Why scientists should be atheists


As a way of spreading the word about my latest book, I have an article up at the Oxford University Press blog site that takes one of the ideas in the book about how in science we decide that something does not exist and applies it to gods. The article is titled Why Scientists Should Be Atheists and can be read here.

Comments

  1. mnb0 says

    Your arguments are elaborated in Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science?, which yet adds another one: the idea of a supernatural entity like a god interacting with our natural reality doesn’t make sense. It’s not exactly the same, but still similar to the idea of a square circle.
    So yes, I’m as certain of atheism as possible, a 7 on the scale of Dawkins. But I won’t mind if you call it 6,999999 ….. Like Philipse I think that not only scientists, but everyone who accepts the scientific method should make the step to philosophical naturalism and hence atheism.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Who are you trying to convince? Personally, I’ve never believed because (since long before I was a scientist) I simply saw no connection between the church/sunday school stories, and the world around me. But other people I’ve known and read about were obviously different. Do you think they simply haven’t thought about their faith in the “right” way?

    What you actually seem to be saying is that scientists should hold their religious beliefs to the same standards as their professional activities. What you haven’t argued is why they should do that. If they see no conflict between their faith and their work, why should they? If you think faith always necessarily causes problems in science (in specific instances, of course it can), you have to demonstrate that.

    Perhaps do an article on how the work of James Clerk Maxwell or Abdus Salam was compromised by their faith.

    Now, I could get behind “Why scientists everyone should be socialist” 😉

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    One problem with using George’s standard is that then we have to leave open the possibility for the existence of anything that the imagination can conjure up, such as zombies, vampires, unicorns, werewolves, etc.

    Yes. I like to put agnostics to the Santa Claus test. Find someone who insists that agnosticism is superior to atheism. Ask him if he believes in Santa Claus. When he says no, insist that you must have misheard him, because you are certain that he must be agnostic about Santa.

  4. says

    The planted axiom here is that scientists ought to apply scientific philosophy to all (or at least some) facets of their lives outside of their scientific efforts. This seems to be a bit dicey.

  5. file thirteen says

    The planted axiom is that that if you examine the idea of a god using the scientific method, atheism logically follows. The arguments posited above are akin to saying that it doesn’t matter if scientists believe in unicorns so long as it doesn’t impact their work. You might think that; I find it spurious.

  6. says

    There is much in life that falls between physics and unicorns. Love, beauty, dance, ecstasy, music, and so on. Much of it admits scientific analysis, but rarely to much purpose.

    What has science to say, really, about the difference between “I love this song” and “I believe in god(s)?”

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    file thirteen @5:

    I find it spurious

    OK, so tell us how exactly it matters that Maxwell and Salam were believers.

  8. file thirteen says

    @Andrew #6

    The point you’re missing is that science can have just as much to say about the lack of existence of things as it does about the existence of things. It’s spurious to disregard overwhelming lack of evidence as being irrelevant to belief, otherwise belief in a number of outdated ideas would still be widespread. The ether anyone? Love, beauty, dance, ecstasy and music all can plainly be shown to exist. Gods fit into the unicorns bucket.

    @Rob #7

    I don’t know either of them. I take it they are or were scientists who made important discoveries while still believing in some things without evidence, or even things that we recognise now as clear falsehoods. If so, I’m bemused as to why you think it wouldn’t matter that scientists hold screwy beliefs just because others have produced important works despite theirs.

  9. says

    I’m not talking about evidence of existence here. I’m talking about whether or not it is appropriate to apply the apparatus of scientific reasoning to all aspects of one’s life (and, as a corollary, whether it is appropriate to suggest that other people ought to).

    I maintain that it is not appropriate, reasonable, or practical, to apply this apparatus to much of anything in one’s life.

    I maintain further that Mano is assuming, silently, the opposite position.

  10. file thirteen says

    @Andrew #9

    Then clearly you didn’t read Mano’s article that ey linked to. Your stance is merely one of opposition to presumptions that you formed based on the title of this post.

  11. anat says

    Andrew Molitor, Mano was arguing about existence. Mano is arguing that the scientific method should be applied to all questions of whether ‘X’ exists. He was not arguing for applying the scientific method for questions of taste (though I’m sure some aspects of how tastes arise are answerable scientifically).

  12. says

    JHC people. I will repeat my point one more time, but that’s it. If you cannot figure out what I am attempting to communicate at this point, that’s a shame, but I am not interested in further attempts.

    Mano is arguing that, since the scientific apparatus produces a “there is no such thing as God” scientists should be atheists.

    There is, in this argument, the planted axiom that the scientific apparatus is applicable to, and should be applied to, aspects of the scientist’s life that fall outside of their scientific work. A “planted axiom” is an assumption that is NOT STATED (that is to say, you will not find it in Mano’s essay) which is necessary to make the argument work.

    That he’s planted this axiom is not credibly in question. You can pretend all you like, or ignore it, or whatever, but none of that makes the planted axiom actually go away. The entire thrust of his essay is to extend the application of the scientific apparatus to another area of the scientist’s life.

    If you actually want to engage on my point here, you have to support the notion that Mano’s unstated assumption is valid, since my position is that it is not.

  13. file thirteen says

    @Andrew #13

    Unfortunately for your argument, the axiom you posit is not required as a foundation for Mano’s, which you would know if you had read it. What you have pretended exists is no more than an inference of your own making, Just because you took this inference from the title of the post does not make Mano responsible for planting it there. There is no more evidence for the axiom you posit than there is for a god or gods.

  14. says

    Well, then, file thirteen, please do explain to me how Mano proceeds from “you are a scientist” to “you should science up your belief in god(s)”

    Your persistent claim that I didn’t read the essay is puerile.

  15. file thirteen says

    @Andrew #15

    It was clear that you hadn’t read the article, as it was simply incredible that you could misunderstand it as completely as you did (ie. “I’m not talking about evidence of existence here” when that’s explicitly what the article was about) if you had. Hopefully you have now.

    Your question still shows a lack of comprehension though. Reread from “So how can I justify my statement to George that a scientist can, and perhaps should, be an atheist?” down to the end. That question is very much more to the point and does not require planting (sic) words in Mano’s mouth.

    You could also fulfil your broken promise from comment #12 and exit the discussion before you embarrass yourself further, but that’s your call. Just saying.

  16. Mano Singham says

    Sorry for being absent from this discussion until now.

    My point is close to what anat@#11 says. Scientists have to make decisions of whether any entity exists or not and have arrived at decision rules for doing so. In doing so, the default position is non-existence until such time as those arguing for existence can produce a preponderance of affirmative evidence in favor of existence. Sometimes provisional existence status is granted in the absence of such evidence provided the entity is necessary as an explanatory concept. But that provisional status can be withdrawn if the entity no longer turns out to be a necessary explanatory concept. That is precisely what happened with the aether and phlogiston, the provisional status being withdrawn following the introduction of the theory of relativity and the oxygen theory of combustion.

    In the case of neutrinos, on the other hand, it was granted provisional existence status for nearly two decades but then a preponderance of affirmative evidence resulted in it being granted actual existence status.

    If god is an entity, then I see no reason why we should not apply the same standard for its existence claim that we do for every other existence claim. Is there a preponderance of affirmative evidence for its existence? Is it a necessary explanatory concept for anything? The answer is no to both. Ergo, we can conclude that gods do not exist, just like we have concluded that the aether and phlogiston do not exist.

    I discuss this more fully in my book.

    [p.s. It looks like my post and Andrew’s post #18 below appeared almost simultaneously. I was not aware of it when I wrote mine.]

  17. says

    I am not talking about evidence of existence. Mano, manifestly, is. Duh. It’s as if Mano and I are different people or something. My remark in #12 was, let us review:

    “I will repeat my point one more time, but that’s it. ”

    which I have adhered to with something very close to 100% perfection, if not actually 100%. I do not think you are seriously interested in anything except the childish “DESTROY THE DISAGREE-ER” routine so prevalent on FtB, and accordingly I will leave you to it. I can, always, be reached at amolitor@gmail.com if anyone would like an actual conversation rather than a performance.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @17:

    If god is an entity, then I see no reason why we should not apply the same standard for its existence claim that we do for every other existence claim.

    Right. You see no reason why you shouldn’t apply the same standard. And I’m sure many atheists agree with you. So what? If applause from other atheists is your goal, congratulations. If it’s to convince religious scientists, I don’t think you’ve done the job.

    Marcus @13: Again, so what? For many people, getting married requires assuming an answer which sometimes turns out to be horribly wrong.

    Science stands or falls on its merits, regardless of the foibles of the scientist.

  19. friedfish2718 says

    Mr Singham is quite arrogant.

    He writes:”Scientists SHOULD be atheists”.

    Really? Many religious scientists make significant advances in Science and Math.

    Mr Singham appears not to know that all that scientists can investigate are secondary causes, not the primary cause: what causes A? B. What causes B? C. What causes C? D. etc. etc. etc..

    Scientists will NEVER reach at the stage where GOD is needed to explain a secondary cause; that does not proves that GOD does not exist.

    The GOD concept is not provable.

    Those who claim to prove GOD’s existence are fools.

    Those who claim to disprove GOD’s existence are fools.

    Before the integration of Math into Physical Science, Science was called Natural Philosophy. Mr Singham is just an adherent of one of many Natural Philosophies.

    Math/Logic has lead to impossibility theorems, to propositions proven to be undecidable.

    Math/Logic has proven that one can NEVER get to know all of Math.

    Since Math/Logic is so tightly tied to contemporary Science, complete knowledge of Matter is impossible.

    What is paradoxical is that without GOD (or concept of GOD) there can be no atheist for -- by definition -- atheists define themselves with respect to their own concept of GOD that they deny.

    What is paradoxical is that Math and Science are based on faith: axioms (Math) cannot be proved to be true, postulates (Science) cannot be proved to be true; they can only be assumed to be self evident.

    Is GOD hiding in the gaps of Science/Math?

  20. flex says

    It looks like Andrew has left before I had a chance to enter the conversation, but his underlying question appears to be a common one. Does it make sense to apply the techniques of scientific inquiry to all facets of life, especially those ephemeral things which exist, like the love of a song or the charm of a smile, outside of the purely physical realm? Would not such inquiry destroy those fragile feelings which are so closely tied to what it means to be human?

    The answer is that the using the tools of scientific to examine these diaphanous parts of the world do not destroy them. Knowing the chemical reactions in our brains which occur when we see a child smiling at us does not prevent those reactions from occurring. Knowledge of that sort can be used in good ways, to help heal; or in harmful ways, to manipulate people. But the knowledge (acquired with the tools of scientific inquiry) is not good or harmful, and does not destroy the wonder we can feel. That there are people who will use such knowledge to deliberately manipulate or harm others is a problem, but not a problem with the knowledge. The problem is that people who abuse knowledge no longer see people as creatures who share their own thoughts and feelings, but as objects.

    I think Richard Feynman probably said it best in his short paragraph on the beauty of a flower:

    I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

  21. Rob Grigjanis says

    flex @20:

    Would not such inquiry destroy those fragile feelings which are so closely tied to what it means to be human?

    I didn’t see this question underlying anything Andrew wrote, so it seems a bit strawmannish. But he did leave his email address, so you could ask him yourself.

  22. flex says

    Rob Grigjanis @21:

    I get that from Andrew’s initial statement:

    The planted axiom here is that scientists ought to apply scientific philosophy to all (or at least some) facets of their lives outside of their scientific efforts.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’ve read variations on that same theme for decades, and read it in books published as least as far back as 200 years ago. It’s a variation on the idea that one part of innocence is lack of knowledge; and that innocence is something to be valued.

    There are a couple of assumptions in Andrew’s statement which are interesting to unpack. The first is that people (scientists or not), can only view any part the world through a single philosophical framework. As an example, a person who loves music can only choose to appreciate music in one way. Say they appreciate the emotions evoked by the music. But if people are limited to looking at music in only one fashion, that person cannot appreciate the chord progression at that time of listening, or any future time! Clearly this is inaccurate.

    So viewing parts of the world through a scientific philosophy does not prevent someone from viewing the world through a different philosophy. Mind you, there are problems with trying to view the world from a scientific view and a revealed knowledge view; where they conflict one will be subservient to the other. But this is how a very religious person can perform good science; their revealed knowledge (religious) views are not in conflict with what the scientific investigation is telling them. And this is also why some of Maxwell’s science was corrupted to conform to religious beliefs. It happens, and in fact it happens with all of us, religious or not. It’s just easier to see the compartmentalization in people with strong religious beliefs.

    The second interesting thing about Andrew’s first statement is the unwritten assumption that for certain parts of the world looking at something scientifically is wrong. That by using science instead of a different framework for viewing the world a person misses some of the world. That assumption was what I was addressing in my first response to Andrew. Knowledge gathered through scientific investigations, using a scientific philosophy, can only add to the enjoyment of an experience. As Feynman says, I can glance at a flower and say, “How pretty it is.” If I want to contemplate the flower further, I can say, “How wondrous it is that the flower evolved a symbiotic relationship with insects to pollinate.” I can got in a different direction, “How fascinating that a flowers petals shed dirt, wouldn’t it be nice if that micro-structure could be made into windows?” I can follow Feynman and say, “How awe-inspiring is it that base elements can be used by micro-machines to create a cellular structure!” I can enjoy all, and many more, details about a simple flower because of the scientific philosophy which uncovered them. And I can enjoy them emotionally as well as intellectually.

    There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about applying tools which advance our knowledge and understanding. Doing so may destroy some illusions, but it reveals so, so much more. The elimination of God from my life is more than compensated by my increased knowledge and understanding of the universe. Although, I confess, I still believe in Santa Claus.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    flex @23:

    And this is also why some of Maxwell’s science was corrupted to conform to religious beliefs

    Which science?

  24. hatstand says

    The planted axiom here is that scientists ought to apply scientific philosophy to all (or at least some) facets of their lives outside of their scientific efforts.

    Why would they not do so?
    It is not like applying scientific philosophy is all that difficult, particularly in this case.
    I really can’t see a downside to doing so.

  25. Bruce says

    I just posted this on the oup blog:
    When we use a language, we have no choice but to use words according to the meanings understood by our readers or listeners. To use other meanings is not to communicate. So, what do most people mean when they talk about the tooth fairy? They mean they don’t believe in it, disproof or not. So we have to use language that way. So Mano is right. Any other view is a claim that the meanings of words is somehow special in only the religious context. That’s a game that isn’t standard usage.

  26. consciousness razor says

    Rob Grigjanis, quoting Mano:

    If god is an entity, then I see no reason why we should not apply the same standard for its existence claim that we do for every other existence claim.

    Right. You see no reason why you shouldn’t apply the same standard. And I’m sure many atheists agree with you. So what?

    It seems to be true that there’s no substantial empirical evidence of any gods. And there’s no other compelling logical or non-empirical reason to believe in such things. Do you think that’s false? If you don’t believe it’s false, well, I guess I could just let the point sail over your head some more, but this seems to be going nowhere fast, so….

    If applause from other atheists is your goal, congratulations. If it’s to convince religious scientists, I don’t think you’ve done the job.

    I’m used to you being grouchy and petulant most of the time, but this is pretty ridiculous. I don’t need to “applaud” Mano, because he said something which I think is true. I simply agree with what he said, and you should say the same, if you also believe it’s true. You should care more about the truth than you should about doing “the job” of convincing religious scientists. Shouldn’t you?
    Also, by your same standard, you definitely know that you’re addressing atheists. And you’ve certainly offered no reason here, so you haven’t done the job required to convince any of us.
    All you’ve done instead is say that (1) a bunch of us think they’re wrong, which of course we already knew, so that was utterly pointless. And you said that (2) you don’t believe what’s been said here will convince some or all of them about that fact. But how the fuck would you know? Do you consider yourself an expert on the psychology of religious scientists?

  27. consciousness razor says

    Rob, quoting flex:

    And this is also why some of Maxwell’s science was corrupted to conform to religious beliefs.

    Which science?

    I don’t have much to say about Maxwell. However, since he was definitely in a position to do so, he should’ve contested Kelvin’s formulation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics: “It is impossible, by means of inanimate material agency, to derive mechanical effect from any portion of matter by cooling it below the temperature of the coldest of the surrounding objects.” There was no need to create an exception/loophole for any sort of “immaterial agency,” although that was allowed by Kelvin’s statement.
    Yes, it’s logically possible that a deity or whatever could somehow intervene directly to do such a thing, without using some material body. Or maybe a psychic could do it — those were definitely big in the 19th century too, so why not toss them and their magic powers into the mix? (An even better question: why toss them into the mix?)
    Anyway, logical possibility aside, the point is that this is a physical law, so it wasn’t supposed to be physically possible (i.e., according to natural laws, like this one)….. That is, until we began to treat it as emerging from statistical mechanics and not an iron-clad law which can’t ever be violated. But this whole fanciful tangent about deities/psychics/ghosts/whatever should have been seen as just plain embarrassing (or at least pointless) to respectable scientists like Kelvin, Maxwell, Boltzmann, etc. Did that advance the theory or was it practically useful in any way, shape or form? No. Did it at best invite more confusion about what the theory even meant? Yes.

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @27: Once again, either your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired, or you’re choosing to ignore a clearly made point for some unknown reason.

    Mano’s point wasn’t just that their religious beliefs fail the tests of scientific inquiry*. It was that they should be applying scientific standards of evidence to their religious beliefs. Remember the title of the post? And I don’t have to be an expert on anything to recognize that he didn’t explain why they should do that. If they’re happily contributing to science and worshipping their deity, why the fuck should they (or we) care about some atheist telling them they should be atheist as well?

    *That part was done well.

  29. consciousness razor says

    Mano’s point wasn’t just that their religious beliefs fail the tests of scientific inquiry*. It was that they should be applying scientific standards of evidence to their religious beliefs.

    Well, let me make a couple of objections about this whole “scientific standards” thing. First, it almost goes without saying that which standards those are supposed to be is not even remotely clear. (This also raises the question of whether you, or the religious scientists you’re speaking for, are objecting to others’ actual proposals, people who may have a very different set of ideas in mind. You, or they, may have a harder time conjuring up the nerve to reject those, if any of this were clearer. Or you may have an easier time. No way to know, without the appropriate evidence.)
    Second, what seems to be required for the disputed conclusion is not that inquiry into questions about the existence of gods has some murky “scientific” quality (whatever that amounts to), but only that people use ordinary logical reasoning about the available evidence. However, that is not science, nor is it special to scientific practices. So, I’m not pleased when scientists pompously claim such things for themselves, as if they were (momentarily) unaware of the rest of academia, or of any other type of intellectual/cognitive activity in everyday life. At any rate, we cannot have an honest conversation about this, until the “science” talk gets deflated a bit and it finds its place in the bigger picture. Because there is a much bigger picture in human society, as I’m sure you and everyone else realize, when they’re not experiencing tunnel-vision about narrow topics like this.
    I don’t know why, but you seem like you might agree with at least some of that. (I bet Mano and others, on reflection, probably would too.) On the other hand, I’m not sure either line of thought really fits comfortably with yours.
    Maybe I don’t really get what you have in mind, when you talk of applying a standard to beliefs about particular things. I think that if your beliefs are false, they risk bad actions as a result, ones that aren’t in accord with reality. Whether you want to do something good or something bad, you have to know first how things work, what’s going, what you want to change, etc. That is certainly important to anybody, of any religious or political persuasion whatsoever, no matter what their job title is, and so forth.
    So, I don’t think it can be coherently denied by anybody[*] that you should try to have your beliefs be in accord with reality, in order to avoid making mistakes in life which may cost you or others something of value. Did I need to add the word “science” there? No, I didn’t. Empirical evidence is just anything taken from your sensation/perception, experiences which for better or worse fill our lives.
    To think that somebody has a way around these basic aspects of what it is be a person dealing with any part of the world they live in, just because they call a particular belief “religious”? It is to laugh. It’s hard to think that, if you ask me. I’ve tried, ever since the whole “non-overlapping magisteria” business, and it has very consistently not worked for me.
    Anyway, like I said, you didn’t give any reasons, nor did you explain how this mystery process is supposed to work for religious believers. (That is, how it does in work in their favor, when they forgo the basic thinking/life skills I’m talking about and use instead their super-special religious skillz™ for their super-special religious beliefs™). That’s still what I think I would need in order to understand that position (possibly agree with it), but that’s still what I don’t have.
    So, okay, you thought I was not reading you for comprehension, but I doubt we were really on the same page about some of the above. I’ll share the blame for that.
    [*] If you want to claim that it is incoherently denied by some people, go right ahead. You are certainly welcome to that claim, if you think it will help. You’ve at least made it seem so far like we don’t have good or coherent arguments, that should convince reasonable people, not that we can’t some compel irrational people to be rational. But if the game is that anything goes, then of course, you can dispense with everything you’ve said and just claim victory now..In that case, I’ll do the same.

  30. consciousness razor says

    edits:
    “That is, how it does in fact work in their favor” (not just in their minds, in their considered opinion, etc., but that it actually does in reality. I don’t really need to provide much an argument that reality trumps whatever bullshit they may come up with — reality will just do it anyway, no matter what I say.)
    “not that we can’t somehow compel irrational people to be rational.” (Even various coercive measures, all sorts of things you could imagine and shouldn’t recommend, would not do the job of making their beliefs rational. But that presumably doesn’t matter, if you have a better argument than a silly one like “you can’t force them to think that.”)

  31. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @30:

    it almost goes without saying that which standards those are supposed to be is not even remotely clear.

    Mano wrote about that. You said you agreed. What’s not clear? But you have a point. Why especially “why scientists should be atheists”, and not “why historians should be atheists”? Or accountants, or tree surgeons, etc.

    To think that somebody has a way around these basic aspects of what it is be a person dealing with any part of the world they live in, just because they call a particular belief “religious”? It is to laugh.

    They live their lives, do their work, etc. So obviously they have a way “around” it. Just because you or I don’t understand that doesn’t negate the observable facts of their lives.

    Anyway, like I said, you didn’t give any reasons, nor did you explain how this mystery process is supposed to work for religious believers.

    See above. I’ve never been a believer, so I don’t know how it works. I’ve just known, and read about, believers who seem to have managed just fine, and were comfortable in their skin with their faith and their work. If/when you’ve met people like this, have you told them they were doing it wrong?

  32. consciousness razor says

    They live their lives, do their work, etc. So obviously they have a way “around” it.

    No, that isn’t obvious at all. You’re confusing things. I made this claim:

    you should try to have your beliefs be in accord with reality, in order to avoid making mistakes in life which may cost you or others something of value.

    In order to do this, and as I was saying not risk acting badly/ineffectively based on their beliefs, every person (not only those in the sciences or while they’re doing science) needs to use an appropriate combination of valid reasoning and empirical evidence, no matter what their true/false belief may be about. (If you assume some such belief doesn’t have a truth value, you may or may not be right about that, but let’s leave such things aside, unless you think it’s essential for your arguments.)
    I don’t think there is a way around what I described above. If you think there is, I want an attempt to explain what that is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work, not for you to just shrug your shoulders and suggest that something or other “seems” to work for some people you’ve known or read about. That would move the discussion in a direction where I can at least understand what you (or they) are trying to say, whether or not I find it convincing.
    Granted, there are cases when the chances or consequences of that risk may be more acceptable than in others, so that on a pragmatic level, one can (at least plausibly) get away with being more risky then. But that still doesn’t mean walking into it blindly without even considering the situation in the terms above, nor does that mean “it’s a religious belief” is some kind of handy excuse that people can conjure up arbitrarily. Do you put up with that kind of shit from historians, accountants, or tree surgeons? I bet you don’t give their beliefs any special status due to it being a “history belief” or an “accounting belief” or whatever the fuck it may be. All I’m saying is that you should treat religious beliefs just the same.

  33. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @33:

    All I’m saying is that you should treat religious beliefs just the same.

    Yes, I know that’s all you’re saying. But you’re not really saying why, except for some vague tripe about the risk of acting badly or ineffectively based on their beliefs. Of course that depends on the specific beliefs, whether they are religious or not. Can you attach specific risks and bad outcomes to specific beliefs?

    It’s a good job we have you and Mano around to tell us what “an appropriate combination of valid reasoning and empirical evidence” is. It still all comes down to telling people you know very little about that they’re living their lives wrongly, or dishonestly. I find it amusing to imagine you telling Maxwell, Lemaître, or Abdus Salam that they were intellectually dishonest.

    This is just dogmatic crap which distills down to “if you’re not atheist, there’s something wrong with you”.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    And on that note, I think I’m done commenting on FtB. No flounce. It just ain’t fun any more.