Blasphemy Challenge

Things that don't belong anywhere else. (Check first).

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aldimond
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Postby aldimond » Thu Jan 04, 2007 2:18 am UTC

thomasjmaccoll wrote:if you try to use this to tie people together, then it becomes 'hey, how stupid is that whole god thing, those people are morons' and that's dangerous.


Sure, that happens when jackasses of any creed get together. I guess ideally there would be literally nothing there to tie non-theists together but we non-theists frequently face similar problems. When I was attending a church service recently (a Christmas service at my grandparents' church, fortunately a very tolerant and reasonable church) my dad (a freethinker) found a way for himself, my non-theistic brothers and myself to participate in a particular candle-lighting-plus-communion ceremony without taking communion (which I hadn't yet figured out), thus allowing us to remain honest to ourselves and others without being disruptive. Made me feel a lot better. The whole thing would have been really awkward alone, and I wouldn't have figured it out myself. Sometimes it's just nice to be able to get advice or feedback from people that share a similar worldview.

when i told my mum i wasn't going to go to church any more, one of the things she said to me in the ensuing discussion was 'whatever you do, don't pity the people that still do go to church' and i think she's right... they've made their choice and they are completely entitled to it, it's nothing to do with me.


Sure, I agree with that. There are lots of hard feelings that run both ways and I try to stay out of that as much as possible.

in short, this just seems a bit needlessly attention seeking and provocative to me, with no real message behind it. imagine how these people would react to a campaign for christians to denounce evolution at a science laboratory and post it on the net...


I think it's great that it's provocative. Sure, some of the people will say stupid things, but people generally have stupid opinions. Better to have them out in the light of day where they might be heard, criticized, refined, than shut up inside, in an echo chamber of adolescent angst.
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Postby superiority » Thu Jan 04, 2007 2:45 am UTC

Alky wrote:Let's play the "piss off a large majority of people cause they think differently" game!

Wait. No. Let's not. I hate stunts like this.

Not merely because they "think differently". Because they think differently in a manner that is directly harmful to the whole of humanity. As William Kingdon Clifford put it:
William Kingdom Clifford wrote:If I steal money from any person, there may be no harm done from the mere transfer of possession; he may not feel the loss, or it may prevent him from using the money badly. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself dishonest. What hurts society is not that it should lose its property, but that it should become a den of thieves, for then it must cease to be society. This is why we ought not to do evil, that good may come; for at any rate this great evil has come, that we have done evil and are made wicked thereby. In like manner, if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.



Narsil wrote:Dammit, can we all just coexist? I want a word for someone who wants nothing to do with religion at all. It used to be Atheism but that's a religion now. Maybe it's not but many are just as crazy and angry as Christians.

Is there a word for someone who says "I don't believe in a god, but I would be open to the idea if there was ever sufficient proof" and "I don't respect your beliefs, but I respect your right to believe them and will tolerate them as long as you do not impose them onto me"?

religion, n. a system of beliefs, including belief in the existence of at least one of the following: a human soul or spirit, a deity or higher being, or self after the death of one’s body.
Does not seem to describe atheism very well at all. The only thing atheists have in common is what they do not have. By avoiding the word because of its connotations, you are perpetuating stigma against those who choose to live without gods.
Oh, and try "secularist".

Peshmerga wrote:Ok, tell that to the kid who renounced religion in a public church. It all looks to me like a kid who decided he wanted to be internet popular and had a clever scheme to make it happen.

I'm an athiest. I think this whole thing is retarded. I think hiding in a church (or any public place), renouncing religion with a camera phone is fucking retarded. There's no logical argument. There's no basis for any of it. It's like going to an athiest convention and screaming everyone is going to Hell for being a sinner and damned to an eternity of burning in hellfire. It's like screaming the end is nigh because the computer's clocks aren't made for the year 2000. It's stupid, pointless, flamboyant whining.

No one gives a rat's fuck if you're an athiest. Keep it to yourself, tell a few select friends, tell your parents. But don't go mounting a high horse because you believe in "logic" and "free thinking" and all that other cool shit to make yourself feel like one smart cookie.

Haven't seen that video. Linky?
I think it's a little sad when things are at the stage where people accept a certain kind of behaviour from religious people, namely expression of religious identity, and then turn around and pointlessly, flamboyantly whine about atheists doing the same thing. Any of those criticisms can be applied to a far greater number of religious people. It's atheist with an E-I, by the way.

SpitValve wrote:People do seem to get way pissed off about Christianity. For what?

See the Clifford quote, for one. See Belial's post for more.

Teaspoon wrote:While atheism might not originally have meant it, it seems that these days it's widely accepted as not just meaning that you don't affirm the existence of any gods, but that you affirm their nonexistence.

Dictionary.com disagrees.

Teaspoon wrote:you claim that God is incoherent. I disagree.

Not just God. Anything supernatural. As Leonard Peikoff said:
Leonard Peikoff wrote:"God" as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle. The point is wider than just the Judeo-Christian concept of God. No argument will get you from this world to a supernatural world. No reason will lead you to a world contradicting this one. No method of inference will enable you to leap from existence to a "super-existence".


thomasjmaccoll wrote:when i told my mum i wasn't going to go to church any more, one of the things she said to me in the ensuing discussion was 'whatever you do, don't pity the people that still do go to church' and i think she's right... they've made their choice and they are completely entitled to it, it's nothing to do with me.

They are doing harm to themselves and to others. They spread lies. They believe delusions. Many forfeit the pleasures of this world in order to gain riches in an imaginary next. What possible reason could anyone have to pity them?

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Postby Verysillyman » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:38 am UTC

Narsil wrote:Is there a word for someone who says "I don't believe in a god, but I would be open to the idea if there was ever sufficient proof"


Yes. Agnostic.

I'd propose nontheism for what you want though. I don't think it's a real word outside of me. Maybe indifferent would work too. I might put that next census.

Atheism is specifically believing that there is no god. It takes as much faith as any religioun.

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Postby Peshmerga » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:43 am UTC

Faith in science, logic, and understand of the natural universe.
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Postby RealGrouchy » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:53 am UTC

wmoonw wrote:I'm amused at the fact that the challenge is put forth by a group called the "rational response squad" . . . rational response to what? and since when is posting on youtube a rational response to anything?

Oh, I don't know...

- RG>

/haven't read rest of thread
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Mighty Jalapeno wrote:At least he has the decency to REMOVE THE GAP BETWEEN HIS QUOTES....
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Re: Blasphemy Challenge

Postby yy2bggggs » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:57 am UTC

fredxor wrote:Has anyone taken the Blasphemy Challenge yet? (You damn yourself to Hell to get a free DVD). I have.

http://blasphemychallenge.com/

What do you guys think of the Blasphemy Challenge anyways? Anyone in it for the free DVD like me?


This is just an annoying site IMO. First off, it's not entirely clear that an atheist can even commit the unpardonable sin, much less that one can do so by saying "I deny the Holy Spirit". Second, even if it is, the site is giving away free DVD's in the name of rationalism, to people who are already willing to do so.

blasphemychallenge.com wrote:There's one catch: We want your soul.
Who are they kidding? Nobody who really believes this is really going to do this, and the point of the exercise is not to make such people do this. So, what's the point? Well, it's obvious--free advertising:
blasphemy.com wrote:View the press release here. View television coverage here.
links removed

The badge logo, "Rational Response Squad", seals it for me. Nothing promoting rationalism will come from this, and that isn't really the point. This gimmick isn't promoting rationalism--on the contrary, it is exploiting irrationalism. OTOH, these guys probably know this, and as advertising goes, it probably will be effective. So, if the goal is to advertise this thing effectively (which it most likely is), they will acheive the goal.

Hence, the annoying part--this is exploitative advertising, and I feel it is insulting my intelligence. Still, for some reason, that hair commercial with the lady saying that no woman likes a man without a full head of hair annoys me more (disclaimer: I am an atheist, but I am not bald).

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Postby Strilanc » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:19 am UTC

superiority wrote:
Alky wrote:Let's play the "piss off a large majority of people cause they think differently" game!

Wait. No. Let's not. I hate stunts like this.

Not merely because they "think differently". Because they think differently in a manner that is directly harmful to the whole of humanity. As William


Just thought I'd clear up that I meant think as in "belief", not think as in "process."
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Postby Peshmerga » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:25 am UTC

Wait wait wait.

Religion in of itself isn't a bad thing. Believing in a universal truth, the light side of the force, etc; it's great. The Bible was simply intended as a guideline for civilized humanity to follow. Not to kill anyone, be nice to the guy living next to you, etc. That's great.

The crusades, not so much.

The people who took it too literally in a context not fit for this age kinda fucked it up.
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Postby thomasjmaccoll » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:31 am UTC

Verysillyman wrote:Maybe indifferent would work too. I might put that next census.


i will if you will.
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Postby hrryank » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:37 am UTC

Atheism is specifically believing that there is no god. It takes as much faith as any religioun.


No, no, and no. Go here and read. I am weak atheist. I neither believe nor disbelieve in a god. Religion just has no place in my life. You can be an atheist based on the fact that god is not logically provable and thus does not exist given the nonexistence of the spiritual realm. A lot of (grumpy) atheists really do believe it on faith. It comes down to: does it take faith to disbelieve in the spiritual realm, or is it a given? I just ignore the whole thing for uses because either way doesn't increase my living quality.

IMHO these people are just as bad as the shithead religious people they're rallying against. Seriously. You can express your areligiousity without being a cunt. They should be the better people since they just make secularlists look bad, just like fundies make most Christians look bad.
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Postby superiority » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:33 am UTC

Verysillyman wrote:Atheism is specifically believing that there is no god. It takes as much faith as any religioun.

I repeat: Dictionary.com disagrees.

yy2bggggs wrote:First off, it's not entirely clear that an atheist can even commit the unpardonable sin, much less that one can do so by saying "I deny the Holy Spirit".

The greek word used in Mark 3:29 is βλασφημέω, which translates nigh-on exactly to the modern 'blaspheme', including the definition "to speak impiously or irreverently of". Denying something's existence, I would imagine, is rather impious and irreverent. Taking the verse to mean that saying "I deny the holy spirit" damns one to hell, without hope of forgiveness, is an entirely reasonable interpretation. There are no other conditions placed on the blasphemy one must commit.

yy2bggggs wrote:Second, even if it is, the site is giving away free DVD's in the name of rationalism, to people who are already willing to do so.
...
Nobody who really believes this is really going to do this, and the point of the exercise is not to make such people do this.

Well, they're already giving away free DVDs to the religious, without even any effort on those people's part:
Endchristmas.com wrote:Over 1000 copies of the God Who Wasn't There movie will be given as gifts in Churches around the country this Holiday Season (2006)

I guess they decided freethinkers deserved a little free-gift action. It's in the spirit of the season, after all.

yy2bggggs wrote:Nothing promoting rationalism will come from this, and that isn't really the point. This gimmick isn't promoting rationalism--on the contrary, it is exploiting irrationalism.

Nothin' like some good ol' assertions without reasoning or evidence to back them up, eh?

Alky wrote:Just thought I'd clear up that I meant think as in "belief", not think as in "process."

I got that. The Clifford quote directly addresses beliefs.

Peshmerga wrote:Religion in of itself isn't a bad thing.

I beg to differ.

Peshmerga wrote:Believing in a universal truth, the light side of the force, etc; it's great.

And yet we lock people up who think they are Napoleon. Because that's so different.

Peshmerga wrote:The Bible was simply intended as a guideline for civilized humanity to follow. Not to kill anyone, be nice to the guy living next to you, etc. That's great.

    Lev 20:2-5
    Lev 20:9
    Lev 20:10
    Lev 20:11
    Lev 20:13
    Lev 20:14
    Lev 20:15-16
    Lev 20:27
    Lev 21:9
    Lev 24:16
    Deut 12:30
    Deut 13:1-5
    Deut 13:6-10
    Deut 13:12-16
    Deut 17:2-7
    Deut 17:12-13
    Deut 18:20
    Deut 19:11-13
    Deut 19:18-21
    Deut 21:18-21
    Deut 22:13-21
    Deut 22:22
    Deut 22:23-24
    Deut 24:7
That's 24 different commands to kill people, for various sins. The second-last one says to kill virgins who are raped if they do not cry for help. Wow. That's a lot of people to kill (you know, Peshmerga had given me the impression there would be more not killing). But what to do with them, once they're dead? Deut 21:22 gives us the answer: hang them on a tree! Lubberly decorations! I wonder if it would be okay just to hang their heads up, to save space?

Now, you might be saying to yourself, "I suppose Ol' Yahweh is pretty bloodthirsty. And sadistic. But Jesus doesn't like any of that stuff! He's all kind and peace and love and so forth!" Well, why don't we ask him? Jesus talks about this very stuff, in Matt 15:4-6!
Jesus wrote:For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever, shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever, thou mightest be profited by me; And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect, by your tradition.

Hold on...that seems to be supporting the unending river of blood that the Bible condones. Huh. So much for not killing.

Peshmerga wrote:The crusades, not so much.

I'm afraid Deut 12:30 commands people to kill those of other faiths. The Crusades were a pure expression of Christian faith, in complete accordance with the commands of the Bible and wishes of God.

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Postby Teaspoon » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:52 am UTC

superiority wrote:
Verysillyman wrote:Atheism is specifically believing that there is no god. It takes as much faith as any religioun.

I repeat: Dictionary.com disagrees.


Er, did you actually read that definition?

Pretty sure that the doctrine or belief that there is no God agrees with "Atheism is specifically believing that there is no god."

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Postby SpitValve » Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:00 am UTC

Let's look at those verses:

Lev 20:2-5 - death penalty for sacrificing your children to Molech
Lev 20:9 - death penalty for cursing your parents
Lev 20:10 - death penalty for incest
Lev 20:11 - death penalty for incest
Lev 20:13 - death penalty for homosexual sex
Lev 20:14 - death penalty for marring a woman and her mother at the same time
Lev 20:15-16 - death penalty for bestiality
Lev 20:27 - death penalty for witches
Lev 21:9 - death penalty for daughters of priests becoming prostitutes
Lev 24:16 - death penalty for blasphemers
Deut 12:30 - prophesying that God will help the Israelites to wipe out the nations before them & commanding the Israelites not to fall in their ways after conquering them. (Not a general command to kill non-Jews)
Deut 13:1-5 - death for prophets preaching rebellion against God
Deut 13:6-10 - death for someone you know for privately inciting rebellion against God or saying "let's follow other gods"
Deut 13:12-16 - death for someone randomly living in your town inciting rebellion against God or saying "let's follow other gods"
Deut 17:2-7 - death for people worshipping other Gods if they are living in your town
Deut 17:12-13 - death for contempt to priests
Deut 18:20 - death for false prophets
Deut 19:11-13 - death for murderers
Deut 19:18-21 - death for perjury
Deut 21:18-21 - death for being a rebellious son
Deut 22:13-21 - death for sex before marriage
Deut 22:22 - death for adultery
Deut 22:23-24 - death for adultery
Deut 24:7 - death for kidnapping

So we have 3 broad categories here:

1. Death for things that most people agree are wrong (e.g. adultery, murder etc)
2. Death for things people have quite different opinions on the ethics of (e.g. premarital sex, homosexuality)
3. Death for following other religions & inciting others to do so

For (1), it does seem that death is an overly harsh punishment. In the absense of a jail system things are different, but things like exile (also used in the bible) & corporal (but not capital) punishment are still options...

As for (2) & (3)... well, if you accept that someone could believe these things are wrong, it just boils down to the punishment seeming too harsh.

---

Now, quoting all these verses out of context can give you an inaccurate impression of what Leviticus are like, so here's a few more verses, a fair samping of the type of stuff in the law:

Leviticus 1 - regulations sacrifices. In particular, make sure you don't sacrifice animals that are crap and you didn't want anyway
Leviticus 6:1-7 - If you cheat somebody, you should pay them pack 120% and make a sacrifice in the temple
Leviticus 8 - Aaron's sons getting ordained as priests
Leviticus 11 - food you're not allowed to eat
Leviticus 13:47-59 - basically, if your clothing grows some mould on it, then wash it. If washing it doesn't make the mould reduce (as judged by a priest), then throw it out.
Leviticus 15 - "discharges causing uncleanliness". e.g. if someone has some sort of discharge in a pot, clean it or break it
Leviticus 18 - Don't have sex with close relatives, animals, other people's wives, or men. Also, don't sacrifice your children to Molech.
Leviticus 19:10 "Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:17-18 "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD"
Leviticus 20 - Punishment for sin. Generally death
Leviticus 23 - regulations for feasts

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Postby superiority » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:25 pm UTC

Teaspoon wrote:Er, did you actually read that definition?

Did you? "disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings"; disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods". Wow, that seems pretty consistent with the idea that atheism includes all belief systems that do not affirm the existence of God, ranging the gamut from mere lack of belief to positive denial. Funny, that.

SpitValve wrote:Deut 12:30 - prophesying that God will help the Israelites to wipe out the nations before them & commanding the Israelites not to fall in their ways after conquering them. (Not a general command to kill non-Jews)

Hmmm. Correct, it seems. Irregardless, the chapter refers to expanding borders to those places where God has chosen to put his name. As far as I understand it, it can still be used as an excuse for the Crusades, which were out to reclaim the Holy Land.

SpitValve wrote:Lev 20:2-5 - death penalty for sacrificing your children to Molech

Huh. I had assumed, since 20:5 refers to "whoredom" with Molech, that "Molech" signified the Ammonites, and "giveth of his seed" meant have sex with. Turns out the Hebrew word meaning "whoredom" is used in a figurative sense to mean "idolatry" as well, and "seed", of course, can mean children. Killing people for human sacrifice seems a lot more reasonable than killing them for getting their poon from foreign parts. However, I'm still a little skeptical about that: the Hebrew word translated to "giveth", nâthan, cannot, to the best of my knowledge, be translated to mean "sacrifice". Since there's no further Biblical clarification on this matter, the verses could simply mean raising your children to worship Molech, although I strongly lean towards the sacrifice-interpretation.

SpitValve wrote:So we have 3 broad categories here:

1. Death for things that most people agree are wrong (e.g. adultery, murder etc)
2. Death for things people have quite different opinions on the ethics of (e.g. premarital sex, homosexuality)
3. Death for following other religions & inciting others to do so

For (1), it does seem that death is an overly harsh punishment. In the absense of a jail system things are different, but things like exile (also used in the bible) & corporal (but not capital) punishment are still options...

As for (2) & (3)... well, if you accept that someone could believe these things are wrong, it just boils down to the punishment seeming too harsh.

"Too harsh" is putting it rather mildly. Biblically, teenage angst-fueled lashing out at parents is to be rewarded with stoning. If a kid goes against his parents' wishes and gets stoned...well, that kid gets stoned. The second-last on the list, as I mentioned, prescribes death for engaged rape-victims who do not cry out for help. That it "boils down" to killing people for such ridiculous reasons is not in the least reassuring. Additonally, my point was that the Bible does tell you to kill people, contrary to what Peshmerga said.

SpitValve wrote:Now, quoting all these verses out of context can give you an inaccurate impression of what Leviticus are like, so here's a few more verses, a fair samping of the type of stuff in the law:

Granted, the Bible contains other things than the wealth of obscenity littered through it. That does not make a command to kill anyone who makes a prediction that does not turn out to be true any less disgusting.

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Postby jestingrabbit » Thu Jan 04, 2007 1:24 pm UTC

superiority wrote:Not merely because they "think differently". Because they think differently in a manner that is directly harmful to the whole of humanity. As William Kingdon Clifford put it:
William Kingdom Clifford wrote:If I steal money from any person, there may be no harm done from the mere transfer of possession; he may not feel the loss, or it may prevent him from using the money badly. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself dishonest. What hurts society is not that it should lose its property, but that it should become a den of thieves, for then it must cease to be society. This is why we ought not to do evil, that good may come; for at any rate this great evil has come, that we have done evil and are made wicked thereby. In like manner, if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.


It occurs to me that this is as much an exhortation to reject atheism as it is to reject a theistic position. There is neither convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god, nor evidence or argument supporting the nonexistence of god.

Moreover, it seems to me that one can prove that one's self exists yet one has no direct evidence regarding the remainder of reality. One is left taking the evidence of one's senses on trust, despite the fact that they are often fooled (intoxication, confusion, dreams) just as the mental faculties are often found wanting (false memory, delusion (through illness or ordinary mistake)). This leaves one with no certainties whatsoever, and therefore lacking any hard evidence on which to act.

So frankly, you'll have to excuse me if I take Clifford's statements with a very large pinch of 'forget that nonsense'.

It also seems that you're asking us to infer that religion leaves a person credulous. I have not found this to be the case. I have found stupid irreligious people and stupid religious people, and many of both these kinds of person require someone to do their thinking for them. Religion doesn't make you credulous, a lack of critical thinking leaves you credulous. I know a religious young woman who has written a PhD on the lives of atheists in the 19th century who has a well developed critical faculty and I have a friend who uncritically consumes every utterance from Richard Dawkins as though he were their guru. I do not believe that religion leaves a person credulous, nor do I believe that rejecting religion leaves one immune to philosophical or metaphysical error.

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Postby Belial » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:10 pm UTC

It occurs to me that this is as much an exhortation to reject atheism as it is to reject a theistic position. There is neither convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god, nor evidence or argument supporting the nonexistence of god.


Again, you're using a definition of atheism that means "Positive Denial of the Existence of God" when it actually means "disbelief in god" or "lack of belief in god".

There is a distinction between not believing in something, and believing that it doesn't exist.

Moreover, it seems to me that one can prove that one's self exists yet one has no direct evidence regarding the remainder of reality. One is left taking the evidence of one's senses on trust, despite the fact that they are often fooled (intoxication, confusion, dreams) just as the mental faculties are often found wanting (false memory, delusion (through illness or ordinary mistake)). This leaves one with no certainties whatsoever, and therefore lacking any hard evidence on which to act.


In other words, Solipsism. This is, of course, feasible, just as "last thursdayism" and a number of other "maybe our senses are lying to us" philosophies are feasible.

However, they are also ultimately useless. Using our senses and evidence therefrom produces (or appears to produce, or has appeared to produce, or has been having produced...) repeatable results. Ignoring our own sensory data doesn't.

Consider it to be a version of pascal's wager that *isn't* logically retarded:

If reality is not real, and I act as though it is, I have lost nothing.
If reality is real, and I act as though it is not, I have lost everything.

Where "everything" is opportunity, pleasure, intellectual development, discovery, friendship, etcetera.

So given that we're behaving as though reality is real, we have to trust our senses and the laws that *appear* to be in effect. Given that, there's no reasonable evidence of the existence of god, and that matters.
Last edited by Belial on Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:20 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Wikey » Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:24 pm UTC

Labels suck.

Instead of asking what religion people are on the census, there should be the question: "Do you really want us to know what religion you are?" with "yes" and "no" as the only two options.

Personally, I feel that whether there is some kind of god or not doesn't really affect me one way or the other. Anyone see that episode of Futurama where Bender meets god?

That's my view on life. "If it's to be, it's up to me."

Even if you pray to god for something to happen, it's up to you to go do it.

Today, a kid in my 1st period class made me want to scream. He has a 3.1 GPA and a pathetic SAT score. He only applied to schools that were way out of his league. He seriously believes that he's going to be alright because god wouldn't let him get rejected by every school.

I also don't like when athletes thank god for wins. Thanking god for your talent is acceptable, saying that you won the game because god liked you more than the other team, that's just irritating.

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Postby SpitValve » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:48 am UTC

Wikey wrote:Instead of asking what religion people are on the census, there should be the question: "Do you really want us to know what religion you are?" with "yes" and "no" as the only two options.


In New Zealand the religion question is optional on the census, so yeah, we basically have that.

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Postby fredxor » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:14 am UTC

saxmaniac1987 wrote:does anyone else find it weird that i'd have to renounce it before i get the dvd that will convince me? usually you should be convinced by the dvd first, then you get to renounce. what happens if someone isn't convinced by the dvd, and they decide they want to believe. well, they're up the creek, cause they just committed blasphemy to get the dvd that ended up affirming their beliefs. ouch.


I don't think the DVD is suppossed to convince people to be Atheists. It's more so just to get Atheists to stand up and be counted so that they can get a free DVD.

Bigspring wrote:Wow... I watched the little video stating their challenge. Gotta say... dumb on a lot of levels. There were a lot of silly things in that short video. The one that amused me most was the statement that denying Jesus would, "bring you out of the Stone Age." Oh... those wacky Romans and their bronze.


Hey, the Romans were far more advanced in their prime than those of Medieval times.

superiority wrote:
lani wrote:It's definitely meant to inflame the issue -- another reason why I wouldn't do it.

Perhaps enflaming is exactly what's needed? When atheists are the least liked minority in the country, some people would say a loud, attention-grabbing statement of "Yes, we exist, and we're people too" is absolutely necessary.

Peshmerga wrote:It's just as bad as the Christians who annoy the fuck out of the rest of western civilization.

No one wants to hear a hundred little impressionable kids say they renounce the "holy spirit".

Yeah, I mean, what's up with those nasty atheists, door-knocking in order to preach, accosting people on the street and shouting at them about how nothing will happen to them after they die if they do not repent, calling for the destruction of major cities and deaths of politicians because America has opened its heart to God. Those are the most annoying aspects of evangelicals, right?

Wait, no. They put a video on the internet. A video that someone has to make a conscious decision to view. If someone has to go out of their way to access the material, they can't really complain that its "annoying".


Hehe, actually, some atheists did go door to door preaching: http://youtube.com/watch?v=l7wOz5a6yns

superiority wrote:My video.


I laughed. Pretty funny.

-----

I generally don't have a problem with religious people. I go to a Catholic school, and a lot of my friends happen to believe in some form of diety. I do participate in Masses that we have to go to to be respectful. I only have problems with some religious people, like these guys (the murderer and his family): http://www.parallelpac.org/murder.htm. My particular quarrell with them is their behavior. If they want to believe that I'm going to Hell because I don't believe in God, that's fine with me... as long as they don't shove their crosses in my face and treat me horribly. I don't care if they hate gay people, but I do not like them when they hold obnoxious protests of the funerals of soldiers (the godhatesfags people). I have problems with other religions, all of Scientology, for example; since it is a cultish pseudo-religion that takes advantage of its members to gain financial well being.

There are also times when both Atheists and Religious people can be off the wall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHt5USBMxkc. In this example, the door-to-door knockers go about their business and then they are attacked with waterballoons. I was astonished at first, and thought, "that was horrible". Then I saw the religious people freak out and I thought, "oh wow". I understand that the religious people reacted to the baloons, but that was way over the top. Nice following Christ's example guys (you got everthing wrong, except for when you damned unbelievers to Hell at the end). One more thing: that waterballoon guy with the afro get's extra points for having an afro (I like afros).

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Postby superiority » Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:17 am UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:It occurs to me that this is as much an exhortation to reject atheism as it is to reject a theistic position. There is neither convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god, nor evidence or argument supporting the nonexistence of god.

How many times must I tell people that Dictionary.com disagrees?

jestingrabbit wrote:Moreover, it seems to me that one can prove that one's self exists yet one has no direct evidence regarding the remainder of reality. One is left taking the evidence of one's senses on trust, despite the fact that they are often fooled (intoxication, confusion, dreams) just as the mental faculties are often found wanting (false memory, delusion (through illness or ordinary mistake)). This leaves one with no certainties whatsoever, and therefore lacking any hard evidence on which to act.

Solipsism. We have established standards of evidence because those standards have worked very well in the past. Before you bring up the problem of induction, I draw your attention again to Belial's "Pascal's Wager, but not retarded", using inductive reasoning.
    If I act as though inductive reasoning works, and it does, then I lose nothing, and gain quite a bit, actually.
    If I act as though inductive reasoning works, and it does not, then I lose nothing, since all actions are equally arbitrary.
jestingrabbit wrote:It also seems that you're asking us to infer that religion leaves a person credulous. I have not found this to be the case.

You know, the majority of religious people share their religion with parents. They belong to a religion only because they were brought up in it. If that is not uncritical acceptance, I'm not sure what is.

jestingrabbit wrote:I have found stupid irreligious people and stupid religious people, and many of both these kinds of person require someone to do their thinking for them. Religion doesn't make you credulous, a lack of critical thinking leaves you credulous. I know a religious young woman who has written a PhD on the lives of atheists in the 19th century who has a well developed critical faculty and I have a friend who uncritically consumes every utterance from Richard Dawkins as though he were their guru. I do not believe that religion leaves a person credulous,

You say yourself that "there is [no] convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god". I'm not exactly sure how accepting a thing without convincing evidence or argument supporting its existence is different from credulity. Could you explain that to me?

jestingrabbit wrote:nor do I believe that rejecting religion leaves one immune to philosophical or metaphysical error.

I never said any such thing.

fredxor wrote:Hehe, actually, some atheists did go door to door preaching: http://youtube.com/watch?v=l7wOz5a6ynsp

I am aware of John Safran's activities in Salt Lake City. The piece was a joke, done merely for the sake of comedy, and I doubt it is a regular practice.

fredxor wrote:I laughed. Pretty funny.

Thankee kindly.

fredxor wrote:I generally don't have a problem with religious people.

Which is where we part ways.

fredxor wrote:If they want to believe that I'm going to Hell because I don't believe in God, that's fine with me... as long as they don't shove their crosses in my face and treat me horribly.

I find the idea that any person could advocate eternal torture as punishment for daring to think, daring to doubt, utterly repulsive. I am a lot warmer to Universalists and religions without a hell, as you can imagine.

fredxor wrote:I don't care if they hate gay people

And I do. I think I know what my problem is: I care too much.

fredxor wrote:I have problems with other religions, all of Scientology, for example; since it is a cultish pseudo-religion that takes advantage of its members to gain financial well being.

It is a difference of degree, not kind.

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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Belial wrote:
It occurs to me that this is as much an exhortation to reject atheism as it is to reject a theistic position. There is neither convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god, nor evidence or argument supporting the nonexistence of god.


Again, you're using a definition of atheism that means "Positive Denial of the Existence of God" when it actually means "disbelief in god" or "lack of belief in god".

There is a distinction between not believing in something, and believing that it doesn't exist.


True, but to get the video you have to deny god. You have to take the strong atheist position and this is being held out as reasonable and rational. Its neither of those things. The weak atheist position, or the agnostic position, seem entirely rational to me. My point was that the strong atheist position is based in faith and is as irrational and unproven as any other faith based claim.

Belial wrote:
Moreover, it seems to me that one can prove that one's self exists yet one has no direct evidence regarding the remainder of reality. One is left taking the evidence of one's senses on trust, despite the fact that they are often fooled (intoxication, confusion, dreams) just as the mental faculties are often found wanting (false memory, delusion (through illness or ordinary mistake)). This leaves one with no certainties whatsoever, and therefore lacking any hard evidence on which to act.


In other words, Solipsism. This is, of course, feasible, just as "last thursdayism" and a number of other "maybe our senses are lying to us" philosophies are feasible.

However, they are also ultimately useless. Using our senses and evidence therefrom produces (or appears to produce, or has appeared to produce, or has been having produced...) repeatable results. Ignoring our own sensory data doesn't.

<snip stuff I largely agree with>

So given that we're behaving as though reality is real, we have to trust our senses and the laws that *appear* to be in effect. Given that, there's no reasonable evidence of the existence of god, and that matters.


Yes, our existence, our nature, seems to require that we believe our senses. We're unable to remain ambivalent about them. But, our senses aren't entirely reliable and I think this is the usefulness of solipsism, it is an extreem position that should be rejected, but it is based around a kernel of truth.

For an example of the manner in which our senses lie, consider the drug alcohol. Sixty years ago it was believed that alcohol was a stimulant based on the experience of people who drank it. Now, we know that it is a sedative, based on more precise medical enquiry. None the less, it was accepted by all and sundry that it was a stimulant. They felt that they had good evidence but were mistaken.

Or, consider meteorites. When Laplace was born there were folk tales regarding rocks falling from the sky and the scientific establishment considered them to be nonsense. During Laplace's life, there was a meteorite strike that was well observed and it became scientific orthodoxy to believe that such things happened. The scientific establishment considered that their rejection of meteorites was well founded in evidence, but they were mistaken.

Another case: when news of the Wright brothers flight was transmitted around the world, many letters were written by learned men stating that it was well known that heavier than air flight was impossible (despite the existence of birds). They felt their position was based in sound evidence and were wrong.

Therefore, Clifford's statement isn't useful because what constitutes evidence isn't clear. It sounds right that we should withold judgement until we have evidence, but if we don't have a universally applicable standard for what good evidence is, and we don't, this statement is unhelpful. The only safe assumption seems to be solipsism, which you identify (correctly in my opinion) as lacking practical merit.

Furthermore, I think that what Clifford asks of us is impossible. I, for one, can't decide what I do and don't believe like some sort of machine. I find myself unable to remain entirely undecided on a range of matters where there is little evidence either way.

To illustrate, I might ask whether there are aliens on other planets. Clifford's statement seems to tell us to reject any belief in the existence of aliens and any denial of the existence of aliens. Theorists might tell us that there is a good chance that there is alien life, or they might tell us that there's not a good chance. Considering that neither side can carry the argument, we are left to make up our own minds, or to refrain from having a definite position. Any position that we adopt is ultimately unsupported by hard evidence.

What I find, though, is that it is very difficult to truly say 'I don't believe either position'. Introspection tends to reveal that I hold one position or the other. So I find that I believe in aliens, despite the fact that I have no hard evidence for the position. I don't believe that they visit Earth, I don't believe that the species of alien are known by anyone on Earth. But, I do believe that they are out there, somewhere. All of those beliefs have only a shaky foundation in logic, yet I find myself unable to be agnostic. My position isn't certain but its there nonetheless.

Similarly, I find myself believing in some kind of god. Not a Christian god, not a god that is omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent. But I find that given the two alternatives of an infinite regress of causes or god, I find that I believe in god.

So, to conclude a post that is way to long, Clifford's statement is unhelpful because
a) there is no indication of what is and isn't evidence, and I believe that whatever standard we set up will be flawed in some way, and
b) it assumes that we can withold belief one way or the other, which seems wrong to me.

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Postby Teaspoon » Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:32 am UTC

Again with the dictionary linkage?

I already pointed out that the first definition listed there is specifically a belief in nonexistence of gods, rather than just a lack of certainty regarding their existence. Religious people call everybody who doesn't specifically believe in the existence of gods atheists, and that's the second definition there. Once you stop looking from the perspective of the religious person, it's time to use the more specific first definition, with terms like agnosticism filling in the rest of the broad atheism category.

Maybe we should use the convention of the capitalised "Atheism" for definition one and the all-lower-case "atheism" for definition two. Then we just need to avoid the confusion that will arise if we start sentences with the word. :P

Jestingrabbit, your alien analogy is interesting, and I'll use it to make a point that I don't think I've made clearly enough yet. How strong is your belief that aliens are out there? Is it a religious sort of belief, where you are certain they're there regardless of evidence, or is it more of a suspicion where you recognise that you might be wrong, but think that there are probably aliens out there?

I think it's probably the latter. I also think you'd find yourself questioning the sanity of people for whom the former is true, even though on the surface you "believe" the same thing as them.

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Postby aldimond » Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:42 am UTC

fredxor wrote:I go to a Catholic school, and a lot of my friends happen to believe in some form of diety. I do participate in Masses that we have to go to to be respectful.


I have always been surprised at the number of people that attend schools with religious affiliations that differ from theirs, particularly those that include mandatory religious services. And I guess it's no small number; my brother goes to Augustana College, a Lutheran school where he says there are more atheists and Catholics than Lutherans. I dunno. I could never do it. I'd just be really uncomfortable being asked to participate fully in a religious ceremony that I don't believe in. I guess it's a good thing that most of the top engineering schools in the US aren't religiously affiliated.
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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:04 am UTC

superiority wrote:<snip>

We have established standards of evidence because those standards have worked very well in the past.

<snip>


It seems your standards of evidence are lacking.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:It also seems that you're asking us to infer that religion leaves a person credulous. I have not found this to be the case.

You know, the majority of religious people share their religion with parents. They belong to a religion only because they were brought up in it. If that is not uncritical acceptance, I'm not sure what is.


Do you have figures for the children of atheists to compare this statement to? Without them, this hazy, poorly defined 'fact' doesn't support your conclusion. It could as easily be a consequence of the majority of people being uncritical as anything else.

The newshour had a report on wednesday that was relevant. You can read the transcript here.

Its mostly anecdotal but it does have an interesting stat towards the end

JUDY WOODRUFF wrote:According to a series of studies by the evangelical pollster George Barna, it appears that young born-again Christians may be up to 15 percent more likely than their religious elders to claim that homosexuality is morally acceptable.


This doesn't seem like uncritical acceptance to me.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:I have found stupid irreligious people and stupid religious people, and many of both these kinds of person require someone to do their thinking for them. Religion doesn't make you credulous, a lack of critical thinking leaves you credulous. I know a religious young woman who has written a PhD on the lives of atheists in the 19th century who has a well developed critical faculty and I have a friend who uncritically consumes every utterance from Richard Dawkins as though he were their guru. I do not believe that religion leaves a person credulous,

You say yourself that "there is [no] convincing objective evidence or argument supporting the existence of god". I'm not exactly sure how accepting a thing without convincing evidence or argument supporting its existence is different from credulity. Could you explain that to me?

Certainly. Since you're a fan of of dictionary definitions:

dictionary.com on credulous wrote:cred·u·lous
1. willing to believe or trust too readily, esp. without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.
2. marked by or arising from credulity: a credulous rumor.


Given your own problems with inference from evidence, I scarcely think that we should delgate the declaration of standards for 'proper or adequate evidence' to you, nor do I believe that I am qualified to do this. The evidence that believers accept for god is largely their own concern. I doubt that it is objective, but that doesn't make it any less potent in forming their beliefs. Nor should all subjective evidence be discounted in my opinion. Certainly, when drawing scientific inference it has no place, but not all of life is science.

I would take someone to be gullible if they were easily swayed by any passing piece of trivia or vague statistic. I don't find religious people to be any more or less susceptible to this flaw.
Last edited by jestingrabbit on Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:11 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby hermaj » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:04 am UTC

aldimond wrote:
fredxor wrote:I go to a Catholic school, and a lot of my friends happen to believe in some form of diety. I do participate in Masses that we have to go to to be respectful.


I have always been surprised at the number of people that attend schools with religious affiliations that differ from theirs, particularly those that include mandatory religious services. And I guess it's no small number; my brother goes to Augustana College, a Lutheran school where he says there are more atheists and Catholics than Lutherans. I dunno. I could never do it. I'd just be really uncomfortable being asked to participate fully in a religious ceremony that I don't believe in. I guess it's a good thing that most of the top engineering schools in the US aren't religiously affiliated.


Sorry if this has been answered before, but what's a Lutheran? Is that like a Protestant?

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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:07 am UTC

superiority wrote:Denying something's existence, I would imagine, is rather impious and irreverent. Taking the verse to mean that saying "I deny the holy spirit" damns one to hell, without hope of forgiveness, is an entirely reasonable interpretation. There are no other conditions placed on the blasphemy one must commit.

That's you're argument? You're pretty sure? Or was it that you know greek?

superiority wrote:Well, they're already giving away free DVDs to the religious, without even any effort on those people's part.

I can't see the relevance of this.

superiority wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Nothing promoting rationalism will come from this, and that isn't really the point. This gimmick isn't promoting rationalism--on the contrary, it is exploiting irrationalism.

Nothin' like some good ol' assertions without reasoning or evidence to back them up, eh?

I have reasoning to back it up, but you cannot troll me without my consent.

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Postby Detritus » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:11 am UTC

Teaspoon wrote:Jestingrabbit, your alien analogy is interesting, and I'll use it to make a point that I don't think I've made clearly enough yet. How strong is your belief that aliens are out there? Is it a religious sort of belief, where you are certain they're there regardless of evidence, or is it more of a suspicion where you recognise that you might be wrong, but think that there are probably aliens out there?

I think it's probably the latter. I also think you'd find yourself questioning the sanity of people for whom the former is true, even though on the surface you "believe" the same thing as them.

I think his point is that belief isn't necessarily a conscious choice? I don't know. That's how I understand it. I can't choose not to believe that I am an extremely beautiful human being. Even the most convincing argument that I am not would not immediately change my mind. It has nothing to do with being skeptical or credulous; rather, it is just a deep-seated conviction about the way the world is. Yes, beliefs, in the sense of the word that I am using, can change over time, but I feel that most attempts at conversion, including conversion to atheism (does that get its own word?), are entirely misguided and only reveal a shallow understanding of the nature of belief.

Or maybe I'm just really that beautiful.
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Postby Teaspoon » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:26 am UTC

Lutheran is a subset of Protestant. Pretty sure the Lutherans were the first Protestant church in the western protestant bunch. The Catholic/Eastern Orthodox schism was hundreds of years before, but I don't think the Orthodox churches are considered Protestant.

Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who was reading the Bible and realised that the church was teaching some disturbingly non-Biblically-based things. He wrote them all down and nailed them to the cathedral door. There was a bit of a fuss, and at some point he got excommunicated*, which was probably very exciting. He'd stirred things up quite a bit and impressed a bunch of people with his views, and they decided to leave and make their own church without the corruptions that had crept into Catholicism.

Interestingly, the vast majority of things that Luther had objected to in his original list were culled out of Catholicism over the next few hundred years. By then it was too late, because there were all sorts of weird cultural bits and long-standing disputes that prevented Luther's crew (who'd named themselves Lutherans by that point) from merging back in.

I'm sure there's probably a really detailed Wikipedia article about it, but I'm pretty sure I got the general gist.

*excommunication is when someone is expelled from the faith and banned from taking communion. Communion is an integral part of having your sins forgiven, so the ban pretty much meant he was damned to Hell.

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Postby superiority » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:26 am UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:True, but to get the video you have to deny god. You have to take the strong atheist position and this is being held out as reasonable and rational. Its neither of those things. The weak atheist position, or the agnostic position, seem entirely rational to me. My point was that the strong atheist position is based in faith and is as irrational and unproven as any other faith based claim.

To get the video, you have to deny an element of the Christian conception of God, which is something entirely different. The idea of the Trinity is represented by this image. A cursory examination reveals that the concept is, in fact, complete nonsense. Meaningless gibberish, if you will. It's entirely reasonable to deny it, since it defies all logic (the transitive property, for example).

jestingrabbit wrote:Yes, our existence, our nature, seems to require that we believe our senses. We're unable to remain ambivalent about them. But, our senses aren't entirely reliable and I think this is the usefulness of solipsism, it is an extreem position that should be rejected, but it is based around a kernel of truth.

For an example of the manner in which our senses lie, consider the drug alcohol. Sixty years ago it was believed that alcohol was a stimulant based on the experience of people who drank it. Now, we know that it is a sedative, based on more precise medical enquiry. None the less, it was accepted by all and sundry that it was a stimulant. They felt that they had good evidence but were mistaken.

Or, consider meteorites. When Laplace was born there were folk tales regarding rocks falling from the sky and the scientific establishment considered them to be nonsense. During Laplace's life, there was a meteorite strike that was well observed and it became scientific orthodoxy to believe that such things happened. The scientific establishment considered that their rejection of meteorites was well founded in evidence, but they were mistaken.

Another case: when news of the Wright brothers flight was transmitted around the world, many letters were written by learned men stating that it was well known that heavier than air flight was impossible (despite the existence of birds). They felt their position was based in sound evidence and were wrong.

Therefore, Clifford's statement isn't useful because what constitutes evidence isn't clear. It sounds right that we should withold judgement until we have evidence, but if we don't have a universally applicable standard for what good evidence is, and we don't, this statement is unhelpful. The only safe assumption seems to be solipsism, which you identify (correctly in my opinion) as lacking practical merit.

"Sometimes we're wrong, so we should disregard evidence-based techniques". Doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, I think. Clifford says, if one believes in something with insufficient evidence supporting it, it may well be true. Conversely, something that is supported by current evidence may well be false. The point still stands.

jestingrabbit wrote:Furthermore, I think that what Clifford asks of us is impossible. I, for one, can't decide what I do and don't believe like some sort of machine. I find myself unable to remain entirely undecided on a range of matters where there is little evidence either way.

Really? That's amazing. I find it absolutely trivial. You learn something new every day.

jestingrabbit wrote:To illustrate, I might ask whether there are aliens on other planets. Clifford's statement seems to tell us to reject any belief in the existence of aliens and any denial of the existence of aliens. Theorists might tell us that there is a good chance that there is alien life, or they might tell us that there's not a good chance. Considering that neither side can carry the argument, we are left to make up our own minds, or to refrain from having a definite position. Any position that we adopt is ultimately unsupported by hard evidence.

Of course. I don't know why you have a problem with this.

jestingrabbit wrote:What I find, though, is that it is very difficult to truly say 'I don't believe either position'. Introspection tends to reveal that I hold one position or the other. So I find that I believe in aliens, despite the fact that I have no hard evidence for the position. I don't believe that they visit Earth, I don't believe that the species of alien are known by anyone on Earth. But, I do believe that they are out there, somewhere. All of those beliefs have only a shaky foundation in logic, yet I find myself unable to be agnostic. My position isn't certain but its there nonetheless.

That's really the most astounding thing. I just can't see that.

jestingrabbit wrote:Similarly, I find myself believing in some kind of god. Not a Christian god, not a god that is omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent. But I find that given the two alternatives of an infinite regress of causes or god, I find that I believe in god.

Ah. Common mistake. Someone's been reading Aristotle, maybe? Basically, your argument is:
    1. Every event has a cause
    2. Nothing is its own cause
    3. Therefore, there is either an infinite chain of causes, or some uncaused entity
And, having reached that conclusion, you assume the "uncaused entity" and call it God. Multiple problems here. For one, the first premise is demonstrably false—at quantum levels, there are uncaused events all the time. Secondly, the beginning of the universe is the beginning of spacetime. To say something caused this is to say that something "existed before time". The reason so many people fall for this is that it sounds like it makes sense. "Here's one point in time, so if you go back, there's another point in time, go back even further there's another point." The concept of "before time", however, is as meaningless as the concept of "beside space". You're applying temporal concepts where they don't apply. In a similar vein, although causality strictly applies (on large enough scales) within the universe, this is no reason to suppose that it applies to the universe as a whole. The line of reasoning, therefore, is triply flawed.

jestingrabbit wrote:So, to conclude a post that is way to long, Clifford's statement is unhelpful because
a) there is no indication of what is and isn't evidence, and I believe that whatever standard we set up will be flawed in some way, and
b) it assumes that we can withold belief one way or the other, which seems wrong to me.

a) we use the standards of evidence that yield the best results in terms of predicting the nature of things
b) maybe you're just not trying hard enough?

Teaspoon wrote:I already pointed out that the first definition listed there is specifically a belief in nonexistence of gods, rather than just a lack of certainty regarding their existence.

And the second definition says it is lack of belief in the existence of gods, rather than affirmation of their nonexistence. What's your point? The order in which definitions are listed means nothing. In fact, Dictionary.com collates definitions from multiple sources. You'll notice the first, which gives two definitions, is "Dictionary.com Unabridged (v1.1)". Scroll down a little, the next is "American Heritage Dictionary", and the two defintions listed for that source are functionally identical to the first two, but in the reverse order. As further proof that order is meaningless, take a look at the definition at meriam-webster.com. The first given definition is specifically labelled as 'archaic'.

Teaspoon wrote:Religious people call everybody who doesn't specifically believe in the existence of gods atheists, and that's the second definition there.

So do atheists, it seems. So that would leave you as the sole objector.

Teaspoon wrote:Once you stop looking from the perspective of the religious person, it's time to use the more specific first definition, with terms like agnosticism filling in the rest of the broad atheism category.

You can be a weak atheist and not an agnostic. Agnosticism is a specific term, with a well defined meaning—that the truth value of certain claims is unknowable.

Teaspoon wrote:Maybe we should use the convention of the capitalised "Atheism" for definition one and the all-lower-case "atheism" for definition two. Then we just need to avoid the confusion that will arise if we start sentences with the word. Razz

There are already terms for that. Strong and weak atheism, or positive and negative atheism. There are also implicit and explicit atheism, where implicit atheism is the atheism of one who has no conception of god, whereas explicit atheism is conscious rejection of theism. All implicit atheism is weak, and all strong atheism is explicit.

yy2bggggs wrote:That's you're argument? You're pretty sure? Or was it that you know greek?

See, now you made two points: it is not clear that an atheist can blaspheme the holy spirit, and it is not clear that saying "I deny the holy spirit" is what is referred to by the verse. My argument is that it there is nothing that precludes an atheist from blaspheming the holy spirit (point 1 refuted), and it is reasonable to assume that saying "I deny the holy spirit" is blasphemy, by the definition of blasphemy (point 2 refuted). I thought that some people might notice that the Bible wasn't originally written in English, and wonder whether the original Hebrew/Greek used had subtle nuances of meaning, that caused its actual meaning to differ slightly from the modern word "blaspheme", so I included the Greek word. Geddit?

yy2bggggs wrote:I can't see the relevance of this.

Well, you said that no-one who actually believes they will lose their soul will enter the challenge. I was pointing out that the guys at the RRS had already noticed that, and were handing them out to people who did believe it, by leaving them in churches. Also, you mentioned "free advertising". The DVDs cost 24.95 each, and they themselves are paying all shipping. 1001 to Challenge participants, over 1000 to Churchgoers...that's at least $50,000, not including shipping. Since when did that count as "free"?

yy2bggggs wrote:I have reasoning to back it up, but you cannot troll me without my consent.

Excuse me if I didn't notice it. If said reasoning is in your original post, would you care to point it out to me? If not, I was correct: you made an assertion, and provided neither evidence nor reasoning to support it. I'm not exactly sure how I was trolling. The comment was dismissive, to be sure, but I'm really not seeing it as a post "deliberately intended to anger [you]...or otherwise disrupt the group's intended purpose".

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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:31 am UTC

Detritus wrote:
Teaspoon wrote:Jestingrabbit, your alien analogy is interesting, and I'll use it to make a point that I don't think I've made clearly enough yet. How strong is your belief that aliens are out there? Is it a religious sort of belief, where you are certain they're there regardless of evidence, or is it more of a suspicion where you recognise that you might be wrong, but think that there are probably aliens out there?

I think it's probably the latter. I also think you'd find yourself questioning the sanity of people for whom the former is true, even though on the surface you "believe" the same thing as them.

I think his point is that belief isn't necessarily a conscious choice? I don't know. That's how I understand it. I can't choose not to believe that I am an extremely beautiful human being. Even the most convincing argument that I am not would not immediately change my mind. It has nothing to do with being skeptical or credulous; rather, it is just a deep-seated conviction about the way the world is. Yes, beliefs, in the sense of the word that I am using, can change over time, but I feel that most attempts at conversion, including conversion to atheism (does that get its own word?), are entirely misguided and only reveal a shallow understanding of the nature of belief.

Or maybe I'm just really that beautiful.


I'm certainly saying that belief is not an entirely voluntary mental process but I think that teaspoon is right to identify that there are different kinds of belief, ranging in a spectrum from everyday belief like 'I believe this meat in the fridge is still okay to eat', to religious beliefs like 'everything this band does is good' or 'the pope is right about moral issues' through to fanatical or zealous belief like 'I am willing to die whilst killing those who don't believe as I do'. The first two kinds seem okay to me, whilst the last one is likely to be damaging to you and the people around you.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:00 am UTC

superiority wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:That's you're argument? You're pretty sure? Or was it that you know greek?

See, now you made two points: it is not clear that an atheist can blaspheme the holy spirit, and it is not clear that saying "I deny the holy spirit" is what is referred to by the verse. My argument is that it there is nothing that precludes an atheist from blaspheming the holy spirit (point 1 refuted), and it is reasonable to assume that saying "I deny the holy spirit" is blasphemy, by the definition of blasphemy (point 2 refuted).

If the original greek means pretty much what modern english does, that only obscures the issue. It's still not clear that denying the existence of the holy spirit is considered blasphemy. The only real evidence you supplied is that it could mean that, but if you read the context of the sole reference about blasphemy of the holy spirit, it has nothing to do with denying the existence of the holy spirit, but rather, attributing as evil the works of the holy spirit--something an atheist cannot do if he tried.

This leaves the door open to broader interpretations, but that's the end of it. Sure, such might constitute an impardonable sin, but that's all you can say about it. Hence, as I said, it's not entirely clear.

superiority wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:I can't see the relevance of this.

Well, you said that no-one who actually believes they will lose their soul will enter the challenge. I was pointing out that the guys at the RRS had already noticed that,

Okay, that's fine and contended, but it also was something that I myself stated in my original post.

superiority wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:I have reasoning to back it up, but you cannot troll me without my consent.

Excuse me if I didn't notice it. If said reasoning is in your original post,

It's not.
superiority wrote:If not, I was correct: you made an assertion, and provided neither evidence nor reasoning to support it.

Yes, it's correct. But it's also so obvious that it doesn't need pointed out.

So why do you point it out? Because you want to imply that I did something wrong or irrational?

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Postby superiority » Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:32 am UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:It seems your standards of evidence are lacking.

For claims as important as this one is (according to some—I myself am an Ignostic), I use those standards of evidence accepted among the general scientific community. The ones which led humanity to have sufficient knowledge to create the computer you are now sitting at. In "everyday" situations, I am somewhat less critical, for practical purposes, but I certainly don't see where I'm lacking. Where am I lacking?

jestingrabbit wrote:Do you have figures for the children of atheists to compare this statement to? Without them, this hazy, poorly defined 'fact' doesn't support your conclusion. It could as easily be a consequence of the majority of people being uncritical as anything else.

Point taken. I have no citation, so I retract the assertion. However, figures for religious affiliation of children of atheists is immaterial—I never said that atheism was a sure path to incredulity , and I will say here that I explicitly deny it.

Dictionary.com wrote:willing to believe or trust too readily, esp. without proper or adequate evidence

So being willing to believe something without proper or adequate evidence is different from this? Because that's how you described religious people.

jestingrabbit wrote:Given your own problems with inference from evidence

Huh? I'm a little confused. Could you please point out where I have demonstrated problems with inference from evidence?

jestingrabbit wrote:I scarcely think that we should delgate the declaration of standards for 'proper or adequate evidence' to you

Remember when I said "established standards of evidence"? "Established" means that they already exist. And they've been in use for a couple of hundred years, and have been tremendously successful in advancing knowledge.

jestingrabbit wrote:I doubt that it is objective, but that doesn't make it any less potent in forming their beliefs.

But I say it should make it less potent.

jestingrabbit wrote:Nor should all subjective evidence be discounted in my opinion. Certainly, when drawing scientific inference it has no place

I can't think why not. If I see a gigantic rabbit, who hands out chocolate, and I eat some chocolate he gives me, while everybody else can see (indeed, or observe in any manner) nothing of the sort, one can assume there is a non-rabbit based explanation for the phenomenon. Similarly, if I have a religious experience, in which I meet God, but to everybody else it appears that I was hallucinating due to oxygen deprivation, my account should be discounted.

jestingrabbit wrote:but not all of life is science.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. All of life is certainly governed by scientific principles. Perhaps you mean one's entire life should not be spent performing science? Or that, outside of a laboratory, one should disregard the notion that a proposition requires evidence before it can be considered true? Could you clarify that?

Detritus wrote:That's how I understand it. I can't choose not to believe that I am an extremely beautiful human being. Even the most convincing argument that I am not would not immediately change my mind.

But "beauty" is merely something that stimulates certain electrochemical whatsits in the brain. As long as those same whatsits are triggered when you look at yourself, then you are beautiful to yourself, by any reasonable standard of evidence. And since I am sure that you know that beauty is an entirely subjective quality, I imagine you can understand that someone else would not be convinced of your beauty, so any argument they made would not contradict the evidence that when you look at yourself, you consider your image beautiful.

Detritus wrote:but I feel that most attempts at conversion, including conversion to atheism (does that get its own word?)

Deconversion! Since there is no specific beliefs they are gaining by becoming an atheist, and they are ridding themselves of beliefs they do have, "deconversion" is the appropriate word.

Detritus wrote:I feel that most attempts at conversion...are entirely misguided and only reveal a shallow understanding of the nature of belief.

By all means, enlighten us with your own understanding of the nature of belief. Unless it was just that a belief is "a deep-seated conviction about the way the world is", in which case I think your own understanding of the term is rather narrow.

Teaspoon wrote:I don't think the Orthodox churches are considered Protestant

You are correct, sir. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican are the four main branches of Christianity, I believe.

jestingrabbit wrote:The first two kinds seem okay to me, whilst the last one is likely to be damaging to you and the people around you.

The latter two are both based on uncritical acceptance. The former leads to the latter. Hell, Roman Catholics accept papal infallibility: if the Pope was to go mad tomorrow, and declare ex cathedra that all non-Catholics had to be killed, that would instantly become dogma, and all Catholics everywhere (around a billion, though I imagine that number would very quickly become significantly smaller if such a situation were to occur) would be required to kill all non-Catholics. The point being, nothing good comes from absolutes, the third type or the second.

yy2bggggs wrote:If the original greek means pretty much what modern english does, that only obscures the issue. It's still not clear that denying the existence of the holy spirit is considered blasphemy.

To deny something's existence when said something is creator of the universe, rightful judge/owner of everybody's souls, and inherently deserving of praise and acknowledgement (is that an accurate description of the Christian God? Forgive me if I erred) is most certainly "deficient in veneration or respect", in that it deserves a lot of respect (within Christian mythology), and is being referred to in a context entirely devoid of respect. Being irreverent towards God (the Holy Spirit being one with God) is also impious. Therefore, the statement is entirely within the realms of blasphemy: saying "I deny the Holy Spirit" is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

yy2bggggs wrote:if you read the context of the sole reference about blasphemy of the holy spirit, it has nothing to do with denying the existence of the holy spirit, but rather, attributing as evil the works of the holy spirit--something an atheist cannot do if he tried.

Ah, I have heard this before. It was put rather elegantly here. However, I can't see that, just because that is the specific blasphemy used in the example given, it is required that all "blasphemy of the holy spirit" be of this nature. There is nothing I can see to suggest that at all.

yy2bggggs wrote:So why do you point it out? Because you want to imply that I did something wrong or irrational?

Well I would say whether the Challenge is both irrational and exploiting irrationality is a material point. Therefore, for someone to state as much, yet provide no support for the position, is, I think, something worthy of pointing out. I see now how you could interpret it as "trolling": my apologies, it was certainly not my intention.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:14 am UTC

superiority wrote:...in that it deserves a lot of respect (within Christian mythology),

Be careful. You are both interpreting and appealing to Christian mythology.

superiority wrote:However, I can't see that, just because that is the specific blasphemy used in the example given, it is required that all "blasphemy of the holy spirit" be of this nature. There is nothing I can see to suggest that at all.

I personally think that it's not clear how to interpret blasphemy. It could mean what the challenge states, but it could also be a more specific sin. Your appeals to the meaning of the word in the Greek and in English aren't relevant, as all words are interpreted contextually. The context may not call for the interpretation you demand. I contend, however, that it may.

You, however, believe otherwise, and you have explained why. But I think you're pulling something else into the mix--Christian interpretation.

So, what I would ask of you is to not present your opinions on why the challenge is an unpardonable sin, but to rather present your opinions on what your burden would be in order to defend that it is indeed clear that it constitutes commission of the unpardonable sin, and what my burden would be in order to defend that it is indeed not clear. Once we establish reasonable burden, we can continue. I'll give you leeway by asking you to discuss what the burden is before I even bother intervening or giving my opinions.

superiority wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:So why do you point it out? Because you want to imply that I did something wrong or irrational?

Well I would say whether the Challenge is both irrational and exploiting irrationality is a material point. Therefore, for someone to state as much, yet provide no support for the position, is, I think, something worthy of pointing out.

You're misinterpreting my claim. I'm not claiming that the challenge is both irrational and exploiting irrationality. I'm only claiming the latter.

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Postby superiority » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:51 am UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:I personally think that it's not clear how to interpret blasphemy. It could mean what the challenge states, but it could also be a more specific sin. Your appeals to the meaning of the word in the Greek and in English aren't relevant, as all words are interpreted contextually. The context may not call for the interpretation you demand. I contend, however, that it may.

You, however, believe otherwise, and you have explained why. But I think you're pulling something else into the mix--Christian interpretation.

So, what I would ask of you is to not present your opinions on why the challenge is an unpardonable sin, but to rather present your opinions on what your burden would be in order to defend that it is indeed clear that it constitutes commission of the unpardonable sin, and what my burden would be in order to defend that it is indeed not clear. Once we establish reasonable burden, we can continue. I'll give you leeway by asking you to discuss what the burden is before I even bother intervening or giving my opinions.

Hmmph. I'll do you one better: give in. I concede that the passage in question could conceivably, within reason, be interpreted to give the alternative explanation you presented, while maintaining that there is no solid Biblical basis for either interpretation.
As a side note, I would like to point out that the interpretation presented by the folks running the Challenge is, in all likelihood, held by some Christians (as opposed to a facile reading that, in reality, is only a caricature of modern Christian beliefs). Brian Flemming, the writer, director and narrator of the film, was himself a former fundamentalist Christian, says that during his school days he lived in constant fear that he would accidentally doubt the existence of God and the Holy Spirit, and, in doing so, commit blasphemy and damn himself to Hell without hope of redemption.

yy2bggggs wrote:You're misinterpreting my claim. I'm not claiming that the challenge is both irrational and exploiting irrationality. I'm only claiming the latter.

Apologies again. I slightly misremembered what you had written, without bothering to check.

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Postby jestingrabbit » Sat Jan 06, 2007 5:12 am UTC

superiority wrote:To get the video, you have to deny an element of the Christian conception of God, which is something entirely different. The idea of the Trinity is represented by this image. A cursory examination reveals that the concept is, in fact, complete nonsense. Meaningless gibberish, if you will. It's entirely reasonable to deny it, since it defies all logic (the transitive property, for example).


Tell me, does pure mathematics defy all logic? Because 2 is prime, 2 is even and even is not prime. That's not exactly what's going on in that picture, though its close. A better analogy would be if there were a real person that we'll call RM. RM writes a webcomic under the alias of 'xkcd'. RM also appears in a series of french 'art' films as 'Le Stique'. It then makes perfect sense to say that RM is xkcd, RM is Le Stique and xkcd is not Le Stique.

Sometimes is isn't is. It has a whole bunch of definitions and when you use it, you have to work out, from context, which meaning it was being used with at the time. Which is not to say that one definition is more right than another, its a consequence of the fact that language isn't simple.

superiority wrote:"Sometimes we're wrong, so we should disregard evidence-based techniques". Doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, I think. Clifford says, if one believes in something with insufficient evidence supporting it, it may well be true. Conversely, something that is supported by current evidence may well be false. The point still stands.


which is completely missing my point. I think that requiring evidence is the correct approach, but the problem of what is or is not sufficient evidence is not a question answerable with objective criteria, and the answer is certainly not 'objective evidence only'. Even when scientific criteria are used, mistakes are made. Therefore, for you to claim that 'scientific evidence only' is the correct criteria, when you know it makes mistakes and when there are other criteria which seem to me to be not greatly differentiated from your criteria as far as successfully supporting correct hypotheses and rejecting false ones, is wrong. You know you don't have a perfect answer, yet you assert that your answer is best, without hard evidence to support your claim.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Furthermore, I think that what Clifford asks of us is impossible. I, for one, can't decide what I do and don't believe like some sort of machine. I find myself unable to remain entirely undecided on a range of matters where there is little evidence either way.

Really? That's amazing. I find it absolutely trivial. You learn something new every day.


Its not a trivial point. Everyday people have to not only form beliefs in circumstances of insufficient evidence, but have to act on those beliefs too, and they're not inconsequential hypotheses that they have to concern themselves with.

Take the problem of raising children. To date there is no agreement regarding what the best way to raise children is. There are some things
which are known to produce bad results, there are techniques that produce good results in some areas and there are heuristics which are widely believed to be an important part of any good strategy, like "stability is good for children". Yet every day more children are born and raised. I do not believe that taking a position like 'I am uncertain regarding whether my parenting benefits my child' is going to be conducive to a good parenting style. It seems to require a level of confidence to do a good job yet your approach would deny people that confidence.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Similarly, I find myself believing in some kind of god. Not a Christian god, not a god that is omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent. But I find that given the two alternatives of an infinite regress of causes or god, I find that I believe in god.

Ah. Common mistake. Someone's been reading Aristotle, maybe? Basically, your argument is:
<snip>

I have already acknowledged that there is no univerally persuasive argument regarding the existence of god. I just find it that of the two statements 'there is a god' and 'all reality was brought into existence some 12 or so billion years ago' the former is less absurd.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:So, to conclude a post that is way to long, Clifford's statement is unhelpful because
a) there is no indication of what is and isn't evidence, and I believe that whatever standard we set up will be flawed in some way, and
b) it assumes that we can withold belief one way or the other, which seems wrong to me.

a) we use the standards of evidence that yield the best results in terms of predicting the nature of things
b) maybe you're just not trying hard enough?

a) and which are not useful in terms of living one's life. I went into specific detail regarding raising children, though I believe there are a great many more situations which require belief where there is insufficient evidence. Sporting achievement for one.
b) maybe you're trying to hard. Subjective experience is a part of our lives , rejecting it seems pointless given that it does not protect you from error.

superiority wrote:
Teaspoon wrote:I already pointed out that the first definition listed there is specifically a belief in nonexistence of gods, rather than just a lack of certainty regarding their existence.

And the second definition says it is lack of belief in the existence of gods, rather than affirmation of their nonexistence. What's your point? The order in which definitions are listed means nothing. In fact, Dictionary.com collates definitions from multiple sources. You'll notice the first, which gives two definitions, is "Dictionary.com Unabridged (v1.1)". Scroll down a little, the next is "American Heritage Dictionary", and the two defintions listed for that source are functionally identical to the first two, but in the reverse order. As further proof that order is meaningless, take a look at the definition at meriam-webster.com. The first given definition is specifically labelled as 'archaic'.


And yet definition 2b states 'the doctrine that there is no deity'. Using the word in either way is therefore correct, as is using the word 'is' as having any of its denoted meanings. You seem to have a real problem with this.



superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:It seems your standards of evidence are lacking.

For claims as important as this one is (according to some—I myself am an Ignostic), I use those standards of evidence accepted among the general scientific community. The ones which led humanity to have sufficient knowledge to create the computer you are now sitting at. In "everyday" situations, I am somewhat less critical, for practical purposes, but I certainly don't see where I'm lacking. Where am I lacking?


why, in the next paragraph.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Do you have figures for the children of atheists to compare this statement to? Without them, this hazy, poorly defined 'fact' doesn't support your conclusion. It could as easily be a consequence of the majority of people being uncritical as anything else.

Point taken. I have no citation, so I retract the assertion. However, figures for religious affiliation of children of atheists is immaterial—I never said that atheism was a sure path to incredulity , and I will say here that I explicitly deny it.


You see that assertion you had to retract because you had no evidence?? That is the problem that I identified with your standard of evidence.

Figures for the children of atheists would decide the question "Are atheists or religious people more or less likely to be critical thinkers?" under the assumption that "to accept your parents philosophy/metaphysics is a sign of a lack of critical thinking".

superiority wrote:
Dictionary.com wrote:willing to believe or trust too readily, esp. without proper or adequate evidence

So being willing to believe something without proper or adequate evidence is different from this? Because that's how you described religious people.

Only if I accept your criteria for proper or adequate evidence. You admit that your criteria is impractical for day to day life, you admit that it leads to error and yet you assert that it is the one way that evidence for or against belief in god should be judged. Merely because a method of reasoning is beneficial in some circumstances does not mean that it is universally applicable.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Given your own problems with inference from evidence

Huh? I'm a little confused. Could you please point out where I have demonstrated problems with inference from evidence?

Remember two paragraphs up? that problem.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:I scarcely think that we should delgate the declaration of standards for 'proper or adequate evidence' to you

Remember when I said "established standards of evidence"? "Established" means that they already exist. And they've been in use for a couple of hundred years, and have been tremendously successful in advancing knowledge.

They have advanced some forms of knowledge and not others. When a question is decidable on the objective evidence, I have no qualms with adopting the conclusion that the objective evidence supports. When a question isn't decidable in such a way, why should I accept your criteria? Why should a fear of the danger of being wrong be my ruler rather than a fear of ignoring my own subjective experience and thereby lessening myself?

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:I doubt that it is objective, but that doesn't make it any less potent in forming their beliefs.

But I say it should make it less potent.

I have not found what you say to be so correct that I should follow your injunctions.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Nor should all subjective evidence be discounted in my opinion. Certainly, when drawing scientific inference it has no place

I can't think why not. If I see a gigantic rabbit, who hands out chocolate, and I eat some chocolate he gives me, while everybody else can see (indeed, or observe in any manner) nothing of the sort, one can assume there is a non-rabbit based explanation for the phenomenon. Similarly, if I have a religious experience, in which I meet God, but to everybody else it appears that I was hallucinating due to oxygen deprivation, my account should be discounted.


Subjective evidence for the belief in god is not typically of the kind that you describe. It tends to be about about feelings, preferences and other internal factors.

superiority wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:but not all of life is science.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. All of life is certainly governed by scientific principles. Perhaps you mean one's entire life should not be spent performing science? Or that, outside of a laboratory, one should disregard the notion that a proposition requires evidence before it can be considered true? Could you clarify that?


Not all hypotheses can be decided on the basis of objective evidence and for those which cannot be decided in this manner unscientific approaches are not necessarily wrong and therefore should not necessarily be rejected. What objective evidence can decide is the province of science, what cannot be so decided is not the province of science. One needn't, and in some cases shouldn't, withold belief until objective evidence is present, though one should certainly yield to objective evidence when it is present.

What are the scientific principles which govern human creativity? Merely identifying the region of the brain which is active in such endeavours does not help me to answer "How should I create?"

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Postby Belial » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:23 am UTC

I have already acknowledged that there is no univerally persuasive argument regarding the existence of god. I just find it that of the two statements 'there is a god' and 'all reality was brought into existence some 12 or so billion years ago' the former is less absurd.


Something sounding less absurd doesn't make it true. For example, the existence of multiple, conflicting gods with different agendas is a *much* neater explanation for the vagaries and general fickleness of physical existence and the nature of the universe itself than a single god. Therefore, a polytheistic approach sounds much less absurd than a monotheistic one.

Furthermore, assuming we're set on the idea of a single god, a single god who is either apathetic or malicious or megalomaniacal is a much better fit to the nature of our existence than a kind and loving one who just has a really weird way of showing it.

And yet people persist in believing in their single, kind, loving god, despite the fact that it's *not* the least absurd or unlikely possibility.

The only feasible reason for this is that they believe the "single loving god" approach, while more absurd, is also more *true*. It may not make the most sense on first glance, but they believe it's true anyway, which means that we're using a standard other than which is the least absurd or unlikely.

So why not go all the way with that, and just let what appears to be true guide our beliefs, rather than what appears to be the "neatest" or "least absurd" explanation?

Which would bring us to....science.

a) and which are not useful in terms of living one's life. I went into specific detail regarding raising children, though I believe there are a great many more situations which require belief where there is insufficient evidence. Sporting achievement for one.


You're comparing apples to microprocessors here. The process of raising children is incredibly complex, and involves a number of psychological principles which have never been fully and experimentally explored due to the problems with the psychological field (difficulty of isolating and controlling variables, ethical issues with controlling, deceiving, and wounding test subjects, etcetera), as well as the biological differences in each individual child and parent.

So yes, of course you have to fudge it. And the vast number of people in therapy (or worse) today says that this probably isn't the most reliable or preferable option, it just happens to be the only one we have.

Furthermore, "How do I raise a child" is an open question. It encompasses a multitude of factors, possible answers, possible combinations of answers, all of which need evidence to support them before any scientific effort can be made to synthesize an answer.

"Does god exist" is a simple "yes/no" question. The test is simple: Has any evidence been documented and reliably reproduced that implies the existence of God, and can't be attributed to uncontrolled interference (in this case, natural processes). The answer, unless I've missed something, is "no". Thus given a lack of evidence to support it, the answer to "Does god exist" would tend to be "no evidence in favor", which is as close as science ever gets to "no".
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They/them

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Postby jestingrabbit » Sat Jan 06, 2007 12:06 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
I have already acknowledged that there is no univerally persuasive argument regarding the existence of god. I just find it that of the two statements 'there is a god' and 'all reality was brought into existence some 12 or so billion years ago' the former is less absurd.


Something sounding less absurd doesn't make it true. For example, the existence of multiple, conflicting gods with different agendas is a *much* neater explanation for the vagaries and general fickleness of physical existence and the nature of the universe itself than a single god. Therefore, a polytheistic approach sounds much less absurd than a monotheistic one.

Furthermore, assuming we're set on the idea of a single god, a single god who is either apathetic or malicious or megalomaniacal is a much better fit to the nature of our existence than a kind and loving one who just has a really weird way of showing it.

And yet people persist in believing in their single, kind, loving god, despite the fact that it's *not* the least absurd or unlikely possibility.

The only feasible reason for this is that they believe the "single loving god" approach, while more absurd, is also more *true*. It may not make the most sense on first glance, but they believe it's true anyway, which means that we're using a standard other than which is the least absurd or unlikely.

So why not go all the way with that, and just let what appears to be true guide our beliefs, rather than what appears to be the "neatest" or "least absurd" explanation?

Which would bring us to....science.


Only if by the phrase 'appears to be true' you mean 'unfalsifiable by objective observation' which is a pretty specious meaning to give that phrase I must say.

Belial wrote:
a) and which are not useful in terms of living one's life. I went into specific detail regarding raising children, though I believe there are a great many more situations which require belief where there is insufficient evidence. Sporting achievement for one.


You're comparing apples to microprocessors here. The process of raising children is incredibly complex, and involves a number of psychological principles which have never been fully and experimentally explored due to the problems with the psychological field (difficulty of isolating and controlling variables, ethical issues with controlling, deceiving, and wounding test subjects, etcetera), as well as the biological differences in each individual child and parent.

So yes, of course you have to fudge it. And the vast number of people in therapy (or worse) today says that this probably isn't the most reliable or preferable option, it just happens to be the only one we have.

Furthermore, "How do I raise a child" is an open question. It encompasses a multitude of factors, possible answers, possible combinations of answers, all of which need evidence to support them before any scientific effort can be made to synthesize an answer.

"Does god exist" is a simple "yes/no" question. The test is simple: Has any evidence been documented and reliably reproduced that implies the existence of God, and can't be attributed to uncontrolled interference (in this case, natural processes). The answer, unless I've missed something, is "no". Thus given a lack of evidence to support it, the answer to "Does god exist" would tend to be "no evidence in favor", which is as close as science ever gets to "no".


But I could change your test to something like: Has any evidence been documented and reliably reproduced that implies the lack of the existence of God, and can't be attributed to uncontrolled interference (in this case, natural processes). The anser to that is also "no evidence in favour". Therefore, if that is the only kind of enquiry into the question that we can make, the only correct conclusion is "I don't know".

I think that it makes sense to pursue and expect different kinds of enquiry and proof for different kinds of questions and statements. My training is in mathematics, and specifically ergodic theory (nonsingular ergodic theory, with specific interest in the isomorphism problem for nonsingular ergodic systems to be exact). A question not too far from my area of expertise which has recieved a fair amount of attention is whether pi is a normal number. If I was trawling through the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society and found an article which listed the first several billion digits of pi, noted that the distribution of all the sequences of digits of lenth 20 was close to uniform and said that this proves that pi is normal I would be rightly pissed off in the extreem. Yet this is the sort of argument which constitutes proof in a journal of science.

I conclude from this that there are at least two kinds of truth: mathematical (which hinges on axioms and syllogisms, or at least its hinged on that for a little less than a century) and scientific (which hinges on the verisimilitude of theoretical models and objective observation of reality). Along with each kind of truth there is a set of statements which can be true or false for that kind of truth: 'two is prime' is a mathematically true statement, 'the moon is made of green cheese' is a scientifically false statement. The fact that a statement has a yes/no answer doesn't indicate which kind of statement it is.

I posit the existence of a third kind of truth: metaphysical. Some statements which can be metaphysically true or false are 'there is a god' and 'life has meaning'. I don't think that attempting to prove or disprove these statements using a mathematical or scientific standard makes any sense. It doesn't make sense to ask a physicist to design an experiment to test whether two is prime. It doesn't make sense to attempt to prove or disprove that the moon is made of green cheese. It doesn't make sense to propose a scientific experiment to prove or disprove the existence of god.

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Postby superiority » Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:26 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:Tell me, does pure mathematics defy all logic? Because 2 is prime, 2 is even and even is not prime.

Huh-what?! Even numbers are not prime, except for two. No source will ever tell you, except in error, that "all even numbers are not prime".

jestingrabbit wrote:RM writes a webcomic under the alias of 'xkcd'. RM also appears in a series of french 'art' films as 'Le Stique'. It then makes perfect sense to say that RM is xkcd, RM is Le Stique and xkcd is not Le Stique.

It would be more accurate to say that 'xkcd' and 'Le Stique' are fictional characters/personalities/aliases, and, in that sense, are distinct. If 'Le Stique', for example, had a fictional character biography, then one would be just as correct to say 'RM is not Le Stique' as 'RM is Le Stique'. In terms of physical representation in the world, they are certainly identical. That is to say, they are the same to the extent that RM is the same as either of them.

jestingrabbit wrote:which is completely missing my point. I think that requiring evidence is the correct approach, but the problem of what is or is not sufficient evidence is not a question answerable with objective criteria

How about what's left over after a whole bunch of subjective criteria have been compared? That's what I understand to be meant by 'consensus': everyone's got their own bias, but they all cancel out in the end. So, the last few hundred years of scientific investigation and whatnot have led to the point where those with experience in the field of establishing facts all tend to agree on a few points: repeatability, prediction, minimum number of unnecessary assumptions, and so on. Perhaps it could be improved, but I'll say it again: it's got us this far.

jestingrabbit wrote:and the answer is certainly not 'objective evidence only'.

What other type of evidence do you propose to include?

jestingrabbit wrote:Even when scientific criteria are used, mistakes are made. Therefore, for you to claim that 'scientific evidence only' is the correct criteria, when you know it makes mistakes and when there are other criteria which seem to me to be not greatly differentiated from your criteria as far as successfully supporting correct hypotheses and rejecting false ones, is wrong.

'Mistakes'? I think you'll find most 'mistakes' that occur are not due to perfect application of the ideal theoretical methodology. If you have examples of any that are, feel free to share them. I don't think I'm aware of these other, non-scientific criteria of yours that tend to give the same results as the regular sort. Could you enlighten me? And for the record, I claim that "scientific evidence only" is the correct criteria where practical. I certainly can't think of any reasons why it's not (practical, that is) regarding God.

jestingrabbit wrote:You know you don't have a perfect answer, yet you assert that your answer is best, without hard evidence to support your claim.

I assert that my answer is best so far. I'm entirely open to new paradigms of thinking that yield better results.

jestingrabbit wrote:Its not a trivial point.

I didn't say it was a trivial point, I said I found it a trivial matter to withhold judgment on matters where there was insufficient evidence to form an opinion.

jestingrabbit wrote:Take the problem of raising children. To date there is no agreement regarding what the best way to raise children is. There are some things
which are known to produce bad results, there are techniques that produce good results in some areas and there are heuristics which are widely believed to be an important part of any good strategy, like "stability is good for children". Yet every day more children are born and raised. I do not believe that taking a position like 'I am uncertain regarding whether my parenting benefits my child' is going to be conducive to a good parenting style. It seems to require a level of confidence to do a good job yet your approach would deny people that confidence.

Really? You think so? You think most parents believe they raised/are raising their children in the best possible way (or at least pretty damn close)? Have you never heard the phrase, "you just gotta hope you raised them right". It, or some variant of it, is fairly common on low-grade sitcoms, IIRC. I would say if a person's child/children act in the way that the parent would like them to act, that is sufficient evidence to support the belief that that person is doing an adequate job of raising the child or children. If a child goes around kicking other kids in the face, stealing their food and toys, etc. then it's reasonable for the parents to assume they have done something wrong in raising the child.

jestingrabbit wrote:I have already acknowledged that there is no univerally persuasive argument regarding the existence of god. I just find it that of the two statements 'there is a god' and 'all reality was brought into existence some 12 or so billion years ago' the former is less absurd.

I hope you're not denying that "all reality was brought into existence some 12 or so billion years ago"? In any case, if I were to find, out of the two statements,
    1. Your hair is not naturally purple
    2. Your hair is naturally purple, and the common conception that it is not is a result of mass hallucination
the latter to be less absurd, would you consider that a good reason to believe it? What "seems" absurd is entirely irrelevant to reality.

jestingrabbit wrote:a) and which are not useful in terms of living one's life. I went into specific detail regarding raising children, though I believe there are a great many more situations which require belief where there is insufficient evidence. Sporting achievement for one.

I'm quite sure I dealt with the "raising children" issue, and can deal with any more situations you propose. Still, I'm curious as to how you think the standards of evidence I advocate are deficient in the area of sporting achievement. Elaboration?

jestingrabbit wrote:b) maybe you're trying to hard. Subjective experience is a part of our lives , rejecting it seems pointless given that it does not protect you from error.

That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. It's akin to saying "dying is a part of our lives, avoiding death seems pointless given that it does not grant immortality", and promptly walking into a busy street without looking. It may not protect from error, but it certainly does a whole lot more in the "protecting-from-error department" than accepting any old thought that pops into your head as fact willy-nilly does.

jestingrabbit wrote:And yet definition 2b states 'the doctrine that there is no deity'. Using the word in either way is therefore correct, as is using the word 'is' as having any of its denoted meanings. You seem to have a real problem with this.

What I have a real problem with is when people say "atheism is irrational because, in denying god, it takes as much faith as affirming god—agnosticism FTW!!" Although it may be technically correct to say "atheism is the doctrine that there is no deity", it's misleading at best, and outright wrong at worst. It's misleading when it is the only definition given, leaving others ignorant of the other meaning, especially when other people have been using the word in the broader sense, and it's wrong when it's given as the only correct definition.

jestingrabbit wrote:You see that assertion you had to retract because you had no evidence?? That is the problem that I identified with your standard of evidence.

I was fairly sure I had read of a survey giving the result, but have subsequently been unable to find it—one's memory does play tricks on one so.

jestingrabbit wrote:Figures for the children of atheists would decide the question "Are atheists or religious people more or less likely to be critical thinkers?"

I never proferred any such question. And I denied that atheism led to critical thinking—for all I know, atheists tend to be less critical of new information than religious people. In any case, I stand by my assertion that acceptance of religion is lack of critical thinking.

jestingrabbit wrote:under the assumption that "to accept your parents philosophy/metaphysics is a sign of a lack of critical thinking".

I see where you might have got the idea that that was what I meant, but I can tell you now that it wasn't. I was suggesting that the philosophy/metaphysics a person ended up with tended to be the result of fairly arbitrary conditions, and there was no evidence people in general performed critical examinations of all religions in order to choose their own.

jestingrabbit wrote:Only if I accept your criteria for proper or adequate evidence. You admit that your criteria is impractical for day to day life, you admit that it leads to error and yet you assert that it is the one way that evidence for or against belief in god should be judged. Merely because a method of reasoning is beneficial in some circumstances does not mean that it is universally applicable.

Well, you said there was no convincing objective evidence or argument. I suppose you could reject that as a proper or adequate standard, but it really doesn't leave one much of a leg to stand on when evaluating the truth-value of claims. What I "admit" is that standards of "proper or adequate evidence" need to be scaled according to the situation, and that it is the least error-prone manner of establishing what is reality and what isn't. And how exactly is determining the existence of god "day to day life". anyway? Established scientific standards of evidence are certainly practical in this situation. The "method of reasoning" you refer to is solely this: I won't believe in anything if there's nothing to suggest I should. How is that not universally applicable?

jestingrabbit wrote:They have advanced some forms of knowledge and not others. When a question is decidable on the objective evidence, I have no qualms with adopting the conclusion that the objective evidence supports. When a question isn't decidable in such a way, why should I accept your criteria?

As far as I can see, the only questions not decidable in such a way are those not based around physical reality, those without objective existence.

jestingrabbit wrote:Why should a fear of the danger of being wrong be my ruler rather than a fear of ignoring my own subjective experience and thereby lessening myself?

I never suggested ignoring your subjective experience. I can't even see how that's possible. I suggested that you avoid using it as an indicator of reality.

jestingrabbit wrote:Subjective evidence for the belief in god is not typically of the kind that you describe. It tends to be about about feelings, preferences and other internal factors.

Well, it's functionally identical, either way. It's not something other people can observe in the same way, and the way in which they can observe it suggests a non-god-based origin.

jestingrabbit wrote:One needn't, and in some cases shouldn't, withold belief until objective evidence is present, though one should certainly yield to objective evidence when it is present.

I suppose, on philosophical questions, one should withhold belief until sufficiently persuasive argument is present. If you move god into that realm: I'm still waiting on reasons to believe.

jestingrabbit wrote:What are the scientific principles which govern human creativity? Merely identifying the region of the brain which is active in such endeavours does not help me to answer "How should I create?"

...
Lego?

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Postby SpitValve » Sat Jan 06, 2007 6:48 pm UTC

so many words!

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Postby Lani » Sat Jan 06, 2007 6:51 pm UTC

Yeah... :)
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