We happy hooligans


My brief summary of the position of apologists for religion, The Courtier’s Reply, continues to rankle the believers, and they continue to make responses that only make me laugh at their cluelessness. The standard rebuttal is to claim that I was making an argument in favor of ignorance in the face of theological scholarship, followed by a laundry list of esteemed theologians … but never, and I mean absolutely never, even the slightest attempt to address the core of my criticism — not once have they presented a solid, confirmable reason to believe in a deity.

Here’s the latest example, and it follows the formula perfectly. How dare Myers accuse Tillich and Buber and Bonhoeffer and Gandhi and Bishop Tutu and Piaget and a long set of dropped names of promoting false beliefs? Yet, as usual, he cannot bring himself to actually discuss the substance of the issue: where is the evidence for his god? Listing invisible flounces, transparent ruffles, and phantasmal frills is simply a confirmation of the validity of my parable.

And yes, I do accuse his honor roll of theological luminaries of perpetuating lies, of credulity, and often, of pettifogging rhetoric. When someone advances remarkable claims of remarkable phenomena, like N rays or cold fusion or polywater (or natural selection or chemiosmosis or endosymbiosis), we demand evidence and skeptical evaluation…but not for religion. God always gets a pass from the people who already believe. They claim the existence of the most powerful, all-pervasive force in the universe, yet will provide not a single shred of support. And worse, this bozo calls the demand for evidence “hooliganism”.

If that’s the case, I’m proud to be a hooligan.

Comments

  1. Grammar RWA says

    No-one is under any obligation to use such an awkward word, and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    You can’t understand? Or you refuse to listen?

    It was explained to you already, very clearly, by Carlie, among others.

    If you want historical precedent, look to gay people. We didn’t start achieving anything close to equal treatment under the law until we went “out and proud.” If atheists fail to regularly, openly, proudly identify as “atheists”, then we will only reinforce the notion that atheism is something bad, something to hide and be ashamed of.

    Now, you obtuse ass, I don’t have any illusion that you’ll honestly consider my words, and you’re such a relentless bore that you’re impeding my enjoyment of the rest of this thread. So I’m turning off your comments; I inform you out of politeness, that you needn’t waste your time writing a reply I can’t read.

    Thank the Disco Ball for firefox/greasemonkey/killfile.

  2. MartinM says

    What _is_ relevant is that _different_ circles have different radii; ie. between circles, radii vary.

    In much the same way as different the different FRW metrics have different curvature constants, and consequently different spatial cross-sections. They’re still all four-dimensional, though, and specifying any point within a given FRW manifold still only takes four parameters.

  3. Stephen Wells says

    Notkeiran, you don’t get to redefine the meaning of dimensionality to suit your purposes.

  4. BlueIndependent says

    “…That’s not what I was referring to. I was referring to people who willingly are pursuing God as described in the Bible…not being indoctrinated against their will.”

    Perhaps, but your reasoning unfortunately falls within a significant minority of cases worldwide. Indoctrination of children is the hallmark of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and many others. The religions would be far less likely to survive if they all waited until the age of consent to start prostelytizing. Also, there wouldn’t be 2 billion Christians of 1.5 billion Muslims without children being indoctrinated from day one. And since children tend to be more numerous than parents (especially if you’re Catholic or Mormon), it’s likely that if you removed all children below age 18 from the rolls, those huge numbers for Christianity and Islam would be significantly lower. The fact is children are converted early because they have no power, they cannot consent, they have no knowledge, and they have no experiences. They are ripe for the picking.

    Your argument assumes far too much about its target population.

  5. Dennis N says

    Jesus, J, why are you still here? You’re just annoying. This tired discussion ended days ago, it’s time to move on. Don’t you have any other interests? Why can’t you try contributing to the newer threads, on topic? There’s a fun one about an Atheist vs. Christian game. Play it and tell us what you think? (Without being insufferably annoying)

  6. Benjamin Franklin says

    I like Walton.

    I have read his comments since he started posting a week ago, but I have never gone head to head with him, pro or con. I think it’s OK for us to realize that man’s/women’s understanding is finite, and there may be things that are infinite.

    At least he argues with intelligence, admits his fallibilities, doesn’t berate anyone who disagrees, and keeps the door open for discussion and debate.

    I don’t consider myself an atheist, but more of an anti-religionist (like Einstein?) & I think I would enjoy sharing a few beers with Walton – anybody else care to join us?

  7. SEF says

    #329

    There’s recently been published a correlation between schzophrenia & religiosity.

    #333

    Source please?

    Unless I missed it in the enormous thread of posts, this call for a source went unanswered. I don’t know what Richard Harris actually had in mind but this link might be of interest (especially the bit about “schizotypal” people). See also this one (especially reference to mystical experiences and believing oneself to be Jesus).

  8. SEF says

    A quick look round with Google Scholar threw up some potentially relevant research:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(95)00129-8
    can be summarised as religiosity in men being linked to them having crazy thoughts, whereas there’s less of a link in women. I’d provisionally put that down to women’s religiosity being the result of male domination and abuse (ie much the same as the religiosity of slaves).

    Also:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9403156
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713685656

  9. frog says

    NickGotts: I agree with you entirely (this was my main point) that the existence of suffering shows that Walton’s God does not exist, and all the attempts to get round this that I am aware of clearly fail. By “logically impossible” I mean “cannot exist because its description is internally inconsistent”; like a “three-sided pentagon” or “even prime greater than 2”. It’s useful to distinguish that kind of impossibility from the kind you rightly attribute to Walton’s God, where nonexistence cannot be deduced from the meaning of terms, but which we know cannot exist given the nature of the real world.

    I disagree that this is a case distinct from “even prime greater than 2”. Given that we all assume that there is a problem with theodicy, the existence of God is not logically consistent with that assumption. QED and so forth. You assume that suffering is simply an empirical fact; I say that suffering goes beyond that to the very nature of consciousness, and so is embedded a priori in the problem of God, or whatever have you.

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom. I don’t think that would be terribly satisfying to the faithful, though.

  10. DiscoveredJoys says

    mezzobuff, #303

    I struggled for a while to think of a positive antonym for ‘faith’ and then realized that it is one of those words which carries different meanings, depending on context.

    Taking one of the religious meanings – A strong¬†belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny – might I suggest that a useful antonym for ‘faith’ is ‘science’?

    Although seeming strange at first, this works on many levels. Materialistic/spiritual, factual/fact free, falsifiable/unfalsifiable etc.

    Of course it does not cover all uses of ‘faith’ – “he was a member of the Science” and “she had ultimate science in his ability”, for instance.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    There once was a God from Nantucket
    Who peed in a big plastic bucket
    He said “Please feel free,
    To make use of this wee,
    Or freeze it well down and suck it?”

  11. frog says

    cl #395: That’s exactly the point I’m arguing, and if you’re debating me, it’s strawman argumentation. To repeat the thesis of comment #380, “All this making any definitive claim based on Isaiah 40:22 speculative at best, which in a roundabout way was my original point. I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things.” (emph. mine)
    Make sense?

    Maybe my “poetic license” made my point unclear. I’m going beyond “it complicates things”. I’m saying that much of the bible has no prosaic meaning, any more than Milton was describing a real underworld geography. The ancient Hebrews may not have really cared what the shape of the world was — it’s was simply a trope, like “God has the whole world in his hands” has no implications about the physical location of God, or the world, or beliefs about gravity embedded in it.

    It’s not just poetry, but it’s just poetry. Of course, they didn’t take to aesthetic criticism very well, but that’s a separate question. Physical interpretations may just be completely anachronistic.

  12. SC says

    This is from Medscape re mania in bipolar disorder (not the same disorder, I know, but hyperreligiosity associated with mania, I’ve seen in action)

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/412807_2

    Studies of the behavioral manifestations of mania found that the most common symptoms were pressured speech (98%), logorrhea (89%), psychomotor agitation (87%), decrease need for sleep (81%), hypersexuality (57%), and extravagant behavior (55%).[23]

    Less prevalent symptoms included violence (49%), religiosity (39%), pronounced regression (28%), and catatonia (22%).

  13. says

    “The witch-hunt against me has absolutely nothing to do with my alleged obstinance or anything of the sort.”

    Whined by: J | May 29, 2008 10:02 AM

    Oh dear, another burning martyr…somebody get some nice beef and venison roasts so we can enjoy the self-immolation.

  14. SEF says

    Here’s one looking at children (but apparently stupidly restricting the religion to Christianity):

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713685616

    The same link is revealed between religiosity and crazy thoughts in males. It also looks to be confirming my guess that religiosity in females is about subservience. However, they seem to be making excuses for religion being a good thing – the details of which unfortunately can’t be seen from the abstract to check for errors.

    More:
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a785040814
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/6yjy21te22j1a6ee/

  15. Walton says

    Looking at this thread, I have to say that the problem is that people are trying to carry on five or six different conversations at once.

    As regards J, I don’t even understand what people are arguing about. Is it simply whether it’s appropriate to use the term “atheist”? I don’t think “atheist” carries any particular negative connotations; it’s a fairly neutral statement of position. It may be viewed negatively as a term in heavily religious societies such as the US “red states”, but in that sense it’s no more a negative term than “conservative” or “liberal”; while it can be used as an insult, it’s only an insult in the view of its enemies.

    I do realise that some non-religious people dislike the term “atheist” because they don’t want to label themselves in relation to a concept (God) that has no meaning for them (I believe Sam Harris made this argument, if I understand correctly); in this sense, to an atheist, the term “atheist” is no more meaningful than “non-astrologer” or “non-believer in fairies”. But in practice, this argument is nonsensical; since belief in a God or gods is extremely widespread and informs the majority of people’s worldview, it is perfectly legitimate for those who don’t believe in a God or gods to define their position in relation to that question.

    So I really don’t see what J and others are actually debating about, in terms of substantive points. Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.

  16. SC says

    Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.

    I’m always perplexed by comments like this. How so? How does the fact that people are also debating other topics prevent you from commenting on or renewing (it’s my recollection that you explicitly bowed out) the earlier discussion?

  17. CJO says

    Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.
    Carrying on a conversation in the comments of any well-traveled blog is an excercise in discerning a signal amidst the noise. There are often several discussions going on in any given thread of any length here, but that’s part of the charm. Imagine you’re talking over the chatter in a noisy pub. Difficult perhaps, annoying possibly, but certainly not impossible.

  18. says

    I know this is ‘just another comment’, but I wanted to say thank you for your diligence PZ regarding atheist issues, it is inspiring.

  19. says

    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

    I live in the US, and “atheist” doesn’t have any negative connotations among my family or social group, nor is it an awkward term.

    I call myself an atheist because the word accurately describes my views regarding religion.

  20. David Marjanovińá, OM says

    (comments 148 and 151)

    Oh. Yeah. Ganymede.

    Well, I suppose a statistical argument could still be made… :-|

    What I can’t quite understand is why fewer people haven’t solved the problem of evil the Job way – by saying that God, while omnipotent and omniscient, is not exclusively benevolent.

    Behe is such a dystheist.

    Should we then have faith in Harrius Potter?

    Should we start recycling Mollies?

    I also believe in the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics

    Science — ur doin it rong, J. (Emphasis mine.)

    An omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being is logically impossible; it is inconsistent with the existence of suffering.

    Not if you add a fourth quality: “ineffable”.

    It’s the belief, to a high degree of confidence, that there was no intelligent designer of the Universe. This goes a lot further than simple disbelief in religion.

    So atheists can, without the need for doublethink, believe in all those other deities that are not supposed to have created the universe? Atheists can be polytheists?

    Your definition of “god”, and thus of “atheism”, is too narrow.

    I think it’s been passed over that Dawkins considered the possibility that she (Midgely) hadn’t read the book to be a charitable interpretation of the review.

    In any case that’s what it is!

    Really ? You have never thought someone spoke to you when the hadn’t ? OF thought something brushed against you when nothing had ?

    For the record, I haven’t, unless you count itching that may be a misinterpretation of the touch of clothing or of wind moving a hair. (Think of head lice… just think…) Of course I also don’t count dreams (definition of “dream”: when asleep).

    It does often happen that I mistakenly believe someone has called me, but in every single case so far it turns out someone said something with [a] and [i] and I didn’t pay attention to the consonants.

    That said, I’ve never been drunk, and I’ve never even pretended to inhale… :-)

    Where’s the line between optical illusion and hallucination, when it depends on cultural background?

    If you’ve never seen a horizontal straight line before, you won’t have expectations tied to horizontal straight lines, and that means you won’t misinterpret them.

    It [the Bible[ does call it [the Earth] a circle.

    And talks about its four corners several times. Teach the controversy! Teach both sides of this argument!!! :-D

    It seems to leak from your pores like RNAse

    Cool. I must remember that phrase. :-)

    Good luck with that, when our common language here doesn’t even have a word for Schadenfreude.

    Gloat? Glee?

    I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things. Anyone?

    Not if you’re Ethiopian Orthodox, in which case the First Book of Enoch is scripture to you.

    pangea in which one tall tree could theoretically be viewed from all the ends of the Earth

    Wrong. Pangea was too big for that. Start at http://www.scotese.com.

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    If they would, ¬°¬°¬°hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles. Agree or disagree?

    You are getting desperate.

    In the epic of Gilgamesh, he travels to the land of the dead by running through the tunnel in the mountains which the sun passes through when it sets. Undoubtedly and explicitly a flat-earth cosmology, and consistent in its own terms.

    Those tunnels also occur in 1 Enoch.

    and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    The problems here are the connotations, not the word — several people have explained in this thread that they wear the label in order to change its connotations, but you apparently managed not to read any of them.

  21. SC says

    mezzobuff and DiscoveredJoys,

    The only possible problem I have with “science” as an antonym is that it does have a generally-accepted narrower definition – describing not only the scientific method but also “the sciences” and the people and institutions involved in them. “The scientific worldview” works, but it isn’t a single word, and isn’t quite verby enough for my taste. I’d like something a bit more active, implying not just a way of seeing things but a way of doing things…

  22. Josh says

    pangea in which one tall tree could theoretically be viewed from all the ends of the Earth

    Oh shit. I missed this one. Who the hell wrote this piece of drivel?

  23. David Marjanovińá, OM says

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom.

    :-o

    Man. You have just explained Stupid Design.

    Consider this a Molly nomination.

    All hail the Flying Spaghetti Moron!!!

  24. frog says

    DM: Not if you add a fourth quality: “ineffable”.

    I handled that case – inneffable means non-rational “logic”, which is just a desperate out. Anything is possible if the universe is irrational, consistency and therefore logic is impossible if you can claim “non-rationality” in substance, so in short, saying God is ineffable is simply making nonsense sounds. It is saying that god is not logically consistent, which was the point to be proved, QED.

    I like my out better – God is like an idiot savant, all-knowing yet at the same time a blithering idiot. That’s the only out that I see which is consistent with the three monotheistic qualities, and self-consistent. Maybe another out is that God is stochastic? He’s good, powerful, and knowing, but his actions aren’t ineffable in the sense that they have an unknowable logic, but are simply random? But that may just be a special case of God is a moron.

  25. CJO says

    I have yet to see an English sentence containing the word “ineffible” where “imaginary” wouldn’t fit as well, or better.

    Consider gods imaginary, and the problem of evil just goes away. Funny how that solves so many seemingly intractible questions.

  26. Jams says

    The end of J’s cosmological argument.

    J claims that atheism is primarily a cosmological question. Atheism is simply a cosmological question to the degree that Theism is simply a cosmological question. Which is to say, it isn’t. If J would like to explain why Theism is simply a cosmological question, I’m sure we’d all be ears.

  27. cicely says

    frog @511:

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom. I don’t think that would be terribly satisfying to the faithful, though.

    Unfortunately, that loophole is already spackeled shut, since much is also made of god’s “infinite wisdom”. So…he knows all, is everywhere present, is all-powerful, and is infinitely wise, BUT…is he always all of these things at the same time? I see room for another explanation, one backed up by common Christian belief (at least, in those denomiations that go with the Trinity); God has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Verily, He knows not what He doeth.

  28. cicely says

    Oops; I forgot to add in the all-benevolence. Kinda shoe-horn it into my previous post, among the other divine attributes.

  29. says

    SEF (@509, 510, 516) and SC (@514) — thanks for the refs!

    IMO religion is very dangerous for individuals with mental illnesses because it provides false explanations for real problems. Depression is a struggle with one’s sinful nature, mania is religious ecstasy, hallucinations are messages from God (or the devil), etc. A lot of things that might be seen as clearly problematic in a psychiatric context (eg, hyperreligiosity in bipolar mania) are considered normal or even positive in the religious context. Combined with the stigma already attached to psychiatric care in a lot of Western culture, this is a very real problem.

    But since our culture — popular and academic — treats religion so uncritically, it’s a problem that is only rarely and insufficiently addressed…

  30. frog says

    DM: All hail the Flying Spaghetti Moron!!!

    Do I get to be the Avatar of the Moron?

    Cicely: Well, you’re just heading down the road to polytheism there — a god with DID is indistinguishable from many gods as incarnations of some underlying Jedi Force. Aka, Hinduism doesn’t have a problem with theodicy, in general.

  31. J says

    I live in the US, and “atheist” doesn’t have any negative connotations among my family or social group, nor is it an awkward term.
    I don’t know about your “social group”, but if you don’t think the word “atheist” carries negative connotations in the United States as a whole, you must be delusional.

  32. Dennis N says

    Black used to have negative connotations in the USA before too. So what?

  33. windy says

    God could also be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent if this is the best of all possible worlds ;)

  34. frog says

    Windy: God could also be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent if this is the best of all possible worlds ;)

    Well, now isn’t that a depressing thought – it does imply a not-so-omnipotent god, now doesn’t it? Maybe god just has a very limited imagination.

    I guess we’ll have to ask the physicists whether it is the case that this is the best of all possible worlds.

  35. says

    I don’t know about your “social group”, but if you don’t think the word “atheist” carries negative connotations in the United States as a whole, you must be delusional.

    That sentence doesn’t make sense. There is no single word that has negative connotations for “the USA as a whole”.

  36. Ichthyic says

    The witch-hunt against me has absolutely nothing to do with my alleged obstinance or anything of the sort.

    of course not, that’s why you’re the only one being attacked, right J?

    dude, you have serious issues.

  37. says

    Re circles and dimensions, particularly MartinM

    MartinM, you seem to be effectively describing a ‘circle’ as the perimiter of a disk. This is indeed a 1-dimensional figure – a line curved (and closed, I think the term is) in two dimensions. I agree with everything you said in this context, but it’s a definition of ‘circle’ I’ve never heard before. Particularly, because it makes the question “what is the area of this circle” meaningless, since circles in this definition to not have area.

    In which field would anyone use this definition? Spatial topography?
    I’m genuinely interested, because I can’t think of how this definition of a circle would be at all useful.

  38. buckyball says

    @504, BlueIndependent:

    “Indoctrination of children is the hallmark of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and many others.”

    Well, in Proverbs 22:6, it does state “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” and then there’s Matthew 18:5-6. But neither imply “indoctrination”.

    “The fact is children are converted early because they have no power, they cannot consent, they have no knowledge, and they have no experiences. They are ripe for the picking.”

    Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?

    @ #522, David Marjanovińá, OM:

    “If they would, ¬°¬°¬°hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?”

    I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a “let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party” kind of way.

  39. Friendo says

    @Hematite #540:

    In which field would anyone use this definition?

    Erm…how about all of mathematics? A quick jaunt over to wikipedia might enlighten you. I think it’s pretty standard high school math that a circle is the set of points in the plane equidistant to a point, ie (x-a)^2+(y-b)^2=r^2.

    Similarly, a sphere is a 2D surface in R^3, also the set of points equidistant to a point. The interiors of the circle and sphere are called disk and ball.

    Also, saying the “area of a circle” is technically incorrect, it’s the “area inside a circle”, but usually people aren’t pedantic enough to point that out.

  40. says

    Wow, I stand thoroughly corrected! I swear, I managed to get through my entire entire schooling and bachelor’s degree on the understanding that a circle was a disc not a line.

    Now I wonder if I was specifically taught that a circle was a disc, or if I misunderstood it once and never corrected.

  41. tony (Not a vegan) says

    buckyball: You are still a lurking ass…

    DM provides you an example of transformation – many of which those transformed would have considered positive — ever hear of the delighted (communist) volunteers against Franco in the 30’s? And I met many a delighted trotskyist at college in the 70’s. None of those were ‘communist from birth’ and (the vast majority) chose communism as adults.

    But like all Xian apoologists – you now seek to shift the goalposts and suggest that THOSE are not REAL transformations. You only wanted to see positive transformations to Christianity? Good luck with that one.

    Either debate honestly – or just fuck off.

  42. says

    CJO (#527):

    I have yet to see an English sentence containing the word “ineffible” where “imaginary” wouldn’t fit as well, or better.

    Theologists say God it ineffable, but I tell ‘im to get effed all the time.

  43. Friendo says

    @Hematite #543

    Well, don’t be too embarrassed – in everyday language, circle and sphere can be used to mean the interiors (as the dictionary will tell you). A lot of thoughtful, well-educated people get confused when you suggest a sphere is two-dimensional.

    As to the original question of parsing Isaiah, I think it’s pretty futile. You might as well argue about which slit an electron goes through.

    And way back: @buckyball #387

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    Is a child’s excitement at Christmas evidence of Santa Claus? Are J’s hysterics evidence of a witchhunt?

  44. SC says

    Odd question: Is it possible to define a circle or sphere without reference to a center point? In other words, solely in terms of the relationship of the points on the circle or sphere to one another?

  45. Friendo says

    @SC #547

    You can define circles and spheres as the only curves/surfaces (with no boundary) of constant positive curvature. (“curvature ” is not unambiguous here…it’s defined differently for the circle than for the sphere. For curves in 2D, it’s defined in terms of tangent and normal vectors, while in 3D, curvature can be defined intrinsically using Riemannian geometry). The condition of positivity is only needed for the sphere as curvature in R^2 is by definition nonnegative.

  46. DingoDave says

    Ref. #511 -“God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron.”

    If he was an insufferable moron, or if he was originally nothing but a spoiled child!
    The god Yahweh originally started out as the upstart son of the Caananite high god El. He was just one of El’s 70 sons. The ancient Hebrew priests gradually ascribed more and more of his father’s attributes to him, until he eventually supplanted his father entirely. This is why the attributes ascribed to Yahweh in the Bible are so confusing.

    Many scholars argue that the plural form of “Elohim”
    reflects this early Judaic polytheism. They argue it originally meant ‘the gods’, or the ‘sons of El,’ the supreme being. They claim the word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace the worship of the many gods of the Judean pantheon with their own singular patron god YHWH alone.

    The following Bible passage absolutely gives the game away as to Yahweh’s original status in the Caananite pantheon.

    Deuteronomy 32: 7-9
    Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.
    When the Most High (Elyon) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (El).
    For the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

    For an interesting discussion of Yahweh’s rise to power, and the origins of Biblical monotheism, take a look at this article which discusses Mark Smith’s book, ‘The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts’ (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)
    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/MSmith_BiblicalMonotheism.htm

    For those of you who might be curious as to why Yahweh seems to make such a hash of everything in the book of Genesis, then take a look at this article.
    ‘Is Yahweh a Boy?: The Concept of the J Text Deity in Genesis.’
    http://www.georgeleonard.com/yahweh.html

  47. buckyball says

    @544, Tony (not a vegan):

    “But like all Xian apoologists – you now seek to shift the goalposts and suggest that THOSE are not REAL transformations. You only wanted to see positive transformations to Christianity?”

    Nobody is “shifting the goalposts”. I misinterpreted his comment. I would agree there are such transformations…just as I would agree that there are atheists and agnostics who certainly have a sense of morals.

    Also, by the same token, there are peaceful Buddhist monks. Just as there are peaceful Hindus, Taoists, etc.

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

  48. says

    SC, three points on a circle will uniquely define it, but the method I know uses them to find the centre so I’m not sure that’s the answer you want.

    As an aside, when I wrote my #540 above I thought MartinM was using some highly technical definition of a circle, perhaps one which allowed for arbitrary curvature in the plane the circle was embedded in. I’m still thinking about that, and it’s hurting my head (in a good way). Could a circle* be defined as any line which appears straight in the plane it is embedded in, and which meets itself? The Earth’s equator would be such a line, and I suppose other curved planes than the surface of a sphere would host different circles* by this definition. Then you could define a circle* with a point, a direction, and a description of the curvature of the plane it is embedded in.

    (I know using ‘circle’ is wrong above, I suppose there is a correct technical term for such a line, but in my confusion I thought MartinM was referring to some idea such as this. It was the talk of manifolds that really got me)

  49. says

    @#551 Buckyball —

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

    If you think you feel a “peace that passes all understanding,” chances are that it’s because you’re limiting your understanding.

  50. says

    Bah, I put <strike> tags around the “the surface of” (a sphere) in my previous post, looks like they didn’t come through. Sorry, I’m sensitive to the distinction between a sphere and a ball now.

  51. MAJeff, OM says

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

    blah blah blah blah blah

  52. Kseniya says

    When I think “circle projected into a third dimension” I think “cylinder” not “sphere” … but I’m rather simple-minded about these things. :-) Rotating a circle through a third dimension around some axis could yield a sphere, a torus, or some other shape, depending on the circle’s position and orientation relative to the axis of rotation…

    Should we then have faith in Harrius Potter?

    Sigh. That was brilliant. You’re speaking my language, dude. That’s even better than the “Santa and Satan are the same person” argument.

    I am reminded of an old story I read when I was a kid. Probably Clarke or Asimov:

    The story opens during a severe ice age going on. Our unnamed hero, clad in bearskins, struggles up the mountainside. He holds in his hands a precious item, a container of some sort. He reaches the top of the mountain and places this item on the highest point.

    Some years pass.

    Millenia, perhaps.

    An alien race discovers Earth. The surface is devoid of any intelligent life-forms. However, one day an amazing discover is made – a disk-shaped, metal container, clearly manufactured, is found on a mountaintop. Inside, all that is found is a metal spool, around which is wound a long, continuous strip of some kind of transparent synthetic material, upon which a series of small but uniformly-sized, transluscent pictures have been imposed. One of the aliens realizes that if the pictures are viewed in rapid succession, the effect is that of watching a moving image.

    A projector is developed, and then The Big Day comes when the film is viewed by the top minds of the alien race, in hopes of learning something about the long-dead race that left this artifact on the mountaintop.

    What they see is apparently a group of unlikely creatures engaged in a series of bizarre and rather violent adventures. The creatures somehow survive all manner of physical trauma in pursuit of their unknowable goals. The aliens watch in amazement as the incomprehensible story unfolds. As the film comes to a close five or ten minutes later, some strange shapes, perhaps writing, appear on the screen, relaying a message the aliens will never decode, and would not understand even if they could:

    “A Walt Disney Production”

  53. BlueIndependent says

    “…I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a ‘let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party’ kind of way.”

    On what basis must the positive be accepted over the negative? And, how could you separate them? The transformed individual, be they a born-again Christian or a Branch Davidian, will of course think they are just dandy for the effort. I could use more extreme examples, but I doubtless need to. The problem is that the verification of a positive or negative transformation lies in the hands of a subjective, biased source, namely the very subject of the analysis. That cannot be verified concretely or uniformly, and then be applied to a larger group with a reasonable prediction for lasting success.

  54. Friendo says

    @Hematite #552

    A “curved plane” is a contradiction in terms – a plane by definition is a surface with no curvature. What you mean, I think, is just any curved surface. A “manifold” is just the fancy name for a smooth surface (of arbitrary, but uniform, dimension).

    First of all, you should know that, once you start doing geometry on curved surfaces (what is called Riemannian geometry or differential geometry), things get more complicated, and you can’t rely on intuition all the time, ie the concepts of distance and straightness are not obvious.

    You have to define, a priori, what is called a Riemannian metric that measures (infinitesimal) distances. In flat space, this is just the distance/Pythagoras formula, but on curved surfaces, you need integrals to calculate distances. It’s only when you have a metric that can you define “geodesics”, which is the name given to “straight” lines. Basically, a geodesic is the curve that minimizes the distance between two points.

    On a sphere (ie the earth), straight lines happen to close up on each other. But this is just a fluke – on a less symmetric surface (an ellipsoid, say), geodesics would not close up, they’d wind around a (possibly infinite) number of times. So you definitely can’t specify a point, a direction, and arbitrary curvature, and expect it to resemble anything like a circle.

    Also, you’re conflating two different things: in the 3D embedding space, the equator is a “circle”, but on the 2D surface, the equator is a straight line, and you can’t just go back and forth between the two as you please.

    All of this may hurt your head more, but this is graduate level math, so don’t worry. I’m not sure what reading to recommend to a layman on the subject – the wikipedia article on Riemannian geometry doesn’t start with concrete examples, so I don’t know how illuminating that would be. I know I learned a lot of this when I learned general relativity.

  55. RamblinDude says

    “A Walt Disney Production”

    I remember that story! I read it many years ago (in an anthology, I think), and I don’t remember who wrote it, either. There was something very compelling about it, though. It really sparked the imagination.

  56. Leigh says

    @JeffreyD — I can’t imagine how fucked up someone has to be to tell a grieving lover that his late beloved is in hell. I’m so sorry that some worthless piece of shit said that to you. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    Depression can indeed be a fatal illness. In my experience, that kind of deep depression is usually biochemical and must be treated pharmaceutically; talk therapy is not so helpful. And yes, I speak from personal experience.

    I have also witnessed the ignorance and callousness of some Christians who criticize victims of depression for inadequate faith. It’s cruel and hateful.

  57. says

    Stephen @#503:

    >Notkeiran, you don’t get to redefine the meaning of dimensionality to suit your purposes.

    Now _that’s_ just an absurd accusation. Firstly, I never spoke about defining dimensionality. I spoke about the definition of “variable”, and it should be very clear that when you define circles– _plural_– radius _is_ a variable. In fact, when defining a circle in a plane, its radius is one of the _key_ variables that you need (the other being the location of its centre.

    Secondly, I am not the one defining a circle or disk in the wrong dimensionality.

    Let us recap what we know about dimensions that is not in dispute:

    i. a dot is zero-dimensional.
    ii.A straight line is one-dimensional, because you may define a point on it with just a number that determines its displacement from a reference point.

    Now, convention and the large proportion of the world that is not you would agree that any polygon defined on a plane is two-dimensional. You disagree, giving a seemingly reasonable argument that a circle is one-dimensional because the circle is defined by its line. I say that your argument is flawed.

    Let us see what can be said:

    IF your argument is correct, we should be able to define any point on the perimeter line of the circle with a single referent. Can you?

    No, you cannot, because no matter which axis you choose as a straight line, the moment you move along that axis in any direction, you depart from the circle; hence, you require a second referent. If you wish to argue with me about this, please refer to your secondary school maths textbooks in the index under “tangent” and “secant”, find an argument that refutes those definitions, and then bring it to my attention. Thank you.

    Another way of looking at it.
    We agree that a STRAIGHT line is one-dimensional. What is your view of two lines that join at an angle? Is that one-dimensional? Can it be? The only way to describe the second line in reference to the first is via an angle, whether explicitly or implicitly.

    Can you have an angle in one dimension? Yes? If yes, please show me. If no, then how do you propose to go from one straight line to the other?

    Ah, you might argue that this is just for two straight lines, but you are talking about a circle.

    A circle may be defined as an infinite number of infinite straight lines; at every connection between two of those lines, the locus that describes a circular perimeter ceases to be one-dimensional and becomes two dimensional.

    In a sense, I like the second counterargument; it suggests that not only have you made an error, but you have made it infinite times.

  58. says

    >A circle may be defined as an infinite number of infinite straight lines; at every connection between two of those lines, the locus that describes a circular perimeter ceases to be one-dimensional and becomes two dimensional.

    Typo: Should be “infinite number of infintely straight lines”.

  59. says

    Argh. “infinitely short”, not “straight”.

    *examines closely*

    This looks fine.

    Yep. Everything’s perfectly accurite.

  60. Beowulff says

    At Buckyball, #541:

    Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?

    That’s why the most fundamentalist believers tend to strictly control any and all access to outside information. What if the only books about dinosaurs that the child gets to see say they were contemporary with humans? If they spend several orders of magnitude more time discussing the Fall than discussing the science? And then imagine that the child gets taught that any information that contradicts with these views is inherently evil, and comes from evil people? I admire the children who are able to overcome this sort of abuse.

  61. Beowulff says

    Notkierian: read #482 again and again until you understand what he’s saying: The parameters needed to describe the circle do not determine the dimensionality of the circle itself.

    Another argument: there are continuous transformations that transform a line into a circle and the other way around. Clearly they are equivalent. On the other hand, a disc can be mapped onto a line, but because this is a non-unique mapping, the reverse is not possible: information about the second dimension is lost in the mapping.

  62. MartinM says

    Now, convention and the large proportion of the world that is not you would agree that any polygon defined on a plane is two-dimensional.

    Circles are not polygons.</pedant>

    IF your argument is correct, we should be able to define any point on the perimeter line of the circle with a single referent. Can you?

    No, you cannot, because no matter which axis you choose as a straight line, the moment you move along that axis in any direction, you depart from the circle; hence, you require a second referent.

    Well, if you insist on using Cartesian coordinates, sure. But that’s an artifact of your sucky choice of coordinate system, not of the underlying geometry, which is coordinate-free. Make a better choice – say, planar polar coordinates – and one free parameter is all you need, the other being fixed in the definition of the circle.

    We agree that a STRAIGHT line is one-dimensional. What is your view of two lines that join at an angle? Is that one-dimensional?

    Yes. It’s an awkward example because it’s not a smooth manifold, but it’s still 1D.

    Can you have an angle in one dimension? Yes? If yes, please show me.

    It would simply appear as a point of discontinuity in the line’s curvature.

  63. JeffreyD says

    Leigh, re your #563, thank you for your kind words, dear lady. I will respond a little further to you off line. I do regularly speak out to people on depression and the need to explore the ways to deal with it. I am also starting to work on being able to speak to the real victims of suicide, the survivors. However, a little early for that, only been six months and just now getting past the serious anger. I do not want to bore anyone here with this issue, but I push for treatment because you are right, depression can be fatal.

    Ciao, y’all

  64. says

    Point 1:

    It is a very simple concept. Regarding whether or not a circle is one-dimensional, I am merely using his argument that a radius is not a variable. But it is. Please address that before continuing. Since he argues that a circle is one dimensional BECAUSE the radius is a non-variable, he has to address my argument that it IS variable first.

    Point 2:

    Your argument in 482 claims that the dimension of a circle is one. If you want to be pedantic, any line segment within a circle has one dimension. However, I wish you to explain to me how you go from one line segment to the next while maintaining that the neighbourhood of that point “looks like a line” rather than “looks like two lines that are joined together”.

    Next point:

    You state and assert that a circle is not a polygon. I say that it is an n-sided polygon, where “n” = infinity. Please point out to me how this is not so, with suitable proofs. If, however, you require proof from my side, I suggest that what you do is construct an n-sided regular polygon of perimeter x, divide it into n triangles with the apex at the centre of the polygon and the base being one of the sides. You will note that the area of the triangle is can now be cast in terms of x and n. As n approaches infinity the angle subtended at the apex becomes small enough that sine (angle) = (angle), AND the ratio of area enclosed, A, to the perimeter, x, approaches the ratio of a circle’s area to its perimeter.

    In short, a polygon of infinite sides of infinitely short length is geometrically indistinguishable from a circle.

    Point 3:

    You claim that all that is needed to map out a circle in one dimensions is to stop using cartesian coordinates and go to polar. However, in polar coordinates, you would STILL need two referents to find any point.

    More importantly, polar coordinates immediate requires an angle, which brings us to point 5:

    Point 5:

    How do you define an angle in terms of just one dimension, please? Please explain in simple, non-jargon terms how an angle, which is formed by two lines that are most likely non-parallel (the odds of two lines forming an angle while parallel are 2/ infinity), can be defined in just one dimension?

    Actually, let me put it more bluntly:

    Can an angle exist in just one dimension? Please show all working and explanation.

  65. says

    My bad: point one should be addressed to beowulff.

    But all that is detail. The real issue is this:

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space. Can you do that?

    In order for this to be so, it must be possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional; the argument then hinges on whether using a two-dimensional transformation on a one-dimensional object leaves it one-dimensional.

    If the argument is yes, then I would argue that the same logic makes a plane two-dimensional:

    Take a line running in the x-direction. Translate it by an infinitesimal amount in the y-direction. Repeat an infinite number of times. Voila. You now have a rectangular plane.

    Since I only used a one-dimensional element (a line) and a one-dimensional continuous transformation to transform it into a plane, by your argument, beowulff, a plane is two dimensional.

    In fact, then, isn’t a cube one-dimensional too? Just translate the one-dimensional plane through z….

    This is my argument. It is an absurd argument. The way in which you should disprove it, therefore, is to explain to me why the transformations that transform a line into a circle are different from the infinite translations that I have mentioned here, and thus prove that my argument does not apply.

    Am I right?

  66. MartinM says

    Regarding whether or not a circle is one-dimensional, I am merely using his argument that a radius is not a variable. But it is. Please address that before continuing. Since he argues that a circle is one dimensional BECAUSE the radius is a non-variable, he has to address my argument that it IS variable first.

    Post #482, which Beowulff pointed you to, was intented to address precisely that. Consider the set of all possible circles centered on a given point. Radius picks out a member of that set, angle picks out a specific point within that member. It is the latter which determines dimensionality; the former is part of the definition of the one-dimensional space in which we’re working.

    You state and assert that a circle is not a polygon. I say that it is an n-sided polygon, where “n” = infinity. Please point out to me how this is not so, with suitable proofs.

    Actually, my main objection was simply that, IIRC, the definition of polygon includes the interior region. That would make an infinite-order polygon a disk.

    …maybe. n = infinity is meaningless; infinity is not an integer. You can get a disk as the limit of a regular polygon as n -> infinity, but that doesn’t make it a polygon, any more than the fact that real numbers can be constructed as the limits of Cauchy sequences of rationals makes reals rational. So I’m not convinced disks could be considered polygons either, though admittedly this is getting rather pedantic, even for me.

    Please explain in simple, non-jargon terms

    No. Sorry, I’m not a math teacher, and I don’t have time to come up with a decent plain-English description right now. Maybe later, if we can’t sort this out any other way.

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space.

    A circle *is* a one-dimensional space.

    Take a line running in the x-direction. Translate it by an infinitesimal amount in the y-direction. Repeat an infinite number of times. Voila. You now have a rectangular plane.

    Yes, but you constructed it using a mapping that is non-invertible. Each point on your original line is mapped to an infinite set of points in the plane. That introduces the need for a second parameter to uniquely identify any given point.

    You mentioned up-thread that you took courses in cosmology. Are you familiar with the FRW metric? If so:

    How many dimensions do the FRW manifolds have?
    In the case of a closed Universe, what do spatial cross-sections look like?

  67. SC says

    Notkieran,

    Much of what you say makes (intuitive?) sense to me. So thank you for arguing the point, even if it turns out that you’re wrong (or just technically wrong, according to the conventional definition of dimensionality). I’m enjoying the responses.

  68. Nick Gotts says

    I disagree that this is a case distinct from “even prime greater than 2”. Given that we all assume that there is a problem with theodicy, the existence of God is not logically consistent with that assumption… You assume that suffering is simply an empirical fact; I say that suffering goes beyond that to the very nature of consciousness, and so is embedded a priori in the problem of God, or whatever have you. – frog

    You assert, if I understand rightly, that consciousness entails suffering. However, you don’t argue for this entailment, and I don’t accept it. For the “even prime greater than 2” case, the internal inconsistency of the definition is straightforward: “Even” means divisible by 2, a prime must not be divisible by any positive integer other than 1 and itself, so there can in fact be no even primes other than 2. Can you produce a similar argument for your claim?

    Second, suppose I concede the claim for the sake of argument. Then it becomes unclear whether the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god (an “OOO-god”) is incompatible with the existence of suffering. If you’re right, all possible worlds including conscious beings also include suffering, so even an OOO-god has only the choices of creating nothing (and indeed, uncreating itself) in order to minimise suffering, or of creating a world including suffering. you would then need to argue that an OOO-god would necessarily take the first option, but that’s not obvious.

  69. CosmicTeapot says

    Dustin @ 279

    “Teapot. Orbit. Neptune.”

    Ohh, must I?

    Too many comments to read, too much work to do, too little coffee!

  70. Friendo says

    @NotKieran

    Please learn the difference between parameter and coordinate. A parameter specifies the space, and a coordinate specifies the point on the space. You only need one coordinate for the circle: the distance along the curve from some given point. The circle’s radius is a parameter: it is NOT relevant to dimensionality. But if you wanted to use parameters, why not use the circle’s center as well? That would make the circle, um, 4-dimensional!

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space. Can you do that?

    Trivial! It already is a one-dimensional space. It can’t be inscribed in R^1 (is that what you mean by “one-dimensional space”?), because R^1 and S^1 (the circle, or 1-sphere) are topologically distinct.

    In order for this to be so, it must be possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional

    Yes!

    the argument then hinges on whether using a two-dimensional transformation on a one-dimensional object leaves it one-dimensional.

    No transformation is needed. If you’re worried about the transformation from S^1 to R^1, you can’t do a smooth transformation because they’re topologically distinct.

    If the argument is yes, then I would argue that the same logic makes a plane two-dimensional:

    !!!! um, a plane IS two-dimensional. What in the world is your definition of dimension?

    Listen, the mathematician’s definition of dimension of an arbitrary manifold is the dimension of its tangent space. The tangent space of a circle is a tangent LINE, therefore its one-dimensional. A sphere has tangent PLANES, therefore its two-dimensional. This is all very very standard mathematics.

  71. says

    But PZ you completely do not understand how good it feels to believe in those new clothes.

    Other things being equal, PZ lives in Minnesota. New clothes of that cut of that cloth do not work well in Minnesota, say October 1 through June 15. And if you insist on trying to sell a suit of those clothes, please don’t take the shotgun as anything more than a hint that it’s time to carry one’s peddling elsewhere.

  72. J says

    Is a child’s excitement at Christmas evidence of Santa Claus? Are J’s hysterics evidence of a witchhunt?
    No, I’m not the one who was being hysterical. Read the bloody thread before passing such baseless judgement. I was insulted viciously after my very first post.

  73. J says

    I was also told (by Malcolm, #458) to “take a basic mathematics class”, as well as my “meds”, in response to my saying a circle is one-dimensional. I’m sure if you mathematicians didn’t clear things up , more of those frothing animals would have jumped on Malcolm’s fallacious bangwagon.

  74. says

    Martin M:

    FRW metric? Being an exact solution of the field equations, it has one term for time, and three for a spherical polar coordinate. Since a spherical polar coordinate system implies three dimensions, I would place my answer as “four”. By the way, please note that I can say this because each orthogonal angle specified implies an extra dimension. Of course, if you’re going to tell me that it’s “three”, then that immediately tells me why we can’t stop arguing.

    Now, the terms above have become clear– when you say “circle”, you mean “the infinitely thin line that is the perimeter”. But see below re “infinite-sided polygon”.

    Friendo:

    Very well, we agree that R^1 and S^1 are topologically distinct.

    My argument is that while the equations describing the LOCAL behaviour of points ON a circle’s perimeter are identical to that of a straight line, this is solely due to the fact that a circle is mathematically identical to an infinite-sided polygon. I could be wrong, but the equations certainly point that way.

    If you tell me, here and now, that the mathematician’s definition of a manifold as as you describe, then I will take your word for it. But here’s the question:

    Does the fact that the equations describing LOCAL behaviour of points ON a line describe the GLOBAL behaviour of the line? If that is so, then the equations of a circle MUST be different from the equations of a line.

    By the way, this statement is interesting from the point of view of showing why we’re arguing.:

    >Trivial! It already is a one-dimensional space. It can’t be inscribed in R^1 (is that what you mean by “one-dimensional space”?), because R^1 and S^1 (the circle, or 1-sphere) are topologically distinct.

    My question is: how can a circle be inscribed in one-dimensional space, because it cannot be placed in a straight line, and your answer is “it doesn’t have to be, because it is already one-dimensional”.

    Therefore, you are telling me that ANY line is automatically one-dimensional? Is this your argument?

    Let me rephrase my question, given that you have stated that it is possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional:

    Are you saying that a circle is one-dimensional solely because it IS a line? Is that the point(no pun intended)? Is it your point that the dimensionality of an object is determined SOLELY by whether the points on the line have immediate neighbours in one, two, three or n-dimensions, and nothing else?

    In that case, what is your stance on fractals and fractional dimensions? Because the next question will clarify my argument.

    Assume I have, not a circle, but a spiral. I have only one line, you see.

    Of course, you do recognise that this is a plane, which IS two-dimensional, but by your previous argument that all lines are one-dimensional, this is one-dimensional.

    Let us now “tighten” the spiral until every coil is adjacent to the previous one. Is this now one-dimensional or two-dimensional?

    I’m not a mathematician; I’m just a physicist. Try, please, to keep the technical terms to a minimum level that I can grasp.

  75. Dennis N says

    No, J, you were treated kindly after your first post on Pharyngula. I was there. Then you continued ranting and concern trolling and telling everyone they don’t know cosmology and are a cult and arguing in bad faith until everyone dislikes you. You will be treated like this on every thread until you shape up.

  76. says

    MartinM:

    Actually, after rereading your comment, it becomes clear what your point is; from my point of view, I simply assume that all iterative functions allowed to run an arbtitrarily large number of times are identical in all sense to any value of infinity you care to choose. It’s partly due to measurement issues and partly due to being a Magic player.

    So can we assume, therefore, that a disk BEHAVES like an infinite-sided polygon? In fact, is that not the reason why you can use the equations of lines on it, because over the infinitely short distance between two points, it behaves exactly like a straight line?

  77. J says

    No, J, you were treated kindly after your first post on Pharyngula. I was there. Then you continued ranting and concern trolling and telling everyone they don’t know cosmology and are a cult and arguing in bad faith until everyone dislikes you. You will be treated like this on every thread until you shape up.
    Either your memory is playing tricks on you, or that’s a barefaced lie. I’ve been treated like scum on almost every single thread I posted on. And usually after my very first post, too.

    As for this stock bullshit about “concern trolling” — you have no evidence whatever that I’m deceitfully adopting a position I actually don’t believe in. You can only accuse me of being a concern troll in the trivial sense that I disagree with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula.

    I have to admit, it’s an impressively clever strategy for suppressing contrary views: Brand deviants “concern trolls”, thus giving you license to treat them as maliciously as you please!

  78. SC says

    For anyone seeking to understand the hostile reaction to J on this thread, please see this earlier one:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/robert_bakker_plays_blametheat.php

    I was also told (by Malcolm, #458) to “take a basic mathematics class”, as well as my “meds”, in response to my saying a circle is one-dimensional. I’m sure if you mathematicians didn’t clear things up , more of those frothing animals would have jumped on Malcolm’s fallacious bangwagon.

    This should be a lesson to you, and you alone, J. You’re like the boy who cried “I’m a total ass!” When you lose people’s respect and credibility generally, no one is apt to give credence to anything you have to say, even if you happen to be right.

    “Frothing animals”? You are insane.

  79. mds says

    Notkieran @ 582

    Let me try to explain why your spiral example doesn’t work how you intuitively expect it to. Hopefully I won’t make any mistakes.

    Your argument seems to be that at each step in the sequence, if we, say, halve the distance between coils of the spiral, as the sequence approaches infinity, each point in R^2 will be arbitrarily close to some point on the spiral. This is correct. The problem is that given any point on the spiral, as the tightness increases, it’s going to get pulled closer and closer to the center of the spiral (say, (0,0)). Thus the limit of the pointwise transformation functions is actually f(t) = (0,0) — every point on the spiral maps to the center.

    Another way of looking at it is asking yourself, for each point on R^2, which point on the length of the spiral does it map to?

  80. Dennis N says

    The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group’s actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed “concerns”. Like your concern that we “mention our cosmological viewpoint without being asked”. Which by the way is a BS “concern”, and does nothing but seek to get us to say less. There are people around here who disagree with us. We even disagree with each other. But since we mostly argue in good faith, we often come to a consensus. You do none of this.

  81. mds says

    To add to my previous post, I previously was using length along the spiral as the variable. If we instead use Euclidean distance from the center in R^2, we get a different problem: while we don’t get all points mapping to the origin, we instead have f(t) = { (x,y) in R^2 | x^2 + y^2 = t^2 }, which is clearly not a the function from R -> R^2 that we’re looking for. I suspect that any other continuous function from the spiral to R^2 would lead to similar problems when taken to the limit.

  82. J says

    For anyone seeking to understand the hostile reaction to J on this thread, please see this earlier one:
    You speak as if that thread isn’t in my favour. I believe it is. If anything, the response in that thread was even more unreasonable.

    This should be a lesson to you, and you alone, J. You’re like the boy who cried “I’m a total ass!” When you lose people’s respect and credibility generally, no one is apt to give credence to anything you have to say, even if you happen to be right.
    OK, let’s adumbrate somewhat:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    If you were honest to yourself, I fail to see how you could buy that. It’s not outrageous and obviously wrong; you’re just pretending it is. You’re the one being dishonest. You’re the one people ought to lose respect for.

  83. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    My argument was that from the vantage point of an observer in space, that Earth appears circular is a legitimate observation, even though Earth is in fact spherical.

    First, that would be sloppy language combined with a non-sensical description, in the sense that your magically space floating visionary most definitely would observe (sense) a sphere. Or haven’t you ever seen a view of Earth from space? You very definitively see more than a circular edge, you can see the curvature of the area below you.

    Second, the empirical observations at that time predicts a spheroid (not spherical) Earth, as phases of the moon will have different parts of the Earth shadowing it.

    Third, the easiest explanation for your visionary’s claims is that it wasn’t a vision, merely an observation of how the surface of Earth looks for a ground observer – flat with a circular horizon.

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles.

    There isn’t such a thing. It depends on the area under discussion and the embedding used.

    In math Earth is approximately a three-dimensional ball, a 3-ball, or its surface is a two-dimensional sphere,a 2-sphere. In physics Earth is approximately a three-dimensional sphere. (Or 4-dimensional, if you use relativity.)

    You can express an n-sphere as a construction of circles, 1-spheres, or an n-ball as a construction of disks, 1-balls. I wouldn’t call either constitutive equation “three-dimensional circles”.

    Moreover, a circle is either a 1-dimensional path (topology, no embedding space) or a 2-dimensional curve (geometry, embedding in a plane), in analogy of above.

    To argue which dimensionality should be used, intrinsic or extrinsic, which embeddings or parameterizations (coordinates) in the later case, et cetera, is meaningless as the definitions and use depends on context, see the links.

    However, I think this makes the original claim weaker. The context is that of an illiterate sheep herder, see above.

  84. J says

    But since we mostly argue in good faith, we often come to a consensus. You do none of this.
    Well I think that’s nonsense, and I think you’re not “arguing in good faith”. Don’t try to pull an ad populum on me. Majorities are often mistaken.

  85. Nick Gotts says

    Are you saying that a circle is one-dimensional solely because it IS a line?

    Yes; any point on it has an open neighbourhood homeomorphic with an open line segment.

    There are different mathematical ways to define dimensionality, by some of which fractals can have non-integral dimensionality, but by any that I’m aware of, a circle (S^1) is one-dimensional.

  86. Dennis N says

    If I was trying to prove the consensus was a fact I would be committing a fallacy. I’m only proving that the majority doesn’t like you. I’d say ad populum is the only way to show that.

  87. Dennis N says

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    We don’t act like it is outrageous. We disagreed at first; now we’re on to the stage where what’s outrageous is you continually bringing it up after we’ve moved on.

  88. Beowulff says

    At Notkierian #573: Indeed, a plane is two-dimensional. A regular polygon is as well. The border of such a polygon is one-dimensional.

    As for transformations, I was referring to mappings of this sort: Take a 2D Cartesian coordinate system (x,y). Now, take the continuous mapping T:(x’, y’) = (y*cos(2*pi*x), y*sin(2*pi*x)). T is a mapping that takes point in our x,y space to another point x’,y’. T can also transform a collection of points, such as a horizontal line segment with y = R and x in [0, 1], with R an arbitrary constant > 0. I imagine we can all agree this is a one-dimensional space. When we apply T to this line segment, the line segment is transformed into (x’,y’) = (R*cos(2*pi*x), R*sin(2*pi*x)) with x in [0,1]. This clearly is a parameterization of a circle of radius R (with R>0). Every point on this circle corresponds to exactly one point in the line segment, and vice versa. Therefore, the line segment and the circle have the same dimensionality. Therefore, circles have dimension one.

    As to your confusion about R being a parameter too, consider this: Each horizontal line with different y=R’ is a one-dimensional line segment. Each of these lines maps to a different circle. Each of the circles it maps to is one-dimensional.

    The space of all possible horizontal line segments with x in [0,1] and y in [0,R] is a two-dimensional space (a rectangle). T maps this to the disk with radius R, also a two-dimensional shape. Note that this is not a one-to-one mapping everywhere anymore, as the line segment with y=0 maps to the point (0,0).

  89. Kseniya says

    How about if we dump this controversial “atheist” tag and use “pariah” instead?

  90. SC says

    You speak as if that thread isn’t in my favour. I believe it is. If anything, the response in that thread was even more unreasonable.

    Well, that’s why I’m glad this blog preserves a record of earlier threads. Reasonable people can read it and come to their own conclusions about your behavior and that of others.

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    You’re confusing disagreeing with you with considering your viewpoint “completely outrageous.” Several people here and on the previous thread have disagreed with you and offered their reasons for doing so. Gernally, you have ignored their substantive points, in favor of trumpeting your claims of persecution. I have asked you, more than once, to provide evidence in support of your position. You have not done so. Also, several people have said basically “We disagree on this. The discussion has become tiresome. Let’s return to more interesting and productive subjects.” But you seem incapable of moving beyond your pet issue. Why is that, if you’re not simply trolling?

  91. Nick Gotts says

    I was insulted viciously after my very first post. – J

    No you weren’t. That was #81. Nobody responded until after your second post (#86). After that, Janine ID @89 admittedly called you a “Schmuck”, for suggesting that people who call themselves atheists do so in order to shock. I can quite see how that vicious insult could have caused severe PTSD; but the only advice I can give is not to post comments to Pharyngula any more, in order to avoid responses that might exacerbate your condition.

  92. says

    J, you are not being totally honest. You did more than just suggest that people not use the tag atheist. You’ve berated the group as a whole with very few or no exceptions that we are all ignorant to a definition you chose to place on the word. Yet most of us disagree with the razor thin definition you choose you use. You’ve ignored many peoples challenges to the definition and to usage of that moniker as well as tried to label everyone a savage and a cult member when they call you on it. You then hold yourself on some pedestal above all of the participants in the various posts by claiming knowledge(cosmology for example) that the rest of us don’t have yet not being able to prove such. Following that you try and remove yourself from criticism by playing the Parent card like you are just trying to set us all straight and good boys and girls would be better to follow your sage advice because you, being the parent, are much better versed in the implications of language.

    Stop acting like you are above the fray when you are in fact the cause of it.

  93. MartinM says

    FRW metric? Being an exact solution of the field equations, it has one term for time, and three for a spherical polar coordinate.

    Careful; the three spatial coordinates may look like spherical polars, but they’re interpreted rather differently.

    Since a spherical polar coordinate system implies three dimensions, I would place my answer as “four”.

    Right. But what do spatial slices of that manifold look like, in the case of a closed Universe? They’re not Cartesian 3-spaces – R^3 – but rather the surface of a 4-ball – S^3. If you can accept that as a three-dimensional space, without requiring it to be embedded in R^4, then you should be able to apply the same reasoning to S^1.

    My argument is that while the equations describing the LOCAL behaviour of points ON a circle’s perimeter are identical to that of a straight line, this is solely due to the fact that a circle is mathematically identical to an infinite-sided polygon.

    But the local behaviour is precisely what defines dimensionality. A manifold is n-dimensional if it is locally homeomorphic to R^n.

    Let us now “tighten” the spiral until every coil is adjacent to the previous one. Is this now one-dimensional or two-dimensional?

    An excellent question – there do exist plane-filling functions, which map R^1 -> R^2, though I don’t think your spiral is one of them. Problem is, they’re not invertible – they self-intersect, such that one can’t construct a mapping back from R^2 to R^1. That means there’s no homeomorphism.

    I’m not a mathematician; I’m just a physicist.

    That’s my background too, actually; you might enjoy Modern Differential Geometry for Physicists, by Chris Isham.

  94. says

    I’ll keep the book in mind.

    Basically the statement is that as long as a line is a line, it is one dimensional, regardless of the space it is in?

    That is, when we say “dimensionality”, we are concerned with local behaviour and only local behaviour?

    I suppose that makes sense.

  95. Kseniya says

    As my mom-the-therapist used to say, “If you have a problem with someone, well, ok. If you have the same problem with everyone, well – it’s probably you.”

  96. J says

    No you weren’t. That was #81. Nobody responded until after your second post (#86). After that, Janine ID @89 admittedly called you a “Schmuck”, for suggesting that people who call themselves atheists do so in order to shock. I can quite see how that vicious insult could have caused severe PTSD; but the only advice I can give is not to post comments to Pharyngula any more, in order to avoid responses that might exacerbate your condition.
    Talk about “arguing in bad faith”. You’re probably saying this on the assumption that people will read what you wrote and get the impression that I’m a liar, without scrolling up and finding out the truth of the situation for themselves.

    I was called “schmuck” several times immediately following my first post. The fact that the real nasty insults started only after my second post rather than my first is of no relevance to anything. The second was very brief, and even milder than the first.

    Your attempt to portray me as thin-skinned is either ill-informed or dishonest. The name-calling against me here has contained some of the most unpleasant insults I’ve ever witnessed in an online discussion group. Take this, for instance:

    You are an uninteresting, unachieving waste of skin. Begone you stale streak of spastic piss, you sweat from a boy-touching priest’s balls, you vile smear of snot. You are not worthy of this blog.

    Now I wouldn’t keep going on about this if it weren’t for this insane contesting of every single claim I make, even when I quite obviously have a non-dismissible point.

  97. SteveM says

    Maybe we could define terms a little more clearly. Like I tried to argue earlier, I think a lot of this argument about the circle is simply using different definitions of the same words and so confusion. I would like to propose that a circle is a 1 dimensional object but a 2 dimensional shape. It is 1 dimensional in that at any point on a circle your only possibility of “movement” is 1 dimensional: forward or backward. Whereas a 2 dimensional object allows you to move in any direction in a (local) plane. The “shape” however is lost in this description, what distinguishes a spiral from a circle is the arrangement of its points in a 2 dimensional surface. Maybe the analogy to the Earth may be easier. The surface of the Earth is essentially 2 dimensional as any point on it can be described as a pair of coordinates: longitude and latitude, but obviously the shape of the surface is 3 dimensional, the surface is curved through a 3rd dimension to form a sphere. Just as the surface of the Earth is a 2 dimensional object, a sphere is a 2 dimensional surface of the 3 dimensional ball. The circle is the 1 dimensional “surface” (edge) of the 2 dimensional disk. So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    Does that make sense?

  98. BlueIndependent says

    “…Majorities are often mistaken.”

    Is this an admission that perhaps religion and those who follow it are, in fact, mistaken?

  99. cicely says

    J:

    Parden my denseness (well, and the fact that, if an argument goes on too long, I tend to nod off), but is your argument about framing atheism for mass consumption/acceptance? Is this a PR thing?

  100. foldedpath says

    J, at #590:
    OK, let’s adumbrate somewhat:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    And yet you yourself, more than once in these threads, have told us you’re an atheist. Curious, eh?

  101. MAJeff, OM says

    Re: I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.

  102. Nick Gotts says

    Re #605. J, you are apparently unable to read. You made a comment at #81 and another at #86. None of the intervening posts mentioned you or responded to you in any way.

  103. SC says

    More and more, J’s style of argumentation resembles that of the Expelled crowd. Especially now, with the attempts to shift the discussion to the topic of the alleged treatment of him and away from the lack of strong arguments and evidence in support of his contentions. Sad, really.

  104. J says

    Re #605. J, you are apparently unable to read. You made a comment at #81 and another at #86. None of the intervening posts mentioned you or responded to you in any way.
    OK, I’m wrong. The name-calling against me started after my first two moderate, intemperate posts.

    Nitpicking on totally inconsequential details to give the illusion that I’m being disingenuous. Good tactics.

  105. J says

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.
    You don’t have to. Coming out of the closet is equivalent to declaring you reject religion (and I urge you to do that). Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

  106. bPer says

    Torbjörn Larsson @#591:

    phases of the moon will have different parts of the Earth shadowing it

    Uh…uh…wha?

    Please tell me you meant “phases of the lunar eclipse”. Otherwise, it’s back to Grade 2 science for you, young man!

    An afterthought: just in case my reaction, Torbj√∂rn, is puzzling, “phases of the moon” generally refers to the appearance of the moon as it orbits the Earth (new, waxing, full, waning, new again). Your English is always so good, I did not initially consider that if English is not your native language, you may have learned the concept of the phases using another name for it. I hope that explains my surprise.

  107. Steve_C says

    Well, you seem to use them alot.

    Lots of claims, little evidence. Moving goalposts. Changing the subject.

  108. J says

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.
    You don’t have to. Coming out of the closet is equivalent to declaring you reject religion (and I urge you to do that). Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

  109. Brad says

    Shall we then argue that a circle is a zero-dimensional object because it represented by an infinite number of points?

    The problem is that you are removing the object (a one-dimensional line) from its spacial context (a greater than one dimensional space). If you collapse the circumference of a circle to a one-dimensional line rather than a line scribed in at least two-dimensions, the line ceases to be a circle.

  110. SC says

    The name-calling against me started after my first two moderate, intemperate posts.

    And after another whole thread, to which I linked above. I don’t even think you’re being disingenuous. I think you have a fundamentally warped perception of these exchanges.

    And for the record, this

    But the watered-down, mere cosmological hypothesis — why are you people so restlessly obsessed with it? I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology (a subject which is seldom discussed on atheist blogs and message boards). The only reason I can think of is the simple thrill you get out of calling yourselves atheists.

    is extremely snotty and presumptuous, and had little or nothing to do with the ongoing discussions, despite your attempt to shoehorn it in. This is why it was ignored at first.

  111. True Bob says

    Oh cheeses titty fucking christ, this BS argument about language is still going on?

    Please, let this thread die the death it deserves.

  112. MAJeff, OM says

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    flap your arms harder. You might eventually take flight.

  113. Friendo says

    @Notkieran #582

    I think others have addressed your questions adequately, but just to emphasize something:

    Basically the statement is that as long as a line is a line, it is one dimensional, regardless of the space it is in?

    A smooth line is always 1D. With fractals, this condition is lost, and you have to define dimension differently. Also, the spiral example you gave is no good: it is not possible to make consecutive arms of a spiral “adjacent”, any more than it’s possible to find two real numbers that are adjacent. A better example would be a trajectory of the Lorentz attractor, whose dimension is 2.06. The trajectory starts as a curve, but because it comes arbitrarily close to itself at every point in its trajectory, its dimension is not one.

    @SteveM

    So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    The word you’re looking for is interior

  114. Nick Gotts says

    Moses @245. I am compelled to conclude that you don’t know what “logically impossible” means. Look it up.

  115. MAJeff, OM says

    Statements of belief or disbelief in a creator-deity is an extremely significant thing in this society. The current President’s father said, while running for President, those without belief in a deity are not citizens. The former governor of my state, while running for President, claimed that belief in a deity is absolutely necessary for governing a free and democratic society (he backtracked after getting criticized, but he meant it at the time–otherwise he would have said something different.) Public opinion polls show that a lack of belief in a deity is associated with untrustworthiness, a lack of moral and ethical standards, and a general desire to not have us as a part of the nation. Several state constitutions–admittedly in violation of the federal constitution–have clauses barring non-believers from holding office. If you think that’s not significant, you’re beyond ridiculous.

    As we queer folks demonstrated by coming out of the closet and making positive affirmations of identity, you break down those things not through argumentation but through example. You come out of the closet as one without belief in a deity in order to: 1) confront the god-bothering nonsense that’s out there; 2) break down stereotypical associations of non-belief with social maladies. You don’t break down those associations with silence.

    Now, go sit in your corner and practice the silence you’re so fond of.

  116. windy says

    J wrote:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    It may or may not be “outrageous” but what you don’t seem to get is that it’s insulting to say that our self-identification should be kept hidden when possible. Now, claims which initially insult should be considered if someone makes a good enough case for them, but you don’t.

    For example, this:

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    is not consistent with this:

    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

    It might be better to say that you think society shouldn’t attach social significance to it. Have you considered that having as many people as possible to publicly identify as atheists may be a way towards achieving that goal?

  117. says

    As we queer folks demonstrated by coming out of the closet and making positive affirmations of identity, you break down those things not through argumentation but through example.

    I couldn’t help it. It just popped into my head ala the stay puff marshmallow man.

    I tried to think of something rhyming with atheists and meaning somewhere along the lines of “here”.

  118. Nick Gotts says

    Re J@613. The first post I can find in this thread, in which anything worse than “schmuck” was aimed at you, is from Matt Penfold@263, where he says you’re “rather full of shit”. This was after you had several times repeated your point, which no-one else appears to agree with or be interested in, that it’s unwise for atheists to call themselves atheists. If you keep repeating such a point, particularly in the somewhat truculent tone you use, people are eventually going to get annoyed with you, and on a blog as lightly moderated as this, start calling you names. You are not convincing anyone, and you don’t like the name-calling, so why don’t you drop the point, and either discuss something else, or go away?

  119. says

    That is, when we say “dimensionality”, we are concerned with local behaviour and only local behaviour?

    I’m late to this party, but yes, that’s precisely it. “Dimension” is defined to capture the intrinsic geometry of an object — choosing an embedding (such as saying a circle is the set of all points equidistant from a given point) weds us to additional baggage (the geometry of R2) that has nothing to do with the geometry of the object in question.

    The local definition of dimensionality is completely intrinsic; we can think of it as how the object looks to someone living on a (very large) copy of the object. If I were a creature living on a very large circle, it would appear to me as though I lived on a line (similar to how the earth appears flat to us). However, I could still figure out I really lived on a circle by traveling far enough and ending up back where I started.

  120. SteveM says

    @SteveM

    So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    The word you’re looking for is interior

    No, what I am looking for is a definition of “shape”, I am arguing that an object’s shape (at least for closed objects) is defined by its interior.

  121. SC says

    Davis,

    You may be late, but you brought the good stuff. That explanation, to me, is the equivalent of a nice big bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal. Thanks for showing up!

  122. Brad says

    One could say that Notkieran commited the fallacy of composition: because a circle is a line, and a line is a one-dimensional object, a circle is a one-dimensional object. This ignores the fact that a circle can only be scribed in a space of at least two dimensions.

  123. Friendo says

    @SteveM

    No, what I am looking for is a definition of “shape”, I am arguing that an object’s shape (at least for closed objects) is defined by its interior.

    “Shape” is not a well-travelled mathematical term. There is a “shape operator” which is a linear operator on tangent spaces, but that has nothing to do with the interior (for a sphere, it would be an operator from a plane to a plane).

    @Brad

    One could say that Notkieran commited the fallacy of composition: because a circle is a line, and a line is a one-dimensional object, a circle is a one-dimensional object.

    What? That’s not what Notkieran was arguing – he was arguing the opposite. The “fallacy of composition” isn’t a fallacy here – as has been stated, dimension is a LOCAL concept.

    This ignores the fact that a circle can only be scribed in a space of at least two dimensions.

    So what? This indicates the topology of a circle is different than that of R^1 – it says nothing of the dimension.

  124. WRMartin says

    @Dennis N #505
    J would start harping on and on about how the game’s title should be “Cosmological Positionists vs Christians” and we’d be back where we started.

    Kseniya #597 suggests using “pariah”. I’m thinking “heathen”.

    Let’s have a vote (a poll maybe?) –
    All in favor of dropping the ‘atheist’ term and replacing it with whatever J is proposing?
    [crickets] Ah, we have 1 vote. Thank you J.
    All opposed?
    627, 628, …, 632. Thank you everyone.
    Atheist it is.

  125. Jams says

    “Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.” – J

    Again. Atheism is only a cosmological question to the same extent that theism is a cosmological question. Until you can demonstrate that theism is only a cosmological question you should refrain from embarrassing yourself with such silly declarations as “atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance”.

    P.S. Atheism’s social significance is exactly equal to the social significance of theism as well.

  126. J says

    This was after you had several times repeated your point, which no-one else appears to agree with or be interested in, that it’s unwise for atheists to call themselves atheists. If you keep repeating such a point, particularly in the somewhat truculent tone you use, people are eventually going to get annoyed with you, and on a blog as lightly moderated as this, start calling you names. You are not convincing anyone, and you don’t like the name-calling, so why don’t you drop the point, and either discuss something else, or go away?
    Oh, fuck off. You’re willfully disingenuous. I had no choice but to repeat the point, as my posts were being persistently distorted. Even now some people don’t seem to understand that I’m no apologist for religion.

    I would have let the matter drop long ago if the response to me weren’t so intellectually dishonest and downright uncivilized.

  127. J says

    #625:

    No, Windy, there’s no inconsistency in what I said. You’re only pretending that there’s inconsistency. Pretending.

    Atheism does carry negative connotations — for no good reason. But that’s life, I’m afraid. I think the best way to do something about it is to combat prejudice indirectly, rather than confronting it head-on by publicly announcing ourselves atheists. Now of course you may disagree with this strategy. We could have discussed it like reasonable people, but instead the thread has once again degenerated into mud-slinging.

  128. GTMoogle says

    So a disk contains a circle, a circle can contain both lines and circles, but not all lines can contain a circle? Davis brought good stuff indeed, and like so many issues it seems to be a contest of common and precise usage, and what people mean when they refer to a thing’s dimension. When someone turned on the pedantic flag, we left common territory. Entertaining anyway. :)

    Walton, there’s no need for modesty or tentativity. Even if that thread of conversation got a little bogged down, it still felt like it was getting somewhere. Many interesting things to learn along the way for me. And I always appreciate a devil’s advocate as long as they’re being more than just contrary.

    J… Just wow.
    There’s no group waving Atheist flags shouting about atheism. A couple people have written books or have blogs, which the public can choose to ignore. Hell, there’s so much cross-talk here (a forum owned by one person) there are often bad assumptions made either way when someone DOESN’T declare their ‘cosmological’ viewpoint, as you insist it is.

    No one here is trying to tie various causes to the Atheist label. The NCSE is carrying the banner of good science education being simply secular and nothing more. If the deists are failing to support good causes, the fault of that lies only at those individuals feet. And they’re assuredly no more a homogeneous group than anyone else, I’m sure plenty are active and plenty aren’t.

    Your continued assault seems to to stem from your unwavering devotion to a definition of Atheism that NO ONE HOLDS. Not the authors you cite, the people here, nor the general public. I’m sure we don’t have to go into a conversation about the meaning of words, but please get a grip!

    We know a lot of people who haven’t considered it think atheism == strong atheism. Are you failing to consider that it’s also tied into ANY concept of lack of belief for those people? That defining a new word to mean weak atheism will be just as hard as re-defining atheism itself, if not harder? If you tell people you’re a ‘bright’ (which is still horrible on its own merits), you’re going to have to not only explain it, you’ll then have to explain how it isn’t atheism anyway.

    Hell, there’s no reason to get everyone on the same message in the first place anyway. How about we try to get understanding of atheism over here, and you can go over there and get people behind your idea over there, and we meet in the middle with the deists, agnostics, scientists, rationalists, and everyone else that has the goal of making society tolerate things on the other end of the scale from fundamentalism?

    (Why do I get the feeling this is a lost cause? Well, it’s been a good thread with lots to learn anyway :D )

  129. J says

    The worst you people can legitimately accuse me of is the crime of initially coming off as to some extent snobby. Even so, I can’t help but laugh at your double standards. Look at PZ Myers’ commentary on the term “Bright”, or his indignant attack on Sam Harris’ strategic proposal, and you’ll see that what I said is no more ill-mannered or condescending. I don’t believe he received the same treatment. Quite the opposite — you cheered him on.

  130. Brad says

    Notkieran, sorry about the mix-up. A quick search would have quickly corrected me had I taken the time.

    Friendo
    I understand your position perfectly now.

    Unfortunately, geometers and topologists adopt incompatible conventions for the meaning of “-sphere,” with geometers referring to the number of coordinates in the underlying space and topologists referring to the dimension of the surface itself (Coxeter 1973, p. 125). As a result, geometers call the circumference of the usual circle the 2-sphere, while topologists refer to it as the 1-sphere… – http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Circle.html

    I hadn’t appreciated this distinction until now.

  131. GTMoogle says

    We can certainly accuse you of arguing poorly for an unpopular viewpoint, and your attitude the entire time of being a lot worse than snobby. Can you really not see how you’ve been derogatory, condescending, uncommunicative, and unfair? If not than you’re REALLY missing something J.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of the memes around this place being fairly well hashed out and you’re using ideas in contrary ways, but even in that case you’ve made NO visible effort to understand the problem and explain your terminology in ways people will understand. I think that’s being too charitable anyway, and you can hardly expect us to expend the effort of moving the group when you’re not apparently interested in honest debate.

  132. says

    J,

    I give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re being attacked, since I’ve seen a couple of people being savaged very unfairly (by one person in particular), and I’m conscious of my own weakness in following herd mentality.

    But here’s the thing: you started off with two comments which continued a contentious and disagreeable line of argument from an earlier post regarding the use/definition of “atheist”. By posting twice in rapid succession, you pushed this argument under the noses of the people who disagreed with you earlier. This is at least tiresome and, I think, provocative.

    From the point of view of this bystander, the tone of the first two comments is censorious and condescending, and the tone of many of your posts is arrogant: you have a tendency to assert things by fiat when they are arguable, even when you are, em, “underinformed”. Now “tone” is a pretty hard thing to put one’s finger on, and you probably disagree with my characterisation of yours, but I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m not alone given that several people have reacted so negatively.

    It also seems to me that you are droning on about a single issue, dragging it from thread-to-thread, pursuing your position with dogged tenacity, insisting that everyone adopt your definition of terminology, misrepresenting the way prominent people use that terminology, failing to conduct the most basic fact-checking of even your own comments.

    I think the comments in each post start anew until people start to formulate an opinion about you based on your history. Some people already think you’re a concern-troll; how long before others follow suit?

    It seems that people are reacting to you, not responding to what you’re saying. That should tell you something.

  133. windy says

    No, Windy, there’s no inconsistency in what I said. You’re only pretending that there’s inconsistency. Pretending.

    You’re a schmuck, J. A schmuck.

  134. David Marjanovińá, OM says

    “If they would, ¬°¬°¬°hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?”

    I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a “let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party” kind of way.

    That’s what I mean. I mean people who Saw The Light‚ĄĘ and were inspired to, like, devote their lives to the tireless fight for freedom & equality all over the world.

    Sure, the effects of such transformations on other people, of which standing in line for 5 h is by far the least horrible one, are a different matter. But you can get that from Christianity, too. Remember the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995? There are Christian terrorists out there. Just how like the PKK (the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan) used to have Stalinist suicide bombers.

    Bah, I put <strike> tags around the “the surface of” (a sphere) in my previous post, looks like they didn’t come through.

    That’s because ScienceBlogs uses its own HTML. (As if it were Microsoft.) You must use <s> alone!

  135. Priya Lynn says

    This thread’s been very interesting to read, except the stuff about circles being one or two dimentional, I stopped reading those after 20 or 30 of those comments. That discussion took away from the much more interesting discussion of whether or not the bible says the earth is flat (I’d say the ones who said it does say the earth is flat clearly won the day).

    Walton was a reasonable dissenter, but in one of my pet peeves he lied about what the bible says claiming the stereotypical view of hell isn’t supported by scripture, that the bible merely refers to it as a place of darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s totally wrong, the bible refers to hell as a place of fire in at least a dozen places. Its oh so typical of Christians to lie about their bible when it says things they find hard to defend, like the idea that people should be eternally tortured for the thought crime of being of the wrong religion or none at all. Shame on you Walton.

    J is something else. He insults people regularly, tells them to fuck off and then wails about how people are on a witch hunt and attacking him. After some 600 or so comments I still don’t get what he means by saying atheism is merely a cosmological position, he’s never made it clear how he considers this to be the case and has been repeatedly corrected and told that atheism is the disbelief in god(s).

    Given J’s fondness for the “Brights” label it seems odd that he is unfamiliar with the thinking that led to its choice. The brights noticed how gays had achieved increasing acceptance and sought to duplicate this for atheists. The lessen J seems painfully ignorant of is that one of the major things gays did to increase their acceptance was to come out of the closet and tell people of their existence. Study after study has shown that those people who know a gay person are more accepting of gays then those people who do not. Thus J’s insistence that atheists shouldn’t tell people they are atheists is exactly the wrong thing to do. In order to increase the acceptance of atheists, atheists need to come out of the closet, make our existence known and show religious people that someone they know and care about is an atheist and from their own experience a good person.

  136. says

    This thread’s been very interesting to read, except the stuff about circles being one or two dimensional…

    Funny, I thought that particular sub-thread was very interesting indeed: the vast majority of contributions were constructive, and it came to a satisfying and definitive conclusion. I must admit that if I’d been asked beforehand whether a circle was one or two dimensional, I would’ve immediately said “two” without thinking about it, but now I know that I would’ve been wrong: the discussion has clarified my thinking about what “circle” and “dimension” mean and I learned something new. It’s hard to fault that.

  137. Brad says

    I’m not sure I understand the importance of the local definition of dimensionality. Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

  138. mds says

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be that the only difference between deism and atheism is that one believes the universe was created by an absentee deity, and the other believes that, since deities don’t exist, it wasn’t.

    Since the only difference between these two positions is the whether the universe was created or not, the only defining characteristic of atheism is this particular cosmological position (i.e. not created), and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism. He feels that the Brights embody this ideal.

  139. Friendo says

    @Brad

    Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “looking at his feet”…the point is that a being living on a circle can move back and forth in one, and only one, direction.

    But thanks for the MathWorld reference upthread…I haven’t come across these geometers who call a circle a 2-sphere. I didn’t know there was any ambiguity among mathematicians. I suspect, however, that that convention is much less prevalent now than in 1973. I mean, I took a diff. geometry class last year, and there was no question as to what n-sphere meant.

  140. Priya Lynn says

    Mds said “and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism.”.

    What’s “GCD” mean?

  141. Kseniya says

    Warning: Lay-person’s Point of View Ahead! Please correct me as needed.

    Of course we intuitively think of circles as two-dimensional, because we always encounter them inscribed upon (or embedded in) what we see as two-dimensional surfaces – pieces of paper, schoolyard blacktops, hockey rinks, whatever. As Davis points out, we’re always saddled with the baggage of the embedding – so we think of the circle as a border around a section of the surface. We can compute the area of this section knowing only the radius of the circle, and because area is a quantitative property of two-dimensional objects, we think the circle must be two-dimensional.

    But there is no inside to a circle, and a circle has no location outside the context of an embedding space, so area and coordinates have no bearing on the inherent dimensionality of the object, regardless of the dimensionality of the space into which it may be embedded.

    As Davis says, the local geometry applies.

    The lines on a tennis court are straight lines. As are the lines on a football field. As are the lines down the middle of an airport runway.

    As is the line that separates Colorado from Utah.

    As are the Meridians that stretch from pole to pole.

    As is the Equator.

    As is the line traveled by a photon between its star of origin and the photoreceptor in my retina – even if it appears to have curved around a large body such as Jupiter. The local geometry of the path of the photon is that of a straight line, but when viewed from outside that context, we see that the line has taken on some of the topological characteristics of the space in which the line has been embedded.

    Geometries that work locally have a way of breaking when applied over long distances. I could start at the North Pole (true, not magnetic) and draw a straight line from there to the Equator, go back up to the pole and draw another line, one that goes off at a 90 degree angle to the first line, from there to another point on the Equator. Then I’d complete the triangle by drawing a third line, straight across the Equator of course, to connect the other two.

    Voila! A right triangle with not one, but three 90 degree angles! Impossible! Either Euclid was wrong, or…. space is curved!

  142. :-)
  143. Kseniya says

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be […]

    FWIW, I agree completely with this analysis of J’s position.

    I’m not sure I understand the importance of the local definition of dimensionality. Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

    No, if he looks at his feet, the circle looks like a line, for the same reason the equator looks like a line. When he speaks of “living on” a circle, he means on the outside rim – like an ant on the tread of a bicycle tire, not like a train on a circular train-track.

    Imagine yourself walking the Equator. That’s what he means. The line you’d be on, though it is in fact a circle, would appear to be a straight line from your limited perspective. Make the rest of the universe to *poof* and you’d be on the outside of a very large ring – so large that you’d have trouble figuring out that it was a ring and not an endless straight line.

  144. SC says

    I don’t understand what you mean by “looking at his feet”…

    I may be wrong, but I think he’s trying to take Davis’ illustration to what he regards as its logical conclusion. If the creature only sees what’s beneath him, the circle looks like a point, which is 0-dimensional; therefore, why don’t we say that a circle is 0-dimensional?

    But I think he’s using this illustration, meant to help explain sometihng else, out of context and extending it too far. Because the fact remains that a circle is not just a point. It’s like if you’re standing on a circular highway. If you look out ahead, it may look like the highway is straight, when in fact it’s circular. But it’s still a highway. If it’s foggy and you can only see a few feet in either direction, it doesn’t mean you’re on a six-foot stretch of pavement. The circular highway is still there, whether you can see it or not.

    But I may be misunderstanding Brad’s question. If so – sorry!

  145. SC says

    Or, maybe another way of coming at it – If we didn’t stop there, it would lose its “lineness” and cease to be an object, since it’s composed not just of an infinite number of points, but points in a particular relationship to one another.

    I hope I’m making some sense.

  146. mds says

    Priya LynnJ

    What’s “GCD” mean?

    SC got it: Greatest Common Denominator. Perhaps intersection might have been a more appropriate term. Obviously all of this math talk is affecting my brain ;)

    This is the impression that I’ve gotten by reading both this thread and the one linked to earlier in the thread by SC (Robert Bakker plays Blame the Atheist). The atheism vs. deism debate was much more apparent there.

  147. windy says

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be that the only difference between deism and atheism is that one believes the universe was created by an absentee deity, and the other believes that, since deities don’t exist, it wasn’t. Since the only difference between these two positions is the whether the universe was created or not, the only defining characteristic of atheism is this particular cosmological position (i.e. not created), and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism. He feels that the Brights embody this ideal.

    According to the Brights website “the term bright refers to a person whose worldview is naturalistic–free of supernatural and mystical elements.” I wonder if they would agree with J’s definition.

  148. Ichthyic says

    I wonder if they would agree with J’s definition.

    did you mean that rhetorically?

  149. Nick Gotts says

    Either Euclid was wrong, or…. space is curved! – Kseniya@652

    Hence, Non-Euclidean geometries. Replace Euclid’s 5th postulate – that through a given point you can draw exactly one line parallel to a given line (that does not run through the given point) – by a postulate that you cannot draw a line parallel to a given line through a point not on the line, and you have spherical geometry. If you replace it instead by a postulate that you can draw at least two lines parallel to a given line through a given point off the line, you get hyperbolic geometry, which also has applications in physics IIRC.

  150. J says

    As should be obvious, I don’t give a flying shit about the particular word “Bright”. I’m very happy to hear alternatives. Maybe even “atheist” is best, after all — but you can’t just assume it by default, as a kind of null hypothesis. (You people here like to play these shenanigans with “burden of proof”, I’ve noticed. I was once even asked for “sociological, anthropological, or historical evidence”, as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up.)

  151. buckyball says

    Interesting concurrent discussions here.

    @ BlueIndependent, #558:

    “On what basis must the positive be accepted over the negative? And, how could you separate them? The transformed individual, be they a born-again Christian or a Branch Davidian, will of course think they are just dandy for the effort. I could use more extreme examples, but I doubtless need to. The problem is that the verification of a positive or negative transformation lies in the hands of a subjective, biased source, namely the very subject of the analysis. That cannot be verified concretely or uniformly, and then be applied to a larger group with a reasonable prediction for lasting success.”

    Not really. A character “change” should be evident to multiple people. I’m curious what the success rate of programs like “Teen Challenge” are.

    http://www.mntc.org/outcome-studies

    @ Leigh, #563:

    “I have also witnessed the ignorance and callousness of some Christians who criticize victims of depression for inadequate faith. It’s cruel and hateful.”

    Part of this may be the abundance of unbiblical and just plain wrong teaching out there (and possibly laziness on the part of a believer for not making the effort to look things up). There were depressed people in the Bible (Jeremiah, for instance). To start blaming all a person’s problems (financial, emotional, etc.) on a lack of faith is wrong. Some of this has come from the “Word of Faith” movement most notably. Some of these preachers also get tv airtime. Why? Because on the surface, the concept of “say it and claim it” sells well. At least initially.

    @ Beowulff, #568:

    “That’s why the most fundamentalist believers tend to strictly control any and all access to outside information. What if the only books about dinosaurs that the child gets to see say they were contemporary with humans? If they spend several orders of magnitude more time discussing the Fall than discussing the science? And then imagine that the child gets taught that any information that contradicts with these views is inherently evil, and comes from evil people? I admire the children who are able to overcome this sort of abuse.”

    There’s a fine line sometimes between guiding someone and controlling them. Maybe some of the insecurity on the part of the parents comes from a lack of knowledge (Biblical and otherwise)?

  152. Ichthyic says

    as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up

    based on your repeated re-statement of the issue, to the point of being beyond tiresome, one would almost expect you had, in fact, many peer reviewed studies to support your contentions.

    are you fucking DONE yet?

  153. J says

    You’re confusing disagreeing with you with considering your viewpoint “completely outrageous.” Several people here and on the previous thread have disagreed with you and offered their reasons for doing so. Gernally, you have ignored their substantive points, in favor of trumpeting your claims of persecution. I have asked you, more than once, to provide evidence in support of your position. You have not done so.
    Lies and shenanigans. It’s not hard to see I could just as well ask you for the “evidence” that atheist is the strategically better word, etc. You have no right to assume it as a null hypothesis.

    I give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re being attacked, since I’ve seen a couple of people being savaged very unfairly (by one person in particular), and I’m conscious of my own weakness in following herd mentality.
    Corresponding to prefacing your biased observations with a cred-seeking a cred-seeking remark, analogous to the ubiquitous “I used to be an atheist.”

    But here’s the thing: you started off with two comments which continued a contentious and disagreeable line of argument from an earlier post regarding the use/definition of “atheist”. By posting twice in rapid succession, you pushed this argument under the noses of the people who disagreed with you earlier. This is at least tiresome and, I think, provocative.
    Corresponding to condoning behaviour that would put a wild animal to shame, on the grounds that the victim wrote a slightly condescending post. And on the blog of the frequently bad-behaved PZ Myers , no less. You know, the guy whom (I bet) you nearly always cheer on. (He’s not just aggressive and insulting toward the fundies. Try Googling for his astonishingly caustic swipes at even reasonable people like the Brights, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett.)

    How is my initially posting twice of the slightest relevance to anything? It’s quite simple: My first post I deemed somewhat ambiguous, so I posted again to add clarification. That’s all. (Don’t be taken in by Nick Gotts. His habit is to focus on a pointless detail and draw from it damning conclusions that he’s not entitled to.)

  154. SC says

    Look, you smug little putz: You have made numerous claims about the social world and social dynamics with nothing in the way of evidence to back them up. I would have been happy to discuss evidence that fell short of peer-reviewed research, but you didn’t provide that either.

    You came to an atheist’s blog proclaiming that atheists should refer to themselves as something else. You are the one making the contention: that “atheism” is socially problematic and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable. The burden of proof is on you.

    In the Q&A subsequent to his 1985 Gifford lectures (now in The Varieties of Scientific Experience, Carl Sagan participated in the following exchange:

    “Questioner: …Talking about proofs for the existence of God, I’d like to put it in perspective that there’s no completely satisfactory proof that everyone in this room exists. I don’t know if you know of one. I think it comes down in the end to belief of one sort or another that people in this room exist, and putting the proofs about God’s existence in that context, we’re demanding a lot more in proving God’s existence than we are in proving our own existence.
    CS: But the burden…the burden of proof is on those who claim that God exists. Or do you think not?

    Questioner: I think you say that. I don’t think that, in fact.
    CS: You think the burden of proof is on those who say that God does not exist?

    Questioner: An equal burden of proof, I would say. I don’t see why it should be put to those who say He exists.
    CS: But would you say that, no matter what contention is made, that the burden of proving or disproving it falls equally on those who agree and those who disagree?

    Questioner: I would say that.
    CS: Have you thought of the political implications of this?

    Questioner: Well, it’s not a political issue, I don’t think.
    CS: No, but I thought it was a general proposition you were proposing.

    Questioner: If you take a physical proposition, would you say you know that in every case the burden of proof rests to prove one type of case or the other type of case?
    CS: The burden of proof always falls on those on those who make the contention.

    Questioner: Well, all right. Yes. But only in the sense that it’s disproving the other contention.
    CS: No, no. It can be in an area where no one has any other contentions.

    Questioner: Yes, well…
    CS: It is – and it seems to me quite proper. Because otherwise opinions would be launched very casually if those who proposed them did not have the burden of demonstrating their truth. Here is a set of thirty-one proposals that I make, and good-bye. I mean, you would be left with a chaotic circumstance.

    Questioner: Yes, all right. Yes, I see. I see your point. Yes.” (240-2)

  155. J says

    based on your repeated re-statement of the issue, to the point of being beyond tiresome, one would almost expect you had, in fact, many peer reviewed studies to support your contentions.
    It would have died down ages ago if (1) the rabble addressing me weren’t so fanatical, and (2) they ceased trying to “correct” me, as if I’m manifestly wrong, whenever I voice my opinion that the name-calling was nasty and thoroughly uncalled for.

  156. Nick Gotts says

    Don’t be taken in by Nick Gotts. His habit is to focus on a pointless detail and draw from it damning conclusions that he’s not entitled to. – J.

    Curses! Unmasked! (Twirls ends of waxed moustache. Exit, pursued by a bore.)

  157. J says

    You came to an atheist’s blog proclaiming that atheists should refer to themselves as something else. You are the one making the contention: that “atheism” is socially problematic and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable. The burden of proof is on you.
    It is socially problematic, dipshit. Why the fuck do you think people like PZ Myers write hundreds of posts on how atheists are discriminated against? They’re not making it up.

    If you’re one of those automatons who rejects reasoned discussion and accepts only hard stats and figures, try Googling for the polls which indicate atheists are the group Americans are least likely to vote into public office.

  158. J says

    …and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable.
    I’m not claiming that, I’m claiming it’s a possibility that needs to be considered. You have absolutely no justification to take “atheist is the better word” as the null hypothesis.

    (Yes, I repeat a point — by necessity. It’s not my fault many people here are too stupid and intellectually dishonest to understand me the first time.)

  159. SC says

    Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional.

  160. Ichthyic says

    It would have died down ages ago if…

    that’s funny, that’s remarkably similar to the arguments Kenny makes as to why he too sticks around.

    you too have a lot in common, though you probably don’t want to think to hard about why.

    tell us, you don’t have a thing for NDE’s, do you?

  161. Ichthyic says

    (Yes, I repeat a point — by necessity. It’s not my fault many people here are too stupid and intellectually dishonest to understand me the first time.)

    project away, Galileo!

  162. Friendo says

    I think it’s obvious what’s happening here.

    1. J wants to convince us that, by being belligerent and insistent, atheists are ostracizing themselves.
    2. He comes onto this thread and acts in a belligerent and insistent manner.
    3. We ostracize him.
    4. QED!

    Pure unadulterated genius.

  163. JeffreyD says

    J, may I call you dufus? As a member of the the stupid and intellectually dishonest rabble whose only mission is to make your life miserable while hiding your brilliance from the world, I do courteously and humbly beseech you to take a moment to perform a simple duty, i.e., fuck yourself, using whatever large and square cornered object you can find. You poor persecuted piece of human debris. Please note, this is a pure insult, no attempt to engage you in a battle of wits as you are clearly unarmed.

    Ciao

  164. BlueIndependent says

    @ buckyball:

    “Well, in Proverbs 22:6, it does state “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” and then there’s Matthew 18:5-6. But neither imply ‘indoctrination’.”

    Can you possibly be any more disingenuous? And the Bible rarely uses clear language to describe anything beyond doling out severe punishment. That the word “train” is used can be and has been taken with different meanings over the ages. Expecting a 2000 year old book to speak in today’s vernacular is dishonest. Are you not capable of seeing this?

    “…Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?”

    And your point is…? I’ll explain it for you, since you seem to be persisting in the same disingenuous activities others like J are: Children are typically indoctrinated – yes, that IS the appropriate word – as early as age 3 or 4, as I was. Curiosity builds stronger after age 5 or 6, but to equate the capabilities of a 3-4 year-old child with those of a child well into grade school is really, really dishonest. Please take off the rosy glasses.

    Luckily enough, humankind is at least aware enough to be inquisitive at a young age, and fights on some level the urge to just acept indoctrination. But the fact remains that society indoctrinates very early, starting with birth, and pursues that agenda as strongly as it can in many cases throughout the child’s life, and into adulthood.

  165. Spacesocks says

    I used to be in complete agreement with PZ on this point, until I took Philosophy of Religion (don’t worry, I’m still an atheist…I just realize now that religion is more complicated than emperors and their invisible clothes).

    There’s a huge difference between apologetics and high-quality theology. The former is a bunch of circular rationalizations. It refuses to seriously engage any critiques of the concept of God, continuing to maintain that the emperor IS SO wearing clothes, and what’s more, they’re the loveliest clothes ever, and the only reason you can’t see them is because you’re too ignorant and blind to see with the eye of faith, etc. This is the bulk of what passes for theology in actual practice (i.e., most churches, the Internets). It is entirely proper to dismiss it, and not loutish; nor does dismissing it necessarily constitute killing a strawman version of theology, because apologetics is how most people justify belief in God anyway.

    But there is theology that actually takes atheistic critiques seriously. A lot of these theologians are technically atheists as we understand the term; some aren’t, but they reject the absurd “perfect being” theology (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, etc.) in favor of concepts that are at least internally coherent. Paul Tillich, in “Dynamics of Faith,” said, “If ‘existence’ refers to something which can be found within the whole of reality, no divine being exists.” David Blumenthal, in “Facing the Abusing God,” provides one of the most interesting theistic answers to the problem of evil, in light of the holocaust: “God is abusive, but not always.” He even says it is perfectly all right for believers not to love God, or to rage against him, for the horrors he has allowed innocent people to suffer. This God is neither omnipotent nor omnibenevolent, so Epicurus would say, “why call him God?” You might say God is “only human.” But if you think about it, most theists don’t really believe in a truly ethereal God anyway; their Gods are just as abusive and ineffectual as Blumenthal’s, they just pretend he isn’t. So you have to give Blumenthal props for honesty, even if he continues to believe in a personal God.

    The problem with these more reasonable theologians, as far as I can see, is that it is easy for apologists to cherry-pick their work without really understanding it, then throw it at atheists and go, “See? Problem solved!”…while still continuing to believe that God exists in external reality, is perfect, and wrote the Bible.

    And the problem with academic theologians who DO understand these works is that so many of them are angry at Dawkins and the rest for “mischaracterizing” theism. They accuse the “new atheists” of making a strawman argument. And then the millions of people who worship that very same strawman go, “those atheists meanies are arguing against a strawman! We don’t worship a strawman!”

    Rather than write off all theologians as apologist wafflers, we should try to get them on our side. We should say, “If you think we’re arguing against a strawman, go tell the people over there to stop worshipping a strawman!” We should say, “you think apologetics is bad theology? Then please, please tell that to the apologists!”

    And we should stop saying, “well, if you’re not talking about this strawman, you’re not talking about God.” It’s perfectly OK to say that the strawman is “God as most people understand the word,” but since the word “God” is basically content-free anyway, I think people have the right to attach whatever content they like to it, as long as they acknowledge that they’re going with a nontraditional definition.

  166. reuben says

    Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional.

    People, we have a winner!

  167. MAJeff, OM says

    ou people here like to play these shenanigans with “burden of proof”, I’ve noticed. I was once even asked for “sociological, anthropological, or historical evidence”, as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up.

    And to think, someone here actually studies social movement activity, discourse, and strategy. And it’s not J.

  168. Ichthyic says

    spacesocks, thankyou for a perfect example of the courtier’s reply.

    But if you think about it, most theists don’t really believe in a truly ethereal God anyway

    30 million plus members of the National Association of Evangelicals (in the US alone), would entirely disagree with you.

    You really can’t argue the majority belief from the position of graduate level theology.

    not that it would matter anyway, since either way, it’s merely an argumentum ad populum and hardly relates to the value of the arguments given themselves.

  169. Ichthyic says

    we should try to get them on our side

    they already are.

    see for example, Hector Avalos.

  170. SC says

    And to think, someone here actually studies social movement activity, discourse, and strategy. And it’s not J.

    More than one person. But what do I know about it, either? Not like I wrote a dissertation on social movements or anything. Oh, wait, I did that.

    — Dr. SC

  171. MAJeff, OM says

    More than one person. But what do I know about it, either? Not like I wrote a dissertation on social movements or anything. Oh, wait, I did that

    And I’m only in the middle of one about identity, strategy, and the construction of social types. Nothing to notice here.

  172. MAJeff, OM says

    Posted by: SC | May 30, 2008 10:26 PM?

    Are you still in Boston? Interested in working with/in a seminar/study group/activist working group that focuses on media/movement interaction? I got connections to a really good group (probably going to start attending again in the fall, myself.)

  173. SC says

    And I’m only in the middle of one about identity, strategy, and the construction of social types.

    Which I’d still love to read…:)

    Hope it’s going well.

  174. says

    To SC @ #670:

    >Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional

    Yes, and with our new knowledge of dimensionality, we can now see how someone can be one-dimensional AND use circular logic!

  175. SC says

    Still in Boston, and that sounds interesting. For my part, I’m working with a group of local academics and activists organizing a summer conference. You might be interested in that, if you’re around.

  176. Ichthyic says

    Yes, and with our new knowledge of dimensionality, we can now see how someone can be one-dimensional AND use circular logic

    I’d also add that circular logic only defines a perimeter around a set of empty points.

    It ain’t no disk.

    ;)

  177. buckyball says

    @ BlueIndependent, #676:

    “Expecting a 2000 year old book to speak in today’s vernacular is dishonest.”

    There are many “modern” translations currently in existence. Or were you implying that that the concepts are outdated?

    “I’ll explain it for you, since you seem to be persisting in the same disingenuous activities others like J are: Children are typically indoctrinated – yes, that IS the appropriate word – as early as age 3 or 4, as I was.”

    So, how would you approach the issue instead? What is your solution?

  178. Brad says

    Thanks Friendo, that definitely explains why a circle can be considered one dimensional.

    I guess I’ll have to look up the history of dimensionality to figure out why mathematicians settled on the topologist definition.

    Because the fact remains that a circle is not just a point. – SC at @654

    It can be when the radius equals zero. But that’s not relevant at the moment.

  179. SC says

    It can be when the radius equals zero.

    But then how would you know it’s a circle?

  180. SC says

    I just googled it and found this:

    “Circle With Radius of Zero
    Date: 12/28/2004 at 15:22:59
    From: Jack
    Subject: A circle with a radius = 0?

    Is it possible for a circle to have a radius that equals zero? Is it possible for a set of points (e.g., multiple points) to occupy the same location?

    One textook defines a circle as the set of points that is equidistant from a center point and that the radius is greater than or equal to zero. I dispute this. Am I wrong?”

    “Date: 12/28/2004 at 22:48:10
    From: Doctor Peterson
    Subject: Re: A circle with a radius = 0?

    Hi, Jack.

    If the radius is zero, then it isn’t really a circle, but might be called a degenerate circle–that is, what you get if you slightly stretch the definition of a circle by using the same equation but taking it to extremes by making the radius zero. The point is (no pun intended!) that many things you can say about a circle will still be true if the radius is zero (making a single point), and they have for some reason chosen to allow that. I wouldn’t do so, because there are too many other things that would no longer work in that case. I hope, for example, that in theorems about tangents to a circle they specify that the radius has to be greater than zero. If not, then they are inconsistent in their use of the definition, which is not uncommon in textbooks.

    By the way, there is nothing wrong in talking about a set of points that consists only of one point; nothing in that wording should be taken to imply that there are multiple points. The problem with this definition lies in the difficulty of writing theorems based on it, not on how many points there are.

    If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

    – Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
    http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

    So it is possible (I had actually thought of it when writing that lame comment), but causes practical problems. Interesting.

  181. Brad says

    I suppose that if you were so inclined, you could say that all points are circles, but not all circles are points.

  182. says

    J@#664,

    Re: “cred-seeking”

    That’s one way of looking at it. Perhaps I was trying to ingratiate myself in some way. My intention was to express a few unflattering observations in a charitable way, when I perceived a risk that they could have been interpreted as hostile if expressed too stridently. I obviously failed.

    Re: posting twice

    From what you’re saying, it was obviously not your intention to be provocative, but I wasn’t talking about your intention, only the effect I think it had. IMHO, seeing two of your posts on a topic that was contentious in another thread, within a half-dozen posts of each other at the top of a new thread, is likely to have provoked some people into challenging you in a way that they wouldn’t have bothered doing if they’d only seen it once, further apart, or further down.

    I’m bemused by the contradiction between the opinion that seems to be your hobby-horse (essentially a “good marketing” message), and the way that you express it (with pretty poor “marketing”). To put it bluntly, someone who wants to tell others “How to Win Friends and Influence People” ought to be better at it.

    If you haven’t already done so, step back for a minute, try to read what you’re writing as if you hadn’t written it, and see if you can see why a lot of other people are reacting negatively. There is a reason.

    I can’t know what you think you’re saying, but it seems to me that people, including me, are hearing something else. Whose problem is that?

  183. Ichthyic says

    I’m bemused by the contradiction between the opinion that seems to be your hobby-horse (essentially a “good marketing” message), and the way that you express it (with pretty poor “marketing”).

    coincidentally, this is the exact same problem Mathew Nisbet has, if you are aware of who that is.

    if not, just do a search on this blog, and you’ll find it.

    his blog is “framing science”

  184. SC says

    I suppose that if you were so inclined, you could say that all points are circles, but not all circles are points.

    Huh? I would think it would be somewhat the reverse.

  185. Brad says

    If a circle with a radius equal to zero is a point, then it follows that any point can be expressed as a circle with a radius equal to zero. However, because there are circles with radii greater than zero, the reverse is not true.

  186. SC says

    If a circle with a radius equal to zero is a point, then it follows that any point can be expressed as a circle with a radius equal to zero. However, because there are circles with radii greater than zero, the reverse is not true.

    But then it follows that any point can be expressed as anything (a square with H and W equal to zero, a line whose length is zero, etc.). On the other hand, all circles consist of points (with “degenerate” circles consisting of only a single point).

  187. says

    Ichthyic@#695

    Coincidentally, this is the exact same problem Mathew Nisbet has, if you are aware of who that is.

    Yep, I’m familiar with Matthew Nisbet. I admit that I don’t read whole lot of what he writes — I find the recapitulation of every cat-fart in terms of “framing” tedious. It seems to me that the kernel of Nisbet’s problem is his lack of any qualification in science; it puts him in the position of being “outside” telling people “inside” what’s wrong with them. That’s always popular :o)

    It seems that Nisbet either doesn’t get the whole “in-group/out-group and who can say what about whom” thing, which makes him foolish, or he actually thinks he’s part of an in-group that he’s not part of, which makes him pathetic. It’s very hard to take someone’s message seriously when you see him as a foolish and/or pathetic personification of irony.

    SC, you win Best Use of Dramatic Gopher :)

  188. Ichthyic says

    It seems to me that the kernel of Nisbet’s problem is his lack of any qualification in science; it puts him in the position of being “outside” telling people “inside” what’s wrong with them. That’s always popular :o)

    I’d say you nailed a big part of it, which is why it always puzzles me so that AAAS has apparently glommed on to much of what he has to say.

    I’d guess just random curiosity, and if I’m right, it will die down in a few more months.

  189. Carlie says

    I don’t think that’s really it with Nisbet, though. Carl Zimmer is another example of an outsider who is very well received, as was Chris Mooney before he got tangled up with Nisbet. People were very interested in Nisbet when he started out. There is some of the “outsider telling us what to do” feeling around Nisbet, but that came after he started pissing people off, not as a reason not to like him in the first place. Nisbet’s biggest problems are that he A) doesn’t back up what he says with any convincing evidence, B) ignores substantive questions and criticisms about his ideas by saying that people are just too stupid to understand, otherwise they’d agree with him, and C) responds to actual instances in which he is shown to be dead wrong by re-interpreting them in such a way that he is the only right one, and everyone else in the world is wrong. Hm, sounds more and more like someone we’ve seen on this thread, doesn’t it?

  190. Ichthyic says

    People were very interested in Nisbet when he started out.

    he was a curiosity: someone who published on science communication and essentially got their PhD thesis published in Science (that ain’t common in ANY field).

    that tends to attract attention.

    A) doesn’t back up what he says with any convincing evidence

    he thinks his paper says it all, but won’t actually respond to criticisms of the paper itself.

    It was at that point that I started to wonder who the hell was on his advisory committee.

    for a new postdoc to be as reluctant to defend his work as Nisbet was, it was a bit of a warning sign for me.

    all of what you say is true, but I still think that Emmet also has a part of the “puzzle of Nisbet”.

    bottom line, I say the same thing as I did when he first popped on the scene:

    he’s playing the false confidence card and riding his early success in order to try and establish a career for himself.

    I suspect, after a few years in the real trenches, he will indeed have more interesting and useful input.

    I just hope that there aren’t too many drawn in by the novelty of his approach, simply because the reverse is also true:

    while Nisbet might not know too much about how science works, most scientists know even less about communication.

    that could lead to some really stupid decisions being made.

    I hope not, but was very put off by the way the last AAAS meeting on the issue was put together and run.

  191. J says

    If you haven’t already done so, step back for a minute, try to read what you’re writing as if you hadn’t written it, and see if you can see why a lot of other people are reacting negatively. There is a reason.
    Of course there’s a reason: Any disagreement whatever with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula gets you labelled a “concern troll”, whereupon the dozens of wild dogs present madly lunge for the neck.

    My original point about “marketing” was only worth a few posts. There were only more because I was consistently misrepresented. But for me, this exchange is now an examplar of the cult mentality of (many) posters on this blog, their habitual mean-spiritedness, and their constant need to put people down in order that they can feel superior.

  192. Matt Penfold says

    “I hope not, but was very put off by the way the last AAAS meeting on the issue was put together and run.”

    Have you seen the AAAS video on how science and religion are compatible ? Nisbett has it posted on his blog. I suspect he is rather delighted with it, as it manages to totally ignore those scientists and philosophers who think the two are not compatible. I fear we have seen the future of science communication as Nisbett would have it, and it is not pretty. Larry Moran has a good take on it: He argues that the AAAS should preferably not comment on the issue, or if they do make it clear that it is a controversial subject with scientists disagreeing.

  193. Beowulff says

    At Buckyball, #662:

    There’s a fine line sometimes between guiding someone and controlling them.

    Here in the Netherlands there are still religious communities that don’t allow their members to own a TV, lest they might be corrupted by the outside world. Priests may even stop by to check. This is not ‘guidance’, this is ‘control’. I’d be surprised if the US doesn’t have similar communities. And there are plenty of other examples, both modern and ancient.

    Maybe some of the insecurity on the part of the parents comes from a lack of knowledge (Biblical and otherwise)?

    Possible. But ask yourself this: Who controls that knowledge?

  194. Carlie says

    Of course there’s a reason: Any disagreement whatever with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula gets you labelled a “concern troll”, whereupon the dozens of wild dogs present madly lunge for the neck.

    And THAT is why you’re a total lost cause, worthy of nothing but mocking and derision. No, there could be absolutely nothing of substance to anyone’s criticisms of my statements, because I am entirely correct and right and perfect, and the only reason people disagree with me is that I’m bucking consensus, and they are all wild dogs lunging for my neck.

    Narcissistic idiot.

  195. SC says

    MAJeff,

    Will do!

    *An aside to Friendo: My sincere apologies for abusing your discipline’s terminology. I’m sure “lineness,” etc., are not proper mathematical terms. I don’t mind if mathematicians laugh at me, but I would hate for them to be offended. And thanks again for taking the time to explain.

  196. David Marjanovińá, OM says

    How about if we dump this controversial “atheist” tag and use “pariah” instead?

    Or “Dim”?

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

    Once again: It isn’t hard to understand. It’s wrong. That’s because atheists by definition disbelieve in all gods, not only in creator gods. In Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Ares, Hermes and the whole shebang, not only in Zeus, Epimetheus and Prometheus.

    David Marjanovińá,

    How do you create accents?

    Exactly like you: by copying & pasting, in this case from the Windows Character Table. Or by insertion from the Mac character table.

    However, whether this works depends on the website and the browser. ScienceBlogs takes all input from IE for Windows*, including Chinese characters, but only Pharyngula takes special characters from Safari or Firefox for Mac; when I’m in the university and want to comment on any ScienceBlog other than Pharyngula, I must spell myself with & # 2 6 3 ; at the end (without the spaces). Bad Astronomy doesn’t take anything and even gives an error message telling me only letters and numbers are accepted; there, too, I must use the HTML entity (and still get an error message, but the comment gets through anyway).

    Functioning Linux distributions also have a character table. I said “functioning”.

    * IE for Mac fulfills every single MS stereotype. IE for Windows (6 upwards), however, is for most applications the best browser of all I know, Firefox included. (If only because it can read MSHTML.)

  197. SC says

    Thanks! I feared my question had been lost in the comment thicket. OK, I’m going to try with a word from last night’s spelling bee, with the accented letters first created with the Ctrl key and then taken from the Word Character Table:

    écrasé
    écrasé

  198. Spacesocks says

    Icthyic (#680),

    I just knew somebody was going to accuse me of the courtier’s reply, despite my best efforts to reinforce to point that the emperor really does have no clothes.

    What I meant was that most believers THINK they’re worshipping some ethereal, ineffable God that no one can truly understand, when in fact they actually think they do understand this God and “his” doings better than the followers of other religions, and as he’s actually conceived of, he’s really just this guy, you know?

    I’m well aware that most religious people DO believe in absurd Gods, and I tried to make this clear in my original comment. What I meant was that we shouldn’t dismiss all graduate-level theology as nothing more than learn√®d waffling around the same ridiculous God that’s worshipped by the National Association of Evangelicals. I mean, some of it IS like that (Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, etc?: professional bullshitters, in my opinion). I’m just saying we should take more care in how we target theology.

  199. BlueIndependent says

    buckyball:

    “Not really. A character “change” should be evident to multiple people. I’m curious what the success rate of programs like “Teen Challenge” are.”

    You are again making a circular assumption, that being that faith or belief in god in and of itself produces better people. This is demonstrably false in a number of ways. It’s not that no good people can come from a belief in a god, or that no good people have ever come from belief. It’s that belief is not required, and ultimately muddies things up needlessly. It also, even in the nicest people, instills certain ignorances that could well be considered pretty bad upon examination. We know that Billy Graham led a peaceful life that changed the lives of many. We also know that he said some unfortunate things about Jews that were based on his particular faith. How is disciplining people to stay away from bad physical influences good if the rest of the deal includes having views of other human groups that are quite questionable, and ultimately counterproductive to the supposedly peaceful outcomes expected of belief?

    I am an atheist. I was raised Catholic by Catholic parents and a wider Catholic family and community. I used to believe. Just because I am upstanding citizen now does not automatically follow that it must be because I used to have faith, or that faith was the creator of all things good in my life. I can honestly say that is in fact not the case. Faith was a practice, and in hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily bad, but it also, with that hindsight, does not seem necessarily overwhelmingly positive. I was taught that Jews will go to hell for not accepting Jesus. How is this in any way good? Who cares if religion gets people off of drugs, off of alcohol, gets them to eat healthy, etc.? All of that stuff would be 100% true without a god or faith. I do not need a god to be good. Your argument assumes that is the case. That is where you go wrong. If I needed a god to be good, than are we not automatons? And please don’t lecture me on free will vis a vis god.

  200. BlueIndependent says

    buckyball:

    “There are many “modern” translations currently in existence. Or were you implying that that the concepts are outdated?…”

    Yes, modern “translations”. That is the operative word. Who is to say the translation(s) is/are correct? Muslims believe in 72 virgins awaiting them for performing as martyrs for Allah. How unfortunate would they be to encounter the 72 “white raisins” that might actually be the true translation of that part of the Quran. Ever watch Dr. Scot on TBN (or whichever religious channel it is) late at night? Ever watch her go through how one Hebrew symbol means one thing, and it relates to something 20 chapters later in the Bible, but then relates back to something 50 chapters earlier? Ever see her go over the many meanings that are possible? Granted her intent is the opposite of my own, but the point is this stuff all has to be translated, and it has been done so many hundreds of times, without a clear trail back to the beginning. Parts of books have been left out, certain events are suspiciously like those in other religions, there is rampant internal inconsistency, etc. “Modern translations” means little, because it has all been translated before, without documentation or verification as to the level of accuracy.

    Suffice it to say, the words “train” and “indoctrination” do not mean the same thing in our society. A quick check of a couple thesauri around the internet also shows that the words are not directly interchangeable. The words also hold entirely different connotations. I do not go to college to be “indoctrinated”. One does not go to church to be “trained”. Sexual harassment programs in the workplace do not “indoctrinate” people. Is it possible one word meant the other 2000 years ago? Sure. That we have verifiable proof of this is the question.

    What is my solution? It’s beautifully simple: Forego the religious indoctrination and stick with education in philosophy, science, the arts, etc. There is plenty of beauty left to be tapped there, and none of it needs a god to come about.

  201. mds says

    On adding accents: Some accented characters (but not ńá) can be typed by holding down Alt and typing the appropriate character code on the num pad. For instance, Alt-0233 yields √©. The upper case accented letters range from 0192 to 0221. Lower case is 0224 to 0255. Supposedly there’s a way to enter any unicode value, but I was unable to get it to work.

    On other systems (like Linux) you can set up a compose key, so to type ńá, you’d press Compose-‘-c. Much easier. From what I can tell, there’s no way to set up a Compose key in Windows.

    What you can set up are dead keys. To type ńá you’d press ‘ then c. If you actually want to type a ‘, you’d press it twice. In my experience, unless you’re typing a lot of accents, this is more hassle than it’s worth.

  202. bPer says

    Regarding accented characters, I use AllChars on my Windows machines. Simple to use and free. To produce √© I type Ctrl ‘ e. A √ß is produced with Ctrl , c. A ‚ĄĘ is produced with Ctrl T M. That kind of thing. It doesn’t do Unicode, unfortunately. It also doesn’t by default do the accented-c in David’s last name, but since it is configurable, he might be able to make it work for him on his university machines.

  203. J says

    Once again: It isn’t hard to understand. It’s wrong. That’s because atheists by definition disbelieve in all gods, not only in creator gods. In Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Ares, Hermes and the whole shebang, not only in Zeus, Epimetheus and Prometheus.
    So atheism is only cosmologically different from rejection of religion. Which is my whole point.

    It’s a dastardly tactic you used there. Disagreeing about an exceedingly trivial point and in doing so giving the impression you’re refuting me.

  204. Priya Lynn says

    You were refuted J, you’re just willfully blind. Atheism isn’t just cosmologically different from the rejection of religion, its the rejection of all gods whereas deism might reject religion but it doesn’t reject god(s). That atheism rejects a creater god is secondary to the idea of rejecting god(s). You’re wrong, you’ve always been wrong and you’ve been refuted repeatedly.

  205. J says

    You were refuted J, you’re just willfully blind. Atheism isn’t just cosmologically different from the rejection of religion, its the rejection of all gods whereas deism might reject religion but it doesn’t reject god(s). That atheism rejects a creater god is secondary to the idea of rejecting god(s).
    Hilarious. If you truly think this refutes me, and you’re not just taking the piss, then I’m afraid you’re as pathetically self-deceiving as religious types.

    The extremely watered-down, deist’s version of God does not intervene in human affairs, and basically doesn’t have any role apart from…being designer of the Universe. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to say that going from this stance to full-blown atheism isn’t of any social relevance, and only constitutes a transition in a cosmological opinion. (By the way, many individuals who flirt with deism commonly call themselves agnostics, so don’t pretend to “trounce” me by citing statistics on the number of declared deists.)

    Now kindly cease deluding yourself and referring to non-existent refutations.

  206. JeffreyD says

    I thought I heard a noise. Priya Lynn posted in #722, but then there was something with too high of a noise to signal ratio to be considered a message. Hmmmm, interesting, apparently a flaw in the comments section. Ah well, maybe it will clear up.

    Ciao

  207. Priya Lynn says

    J, you’ve been refuted dozens and dozens of times, go back and re-read the thread. Simply re-asserting the same falsehood won’t make it correct. Atheism is the rejection of gods, cosmological implications are secondary to that.

  208. Priya Lynn says

    And J, anyone who “flirts” with Deism and calls themselves an agnostic isn’t a Deist. I’m not familiar with any polls on the numbers of announced Deists but like you I can assume they’re pretty rare and your point in aliging atheists with them rather pointless

  209. J says

    J, you’ve been refuted dozens and dozens of times, go back and re-read the thread. Simply re-asserting the same falsehood won’t make it correct.
    No, you’re making the assertion, offal brain. I have explained why it’s invalid, as I did in #723. You sidestep the argument by referring to (non-existent) putative refutations.

    And J, anyone who “flirts” with Deism and calls themselves an agnostic isn’t a Deist. I’m not familiar with any polls on the numbers of announced Deists but like you I can assume they’re pretty rare and your point in aliging atheists with them rather pointless
    There are tonnes and tonnes of people who’ve outgrown religion and yet call themselves agnostics rather than atheists because they allow the possibility of deistic sort of “designer God”.

    Obviously they tend not to call themselves “deists”. Most people have no idea what the word even means.

  210. Priya Lynn says

    Offal brain? This from you who’ve repeatedly insisted you’ve been polite and wailed about being unfairly attacked and insulted. Again we see the truth, I never insulted you, it was you who first choose to dive into the toilet to insult rather than debate.

    The reality is that you were refuted by David Marjanovińá in 712, I further refuted you in 722, dozens and dozens of atheists have refuted you througout this thread as well as in the other and the dictionary definition you quoted earlier also refuted you – atheism is the rejection of god(s), you’re alone in asserting that its a “cosmological position of no social significance”.

    The experience of gays has shown you to be completely wrong-headed in this. Study after study has shown that people who know gays are more accepting than those who do not. Acceptance of atheists will come from coming out of the closet, not from hiding and passively reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with being an atheist.

  211. Priya Lynn says

    Oh, and I should add agnostics don’t just allow for the existence of a “deistic sort of “designer” god”, different agnostics consider all manner of gods a possibility from the Christian god to Allah, to Vishnu and Gonesh. Your attempt to portray all agnostics as only allowing for a deistic god is patently false – again you’ve been refuted.

  212. says

    I am loathe to bring up the circle/line/dimension thing again, given that A) it’s been discussed to death, and B) I am not a geometer so I’ll probably screw something up. But it’s been nagging at me since yesterday, so I have to post it just to get it out of my head. :)

    I wonder if the whole discussion has come at it from the wrong end entirely.

    A line, in anything but purely abtract terms, is not a 1-dimensional figure; it occupies as many dimensions as the space in which it is represented. (ie, a line on a plane is a 2D figure, and a line in a volume is a 3D figure.)

    However, 1 dimensional space is represented by an infinite line.

    Of course, this assumes you’re representing an infinite, boundless 1D space. You might want to represent a finite, boundless 1D space (in which continual movement in one direction eventually brings you back to your starting point) — and this would be best represented by a circle.

    Likewise, an infinite boundless 2D space is represented by a plane, and a finite boundless 2D space is represented by a torus.

  213. Brad says

    So, anybody have any ideas on the dimensionality of a circle with radius equal to zero?

  214. buckyball says

    @ #717, Blueindependent:

    “We know that Billy Graham led a peaceful life that changed the lives of many. We also know that he said some unfortunate things about Jews that were based on his particular faith.”

    First off, Billy (like anybody else) is certainly capable of making mistakes. Luther even said some really odd things towards the end of his life. That said, it would be interest to see what was said. Considering how much is written about the Israelites in the Bible (in the past and future) such comments seem out of place. Another case in point: Mel Gibson. Even Calvin had issues.

    “I was raised Catholic by Catholic parents and a wider Catholic family and community.”

    Catholicism has typically tended to lean on the concept that good works will get you into heaven (or at least it is strongly implied). And that you have to sit and confess your sins to a priest (as if he can actually do anything about them). Then there’s purgatory. And limbo.

    The problem is, all these concepts are unbiblical. And as someone said recently “you always feel like you’re on probation.” It’s pretty amazing how much “extra” ideas get added in the name of “religion”.

    “I do not need a god to be good. Your argument assumes that is the case. That is where you go wrong.”

    Not really. Of course most any person is capable of doing good.

    @ #718, Blueindependent:

    “Who is to say the translation(s) is/are correct?”

    Actually, the real test would be to look at the manuscripts in Greek/Aramaic/Hebrew. Didn’t one of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain a complete copy of Isaiah? And that version was found to be extremely close to what is currently being used. Of course, if the lines in the Bible about God’s word never passing away are to be believed…then this would make sense.

    Parts of books have been left out, certain events are suspiciously like those in other religions…

    Like what? The Koran came about 600+ years after the New Testament, Hindus believe in multiple gods, etc.

    What is my solution? It’s beautifully simple: Forego the religious indoctrination and stick with education in philosophy, science, the arts, etc. There is plenty of beauty left to be tapped there, and none of it needs a god to come about.

    It is simple, on some levels. For instance, you don’t need a Bible to be fascinated by fractals. Also, space exploration rocks. Although you can’t argue that the goalposts don’t move in science too. How many different models have been taught about the internal nature of an atom?

  215. Longtime Lurker says

    Holy Hannah, so many posts!

    J, get over it- if you’re really a non-believer, tell your mom that you’re an atheist, don’t sugarcoat it with “bright” sprinkles. Yeah, she’ll cry, and threaten to never give you Christmas presents, but she’ll get over it once the first grandkid is born.

    The burden of proving yourself no concern troll is on your back. You quail and fuss about offending people by using the word atheist, almost as if you wished that those damned brassy Pharyngulites would go back in the closet. J, gone are the days when the non-believer would put on a suit to get the Sunday paper in order to convince his prying puritanical neighbors that he had gone to church, in order to avoid ostracism.

    “Offal Brain?” J, only a godly concern troll would use such a Flan-diddly-dandersism.

  216. BlueIndependent says

    buckyball:

    “First off, Billy (like anybody else) is certainly capable of making mistakes. Luther even said some really odd things towards the end of his life. That said, it would be interest to see what was said. Considering how much is written about the Israelites in the Bible (in the past and future) such comments seem out of place. Another case in point: Mel Gibson. Even Calvin had issues…”

    Yes, people make mistakes. Making one of history’s most obvious doesn’t mean he gets a pass because he’s fallible ol’ Rev. Graham. And Jesse Jackson is at least as guilty in this respect. If Graham ever apologized for it, well then good for him. If you care to research that for our collective knowledge, feel free. The point is his remarks were stoked by the intolerance of one religious sect for another, not that Rev. Graham is fallible like every other person. The point is he apparently never reflected deep enough on his own life and faith to see how blaming Jews for being a key problem with America was really stupid, and was a kind of thinking that got millions of Jews killed only a couple decades earlier. Not that Jews are the only group ever discriminted against, but the point stands.

    “…Catholicism has typically tended to lean on the concept that good works will get you into heaven (or at least it is strongly implied). And that you have to sit and confess your sins to a priest (as if he can actually do anything about them). Then there’s purgatory. And limbo…”

    Why are you stating the obvious? And good deeds to get into Heaven is not unique to Catholicism or even Christianity, though Purgatory is a key fixture of Catholicism. How are you saying this relates to my statement on my family?

    “…Actually, the real test would be to look at the manuscripts in Greek/Aramaic/Hebrew. Didn’t one of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain a complete copy of Isaiah? And that version was found to be extremely close to what is currently being used. Of course, if the lines in the Bible about God’s word never passing away are to be believed…then this would make sense…”

    OK so one section of a very thinly-paged, 1300+ page book has been verified. After all these years one would hope something would be close to correct. The point is translation isn’t easy, and so few believers have ever read the Bible in its entirety, let alone critically examine the tired verses they bandy about and throw at others, that there is even more room for misinterpretation. And even if interpreted correctly, we’re still left with stories of supernatural things and events that cannot be explained in real, measurable terms, and as far as we can tell are likely to never have occurred.

    “…Like what? The Koran came about 600+ years after the New Testament, Hindus believe in multiple gods, etc…”

    You are seriously asking me to explain this to you? Hello. Santa Claus? Christmas Trees? Pagan seasonal practices?

    “…Although you can’t argue that the goalposts don’t move in science too. How many different models have been taught about the internal nature of an atom?…”

    The goalposts don’t move in science, the theory does. Don’t confuse one for the other. The goalposts DO move with ID/creationism, and religion. Science answers the creationist challenge every time, and when it does, they get their undies all bunched up and make up another random claim that seems to make total sense. Apologists for religion also attempt to take credit for religion for many things that are not inherently derived from the belief system or god in question, and that is dishonest.

  217. SC says

    So, anybody have any ideas on the dimensionality of a circle with radius equal to zero?

    I do! (And you’re blowin’ my mind, man :).) I’m going with: still 1d. Here’s why: Imagine defining a circle using a language that doesn’t contain “be” verbs. We wouldn’t be able to fall back on the English “A circle is…,” but would have to think in terms of what a circle does. This would make dimensionality into an adverb – a circle does what it does one-dimensionally. Of course, mathematically-speaking, I could be totally off-base…

    (Incidentally, this is related to why I can’t quite accept the antonyms for faith that have been proposed. I want to see faith and its “antidote” as more action-oriented, to work on developing a science/reason verb or verb-like construction.)

  218. MAJeff, OM says

    Posted by: buckyball | May 31, 2008 11:17 PM

    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

  219. buckyball says

    @ #734, BlueIndependent:

    If you care to research that for our collective knowledge, feel free.

    I suppose at some point I could look it up. On a side note, I read about 3/4 of his autobiography and was kind of bored with it.

    “Why are you stating the obvious? And good deeds to get into Heaven is not unique to Catholicism or even Christianity, though Purgatory is a key fixture of Catholicism. How are you saying this relates to my statement on my family?”

    My point is that I’ve seen numerous people equate Catholicism to Christianity, but it really isn’t Christianity by a Biblical definition. If it is, it’s a pretty distorted version of it.

    “…and so few believers have ever read the Bible in its entirety…”

    True. And it makes all the difference.

  220. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    @ bPer:

    An afterthought: just in case my reaction, Torbj√∂rn, is puzzling, “phases of the moon” generally refers to the appearance of the moon as it orbits the Earth (new, waxing, full, waning, new again).

    Okay, that was puzzling. I’ll admit to a brain fart compounded by translation, exchanging the observation of a spheroid Moon for making one of a spheroid Earth, the latter which was the question. D’oh!

    So I had to read your language comment to realize that my wires were crossed. Thanks!

    Your English is always so good,

    Why, thank you!

  221. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    This ignores the fact that a circle can only be scribed in a space of at least two dimensions.

    So what? This indicates the topology of a circle is different than that of R^1 – it says nothing of the dimension.

    Ah, that is a line of explanation that is much easier (and direct) than to discuss different embeddings.

    I didn’t know there was any ambiguity among mathematicians. I suspect, however, that that convention is much less prevalent now than in 1973.

    I believe that is correct. I had in fact forgotten all about it, otherwise I would have added that to the list of confusions here.

  222. Beowulff says

    Buckyball:

    Although you can’t argue that the goalposts don’t move in science too. How many different models have been taught about the internal nature of an atom?

    Roughly speaking, it goes from hard spheres, to mostly empty spheres with a nucleus and an electron cloud, a nucleus with electrons in orbits, with electrons in specific shells, all the way down to quantum mechanics. It is important to note that each model also explains the previous one: atoms behave like hard spheres in certain circumstances because the electrons on the outside of the atoms will repel each other, for instance. Also, each previous model is even still true, in a sense, up to a particular level of detail. For example, there are circumstances where the placement of electrons in particular shells is sufficient to explain certain chemical reactions, even though we now know that there is a deeper explanation in quantum mechanics. This is not moving the goalposts, it is refinement. Furthermore, it should be clear that the models were refined further and further as the level of detail with which we could study the atom improved. For example, science had no reason to believe atoms were anything but solid until X-ray was discovered, and X-ray scattering experiments showed that most of the atom had to be empty.

    The refinement of atom models is such a clear example of science’s success, that I truly don’t understand how you can tote it as an example of moving the goal posts. Do you not understand the meaning of the phrase “Moving the goal posts”, or don’t you understand science? Let me explain the difference: Moving the goal posts means trying to win the game by attempting to change the rules of the game while playing. Science means trying to win the game by improving your game play.

  223. Beowulff says

    Small correction: “hard spheres” should probably be “solid spheres”.

  224. says

    SC,

    I do! (And you’re blowin’ my mind, man :).) I’m going with: still 1d.

    Hmmm… I’m going to disagree (more for fun than anything else).

    If a circle is defined as the set of all points equidistant from some point (the centre), then if that distance is zero, there is exactly one point in the circle: the centre (since the only point at zero distance from a given point is the point itself). The neighbourhood of that point is empty, so there is no tangent, no other point to define a line, no direction to move to a nearby point nor nearby point to move to. The dimension, I think, must be 0, not 1.

    It seems that in order to retain its “circleness”, the radius of a circle must be strictly larger than zero. I’d be surprised if a formal definition of a circle didn’t specify “r>0” rather than “r‚Č•0”. With that definition, all circles are 1D.

  225. J says

    You quail and fuss about offending people by using the word atheist, almost as if you wished that those damned brassy Pharyngulites would go back in the closet.
    Oh, put a sock in it. You’re not reading my posts or you’re being willfully dishonest. I have never advocated “getting back in the closet”. I have explicitly said, again and again, that we should state specifically our rejection of religion rather than our “confident belief that there are no gods of any sort”.

    Half of the people responding to me don’t even realize what I was saying, and haven’t taken the trouble to actually read the relevant posts. They vaguely sense that “J” is an Enemy and someone to sling mud at — hence they do.

  226. Beowulff says

    J: did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, people do understand what you’re saying, but simply disagree?

  227. SC says

    Emmet,

    It is fun – I agree. But I have to disagree with you on this question. Davis, above (@ #628), said:

    “Dimension” is defined to capture the intrinsic geometry of an object — choosing an embedding (such as saying a circle is the set of all points equidistant from a given point) weds us to additional baggage (the geometry of R2) that has nothing to do with the geometry of the object in question.

    So in order to define a circle as 1d, we have to think about it differently.

    With regard to the question of a circle with radius equal to zero, see my comment at #692 above. For practical purposes, it’s difficult to consider this as a “true” circle, but it can apparently exist in the abstract. So the question of its dimensionality seems a valid, if strange, one. I’m sticking with my earlier answer: A circle lines/circles. Otherwise, it’s just a point – a geometric pharyngula of sorts.

  228. Beowulff says

    At Kagato, #730:

    A line, in anything but purely abtract terms, is not a 1-dimensional figure; it occupies as many dimensions as the space in which it is represented. (ie, a line on a plane is a 2D figure, and a line in a volume is a 3D figure.)

    No, you are confusing the dimension of the line itself with the space the line is embedded in, as other commenters did before. The dimension of a line is an intrinsic property of the line, not a property of its environment – otherwise, you could not speak of the dimension of a line anyway.

    Look at it this way: If your idea that a line in 3D has 3 dimensions was right, a plane in 3D would have 3 dimensions too. It seems rather silly to say a line and a plane have the same dimension, though, since on a plane you clearly have one more degree of freedom to move around. On a line you can only move forward and backward, on a plane you can also move side to side. That’s why a plane has two dimensions, and a line only one. I hope this makes things a little more clear :)

  229. says

    You’re not reading my posts or you’re being willfully dishonest.

    I’ve gone back and read a couple of other threads: what you said, and what other people said back to you.

    My conclusion is this: people are reacting to the tone of your posts, not responding to their content.

    In your first comment in this post, you simultaneously identify yourself as an outsider and aim your comment at everybody here: “why are you people so relentlessly…” (my italics). You probably didn’t mean to, but that’s what you did. It was downhill from there.

    In the previous post, you make contentious statements with tremendous stridence; for example, “Bright is obviously the superior label”. Let me break that down for you. Saying “obviously” is insulting when it’s attached to something arguable. It implies that if I don’t agree, I’ve missed something obvious, and I’m stupid. The word “superior” isn’t just a synonym for “better”: it connotes higher worth and status. Having self-identified as an outsider, you are implicitly placing yourself on a pedestal, looking down on those who disagree with you, and calling them stupid. How can you be surprised when they respond negatively?

    You could have started a discussion with “I think ‘Bright’ is the better label”, but instead of starting a discussion, you started a flame-war with a poor choice of words.

    Also, some people did respond to the content of your posts in good faith, and you ignored them. Why? If you’re going to ignore something, ignore the petty name-calling and engage the issues. If you had, you’d be earning respect instead of opprobrium.

    In short, it seems like you are either an exceptionally brilliant concern troll or you are genuine in your beliefs but appalingly bad at expressing them, unbelievably insensitive, and grossly inarticulate. I don’t think you’re a concern troll, I just don’t think you have the faintest clue what the subtext of your own writing is.

    No “cred-seeking” this time, just the bald truth as I see it.

  230. says

    CS@#746,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the cardinality of the set of all points that are zero distance from a given point is exactly one irrespective of the distance metric of the embedding space. I get why circles are 1D, but I don’t think topology gets us anywhere here, since it makes the radius a property of the particular embedding, and the notion of “circle of radius zero” undefined: there are only “circles” (or whatever the right name for the most general 1D manifold isomorphic to them is), not “circles of radius x“.

    I’m open to argument and/or correction, of course, but for the time being I’m still thinking along the lines of “circle of radius zero” being: a) meaningless by way of mixing “circle” and its embedding (somewhere where “of radius x” has a well-defined meaning); b) excluded by definition of “circle”; or c) a single point and therefore 0D.

  231. J says

    Emmet,

    I already agreed with that particular point. I did, no question about it, begin in a condescending tone. However, are you sure you read back as thoroughly as you could? PZ linked to an article he wrote criticizing the “Bright Alternative”, and I think he was at least as culpable as I was. (The link doesn’t seem to be working now — perhaps he retracted the article. Kudos to him, if he has.) He also wasn’t exactly well-behaved when Sam Harris suggested that atheists “fly under the radar”. Despite this, I don’t see PZ receiving anything like the same kind of treatment I got.

    I’m pleased you admit that people weren’t responding to the content of my posts. If you scroll up, though, you’ll find that people were continually professing to having addressed my actual arguments. See, for example, the numerous allusions to refutations of my position. Do you realize just how exasperating this can get? It’s intellectually dishonest, and hypocritical given the convolution engendered in these people’s underwear whenever religious fundamentalists try on similar tactics. All things considered, I think my tone was essentially merited.

  232. SC says

    Emmet,

    You talkin’ to me? Who’s this “CS” :)?

    I think we’re actually in agreement. I was responding, in several comments, to Brad, who I had the sense was trying to do the opposite of what Kagato was doing – to say that since circles are ultimately composed of points, we shouldn’t stop arbitrarily at “cicle as 1d line,” but could really say that circles are 0d. I was arguing that this was going too far, since the properties of a circle that make it 1d (chiefly, its “lineness”) are also what makes it a circle. Points in a circle have no inherent meaning separate from the circle itself.

    Brad then brought up the interesting case of the circle with r=0, asking whether in this case we had an example of a 0d circle. From the site I found through Google, it does appear that for all practical purposes such an entity would not be considered a true circle, but can be considered abstractly. So I agree that it is excluded by the definition of “circle,” but for the sake of this (philosophical?) question, I accepted that it was possible for such a circle to exist. Then I imagined what it would mean to be a circle-as-point as distinct from a point, which led me to the Action Theory of Dynamic Objectness :).

  233. Beowulff says

    J said:

    I’m pleased you admit that people weren’t responding to the content of my posts.

    while apparently completely missing that Emmet Caulfield said:

    Also, some people did respond to the content of your posts in good faith, and you ignored them. Why? If you’re going to ignore something, ignore the petty name-calling and engage the issues. If you had, you’d be earning respect instead of opprobrium.

    And then J goes on to speak about dishonesty.

    Also, J admits that:

    I did, no question about it, begin in a condescending tone.

    But instead of issuing an apology for that, J launches into a full-blown tu quoque fallacy.

    Classy J, just classy.

  234. says

    SC,

    Apologies for “CS”. I did notice it after I posted, but I decided that the two were equivalent on the one-dimensional bounded manifold in question :o)

    J,

    OK, I accept that it’s exasperating to be on the wrong end of a flaming, that it wasn’t your intention to be condescending, and that you admitted that error.

    But, I don’t think you can reasonably defend yourself by comparison with PZ. This is, after all, PZ’s blog. He has built this community by having his finger on the pulse of his audience, so he knows that he can get away with saying “the term Bright is a load of shit” (paraphrasing) because 1) it’s his blog and 2) it’s not a very controversial position around here :o) Your opinion on the same issue is obviously not as popular, so if you want to start a reasonable discussion about it, you need to introduce the topic with more temperate language. On your own blog, you can say “Obviously Bright is the superior label”, but here: them’s fightin’ woids.

    To my certain knowledge, you’ve started at least two threads with a poor choice of language that inflamed the subsequent discourse. You can either try to fix that, if it isn’t too late, by avoiding inflammatory language, ignoring flames and insults, and focusing on content, or you can react to the flames and insults, doggedly justify yourself, play the victim card, and continue to get really really frustrated. It might be a nice, if na√Įve ideal, but the realpolitik is that it doesn’t matter a shit whether you’re right or wrong in this particular instance: by participating in a tit-for-tat game of hurling insults and accusations of “bad faith”, you come off looking bad. The thread winds up dominated by your reactions, and you end up looking like an angry teenager, like you have a obsessive compulsion to respond to every single post that injures your pride. That, in turn, makes it very, very easy to wind you up. The effect is to hand over control of your emotional state to someone else. That can only be, in your own words, “exasperating”.

    The only way to win a pissing contest is not to play.

  235. Goatboy says

    Over seven hundred and fifty posts and we haven’t got a name for the firm, or picked a pub.

    Anyone else getting the impression the Pharyngula readership really aren’t proper hooligan material?

    Let’s just stick with being scallywags for now, work our way up slowly.

  236. J says

    That, in turn, makes it very, very easy to wind you up. The effect is to hand over control of your emotional state to someone else.
    OK, that’s good advice. I never thought about it like that.

    (No, I’m not being sarcastic.)

  237. buckyball says

    @ #741; Beowulff:

    The refinement of atom models is such a clear example of science’s success, that I truly don’t understand how you can tote it as an example of moving the goal posts. Do you not understand the meaning of the phrase “Moving the goal posts”, or don’t you understand science? Let me explain the difference: Moving the goal posts means trying to win the game by attempting to change the rules of the game while playing. Science means trying to win the game by improving your game play.

    I realized it was a misapplication of the term after I posted it…but it was late at night. I do understand the science to a decent extent, and I’ve had some exposure to quantum mechanics. But I suppose there is a reason why I never became a philosopher…

    Anyway…I should probably back out of this discussion at this point. It’s been an interesting run, if nothing else.

  238. Priya Lynn says

    J said “I have explicitly said, again and again, that we should state specifically our rejection of religion rather than our “confident belief that there are no gods of any sort”.”.

    J, you clearly haven’t thought this through to even a slight degree. Stating that you reject religion isn’t going to make you any less unpopular with religionists than stating that you believe there are no gods of any sort. And stating that you reject religion is going to lead those people to think that you reject the concept of gods altogether anyway. You’re so afraid to admit you’re wrong you’ve lost all objectivity on this.

  239. Friendo says

    @ SC

    *An aside to Friendo: My sincere apologies for abusing your discipline’s terminology. I’m sure “lineness,” etc., are not proper mathematical terms. I don’t mind if mathematicians laugh at me, but I would hate for them to be offended. And thanks again for taking the time to explain.

    No worries, man…I don’t think you need to apologize. Everyone is going to make mistakes when they wade into other disciplines…that’s no reason not to be inquisitive. If anything, it’s nice to see laymen not acting completely math-allergic. I hope I haven’t come across as too condescending….

    As for the question of whether a point is a circle, I think its proper classification is “degenerate circle” √† la the excerpt in #692. “Degeneracy”, in this case, meaning a point in the parameter space where the usual properties break down. In the same sense, a “degenerate parabola” is a line, and a “degenerate hyperbola” is two lines making an X. Whether the set of circles includes the set of degenerate circles, the wikipedia article for n-sphere (a circle being a 1-sphere) says r must be a positive real number, and my own intuition would agree.

    As for “circle is as circle does”, the mathematical equivalent of a “doing” would be a mapping or function, not a set. Now you could talk about a parametrization of a circle as the “active” version of a circle, eg the map from the real number line to the Cartesian plane such that a real number t is mapped to (r*cos(t), r*sin(t)). However, the concept of dimension of a mapping is ambiguous (the domain, the image and the target space can all have different dimensions).

  240. SC says

    Hey, Friendo. I was hoping you would return to clear things up. Not at all condescending. I always loved math. Left it in college and never went back, so most of the discussions here on Sb are at a level I can’t follow. I was thrilled that people would take the time to come here to explain this. I’m close to MIT, and now thinking even more seriously about auditing (crashing? who, me? never!) some classes. So you should all feel very good about yourselves. You’ve done a good math deed.

    No worries, man…

    For the record, I’m a woman (Glen D, please adjust your rants accordingly), but you were probably just using that as a generic expression :).

    Thanks once again.

  241. SC says

    Stating that you reject religion isn’t going to make you any less unpopular with religionists than stating that you believe there are no gods of any sort. And stating that you reject religion is going to lead those people to think that you reject the concept of gods altogether anyway.

    I agree. What’s more, the “rejection of religion” is not a banner around which we can all come together. I’ve argued on several recent threads that, for example, religion’s role in the history of struggles for social justice is complex and cannot be characterized as entirely negative.

    [For example, in relation to a recent thread, this is from Burns and Burns, A People’s Charter: The Pursuit of Rights in America (117):

    The enslaved had a special fealty to the Old Testament and had always identified with the ‘chillen of Israel’ fleeing from Egyptian bondage. They called Harriet Tubman ‘Moses’. Not just her exuberant sense of divine guidance but her down-to-earth leadership abilities made this name fit…’She was unsurpassed in the logistics of escape’, notes Benjamin Quarles, ‘in anticipating the needs of her fugitive flocks, whether for food or clothes, disguises or forged passes, train tickets or wagons’.

    It goes on to discuss the work of local-level “station agents.” Of course, the Exodus myth was not essential to the functioning of the Underground Railroad. But it hardly proved a hindrance to organizing, and arguably acted as an inspiration. Slaves were not sitting around waiting for god to come rescue them because they believed in this myth.]

    I often work in coalitions with religious groups, even attending meetings or events in churches. This can be annoying, but whatever. I would have no problem telling them I’m an atheist (even if I’m not asked – horrors!), but I imagine insisting on an “anti-religion” label would pose a problem.

    In contrast, the definitions of atheist, agnostic, and deist are more fluid than J imagines (as numerous people have made clear). We not only coexist easily without constant bickering over “cosmological questions,” but generally work well together – even if we have disagreements – in the world, on this blog, and even on this very thread.

    J’s whole proposition is flawed.

  242. says

    SC,

    The whole discussion about labels reminds me very much of the gag about organising atheists being like herding cats. The differences between J’s position and anyone else’s are really pretty small, but we humans have a bizarre talent for elevating small differences to dizzy heights.

    I tend to agree with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins that the label “atheist” is very strange, since we don’t find a need to define ourselves as a-toothfairy-ist or a-teapot-ist. On the other hand, it is what it is.

    I have a problem with “bright”, although I understand perfectly the motivation. The intention was to emulate the cooption of “gay” by (what we now call) the gay community, and introduce a new, positive, umbrella term for the “reality-based community” (RBC). The problem is that the attempt was ham-handed. The term “gay” meant “colourful” and had largely fallen into disuse when it was coopted. The implied antonym, “dull”, is rather inoffensive and requires a little sophistication to see. The term “bright”, OTOH, has not fallen into disuse, one of its primary meanings is “clever”, and the implied antonym, “stupid”, is offensive and obvious. For a community already stigmatised by a perception of being, to some extent, characterised by an intellectual superiority complex, it was politically suicidal. I’m well aware of Dan Dennet’s defence of the term, but it doesn’t address this fundamental problem.

    The problem is that the RBC is a helluva lot bigger than just atheists. I have friends and family who are firmly in the RBC and opposed to religious stupidity, but they don’t bother labeling themselves in any way: they don’t give much, if any, thought to what J might call a “cosmological position”. If we analysed them, we’d probably say they were agnostics or deists or even atheists, but it’s not something they really give a shit about. What they do care about are things like decline of science education and rise of religious stupidity and other woo of various flavours. If there were some banner that this large RBC could unite under, it would be a good thing. We don’t differ on what we see as really important, only in some minor details. We atheists are, in some sense, the lunatic fringe of the RBC, and there are those of us for whom anything short of the full rehabilitation of the word “atheist” is simply unacceptable. I agree that it is highly desirable, but I don’t think it should be a show-stopper which obstructs cooperation with those who share our most important goal — the establishment of evidence and reason as the basis for decision-making in all non-personal matters: politics, law, social policy, education, etc.

    Whatever this banner is, it isn’t “atheist”, “anti-religion” or, indeed, “bright”.

    What is needed is something that is playful, currently semantically vacuous as a label applied to persons (unlike “bright” or “atheist”), alludes to variety and inclusiveness, has no disparaging antonyms (unlike “bright”), is readily identifiable, and is flexible in terms of promotion (unlike the red “A”).

    I think “tartan” is a fine word, let’s coopt that instead :o)

  243. spurge says

    I don’t see what good a new label would do.

    The enemies of reason and their friends in the media will vilify whatever we choose to call ourselves.

  244. J says

    For a community already stigmatised by a perception of being, to some extent, characterised by an intellectual superiority complex, it was politically suicidal.
    Emmet has just said what I’ve been saying all along (apart from that he rejects Bright as arrogant). If you think I’m “obviously wrong”, you now have a new target.

    Of course, I’m not obviously wrong and never was in this thread.

  245. J says

    Bright does not have “disparaging antonyms”. Dan Dennett has even proposed that we term non-Brights as “Supers”.

  246. SC says

    Emmet – Well said.

    But I guess I just don’t see the need for any sort of unifying or all-inclusive term. Coalitions (including temporary, issue-specific ones) are fine with me. I work, for example, on promoting local horticulture. I come at this from an anarchist perspective (and bring up Kropotkin far more often than is reasonable). But anarchists can cooperate with a number of other groups with an interest in this issue – gardeners, scientists, science educators, food banks, youth activists, NGOs working on human rights and fair trade, the Brazilian MST, supporters of farmers’ markets, etc. I’m happy if people with whom I’m working become more aware of and interested in anarchism, but it’s not necessary for them to be anarchists for me to collaborate with them.

    My problem is with J’s suggestion that simply by calling ourselves atheists we are alienating “natural allies.” This hasn’t been my experience, and I simply don’t think it’s generally the case (in any event, J’s provided no evidence to show that it is). And to the limited extent that this may still pose a problem, the situation appears to be changing for the better, so it’s an inopportune moment for a change of labels.

  247. SC says

    Bright does not have “disparaging antonyms”. Dan Dennett has even proposed that we term non-Brights as “Supers”.

    That’s mighty silly.

  248. J says

    My problem is with J’s suggestion that simply by calling ourselves atheists we are alienating “natural allies.”
    No, you’re twisting my words (once again). I never said atheists are “alienating” anyone. What I did say is that atheism doesn’t encompass the views of agnostics, deists etc., who nonetheless belong to what Emmet calls the “Reality-based Community”. I’m patently right.

  249. SC says

    J’s post at #766 makes absolutely zero sense, and to the extent that it reflects any comprehension of what Emmet was saying appears to be a total fabrication.

  250. SC says

    What I did say is that atheism doesn’t encompass the views of agnostics, deists etc., who nonetheless belong to what Emmet calls the “Reality-based Community”.

    Of course it doesn’t. What’s your point?

  251. windy says

    J wrote:

    So atheism is only cosmologically different from rejection of religion. Which is my whole point.

    But it’s still wrong, since there are deists, agnostics and even atheists who don’t oppose organised religion.

  252. JeffreyD says

    Emmet, re you #764, very well written and I applaud you effort to be inclusive. I still disagree with you to some extent and think “atheist” should be used and proudly, but that is, to me, a minor point. We agree on the goal, i.e., “…the establishment of evidence and reason as the basis for decision-making in all non-personal matters: politics, law, social policy, education, etc.” I am willing to work with others on that goal, no matter their beliefs, if, and this is a big if, they actually do have that goal and it is not just a smokescreen. However, as a matter of taste, I will still not work with anyone who insists I use his terms or who insists his view is the only correct one. Or who insists he is patently right no matter what is said to him.

    Ciao y’all

  253. says

    spurge:

    The enemies of reason and their friends in the media will vilify whatever we choose to call ourselves.

    SC:

    …the situation appears to be changing for the better, so it’s an inopportune moment for a change of labels.

    Although the above reflect different outlooks (pessimistic and optimistic), I concede that both of them are quite possibly true. I’m not certain that a new label is strictly necessary or would do any good if it were. Perhaps I should have prefaced what I said with, “to the extent that a new label may be needed” or somesuch.

    Bright does not have “disparaging antonyms”.

    The point I was trying to make is that “bright” is, in contemporary English, an adjective applied to persons that is synonymous with “clever” or “intelligent”. An antonym of these words is “stupid”. Now, “stupid” is a 1) a disparaging word and 2) an antonym of “bright”. It then follows that “bright” has at least one disparaging antonym. Please explain the flaw in this logic.

    Dan Dennett has even proposed that we term non-Brights as “Supers”.

    Yes, I did say “I’m well aware of Dan Dennet’s defence of the term”. Saying that we can call non-Brights “Supers” is a nice idea, but in my view, it entirely fails to address the problem.

    Consider, in current usage, “if you’re not bright then you are …?”. We don’t get to define away what the public will fill into that gap and (I guess) the huge majority of people would put in “stupid”. I’m surprised that a man of Dan Dennett’s intelligence has either missed that, or thinks that it’s a good idea, or even possible, to “educate the market”. Sadly, we live in a world where “if you’re explaining, you’re losing” and the Brights placed themselves on the defensive from the get go.

  254. heliobates says

    @ #775
    2+2=4. I am patently right.

    Excel doesn’t always agree with you. And Microsoft has more patents than you do.

  255. says

    If non-atheists are “Supers”, can we be “The Unleaded”?

    Better yet, given our propensities, how about “The Unled”?

  256. Beowulff says

    The antonym of ‘bright’ would be ‘dim’, which is definitely a derogatory term if used to refer to persons.

    Also, you don’t have to throw away the ‘atheist’ label when you introduce a more generic label. They didn’t throw away ‘gay’ when they started referring to ‘the LGBT community’ either. So if we want to coin a ‘Rational-Based Community’ label, ‘atheist’ would still exist as a label for a certain sub-community of ‘RBC’ that still mostly self-identify as ‘atheist’.

    Calling non-atheists ‘Supers’ is an idea destined to fail, since you can’t expect non-atheists to accept a label put on them by outsiders.

  257. SC says

    But it’s still wrong, since there are deists, agnostics and even atheists who don’t oppose organised religion.

    Once again, I find myself wishing that we could comment in the form of Venn diagrams.

  258. says

    JeffreyD:

    I … think “atheist” should be used and proudly, but that is, to me, a minor point.

    I am an atheist and I make no secret of it. The opportunity to say “I’m an atheist”¬†simply never arises in Sweden. Religions in most of Europe are quite a lot like STIs: you may or may not have one, but if you do, you don’t talk about it in polite company. Wearing a “Saved by Jesus” tee-shirt is the social equivalent of an “I have genital warts” tee-shirt, just not as funny :o)

  259. windy says

    SC, I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with me :) but just to clarify, I meant that “reject religion” can mean anything from “I think religion is just swell although I don’t participate myself” to “I think religion is a bad idea altogether”, so it doesn’t naturally group all atheists, deists etc. together.

  260. spurge says

    Why would Dennet think it was OK to label anyone anything at all.

    If that is his best defense of the term brights no wonder it died on the vine.

  261. SC says

    windy,

    I agree with you. I was making basically the same argument, much less pithily, at #763. Aditionally, and unfortunately, not all atheists are members of the RBC.

  262. SC says

    The opportunity to say “I’m an atheist” simply never arises in Sweden.

    Your comment, and recent references to “village atheists,” led me to imagine a Swedish-atheist version of Daffyd on Little Britain.

  263. windy says

    I agree with you. I was making basically the same argument, much less pithily, at #763.

    Sorry, I missed that post… carry on! :)

    Your comment, and recent references to “village atheists,” led me to imagine a Swedish-atheist version of Daffyd on Little Britain.

    LOL! Although, if you are a famous Swede who happens to be an atheist, you can mention it offhand in an interview without any fuss. And if anyone knows Swedish, Lena Andersson’s “Atheist Sermon” is interesting stuff.

  264. J says

    Emmet,

    First point: As trivially obvious as it seems to you that “Bright” is too arrogant to do any good, it’s just as straightforward to me that “atheist” is even worse. Atheists are one of the most ostracized and despised major groups in America. In terms of social standing they really don’t have a lot to lose, so their fanatical opposition of alternatives like Bright does tend to surprise me.

    Second, you’re helping yourself to two tacit assumptions, which I find are far from clear:

    (1) That Bright will indeed strike people as conceited. Personally, the first time I heard the word, I thought the “luminous” sense of the word was being played on. I find that unacquainted individuals almost universally ask what I’m talking about as soon as I use the noun Bright. This gives ample opportunity for explanation. I disagree with your cynical verdict that “if you’re explaining, you’re losing”. People are susceptible enough to technological advances, which often require a good measure of accompanying explanation, so I don’t believe I’m aware of this anti-explanation climate you suppose exists.

    (2) That even if Bright is somewhat smug, the repulsive effect will overwhelm the attractive effect. If our group is subtly advertised as intellectually superior (which it really is, in truth), maybe more and more people will be drawn in.

    Now, “stupid” is a 1) a disparaging word and 2) an antonym of “bright”. It then follows that “bright” has at least one disparaging antonym. Please explain the flaw in this logic.
    Well that logic only holds if “Bright” is synonymous with (rather than merely evocative of) “bright”. It isn’t.

    Moreover, I feel you’re underestimating the value of Dan Dennett’s proposal that we contrast Brights with Supers. It’s quite plausible this could be accomplished, just as the common antonym of gay has become straight. (Both upbeat words, as Dennett points out.)

  265. Kseniya says

    Well that logic only holds if “Bright” is synonymous with (rather than merely evocative of) “bright”. It isn’t.

    Ah! This is the key, and liberates all those atheists who wish to identify themselves as such. Capitalizing “Atheist” should solve the problem. If challenged, simply explain (and remember, explaining != losing) that “Atheist” is not synonymous with “atheist”.

  266. says

    J@#788,

    Well that logic only holds if “Bright” is synonymous with (rather than merely evocative of) “bright”. It isn’t.

    Unfortunately, when you coopt a word, you coopt its current meaning, not just a sequence of letters. Otherwise, there is no point in cooption at all: the entire point is to piggyback on the existing connotations of the word, “warts and all”. The genius of the gays was that “gay” had no warts. The problem with “bright” is that it has warts by virtue of having disparaging antonyms. You can’t wish them away.

    As trivially obvious as it seems to you that “Bright” is too arrogant to do any good, it’s just as straightforward to me that “atheist” is even worse. Atheists are one of the most ostracized and despised major groups in America. In terms of social standing they really don’t have a lot to lose, so their fanatical opposition of alternatives like Bright does tend to surprise me.

    I don’t disagree very much here. I’m not fanatically opposed to “Bright”, I merely think that it is useless. To my mind, there is an inherent contradiction in the position that one word, “bright”, can be redefined so as to deprive it of the negative connotation of arrogance, but another word, “atheist”, cannot be redefined to deprive it of its negative connotation. It seems completely illogical to say “we can’t redefine ‘atheist’, so let’s adopt ‘bright’ and redefine it”. Kseniya makes this point succinctly in #789.

    Moreover, I feel you’re underestimating the value of Dan Dennett’s proposal that we contrast Brights with Supers. It’s quite plausible this could be accomplished, just as the common antonym of gay has become straight.

    I think Beowulff (#780) makes an excellent point in this regard: it’s unreasonable to expect a group to accept a label placed on them by outsiders.

    Now, you offer Dennett’s counterexample of “straight”, which is claimed to parallel the proposed use of “super” and thereby establish the viability of “super”.

    The problem is that no such parallel exists. To parallel “super”, “straight” would have to have been a word invented by gays and adopted by straights in the same way as “super” is a word proposed by atheists (or whoever) and adopted by theists (or whoever). However, the etymology of “straight” (in the sense of heterosexual) is very well-known: it arose within the heterosexual community (an instance of self-labeling) as an antonym of “bent”, a derogatory term for homosexual. I go much further than merely underestimating Dennett’s “super” proposal, I entirely reject it. Its motivation grossly misrepresents the etymology of “straight” and (in in-group/out-group terms) is staggeringly na√Įve. Far from being plausible, I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard Dennett say.

    If we combine these two (nullification of negative connotation by explanation and external label-imposition), why not just label theists “Fucktards”, then explain to them that this isn’t at all derogatory, since “Fucktard” is not the same as “fucktard”? We can explain away their gut-reaction, after all. This is, of course, a facetious reductio ad absurdum, but I think it encapsulates my problem, albeit in a ridiculous way.

    Now, you assert that I tacitly assume two things: 1) that “Bright” strikes people as conceited and 2) that it is more repulsive than attractive. You offer your personal experience in evidence. My personal experience is exactly the opposite of yours. I immediately saw the drawbacks of “Bright”; its obvious antonyms struck me as very offensive indeed. I did sign up anyway (about 4 years ago) to give it a chance, but it simply hasn’t caught on since then. In my opinion, your identification of my tacit assumptions hits the nail on the head: it quite accurately identifies two reasons why the Brights Movement was stillborn.

    TBH, I also hate their logo. It is immediately evocative of the old Japanese flag. I think it stinks, but at least it has the merits of being colour-neutral, scalable, compact, and well-resolved. In design terms, at least, it stinks slightly less than the “red A” of Dawkins’s Out Campaign, but I’m even giving that a chance too.