry for the favorable judging non-sequiter…was trying to make a point about sujes’s mistake…our observations are important to US and our actions, not to the thing observed.

    (tried to work in some common mistakes and how they fit with the bigger picture)

  160. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Monocle Smile #166:

    I’m pretty goddamn fed up with nutjobs stroking their woo boners all over this blog.

    QFT

  161. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS @compulsorywhatever

    Actually, this particular brand of woo lends itself really really well to the masturbation metaphor. Think about it.

  162. sujes hircst says

    Speaking of woo:
    Why do you atheists push their religion of atheism on others when there is no evidence that God doesn’t exist?

    atheists know that you can’t have morality without God? It seems like atheist just want an excuse to not have to abide by God’s moral code so they can do whatever they want.

    atheists need FAITH to believe God doesn’t exist, thus making atheism a religion. Why are they trying to force their religion into public schools?

  163. sujes hircst says

    …says the guy who thinks an anagram is dyslexia.

    You can’t be angry at God and not believe in him at the same time…you just can’t!

    Straw man much?

  164. sujes hircst says

    When did atheists become so teeth-gratingly annoying? Surely non-believers in God weren’t always the colossal pains in the collective backside that they are today? Surely there was a time when you could say to someone “I am an atheist” without them instantly assuming you were a smug, self-righteous loather of dumb hicks given to making pseudo-clever statements like, “Well, Leviticus also frowns upon having unkempt hair, did you know that?” Things are now so bad that I tend to keep my atheism to myself, and instead mumble something about being a very lapsed Catholic if I’m put on the spot, for fear that uttering the A-word will make people think I’m a Dawkins drone with a mammoth superiority complex and a hives-like allergy to nurses wearing crucifixes.

    These days, barely a week passes without the emergence of yet more evidence that atheists are the most irritating people on Earth. After all atheism believes in science right? We’ve been treated to scientific research claiming to show that atheists are cleverer than religious people. I say scientific. I say research. It is of course neither; it’s just a pre-existing belief dolled up in rags snatched from various reports and stories. Not unlike the Bible. But that hasn’t stopped the atheistic blogosphere and Twitterati from effectively saying, “See? Told you we were brainier than you Bible-reading numbskulls.”

    Atheists online are forever sharing memes about how stupid religious people are. I know this because some of my best Facebook friends are atheists. There’s even a website called Atheist Meme Base, whose most popular tags tell you everything you need to know about it and about the kind of people who borrow its memes to proselytise about godlessness to the ignorant: “indoctrination”, “Christians”, “funny”, “hell”, “misogyny”, “scumbag God”, “logic”. Atheists in the public sphere spend their every tragic waking hour doing little more than mocking the faithful. In the words of Robin Wright, they seem determined “to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers”. To that end if you ever have the misfortune, as I once did, to step foot into an atheistic get-together, which are now common occurrences in the Western world, patronised by people afflicted with repetitive strain injury from so furiously patting themselves on the back for being clever, you will witness unprecedented levels of intellectual smugness and hostility towards hoi polloi.

    So, what’s gone wrong with atheism? The problem isn’t atheism itself, of course, which is just non-belief, a nothing, a lack of something. Rather it is the transformation of this nothing into an identity, into the basis of one’s outlook on life, which gives rise to today’s monumentally annoying atheism. The problem with today’s campaigning atheists is that they have turned their absence of belief in God into the be-all and end-all of their personality. Which is bizarre. Atheism merely signals what you don’t believe in, not what you do believe in. It’s a negative. And therefore, basing your entire worldview on it is bound to generate immense amounts of negativity. Where earlier generations of the Godless viewed their atheism as a pretty minor part of their personality, or at most as the starting point of their broader identity as socialists or humanists or whatever, today’s ostentatiously Godless folk constantly declare “I am an atheist!” as if that tells you everything you need to know about a person, when it doesn’t. The utter hollowness of this transformation of a nothing into an identity is summed up by the fact that some American atheists now refer to themselves as “Nones” – that is, their response to the question “What is your religious affiliation?” is “None”. Okay, big deal, you don’t believe in God, well done. But what do you believe in?

    Today’s atheism-as-identity is really about absolving oneself of the tough task of explaining what one is for, what one loves, what one has faith in, in favour of the far easier and fun pastime of saying what one is against and what one hates. An identity based on a nothing will inevitably be a quite hostile identity, sometimes viciously so, particularly towards opposite identities that are based on a something – in this case on a belief in God. There is a very thin line between being a None and a nihilist; after all, if your whole identity is based on not believing in something, then why give a damn about anything?

  165. RationalismRules says

    @MS #175
    Not just a god-bot, a Top Five Worst Arguments god-bot.
    (say them with me, folks)
    1. atheism is a religion too
    2. there’s no proof that god doesn’t exist
    3. atheists just want to sin
    4. it takes faith to be an atheist
    5. atheists are angry at god
    all in the space of two short posts.
    Hmmm, might this be a troll perhaps?

  166. RationalismRules says

    #179
    Ah, I’ve just picked on the anagram clues. It’s all in the name.
    (Feeling like I’m seriously lagging behind)

  167. Chikoppi says

    Wow. That is some pro-level ignorance.

    It sure is easy to vilify someone when all you know of them is the crap you’ve made up to justify your bigotry.

    Atheists are no more homogeneous than are “people who don’t believe in psychics” or people who don’t believe in leprechauns.” Boy oh boy, I sure do hate those people. (But then my bigotry is justified, because I have “Facebook friends” who don’t believe in leprechauns.)

  168. sujes hircst says

    Holy Russell’s Teapot!
    “Oho!” said the pot to the kettle;
    “You are dirty and ugly and black!
    Sure no one would think you were metal,
    Except when you’re given a crack.”

    “Not so! not so!” kettle said to the pot;
    “‘Tis your own dirty image you see;
    For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
    That your blackness is mirrored in me.”

  169. Chikoppi says

    Tu quoque? That’s your retort?

    When engaging with a religious person I have the decency to ask what they believe and why. I don’t assume they are lying, or that their professed beliefs mask some insidious purpose, or that they bear responsibility for the acts of others who profess similar beliefs.

    Further, I don’t begrudge them those beliefs. I care about what they believe and why only insofar as they cite it as motivation for their actions and behaviors. If a person insists that information about science should be censored in the classroom, that legislation should be enacted, or that some minority should be discriminated against based on religious doctrine then yes, I am going to confront that reasoning on an epistemic basis.

    Most of my friends and family are religious. I care about them no less because of it and the subject rarely comes up, because they are reasonable and conscientious people. Your attempt to suggest an equivalency between your behavior here and atheism in general is as misinformed as your bigotry.

  170. Chikoppi says

    There’s you’re misconception in a nutshell.

    Atheist. A- (not) theist (belief in a god or gods).

    That’s it. That’s the common denominator. Some atheists are scietifically literate, others couldn’t care less. Some have well-considered philosophical beliefs, some don’t. Some are politically active, some aren’t.

    There is no such thing as an “atheism belief system.”

    Do you believe in fairies? No? Explain to me the “a-fairy belief system.” See what I mean?

    I can tell you that I’ve studied theology and philosophy and that I care about epistemology and ethics. I donate my time to a number of charities. But that’s just me. I don’t care about those things because of atheism. I care about them because I care about people and I care about living a life of meaning and purpose. As far as I can tell, I’m a fairly typical example of someone in the community.

  171. sujes hircst says

    Hmmm…The problem with that statement “A- (not) theist (belief in a god or gods)” is it proves too much. What do I mean? Well, on this definition my cat is an atheist, because it does not believe in God. (I sometimes suspect cats believe they are God, but that’s another story entirely.) Likewise potatoes and small rocks are also atheists, because they, too, do not possess a belief in a deity of any kind.

    Non-belief in the tooth fairy does not cause action (it might arguably cause non-action, such as not putting your teeth under the pillow when they fall out.) For something to cause an action, it has to be a positive belief, an actual claim.

    There is evidence that atheism is a belief and that is its tendency to act as an identity marker. Many people self-describe as atheists, in a way that non-believers in the tooth fairy, Atlantis or Santa Claus do not. I have never, for example, introduced myself at a party as an “Atoothfairyian” and I have no plans to start doing so. But atheists on the other hand do use their non-belief in God as an identity marker.

    The much simpler suggestion is that atheism is a belief and, just like other beliefs, ranging from the political to the religious, can indeed form part of a person or a community’s identity. Atheism looks like a belief, functions like a belief and behaves like a belief—in short: it is a belief.

    I don’t believe that Sweden exists.I think it’s just a political conspiracy, designed to motivate other European citizens to work harder. All that talk of the best health care system, the highest standard of living, of tall and beautiful people. It sounds like a myth and I’m not buying it. I don’t believe in Sweden.
    You could say “If Sweden doesn’t exist, how do you explain IKEA furniture, or the Swedish chef on The Muppet Show, or what glues Norway to Finland? That’s a staggering claim! What’s your evidence?”
    Aha, I say sagely, I see your confusion. You think that my denial of Sweden is a belief. But it’s simply a non-belief and so I don’t need to give evidence for it.
    I don’t have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, or Shangri-La and nor do I need to do so for my non-belief in Sweden. You see I’m not making a claim of any kind—quite the opposite: I’m claiming nothing, I’m merely rejecting one of your beliefs—your belief in Sweden.
    See what I mean?

  172. Wiggle Puppy says

    Okay, mate, I have to invoke Poe’s Law when the “rocks and dogs” nonsense comes out. Atheism is just the rejection of god claims as unsupported, and if you can’t deal with that without invoking inanimate objects, then you’re not mature enough to engage with. There’s a difference between a thinking human who has processed and rejected a claim and an animal/object who hasn’t understood it. To borrow from a Youtube video, if you were at a family reunion and someone asked you to point out who there was not a member of your immediate family, would you have to point to the tables and chairs and specify that they, too, were not in your immediate family? The only reason that “atheism” is a thing in a way that “a-Tooth Fairyism: or “a-unicornism” are not is because the vast majority of people believe in some sort of deity and so a label for those who don’t has kind of become necessary. It’s true that many atheists came to their atheism via skepticism and empiricism – which are belief systems – but that’s not true of all of them. And it’s true that some atheists have formed groups in order to provide a sense of community, but that’s not true of all. Troll.

    And you’re completely right, you don’t have to provide evidence for your disbelief in Sweden. But if the evidence for a god was a fraction as good as the evidence for Sweden, then you might be in pretty good shape.

  173. Wiggle Puppy says

    Not to mention, the evidence for Sweden is falsifiable: you could go to the place that’s indicated on a map, and if Sweden wasn’t there, you’ve dis-confirmed the hypothesis. How exactly does one falsify the god hypothesis?

  174. sujes hircst says

    So you’re saying that atheism is the lack of belief in God by a creature that has the ability to form beliefs? This is a different claim entirely—indeed, it’s a positive claim. You are claiming to believe that the external world really exists (thus rejecting metaphysical idealism), that other minds exist, that the human mind can form beliefs, and that our cognitive faculties are broadly reliable. Each of those is a hotly debated area in philosophy.

    Suddenly what looked a simple statement of non-belief (“I don’t believe in God”) has sprouted a whole series of positive claims, popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. I have yet encountered an atheist who believes that positive claims do not need to be argued for (indeed, atheists are fond of crying ‘Evidence!’ whenever confronted with a religious believer) and so it is the atheist’s job to give evidence for each of the philosophical positions you are encamped on. If you are not willing to do the hard reasoning, well, then, you can take your place alongside the cat, the rock, the potato, and Poe’s Law.

  175. Wiggle Puppy says

    Yes, I believe all of those things, but I don’t believe them *because* of atheism – one could be a theist and believe all of those things too, so theism/atheism is irrelevant to those claims. I know that theists desperately want atheism to be more than just a simple lack of belief in gods so that it will be a harder position to defend, but you’re failing miserably at it.

  176. sujes hircst says

    The notion of falsifiability is usually related to claims about the physical universe that are testable, at least in principle. If a claim–even one about the physical universe/multiverse is not testable even in principle it is held to be nonscientific. Philosophy and religion make other sorts of claims, and the falsifiability truth-test does not apply well to them. That does not mean they are true–or false.

  177. Wiggle Puppy says

    Yes, if a claim is un-falsifiable, then there’s no way to tell whether it’s true or false. And there’s then no rational reason to believe that it’s true. And if your god is one that answers prayers, inspires prophecies, etc, then that *is* testable, and somehow god seems to always come up short when those tests are done.

  178. sujes hircst says

    So here’s the problem for the atheist. If atheism is not a claim of any kind, then it is simply meaningless. On the other hand, if the atheist wishes to claim that his atheism is true, then that must mean that atheism is a claim, and claims need to be defended, evidence provided and reasons given. If atheists wish to join in the conversation and the debate—and I believe that they deserve their seat at the table of ideas as much as any other worldview—then they must recognise their belief for what it is and start behaving accordingly.

    If atheism is not a claim or belief, but merely the absence of belief in God, is that absences possess no causative power.

    It doesn’t take a lot of searching to quickly discover that atheism does indeed cause actions. For example, many Internet-dwelling atheists read sceptical websites, edit Wikipedia articles, frequent atheist discussion forums, and post anti-religious sound bites on Twitter. These are all actions, caused, one would imagine, by their atheism. Likewise, it was his atheism that caused Richard Dawkins to write his best-selling book The God Delusion and, presumably, atheism that led many enthusiastic young sceptics to buy it, causing if not much rejoicing in heaven, certainly much celebration in the North Oxford branch of whoever Dawkins banks with. For a non-belief, a non-thing, atheism looks rather busy and active and so I am suspicious of anybody telling me atheism is nothing.

  179. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    There is evidence that atheism is a belief and that is its tendency to act as an identity marker. Many people self-describe as atheists, in a way that non-believers in the tooth fairy, Atlantis or Santa Claus do not.

    Sure. But imagine you lived in a world where the majority of people around you did believe in the tooth fairy, and did so quite vociferously. Further, they made claims like “eating sugar is a sin,” or “people who are missing teeth are unclean and should be shunned and shamed.” Maybe those who believe in a winged tooth fairy declare holy wars against those who believe in the non-winged tooth fairy. You might very well say, “wait a minute, those beliefs are unreasonable and unjustified; I should not be subjected to them and I don’t want this nonsense forced on my children or my community.” You might look for others who also do not believe in the tooth fairy and identify a common purpose.

    In that world, you would say, “I like many others am an a-fairyist and have a right to live my life unencumbered by the demands and predjudices of the fairyists.”

  180. Wiggle Puppy says

    First of all, I’m always a fan of the condescending pomposity of theists telling us what we *should* do in order to be taken seriously. Second, I already acknowledged that atheists have formed groups in order to provide a sense of community, but that’s a step beyond atheism itself. Third, I would venture to bet that Dawkins is motivated not so much by atheism as by the overwhelming tendency of theists to try to legislate everything based on the dictates of their unsupported holy book. If people who believed in the Tooth Fairy had a Tooth Fairy book and were trying to make everyone live by what was written within it not based on the consequences of actions in the real world but merely based on its boasts of its own authority, I bet Dawkins would be a pretty vocal about a-Toothfairyism.

  181. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    P.S.

    Thank you for actually engaging on the question of what atheism is and why atheists adopt the positions that they do. If more theists were willing to have this discussion there would be much less rancor.

  182. sujes hircst says

    So what about atheism? Does the denial of God have any entailments? Yes, it does: take just one example—the concept of human rights. Modern human rights theory is based on the Judeo-Christian idea that human beings are of tremendous value and worth, because they are made in the image of God. Reject God and suddenly you have to start again, explaining why one particular creature, thrown up by the forces of time, chance and natural selection mixing and chopping atoms and chemicals for several billion years possesses inalienable rights, whereas amoeba, aardvarks and eggplants do not. Many philosophers and thinkers recognise the problem and are honest enough to admit if you dismiss God, you lose many other things, too. Listen to these words from atheist Llewelyn Powys:

    ” It is not only belief in God that must be abandoned, not only all hope of life after death, but all trust in an ordained moral order … We must be prepared to take our bearings without a compass and with the slippery deck of our life-vessel sliding away under our feet. Dogmatic nihilists, profoundly sceptical of all good, we are put to our resources like shipwrecked seamen. We have no sense of direction, and recognise without dispute that all beyond the margin of our own scant moment is lost.”

    If Powys is right—and other atheists, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and, more recently, John Gray have argued similarly—then atheism has some entailments.But if it does, if denying God does indeed cause us to “throw away the compass” with Powys, to “wipe away the horizon” with Nietzsche, or to embrace “unyielding despair” with Russell, then, ipso facto, atheism is a belief because it has consequences.

  183. Wiggle Puppy says

    Are you switching topics AGAIN? I’m not getting into a long discussion about human rights; just read some utilitarianism.

  184. sujes hircst says

    Furthermore, atheists show a tendency to gather together in communities centred around their atheism. For example, they hang out online at places like RichardDawkins.Net in order to beat up on believers and remind one another how cool it is to be an atheist. They attend conferences and seminars, they buy books written by atheist gurus like Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, they have creeds and accuse those who disagree with them of heresy. They are even starting churches. I’m not making this up—in London, England a group of atheists have launched ‘The Sunday Service’ where every week, hundreds of people gather in a deconsecrated Anglican church to sing secular songs (like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’) and hear messages on everything from science to the importance of volunteering. They then sit around and enjoy coffee and biscuits.

    What does religion or belief mean In England

    You are protected by law from discrimination because of your religion or belief if you:

    belong to an organised religion such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam
    have a profound belief which affects your way of life or view of the world. This includes religious and philosophical beliefs, or
    a lack of belief, such as Atheism
    take part in collective worship
    belong to a smaller religion or sect, such as Scientology or Rastafarianism
    have no religion, for example, if you are an atheist.

    The law against discrimination because of religion or belief does not cover purely political beliefs unless they are also philosophical beliefs.

    But can we go further than this? Could some forms of atheism even be described as a religion? Many scholars think that they can, especially the ‘New Atheist’ form of irreligion that has proven so popular of late. Listen to these words from Stephen Prothero of Boston University:

    Atheism is a religion of sorts, or can be. Many atheists are quite religious, holding their views about God with the conviction of zealots and evangelizing with verve … It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds.

    Can atheism really be described as a religion? I believe so. You see, simple disbelief in God does not make one non-religious. As Stephen Prothero points out, plenty of religious people don’t believe in God, including many adherents of Buddhism, Confucianism and some forms of Judaism. The key is what we mean by the word ‘religion’, something scholars have debated for decades. A useful definition was offered by sociologist Émile Durkheim, who defined religion as ‘a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things’. Now before atheists get too antsy, Durkheim was clear that ‘sacred things’ did not necessarily have to be supernatural beings such as gods, but could be anything held dear to the person including ideas or values. It’s really not difficult to see how atheism, with its fetishization of science and human reason fits this definition quite nicely.

    Another helpful way to think about the word ‘religion’ is to consider a religion as a system of belief that attempts to answer ultimate questions: Is there a God? Why are we here? How do we determine good and evil? What happens when we die? Atheists certainly claim to have answers to those questions (“No”, “Time plus chance plus natural selection”; “Personal preference”; “We rot” etc.) and so fits the definition well.

    Atheism certainly is a belief, a positive claim, just as much as the claim ‘Sweden doesn’t exist’ and positive claims need to be argued for. That can take time and effort but if the claim is true, the hard work will presumably pay off. Sometimes however, I’m afraid, I encounter atheists who seem to prefer to simply deconstruct the worldview of others without bothering to put in the effort to defend their own.

    Deconstruction is easy but it is also lazy. It would take the work of a few minutes to round up a dozen physically fit young people, equip them with sledgehammers, pickaxes and a backhoe or two, and ask them to demolish my home. They could probably do it in a few days. But if I then asked them to build me a new home, I suspect I’d have baffled looks. Any fool can tear something down—but it takes wisdom, effort and hard work to build something up.

    Yet build and construct we must if we wish our beliefs to be taken seriously, whether those beliefs are religious or irreligious. Christians should not mock or belittle atheists, but we must certainly press them and insist they provide evidence, reasons and arguments. Otherwise they will fall foul of the aphorism coined by one of their own, Christopher Hitchens, who quipped: “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. I agree entirely and his advice applies not just to Christians but also to atheists—I would advise them to take it seriously.

  185. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    I don’t give a fucking fuck about that fucking copypasta you just laid down.
    Shut up and stop fucking whining.
    It appears your entire “ITP” spiel was done in bad faith and you’re nothing more than a concern troll who likes spamming atheist boards with bullshit. Fuck off.

  186. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    Atheism certainly is a belief, a positive claim, just as much as the claim ‘Sweden doesn’t exist’ and positive claims need to be argued for.

    The appropriate metaphor is “I don’t have sufficient reason to believe Sweden exists.”

    The default position for all belief, theistic or otherwise, is the null position. The null position is not a positive claim.

    1) I believe X exists
    2) I do not believe X exists
    3) I believe X does not exist

    This is basic epistemology.

  187. sujes hircst says

    @ Slime Me Colon
    Away, you scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe,
    YOU BESPAWLER, DALCOP, CUMBERWORLD, DORBEL, FOPDOODLE, GNASHGAB, GOBERMOUCH, GOWPENFUL-O’-ANYTHING, KLAZOMANIAC, MUCK-SPOUT, SKELPIE-LIMMER, SMELLFUNGUS, SNOUTBAND, TRIPTAKER!!!

  188. sujes hircst says

    @Chikoppi
    A true null position cannot claim anything.

    The moment you affirm something it is no longer a null position.

    That’s why I typically aim my arguments at naturalism or empiricism, so that people can’t duck behind that ‘atheists don’t believe anything’ shield. If you don’t have a worldview, if you don’t have an opinion on the nature of existence, you have no place here other than to ask questions.

  189. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @sujes

    notes as I read through this discussion:
    (and maybe someone will have objections to even these notes)

    1. I actually like the atheists here more than myself, and more than I like most theists (though the theists I look up to, I like more than the atheists here xD sad to say xD)…I actually take great offense at your generalizing atheists as annoying.

    2. Your association between belief, identity, and action is an interesting one.

    3. For the thing that they do, our minds are broadly reliable. Try to understand *what that thing is* and maybe we can get somewhere.

    Try to avoid making mistakes like assuming the anthropic principle is weak or strong when establishing your philosophical positions…look at the reality as it is, and the relationships that do and don’t exist in visible ways. No need to look further.

    4. Comment 193 is offensively stupid. Wiggle and others have already made room for atheism being a result of other, deeper processes, and not in itself a source of action. I would imagine that skepticism leads to disgust at non-skeptical belief systems, including a good number of theistic ones.

    A strict vegetarian may choose to eat at my house and use the dairy cutlery, without himself keeping kosher. That does not make the use of dairy cutlery inherent to their or my belief system. (I could choose to eat only fleischig/pareve, and they could go vegan.)

    5. @197 So much wrong here…Do you even know what “in the image of God” means?

    If you attach some sort of meaning to it, that meaning can be transferred out of religious language, and all it will take is effort on your part.
    If you don’t attach meaning to it, how can it possibly motivate your actions?

    @wiggle puppy why do you reject metaphysical idealism?

    @sujes why does claiming that the outside world really exists require the rejection of metaphysical idealism?

    OKAY PRACTICAL QUESTION (@195)
    (@adamah? only if you’re around)

    A question on forcing my beliefs on others…the other day I had an issue at work, where my religious beliefs led me to consider something as theft that I wouldn’t expect others to consider the same…I was acting on behalf of the company but still made a fuss about not doing the thing, since I was the one who would be doing it. Is that called forcing?

  190. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    You’re going to have to be much more specific concerning the work situation, because I’m having a very hard time thinking of what you could possibly be talking about.

    @sujes

    That’s why I typically aim my arguments at naturalism or empiricism, so that people can’t duck behind that ‘atheists don’t believe anything’ shield

    But not all atheists identify as naturalists or empiricists. This is typical dipshit theist bootstrapping. Instead of asking each person what they actually believe, you’re content to throw a fucking tantrum instead. Shut up and fuck off. You’ve overstayed your welcome.

  191. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS hehe, ok

    Basically it’s a thing with coupons. The store can charge whatever they want for the stuff they sell, but when I accept a coupon I think twice if it’s a manufacturer’s coupon…since we’re taking their money in exchange for in effect advertising their stuff.

    It’d be easy to argue that since they don’t expect proof of sale, fudging things a little to make a customer or a computer happy on our side is ok.

    In this case I had to make the argument with my superior…store policy was “don’t take the coupon if it’s for more than we’re charging” but they’re allowed to ignore that, I believe (and I am not)…but they wanted to ignore it and only take off the price we were charging, rather than the amount we’d be reimbursed. Probably ok in most books but not mine. So, made a fuss.

    (There was nothing on the coupon itself about this situation)

  192. RationalismRules says

    I’ve been pondering why if AnagramJC is in fact just a troll, he appears to be putting so much effort into this piece of trolling. Then MonocleSmile #200 used the word ‘copypasta’, which flicked the lightswitch in my brain.

    A quick google shows that posts #199 #197 #193 are lifted entirely or in part from a 2013 article by Andy Bannister:
    http://www.rzim.eu/the-scandanavian-sceptic-or-why-atheism-is-a-belief-system
    #189 comes from Andy Bannister’s book “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist”.
    At this point I’m wondering if AJC is Andy Bannister himself, but #177 turns out to be a straight lift (cut & paste in its entirety) from a 2013 op-ed piece in the Guardian by Brendan O’Neill.

    Turns out he’s not working hard at all.

  193. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    207 O.o O.o

    @sujes That is a mean thing to do without making citations.

    I still think the stuff you quoted from Bannister is dumb.

  194. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    I’m even more confused. What does religion have to do with this? And why do you care?

  195. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS

    “don’t steal”
    applies in ways that sometimes go against the healthy flow of business. Negatively affecting all parties involved.

    (except, arguably in this case, the customer.)

  196. RationalismRules says

    The Dennett stuff is lifted too:
    https://danielmiessler.com/blog/dennett-still-wrong-about-free-will/

    and the ITP stuff:
    #146 is a comment by “Tiffany Hwu, Graduate student in Cognitive Neuroscience” on the page:
    https://www.quora.com/Are-there-still-any-famous-neuroscientist-who-think-that-there-is-even-small-chance-of-mind-existing-without-brain
    #159 is lifted from Don Hoffman:
    http://www.psychonomic.org/featured-content-detail/exploring-interface-theory-of-perception-reply-to-

    …at which point, having established that AnagramJC’s entire oeuvre is pilfered, I move that said plagiarist’s status be hereby upgraded from poe to confirmed troll, and that no more time be wasted thereon.

  197. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    Oh, for fuck’s sake. In my opinion, you’re looking for a problem that isn’t there for some dumb reason. There’s no theft in that situation.
    Furthermore, it should be extremely obvious that blanket statements like “don’t kill” or “drugs are bad” are divorced from reality and have zero utility. I’m having a hell of a time trying to get inside your head. I don’t understand any of your thought processes.

  198. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    Well, the interpretation kinda comes with the territory….it’s true that the Oral Law does not follow directly from the Written Law.

    In this case I was somewhat making decisions on my own, but still on the basis of what I’ve learned. And it seemed to me like “they expect us to take off this full amount? So we should do so before claiming their money” made perfect sense.
    Still seems that way, but my question here is about the forcing my belief in others aspect more than some specific belief.

  199. Chikoppi says

    @Sujes #203

    Semantics. Call it the ‘default’ position if you want to avoid confounding it with statistics.

    Contrast #201 and #194. The fact that atheists exist is not evidence that they are making a positive claim with respect to the question of theism. Atheism, as a self-adopted label, has as much to do with a reaction and response to prevailing social conditions as it does a philosophical position. In a world without ‘theism’ ‘atheism’ would not exist.

    Is there a positive claim in the acknowledged atheistic position? Yes, “I believe there is insufficient reason to accept claims about god(s) are true.” That is a positive claim about my assessment of observed evidence and my state of belief. It is not a positive claim about the existence of supernatural deities.

  200. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    Yes, that’s an example of forcing your religious beliefs on others (normally I would ask why the fuck anyone should care about the “Oral Law” or the “Written Law,” but you aren’t interested in answering that question), but I needed specifics because you could have been taking the correct position, but merely for the wrong reason.

  201. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    xD I wish more people were as direct as you MS, especially my superiors at work. They’re fine, but it’d be a gift…”feedback is a gift” 😉

  202. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy
    Over the past 2 years, I expended a legendary amount of patience on one person, and now I have exactly nothing to show for it. If you watch Game of Thrones, I identify heavily with Jon Snow, especially now. I’ve changed a bit because of it.

    @RationalismRules
    That’s good hustle. Whenever I see a screed that appears expositional rather than part of a dialogue, I get suspicious of plagiarism. I had no clue that the sujes’ crimes went that deep.

  203. HEBGBEESKNEES says

    The claim “lack of belief is the default position” is a positive claim that would need to be proven.

    A) To support that claim, you’d have to prove everyone is born tabula rasa (blank slate), and that people are not in any way genetically hard wired for belief. Some scientific evidence indicates people are in fact programmed for belief

    — Boston University Study Examines the Development of Children’s Prelife Reasoning, The Development of Children’s Prelife Reasoning: Evidence From
    Two Cultures JAN 2014
    — 2013 Trends in cognitive Neuroscience, Yale Dept of Psychology

    b) You would also have to prove that there is no innate knowledge whatsoever; competing with theories that there is at least some level of innatism or universal symbolic language structure necessary to for learning (Chomsky, Fodor, et al).

    C) Also, the notion of “lack of belief” infers the ability to “hold a belief”. Efforts to claim “lack of belief” trivializes it to the point that the definition is meaningless, incoherent and encompasses things other than “atheism” which clearly are not atheist.

    — Ignorance of a proposition and therefore the truth or falsity is a lack of belief, but that is not atheism. It’s simply ignorance of the proposition
    — Agnosticism (the position that the truth or falsity of theism is unknown or unknowable) is not atheism. Though it may be more closely related to “lack of belief” it still requires considering the proposition. And an agnostic may lack belief in theism. But an agnostic can also claim not be an atheist.
    — people lack beliefs in a great many things they’ve never consciously considered. For that matter all living beings “lack belief” in an infinite number of things, INCLUDING THINGS WE HOLD TO BE TRUE. Yet we do not run around claiming them to all be a-“whatervists”. Because it’s irrationally and incoherently trivial.

    D) claiming that “disbelief” by an atheist can be represented as “lack of belief” and not disbelief or rejection of belief (based on some other belief) is also a positive claim, and a false one. Science has shown that people cognitively choose perspectives and value systems and, unavoidably, an associated belief system when faced with the truth or falsity of a proposition. Multiple scientific studies have shown that disbelief is still belief based on other values, and uses the exact same regions and processes of the brain as religious belief.

  204. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    I hope it wasn’t an SO/family…but either way the result is good IMO

  205. Wiggle Puppy says

    @219: Here’s how dialogues often look to us:

    Theist: God exists.
    Atheist: I don’t believe your claims about a magical super-being. Can you demonstrate the truth of your claims?
    Theist: You can’t simply say that you disbelieve. If you don’t believe in god, then you’re making all kinds of claims about naturalistic origins of the universe, a physical basis for the mind, a physical basis for morality, and lots of other things. You have to defend these positions if you don’t believe in god.
    Atheist: No, all of those things are separate issues from whether a magical super-being exists. It may be that answers to those questions are out of the scope of our current understanding, but if that’s the case, then they’re just unexplained. Besides, this magical super-being can supposedly do almost anything and its existence should be obvious. Instead of trying to bootstrap a bunch of things onto the fact that I am unable to believe in your magical super-being, why don’t you just present a convincing argument for your case?
    Theist: But in order for lack of belief to be the default position, you would have to demonstrate that people are born without beliefs! It’s quite a task!
    Atheist: (sigh)

    We don’t believe your claims. That’s it. You can keep trying to shift the burden of proof, but it’s not happening, mate. This is obvious if you just take off the blinders. This isn’t anything special about the god claim. I don’t believe that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, but I also don’t believe that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. I haven’t been presented with sufficient evidence to justify belief in either proposition. Likewise, if some company introduces a cholesterol-lowering drug for testing and there haven’t been any studies completed, I don’t believe that it’s effective, and I don’t believe that it’s not effective. I haven’t been presented with data that would indicate either way. It’s the same with god claims. I don’t believe them, and that’s it. I don’t know why this is so hard.

  206. Monocle Smile says

    @219
    The “default position” line is about epistemology, not biology. Posting that study is a non sequitur.
    Like Wiggle Puppy said, atheists have plenty of beliefs and have value systems. But that doesn’t matter. Atheism is a single position on a single issue. Everything in your post is about something else.

    Yet we do not run around claiming them to all be a-“whatervists”. Because it’s irrationally and incoherently trivial

    We do this with atheism because it is not trivial at all. Most people are theists. Religion is butchering our world and has been for a long time, so we find it useful to identify as those who do not believe in any gods. Once secularism finally unseats religion on a global scale, we’ll no longer need to identify as atheists.

  207. Wiggle Puppy says

    @223: One has to wonder why, if God is so wise and all-knowing, His followers can’t do better than to copy and paste other peoples’ work… I’m going to take a page out of Dillahunty’s book and suggest that before posting here, believers should pray and ask them what god wants them to write in order to be convincing, and if they end up plagiarizing, they have therefore confirmed the dishonesty/stupidity of their god

  208. Chikoppi says

    @hebgbeesknees

    “Lack of belief” requires neither ignorance nor the adoption of an antithetical position.

    1) I believe X is true
    2) I do not believe X is true
    3) I believe X is false

    Available evidence may be insufficient to warrant belief in X, while also being insufficient to falsify X. The fact that X is non-falsifiable does not justify the position that X is necessarily or even likely true.

  209. Chikoppi says

    @RationalismRules

    Sure enough #219 is a straight copy/paste from jack_elams_ghost

    Nice catch!

    How embarrassing to 1) plagiarize the work of another without attribution, 2) care so little about a subject to not invest your own thought and words, 3) have nothing intelligent to add to a discussion. This is an individual bereft of anything resembling conviction or integrity.

  210. B R A D says

    Default position is sophistic nonsense…also athe-ism?
    A quick search of: Merriam–Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage it is a belief, attitude, style, etc., that is referred to by a word that ends in the suffix -ism : the act, practice, or process of doing something.

  211. says

    @225 Chikoppi

    The jar-of-gumballs analogy may be fitting.

    We have a jar of marbles or gumballs, where we haven’t counted how may there are. If someone asserts that “there are an odd number”, I can reject that claim without asserting that it’s actually an even number. I can reject that either claim – that there’s an even number or an odd number – is yet justified.

  212. B R A D says

    here are some borrowed thoughts from R.C. Sproul and K. Mathison, “Not A Chance-God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason.” “Origin of the Cosmos: 4 Options: 1.The cosmos is an illusion-it doesn’t exist; 2.The cosmos is self-existent, and eternal; 3.The cosmos is self-created; 4.The cosmos is created by something that is self-created. Options 1 & 3 can easily be eliminated (self-creation is logically impossible). If the cosmos is self-existent, is EACH PART of the cosmos self-existent or is SOME PART self-existent and produces/causes the other parts? I know that I’m not self-existent, neither is my watch. We were brought into existence, we’re derived, dependent, contingent. If then ONE (more?) PART(s) of the universe is self-existent and has the power of being within itself so it can generate lesser levels of existent reality, then we have attributed to this mysterious being-within-the-universe the attributes of a transcendent God. A rose by any other name….”

  213. RationalismRules says

    @ B R A D
    #227

    Default position is sophistic nonsense…also athe-ism?

    Re default position, you’ve simply made an unsupported subjective claim. To borrow from Hitchens Razor, that which can be asserted without supporting argument can be dismissed without supporting argument.

    athe-ism? WTF is ‘athe’? Etymology of atheism is a-theism, ‘a’ meaning without. ‘Without theism’ is not of itself a belief system – if it was it would tell us something about what we believe, wouldn’t it?
    You call default position ‘sophistic nonsense’, and then you put up this blatant sophistry?

    #229
    If 3 is eliminated on the basis that self-creation is logically impossible, then 4 is also eliminated.

    If then ONE (more?) PART(s) of the universe is self-existent and has the power of being within itself so it can generate lesser levels of existent reality, then we have attributed to this mysterious being-within-the-universe the attributes of a transcendent God. A rose by any other name….”

    1. “has the power of being within itself”, if it actually means anything (which is questionable), is not justified by any of the preceding argument. It has simply been plopped in at that point, to get to “being-within-the-universe”, to get to the claim that the part of the cosmos that is ‘self-existent and eternal’ is a ‘being’, for which there is no justification.
    2. This passage is actually a cogent argument for the lack of usefulness of the idea of a God. If any part of the cosmos can be self-existent and eternal, then there is no need to conceive of a transcendent ‘being’ to explain it.
    3. As with point 2, “A rose by any other name” simply adds to the argument against god. Juliet is making the point that the name is not important, the reality (of Romeo) is what matters. In our case, the reality is the self-existent and eternal part of the cosmos. Naming it god adds nothing to the reality, nor to our understanding of that reality.
    (A more accurate analogy with theism would be for Juliet to change Romeo’s name to John, and ascribe all manner of invented characteristics to him, purely on the basis of the name change.)

    Good to see you’re attributing quotes under this pseudonym. Better if you made an argument of your own, supported by quotes, rather than just putting up other people’s words. Cut & paste does not make for powerful argument.

  214. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    I was VERY tempted to attack 229, and held back hoping someone else would do it better…I was right. Yay personal growth!

    One point of disagreement:
    >Naming it god adds nothing to the reality,
    This is incorrect. Naming it god (or anything else) doesn’t just add nothing, it actually takes something away. The named thing is, an important way (which varies by choice of name) less real than the nameless thing.

    For instance, calling it “It which causes [stuff] to exist” brings in notions of causality and existence, as if they are intrinsic to the thing, which they are not.

  215. B R A D says

    To RR
    “Hitchens Razor, that which can be asserted without supporting argument can be dismissed without supporting argument.”
    Hitchens Razor can be applied to itself.

    Default position is being ignorant of atheism or theism and the option you get if you do nothing.
    Ism comment was supposed to be absurd…So if the presented definition of a-theism is “lack of belief”in “theism”,
    to have an opinion on the caliber of evidence means that you have beliefs about what the evidence presented to you says.

    Because this anemic definition of atheism is so weak, It isn’t able to establish any other beliefs, and cannot support a pro-reason, pro-scientific, pro morality worldview, it doesn’t deserve any serious consideration. “Weak atheism” is very weak and pathetic indeed.

    Any beliefs you have could not be anything to do with atheism as you are desperately trying to define it, because that lame definition says absolutely nothing about the world.

  216. B R A D says

    To Jeremy
    “Naming it god (or anything else) doesn’t just add nothing, it actually takes something away. The named thing is, an important way (which varies by choice of name) less real than the nameless thing.”

    Apply this to the Big Bang. If the universe has always been here, what changed about 13 billion years ago to have the stars suddenly start forming? From observations of current stars, understanding of how they form and function and the concentrations of heavy elements in the observable universe, that’s a pretty safe number for when stars actually started forming. The Big Bang theory provides a simple explanation for this, as that is when particles slowed down enough to start being drawn together.

    theists argue that every NATURAL thing comes from something. But the laws of physics and nature do not apply to something outside of those systems.

    Therefore, since there must be a beginning, the Thing That Has No Cause is likely something unlike anything else that we know of, and must be OUTSIDE of the whole system, and not subject to its laws.

    For me It will be interesting to see how this plays out. So much passion and quite often myopia (it’s almost like politics at times). It seems like one of those puzzles where a certain piece may ‘fit’ perfectly, but the more you look at it, you know that it just isn’t right.
    It is truly miraculous how God used only a finite amount of time to create a past infinite universe.

    You may question out of all the thousands of gods worshiped over the centuries by many different cultures across the globe, which god exactly is it I am referring to?

    The one I feel a connection to of course. And he’s allowed to believe it as much as a person is allowed to believe that 75% of the matter in the universe is completely undetectable other than an effect it is claimed to be having, or that all of the matter in the universe was once “a point”.

    Better take a look at what YOU think is possible before judging what someone else does

  217. B R A D says

    To Monocle
    “We do this with atheism because it is not trivial at all. Most people are theists. Religion is butchering our world and has been for a long time, so we find it useful to identify as those who do not believe in any gods. Once secularism finally unseats religion on a global scale, we’ll no longer need to identify as atheists.”

    Doesn’t look good
    http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/04/08/secularism-dying-religion-resurgent/
    …but I will help fight for a world where you can not give a fucking fuck about some things!

  218. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    >“Hitchens Razor, that which can be asserted without supporting argument can be dismissed without supporting argument.”
    I believe this is meant as a joke more than a tool? i.e. “if you don’t want to go any further than asserting your assertion repeatedly in varying ways, shut up and leave me alone”?

  219. Patrick67 says

    #230,RR and #231,Jeremy:
    Please don’t feed the troll. You are now on the third version of it. It’s a terrible waste of time and energy.

  220. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @233

    >Apply this to the Big Bang.
    I do not understand how the concept of “when we name the transcendent, we place our limits on it” applies to the Big Bang. The Big Bang is not transcendent.

    What exactly do you mean by natural? I use this term in a very strange way (though the normal use fits my use) but you probably do not.

    >Thing That Has No Cause
    this is in itself perfectly descriptive of exactly one possible thing. (not zero and not two)
    To then start ascribing other properties to it like outside-ness, implies that you are not talking about that one thing.

  221. Chikoppi says

    So if the presented definition of a-theism is “lack of belief”in “theism”, to have an opinion on the caliber of evidence means that you have beliefs about what the evidence presented to you says.

    Yes. That the evidence presented for theistic claim(s) is insufficient to warrant belief.

    Because this anemic definition of atheism is so weak, It isn’t able to establish any other beliefs, and cannot support a pro-reason, pro-scientific, pro morality worldview, it doesn’t deserve any serious consideration. “Weak atheism” is very weak and pathetic indeed. Any beliefs you have could not be anything to do with atheism as you are desperately trying to define it, because that lame definition says absolutely nothing about the world.

    Again, yes. Atheism is not a “belief system.” It is a response to a single claim, namely that a god or gods exist.

    An individual’s views on science, ethics, social issues, materialism, etc. are established separately from the question of (a)theism. You’ve got it.

  222. RationalismRules says

    @Patrick67 #236
    I thought the troll deserved a little food reward for actually attributing a quote – positive reinforcement and all that.

    But given the responses, I’m now done too.

  223. B R A D says

    To hebgbeesknees

    So many people so set on making others believe what they type in a comment discussion on a blog (any blog for that matter). So much ego & pride here; from both sides. “Jesus Christ can afford to be misunderstood; we cannot. Our weakness lies in always wanting to vindicate ourselves.” Oswald Chambers. Mr/Mrs atheist; did we hurt your feelings or offend you by attacking your faith in nothing? What is the purpose for you striving to “convert” people of God to your “lack of belief”?

    If someone understands the proposition “God exists” there are 3 possible responses
    someone can

    1) believe it is true

    2) believe it is false

    3) be undecided

    in the case of atheism it is neither option 1 or 3, therefore option 2 an atheist “believes” the proposition is false

  224. Chikoppi says

    @Brad

    See #238.

    Most atheists are “agnostic atheists.” That is, they don’t assert that evidence is sufficient to definitively disprove all supernatural claims. However, they also find the evidence presented for theistic position insufficient to support the claim(s) being made.

    What is so difficult for you to understand? You are claiming a god or gods exist. Atheists believe you are mistaken. That’s it.

    When people claim that their religious beliefs justify bigotry, or should be codified in law, or should be taught in public schools, or should be substituted for evidence-based policy making, atheists tend to offer vocal opposition…because they think those religious beliefs are unsubstantiated and unjustified.

    Does that answer your question?

  225. Patrick67 says

    Oh my! #248 is a prime example of a troll not properly fed. In its weakened state it is forced to answer its own questions to sustain itself. Look for a “Thank you” reply to complete the illusion. This is hilarious.

  226. Patrick67 says

    Oops! I meant #241. I guess I got excited by witnessing an example of troll self cannibalization for the first time.

  227. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS I am going to give you an opportunity to brag…what is your physics background? Which theoretical models did your homework expect you to apply?

    Did you ever encounter a problem involving a passenger in an accelerating vehicle, observing a pendulum attached to the roof?

  228. B R A D says

    To Patrick
    I am trying to understand a perspective and your speculation is not adding anything useful to it.

    To Chikkopi
    “…atheists believe you are mistaken.”
    May be better to use “conclude” rather than “believe”, lest someone think there is something systematic involved in arriving at this position.

    No reason given because it would require using reasoning from other aspects of a persons identity that is not atheism? …single position on a single belief
    I use belief here because that is how theism is typically defined.

    Could I be viewed as a christian atheist if don’t accept other god/gods?

  229. Chikoppi says

    @Brad

    Each claim is considered on its own merits.

    If you are Christian then you reject the claims that other gods are real. You likely also reject many of the claims that sects of Christianity other than your own make about the nature of God. You do so even though they cite the same evidence for their beliefs as you do for yours. That doesn’t make you atheist, but it does suggest that you too have a standard of evidence that is not dependent on your religious beliefs.

  230. Patrick67 says

    #247 Aaww poor little troll is grumpy. Might it be indigestion? Try Tums perhaps? Perhaps a change of diet?

    First troll sujes hircst comes on plagiarizing left and right about the same basic topic as being discussed now and is called out. Troll disappears. Then comes troll HEBGBEESKNEES with the same BS about default claims using a plagiarized post and is called out. Troll disappears. Then troll B R A D comes on board supporting the same BS as the first two trolls. I’m supposed to believe that this isn’t the same troll or at the very least an organized attempt to troll this site? There has been a very serious attempt to troll this site that started with Martin Wagner’s post about the death of Jan Crouch. The trolls came in forms similar to those trolling this article. During this period Martin left a post on another article and the trolling spread to that article also. Although Martin never posted to this one the trolling has continued in the same style, partially plagiarized posts and partially taunts, and usually followed up by a final troll trying to show concern. I personally don’t believe for one moment that this is a coincidence.

  231. B R A D says

    To Chikoppi
    “That doesn’t make you atheist, but it does suggest that you too have a standard of evidence that is not dependent on your religious beliefs.”
    Don’t agree with the second part.

    Belief Map has this to say”

    “If theism is true, then atheism is false

    Theism and atheism are clearly contradictories. Yet, if they can be true or false, then they are both beliefs (or propositional stances). However, a “lack of belief” is not a belief or propositional stance; it cannot be true or false.1 So, on the revisionist model, while there can be arguments against the truth of theism, there suddenly cannot be arguments against atheism (i.e. by definitional fiat, the revisionist sets up “atheism” such that it cannot even be refuted). This seems straightforwardly odd, especially since there is a rich history of proffering arguments supporting “atheism” (by that name).
    Note: It moreover seems prima facie awkward to suggest that so-called ”positive atheism” can have truth-value while ”atheism” simpliciter cannot.

    “lack of belief” just ambiguates the term

    The revisionist “lack of belief” definition of atheism is overtly ambiguous. After all, there would suddenly be two ways to be an “atheist,” by either…
    (a) …affirming the proposition , or…
    (b) …withholding belief about it (traditionally called “agnosticism”).1
    This would in turn needlessly require interlocutors to spend extra time discerning which of those two remaining options apply, rather than the individual being straightforward about his position from the get-go. Right now, things are efficient: One simply says whether they are a theist, atheist, or agnostic. Simple.”

    It seems unclear to me that is why the additional grappling.

    “When people claim that their religious beliefs justify bigotry, or should be codified in law, or should be taught in public schools, or should be substituted for evidence-based policy making, atheists tend to offer vocal opposition…because they think those religious beliefs are unsubstantiated and unjustified.”

    It seems there is a bent towards singling out religion here? What if you removed “religious” from the statement. Wouldn’t atheists want the same or does that make “atheists” absurd in this context? why does a lack of belief then have a call to action if it is nothing more than a decision on a specific belief?

  232. Chikoppi says

    @Brad

    No. This is the epistemic standard applied to all things, not just theism.

    Do you believe everything that hasn’t been demonstrated to be false is necessarily true? Of course not. The question you apply is, “is there sufficient evidence to believe this claim is true?” If the standard of evidence is insufficient to justify the claim you reject it, at least until more compelling evidence is presented for consideration.

    I get that you really want to argue against atheism, but there is no positive claim being made. Atheists aren’t the ones asserting that something exists. They are simply arguing the the evidence thus far presented for the existence of deities is insufficient to accept that the claim is true.

    why does a lack of belief then have a call to action if it is nothing more than a decision on a specific belief?

    This has been answered, see #242.

  233. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It’s a pet peeve of mine:

    (b) …withholding belief about it (traditionally called “agnosticism”).1

    No, actually, it was traditionally called atheism, but then this guy called Huxley invented a new word “agnosticism”. He put a PR-spin on it to make it sound less bad, but it had the same functional meaning. Self identified atheist writers were there at least a hundred years before, such as Baron d’Holbach and Jean Meslier.

  234. RationalismRules says

    @Patrick67 #243

    Oh my! #248 is a prime example of a troll not properly fed. In its weakened state it is forced to answer its own questions to sustain itself. Look for a “Thank you” reply to complete the illusion. This is hilarious.

    [chuckle] This was my exact response to that post.

    Just to be clear, B R A D has engaged in the same cut & paste behavior as the other two. Post #233 is an aggregation of a series of smaller posts from the comments section of:
    http://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html
    (I didn’t pick it up immediately because the chunk I was searching for was too large – it spanned more than one post. Clever troll!)

    What is interesting to me is that at this point he has changed his behavior, at least in the last couple of posts. He seems to be making more of his own arguments, and he has even attributed some quotes.

    The question is, as long as a troll is behaving in a socially appropriate way, is it ok to feed it?

  235. HEBGBEESKNEES says

    @brad
    You are wasting your time!!
    Gnostic: Knows that God exists/does not exist.
    Agnostic: Does not know that God exists/does not exist.
    Theist: Belief in God.
    Atheist: No belief in God.

    So gnostic theists and atheists would always have a burden of proof. Agnostic theists will have to explain why they believe in some way, even if they don’t claim to have justified true belief. Agnostic atheists will never have the burden of proof, because they aren’t actually claiming anything. Most people who use this set of definitions are agnostic atheists.

    Who is right? Who cares?

  236. RationalismRules says

    @MultifariousTroll #254

    You have it! Except for one small caveat:

    Agnostic theists will have to explain why they believe in some way, even if they don’t claim to have justified true belief.

    They only ‘have to’ provide explanation if they are attempting to convince someone else. In the same way an anti-theist (“I believe no god exists”) would need to provide explanation if they were attempting to convince someone else.

  237. reasononfaith says

    Regarding the call early in the show about whether one was an atheist or a theist (I believe this ties in with Comment #1 in this post), I believe the term “religion” was being used as a proxy for community.

    I’m still figuring out my own labels. I may go towards weak atheism soon, but right now, I’m using the placeholder of “agnostic deist”. As I study more in the evolutionary debates about irreducible complexity etc., I may go all the way to weak atheism.

    Regardless, those of us who grew up with a very structured community do recognize it has benefits. In my case, I left an organized Muslim community (the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community). I can see the value of a religion-like structure, without all the bullshit. Although it would have secular humanism as its foundation, it would have extra layers, for those who find it useful. Somewhat like a Sunday Assembly, but more.

    I could see such a group devising its own traditions and rituals, emphasizing that these are all man-made and have nothing to do with homage to a deity. They are to celebrate humanity.

    We may even devise a curriculum for children from some of the best atheist authors on discussing morality, death etc. with children. We may topically compile some stoic philosophers for readings at community events. We may read Khalil Gibran excerpts at weddings instead of recitations of the Qur’an or the Gospels, etc.

    I think there’s something here.

    @ReasonOnFaith
    ReasonOnFaith.org

  238. HEBGBEESKNEES says

    Chikoppi said
    “When people claim that their religious beliefs justify bigotry, or should be codified in law, or should be taught in public schools, or should be substituted for evidence-based policy making, atheists tend to offer vocal opposition…because they think those religious beliefs are unsubstantiated and unjustified.”

    I am curious what issues affect your lives that you believe “religious beliefs …” and whether they are individuals taking liberty with their said belief system.

    @EL
    It looks like even earlier “The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674. He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz Łyszczyński” according to wikipedia. I imagine it’s origins in thought, are much older yet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  239. Chikoppi says

    @HEBG

    I am curious what issues affect your lives that you believe “religious beliefs …” and whether they are individuals taking liberty with their said belief system.

    “Individuals taking liberty with their said belief system?” When someone cites their supposed knowledge of a deity or interpretation of scripture as justification for a political or social position that negatively impacts or limits others it is a direct expression their belief system. If such a position is advanced the religious beliefs that serve as a premise for that position are deserving of scrutiny.

    Here are a few headlines involving state board of education members, state representatives, teachers, attorneys, state Supreme Court justices, senators, and presidential candidates…

    “At last year’s conference in November, one of the speakers at Barton’s conference was Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the Texas State Board of Education who has admitted that her goal on the board was to correct a “biblically illiterate society.” Dunbar, who now works at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, was named a Virginia state co-chair of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign last month, aligning her further with Barton, who chairs a pro-Cruz super PAC.”

    “In Missouri, Republican lawmakers contend that public school students should get an exemption from any class on evolution — the bedrock of modern biology — if they think learning about science amounts to an “infringement on people’s beliefs”: Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, said forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith.… “The bill is one of several anti-evolution proposals that have already appeared in statehouses across the country,” TPM notes. “The proposals would allow for a range of approaches to evolution, from presenting a ‘debate’ over evolution versus creationism to requiring that local school boards allow intelligent design to be included in biology courses.” … And GOP lawmakers in at least three states are now citing religious freedom to claim that anti-gay discrimination that violates civil rights laws should not face any legal consequences.”

    “During his recent appearance at Ohio Christian University, David Barton was asked by an audience member who is an education major at the school how he, upon graduating and getting a job, might be able to impart a Christian influence on his students without getting fired. Barton suggested that the student get a job as an English or History teacher because that would allow him to sneak in discussions of the Bible or read Christian prayers in the classroom under the guise of simply teaching these subjects.”

    “John Eidsmoe, the prominent Christian Reconstructionist attorney who works for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, joined conservative radio host Jerry Newcombe on his show Thursday to discuss Moore’s stand against the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which has gotten him suspended from his post. … “I don’t think any governmental body, especially a group of unelected judges, has the authority to redefine God’s institution of marriage,” Eidsmoe said.”

    “Moore also repeated his insistence that that Rep. Keith Ellison, who had just been elected as the first Muslim member of Congress, should not be allowed to take his seat in the House if he swore his oath of office on a Koran, saying that such events were leading to the “destruction of our society and our nation from within.”

    “Kevin Swanson, a longtime and notorious advocate of the government instituting the death penalty for gay people, said repeatedly on stage that the Bible calls for gays and lesbians to be put to death and argued that America should introduce capital punishment against unrepentant homosexuals once society is moved in that direction.… That conference was also attended by Cruz’s father and his then-rivals in the GOP presidential race Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal.”

  240. HEBGBEESKNEES says

    “with or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” -Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg

    Would like to hear opinions about this statement

  241. Monocle Smile says

    @HEBG
    The show is a fan of that statement and Matt’s said it a few times. I like it as well. The sentiment is extremely accurate.
    You should consider yourself lucky that you still exist here.

  242. HEBGBEESKNEES says

    I am so lucky it’s magical, so there is a magic sky daddy?!…seriously, don’t you find it incoherent? I don’t think it makes sense to talk about good/evil acts separate from good/evil people.

  243. B R A D says

    To hebgbeesknees
    Why? Just why?
    I think has been pretty well established that “good people” can do evil things. Maybe even lots of them, if under pressure. I would say it makes extremely good sense to separate acts from the people who commit them. I think the author is perfectly right and coherent as far as the semi-colon.

  244. sujes hircst says

    “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”
    It seems fitting that this Weinberg quote should end and sum up this thread.
    The Atheist denial of the intellectual burden to rationally defend their rejection is never accompanied with any evidence in its support of the denial, just as their rejection itself is never accompanied with any evidence.

    Because Atheists have no evidence to support the position that there is no god, that position also is dismissable under Hitchens’ decree. In fact, any and all Atheist positions are dismissible under Hitchens’ Razor – see Hitchens’ very own admission of lacking proof for his accusations, above. Thus, his accusations may be dismissed without evidence, in fact without any reasoning at all, under Hitchens’ Razor.

    So:
    If Hitchens’ unsupported (non-coherent) statement is declared valid, THEN all Atheist positions can be dismissed immediately, because:

    (a) Atheists cannot produce any evidence whatsoever that basic theist positions are incorrect;

    (b) Atheists cannot produce evidence which proves that they can rationally deny the validity of an argument without showing why the argument is not valid (denial of Burden of Rebuttal);

    (c) Atheists cannot produce evidence which proves that there is no creating agent for the universe;

    (d) Atheists cannot produce evidence which proves that there cannot exist a creating agent for the universe.

    (e) Atheists cannot support with evidence the claim that there is no evidence for theism.

    Atheists can make exactly no truth statements and can produce no evidentiary findings regarding theist deductions of the existence of a creating agent.

  245. sujes hircst says

    @Nihilism
    I do not believe they did, therefore the burden is on you. Besides, I don’t give a fuck it is all pointless

  246. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Because Atheists have no evidence to support the position that there is no god

    Most atheists do not have that position. Most atheists are in the simple “I don’t know” position. Most atheists do not claim “there is no god”. The rest of your post is based on that flawed premise, and therefore unworthy of comment.

    PS:
    I am a strong atheist. I do claim that there are no gods. I am willing to present my evidence and reasons upon request in most situations. The short version of it will be: In the history of mankind, non-materialistic explanations have never worked and have often been shown to be false, and materialistic explanations have had a fantastic track record, and today we have a solid understanding of all of the fundamental physics of everyday life – it’s called quantum field theory. In a certain sense, fundamental physics is done. There’s no more work left to do. For all of the physics that happens here on Earth, we understand it.

    There is no room left for an active god. There is no active god. I don’t give a f about clockmaker deist gods. There is no god.

  247. sujes hircst says

    Re-worked Sean Carroll.
    Here is two quotes by him “Everything we know about quantum field theory (QFT) says that there aren’t any sensible answers to these questions. Of course, everything we know about quantum field theory could be wrong. Also, the Moon could be made of green cheese.”

    “i also note that all of this discussion disallows for other dimensions, which are routinely discussed in physics. I think that to claim we know everything in this manner is to claim absolutely nothing. To say that the moon is demonstrably not made of green cheese, because we have physically analyzed it is extremely different from saying we have not demonstrated that there is a soul, simply because we haven’t shown that there is a dimension or particle or something that it is associated with.”

    One other thing not covered is non-local properties of mind. These have been demonstrated and written up on peer-reviewed journals for years. Do we know how that works? No, not yet. I’m just skeptical of claims that we know enough to answer the question. The history of science is the history of hubris.

  248. Patrick67 says

    #253 RR:
    I’m a prophet. LOL! I predicted a “Thank you” would be forthcoming. My prophecy came true. I’ve got a better verifiable record than any theist. We are in the midst of a 100% pure unadulterated “troll cluster fuck.” Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here.

  249. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    One other thing not covered is non-local properties of mind. These have been demonstrated and written up on peer-reviewed journals for years.

    Lolwut? Are we talking about some mistaken interpretation of quantum physics and the “observer effect”?

  250. Chikoppi says

    @sujes #263

    Ha ha ha ha! Whoever you stole that garbage from doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to reason their way out of a soaking wet paper bag. Is that what passes as a convincing argument for you? Straw men and obvious fallacies?

    Believe whatever nonsense you want. However, if you want someone else to believe it you’ll have to provide sufficient evidence that your beliefs are true.

  251. sujes hircst says

    Monocle Smile
    In my best Hannibal Lector voice “Love your suit!”

    EnlightementLiberal
    The idea that the world’s history plays itself out not in the three-dimensional space of our everyday experience or the four-dimensional spacetime of special relativity but rather this gigantic and unfamiliar configuration space, out of which the illusion of three-dimensionality somehow emerges. Our three-dimensional idea of locality would need to be understood as emergent as well. The nonlocality of quantum physics might be our window into this deeper level of reality.

    Patrick67
    repetitive stress syndrome from patting yourself on the back

    Chikoppi
    provide me with evidence that you are not the only thinking being in existence

  252. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To sujes hircst
    And what does any of that have to do with you outrageous claim that human brains are not subject to quantum field theory?

  253. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    A) I didn’t make that claim.
    B) What difference would it make one way or the other?
    C) It is a non-falsifiable hypothesis.
    D) The inability to prove a negative is not evidence in support of the antithesis.

    The question of “hard solipsism” is boring and irrelevant.

    It seems the best you can muster are rather tepid variations of “you can’t know for sure.” This does nothing to improve your position. Do you claim to know that a god or gods exist? Because I don’t and, if you were to be honest with yourself, I don’t think you do either.

  254. sujes hircst says

    EL
    You are not just your brain to come full circle.

    Your body is your subconscious mind, i.e. the binding status of neuropeptides with receptors on the surface of cells, subsequent intracellular processes, the dispatch of informational substances, within the context of nature and nurture.[6] To imagine the influence of the mind over the brain, picture executives gathering in a boardroom to direct corporate strategy and determine company policy. The board members represent various demographics and agendas (belief systems, social influences, thought processes, education, innate intelligence, microbiome influences on mood, and information about all aspects of the company etc.

    Whatever the mechanism, a growing number of biologists are convinced that when you switch off the lights, cells are bathed in the pale fireworks of a biophoton display.

    This is not a bright phenomena. Biophotons are usually produced at the rate of dozens per second per square centimetre of cell culture.

    That’s not many. And it’s why the notion that biophoton activity is actually a form of cellular communication is somewhat controversial.

    Why does the particle – electron have six ( 6 ) formulas ?

    Why does electron obey five ( 5) Laws ?

    a) Law of conservation and transformation energy/ mass

    b) Maxwell’s equations

    c) Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle / Law

    d) Pauli Exclusion Principle/ Law

    e) Fermi-Dirac statistics.

    Nobody knows.

  255. sujes hircst says

    Chikoppi
    The paradox of atheism for me was, while usually committed to living a life consistent with reality, I could not bear reality as I believed it actually was. If all of the suffering and horror of this world is truly pointless, if there will be no redemption, no justice, no healing, and no restoration, then it was emotionally almost impossible to stare reality in the face on a daily basis. The best possible outcome is to live a life of hopeless, existential despair. But it is far more likely that we will simply build a thick, protective wall of fantasy around us, constructed of hobbies, games, sports, fashion, or romance as a barrier against truths I I didn’t want to face.

    Christianity has made me into a more loving, compassionate, and generous person.

    Christians have done some pretty awful things throughout history and even today. But that has no relevance for whether the claims of Christianity are true. Somebody making egregious trigonometry errors doesn’t invalidate trigonometry.

    I am assuming “your claim to know” comment is a call to unfaith. Been there, done that.

  256. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To sujes hircst
    You’re still not making anything like a relevant, coherent point. The fundamental particles that make up my brain and body obey the laws of quantum field theory, and as far as we know, their behavior is perfectly described by quantum field theory to a ridiculously strong degree of precision and accuracy. We have lots of evidence that the particles in my brain and body obey quantum field theory.

    What’s your point? You seem like you’re trying to make one, but you’re not being sufficiently clear for me to understand it.

  257. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Shit. For some reason I thought that sujes hircst was someone else. My apologies for attempting to engage in conversation with the troll.

    Thanks Chikoppi.

  258. Chikoppi says

    @sujes #276

    Argumentum ad Consequentiam (look it up).

    The construction or adoption of a comforting narrative doesn’t mean that narrative is true. I would argue that you were perfectly capable of compassion and generously without the need for religious justification. These are human traits that exist across cultures and, as you pointed out yourself, religious belief does not guarantee these traits are practiced or appreciated.

    Life is no less marvelous or meaningful without certainty, especially if that certainty is an illusion that encourages false premises or conclusions.

  259. sujes hircst says

    ‘The construction or adoption of a comforting narrative doesn’t mean that narrative is true”
    or false

    ” I would argue that you were perfectly capable of compassion and generously without the need for religious justification”
    argue away…here is what I did say
    ‘more loving, compassionate, and generous person’

    “Life is no less marvelous or meaningful without certainty, especially if that certainty is an illusion that encourages false premises or conclusions.”

    You have certainty? I often think that the amount of anti-religious sentiment on this site is counter-productive (and to be frank, somewhat obnoxious). Whatever your personal thoughts on the idea of God, nods to people’s BELIEFS are steps in what I believe to be the right direction.*

    *And since I know I can’t just get away with calling this the “right direction,” I’ll elaborate: if our ultimate goal is the betterment of humanity, which involves promoting good thinking, then we have to engage in productive dialogue rather than the sort of dismissal (often seen around here) that shuts the conversation down. Dividing the world into religious tribes and anti-religious tribes runs against the ultimate goal of the betterment of humanity.

  260. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    As I have said previously, I am not the least bit concerned with what you believe until you cite those beliefs as a premise for action that impacts others.

    If you were to claim that “God” wants homosexuals to be marginalized and punished then yes, I am going to vigorously challenge that premise.

    Also, you neglect to mention the evangelistic mandate of religions. Religions relentlessly and aggressively preach not only that their specific beliefs are true, but that failure to adopt those beliefs incurs some form of metaphysical punishment. So religions are allowed to compete in the marketplace of ideas but atheists should just ‘shut the hell up and go away?’

    The idea that religions are not responsible for divisiveness that negatively impacts the ‘betterment of humanity’ is simply not credible. They were dividing the world and sowing misery long before atheists had a voice.

    You can’t have it both ways. So long as religions claim privilege and authority by virtue of possessing ‘true knowledge’ then those claims are deserving of confrontation and challenge. Stop them from doing that and I think you’ll find atheists become the much more docile minority you would prefer.

  261. Monocle Smile says

    @troll

    I’ll elaborate: if our ultimate goal is the betterment of humanity, which involves promoting good thinking, then we have to engage in productive dialogue rather than the sort of dismissal (often seen around here) that shuts the conversation down. Dividing the world into religious tribes and anti-religious tribes runs against the ultimate goal of the betterment of humanity.

    This probably pisses me off more than anything else I hear about “atheists.” This is a problem with religion. This is not a problem with atheism. All of the “problems” you see with atheism are merely a reaction to the constant infringement of religion on our lives. Solution: dismantle all religions. Chikoppi is right that “atheist hostilities” will cease.
    P.S. You are not a loving, compassionate, or generous person. You are a troll.

  262. sujes hircst says

    Things that atheists have said:
    All of the “problems” you see with atheism are merely a reaction to the constant infringement of religion on our lives
    They(religions) were dividing the world and sowing misery long before atheists had a voice.
    Nothing exists but natural phenomena.
    Skepticism is a scientific principle or is inherently scientific.
    Occam’s Razor is a scientific principle or is inherently scientific.
    If you see something that seems impossible, you imagined it or were fooled.
    Our thoughts are entirely a property or function of chemicals in the brain.
    There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature.
    There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which transcend nature.
    There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which are supernatural.
    If you don’t have a good theory as to why something works, you can dismiss the evidence that it works anyway.
    The laws of physics are explained by science.
    The laws of physics don’t change or, if they do, they only change in ways scientists can predict and measure.
    Science is how we determine if things are true or not.
    Religion and science are warring forces.
    Faith is about believing without evidence.
    Logic works just because it does.
    The laws of physics work just because they do.
    Science “overcame” or “surpassed” religion.
    Science had to fight off belief in God to advance.
    Science had to fight off religion to advance.
    Science had to fight off Christianity to advance.
    Christians believe things solely because they’re in the Bible.
    Ex-Christian atheists understand the Bible better than Christian scholars.
    Fundamentalist Christians understand the Bible better than orthodox scholars.
    19th and 20th Century Historico-critical revisionist atheists understand the Bible better than orthodox scholars.
    19th and 20th Century Historico-critical revisionist liberal Protestants understand the Bible better than orthodox scholars.
    All schools of Biblical scholarship are equally valid except the orthodox one.
    Most Christians and Jews should be Creationists because the Book of Genesis describes how Planet Earth was
    created like a science text.
    People who think God and spirituality are rational things to pursue are mentally ill.
    All that is written here is “from a Christian perspective.”
    All that is written here is “from a Western perspective.”
    Only an angry person would say the things said here.
    Because belief in God is rooted in emotion and appears instinctive in some people, it’s never rational.
    Asking what makes existence possible at all is not a real question.

  263. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    A) What is your point?
    B) Shall we make a list of some of the things ‘religious’ people have said?
    C) You came here. You can end this conversation at any time.

  264. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    Yes. Which implies you should have ‘a thought.’ Not post random non-sequiturs or unattributed text stolen from other authors. It also does not imply that your screed should be free from challenge or criticism, which seems to be your complaint.

    Again, what is your point?

  265. sujes hircst says

    Atheists accept the existence of immaterial entities as being very real and having a direct impact upon the natural world and have beliefs not provable by science and empiricism. Atheist’s insistence that it’s not a belief that results in a cascade of other inescapable assumptions doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like saying “I have no proof on the nature and existence of god and no sound argument against it, but OBVIOUSLY, the correct answer is to not believe in one.”

  266. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    You posted that last part in mockery, but it’s entirely correct. Of course it’s fucking obvious that by default we should not believe in anything until there is reason and evidence. This is logic 101. Troll the fuck harder.

  267. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    Can you prove X* doesn’t exist? Do you therefore believe that it does exist?

    * Fill-in X with anything; ghosts, Bigfoot, transdimensional anal-probing aliens, spirit gods, faerie, gremlins, ESP, reincarnation, the idea that our whole universe is a simulation running on a computer somewhere, etc.

    You don’t use that standard for anything else in your life. Rightfully so.

  268. Wiggle Puppy says

    @292: add to that list “every other god concept and religious belief besides your own”

  269. sujes hircst says

    “Can you prove X* doesn’t exist? Do you therefore believe that it does exist?”
    How about the idea of a big bang singularity? or atheism?

    FSM and the like, is a parody religion, failing to realize that a parody is not about “addressing arguments”, but about making fun of something… This is like saying the Simpsons are pointless because while they make fun of the american society, they fail to address/provide resolutions to real issues.
    It’s trying to ridicule a claim by applying a ridiculous name to it.

  270. Wiggle Puppy says

    @294: you’ve utterly failed to defend anything approaching an argument and have descended into incoherence. Well played.

  271. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    I still don’t know what your point is.

    If you’re asking me to not think critically when someone tells me they know something to be true, I can’t do that. If you’re asking me to not challenge people when they cite religious beliefs as justification for actions I don’t agree with, I can’t do that.

    What is it that you want?

  272. sujes hircst says

    If I put a note with a number written on it in a box, it might be perfectly accurate to say that the box contains a number, even though it might be impossible to say what that number is, precisely, and even if people aren’t able to construct any interesting models of the unknown number. Does it exist?

  273. Wiggle Puppy says

    Yes, it does, much as the Andromeda galaxy existed before humans had any awareness of it, and much as there are things in the universe that exist that we’re not currently aware of them. But the time to believe in something is when there’s evidence and good reason. Assuming you’re a trustworthy person, if you told me that you put a number in a box, I would be inclined to believe that it was indeed in there. But if you told me that the box contained a transcendent and immaterial piece of paper, then I would not believe it was there, because that is, as far as I can currently tell, incoherent. And if a bunch of people came to me all telling me wildly different things about the transcendent thing in the box, I would disbelieve all of them until there was good reason to do otherwise. And if people started trying to set public policy and deny people certain rights based on their conception of the transcendent thing in the box, I would vocally oppose those people and ask that they provide some justification for their claims about what was in the box. Are you getting it yet?

  274. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    “If I put a note with a number written on it in a box.”

    That would be evidence, assuming it could be confirmed that you actually did write a number on the note and place it within the box. It that case it would be highly likely there is a number in the box. I would believe that there is, though I may not know which number.

    If It could not be confirmed that you placed a number in the box then we would only have your personal testimony as evidence. The box may or may not contain a note and that note may or may not have a number written on it. I would reserve judgement.

    Now, what if I were to place a box in front of you and claim that it contained a magic stone that could turn ice cubes into diamonds? You are not allowed to open the box or investigate it in any manner. Would you believe that this stone with miraculous properties exists inside the box? No. Because that would be an extraordinary claim made without any credible evidence whatsoever.

    You are championing what is known as the “argument from ignorance.” You haven’t even presented evidence that the box exists and yet you are claiming to know the properties of the thing inside.

  275. sujes hircst says

    You have a concept of fairness in your head. it might be perfectly accurate to say that your head contains this concept of fairness, even though it might be impossible to say what that fairness is, precisely, and even if people aren’t able to construct any interesting models of the fairness. Does it exist?

  276. Wiggle Puppy says

    Well, which definition of “existence” are you talking about? If we’re talking about “existence” in the sense of a tangible thing in external reality that we can interact with, then no, the concept of fairness doesn’t “exist.” It exists only as a mental concept which is contingent upon a mind. Are you going anywhere with all of this?

  277. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    What the hell is your point?! In both examples:

    A) You begin with a premise that a thing exists.
    B) You create a condition wherein not all properties of the thing can be known.
    C) You ask if the thing exists.

    The answer (C) is already assumed in the premise (A) (see “begging the question” fallacy). I do not accept your premise that gods exist because insufficient evidence has been presented…

    A) An assertion is made without evidence that an improbable thing exists.
    B) Inability to directly observe, measure, or test the supposed thing in any way.
    C) Does the thing exist?

    No, I don’t believe that it does. If you want to change my mind then present sufficient evidence or provide some means by which I can directly test your claim.

  278. says

    #300 sujes hircst

    You have a concept of fairness in your head. … Does it exist?

    I’m happy to grant that God exists as a concept in peoples’ minds.

  279. sujes hircst says

    I was merely asking if a moral concept such as “fairness” makes any sense to establish in front of the prestigious panel of atheists gathered.

    Chikoppi’s statement earlier made me think of how hard it is to justify any morality.
    “When someone cites their supposed knowledge of a deity or interpretation of scripture as justification for a political or social position that negatively impacts or limits others it is a direct expression their belief system. If such a position is advanced the religious beliefs that serve as a premise for that position are deserving of scrutiny.

    The answer is that there is no burden on theists to prove the existence of God (. Religious devotees don’t evangelize because it proves their position. They do because they believe their way is the right way, and others should have the opportunity to participate. Or they do it to increase their numbers. Or to better prepare themselves for the judgement they believe is coming.

    Similarly, there is no burden on atheists to disprove the existence of God. It’s a fool’s errand. No scientific advance will ever satisfactorily accomplish that goal.

    It’s a paradox. The only ironclad proof that there is no God comes when God himself says he doesn’t exist. But wait …

  280. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @sujes hircst #304:

    there is no burden on theists to prove the existence of God. Religious devotees don’t evangelize because it proves their position.

    Evangelizing is advertising and salesmanship. It has no effect on the quality of the product.
     
     
    Article: Wikipedia – White van speaker scam

    a con artist makes a buyer believe they are getting a good price on home entertainment products. Often a con artist will buy generic speakers worth around $40 and convince potential buyers that they are premium products worth over $2,000
    […]
    white van scams often have relatively sophisticated logistics. Distributors rent a warehouse and obtain licenses and distribution rights, then import large quantities of poorly made goods. They ship these goods to local warehouses in major cities and hire ‘salesmen’ to distribute the shoddy goods.
     
    North American distribution operations are in major cities across the continent. The marketers at each office establish a promotion, benefit, and bonus scale for the speaker sales teams. Bonuses may be paid in cash, checks, fake credit cards or, with some irony, speakers.

     
     

    They do because they believe their way is the right way, and others should have the opportunity to participate. Or they do it to increase their numbers.

    They increase their numbers, making others believe their way is the right way… to what?
     
    If proof of a god is irrelevant, now you’re saying whether a god even exists is irrelevant to believers, and potential converts?
     

    Or to better prepare themselves for the judgement they believe is coming.

    The judgement of whom? Why should anyone care about that? Or expect certain methods of preparation to be effective, and not others?

  281. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes

    Religious devotees don’t evangelize because it proves their position. They do because they believe their way is the right way, and others should have the opportunity to participate. Or they do it to increase their numbers. Or to better prepare themselves for the judgement they believe is coming

    Your pants are on your head, troll.

  282. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    I was merely asking if a moral concept such as “fairness” makes any sense to establish in front of the prestigious panel of atheists gathered.

    Absolutely it does. Many atheists invest a good deal of thought in ethics. A common non-theistic framework is Humanism, which assesses actions based on the best possible outcome for all who might be impacted by those actions. This includes minimizing suffering, maximizing personal autonomy, etc.

    I want to live in a social environment that maximizes my well-being and the well-being of my fellow humans. This means I must abstain from behaviors that would create adverse social conditions. Stealing, violence, oppression, deception, these are things that create a dangerous environment of mistrust and uncertainty. I must also contribute to the social good in order to sustain and foster it. “Fairness” is an inherent concept.

  283. sujes hircst says

    Sam Harris has this thought experiment. Paraphrased from his debate with William Lane Craig:
    “There exists a hypothetical universe in which there is the absolute most amount of suffering possible. Actions that move us away from that universe are considered good; actions that move us towards that universe are considered bad”.

    This is why I find Harris frustrating. He’s stating something pretty much everyone agrees with, but they all make different substitutions for the variable “suffering.” And then Harris is vague about what he personally plugs in.

    Which statement do you identify with?
    I place terminal value to retribution (inflicting suffering on the causers of suffering), at least for some of the most egregious cases.
    I do not place terminal value to retribution, not even for the most egregious cases (e.g. mass murderers). I acknowledge that sometimes it may have instrumental value

    I think I place terminal value to retribution, but I would prefer it if I could self-modify so that I wouldn’t.

  284. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    There are multiple theories of criminal justice, but this is yet again another non sequitur.
    Here’s a better thought experiment…if a troll creates multiple accounts, can it ban itself?

  285. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    Capital punishment? I’m not convinced of the utility. Knowing the assignment of guilt can be made in error seems a strong enough reason to avoid irrevocable retribution. If the assumedly guilty individual has been removed from society and denied rehabilitation then I don’t see the value in inflicting additional suffering.

    Ethical choices are rarely easy or certain. That is no more or less true on the atheist side of the fence.

  286. sujes hircst says

    Isn’t it possible that moral reasoning isn’t actually any kind of valid reasoning, but does amount to a “random walk” of some kind, where considering an argument permanently changes your intuition in some nondeterministic way so that after hearing the argument you’re not even talking about the same thing you were before hearing it. Which is worrying.

    This seems to me pretty likely to be the case for humans. Even if it’s actually not the case, nobody has done the work to rule it out yet (has anyone made any kind of argument that it’s not the case?), so how do we know that it’s not the case? Doesn’t it seem to you that we might be doing some motivated cognition in order to jump to a comforting conclusion?

  287. sujes hircst says

    MS
    I am going to guess you are under 30, white male, born in or near a large city but moved to liberalsville, raised around gun culture with high crime, read urban dictionary for creative sayings, are a Dillydally follower and want to suck Aron’s dick because yours is small.

  288. sujes hircst says

    To Chikoppi
    I wasn’t specifically talking about capital punishment but if morality is logic.

    The practice of moral philosophy doesn’t much resemble the practice of mathematics. Mainly because in moral philosophy we don’t know exactly what we’re talking about when we talk about morality. In mathematics, particularly since the 20th century, we can eventually precisely specify what we mean by a mathematical object, in terms of sets.

    “Morality is logic” means that when we talk about morality we are talking about a mathematical object. The fact that the only place in our mind the reference to this object is stored is our intuition is what makes moral philosophy so difficult and non-logicy. In practice you can’t write down a complete syntactic description of morality, so in general neither can you write syntactic proofs of theorems about morality. This is not to say that such descriptions or proofs do not exist!

    In practice moral philosophy proceeds by a kind of probabilistic reasoning, which might be analogized to the thinking that leads one to conjecture that P≠NP, except with even less rigor. I’d expect that things like the order of moral arguments mattering come down to framing effects and other biases which are always involved regardless of the subject, but don’t show up in mathematics so much because proofs leave little wiggle room.

    Of course, you may be able to write proofs that only use simple properties that you can be fairly sure hold of morality without knowing its full description, but such properties are usually either quite boring or not widely agreed upon or don’t lead to interesting proofs due to being too specific. eg. “It’s wrong to kill someone without their permission when there’s nothing to be gained by it.”

  289. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    No, don’t think ethics can be comprehensively reduced to an objective formula. At best one might apply Bayesian methodology, but only because (as you suggest) it incorporates some probablistic outcomes. Even then, well-intentioned people can disagree about the relative values of the factors (e.g., potential harm vs. maximal autonomy).

    I also don’t think the lack of perfect objectivity entirely excludes ethical choices from logical reasoning. Of course, many choices have to be made without complete situational knowledge or within a timeframe that doesn’t allow for a well-considered analysis. In such instances it is helpful to have a foundation of principles to draw upon. Those principles can be based on an ethical framework that compares objective outcomes (e.g., petty theft is preferable to loss of life).

    A person might sincerely attempt to act in an ethically correct manner and yet get it wrong (insofar as others assess those choices or as regarded in hindsight).

    I’d point out again, the introduction of supposedly divine moral edicts does nothing to alleviate these difficulties. It’s quite offensive, dehumanizing, and supremely hypocritical when theists proclaim that atheists ‘have no morals. (I’m not suggesting you have done so!)

  290. sujes hircst says

    I appreciate that! Swanson sounds like a real piece of work and should be stopped!! It can be disheartening when someone like him, yanks things out of context to support hateful thinking!!!

  291. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes @Chikoppi
    It’s also good to keep in mind that not everyone shares values, which further mires moral discussions. These differences should be identified early on to prevent wasted effort. For example, I’m a humanist and wish to make the world a better, more comfortable place for everybody. Plenty (and I do mean plenty) of people do not share this goal, so we’ve reached a moral impasse.

    Who the fuck is Swanson?

  292. Chikoppi says

    @MS

    Agreed. I tried to acknowledge that point with, “Even then, well-intentioned people can disagree about the relative values of the factors.”

    I referenced Swanson in #258 (an evangelical douchebag).

  293. sujes hircst says

    The word “morality” needs to be made more specific for this discussion. One of the things you seem to be talking about is mental behavior that produces value judgments or their justifications. It’s something human brains do, and we can in principle systematically study this human activity in detail, or abstractly describe humans as brain activity algorithms and study those algorithms. This characterization doesn’t seem particularly interesting, as you might also describe mathematicians in this way, but this won’t be anywhere close to an efficient route to learning about mathematics or describing what mathematics is.

    “Logic” and “mathematics” are also somewhat vague in this context. In one sense, “mathematics” may refer to anything, as a way of considering things, which makes the characterization empty of content. In another sense, it’s the study of the kinds of objects that mathematicians typically study, but in this sense it probably won’t refer to things like activity of human brains or particular physical universes. “Logic” is more specific, it’s a particular way of representing and processing mathematical ideas. It allows describing the things you are talking about and obtaining new information about them that wasn’t explicit in the original description.

    Morality in the FAI-relevant sense is a specification of what to do with the world, and as such it isn’t concerned with human cognition. The question of the nature of morality in this sense is a question about ways of specifying what to do with the world. Such specification would need to be able to do at least these two things: (1) it needs to be given with much less explicit detail than what can be extracted from it when decisions about novel situations need to be made, which suggests that the study of logic might be relevant, and (2) it needs to be related to the world, which suggests that the study of physics might be relevant.

    This question about the nature of morality is separate from the question of how to pinpoint the right specification of morality to use in a FAI, out of all possible specifications. The difficulty of finding the right morality seems mostly unrelated to describing what kind of thing morality is.

  294. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes

    The difficulty of finding the right morality seems mostly unrelated to describing what kind of thing morality is.

    No fucking shit. Matt alone has exposed and belabored this in at least a dozen calls on AXP and the fact that countless theists fail to grasp this simple concept often makes discussion difficult. However, I also believe that morality is much different and much simpler than most apologists argue.

    The rest of your post was mostly irrelevant and boring. Do you have a point or are you content to babble on tangents?

  295. Chikoppi says

    @sujes

    I don’t think ethics (a term I prefer to “morality”) is reducible to maths or physics. Ethics is about the consequences of behavior and assessing behavioral choices based on the outcomes likely produced.

    It’s fine to discuss the context (human well being vs. animals, the species vs. the individual, etc.) or the relative value of conditions (freedom from suffering vs. longevity, autonomy vs. social responsibility, etc). Individual choices are made by weighing multiple conditions, potential outcomes, and uncertainties.

    I don’t think there is an ‘objective ethical truth’ nor even a definitive hierarchy of ethical conditions. Generally, the more harm an action causes to social well being the less ethical it is assumed to be. How that action is judged must also weigh the intent of the actor and the potential cost of inaction.

    I tend to think of ethics as, “of the options available in a given situation, was the action made with appropriate regard to the well being of others?”

  296. sujes hircst says

    Ms.
    Yes! Here is my point and question. I have a girlfriend named Staceyx and she works to much. My motives are to get some and it isn’t happening enough. It makes me escape into a fantasy world. I have maize and blue underwear that I parade around even though I know green and white are better. It increases my dickish comments towards others. Should I feel guilty?

  297. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    That’s clever. You can google my handle and find the same one on a sports blog. Did you figure that out all by yourself?
    Troll the fuck away.

  298. sujes hircst says

    Here’s what I do know. Anytime you want to meet at VTC, someone twice your age, will kick your ass, using SABR or not.
    I lived in SF, Ca for years…couldn’t stand the mindset. If you are missing AA, go to Berkeley as they are two peas in a pod.

  299. sujes hircst says

    Here is my problem with many atheists I talk with. They have an elitist attitude that espouses things like:

    There are many so-called religious people on the record throughout history with variations on the theme of religion (and thus religion-based morals) being factually indefensible but necessary for the coherence and stability of society. This was a position of many antiquity philosophers and politicians, and it is a mainstay of today’s religious apologetics (who admittedly, depending on the degree of self-delusion, sometimes do not consciously realize that it is actually unrelated to the question of the truth value of their religious claims). This starts with “but what if people need faith to be happy” and ends with “without Christianity, our society will collapse”. In this case you can make the argument that they ultimately care about well-being, but they don’t care about truth.

    Conversely, it seems to me that many other religious people consider moral what their god commands, even if it causes suffering, end of debate. Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to say that this is oriented towards well-being and flourishing because the ultimate goal is to personally end up in heaven rather than hell, especially if they embrace religion-based morals that cause suffering in others?

    Maybe morals cannot be defined in a non-tautological way; maybe it does have to boil down to how we should behave, with the problem simply being pushed into the “should”, because there just is no ultimate answer. Don’t get me wrong, I consider people who follow a god’s commands just because that is what it says to be dangerous lunatics; my point is simply that you cannot reach them with reasonable argument. And they are too many to just exclude them with your all sane people qualifier. Sure would be nice if we could just exclude the willfully ignorant, the insufferably stupid, the helplessly deluded, the dangerously insane and the deeply malicious from the discussion of those topics where they will not contribute anything useful anyway, but that would mean discussing every individual issue among 10% of the world population, tops. If you also exclude those who are completely unqualified and too uninformed to contribute, the number easily goes down by another two orders of magnitude, by the way.

    Education is very important. I am constantly in some kind of class (in my field) the only problem is that sometimes education spits out pompous, arrogant that believe their self worth is elevated above others.

  300. sujes hircst says

    Every act of lying is morally prohibited / This act would be a lie // This act is morally prohibited.

    So here I have a bit of moral reasoning, the conclusion of which follows from the premises.

    The problem is that when the conclusion is “proven wrong” (i.e. “my gut tells me that it’s better to lie to an Al Qaeda prison guard than to tell him the launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons”), then the premises that you started with are wrong.

    Is the name of the game is to find a premise that cannot and will not be contradicted by other moral premises via a bizarre hypothetical situation.

    Harris”s thought experiment:
    “There exists a hypothetical universe in which there is the absolute most amount of suffering possible. Actions that move us away from that universe are considered good; actions that move us towards that universe are considered bad”.

    At least as paraphrased here, the definition of “move towards” is very unclear. Is it a universe with more suffering? A universe with more suffering right now? A universe with more net present suffering, according to some discount rate? What if I move to a universe with more suffering both right now and for all possible future discount rates, assuming no further action, but for which future actions that greatly reduce suffering are made easier? (In other words, does this system get stuck in local optimums?)

    I think there is much that this approach fails to solve, even if we all agree on how to measure suffering.

    (Included in “how to measure suffering” is a bit of complicated stuff like average vs total utilitarianism, and how to handle existential risks, and how to do probability math on outcomes that produce a likelihood of suffering.)

    Nope. Even if one grants objective meaning to a unique interpersonal aggregate of suffering (and I don’t), it’s just wrong.

    Sometimes you want people to suffer. For example, if one fellow caused all the suffering of the rest, moving him to less suffering than everyone else would be a move to a worse universe.

  301. Wiggle Puppy says

    @328: Yes, that’s kind of the point. Morality is a complicated and complex topic, and reasonable people can debate and have disagreements based on the mobilization of evidence in support of different positions. The goal is to gradually build a better and better world over time by investigating evidence, refining arguments, and understanding things better. Contrast this with religious moral pronouncements, which are based on nothing but (unsupported) divine fiat, and which are often so hopelessly simple (don’t lie, don’t steal) that they’re basically useless in the real world. What does the Bible or the Koran have to say about internet privacy? or about genetic engineering?

    And yes, you’re right. Incapacitating mass murderers improves the aggregate well-being of humanity. In those cases, killing is likely the most moral thing to do, which is in direct conflict with the hopelessly oversimplified commandment against killing.

  302. RationalismRules says

    I see CutPasteTroll has been continuing his antics:

    #263 http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/the-ignominy-of-hitchens-razor-failure.html

    #267 http://standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/27498

    #272 response to EL from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/was-einstein-wrong-about-relativity/

    #275 cut & pasted from 3 sources:
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/obesely-speaking/201403/your-mind-does-not-care-what-your-brain-thinks
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/427982/biophoton-communication-can-cells-talk-using-light/
    http://m.topix.com/forum/science/microbiology/TBO7ACQ04UA8TC7EC

    #276 http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/ThreeParadoxes.htm

    #284 (“things Atheists have said”) is a list cut & pasted from:
    http://www.deanesmay.com/2016/04/03/things-most-atheists-believe-without-evidence-by-their-own-standards/
    This site also yields most of #290, from George Tasker / Dean Esmay / Viredae in the comments section

    #294 the_sleep_of_reason in comments on:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/DebateAnAtheist/comments/321lfp/the_flying_spaghetti_monster_fails_as_a_critique/?st=iq1026ms&sh=6c72790a

    #297 #308 #311 #315 #320 #328 all from the comments section of:
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/g3l/morality_isnt_logical/

    #304 Ian Kenney in the comments on:
    https://www.quora.com/Which-position-has-the-burden-of-proof-atheists-or-theists#!n=36

    #327 Mintman in the comments of:
    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/concerns-of-morality-well-being-and.html

    Anything resembling coherence is inevitably a cut & paste. My guess is if you went back through all of them the only original posts are the abusive ones and the one-line responses.

    Why is anybody continuing to engage with this?

  303. sujes hircst says

    Wiggle Puppy
    .”Incapacitating mass murderers improves the aggregate well-being of humanity. In those cases, killing is likely the most moral thing to do”

    ..because doing so would create incentive to not cause suffering to others. In the long run, that would result in less universal suffering overall. Isn’t this correct? No, that’s not my motivation at all. That’s not my because. It’s just vengeance on my part.
    Even if one regarded the design of vengeance as an evolutionary adaptation, I don’t think that vengeance minimizes suffering, it punishes infractions against values. At that level, it’s not about minimizing suffering either, it’s about evolutionary fitness.

    “Contrast this with religious moral pronouncements, which are based on nothing but (unsupported) divine fiat, and which are often so hopelessly simple (don’t lie, don’t steal) that they’re basically useless in the real world.”

    evolutionary fitness…not sure what well being and flourishing could be translated into reproduce and avoid extinction.

    versus

    Removing commands that non believers usually object to , here is what Jesus said:
    “FORGIVE EVERYBODY OF ALL THEIR OFFENSES AGAINST YOU.”
    (Forgive, and be forgiven.)
    “LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS.” (Do not hide your light
    under a basket.)
    “END DISPUTES QUICKLY.”
    “WHATEVER CAUSES YOU TO SIN, GET RID OF IT.”
    “DO NOT SWEAR OATHS AT ALL.”
    “DO NOT RETURN OFFENSE FOR OFFENSE.” (Turn the other cheek.)
    “GIVE WHAT PEOPLE ASK OF YOU, AND GIVE MORE THAN IS REQUIRED.”
    (Go the extra mile.)
    “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND THOSE WHO WORK AGAINST YOU.”
    “DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR MATERIAL NEEDS.”
    “DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE.”
    “DO NOT JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE.” (Judge not, lest ye be judged.)
    “FEED THE HUNGRY, CLOTHE THE NAKED, SHELTER THE HOMELESS,
    COMFORT THOSE IN DISTRESS.”
    “LOVE LITTLE CHILDREN, DO NOT DESPISE THEM.”
    “RESOLVE DISPUTES IN AN ORDERLY WAY, LIKE THIS . . . ”
    “BE LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN.” (Go, and do likewise.)
    “LOVE OTHER PEOPLE AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”
    “WASH ONE ANOTHER’S FEET.”
    “BE MERCIFUL.”

    Nothing about not using your head to figure out internet privacy and genetic engineering based on these.

  304. sujes hircst says

    Ms.
    I don’t consider it a boast or a threat to beat you at tennis.
    I know, I know, “quit whining you fucking fuck, troll on down the road”.

  305. Monocle Smile says

    @sujes
    Have you ever had an original thought?

    ..because doing so would create incentive to not cause suffering to others. In the long run, that would result in less universal suffering overall. Isn’t this correct? No, that’s not my motivation at all. That’s not my because. It’s just vengeance on my part

    Stop projecting your barbarism onto us.

    evolutionary fitness…not sure what well being and flourishing could be translated into reproduce and avoid extinction

    That is not a sentence.

    Removing commands that non believers usually object to , here is what Jesus said

    You can’t be serious.
    Are you going to ever get around to a point? Or are you going to continue to be an ass? Your entire presence on this blog has been dishonest from the start. It was a bit fun trolling the troll for a while, but now you’re just annoying.

  306. Wiggle Puppy says

    @330: Putting aside the fact that you’ve asked us to ignore Jesus’s most overtly objectionable sayings, several of the ones you’ve listed also aren’t particularly wise. The exhortation to not worry about tomorrow is pretty dumb, and the idea that one should turn the other cheek is terrible advice for someone suffering from chronic domestic abuse. And the ones that are in fact good advice don’t at all require anything supernatural to generate; all you need is an understanding of the kinds of actions which are most likely to be conducive to human well-being. Some of them don’t appear to be that hard to come up with; just do a quick Google search for “golden rule in world religions” sometime and you’ll see that the idea has popped up pretty much all over the world. In fact, we would kind of expect that a book representing the best thinking of ancient humans would have a mix of good ideas and bad ideas. The Bible contains commands to care for the poor along with instructions for slavery. The Koran contains instructions to compete with those around you to see who can do the most good in the world, and also commands the killing of apostates. There’s no need to rely on old books (and subject them to tortured interpretations to make them say what you want them to say) when we have reason, logic, and evidence, which work much better.

  307. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2010/05/concerns-of-morality-well-being-and.html

    This was a position of many antiquity philosophers and politicians, and it is a mainstay of today’s religious apologetics […]

    I don’t know if it’s just a bad troll, a plagiarizer, or just the same asshat under a different name who is copy-pasting screeds to us rather than engage honestly. I vote ban, and it seems like they have been banned here twice already, and unfortunately it looks like they’re ban evading.

  308. Chikoppi says

    @EL

    And this bit is cribbed from the same thread as well, taken from a rebuttal (by “Jim Fisher”) to the poster of the initial plagiarized text (“Mintman”).

    Education is very important. I am constantly in some kind of class (in my field) the only problem is that sometime education spits out pompous, arrogant people like you that believe their self worth is elevated above others.

    I don’t know what this nonsense is about, but it certainly isn’t an honest conversation. I’m done wasting my time with it.

  309. Monocle Smile says

    @EL @Chikoppi
    What’s even better is reading the exchange between “Darek” and “Jim Fisher” on that linked thread. Gotta love religious libertarian blowhards.

  310. RationalismRules says

    @EL, WrigglePuppy, Chikoppi, MS
    (There’s a post of mine hung up awaiting approval because it has too many links in it)

    TL;DR
    The following posts by sujes hircst / hebgbeesknees / b r a d which are either entirely or substantially copy/pasted from other people without attribution:
    #129, 131, 135, 137, 146, 159, 162, 177, 182, 186, 189, 191, 193 ,197, 199, 203, 219, 232, 233, 241, 254, 263, 267, 273, 275, 276, 284, 290, 294, 297, 304, 308, 311, 315, 320, 327, 328, 331

    It’s pretty easy to decode, once you get the hang of it:
    – abusive or directly provocative posts are original
    – short-form direct responses of one or two sentences are (mostly) original
    – anything poorly written and incoherent is original
    – anything resembling coherent argument is a copy/paste

    The short answer to MS’s “Have you ever had an original thought?” is a resounding No.

  311. Wiggle Puppy says

    @338: I’m reminded of Dillahunty’s crack a couple weeks ago about “theistic McNugget eaters” who don’t know enough about the topics under discussion to have a coherent conversation and resort to buzzwords and catchphrases to try and assemble an argument. Surely rampant copy/paste plagiarism falls into that category too?

  312. sujes hircst says

    In 2006, Johansson and others used “choice blindness” in a study that asked people to pick the photo of the female face that was more attractive to them, and then they were asked why they chose that photo. For three out of the twelve times this was done for each person, the questioner used slight of hand to show the person the photo that they did not pick, and he asked the participants why they chose that photo. Only 26% of them were able to tell they had been shown the wrong photo. For the people unable to perceive the deception, there was no evidence that the people had difficulty coming up with reasons for a decision they didn’t make. So the ability to choose does not necessarily mean that we are as aware of the reasons for the decisions as we think we are.

    Make your right foot go around in a circle clockwise. Now draw an imaginary number six with your right hand.

    https://www.quora.com/Why-are-atheists-so-easy-to-troll

  313. Chikoppi says

    And this, from the quora thread referenced above…

    Frans du Plessis writes:

    This is what really happens: we recognise troll questions when we see them, but we still answer them. Even if we suspect that it is a troll question but we are not sure, we still answer it. Yes, sometimes we get a bit irritated by the insults, irrational arguments and loaded questions of the trolls, but we still answer the questions.

    We are not writing the answers and comments for the benefit of the trolls asking the questions. We know that the silent majority of Quora users are here to gain knowledge and learn about the opinions of other people. We know that there are people out there who doubt the rationality of their faith.

    We know that these people silently read answers and comments (compare the large number of views with the small number of upvotes). We know that some of these people come to understand the rationality of atheist arguments and that they recognise the irrationality and bigotry of the religious trolls. We know that they notice the large number of ad hominem personal attacks by the religious trolls. We know that they notice that the vast majority of atheist responses are rational criticism of religion, rather than personal attacks.

    The religious trolls are hurting their own cause. They are making a small contribution to hasten the worldwide decline in religion.

  314. RationalismRules says

    @troll #341

    https://www.quora.com/Why-are-atheists-so-easy-to-troll

    Actually you almost entirely failed to get any emotional response (other than MS, and what you got out of him was very tame by his standards). So perhaps you should be asking, if atheists are so easy to troll, why am I having to work so hard to try to get anything other than a reasoned response?

  315. Monocle Smile says

    @RR
    Heh, is my reputation really that sour around here? I’ve been under stress from multiple sources lately, so that’s probably emerging, but I really am trying to tone it down with people who are making an honest effort. I probably should back off Jeremy, but his incoherent blather ground on me after a while.

  316. Jeremy from Pittsburgh says

    @MS yeah, I’m under some stressors too 🙂 let’s just give each other some space for now.

  317. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Monocle Smile
    Lol.
    ><
    Uhh. I don't know how to answer that question.

    I think you're mostly ok, but sometimes you do .. go off .. a bit too early. That's mostly just a personal opinion and personal preference.

    I think your reputation is fine.

    PS: If anything, I'm worried about my reputation if anything. I think this is the only place online where I have a decent to good reputation. On Dispatches From The Culture Wars, and Pharyngula, I think I'm universally reviled and hated. I think I'm generally reviled and hated for adopting a Marxist approach and terminology for discussing government and violence, and for being a strong nuclear advocate and strong critic of solar and wind, and for being a strong proponent of rule of law and the correct jurisprudence of the US second federal amendment until repealed which is a guarantee of a personal right to own weapons of war which includes at least semiauto rifles. (I also happen to be strongly in favor of mandatory training and licensing, which is clearly constitutional IMAO, and other policies to lessen gun deaths.)

    PPS:
    Dunno. This post was pretty selfish, but I'm doing it.

    <3 you MS.

  318. RationalismRules says

    @MS
    No, all good from here.
    What I was thinking was that I’ve seen you get more fruity at genuinely idiotic believers like JWfromLondon than this troll’s rather obvious stick-poking. Also, from outside the conversation it has been clear that he is putting much more effort into trying to get a rise out of you than you were giving him back.

  319. sujes hircst says

    Aw, the love fest is so touching. Monocle you remind me of the punk movement, where we thought we had something new to say. Self delusion at it’s worst/best?!
    The best atheist scientists philosophers have yet to prove by a preponderance of evidence or philosophical ranglings unless one uses the silly ramblings of biblical interpretation by the afore mentioned fundamentalist Christians. IMO, many of the greatest philosophers in history are found among monergistic theologians. They have always held their own in the philosophical arena with the best atheists have to offer. Of course the best atheists have to offer doesn’t include any of the four horsemen (new atheist gurus) or any horsemanites as I have seen them attempt to debate people like Dr. William Lane Craig, and Dr. John Lennox neither of which have monergistic leanings. The best one can say about the entire existence of God debate with full intellectual honesty is this, “I am a believer”, or, “I am an unbeliever”, based on personal preferences and that is it.

    The idea suffering and injustices around the world is mainly due to religion is preposterous. What is responsible for wars and iniquity among mankind is not what is written in religious books or atheististic dictums, it is the evil written on the hearts of human beings in the form of greed, apathy, self-righteousness, selfishness, and arrogance which is in the nature of all. And, what no economic or political system can properly account for which is why they are all doomed to massive failures as history has attested too. It is common to all human beings from all walks of life…religious and atheist alike.

    Atheists do not stay long on the topic of godlessnes. Here’s a metaphor that might get at it. It’s like someone who claims to believe in nudity as a lifestyle (like atheism, rather more popular in Europe than America) but still wears clothes. This person is convinced that clothes are silly, unnecessary and uncomfortable things that have more to do with arbitrary social conventions than any useful function. So he makes a new set of clothes covered in slogans to promote his new beliefs, like “Nudism is natural” and “Clothes are just lies”.

  320. Wiggle Puppy says

    @347: Dude, when you get caught copying and pasting from other people, can’t carry on a coherent argument for any length and switch topics faster than most people change their socks in order to mask your complete lack of understanding of the issues under discussion, and admit to trolling, you lose the privilege of having anything you say be taken seriously

  321. Chikoppi says

    Is that your ‘opinion’ or random copied text? It doesn’t matter. Please waste your time elsewhere.

  322. Monocle Smile says

    Aw shuck, guys *kicks dirt*
    There’s a “go off prematurely” joke in there somewhere, but it’s just not coming.

  323. Monocle Smile says

    Eddie Smith’s comment is whiny and incorrect, but the OP of that blog post is kind of a snooty dickhole, isn’t he?

  324. Vivec says

    Kinda, yeah, although I’m having a hard time even grasping his point. He asserts a lot that new atheism is religion-like, and as of yet, the only argument he makes for it is that new atheists argue against apologists, and this somehow makes new atheists more friendly to religion than his apatheism.

  325. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Monocle speaks truth.
     
    /Strokes a wild crimson beard

  326. sujes hircst says

    It doesn’t matter what you think about God, it’s what God thinks about you.

  327. Chikoppi says

    You worked really hard to earn our apathy. Now you get to enjoy it.

    That’s another “A-” word. A (without), pathos (suffering).

  328. Wiggle Puppy says

    @357: Ah, and so this conversation ends as so many others have: with vague warnings about the consequences if we fail to believe in your particular unfounded assertion. Nobody cares