The atheist dilemma


There is no evidence for gods. It really is that simple. That is not proof that there are no gods, but it does imply that we ought to be cautious and limited in our interpretations of supernatural explanations — do not multiply the number and magnitude of unevidenced entities in your explanations of observed phenomena. It is genuinely easy, in an intellectual sense, to be an atheist, while believing in any gods is outrageously difficult because it requires positing an extremely complex root cause for everything with no supporting observations at all (in an emotional sense, it’s the reverse: it can be comforting to short-circuit the difficult path to knowledge by simply saying that “God (whatever the heck that is) did it.”)

But here’s the problem: how do you get that across to the majority of believers? And even more fundamentally, why should you bother? The argument is that if someone believes in UFOs or Jesus or that the Earth is flat, they aren’t hurting anyone else, and we atheists, as human beings, also all hold personal beliefs that might not be true — are atheists who like Justin Bieber wrong? — but again, if they aren’t hurting anyone else, so what? Do we have an obligation to be silently tolerant, or do we have an obligation to speak out?

I tend to favor the side that says we should publicly disagree with religious belief, but that it does need to be a responsible disagreement. You do not create a deeper understanding of how the universe works by going after the believers with a baseball bat, or by getting them fired from their jobs, or by requiring students to profess atheism in order to pass your philosophy class (which you may recognize as the absurd premise of that bad movie, God’s Not Dead).

But there are two legitimate concerns that suggest that maybe a strong response is appropriate. One example is this essay from a Christian on how moderate religious belief can suck you right down into violent fanaticism.

In my teenage years, I asked questions, of course. I had doubts. But when I reached the age at which young people feel a drive to do something significant with their lives, I still turned to the Bible for answers — because I had been primed by eighteen years of religious upbringing, moderate though it was, to do so.

I remember it clearly. Just after graduating from high school, I decided to open the Bible that my church had given me when I entered the third grade. I started with the Sermon on the Mount, and I found it intoxicating. My first thought was that the words were truly divine. And my second was that I had to follow them at all costs.

It soon occurred to me that my church, precisely because it was moderate, was failing to adhere faithfully to Christ’s teachings. What was needed, I thought, was a return to the fundamentals. And that was my first step down a potentially dangerous road. It was entirely logical — after all, if you really have a divine book on your hands, you’d be stupid not to devote yourself to it.

That’s where religious experience goes dangerously wrong. It’s not because of stupidity, quite the opposite: if you accept the base premise that the Holy Book was written by an omniscient super-being, then the danger lies in intelligent people who can derive what logically follows, and who then make a personally consistent and rational decision about what to do next. You also have to worry about the sheep who are led by the aggressive shepherd who then instructs the masses to commit atrocities.

But this is fundamentally a slippery slope argument. The majority of religious people do not take the path of terrorism, although part of the reason for that is that they’re very good about setting themselves up in insulated enclaves where they can be comfortably complacent about their beliefs. It’s when those sheltered groups face novelties that they become problems, as we’re seeing as immigration brings uniformity in conflict with diversity.

My second concern is one that bothers me more: there are people who are wrong! This leads them down a path of error that makes them wronger and wronger, and leads them to disrespect honest methods of inquiry. They’re missing out on wonderful stuff in favor of bland reassurances that they don’t really need to use their brains.

An example: I made a weak joke above about Justin Bieber. I have to confess that it is an uninformed bias — I’ve heard a song or two, but I couldn’t even name a single song by the guy, and I didn’t care for them. My personal dislike is not a sound basis for judging him, though, and it’s really a diss that can be safely made because of the opinions of all the other people in my bubble.

But if I cared more about the Bieber influence (I don’t, actually, you don’t need to write a dissertation), the opinions and evidence of musically informed people would be important. If there are good, strong, reliable reasons to claim that Bieber is derivative and untalented, a solid, detailed explanation for why a musician would think that would make me more informed about pop music, and I’d be better for it. On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong, and a musician would make a good defense for why he’s popular, what he does that is unique and interesting, and I’d be richer for that, too. Exploring dissent is a good thing that makes us stronger and better informed.

This is a subtler problem than the concern that moderate religious belief puts you on the slippery slope to terrorism. It’s that moderate religious belief is bad, lazy thinking and you should feel obligated to improve your understanding.

Which leads me to another concern, these misbegotten efforts to marry religion and science. There has been another conference at Oxford, a joint meeting of scientists & theologians, at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, an institution with a name that already makes me queasy. If that’s bad enough, the reports of the event make me positively nauseous: Scientists, theologians ponder if ‘new biology’ is more open to religion. Ugh. I am willing to try and be better informed about what people are trying to reconcile here, but everything I read looks like more lazy, sloppy misinterpretation of biology to fit religious preconceptions.

The “new biology” they’re talking about is epigenetics, gene regulation, pattern formation, and environmental influences on genes. This is old familiar stuff that is merely coming to the attention of the previously uninformed, but it’s no new than the New Atheists are novel. It also doesn’t challenge the naturalistic perspective on biology — it’s a consequence of the continued application of scientific methods, and has nothing to do with any input from religion. But a few characters see a few words that they can misinterpret to fit their biases.

To theologians who see a “new biology” emerging, this knowledge points to a more holistic system than scientists have traditionally seen, one more open to some divine inspiration for life.

In this view, the fact that epigenetic markers can bring outside pressures to bear on the genome deep inside a human means genetics is not a closed system, but part of the wider sweep of nature in which they, as religious thinkers, also see God’s hand.

Nature is so complex and rich and that prompts questions about why on earth is this the case? If you’re an atheist, how do you explain a universe that seems to have the capacity to produce these things in the first place? asked Alister McGrath, an Oxford theologian who is director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion that hosted the conference.

This, in turn, opened a space for theologians to augment the discussion about the “new biology,” he said.

This is so familiar. Biology is complex. The more we know about biology, the more complex it gets. Therefore, god.

“Holistic” is not shorthand for supernatural. Despite a tendency for some people to get overly reductionist, always a danger in science, we’ve been well aware that environment and organism are intertwined. I just got done teaching a course on exactly that, in ecological development. I did not feel the need to throw in gratuitous magic and supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.

Epigenetics seems to be the buzzword du jour, but seriously, “God’s hand” is not part of the story. Epigenetics would be dead boring if we were filling in gaps in our understanding with handwaving from an invisible entity.

Alister McGrath makes it explicit: Nature is complex, therefore he needs to bring in an incomprehensible, ill-defined magical ghost to explain it. This is a non sequitur, par for the course in theological thinking. It’s the Intelligent Design creationism rationale, to assume that complexity implies conscious intent.

So there’s another reason atheists have an obligation to address religious beliefs. I have no reason to think Alister McGrath would ever turn into a bomb-throwing terrorist for his faith — his specialty is mush-mouthed pseudo-intellectual noise making — but here he is, trying to poison a rigorous scientific discipline with bullshit. I commend the theologians for making a superficial effort to understand the science, but what I see emerging from this conference is nothing but pretense, an effort to slather some poorly interpreted science on the outside of a core of mythological mysticism.

If he’s to be free to believe whatever invalid crap he wants, the rest of us acquire the responsibility to point to the fraud.

Comments

  1. Matt G says

    Absolutely. Epigenetics is not evidence for God. But epiepigenetics will be for sure!

  2. Alverant says

    “The argument is that if someone believes in UFOs or Jesus or that the Earth is flat, they aren’t hurting anyone else”
    It’s a bad argument as what happened to Heaven’s Gate and the Jesus cultists have proven.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

    He is also rather stupid.
    I doubt that he could put together an Ikea bookcase, let alone design an irreducibly complex eye.

  4. handsomemrtoad says

    The most scientific god (actually demi-god) I’ve found so far in the literature is Loge in DAS RHEINGOLD. The demi-god of fire. He’s often described as a shifty character, and people get in trouble by taking his advice, but that’s because they only listen to the parts they like, and try to ignore the parts they don’t like.

  5. Sastra says

    I’ll mention another couple of reasons atheists ought to care, and they both come out of the same assertion: that God is the source and purpose of reality, and that seeking and experiencing God is what makes human life worth living. In other words, the most important question there can be is “Does God exist?” Answering in the affirmative involves depth, humility, faith, openness, commitment, discipline, and love.

    If people believe this is true — or want to believe it is true — then where does that place atheism, and what the hell are they all (even the liberal, loosey goosey ones) really going to think about atheists? They’ve taken a bad hypothesis, blown it up all out of proportion, failed to follow fair methods, turned it into a character test — while simultaneously denigrating nonbelief. Sooner or later, that’s just not going to go well for us on the ground.

    Meaning, in a practical sense. There will be repercussions. Therell be some sort of penalty paid for our missing true Enlightenment in favor of THE Enlightenment. It could be persecution, it could be violations of church and state, it could be refusing atheist scouts because atheists “can’t be good citizens” — or it could be “I can’t marry you” or “you can’t be good/happy/respected/welcome without God, so bye bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    I think the other reason atheists ought to debate the question is because it IS a big question. For its own sake. Instead of assuming that religious belief isn’t about seeking truth, it’s about comfort, or community, or control, or any of the other 1001 psychological reasons people may believe — flip it.

    Maybe those are distractions, there is a common ground, and we ought to have the grace to accept believers at their word: they care that what they believe is true. If it wasn’t, they’d want to change their minds. So here we are.

    (By the way, I think using a matter of taste as an example of the dangers of sloppy thinking was sloppy. If someone just happens to love listening to Justin Bieber there’s no scientific or rational argument as to why they’re wrong to enjoy it. Even picking the tired old tropes of the Loch Ness Monster or fairies would have been a better choice (btw I do know people who believe in both.))

  6. doubtthat says

    Here’s the area where I have real trouble:

    I worked at a legal clinic in Chicago that provided services to indigent clients. By far Churches and religious organizations in Chicago were the most active, dedicated service providers. There were certainly secular organizations, like my legal clinic, but even those groups were largely filled with religious people. This was in the mid 00’s, and the dynamic is far worse due to cuts in federal funding for social services as well as Illinois’ clusterfuck budget situation.

    So, I don’t know. I heard a lot of silly religious crap while I was working there, but…that seemed much less destructive than the societal mess they were combating. The religiosity certainly would slide into destructive ideas – specifically with respect to LGBT issues – but on the whole, I would cite it as a positive dynamic amidst real human suffering.

    We all have to find our balance. I wouldn’t let bigotry slide, but magical thinking – prayer to prosperity, God only gives us “what we can handle”, blah, blah – it seemed a waste of time to get into those arguments with someone spending their free time feeding and clothing the homeless.

    I’m still conflicted on those issues. I have no problem confronting the religious whackos I grew up with in Kansas, but there’s nothing noble or selfless about their bullshit. Seeing someone devoting themselves to an important cause BECAUSE of their faith – or justifying it with their faith – man, that’s tougher, even though I completely agree with PZ’s analysis.

  7. Sastra says

    @bondjamesbond #5:
    Could you please provide an example of a foundational premise of science which you consider shaky? Let us start with just one, for the sake of simplicity.

  8. ctech says

    I think this is a very good topic mainly because it illustrates an issue at the heart of the atheistic personality. The key points are

    1. why do we care what someone does as long as they are not hurting anyone?
    2. is knowledge lost due to poor inquiry? The “God did it” dilemma and “God of the Gaps” by extension

    In an attempt to control the boiling atheistic anger the key point in number one can be transcendental in controlling that emotion. Ultimately, if you can relegate all things to the Big Lebowski equivalent of “Fuck it” then it can help temper the flames. This, in turn, makes key point number two a non factor. However, the “Fuck it” exercise is an identical defense mechanism as proposed in key point number two and can be interchanged with the phrase “God did it”, but which one really leads to a decline in progression and inquiry?

    So, maybe you don’t want to just ignore the problem as the guideline in key point number one instructs. I would argue that the detriment of “God did it” and by extension “God of the Gaps” are entirely skewed perceptions with fabricated results. The end result as believed by atheist is that it stops productive inquiry. This would only be detrimental to scientific progress should a research scientist studying the biological complexities exclaim, “Oh God did it!” and then put down his steno pad, shutdown his lab, and quit or retire. To me the more appropriate phrase that would be said would be “Ahh fuck it”. Additionally, that phrase is murmured across the globe by struggling algebra students as they drop out of high school and college.

    I understand that PZ the educator, who had a excellent write up on the algebra issue, has difficulty believing there is nothing he can do to reach these people, but the simple fact is that people are separated by what they can do and what they can’t do. Different people have different talents and one of the talents they may not have is solving algebraic equations. Somewhere along the lines it seems it is no longer honorable to atheist for someone to go to church and be someone who will give you the shirt off their back, loves Jesus, donates their time and money, works 6 days a week breaking their back, raising 2 wonderful kids and putting 1 through college, but when asked, “How did the universe begin?” they say, “I dunno, God did it.” So, yes they can barely read and write but they can raise a family, contribute to their community, and be a positive influence in other people’s life. That is all that person will amount to but to quote the Bible, “it was good”. Why does there need to be more than “God did it” for some people?

    So, “Who is it that is using “God did it” that is causing all the heartache for atheist?”

    It is possible to understand biology and progress scientific inquiry and believe that God created everything. Then, there are the other people that believe God created everything who could not care any less about zebrafish than they already do.

  9. chigau (違う) says

    What the fuck is an atheistic personality?
    and this the boiling atheistic anger?

  10. hemidactylus says

    #2-Alverant

    I don’t think you can characterize UFOists in general by Heaven’s Gate. And what proportion of Jesus followers are compelled to cause physical harm? Epistemic harm maybe.

  11. Sastra says

    ctech #9 wrote:

    Ultimately, if you can relegate all things to the Big Lebowski equivalent of “Fuck it” then it can help temper the flames.

    Person A: The most important question facing humanity is whether or not God exists. The consequences of answering this are enormous. It will get to the heart of purpose, it will change how we live. It will change our lives. Is there a God? Answer that.

    Person B: I’ve put a lot of thought into this and concluded “no.” Now I’ll explain why, and try to persuade you it’s correct.

    Person A: Why do you care what other people believe??? Mere belief isn’t hurting you! Someone believes in God. So what? You’re so angry. You need to chill. Why don’t you just say “fuck it if there’s a God or not” and go deal with some real problems??
    ———

    Uh huh. How convenient. Dude.

  12. mamba says

    I am concerned over how casually they call for death and suffering to those they don’t like.

    Not jihad-level destruction, but honestly, don’t you get a chill when smiling christians take part in a parade denouncing the lifestyles of gays and trans? Not just denouncing, but calling for God to strike them down dead or “convert them” to proper humans. (ugh) Saw the parades, watch closely, they are not TRUE believers, they probably break bible tenants all the time, but the belief makes them very comfortable calling for the deaths of millions of humans that are just a little different then them.

    The ones that ARE true believers shoot and stab and blow them up outright.

    Faith and belief is used as an excuse for so many evils it’s not even funny…and that’s from the CASUAL believer. You hear it all the time, “Oh you have to have Jesus in your life, or you’re domed to a eternity of suffering and misery. (smiles throughout)”. That’s not a happy thought, you idiot, why so joyful over it? Or everything they do that’s bad isn’t their fault…oh no, it’s all Satan’s doing! God will save them from those thoughts! Apparently “they” have no autonomy at all.

    How convenient. What I will never understand personally is female believers. Their own book makes it very clear what God thinks of women, yet they chose to follow anyway, knowing that God looks down on them so badly? Never will understand it…

  13. says

    ‘”Nature is complex”, therefore he needs to bring in….[godly beings]’
    This has always seemed to be rather arsey-versy to me.
    Surely an intelligent designer would devise elegant solutions that were totally fit for purpose, and as simple as possible: and that’s definitely what we don’t see. For example knees would not be (as a surgeon once joked with me before working on my ACL) specially designed for lying down quietly in a darkened room.

  14. Siobhan says

    In this view, the fact that epigenetic markers can bring outside pressures to bear on the genome deep inside a human means genetics is not a closed system, but part of the wider sweep of nature in which they, as religious thinkers, also see God’s hand.

    Well, when all you have is a hammer…

  15. says

    Ideas one holds for goddy reasons, eventually (if you’re being honest) have to be defended based on those goddy ideas. We don’t have to attack the broader concept of god – because goddists’ conceptions of gods are fractally complex and fairly well-protected from attack – we just put the burden of their own reasoning on them. It’s an old pyrhhonian strategy: if they appear now to be in a hole, give them what appears to be a shovel.

  16. Scientismist says

    Neither the “slippery slope,” nor the “lazy thinking,” nor the “poisoning of rigorous science” really captures my main concern about the problem of public piety. While people perhaps should be allowed their fantasies, if it does no harm, the reality is that it does do great harm when it is used to justify or excuse authoritarian political action and repression. All these “Family Values” rallies are not furry conventions.

    Civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights; indeed the very right of some human beings to even exist, all have been and still are judged in a public court where the interpretations of ancient texts purporting to reveal the desires of an invisible entity are given tacit precedence over material evidence of human suffering, and where scientific evidence of real-world problems that require human action is pushed aside in favor of the pious hope of divine providence.

    I have an acquaintance who, after many years, is beginning to think that gay people should be allowed to marry, form families of their own, and to share in the same legal protections to their families as others do. Why is that? The harm of prejudice has always been clear since the days when gays were jailed or hanged; what has changed is that he has become more aware of how people who he personally knows have been affected by that harm, and this has pushed him to re-interpret some passages in his ancient book — but that one book, not reason, is still supreme.

    When people do good things, helpful things, humane things, for the wrong reasons, for religious reasons, their positive attitude is fragile and weak. As a gay person and a scientist, I have long felt as though it is only a matter of time and circumstances until science and reason themselves are the subject of an auto-da-fe (and it feels like that is getting ever closer). And, while tied to the stake, you can be sure that they will still be asked to supply the match.

    What do do about it? Resistance is imperative, if one cares at all for reason as part of human existence. But you can’t force people to be reasonable (or always be completely sure you are being reasonable yourself). But we have a few guidelines, and some of them have made their way into the Constitution of the United States. So what I do is support the ACLU, FFRF, and the AHA in their efforts to remind people that those guidelines do still exist — they may not be able to stop a general conflagration, but they do stand by with a fire extinguisher. And I try to remain sane while listening to my religious acquaintances musing over the question of whether Donald Trump is a True Christian.

  17. Saad says

    ctech, #9

    It is possible to understand biology and progress scientific inquiry and believe that God created everything.

    No, because believing “God created everything” is incompatible with scientific inquiry into the history/origin of everything.

  18. weylguy says

    “…but again, if they aren’t hurting anyone else, so what?”

    Well, for one thing they VOTE. Fully 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and in my mind that means the Christians put Trump in the White House. This, to me, this is definitive proof that God does not exist.

  19. thirdmill says

    Actually, welguy, No. 19, I would say Trump’s election is more likely proof that God does exist and is getting ready to punish America for its many sins, and I’m only half joking. In fact, if I believed the Bible, Trump would scare me to death because the Bible is full of divine wrath for those who oppress the poor and powerless, mistreat immigrants, and acquire wealth through fraud and exploitation. You won’t hear any sermons about those passages in most evangelical churches, but they’re there.

    I grew up religious, and I see it as a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a huge resource waster, and I wish I could have back all that time I spent studying the Bible in my youth. On the other hand, as doubtthat, No. 7, pointed out, there are people who are good people specifically because they are following their religious faith. While I decry Catholic nuns for opposing insurance coverage for birth control, it is also true that those nuns do a lot of good work in terms of feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and standing up for the dispossessed. And it’s possible to believe, as I do, that no religion is true but that religious belief has a positive cohesive benefit that helped unify people at a time in our evolutionary development when it was beneficial to survive, which is probably why religion itself has survived.

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Even if extant religions did not support rampant bigotry and violent authoritarianism, their prioritizing of “faith” (strongly emotional commitment to/identification with factually-unsupported/contradicted ideas) works directly against both science as a whole and human survival and happiness on individual and collective levels.

    Credulity = bad epistemology.

  21. ctech says

    @Saad #18 – Well, it is a wonder science has progressed as far as it has, you know, with all the scientific minds such as Kepler, Newton, or Lavoisier who all shared this incompatibility.

  22. Sastra says

    Marcus Ranum #16 wrote:

    Ideas one holds for goddy reasons, eventually (if you’re being honest) have to be defended based on those goddy ideas. We don’t have to attack the broader concept of god – because goddists’ conceptions of gods are fractally complex and fairly well-protected from attack – we just put the burden of their own reasoning on them.

    I’m not clear on what you mean by ‘putting the burden of goddy reasoning’ on someone without attacking the broader concept of God. Argue against faith as a way of knowing, or against their specific religion or interpretation of it — or what?

  23. Saad says

    ctech, #22

    Well, of course it’s possible to do it while either thinking uncritically about the whole thing or being dishonest with yourself about it.

    Doing scientific inquiry about something while believing a god did it isn’t as good as doing scientific inquiry while not believing a god did it all. Sure you can still discover photosynthesis while believing in Allah, but in the end, you’re still saying the ultimate creator of plants is a sky father.

  24. says

    Extremely minor point but listening to a couple of songs by an artist is more than enough to soundly establish that you don’t care for them. (Unless there’s any reason to suspect that the songs you listened too were unrepresentative) I have heard 3 songs by Bieber over the course of life, sadly, and I conclusively say that no I don’t really care for his musical output. There’s nothing anyone can say to demonstrate that claim is wrong.

    It’s a bad analog for the main point of the post.

  25. ctech says

    @Saad #24: “Doing scientific inquiry about something while believing a god did it isn’t as good as doing scientific inquiry while not believing a god did it all.”…. Why? Then, in the very next sentence you concede your position.

  26. says

    Supernatural beliefs and religion cause a variety of ills, from the dangerous to the outrageous to the merely annoying.

    Sometimes it’s possible to argue that the “merely annoying” aspects of religion are more than merely annoying, and somehow connect to the most harmful aspects of religion. But we shouldn’t have to make that argument. Maybe fuzzy thinking is just fuzzy thinking. It does not have to be the root of all evil in order to be worthy of critique.

  27. consciousness razor says

    Sastra, #6:

    By the way, I think using a matter of taste as an example of the dangers of sloppy thinking was sloppy.

    Well, what in the world is a “matter of taste”? If you’re serious about it, it’s not so easy to give an appropriate answer to that question. It’s an awfully sloppy phrase, and some people have this weird tendency to use it as if it could settle all kinds of arguments, merely by appearing somewhere in a sentence. That’s some fancy stuff. It works almost like “God says so” in some contexts: thinking just has to stop, then and there. I’m assuming you’d want to be more careful about it than that.

    Something else to consider: I doubt many artists (critics, philosophers of art, etc.) have much use for this sort of phrase. That is, the people who actually make it and/or think hard about it aren’t generally the ones (in my experience) who are content with such concepts. They use many others which are more precise, less sloppy, more evidence-based, etc., to get a better understanding of what they’re doing and how it all works. Things don’t need to get very technical or anything for these purposes, but re-framing the issue in that way will hopefully dispense with some of the problems you have right now.

    If someone just happens to love listening to Justin Bieber there’s no scientific or rational argument as to why they’re wrong to enjoy it.

    That’s certainly true. Nobody is wrong (in any sense) to have the feelings they do or to respond to stimuli in the way that they do. That’s just how people are, and that isn’t wrong. Also, of course, if what some girls/boys really enjoy is how he looks or dances or his celebrity persona, that’s not my department. I’ll let somebody else worry about that.

    Still, you can make perfectly rational music theoretic arguments that other types of music (i.e., with different features) are typically more enjoyable for people. These “features” that any sort of music has are what people enjoy about it (to the extent, as I said above, they are enjoying it and not something else like his appearance), and you can certainly come to understand how different bits of music have different effects of that sort on us. (I think you know better than to complain at this point that it isn’t “science,” so I’ll just leave that alone for now.)

    If they listened to nothing but Bieber, his fans would be missing out on a huge variety of very well-crafted (and culturally significant) works, which are enjoyable at a somewhat deeper level and not just a superficial one. It wouldn’t do you any good to close yourself off from the rich and fulfilling musical life that offers, for a mature and engaged listener. This is where I think PZ was coming from with the analogy, as he indicates here:

    This leads them down a path of error that makes them wronger and wronger, and leads them to disrespect honest methods of inquiry. They’re missing out on wonderful stuff in favor of bland reassurances that they don’t really need to use their brains.

    I mean, sure, you shouldn’t try to take too much out of the analogy (as always), but to me it seems like it gets the point across fairly well. I’ll happily admit that there aren’t any very grave “dangers” in having a relatively impoverished musical life or in not becoming very well musically educated. We’re not curing cancer here. But I think most people (theists and atheists) do see the value in it clearly enough, however that may compare to the (epistemic, physical, etc.) dangers that come with religion and dogmatism. In contrast, there is something of a paradox in appealing to the value of science itself, to religious believers who categorically reject it or may be interested in trying to undermine it. So, perhaps reaching for some other sort of thing, which nearly all theists do value (like art, music, etc.), would help them grasp the point in a different way.

  28. cvoinescu says

    Several people have mentioned the good deeds of the religious, especially in helping to fix some of the social wrongs — a carefully selected subset of wrongs, as some have indeed pointed out. I can’t help but wonder what proportion of even those selected wrongs are attributable to religion, present or historic. At least in part and indirectly, I suspect most of them.

    And I can’t help wonder how much better off would we would all be if people spent at least some of those countless person-hours being productive, or usefully thoughtful, instead of “harmlessly” wasting that time and cognitive ability on non-existent entities.

  29. says

    @consciousness razor

    A matter of taste is a category of things in which a person’s subjective response is definitive in support of the claims of liking, enjoying etc. Food, arts and sex come to mind as the obvious examples.

    While it is true that one can look for features in form, structure etc. among various works to indicate that people ought to have a positive response to any particular work ultimately you can not say everyone ought to enjoy X work. Nor is it necessary for anyone to engage with critical theory (or other modes looking at common features) to make or engage with the arts.

    Also, if you want to take the route of common features leading to predictable reactions it’s wrong to claim enjoyment of certain works. I would be very hesitant to continue a conversation with someone who claimed to enjoy Schindler’s List or Guernica.

    Finally, there’s no such thing as a universally liked/disliked stimuli. For you see masochists enjoy pain.

  30. mnb0 says

    “Do we have an obligation to be silently tolerant, or do we have an obligation to speak out?”
    Neither. I speak out when I see fit. That’s actually pretty rare; most acquaintances know I’m an atheist, but it’s not an issue.

  31. says

    Sastra@#23:
    I’m not clear on what you mean by ‘putting the burden of goddy reasoning’ on someone without attacking the broader concept of God. Argue against faith as a way of knowing, or against their specific religion or interpretation of it — or what?

    Sorry, if I wasn’t clear. I tend to overcompress when I’m making a comment using my phone instead of a laptop with a keyboard.

    What I mean is that when a goddist says something like: “god guides evolution” we interrogate their specific theory of divinely-guided evolution, rather than saying, “how do you know god exists?” – their theory of divinely-guided evolution is, ultimately, going to have to depend on some goddy stuff, and that will require them to invoke all their goddy beliefs, but they will be specifically tied to the topic under discussion so it won’t give them wiggle-room. Sure, they’ll try to take wiggle-room but that’s when you explain to them that that’s not how theories work: there’s no infinite wiggle-room in a good theory. In other words, when they say “goddidit” we ask, “how?” not “why are you sure there’s a god?”

    So, in my example of divinely-guided evolution, the first question I’d ask is “how is that different from regular old evolution? because, surely, you’d have to be able to distinguish divinely guided evolution from regular old evolution, or you wouldn’t believe in it. What’s the difference, so that we can go apply your theory and see?”

  32. says

    (The preceeding was not an entirely made-up example. I have encountered goddists who say they believe in evolution, but just that it’s divinely guided in the case of humans and not in the case of bacteria. So, you ask, “how can you tell?” and pretty quickly they are running in circles around their own beliefs.)

  33. Owlmirror says

    @Marcus Ranum, #33:

    I have encountered goddists who say they believe in evolution, but just that it’s divinely guided in the case of humans and not in the case of bacteria. So, you ask, “how can you tell?” and pretty quickly they are running in circles around their own beliefs.

    I think Ken Miller’s response would be something like “You can’t tell! And that’s what’s so great about it! God wants us to have the free will to choose to believe it!”

    Which has its own problems.

  34. Saad says

    @Saad #24: “Doing scientific inquiry about something while believing a god did it isn’t as good as doing scientific inquiry while not believing a god did it all.”…. Why? Then, in the very next sentence you concede your position.

    Because… you’re being selectively scientific?

    I’m not sure how much simpler I can make it. But sure. Have it your way. There’s nothing wrong with saying giant pink kangaroos created Jupiter as long as you get its gaseous composition right.

  35. Sastra says

    consciousness razor #28 wrote:

    I mean, sure, you shouldn’t try to take too much out of the analogy (as always), but to me it seems like it gets the point across fairly well. I’ll happily admit that there aren’t any very grave “dangers” in having a relatively impoverished musical life or in not becoming very well musically educated.

    I’ll happily admit that an impoverished or uneducated appreciation of music is ‘wrong’ in that it’s not as enriching or rewarding as otherwise, but I’m not sure that finding a reasonable interpretation of the analogy overcomes its scientistic implication, particularly when it’s contrasted with the wrongness of religion. It sounds like a reverse version of “believing that there’s a God is like believing you love your child.” ” Oh yeah? Well, believing there is a God is like liking Justin Bieber music!” It seems like a category error.

    As for trying to use bad art as an analogy to religion in order to persuade the explicitly anti-science wing of the religious, I think this would only push them further down the “science is just people’s opinions” and ” believing in God is like appreciating GOOD music” path.

  36. consciousness razor says

    Mike Smith:

    I’m not seeing anything that addresses what I actually said and/or tells me something I didn’t already know.

    A matter of taste is a category of things in which a person’s subjective response is definitive in support of the claims of liking, enjoying etc. Food, arts and sex come to mind as the obvious examples.

    What do you mean by “definitive in support of the claims of liking, enjoying etc.”? Some food has tasted bland to me, and sometimes I’m rather indifferent about the things I’m experiencing (even when they are artistic in nature). Are those definitive responses in support of claims? I would describe that kind of situation as failing to have a definitive response.

    If I said to you “the sunset looks nice today,” isn’t that sunset then a part of this category of things? Or if I said “that’s a pretty equation,” what do you make of that? Or I could just say “there’s an equation, there’s a sunset, there’s a whatever” — does it have any effect on which categories those things are in? And is there anything which couldn’t be in the category you’re talking about? Is it a distinct class of objects/events/etc. which differs from others in some way, or is it not like that?

    In any case, there are much more interesting issues to worry about than “do I like it or not?” They have no clear relationship with a person’s overall evaluation of an entire work (or culinary dish, etc.), so the whole discussion is already getting off on the wrong foot. I couldn’t give less of a shit about answering questions such as “should you like this?” The fact is that if we have two people, one may like it and another won’t. If we’re interested in their liking or not liking it (which certainly isn’t the only interest), there are tons of questions about how exactly that works — not how it should work or which person is right/wrong, but how it does. You can do absurdly detailed analyses, construct elaborate theoretical frameworks, do experiments, etc., to get a handle on things like that. That’s what some people do. And a bit of handwaving about “subjective responses” doesn’t get us anywhere close to that.

    I would be very hesitant to continue a conversation with someone who claimed to enjoy Schindler’s List or Guernica.

    Maybe we should stop our conversation here. If you want to tell me why I shouldn’t have enjoyed them, then it looks like the tables have turned (but only apparently), since you are the one claiming there are ways that I (or all people) should/shouldn’t respond to them. Or you could be saying that I’m mistaken and have confused “enjoyment” with some other type of psychological state which I was actually in. Is this supposed to be an a priori argument, and what are the premises? Or do you need evidence of some sort that I’m mistaken in that way?

  37. anbheal says

    @36 Sastra — the parallel is shaky, but I see it closer to being a path toward enlightenment. My 13-year-old daughter ADORES Justin Bieber. I find him inoffensive, and she even has me liking a bit of Taylor Swift. But at that age I was attending weekly CCD classes, I was confirmed on St. Padraig’s day of 1976, I wore a St. Christopher medallion in all of my races, and I thought Abba was awesome. And 15 years later I had left the Church and listened to no Abba except Dancing Queen at bars. My daughter will grow out of her Justin Bieber phase. Will she grow out of her Episcopalian phase? Hard to say…I stayed on a boat in Stockholm harbor last month, with the Abba Museum at the base of the pier…..and yes of course we had to visit it! And when I stub my toe I say Christ On A Stick! So perhaps I haven’t become enlightened at all. Maybe I’m just takin’ the piss outta epistemology.

  38. zibble says

    @7 doubtthat

    The religiosity certainly would slide into destructive ideas – specifically with respect to LGBT issues – but on the whole, I would cite it as a positive dynamic amidst real human suffering.

    Just keep in mind that, for you, attacks on LGBT issues might be something you can choose to ignore for the sake of that positive dynamic. LGBT people themselves don’t get to make that choice. Getting fed at a soup kitchen doesn’t really make up for getting thrown out by your family because of those destructive Christian ideas, and that’s assuming the Christians will deign to extend their charity to queers at all.

    It’s true that churches do a lot of charity work. But they also accomplish far less than the kind of socialist programs that the majority of Christians vote against. The RCC could devote all of its resources to charity and it still wouldn’t make up for the damage they’ve caused lying about condoms. And I find it hard to forgive any church, whatever its nice intentions, for the two thousand years of blood and fire that were necessary for its current existence across the planet.

  39. consciousness razor says

    Sastra:

    As for trying to use bad art as an analogy to religion in order to persuade the explicitly anti-science wing of the religious, I think this would only push them further down the “science is just people’s opinions” and ” believing in God is like appreciating GOOD music” path.

    Alright, maybe you don’t really want to go there. It’s not in your wheelhouse. That’s fine, I understand.

    Your response could be to concede that the arts are in fact “just people’s opinions,” simply agreeing with them (and not me) about that. That’s a logical possibility. I don’t think you need to do that, and you’ll get no help from me or my ilk in defending that type of view.

    Either way, it looks like you’ve got an argument, with those theists or else with people like me. I wouldn’t bother you about it, at least as long as you’re not presenting your view as the only one that’s coherent or rational or whatever. If you think it should be the sort of established or official line that we ought to take, then you do have to put together some sort of argument that they’re not anything more than “just people’s opinions,” instead of simply asserting it like theists are apt to do. You should know I’m not going to help with that, and some bumbling godbots almost certainly won’t do anything useful, so somebody better do something to defend it if it’s considered necessary.

  40. doubtthat says

    @zibble

    I most certainly didn’t ignore it, and I think I said so in that post. That was where I drew the line, but when I would push back, I didn’t try to undermine the entire religion, just the specific bigotry.

    No argument that there are better ways to deliver social services but:
    1) Those aren’t options now.
    2) A large number of the people working in the actual government programs (or private, not explicitly religious charities, like the clinic I worked for) are personally religious.

    So, while I agree that this is a non-ideal situation and religion is neither a necessary or sufficient element of delivering services, it’s hard to determine when to engage on broader philosophical questions when confronted with what I found to be much more pressing concerns.

    And if you’re condemning organizations for past crimes, consider the origins of federal funding. The US Government has quite a list of humanitarian abuses of its own.

    People may differ, but for me, the goal of helping people was more important than undermining their religion, and the issues were significant enough that the ill-effect of moderate religion described by PZ seemed much less important.

  41. anchor says

    That ‘slippery slope’ gets potentially much more slippery at that age when it is exacerbated by the onset of schizophrenia and related spectrum disorders. I’ve seen many a bright kid go down in religious flames, totally incapable of clawing their way back to logical reasoning. They are so commonly entwined it seems religion may be a cultural biomarker OF schizophrenia in a population.

  42. says

    @consciousness razor

    When I say a subjective response is definitive to support a claim I mean simply that the person’s response is enough to say a claim is true for that category. If you say “the sunset looks nice today” that statement is definitively true as “looks nice” is not objective; it only lies in your response. As such you faithfully reported response is all that is needed to say the claim is true. This feature holds with any thing that is a matter of taste. You saying “food x taste bland” is exhaustive for the claim that you find food x bland. There is noway but for that to be true.

    This is, of course, is in opposition to claims which are not a matter of taste such as oh the size of the pacific ocean. The pacific ocean is the size that it is regardless of how anyone perceive observes it. If I claimed that pacific ocean seems small to me that is not definitive that the pacific ocean is, in fact, small. (through of course it is definitive that I perceive it as small).

    Now there very well might be explanations (which don’t work anyway because I think the question is unanswerable) for why people respond to stimuli the way they do in from any number perspectives of psychology, chemistry, critical/cultural theory etc. But none of that changes the brute fact that some things are true by virtue of being a person’s taste.

    I don’t think you got my point about a person claiming that they enjoyed Schindler’s list. If you are inclined, as I am to believe we are fundamentally alone in our responses and communication on these things is basically impossible, there is nothing wrong with reporting that you enjoyed Schindler’s List as that report just amounts to an irrational YEAH!. But you don’t seem inclined to think that, instead you seem inclined to think there are features of both people and works that can explain why people respond the way they do. Under such a perspective it is wrong in a very basic sense to say that you enjoyed Schindler’s List.

    Let me explain, it is a movie about the holocaust and how an amoral war profiteer grew a conscience to save people. There are aspects of it that can excite feelings like joy (so many people got saved, life affirming) but on the whole its subject matter is one of the darkest and disturbing chapters in history. The film doesn’t flinch from demonstrating the horrors of genocide.

    As such if a person tells me they enjoyed Schindler’s List I’m forced to assume they are either complete confused by what enjoys means or are moral depravity enough to find the death of millions joy inducing.

  43. Rich Woods says

    @Mike Smith #43:

    As such if a person tells me they enjoyed Schindler’s List I’m forced to assume they are either complete confused by what enjoys means or are moral depravity enough to find the death of millions joy inducing.

    Or that they place a different weighting on the life-affirming aspects of the film than you do. Can you tell us why are you judging others in terms of your personal absolutes?

    For what it’s worth, I consider Schindler’s List an enjoyable film, regardless of the utter horrors it so frequently depicts. It’s enjoyable because it teaches and because it evokes empathy, and those are my lasting memories of it. To me, the most moving scene, and the one which summarises the film, is the closing one where the survivors place stones on Schindler’s grave in remembrance and recognition. That is very powerful.

  44. says

    The gods may be our creators, but like all parents, they DO expect us to grow up and become independent. Humanity, I believe, is somewhere in its adolescence — still somewhat dependent, but itching for full freedom from parental influence. (Mind, this is somewhat metaphorical, but the principle is still solid.)

    Thus, “A Wizard Did It” cannot be an acceptable answer — we are meant to be exploring, discovering, and learning from and about our universe on our own. We’re also meant to be responsible about it, and clean up after ourselves. You know, how grown ups do.

  45. consciousness razor says

    Mike Smith:

    Now there very well might be explanations (which don’t work anyway because I think the question is unanswerable) for why people respond to stimuli the way they do in from any number perspectives of psychology, chemistry, critical/cultural theory etc. But none of that changes the brute fact that some things are true by virtue of being a person’s taste.

    It’s still not clear what’s supposed to be included and what isn’t, if that’s a well-defined category, and how such things are decided. No matter. It sounds like you ought to think it’s inappropriate (or nonsensical) to make blanket statements about disciplines like art, music, food, etc., such as “art is a matter of taste” or “art is not a matter of taste.” If they don’t consist entirely of brute facts about my own subjective experiences, then it wouldn’t be correct that they’re “matters of taste” according to the criteria you’ve given.

    Instead, you’d be saying some pieces of that picture can be filled in with those brute facts, not that the whole thing is somehow one big brute fact that presumably contains many lesser ones. I guess you could try to argue that one drop of subjectivity somehow taints the whole thing with its presence, but that would be pretty wacky. It seems more reasonable to think that there isn’t any need to stick with that one (personal, private) level of description when talking about complicated things like this, since in fact they don’t pertain only to that kind of stuff.

    Let me explain, it is a movie about the holocaust and how an amoral war profiteer grew a conscience to save people. There are aspects of it that can excite feelings like joy (so many people got saved, life affirming) but on the whole its subject matter is one of the darkest and disturbing chapters in history. The film doesn’t flinch from demonstrating the horrors of genocide.

    I’m with Rich Woods. I like the way it (the movie, which is what we’re talking about) represented that. That certainly doesn’t involve having a depraved outlook on the subject matter itself. If it had been some kind of a farce, a swashbuckling action/adventure, a romantic comedy, a sci-fi epic, or nearly anything other than the sort of cathartic tragedy Schindler’s List is, none of those movies would’ve done remotely same things for me. That kind of shit would’ve been awful, and I would not have appreciated it. Of course, Spielberg and co., who made the damned thing, wouldn’t have done that. And what they did instead was neither confused nor depraved.

    So whatever you want to call that, it doesn’t sound like something which is true merely due to peculiar facts about what goes on inside my own head. Sounds like there’s a little more to it than that, if you’re really going to explain how all of this happens (assuming it’s not just a big coincidence or a conspiracy or some silly thing like that).

  46. says

    The danger of theistic religions is they short circuit the natural hypothesis driven learning process children are born with based on sensory input of their environment: things roll downhill; everything falls to the ground, whether thrown up or down. Religion ingrains the existence of invisible gods; believing does not require seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling or hearing. Religious followers are much more susceptible to irrational thinking and arguments; this would be fine if their actions only affected themselves. But analogous to herd immunity, some outcomes of irrational reasoning have far reaching consequences (voting for one).

  47. zibble says

    @41 doubtthat

    I didn’t try to undermine the entire religion, just the specific bigotry.

    That’s my point – I’m sure you agree the history of Christian homophobia is awful, but, in your eyes, it doesn’t delegitimize the whole religion. You’re free to see it that way, but that’s a position of privilege.

    And if you’re condemning organizations for past crimes, consider the origins of federal funding.

    Don’t you think that’s a fundamentally disingenuous comparison? Government is simply an essential institution, religion is not. Government itself is not an ideology of self-professed moral authority, based on faith in a set of teachings that include homophobia, sexism, and genocide.

    America was forged with genocide, and founded on sexism and white supremacy, certainly. And I, I’m sure you, and plenty of others think the country as a whole has not done nearly enough to acknowledge and make amends for those crimes. But our system of government is not based on the assumed superior wisdom of people and books that say horrible, idiotic things. Explicit racism was written into the US Constitution, but it was also amended out. Who, besides probably-atheist Thomas Jefferson, has suggested amending the Bible?

  48. Sonja says

    A Jehovah’s Witness knocked on my door last Saturday morning, and because I was just waking up, I was pleasant, but honest. We talked for a couple minutes, I made it clear I didn’t believe because of lack of evidence and lack of confidence that any preachers pushing this information could possible know what they claim to know.

    But after he left, I wish I had gone a different route. He and his child (with him) were African-Americans. Jehovah’s Witnesses target African-Americans AND remove them from the electorate (they don’t believe in voting). I wondered if this man knew the horrific racist history of that organization which used to teach that blacks were evil and had to first become white to be saved.

    He said he might knock on my door again sometime. I hope he does.

  49. KG says

    is knowledge lost due to poor inquiry? The “God did it” dilemma and “God of the Gaps” by extension – ctech@9

    It is absolutely no coincidence that it is in the USA, by far the most religious rich country, that the denial of anthropogenic climate change – by far the most important issue of our time, firmly based in science – has triumphed in the national political arena. Because it’s Christian bigots and fuckwits who elected a President and Congress who support this denial. Many denialist base their denial specifically on religious premises.

  50. doubtthat says

    @zibble

    That’s my point – I’m sure you agree the history of Christian homophobia is awful, but, in your eyes, it doesn’t delegitimize the whole religion. You’re free to see it that way, but that’s a position of privilege.

    Perhaps I did not express myself well – I see no “legitimacy” to Christianity or any other religion because it’s a religion. There are good ideas and bad ideas, like every other human endeavor. Homophobia is one of the really, really bad ideas.

    The issue is not one of the legitimacy of the religion, it’s about the practical efficacy and humanity of evangelizing as an atheist at every opportunity. When working with, say, a single mother with a couple of kids about to be evicted from their apartment and cast out on the streets, it doesn’t strike me as particularly useful to explain to them that they bear the burden of proving the existence of their god and that their prayers for help were not, in fact, answered by a divine entity when I filed a response to the eviction.

    Neither does it seem helpful to lecture their caseworker or social worker, often a person using religious language to console the desperate mother.

    Government is simply an essential institution, religion is not. Government itself is not an ideology of self-professed moral authority, based on faith in a set of teachings that include homophobia, sexism, and genocide.

    No, I think it’s a perfectly apt comparison. In fact, the era you point to when condemning religions is the time in which the Church operated most like a government.

    Both are human institutions created by humans then referred to by other humans for guidance. Our government codified a wide range of humanitarian abuses including genocide of the Native population (via treaties and acts) and, of course, slavery. The Catholic Church still exists and provides charity on the Southside of Chicago despite a long history of atrocities. So does the American government.

    The mistake lies in thinking either institution or the members that make it up are a monolith. As I said, the difficulty for an atheist like myself who has spent a lot of time working to deliver social services to disadvantaged people is that you will find a whole lot of good work being done by religious people and religious organizations. There was a time when I thought the ills of religion, itself, were greater than any good provided, but now I’m not so sure. I would, a thousand times out of a thousand, rather spend my time with, politically agitate with, and organize a society with the religious people I encountered working in that setting than the legion of dick-head, glibertarian atheists we’ve been inundated with these last few years (Harris, Thunderf00t types).

    But our system of government is not based on the assumed superior wisdom of people and books that say horrible, idiotic things. Explicit racism was written into the US Constitution, but it was also amended out. Who, besides probably-atheist Thomas Jefferson, has suggested amending the Bible?

    Come on, are you joking?

    1) Even were that true, it would not eliminate the significant ways in which governments and organized religions are similar, especially when you refer to the time in which Churches acted most like governments. But just because you can find a way in which they are not the same does not undermine the characteristics on which the analogy was built.

    2) The Bible – and the Qu’ran, and every other goofy ass religious book – has been rewritten, retranslated, reinterpreted a million damn times. The Catholic Church, to take one example, has undergone hundreds of major doctrinal revisions over its history. Hell, the whacko Cathlics – Mel Gibson, Sam Brownback – think that the changes under John Paul II were illegitimate and never applied the patch to their ideology.

  51. ctech says

    @KG 50: I discussed the angered atheist some in my first comment. You have linked religious premises with climate denial and while that may seem like the case it is hardly the root cause and you are just making yourself mad about nothing. You should look at the whole picture and understand there are bigger reasons for those individual who are denying climate change. I would guess that it is not religion at the heart but money. I think it is possible that you are just relating the current administration with evangelicals and then assuming all the policies match across the board.

    On another note, here is an excerpt from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops at usccb.org and the position they were taking even in 2001.

    “The dialogue and our response to the challenge of climate change must be rooted in the virtue of prudence. While some uncertainty remains, most experts agree that something significant is happening to the atmosphere. Human behavior and activity are, according to the most recent findings of the international scientific bodies charged with assessing climate change, contributing to a warming of the earth’s climate. Although debate continues about the extent and impact of this warming, it could be quite serious (see the sidebar “The Science of Global Climate Change”). Consequently, it seems prudent not only to continue to research and monitor this phenomenon, but to take steps now to mitigate possible negative effects in the future.”

  52. Saad says

    On another note, here is an excerpt from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops at usccb.org and the position they were taking even in 2001.

    “The dialogue and our response to the challenge of climate change must be rooted in the virtue of prudence. While some uncertainty remains, most experts agree that something significant is happening to the atmosphere. Human behavior and activity are, according to the most recent findings of the international scientific bodies charged with assessing climate change, contributing to a warming of the earth’s climate. Although debate continues about the extent and impact of this warming, it could be quite serious (see the sidebar “The Science of Global Climate Change”). Consequently, it seems prudent not only to continue to research and monitor this phenomenon, but to take steps now to mitigate possible negative effects in the future.”

    Haha, this is my favorite thing about religion: they sound doubly absurd when they’re defanged yet still try to impress upon the world that they’re relevant.

    Note how they’re talking about an over 90% scientific consensus as if (a) they’re somehow involved in it and should have a say in it, and (b) still attempting to slightly undermine it using things like “while some uncertainty remains” and “although debate continues…” and “it could be quite serious”. They just can’t let go of their Galileo era arrogance and desire to hinder science and dominate the world.

  53. ctech says

    @Saad 53 : Well, the excerpt was a position in 2001 and most science is not 100% even if 90% scientist believe it. Majority does not dictate correctness even though that is a lifeline you can use to help get the right answer. Also, to note that the whole article demonstrates the error of your (a) option as they spell out how little they are involved. As for (b), somehow you have a problem with uncertainty especially from people who are not experts in the related field. In the article they point out they are clergymen and not scientist which should refute your (a) stance and give you an understanding for their “uncertainty” in (b)… (hint: it is because they are not scientist). I don’t know how you can get what you want anymore from the church and with theme being prudence and to take steps now to mitigate the effects. It is Saad. Also, why is there so much misplaced and mismanaged anger in the atheist community? It is funny because most seem to tout a liberal almost hippie-like ideology.

  54. says

    @Rich Hill and consciousness razor

    You are both using “enjoyed” interchangeable with “I had a positive reaction to X.” I am not. I am using “enjoy” to mean, as it does mean, as “X produces feelings of delight or pleasure.” I am not saying that finding Schindler’s List to be a good film, a valuable film, one that invokes emotionally satisfying feelings is wrong, if one grants the arts are more than a matter of taste. I’m saying that responding to Schindler’s as one would respond to going to a circus, or seeing a light hearted Rom Com or going to a baseball game is wrong. So all I’m seeing is the first half of my disjunctive being true that you are using enjoyed wrong. (Side point: The last scene in the film is nothing but a filmed ceremony for the dead, something like a funeral or wake. Rich Hill imply they enjoyed that is very, very creepy.)

    Let me put this in the starkest contrast I can think of at the moment. How would you react to someone, who sincerely respond to the question “What do you think Schindler’s List?” with “Oh I love that movie. one of the best comedies of the 90’s. a laugh a minute!” (The person is not confused on it being the Spielberg film)

    Assuming that the arts are more than a matter of taste, I can’t help but see such a response as off somehow. There very well be innocuous explanation for why the person reacted that way the first time they saw the film (they were very very tired for example) but ultimately if the arts are something more than a matter of taste such a reaction is improper. In the same sort of way someone claiming the pacific ocean is a very small body of water, by earth standards, is improper.

    I’m bringing this up because consciousness razor seemed reluctant to grant this possibility even through their position is entails rather obviously. I’m saying you are on a horn of dilemma. Either you have to grant people can react to certain things or a matter of taste is a category (even if the edges are fuzzy)

    My actually position is the arts are only a matter of taste and all the things (psychology, chemistry, critical/culture theory etc.) that people use to explain why people react the way they do boil down to unknowable nonsense. We just react. There’s no universal why for it. Again, we can’t even really define basic stimuli as universal. I’ve never seen a definition of pain that masochists–they like pain!–don’t ultimately fuck up for the rest of us.

  55. consciousness razor says

    I am using “enjoy” to mean, as it does mean, as “X produces feelings of delight or pleasure.”

    It got Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction, as well as numerous others of course. They made a pleasurable film. Not a “delightful” one, I would say, but you gave me both options. There’s absolutely nothing enjoyable about WWII or the holocaust, and I enjoyed very many aspects of that movie. So there you have it.

    My actually position is the arts are only a matter of taste and all the things (psychology, chemistry, critical/culture theory etc.) that people use to explain why people react the way they do boil down to unknowable nonsense.

    Just checking here…. chemistry is unknowable nonsense? It’s being used, and it boils down to that? Care to elaborate on that?

    Since you keep mentioning “critical/culture theory,” let me ask a few questions…. Do you recognize the difference between literary criticism and linguistics? Do you see that they’re very different ways to approach the subject of language, with different methodologies and different objects of study? Would you say linguistics is all about matters of taste?

    Suppose you’re presented with a flimsy plastic chair and a well-constructed upholstered one. How is it that all of the things you might consider when evaluating them amount to your “taste”? Is it true that words or phrases such as “flimsy” or “well-constructed” do not refer to anything beyond your taste, or that they must always be seen somehow through the lens of your perspective? Aren’t there features of those objects, mundane as they may be, that have to do with their functionality, durability, ergonomics, and so forth? When people are actually making and using them, it certainly looks as if such things are a big part of what artistry or craft is all about. Maybe you can explain what the arts are really all about, if not things like that. Could you also explain how there’s some deep kind of mystery or unknowability about the construction of chairs? Or does it seem like maybe somebody could have a pretty decent grasp of that?

    And to take things back to a more abstract direction…. When Bob Dylan writes a protest song, someone’s tastes may have something to do with how they experience it, no doubt about it. But there is also plenty to consider about (for example) what he is protesting. Is the song effective at doing that? What features of it make it so? Or you may wonder how he failed to do so in this case or that one. Was it is just some crap to fill up space and make money on an album? Morally, should he be protesting this or that? Do people understand the message, if there is an intelligible one, and what will they do about it? What kind of effects may the song have, not just on individuals but on our society? How does it fit into that bigger picture, historically and in the context of contemporary events?

    I know it wasn’t all explicit before, but seriously, give me a break. You either do or don’t know what you’re talking about, and I shouldn’t have to spoon-feed it to you…. All of this stuff is about “taste” to you? If it’s not, please just be a little more careful about what you are and are not discussing.

  56. says

    @consciousness razor

    Yes, ultimately, all that stuff is taste too me because I only ever experience a Bob Dylan song or a chair as objects within my perception and as such I can only ever judge in reference to my own interest and perceptions.I know a lot of ink has been used creating theory to explain why a Bob Dylan is effective but it ultimately is perceptions and subjectivity all the way down. People like you who insist that there are ways to talk about objects of taste apart from a single person’s experience of them inevitably fall into contradictory nonsense.

    To that end, it is immaterial to the point I’m making that Schindler’s List won a bunch of Oscars because among other things the Oscars have gotten it wrong a lot to a fair number of reasonable observers. (For an obvious case example, The Greatest Show on Earth is terrible). More to the point, if you surveyed critics and Oscars voters if they found Schindler’s List delightful or pleasurable in the same sense of going to a circus (or another silly activity) I’m guessing the answer would be a resounding no. I’ve taken the pains to state that I’m not objecting to a person having a positive reaction to Schindler’s List–I think it is a good and important film–I, if I put on my there are things outside of taste hat, am objecting to calling that positive reaction enjoyable or delightful or pleasurable because that is very much not the reaction a somber story of genocide should elicit. Schindler’s List is hardly the only film I think this about. Just staying with Best Picture winners if someone told me 12 Years a Slave was fun time to spend an evening and they thoroughly enjoyed the film I’m going to look at them side eyed because that’s frankly bizarre (and if we are not subjectivist an improper one).

    The chair example very much speaks to my position. Forgoing that it is basically impossible to define what a chair even is (go ahead and try to specify necessary and sufficient conditions for being a chair) it is very obvious that at a basic level a chair is meant to be comfortable to sit on. I don’t see how that can be denied. If I’m presented with a plastic chair and upholstered one I am very, very reluctant to attached “well constructed” to the upholstered chair. You see those types of chairs are far too soft and are often uncomfortable ones. So the one you saying is well constructed doesn’t even count, really, as a chair in my book as I won’t sit in it. This is true regardless of whatever qualities we can agree the upholstered has. Likewise, given that polymers last forever, I’m not going to call a plastic chair flimsy. Given that I like a firmer seat I’m likely to call the plastic well constructed through.

    Now there very well might be types of chairs and/or techniques that increase the odds that more people will like certain chairs. But that does not mean that it isn’t a matter of taste. It’s a fact that that a lot of people find upholstered chairs comfortable. It’s not a fact that upholstered chairs are comfortable.

    I don’t think you have any idea what sort of philosophical mine field you are mucking about it.

  57. consciousness razor says

    it ultimately is perceptions and subjectivity all the way down.

    “Turtles all the way down” is also a bad theory. I have no use for whatever type of dualism or mysterianism you’re selling here. And I’m sure you’d have trouble selling it to other naturalists like Sastra, who might have thought they were on your side at one point. Good luck with that shit, Mike.

    People like you who insist that there are ways to talk about objects

    There are ways to talk about objects. They exist, and we talk about them.

    of taste

    That is what is under dispute.

    apart from a single person’s experience of them

    There are objects which exist (see above), and they do so apart from a single person’s experiences of them.

    inevitably fall into contradictory nonsense.

    You have not demonstrated that. You’ve offered some complaints, lots of strawmen and other fallacies, assorted anecdotes, opinions … but no contradictions.

  58. says

    @consciousness razor

    Nothing I said up until this point has fuck all to do with either dualism or mystertarianism as they are commonly understood. I’ve broadly offered thoughts that can be considered skeptical in that I seem to be implying certain types of knowledge are impossible but that doesn’t entail either of those positions on the mind-body problem. Regardless of that my position on this topic, as most topics, is being driven by ruthlessly applied deterministic materialism. The materiel stuff that makes up my head is different stuff that makes up your head and more to the point it is in a different arrangement; further our causal histories are different and unique. As such how we respond to stimuli necessarily is going to be different. The greater the difference in causal history and/or how the material stuff is arranged in our heads is the greater the difference in the stimuli response there will be. Human perception remains subjective all the way down because we are forever locked into our singular perspective because it is impossible to hold a perspective that is not actualized in the material matter that makes up a person, i.e. the brain and body.

    What this means, for the dispute at hand, is that while I readily agree that objects like chairs exist apart from human perceptions and that those chairs can have certain qualities that are not found in perception (like volume and mass) I very much dispute that a quality like “comfortable” means anything about the chair itself. The word is only ever applied to the person’s perception of the chair and the person’s interests. There’s such a thing as a massive chair. There’s no such thing as a comfortable chair.

    And no this is not opening the door to a soft dualism. I’m not denying that a person’s perception of a comfortable chair can ultimately be broken down into a physicalist account of biochemistry, c-fiber firing or whatever your preferred materialist solution to the mind-body problem is. I’m saying, rather explicitly at this point, that the physical and causal way in which I experience an object (a chair) will, necessarily, be fundamentally different to how you physically and causally experience the same object. Insofar as that is true a dispute about the quality (value) of the object is intractable, insolvable and more to the point a dispute beyond (or to side of) proper/improper, right/wrong.

    To make the point as strongly as I can at 2 in the morning, if we are both presented with the same chair and upon sitting on it you say it is a very comfortable chair whereas I say the chair is very uncomfortable there is not a goddamn thing you could say that would convince me otherwise (vice versa). Any sort of other feature you could get me agree to, such as it seems well put together, a lot people like this chair, it’s like other chairs I find comfortable, etc. does fuck all to convince me that the chair is comfortable. It isn’t, to me, and as the object I’m referencing is only the one in my perception (which again can be reduced down into whatever physicalist terms you want) I cannot be wrong.

    Likewise, for the record, whatever you can say about Bob Dyan’s songs being effective protest songs in their historical context (or whatever), and whatever merits they are alleged to have according to musical theory, they are unpleasant for me to listen to and I have no use for them.

    I have repeatedly stated the contradiction that you are allowing is you are not willing to embrace logical consequences of your position. I’m asking plainly can a person react improperly to a work? Because as far as I understand the position that there is something besides subjectivity to the arts it must follow that people can be wrong and have wrong reactions. Like you know how in math if a person claims 2+2 = 5 that person is wrong? I’m saying that if you think the arts have features that boil down to something other than taste you must hold a person claiming x about y can be wrong in the same way as that. Yet you don’t seem willing to do that.

    Likewise, I suspect you are willing to engage in special pleading when confronted with this tension in reverse. I highly doubt you find Triumph of the Will enjoyable, pleasurable or whatever. But are you willing to call it well constructed, all things considered? How about Birth of a Nation (1915)? Is it a great film?

    Keep in mind that the so-called experts you used to dismiss matters of taste generally hold yes to both of those questions.

  59. KG says

    You have linked religious premises with climate denial and while that may seem like the case it is hardly the root cause and you are just making yourself mad about nothing. You should look at the whole picture and understand there are bigger reasons for those individual who are denying climate change. I would guess that it is not religion at the heart but money. – ctech@52

    I am well aware that money is central to climate change denialism What I said was quite specific – that it is no coincidence this denialism is politicially far more dominant in the highly religious USA than in other rich countries (where there are plenty of fossil fuel interests), and that some denialists specifically use religious arguments. Not only is it the religious right who are responsible for Trump even being considered a serious candidate for public office, let alone being elected President; the contempt for rationality and science inculcated in broad swathes of the American public by the religious right, over issues such as evolution, abortion and sex education, has been successfully used by the fossil fuel lobby and their paid propagandists in right-wing “think-tanks” to sow confusion and obstruct urgently necessary action – and you bet I’m fucking angry about it. So is anyone who is both decent and rational.

  60. ctech says

    @KG #60 – Again, you are simply confusing the fact that US has a stark partisan contrast about climate issues as compared with other nations. Clearly, most republicans are not as concerned about climate change as democrats but US still falls close to the world median. You are simply erroneously assuming that because religious conservatives makeup a part of republicans that the religion is making the decision on climate change. However, research has shown that high CO2 emitting countries have lower concerns which would incorporate many other rich countries. Also, countries such as Mexico would contradict your basis. Mexico is very religious and very concerned so looking at Mexico it would be hard to draw the correlation between religion and climate denial.

    Anyway, your error is not a bad error because it is easy to assume guilt by association and there are plenty of religious wackos out there that love a good protest as much as a democrat so you are correct that there is some science denial by religion but not in as broad swathes as you believe so there is nothing to get angry about. Evolution and sex is taught in public schools and abortion is always a debate topic to choose from.

  61. KG says

    ctech@61,
    The USA is an outlier among rich nations in its religiosity. It is also the only rich nation in which the party of government has been captured by anti-science wackos – covering the science of climate change, the science of evolution, and science related to abortion and sex education. It is simply absurd to pretend that these facts are unconnected.

    You are simply erroneously assuming that because religious conservatives makeup a part of republicans that the religion is making the decision on climate change.

    Which is, of course, not what I said. The USA is indeed well below the norm for rich countries in acceptance of climate science (although you are right that some other high-emission rich countries such as Australia have similar levels), and more detailed analysis of opinion within the USA shows that there is a considerable liberal-conservative difference, but my main point is that it is the religious right who got Trump and his fellow climate change denialists elected, thus bringing about the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, and the other measures to sabotage mitigation efforts we have seen in the past six months. You can continue your dishonest bleating about atheist anger all you like, but it will not change that simple fact.

  62. ctech says

    KG, you said you were angry. I mentioned atheist anger earlier and you seemed to confirm that with saying you are “fucking angry”.

    The simple fact is that we can say there are other reasons for science denial that are not religious. No reason to get so worked up about just 1 of the reasons and that you don’t really know the exact “swath” of the religious intent especially as compared with other factors.

  63. consciousness razor says

    Mike Smith:

    Because as far as I understand the position that there is something besides subjectivity to the arts it must follow that people can be wrong and have wrong reactions. Like you know how in math if a person claims 2+2 = 5 that person is wrong? I’m saying that if you think the arts have features that boil down to something other than taste you must hold a person claiming x about y can be wrong in the same way as that.

    Somebody could claim the national anthem starts with this chord, in set notation: (01345689). That is false. It doesn’t start that way. (Try it yourself! Pick another random set and get it wrong in some other way if you like.) Of course, somebody could cook up a new arrangement of it which starts with that type of chord (or set class), but I’m talking about the standard versions everyone is already familiar with. That’s one kind of feature that I have in mind, when thinking of something that doesn’t “boil down to taste.” There certainly is a fact of the matter about that. Even better, you can represent it mathematically, just like your arithmetic problem.

    So, that person’s claim is just plain wrong. Does that involve having “wrong reactions” in the subjective sense you’ve been preoccupied with all this time? I don’t know or care.

    You could be asking for the impossible here: in order to give you the type of answer you want, it would have to be a “subjective” thing (a reaction) that isn’t “subjective” (boiling down to taste). I’m not playing that game. If you’re actually entertaining the notion that there’s something other than subjective reactions, it makes no sense to look for something of that sort which would merely be the “wrong” reaction to have (yet still a reaction). So, to be totally clear about it, in your first sentence quoted above, I’ve deliberately ignored the last bit: “and have wrong reactions.” People can be wrong in other senses and about other types of things, and it was incredibly easy to give a very simple example of that. Obviously, this thread could be filled up with countless other examples, but hopefully that one will do, to get us on the same page.

  64. Beth says

    “if you accept the base premise that the Holy Book was written by an omniscient super-being” This is not a moderate belief, but belongs to fundamentalist sects. Moderate Christians believe that the Bible was inspired by god but written by fallible men.

  65. consciousness razor says

    So, that person’s claim is just plain wrong. Does that involve having “wrong reactions” in the subjective sense you’ve been preoccupied with all this time? I don’t know or care.

    Still, it’s a question. Somebody could be hallucinating an incorrect sonority whenever they hear the beginning of the national anthem. (Who knows how/why, but it could happen.) I think it’s perfectly meaningful/coherent to talk about hallucinations and so forth, as distinct from veridical perceptions, and I have no interest in trying to preclude that as a possibility, especially not with some kind of bizarre philosophical argument that doing otherwise somehow entails an unspecified set of contradictions.

    How does this work according to your position, Mike? It’s hard to tell. Is there no fact of the matter about whether or not certain perceptions are veridical, at least fairly or approximately correct/appropriate and not wildly mistaken? (Or do we simply not know those facts sometimes?) Can we not say they’re “right” or “wrong” in that sense, along with the associated reactions or behaviors of such people? Is it true that our epistemic and/or metaphysical problems are really that dire?

    If we’re never justified in saying that certain ones correspond reasonably well to what’s actually going on in physical reality, while others don’t, then this doesn’t sound like an issue you have just with the arts or “matters of taste.” If that’s how it’s going to be, you should be saying it about everything: physics, mathematical theorems, the existence of other minds, the contents of this blog, radical skepticism all around…. It’s not at all obvious why you’d be bearing down on the arts with this crap, or even how you’d think the arts exist, whether there really was a holocaust to make a movie about, etc. It’s hard to understand how you’re not going to fall off that cliff (which I’m sure you don’t want to do), while somehow maintaining the kind of position you’ve been describing. If you’re going to admit it just isn’t true that it goes all the way down, because that’s a bad theory, then exactly how far down does it go and why is that supposed to be relevant?

  66. says

    Reductionism have guided humans to a wrong world view because it hiddens the natural hierarchy of systems. Systems like a cell are made of systems that are made of systems while cells are inside systems that are inside systems, allways up and down. So, any system is influenced by its sub-systems and by the systems it is inside.
    The big problem is that all these systems are actually, derived shapes of a unique universal system. Which makes its different shapes, sizes, complexity, etc., is that this universal system is under evolution, and it obeys the process of life’s cycles. Like human bodies shows different shapes in a lifetime due this process. You know that the shape of a baby will have total influence in modelling the shape of the adult,… If you do not consider it, you will be not able to understand the full mechanisms and processes of the past evolution that leads to the adult. here is the big problem with the reductionist mindset and world view.
    Cells contains atoms systems and are inside galactic systems. These systems are the same cell, before and after, down and up. Medicine is still struggling around the millenar mortal diseases, genes behavior remains complicated, we don’t get the health syncronization with our nature, etc. Epigenetics, hollistic biology as systems biology, all of systemic thought is our future, and this not will lead us to magical gods….

  67. KG says

    KG, you said you were angry. I mentioned atheist anger earlier and you seemed to confirm that with saying you are “fucking angry”.

    Oh course I’m fucking angry with the American religious right – and I explained exactly why @60. If you are not, that’s because you’re a shit.

    The dishonest bleating I’m talking about is the pretence @9, constantly repeated with variations, that “boiling anger” is “an issue at the heart of the atheistic personality” – as if there were any such thing. You have produced no evidence for this claim, because you can’t. Some atheists are angry, others are not. Some atheists are nasty and selfish, others are nice and altruistic. Some are clever, others are stupid. Some are ignorant, others are knowlegeable. The same, of course, is true of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans, Jews… The one most obviously bigoted in relation to people of different religious persuasions here – I think the only one making absurd generalizations about people on those grounds – is you.

  68. John Morales says

    ctech, it’s not complicated: KG admits to being atheist and angry with the American religious right, but it does not follow from that all atheists are angry with the American religious right. Not a complicated idea.

    Also, your feeble retort to his #68 is duly noted.

  69. ctech says

    I am not responsible for the misconception that I was somehow implying that ALL atheists are angry and at this very moment. That is simply a stance that KG took in order to argue. If you can’t understand one of the motifs of the atheist dilemma as cited in the post then you should not reply back to me. Clearly, his anger plays an integral part in clouding his judgment and understanding. So, thank you for your comment #70 but that is an idea that KG has proposed and you have backed and I can agree with, but nowhere have I said that all atheist are angry. If you want sweeping generalizations by liberal bigots then this blog is full of that.

  70. John Morales says

    ctech,

    I am not responsible for the misconception that I was somehow implying that ALL atheists are angry and at this very moment.

    Ah, so your claim about atheist personalities with boiling anger only applies to atheist personalities with boiling anger, not to atheists or atheism in general. True but trivial.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  71. ctech says

    It applies to atheist who are in a state of anger presumably by the causative factors mentioned. My comment was that an angry atheist could simply use the “Ahh fuck it” process when the (causative factor) religious person uses the “God did it” process. However, I was pointing out the similarities in the two processes.

    KG’s anger is a little more deep seeded. He has actually linked an entire problem (climate denial) with an entire group of people (Christians) and then gets pissed off about something he just entirely made up in his mind. I tried to point out that the denial trend seems to be CO2 emission per country and not their religious orientation, but he wants to argue with that as well because he is just plain ol’ angry and anything that shifts blame away from his scapegoats begin to shatter the little dream world he has created around himself. He then goes on the attack because a know it all could never misplace blame and be wrong ever in their life, could they?

  72. Rob Grigjanis says

    ctech @75: It’s not a grammatical mistake. Mondegreen, eggcorn, malapropism maybe. Or just butchery. Like “peak my interest”, or “without further adieu”. I’ve seen those a lot, but don’t remember seeing “deep-seeded”. You should be grateful for the correction.

  73. Owlmirror says

    I saw a study the other day being that PZ likes to point out grammatical mistakes

    Where was this study published or posted?

  74. ctech says

    Rob Grigjanis @76: Have you ever seen a comma splice or sentence fragment? Of course, we only accept MLA formatted comments here. On another note, I heard SpaceX was going to test a new propulsion system that consists of a hundred anal retentive atheist passing gas.

    Rob, I don’t have a problem with your post. It reads like how you would speak which is, in my opinion, acceptable for a comment post. Also, please note that I did give chigau credit in my followup comment, but I did take the liberty to point out that this is an informal message board and that pointing out grammatical errors is a bit of a dick move.

    Who really wants a comment section full of posts containing proofreading corrections!?

  75. ctech says

    Owl, sorry. I was saying that I would be providing a link about a study that has to do with grammatical errors. The sentence was a prelude to the link and not to imply that there was a study done on how PZ likes to point out grammatical errors. Obviously, if you “Fox News It” and not get my whole crappy sentence then it is going to be even more confusing.

  76. ctech says

    PZ, your comment sections are not that bad even with my entries. I just think comments should be read with a little more liberal attitude. However, an incoherent word salad may be more exciting than grammatical proofs. That’s very boring. I think you can agree there is more partying in the life sciences than in the English department. Whoo whoo!!!

  77. Owlmirror says

    So the whole comment was so garbled that what you wrote was not even close to what you meant?

    So what you actually intended was more like this?:

    I saw a study the other day:

    https://www.sciencealert.com/people-who-constantly-pick-up-grammar-mistakes-are-kinda-jerks-scientists-find

    being that PZ likes to point out grammatical mistakes too like he has none in his posts and whereas , but I think the comments should be a little more forgiving,. But everyone’s feelings are different.

    If wanting text to be clear and comprehensible makes me a jerk, then so be it.

  78. Owlmirror says

    The worm drives helically through the wood
    And does not know the dust left in the bore
    Once made the table integral and good;
    And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
    Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
    A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
    The names of lovers, light of other days —
    Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
    The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
    But memory is everything to lose;
    Although some of the colors have to fade,
    Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
    Regret, by definition, comes too late;
    Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

      — Against Entropy, by John M. Ford

  79. ctech says

    Owl, the point being is that everyone makes mistakes.

    Now, you likely will spend even more time making sure your own comments are proofed because if someone finds 1 error in your comments then you upgrade your status from jerk to douche. Or you can keep being a jerk if you maintain a perfect literary status when writing comments on a blog site.

    Also, you are not impressing anyone because comments are not real-time. We have no way of knowing your true proofreading skills. The posts were over 10 hours apart so you simply could have got someone else to proof it or googled it.

    Unfortunately, I think you already went from jerk to douche because you forgot commas and incorrectly used a colon after a question mark. I understand you may not be very familiar with the colon because one of its uses is for Bible scriptures and because you probably receive more than you give.

    The point is that there are probably times where you can’t help to be a jerk or douche, but no one says you have to proofread and point out other’s errors. You are in full control of that jerk status and that is why it takes a real wiener to do that. Loser.

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