Faith vs. Evidence

By Phil Plait | September 22, 2009 8:00 am

QualiaSoup, known for high-quality logical videos, has another fascinating look at belief versus evidence:

As I have said on this blog and IRL many times, if people want to believe whatever they want, it’s up to them. We have freedom from and of religion in the United States. But if they want to convince me they’ll have to do a lot more than give me anecdotes or non-scientifically based evidence. And if they want to affect politics and legislation, then they’d better sit down with the Constitution and give it a good read.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Religion, Skepticism
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Comments (168)

  1. rob

    i read on a blog a few weeks ago, something that sums it up pretty nicely.

    you are entitled to your own opions, but not to your own facts.

  2. Alan B.

    @rob:

    That is generally attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan

  3. if people want to believe whatever they want, it’s up to them. We have freedom from and of religion in the United States. But if they want to convince me they’ll have to do a lot more than give me anecdotes or non-scientifically based evidence. And if they want to affect politics and legislation, then they’d better sit down with the Constitution and give it a good read.

    Well said! Although, you’ll get A LOT of arguments about the “freedom from religion” assertion in that bit. From an essay I “borrowed” a while back:

    It’s almost without fail that the religious will claim that the Constitution guarantees freedom OF religion, Not Freedom FROM religion.

    This claim is common, but it rests on a misunderstanding of what real freedom of religion entails. The most important thing to remember is that freedom of religion, if it is going to apply to everyone, also requires freedom from religion. Why is that? You do not truly have the freedom to practice your religious beliefs if you are also required to adhere to any of the religious beliefs or rules of other religions.

    As an obvious example, could we really say that Jews and Muslims would have freedom of religion if they were required to show same respect to images of Jesus that Christians have? Would Christians and Muslims really have freedom of their religion if they were required to wear yarmulkes? Would Christians and Jews have freedom of religion if they were required to adhere to Muslim dietary restrictions?

    Simply pointing out that people have the freedom to pray however they wish is not enough. Forcing people to accept some particular idea or adhere to behavioral standards from someone else’s religion means that their religious freedom is being infringed upon.

    Freedom from religion does not mean, as some mistakenly seem to claim, being free from seeing religion in society. No one has the right not to see churches, religious expression, and other examples of religious belief in our nation — and those who advocate freedom of religion do not claim otherwise.

    What freedom from religion does mean, however, is the freedom from the rules and dogmas of other people’s religious beliefs so that we can be free to follow the demands of our own conscience, whether they take a religious form or not. Thus, we have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion because they are two sides of the same coin.

    Interestingly, the misunderstandings here can be found in many other myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings as well. Many people don’t realize — or don’t care — that real religious liberty must exist for everyone, not just for themselves. It’s no coincidence that people who object to the principle of “freedom from religion” are adherents of religious groups whose doctrines or standards would be the ones enforced by the state.

    Since they already voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards, they don’t expect to experience any conflicts with state enforcement or endorsement. What we have, then, is a failure of moral imagination: these people are unable to really imagine themselves in the shoes of religious minorities who don’t voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards and, hence, experience an infringement on their religious liberties through state enforcement or endorsement.

    That, or they simply don’t care what religious minorities experience because they think they have the One True Religion. And maybe that’s their point?

  4. Lawrence

    Wow – extremely well said.

  5. Joe MA

    It is strange that the three major religions int he world(ones with a lot of war in there history) all started from the same path of origin . I agree that every one can believe what they will as long as they do not force there believes on others. I once wore a shirt I picked up in Salem,MA while visiting, and some christian group collecting money said to his companion” look a satan worshiper”.I laughed at them I walked into the store and asked them if they believed in the tooth fairy too. It makes me wounder, if there were no more religions would there be no more war?

  6. It makes me wounder, if there were no more religions would there be no more war?

    No, some people will always love war, and the huge sums of money that are made off it.

  7. Wow.
    I’m SOOOOOOOOOO jealous! Exceedingly well done video! Love it!
    Now how can -I- make a living doing work like that? (I wonder if they do…)
    I have all the equipment, all the tools, but no client willing to support me, the wife & the kids while I do the work. Oh well. I’ll just keep slogging along with the few clients I do have…
    [pout]

  8. Lawrence

    Unfortunately, we don’t need religion to justify our wars – it just helps.

  9. Kerry Giha

    Oh Wow, that is an really good video.

  10. Tony

    I’m Roman Catholic, but agree with the comments. If the overly pious try to tell you that Freedom of Religion does not mean Freedom from Religion, then the retort I would suggest an Atheist to use would be “My Religion is Atheism.” I doubt it will change their mind, but it might piss them off enough for them to leave you alone.

  11. Someone posted a much more in-depth comment about this above (full disclosure: I didn’t read it), but I would like to mention that I drove by a church the other day that did indeed have the phrase “Freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion” posted on its sign. I didn’t (and don’t, though I imagine the comment above addresses this) know what that meant—but I interpreted it to be a threat. As if, if I don’t have a religion, they’re going to chase after me with one. And that, of course, I don’t appreciate.

    But a very insightful video. There were some parts that left me shaking and/or scratching my head, but the overall message is very important.

  12. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and the latest thing from psychiatry is,,,you’re only crazy if you can’t get anyone else to agree with your particular hallucinations, beliefs or delusions. Thus we have a perfect rationale for the expansive nature of particular religions. It’s just an attempt to avoid being labeled a fruit cake or delusional.

    Fortunately, 10 million DeadHeads agree with me, Jerry GArcia WAS a Buddha, so I’m not nuts. It’s just that I have an “alternative view of reality”.

    Ah, psychiatry, the very definition of political correctness.

    Gary 7

  13. I don’t like the way that lady in the video thumbnail that thinks there’s a wooden spoon in the box is staring at me.

  14. Jesse K

    Awesome. So, since you can’t scientifically prove there was anything in existence before the big bang, then that really doesn’t support singularity. So if there was nothing, then all of the sudden the big bang happened, it makes the big bang theory no different from the creationist theory. They’re both guesses that require….faith. Interesting. :)

    Huh. Neat video! Thanks!

  15. DaveR

    @Larian LeQuella, #3

    Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  16. Keith (the first one)

    I loved the list of things that couldn’t be in the cube. The colour of up, etc.

  17. Sili

    But Jeremy Brett was the definitive Holmes!

  18. Neb

    This is well done, but it won’t convince anyone that relies on faith for their knowledge of the supernatural.

    Additionally, the narrator makes the mistake of assuming that logic transcends the natural universe. We have no reason to believe that any hypothetical supernatural being would need to be logically consistent in order to exist.

    So, you *could* have a “changeless mind” or “omniscient god with free will,” but, of course, you couldn’t actually say anything meaningful about that hypothetical entity, and it would be entirely irrelevant to our lives because it would be impossible to make predictions about its behavior.

  19. @Sili

    Agreed. Jeremy Brett was the best portrayal I’ve seen to date. I wonder how Robert Downey Jr. will do with the part.

  20. Asimov Fan

    Thanks for that BA. Interesting & clear case put there.

    Along similar-ish lines, Isaac Asimov (best known for his SF but wrote a lot of great non-fiction too about just about every topic under the Sun) wrote :

    “A couple of months ago I had a dream which I remembered with the utmost clarity. … I had died and gone to heaven. I looked about and knew where I was – green fields, fleecy clouds, perfumed air, and the distant ravishing sound of the heavenly choir. And there was the recording angel smiling broadly at me in greeting.

    I said in wonder “Is this heaven?”
    The Recording angel said, “it is.”
    I said (and on waking and remembering, I was proud of my integrity), “but there must be a mistake. I don’t belong here I’m an atheist.”
    “No mistake” said the recording angel.
    “But as an atheist how can I qualify?”
    The Recording angel said sternly, “We decide who qualifies. Not you.”
    “I see,” I said. I looked about, pondered a moment for a moment then turned to the recording angel and asked, “is there a typewriter here I can use?

    The significance of the dream is clear to me. I felt heaven to be the act of writing and I have been in heaven for over half a century …

    The second point of significance is the recording angels remark that Heaven, not human beings decides who qualifies. I take that to mean that if I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think He would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God and whose deed is foul, foul, foul.

    I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don’t believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of a Hitler. Besides if most human governments are civilised enough to try to eliminate torture and outlaw cruel and unusual punishments, can we expect anything less of an all-merciful God?

    I feel that if there were an afterlife, punishment for evil would be reasonable and of a fixed term. And I feel that the longest and worst punishment would be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.

    Pages 337-338 “Life After Death” chapter in ‘I Asimov : A memoir’ (Asimov, Bantam, 1995.)

    ***

    Personally, I consider these to be some of the sanest and truest words I’ve read & I totally agree.

    They may be getting a bit too specific for what’s posted but I thought I’d share them with y’all anyhow.

  21. Kevin

    A very well-done argument, though it fails to embrace this problem from a religious point of view. If I say “I believe in God” and an athiest jumps down my throat telling me to “prove that God exists” what am I to do? Yes, I have had this happen to me before. I have stated my faith as a Christian, and I’ve been verbally assaulted for it. I dunno if that person was just angry that day, or if some Christian had stolen his lunch money, but it got me really upset.

    I like what was said very near the end, “It’s not whether we believe in gods, but how we treat each other that says the most about our character.” If I’m a genuinely nice person, who treats everyone with respect, and who feels that inclusion across all barriers (race, religion, sex, sexual preference/identity) is the most important thing in life, does it matter if I believe in God or not?

  22. Asimov Fan

    @ 18 : I don’t think so.

    But I would note that a lot of atheists or agnostics experience the reverse situation where they are hectored and have religious faith shoved in their face by others.

    I think the BA’s law here of “don’t be a jerk” is a good one.

    I do think Jesus said some remarkable things and that “Do unto Others” & “Judge not lest ye be judged” & “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” are excellent ethical principles.

    I think a lot of Christians follow these ideals in a very positive way and have some very positive things to say whilst a lot are, sadly, hypocritical, intolerant and over zealous not knowing when to just let others be others.

    I also think it is very easy here to over-simplify, over-generalise and take one or two cases as standing for all when it is not the case, eg. “all atheists are as rude and intolerant and extreme as Richard Dawkins” or “all Christians are as hateful and extreme and bigoted as Jerry Falwell”.

    We all need to remember, I think, that there is a huge variety of religious beliefs and among religious beliefs. There is no one version of Christianity or Islam or even Greek mythology but instead a whole lot of personal variants subject to interpretation.

    I am very happy to allow others the personal freedom to think and believe as they choose provided they are willing to let everybody else do the same. If folks must evangelise and try to convince us of their beliefs they need to look at how they do this and make sure it is done in a reasonable, fair way that respects those they are trying to convince. And that they also know when to stop.

    Not that I always get that last part right myself…

    To err is human,
    to really mess things up requires a computer!

  23. Pieter Kok
  24. Kevin

    @19: Oh yes, I’m sure they have. I don’t agree with forceful evangelism. The only way I ‘evangelize’ is by living as a Christian and leaving it at that. I’m a pretty crappy Christian, anyway, I sin a lot and I believe in science (GASP!) So my trying to evangelize is a complete picture of ‘take the big honking log out of your eye before criticizing your brother about the speck in his.’

    And since you posted more. Over-simplification and over-generalization are the bane of the world.

  25. Ace

    Very nice video.

    On another note. Found this article via Fark.com in regards to water/ice on the moon.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1350

    Came over here to see if there were anything else on the subject aside from the LCROSS Oct. 8 date. Has anyone else seen/heard anything else? FWIW the results of these tests were ambiguous which is why we were plunging into the Moon after all.

  26. I loved the scale that went from specific to vague, with regard to the claims that people make about their gods. I’ve said many, many times that something capable of creating this universe could not possibly care how many goats we sacrifice, whether we eat meat on Fridays, which direction we face when we pray, or which gender we prefer.

    What kind of god would care about these things, if it was capable of creating an entire universe? And why would I want to worship it? The only god worthy of worship and praise wouldn’t require it. Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, Vishnu, Jupiter, Ra, Odin, and Zeus; these are small, petty gods. If there is a god, it is so much more than the bratty child most of the world’s religions think it is.

    And so I am an atheist, not because I have faith or certainty that there is no god, but because I don’t think it’s particularly relevant.

  27. Flying sardines

    Thinking about people justifying their irrational beliefs with lots of plausible sounding pseudo or poor logical reaons reminds me of this true life joke I stumbled onto via another forum* :

    ***

    True story: In 1994, while working part-time in a bookstore, a customer asked me [this blogger] to special order a copy of a particular book. I looked it up and then told her that we couldn’t get it for her because it was out of print.
    “When did it go out of print?”

    “My guess would be 1989.”

    “That’s a shame. It’s a great book.”

    The books title? : ‘88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.’

    ***

    & also from the same general site comes this gem :

    A well-known (true) tale of the man who wanted to ascertain God’s will for his life, so he decided to open his NT at random and apply whatever verse appeared. The passage selected read, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 1:9). Shaken, he decided to start over. This time it read: “Then he went away and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5). And trying once more, he got, “Now go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).

    ***

    Hope I’m not breaching netiquette in posting these here – my apologies if I am but I think this is ok – anyway I just love those and thought they were funny anecdotes worth sharing & slightly connected here!

    —-
    * Slacktivist- Left Behind’ if your curious : http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/05/tf-meta-nhvc.html

  28. @19. Asimov Fan,

    But I would note that a lot of atheists or agnostics experience the reverse situation where they are hectored and have religious faith shoved in their face by others.

    I think that the bigger concern, bigger than civility between individuals, is what can the government do in the name of God?

    When laws have any kind of religious basis, they are stating that the people proposing, or passing, or enforcing such a law are doing, is saying that their religion is an exception to the Constitution. Their religion allows them to violate any oath they took that they “will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    If one claims to have an obligation to a higher power than the Constitution, isn’t it bearing false witness, when taking such an oath? It does not say, as long as my interpretation of my faith allows it.

    There does not appear to be any Commandment against preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States, but there is one against bearing false witness against one’s neighbor. Promising to protect the right to freedom of religion of one’s neighbor, while intending to use government to promote one’s own religion is bearing false witness as much as if one were to claim that the neighbors committed crimes that they are not guilty of.

    Creating crimes that are abhorent to the Constitution should be punished. We just meekly cooperate with these liars.

  29. Astroquoter

    Playing ‘devils advocate’ here to some degree but the following quotes may also be worth thinking about here :

    ***

    From ‘John Glenn : A Memoir’, by John Glenn with Nick Taylor, Random House, 1999 :

    “How can anybody prove there’s a God? I said. “I can’t. There’s no mathematical formula or chemical composition that adds up to God, just like there’s no formula for love or hope or honesty. I don’t believe that God is dead. I can’t look around this world and believe that it came out of chance encounters of cosmic debris. But you know God doesn’t have to be believed in to exist.”
    – P. 491

    &

    P.447-8, Glenn & Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov May 3rd third International Space Symposium :

    “[Titov ] … also professed the official Soviet policy of atheism, as I learned when we fielded questions at the ends of our presentations. Someone asked’ “In communism you don’t believe there is a God. Did your spaceflight alter that?”

    “Not at all,” the cosmonaut said. “Only now there is proof for the Communist position. I went into space and didn’t see God, so that must mean God does not exist.”

    “Did you see God in space Colonel Glenn?” the questioner asked.

    “I didn’t expect to,” I said “The God I believe in isn’t so small that I thought I would run into Him just a little bit above the atmosphere.”

    ***

    “Science can only describe what, guess at why but cannot offer ultimate meaning. When man’s [sic] limited intellect has the arrogance to pretend an ability to analyse God, its time for me to get off that train.”
    – Laura Schlessinger, radio talk show host & former editor of ‘Skeptic’ magazine in her letter resigning from its editorial board. Quoted pages 151-152 The Science of good & Evil’ By Michael Shermer, Henry Holt & Company, 2004.

    ****

    From Albert Einstein quoted in The Guardian Weekly newspaper, P. 42 “Einstein Versus God Round II” 2008 May 23rd

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    &

    “For me the Jewish religion, like all others, is an incantation of the most childish superstitions. … As far as my experience goes they [the Jews] are no better than other human groups , although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything chosen about them.”

    &

    “Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism since he was offended by their lack of humility.”

    ***

    “Science tells us how the heavens go not how to go to Heaven.”
    – Galileo Galilei by popular attribution, obviously translated from the original italian or latin.

    ***
    Author John Updike :

    Updike was a lifelong churchgoer influenced by his faith but not immune to doubts. “I remember the times when I was wrestling with these issues that I would feel crushed. I was crushed by the purely materialistic, atheistic account of the universe,” Updike told The Associated Press during a 2006 interview. “I am very prone to accept all that the scientists tell us, the truth of it, the authority of the efforts of all the men and women spent trying to understand more about atoms and molecules. But I can’t quite make the leap of unfaith, as it were, and say “This is it. Carpe Diem (seize the day -original brackets) and tough luck.”
    – John Updike quoted in ‘The Advertiser’, P.30, 29th January 2009.

    ***

    Again, I’m not necessarily agreeing (or disagreeing) with these quotes, just putting them out there as examples of how other intelligent people have thought about matters of faith &/or Science for folks enlightenment & discussion.

  30. Lawrence

    I’d be very interested to see how the “religious” folks in this country would react to the establishment of an American Theocracy. You’d have one state religion – better hope its yours, and be prepared to have government bureaucrats tell you when, how, and why to worship – and of course, what to worship as well.

    Either way, people are allowed to believe what they wish, just don’t try to force me to believe what you do.

  31. Kevin

    @30, Astroquoter: Good quotes.

    Like I said, I believe in science. I agree with scientists in things like evolution and the creation of the universe. I don’t think that means I’m at odds with my religion. I think it means I’m intelligent.

    My view of religion is basically that I’m being told how to behave. I look to the Bible as a picture of the behavior of a Christian, not as a history of the world.

    @31, Lawrence: Isn’t that what happened in England in 1534?

    (Wow – comments are being shunted, better start naming my responses, too)

  32. There is an exchange between Einstein and Bohr. Possibly apocryphal, but –

    Einstein liked inventing phrases such as “God does not play dice,” “The Lord is subtle but not malicious.”

    On one occasion Bohr answered, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

  33. ndt

    Kevin Says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 10:12 am
    A very well-done argument, though it fails to embrace this problem from a religious point of view. If I say “I believe in God” and an athiest jumps down my throat telling me to “prove that God exists” what am I to do?

    Provide the evidence that led you to conclude your God exists.

    Yes, I have had this happen to me before. I have stated my faith as a Christian, and I’ve been verbally assaulted for it.

    How is asking you to prove that God exists “verbally assualting” you?

    My view of religion is basically that I’m being told how to behave

    By other people. Don’t you see the problem with that?

    I prefer to decide for myself how to behave, not do what other people tell me.

  34. Cats Made of Airport would be a really good band name.

  35. It only took 30 posts for the Einstein quote troll to show up. Not bad!!!

  36. Kevin

    @34, ndt: “Provide the evidence that led you to conclude your God exists.”

    I can’t prove God exists. I believe He does, I have no proof, but that doesn’t invalidate my faith.

    “How is asking you to prove that God exists “verbally assualting” you?”

    It wasn’t just him asking politely “Prove your God exists” as you did. He was verbally assaulting me, yelling, calling me names. I walked away I was so upset.

    “By other people. Don’t you see the problem with that?”

    ‘My’ view of religion is that ‘I’m’ being told. It’s my view, it’s not your view, not my pastor’s view, not anyone else’s view. Religion is a deeply personal matter to me. What I believe and what I think cannot be transferred to anyone else. I do not belong to a church because they will be pushing their belief on me.

    My family’s church kicks people out of the church if they are homosexual or if they’re a teenager who gets pregnant, or if they drink or do drugs. I do not agree with that at all. It bothers me to no end hearing that from my pastors. The head pastor has been preaching for 20-some years that God is coming soon, and I roll my eyes every time he says it.

    “I prefer to decide for myself how to behave, not do what other people tell me.”

    Good, go and do that. Don’t let anyone tell you what to behave or believe or anything. Don’t be a sheep. Sheep are stupid. They get lost when they turn around. Make your own decisions after deep thought and research and experience. I’m not gonna tell you any different, no one should have the right to tell anyone how to live their lives.

  37. Gary Ansorge

    Did anyone watch the Iranian Dervish flick?

    They had good photos of a guy with knives stuck in his head, apparently feeling no pain. I guess dance-trance induced endorphins are better at pain relief than heroin. Yeah! Gimme some of that!

    Oh, wait. I forgot. I can’t dance.

    Gary 7
    PS I wonder how he felt the next day?

  38. Kevin:

    If I say “I believe in God” and an athiest jumps down my throat telling me to “prove that God exists” what am I to do? Yes, I have had this happen to me before. I have stated my faith as a Christian, and I’ve been verbally assaulted for it.

    If the event took place as you describe (and I have no reason to doubt you), then in my opinion, the atheist in your story was in the wrong. If the roles were reversed, and he had said “I don’t believe in any god” and you jumped down his throat yelling “you’re going to Hell”, then you would be in the wrong.

    ndt:

    How is asking you to prove that God exists “verbally assualting” you?

    Now, I wasn’t there to witness the “jumping down the throat”, so I can’t say how virulent the comment was. An intellectual discussion of “here’s why I believe in G-d”, versus “here’s why I don’t” is possible, IMHO. After all, it was just a statement of opinion — “I believe in G-d”. A shouting match of “you’re going to Hell!” and “prove G-d exists!” doesn’t get anyone anywhere, however.

  39. ndt

    37. Kevin Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 11:35 am
    @34, ndt: “Provide the evidence that led you to conclude your God exists.”

    I can’t prove God exists. I believe He does, I have no proof, but that doesn’t invalidate my faith.

    So you admit that you believe something exists even though there is no evidence that it does?

    ‘My’ view of religion is that ‘I’m being told’.

    By whom?

  40. I guess this falls in with the same type of false argument of the anti-vaxxers? “If you don’t know what causes autism, how do you know it’s not vaccines?”

  41. Kevin

    @39, Ken B: It led way to yelling and insults before I just walked away.

    @40, ndt: “So you admit that you believe something exists even though there is no evidence that it does?”

    There is no proof or evidence He exists, correct. Once more, though, this doesn’t invalidate my faith. Faith is a belief not based on proof, exactly what I’m saying.

    “By whom?”

    By God.

  42. Pieter Kok

    ndt says “I prefer to decide for myself how to behave, not do what other people tell me.”

    Your behaviour is determined by a complex social process. You are oversimplifying.

  43. ndt

    Kevin Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 11:40 am
    @40, ndt: “So you admit that you believe something exists even though there is no evidence that it does?”

    There is no proof or evidence He exists, correct. Once more, though, this doesn’t invalidate my faith. Faith is a belief not based on proof, exactly what I’m saying.

    And that’s exactly why faith is at best foolish and at worst dangerous. I appreciate your honesty, but you’re making the atheist case. You’d admitting that you hold beliefs that are not based on evidence.

    By God.

    How does God tell you how to behave?

  44. Kevin

    @44, ndt: If you (or the atheist who assaulted me) had asked “why do I have faith in God?” then you would have a completely different answer. I cannot prove God’s existence because the only thing I have to qualify my belief in God is anecdotes of my faith. Anecdotes != evidence.

    (Grammar fail!)

  45. rob

    @Alan B:

    thanks for the source of the quote. since he died a few years ago, i assume it wasn’t him posting the comment i read.

  46. ndt

    So, why do you have faith in God?

  47. 30. Astroquoter Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 10:59 am

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
    _________

    … said the guy who spent the last half of his life trying – and failing – to show that God created some kind of order to the universe, just to prove the quantum physicists wrong.

    Not trying to knock Einstein here – his early work was phenomenal. But he unfortunately fell into the classic religion v. science trap – starting with the result he wanted and trying to find the evidence to prove it, rather than starting with the evidence and interpreting the results. This is the fundamental difference between faith and reason.

    Now, what he said still does have some value, but I’d expand it. Religion is too narrow and too loaded a word to use in that context. I’d be more comfortable with “belief” instead. Belief doesn’t have to be in a God, and it doesn’t need priests and rabbis and imams.

    Belief can be in love. In life. In the goodness of humanity. In the power of the mind. Anything. Atheists still believe in something, even if it’s the nonexistence of God. Heck, even a nihilist believes in something – nothing.

    The proto-Indo-European root of “believe” is *leubh, which means “to like” or “to love.” Belief does not require proof – it only requires love. And love, like faith, is something that can’t be proven. It can’t be measured directly. It can’t be analyzed. Yet most of us – if not all of us – feel it and believe in it. No deity required. No prophets required. No scripture required.

    If we look at belief in that sense, then Einstein is correct. Reason without belief/love is lame, and belief/love without reason is blind.

  48. 47. ndt Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 11:54 am
    So, why do you have faith in God?

    One could just as logically ask “why do you have faith in the lack of God?”

  49. Kevin

    @47, ndt: I have faith in God because of many different reasons.

    I’ve seen what belief in God can make of you. My grandfather was the most selfless man I’ve ever known, and he was absolutely on fire for God. His influence in my life, knowing what kind of person he was has caused me to want to be like him. He wasn’t a Bible thumper, and I’ve met old friends of his that say that you could just tell how in love with God my gransfather was.

    There are the ‘voice of God’ situations I’ve been in, too. Times when I’ve been so completely down and upset (like when my cat died) I’ve heard and felt a calming sensation through me. It wasn’t so much a voice as just a feeling of calm. Happens when I get really angry, too, before I snap, I feel that same calming tone. It’s almost the same feeling as you get when you know someone loves you.

    I’ve got a lot of reasons, a lot of times I’ve felt His touch in my life, but like I said, all anecdotal, all faith. It’s certainly not proof. I don’t expect to be able to qualify any of that as proof in God’s existence.

  50. Doug Little

    Kevin,

    Not to pile on but you said something interesting about the bible, you stated

    “I look to the Bible as a picture of the behavior of a Christian”

    I will assume that you don’t adhere to all the teachings that are in the bible, that would put you in the category of a hard line fundamentalist, which from what you have told us is not the case. So if that is indeed the case how do you decide what to follow and what to ignore? Secondly how do you apply a consistent interpretation of the often ambiguous parables?

  51. I need to provide scientific evidence for something that is outside of the realm of science? No non-scientific evidence is allowed?

    May I see the science which proves this non-scientific idea?

  52. ndt

    49. toasterhead Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:02 pm
    47. ndt Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 11:54 am
    So, why do you have faith in God?

    One could just as logically ask “why do you have faith in the lack of God?”

    I don’t have faith in the lack of a God. I have observed no evidence for any kind of God. I have observed evidence that contradicts a loving, involved, personal God. I have concluded that such Gods don’t exist based on the lack of evidence. I try not to have “faith” in anything.

  53. Michael

    People have always believed what they want to believe. What they want to believe is something that will make them feel better. When I became an atheist I immediately felt pretty lonely and pretty small in a vast universe. Conversely, I immediately felt completely free in an intellectual and even ‘spritual’ way. I might miss ‘god’ like I missed my mom when I was younger, as an entity giving me comfort and safety, but I’m certainly willing to give up comfort and safety for freedom and individual reponsibilty.

    If your religious beliefs are a very personal thing to you, and you don’t expect all others to believe as you do, and you are willing to accept those others as having the same inherent diginity and worth that you do, then I have no issue with you. I am not an arrogant atheist who forever condemns religious folks as ignorant and stupid bigots, etc.

    Having said that, I get pretty worked up when any religion decides that they know how I should behave and what I should and shouldn’t say, or when religious dogma becomes public policy. I do and I will resist that. We have seen how that sort of policy results in oppression and prejudice, and to wars also.

    Let’s consider for a moment the number of recorded wars which have started over differences in religious beliefs and customs — too many to mention. Now let us consider the number of wars that started as a result of differences over scientific beliefs or dogma or theories…

    Note that these scientific differences of opinion are truly numerous and they are voiced with some passion by their various adherents at virtually every opportunity that is practical. Yet…no wars about them. There is a profound lesson in that.

    Ignorance is the single most dangerous human condition.

  54. ndt

    Kevin, why do you identify those experiences with a particular God who came to earth as Jesus, was executed, then ressurected?

    Also, how do you account for selfless people who are not on fire for God?

  55. 52. ndt Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t have faith in the lack of a God. I have observed no evidence for any kind of God. I have observed evidence that contradicts a loving, involved, personal God. I have concluded that such Gods don’t exist based on the lack of evidence. I try not to have “faith” in anything.
    ____________

    But you do have faith in the veracity of the evidence you have seen, as well as in the conclusion you’ve drawn from the evidence you haven’t. That’s still a type of faith, isn’t it?

    I mean, on some very fundamental level, you have to believe. If nothing else, you have to believe in your own existence. Not to get too Matrixy here, but everything you know about the world around you and within you is a product of input from your five senses (six, if you count proprioception.) It is possible, though extremely unlikely, that your entire existence is merely the product of a vast and exquisitely detailed computer simulation. You cannot possibly know that you are part of such a simulation, because the program prevents you from knowing this.

    Can you provide proof that you exist? Or is it merely belief?

  56. Doug Little

    @50

    Kevin,

    There is no reason why any of that has to lead to a belief in God. Give yourself and your Grandfather a little credit, it’s all you baby, the way you feel is part of your make up not dependent on any outside influence. I hope that you would behave exactly the same way if you didn’t believe in a supernatural being. And again give yourself a little credit.

  57. Kevin

    @51, Doug Little: No no, not all the teachings. I certainly don’t agree with much of the Old Testament stuff. I would never condone violence against anyone for reasons other than defense of family, friend, or country, and bacon is the god of breakfast foods.

    My life is centered around the statement by Jesus of the two greatest commandments, “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” Prayer, belief in God during troubles, and attempting to live morally with yourself cover the first commandment. The second is covered by how I treat everyone, and how hard I am trying to be selfless.

    I ignore obvious analogies or things that just don’t make sense anymore. The Garden of Eden is a creation story, no different from the Greek Gods being vomited out by Saturn, or the Sun and Moon being put in the sky by a spider.

    As for parables, I can’t say I’ve studied them enough to form a solid interpretation. There are things about the Hebrew and Greek language that can’t be easily translated to English, and unless I get solidly behind those translations, anything I say will be ignorant American translation of what could possibly be Jesus’s recipe for chicken soup.

  58. Kevin

    @54, ndt: I don’t. I don’t necessarily know what I believe God is. I believe God is love. Not just like “I love you bro” “I love you dearest” or “let’s #$@&” It’s something completely and utterly impossible to describe in human terms.

    @56, Doug Little: I would hope I would, but I really don’t know what kind of life I would be living if I weren’t in love with God (even if I would be living.) I was tortured in grade school – the only way to describe it – and contemplated suicide. It was perhaps faith, or perhaps my own rational brain telling me ‘you idiot’ but I never followed through.

    Course, the whole selfless thing hasn’t got me any girls…

  59. Doug Little

    @55

    The same level of faith that I have that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. In other words on a probability scale you can never be absolutely sure but on the weighing of the evidence the chances that a benevolent, interfering supernatural being exists is minutely small.

  60. Doug Little

    Kevin,

    Ever think about letting go and seeing how things workout?

    I here we have some pretty hot babes on our side of the fence 😉

  61. Gary Ansorge

    It seems many religious folk are seeking something changeless to hang their hats on which is, I suppose, why God is described as the “ultimate intelligence, changeless and eternal”. Unfortunately, ultimate implies no further change is possible and the only way that could be is if this intelligence is dead.

    One of the best definitions I’ve heard of life is that it is a pattern of mass/energy that is self sustaining and self replicating. It covers a lot of ground, including possible electronic systems or even plasmas. God and changeless souls(read immortal) must therefore be dead.

    There is no “ultimate” anything. There is only change w/o limit and that is the purview of life.

    Gary 7

  62. The comment assumes many falsehoods:

    1. Religious faith does not make knowledge claims. No. Christianity has a long record of arguing for its truth claims on the basis of evidence and argument. Consider Augustine, Pascal, C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig (today) and so many more.

    2. The only evidence comes from science. No. This is scientism, and is self-refuting since science itself does not give evidence for this (bogus) epistemological principle.

    3. That the Constitution is secular. No. The Constitution (in The First Amendment) establishes freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is an open public square, not a secular one, and not an intrinsically religious one. On this see, Richard Neauhaus, “The Naked Public Square.” Religious and irreligious people have the right to influence civil government through peaceful persuasion. To think otherwise, is unAmerican, bad history, and mere secular bigotry.

  63. ndt

    toasterhead, yes, I have faith that I’m not a brain in a jar experiencing a Matrix-like simulation or dream. Everything beyond that is evidence-based.

    Kevin Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:28 pm
    @54, ndt: I don’t.

    Then why do you call yourself a Christian?

    As for your anecdotal evidence (anecdotes are evidence, they’re just not data), have you considered the more parsimonious explanation that the calmness you are capable of feeling comes from inside yourself, and the selflessness your grandfather demonstrated came from inside himself?

  64. Kevin

    @60, Doug Little: Never said I wouldn’t date a non-religious girl. I’ve just been stuck in the ‘friend zone’ for the last 5 years or so. I think I need to have a one-night stand and get in my groove. Should totally have asked that one girl in Vegas if she wanted to get drinks.

  65. Kevin

    @62, ndt: Calling myself Christian is easier than explaining to people that I attest to a personal, faith-based belief system that is similar to, but not wholly encompassing, the Judeo-Christian faith.

  66. Pieter Kok

    Kevin, kudos to you for sticking around. This can be quite a lion pit.

    The reason for the disconnect between religious people and non-religious people –I assert– is that God is a place-holder for a specific emotion, or a specific set of emotions. No wonder it is impossible to describe to those of us who do not have or recognize that emotion. Of course that also makes it a supremely personal thing.

  67. ndt

    Kevin Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:44 pm
    @62, ndt: Calling myself Christian is easier than explaining to people that I attest to a personal, faith-based belief system that is similar to, but not wholly encompassing, the Judeo-Christian faith.

    I suggest researching some other religions. The way you describe your belief system it is only superficially similar to Christianity, and is just as similar to some other faith-based belief systems. If you identify yourself as a Christian, people are going to assume you have some Christian beliefs, particularly the divine inspiration of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus.

    As far as suggested behavior goes, there’s nothing in the New Testament that wasn’t already in Stoic philosophy, Buddhism, and several other faith-based and non-faith-based ethical systems. The behavior aspects of Christianity were not particularly original, although they may have been new to the uneducated lower classes of Judea and even Rome.

  68. 59. Doug Little Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    The same level of faith that I have that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.
    ____________

    This is a good example of reason and belief.

    On one level, I know that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. It’s not a matter of belief or faith – I know that the Earth is rotating with a sidereal period of 23 hours 56 minutes, and 4.100 seconds. I know that the sun is a main-sequence G-type star with enough hydrogen to sustain its fusion for another five billion years, and is not nearly massive enough to turn into a supernova in the next 12 hours or so. Thus, the sun will indeed rise tomorrow.

    But on another level, I personally have to put faith in the numbers. I’m not a nucleocosmochronologer, and have never calculated the age of the Sun. I have never measured its composition, nor have I calculated the rotation period of the Earth. With enough time and training and equipment, perhaps I could. But until then, I must accept as fact – I must believe – that the astronomers who have done these calculations are correct. Even if I were to take these measurements and make them myself, I’d still have to believe in my own results, as well as the methodologies and instruments used to obtain them.

  69. Kevin

    @65, Pieter Kok: Eh, I like it here. People are smart. I like hanging out with smart people. Makes me feel normal.

    @66, ndt: I’m not trying to be any specific religion. Describing myself as some other religion may also genuinely taint the interpretation of what I believe in. I joke that I’m a ‘Kevinist’ but in truth that may be the best description of my religion.

    Also, I don’t know what to make of the divinity of Jesus. He had a whole lot of great ideas about how to live, and I am totally there with him, but the gospels and some of the epistles were written by guys who were with him. How much of what they wrote should be taken at face value? Also how well were they translated (see 57?) I’ll probably be wrestling with that til I’m dead.

    Edit: Geeze… I’m a pretty terrible Christian, aren’t I?

  70. ndt

    Kevin, I think you’re not a Christian at all. You’re not an atheist, you believe in some kind of God, but it’s only like the Christian God in the most superficial way.

  71. Larry

    I don’t have faith in the lack of a God. I have observed no evidence for any kind of God. I have observed evidence that contradicts a loving, involved, personal God. I have concluded that such Gods don’t exist based on the lack of evidence. I try not to have “faith” in anything.

    You seem to believe you have observed enough evidence to draw a conclusion that the evidence contradicts said God. You further seem to believe that you are qualified to evaluate the evidence in a manner that is sufficient to draw your conclusions. Those are both acts of faith.

    But the truth is that you may have missed some evidence. For instance you see a leaf caught by an updraft moving towards the sky. Based on that evidence, you can conclude that leaves fall upward. Yet you have enough other experience to know that isn’t true, that what you saw was an anomaly based on a set of circumstances. In this case of God, you may be simply seeing an insufficient scope of evidence to draw any conclusion.

    The truth may also be that you are ill-equipped intellectually to draw proper conclusions from the evidence. You may be like a third-grader discounting molecular biology. You can claim it isn’t true, but the fact is a third grader simply does not have the intellectual tools to draw such a conclusion.

    So while you may like to pretend you are not a person of faith, you are, and you may in fact have a very unstudied faith, particularly if it is based on your own experience (which is woefully inadequate to judge reality over centuries of human history and over the scope of the natural and supernatural world).

  72. 69. ndt Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Kevin, I think you’re not a Christian at all. You’re not an atheist, you believe in some kind of God, but it’s only like the Christian God in the most superficial way.
    ____________

    This is why I see a fundamental rift between faith and religion. To me, faith is just the belief – it can be in an anthropomorphic God or a nebulous abstract concept or the lack of any deity at all.

    Religion is what happens when we start putting labels on what we believe. It’s by nature divisive. It separates people into teams, even though people on the same team may believe varying things, and may indeed have beliefs in common with members of other teams. It’s just a way to put people into in- and out-groups, for a variety of purposes.

    Belief is an innate human property. Religion is a granfalloon.

  73. DRT

    @44. ndt

    How is Kevin making the atheist case? How is faith, at best, foolish (you are going to have to spell out your logic a little more to me, I must have missed a step)? I need evidence that faith can not be a good thing (or no better than foolish).

    Faith (in religious matters) is not ‘at best foolish and at worst dangerous’, it can be a good thing (gives me comfort when something bad happens or helps me cope with some stress– whether god exists or not is irrelevant, the belief is what caused the good) or a bad thing (I’m going to strap a bomb to my chest and run into a crowd of people– again, the existence of god has no bearing on this, just the belief). I believe you are confusing faith with being a mindless sheep. Because someone believes in something on faith does not mean that they can not think rationally or for themselves.

    By the way– loved the video!

  74. Zucchi

    Excellent video. Man, I miss Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan.

  75. Doug Little

    @Kevin,

    “Should totally have asked that one girl in Vegas if she wanted to get drinks.”

    Damn straight, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

    Hell you should start up your own religion, worked for a lot of other people throughout the ages. Maybe Vegas can be your Mecca.

  76. Kevin

    @72, Doug Little: She was quite hot, and I was staying in a nice resort hotel. Could have worked, might not have, just didn’t take the chance. Oh well, Hindsight and all that.

    Vegas smells like cigarette butts… so I really wouldn’t want Vegas as my backdrop for a religion. Plus it’s DAMN hot! Good Lord. I’m used to humid heat over on the east coast, but Vegas was just overwhelming.

  77. Charlie Young

    Kevin, what you’re talking about is truly a leap of faith. You just don’t know what reaction you’ll end up with. You just have to take the chance and go with it. If you sit there trying to figure out what’s going to happen , the moment is gone. If that’s what you really want, just jump and don’t fear the consequences.

  78. JT

    A very well-done argument, though it fails to embrace this problem from a religious point of view. If I say “I believe in God” and an athiest jumps down my throat telling me to “prove that God exists” what am I to do? Yes, I have had this happen to me before. I have stated my faith as a Christian, and I’ve been verbally assaulted for it. I dunno if that person was just angry that day, or if some Christian had stolen his lunch money, but it got me really upset.

    I don’t know if this has already been answered, but the best thing you could do in this situation is understand the feelings of the person saying it. Most atheists have to deal with evangelicals day in and day out, so when you say “I believe in God” there is an unspoken “…and so should you or you will burn in hell forever while I gleefully watch and laugh at your misery you filthy heathen” which they also hear.

    The best thing you can do in that situation is directly state that you don’t expect them to believe in God and that you fully respect their position and think no less of them for it, and to forgive a little incredulity on their part as it will be the first time that many of them have ever heard such a thing.

  79. Gamercow

    To me, faith is just an opinion, and I think that is what Kevin is trying to explain. Saying that you have faith that a god exists, to me, is as is valid and weighty as saying “The Beatles are the best band ever”, or “Chocolate Chip ice cream is the worst kind of ice cream”. Its an opinion, and as such, is a personal thing, and should have no sway over me or my actions. I’m still going to like the Who more than the Beatles, and I’m still going to enjoy chocolate chip ice cream.

    The problem comes when someone says to me “You’re ruining the country by not recognizing the Beatles as the one true band”, or berate me and tell me I’m going to Greenland(ice cream hell) for eating chocolate chip. Then they infringe upon my belief system, and its wrong.

    And it happens both ways. If someone wants to believe that something or someone else rules their life and actions, or even just gives them guidance or solace or comfort, so be it. Let them be, don’t keep asking for proof of their gods, unless they are trying to make you believe and force their beliefs on you. Because you are forcing your beliefs and opinions on them just as much as they are to you.

  80. Charlie Young

    OK…show of hands…how many rational people out there have irrational fears e.g. heights, spiders, snakes, flying, Bugs Bunny, etc.

    I consider myself to be fairly rational, but get me near a ledge overlooking something, and I will instinctively recoil ever so slightly. Even though I know the engineering of the platform is in all likelihood sound, I still can’t quite convince myself it won’t collapse. I realize I might not get yelled down for my belief or lack of faith, but the irrationality still exists.

    I guess the point is, I don’t care how rational you are, we can’t eliminate all our own biases.

  81. Cory

    You can’t disenfranchise people from their political aims simply because you disagree with their beliefs.

  82. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Something gave me the opportunity to exist. The chance to sit here now writing these words. I refer to that something as God. I don’t know what God is, or how God works, but I suspect that God is everything eternally evolving. Given forever in an eternally evolving situation, my combination of atoms had to happen. Too bad for you guys. If every thing evolving forever is God, then we are all extensions of God, God would know everything because it is all God. Since we cannot know everything then we cannot possibly know God in totality. Also we are living proof that we can happen. Given forever we will happen again and again as long as change continues to happen. We didn’t mind waiting to happen this time. We won’t mind waiting to happen again. Intermittent immortality if you will. If God has the time, I have the beer. By the way intermittent immortality will seem like a continuous flow of life since it seems like no time passage when you are not here. You record nothing until your atoms recombine into you. I was knocked out for two minutes. My brain recorded nothing. I jumped back up not realizing that I was gone for two minutes. I Am. Proves God to me. Without God, I am not. A creature here would be, existing in my spot.

  83. Pieter Kok

    [Puts hand up]: Arachnophobic atheist here.

  84. Also, I don’t know what to make of the divinity of Jesus. He had a whole lot of great ideas about how to live, and I am totally there with him, but the gospels and some of the epistles were written by guys who were with him.

    Sorry, I know everyone is sick of my particular rant, but this one always gets me started.

    Only the most conservative fundamentalists attribute literal accuracy to the gospels, at least those 4 collected into the New Testament. These same conservatives conveniently overlook other gospels which were deliberately left out of the canon.

    Every one of the documents that make up the NT was written with a specific audience and political situation in mind. That is why there is contradiction among them. The authors freely adapted their stories, including the so-called words of Jesus, to meet their needs.

    It is all but impossible to state whether or not any sayings included in canon and non-canon gospels were actually spoken by Jesus. At best, scholars can assign probability to different sayings and parables. The Beatitudes are probably the best of the pastoral sayings, but assuming that Jesus taught only pastoralism is hard to justify.

    Like everything else in the Bible, most Christians pick and choose what to base their “faith” upon. Mind you, nothing wrong with that, so long as that faith remains private. Whatever bangs your bell, just don’t try to rewrite history, science textbooks, or law based upon that faith.

  85. ndt

    Charlie Young Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm
    OK…show of hands…how many rational people out there have irrational fears e.g. heights, spiders, snakes, flying, Bugs Bunny, etc.

    I consider myself to be fairly rational, but get me near a ledge overlooking something, and I will instinctively recoil ever so slightly. Even though I know the engineering of the platform is in all likelihood sound, I still can’t quite convince myself it won’t collapse. I realize I might not get yelled down for my belief or lack of faith, but the irrationality still exists.

    I guess the point is, I don’t care how rational you are, we can’t eliminate all our own biases.

    I’m scared of rickety ladders, centipedes, and any kind of social situation. But I know the fears are irrational – I don’t think my subjective feelings and irrational fears tell me something profound about existence as a whole.

  86. What a massive straw man. Nobody light a match!

    The demand of some atheists for scientific evidence for God’s existence is born of either disingenuousness or a lack of understanding.

    They can’t use empirical testing to prove that only empirical testing qualifies as evidence, as that is a circular reference.

    They also make a category mistake. You don’t use a scale to weigh the color blue, because colors don’t have weight. In the same way, you don’t use methods designed to test material things if you want to determine the truth about immaterial things.

    Christians can point to all sorts of evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus and the accuracy and reliability of the Bible: Cosmological, teleological, logical, moral, historical and more.

    If they want to debate the evidence, that is fine. But skeptics really tip their hands when they insist that only empirical evidence is permitted, or that we have no evidence or that they have the same amount of evidence for their Flying Spaghetti Monster (a popular but ridiculous argument aimed at our alleged lack of evidence). Consider the premise of that argument:

    •There is something that doesn’t exist (e.g., the Flying Spaghetti Monster).
    •We know it doesn’t exist.
    •Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

    As you can see, that argument proves nothing.

    Also consider their typically dismissive reaction to the evidence of the testimony of eyewitnesses or reliable sources. They often insist that they only trust empirical evidence and not that of eyewitnesses, but that would mean they’d have to create their own test equipment and replicate every single experiment before they trusted the results. They obviously don’t do that. They use their judgment and experience to determine who they think is trustworthy and they rely on their conclusions. We do the same thing.

    So even with their scientific evidence they are constantly relying on the evidence of eyewitnesses or what they deem as reliable sources.

    It is amazing how badly these educated people fail at their question begging. It is almost as if they really believe what they are saying!

    And I love the ad hominem attacks with their pictures of angry Christians saying the opposite of what the Bible does. Yes, some who self identify as Christians say stupid things, but that doesn’t disprove Christianity any more than the stupid things atheists say (this video is exhibit A) prove that there is a God.

    And I never tire of their moralistic preaching about how you shouldn’t share your beliefs with others. Remember, every worldview has to account for other worldviews. Christianity accounts for atheism and other religions quite clear. For example, Romans 1:18-20 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    But of course if there is no God then Darwinian evolution is responsible for all religions, including Christianity. It is responsible for my conversion from atheism to Christianity. It is responsible for my “false” recognition of the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And on and on.

    And of course, if Darwinian evolution is true then skeptics have absolutely no grounding to make prideful claims about why it is bad to share the Gospel. Maybe once they evolve some more they will realize how ridiculous that is.

  87. The notion that our religious views can’t inform our political views is absurd. As usual, those who claim that don’t understand the 1st Amendment, which protected religious rights and did not restrict them.

    To think that people’s religious views shouldn’t inform their political views is idiocy. What do they want us to do, vote the opposite of our religious beliefs? That would make me pro-murder, pro-stealing, pro-adultery, etc.

    Here’s the whole 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It doesn’t even hint that my religious views can’t inform my political views.

    Having said that, I’m glad to argue issues like abortion without referring to the Bible. I just focus on the scientific fact that a new human being is created at conception and that it is immoral to kill her for 99% of the reasons typically given for abortion. If people want to know Jesus’ views on the topic I’ll be glad to share them, but it is so easy to demonstrate the evils of abortion without the Bible that I leave that aside to disarm pro-legalized abortionists of one of their favorite fallacies.

  88. Charlie Young

    82 @ndt Purely looking at existence and our physical world around us, no. Looking at coexistence with our fellow species, it speaks volumes.

  89. Another Eric S

    @50 Kevin:

    Earnest condolences on the passing of your cat.

  90. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    What really irritates me is that I waited 16 billion years to get here, and they put me in the wrong body. I just know that I was supposed to be Bill Gates.

  91. These same conservatives conveniently overlook other gospels which were deliberately left out of the canon.

    Yes, we overlook those because the early church, whose members risked their property, freedom and even lives over the real Gospel, did not consider those writings to be authentic. Read Eusebius’ Church History, for example, and see what they thought about the Gospels and the rejected texts.

    Three hundred years is a long time. That is how long Christianity endured various periods of intense persecution in the Roman Empire. Myths about how the Gospels were written for political benefit make no sense in light of what the early church endured and how it formed.

    Yes, many things were left out of the Canon. The Canon had guidelines such as that works had to be written by a direct follower of Christ (e.g., Matthew or John) or someone under their guidance (e.g., Mark under Peter, Luke under Paul).

  92. 76. Gamercow Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    The problem comes when someone says to me “You’re ruining the country by not recognizing the Beatles as the one true band”, or berate me and tell me I’m going to Greenland(ice cream hell) for eating chocolate chip. Then they infringe upon my belief system, and its wrong.
    ________________

    But is it always wrong?

    I think that sometimes we DO need to infringe on belief systems. If a belief system forbids vaccinations and medical treatments, that belief system is a danger to the larger society. If a belief system predicts that the world will end in three years, its adherents won’t care much whether they recycle or how much greenhouse gas they emit. If a belief system calls for the destruction of the people of another belief system, it can not be tolerated in a civil society.

    That’s where it gets tricky. When we promote the science of evolution and climate change, and present these as the fact-based science that they are, we are by definition infringing on the beliefs of Creationist idiots. And much as I like to leave peoples’ religious beliefs alone, when people choose to believe something as dangerous as “the Earth was created by a divine being for us to plunder and exploit however the hell we want,” it is the duty of rational society to infringe on that belief, isn’t it?

  93. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Most laws are passed for the good of society as a whole. Those laws which are mostly valid need to be enforced even in the cases of infringement. Nothing is perfect to all of us.

  94. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Perhaps what I think of as God intervened at the Big Bang. Perhaps intervention happens continuously. I don’t know how it works. But, you can’t deny your own existence. Everything else is your guess or mine.

  95. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Science refines the guesses.

  96. Gamercow

    @toasterhead:

    You make a good point. I guess the simple “If its not harming me, I’ll let it be” philosophy is not always good for the whole of society, because people with belief systems that allow for them to act in a harmful way towards the environment in effect affect me. Its not a direct impact on us rational thinkers, but a distinct impact. Definitely something to ponder upon.

  97. TheBlackCat

    I guess the point is, I don’t care how rational you are, we can’t eliminate all our own biases.

    For me, the important issue isn’t whether you have biases or not. Everyone does. The question is whether you embrace your biases or fight against them.

  98. Kevin

    @81, kuhnigget: Uhh… The next sentences which you left off the quote pretty much say exactly what you just ranted about.

    @84, Another Eric S: Thanks, but she died when I was 13.

  99. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    My first question as a child when I was told that Christ arose from the dead, was “Then where is he?” He ascended into heaven, came across as He is out of town right now but he’ll get back with you. I am still waiting for the visit. I suspect that I might have to go to him. Hence my distrust of organized religion. Or as the Wizard said,” Don’t look behind the curtain.” Trust yourself and your knowledge. Not man.

  100. @87. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.,

    Most laws are passed for the good of society as a whole. Those laws which are mostly valid need to be enforced even in the cases of infringement. Nothing is perfect to all of us.

    Maybe most laws are passed with the goal of the good of society as a whole, but the way the legislature has begun to depend on lobbyists for money, I think a lot of laws are written for the lobbyists. The legislators convince themselves into believing that what they are doing allows them to do more good later on. Whatever they consider to be good.

    Those laws which are mostly valid need to be enforced even in the cases of infringement. I disagree. They need to be better written, rather than excused.

    The responses of, You can’t throw the baby out with the bath water, and other insane platitudes are often brought up to excuse all sorts of abusive behavior. In stead, we should behave as rational adults and eliminate the bad laws, not excuse the irrationality.

    Nothing is perfect to all of us. True, but that hardly justifies bad laws.

    Perhaps you could give an example of a case of infringement on the rights of a minority that we should be happy about.

    Just remember that the U.S. Bill of Rights was written to protect the minority from the abuse of the political majorities. It was demanded by the states as a condition of ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The writings of many of the people involved in writing the Constitution suggest that they would prefer no law over laws that result in infringement of the rights of citizens. Being human, they did not act any differently, when in power, than they feared others would act.

  101. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    I am thinking of oil drilling in the ocean when inevitably it will lead to environmental oil spills. Laws passed to protect the environment infringe upon the right to plunder the earth before the End. But they seem to have a valid justification.

  102. ndt

    Charlie Young Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:37 pm
    82 @ndt Purely looking at existence and our physical world around us, no. Looking at coexistence with our fellow species, it speaks volumes.

    It tells us interesting things about how human brains work, yes. But humanity, life on earth, and the earth itself, while they are important matters to us, are insignificant on a universal scale. One problem with many religious beliefs is that they conflate things that are significant to humans with things that are significant to all of existence.

    “Love” is not some timeless force that binds the universe, it’s an emotion that exists in a few species of animals on one planet.

  103. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    You cannot please everybody, so I go with majority rule. You can’t stop everything that isn’t perfect.

  104. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    I am also thinking of a health care plan that probably will not happen because they can’t please everyone.

  105. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    I guess we should all do nothing, and wait for the end…….. That is why I go with a majority rule.

  106. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Pass laws that are as fair as possible, but pass the laws. At some point discussion is over and action is necessary. Do nothing for 8 years, and you are history.

  107. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Bad laws will eventually evolve into good laws, or be removed by better law makers.

  108. Charlie Young

    @ndt #96
    As a corollary to that, the ongoing existence of the universe really has little significance to human’s limited existence on earth. As sentient beings we inevitably ponder our existence and whether it makes a difference to the universe. We also know that our time is limited and tend to involve ourselves with matters that do take on meaning to us whether that be with advancing our knowledge and understanding or trying to make ourselves more important than we really are. It gives us a reason to live our lives. I’m not saying it is right, I’m just saying it is what we are.

    Some people chose to better themselves, somtimes at the expense of others, somtimes for the good of all of us. Once again, not right or wrong, it’s just who we are. Part of being in a society means you can’t exist in a bubble, isolated from all else with only your own thoughts and actions. What you do does affect others and, as a result, your chioces of what you do to affect others will always have consequences.

    Religion is complicated by the fact it was developed mainly to explain that which we had no undertanding. As undedstanding develops, the significance of religion comes into question. Many people hold religion near and dear due to its highly emotional value. It has been intricately woven into our society as a way to cope and understand that which we have no control over. It is a security blanket and has been reinforced by previous generations deep belief in the system. It is hard for many to let go. I have a hard time letting it go. You can’t simply dismiss it as illogical and move on.

    Yes, many horible things have been done in the name of religion and it has been reduced to dogma not to be trifled with. People develop deep resentment to those who don’t believe the way you believe. That is just a factor of something that is so ingrained in our society, we won’t just throw it away. It has not only created injustices, it has made us consider and act justly to others of our species.

    So to simply place all our social and emotional existence as an insignificant part of the overall existence of the universe trivializes everything we live for as a species. We do exist as social animals and do need to interact. None of what we have today as a society would exist if we did not, bad or good.

  109. I have been folloowing Qualia Soup’s YouTube channel for several months now. Hie stuff is quite good.

    I only wish his shorts could be broadcast on television as public service announcements or made available in schools.

  110. @95, 97, 98, 99, and 100 Charles J. Slavis, Jr.,

    A bunch of out of context responses, maybe to what I wrote, but maybe not.

    You keep referring to majority rule. That is why we are lucky that we do not live in a democracy. We have some protection from laws that infringe on the rights of miniorities. In a democracy, when the majority wants to scapegoat a minority, there is nothing to stop them. They experience the persecution of majority rule.

    You also mention doing something, apparently just for the sake of doing something. That is a horrible idea.

  111. Old Muley

    OK, did anyone think this presentation had a very “Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy”-esque feel to it?

  112. @ Kevin:

    Yes, and my rant was not directed at you. Sorry if that was unclear.

  113. Asimov Fan

    Hmm … in my post 22 the post I was replying to (Kevin’s on September 22nd, 2009 at 10:12 am) has gone from 18 to 21. That’s potentially confusing for people isn’t it?

    Maybe posts being moderated and coming in should be numbered and /or appear where they fit in later post-moderation and not change the earlier numbers around?

    Any chance of doing that or something like it so that post-reply numbers don’t change like that BA?

    So many comments to read, so little time, sigh.

  114. Anand

    I sometimes comment as “lawyer.”

    I, for one, have learned a lot from the video, and as soon as I saw it I was sure to apologize to a friend of mine. Whomever the dude that created this was, his reasoning is absolutely right… And I love the Alien metaphor! I am throwing away my Schrodinger’s Cat Book!

  115. astroquoter

    @ 36. kuhnigget Says:

    It only took 30 posts for the Einstein quote troll to show up. Not bad!!!

    Are you referring to me?

    If so why? I certainly don’t think I am a troll – I was merely providing a few things to think about. Like the idea that many greater minds than ours have struggled with these issues and things may not be so simple as some claim. I do think the original videoclip piece here has a few missing assumptions & logic problems of its own but I am not trying to be too argumentive or disruptive. Just having my say and trying to add something to this discussion that’s all. Why you think this makes me a troll I honestly don’t know.

    You are entitled to your opinion of course but in my view that one little dismissal and ad hominem attack of yours does you no credit.

    If you have a problem with what I’m quoting & a problem with what Einstein and the others I cited are saying then perhaps you should argue your point rather than shoot the messenger?

  116. @ astroquoter:

    Nothing personal, but if you’ve been around the good Dr. BA’s blog long enough, you’d know how frequently Einstein quotes are trotted out by the True Believers, who seem to think that just because it came out the orifice of Herr Doktor Einstein it is somehow a guaranteed profundity.

    Likewise with John Glenn or any other astronaut, e.g. that wacky loon, Edgar Mitchell. Bravery and top notch piloting skills do not make one an expert on all things cosmic.

    So speak for yourself re: that “greater minds than ours” bit. Besides, ever try to get through a John Updike book?

  117. TheBlackCat

    @astroquoter:

    If you like Einstein quotes, here are a few more:

    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

    I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

    I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.

    I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.

    The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

    Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment — an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections.

    Deep religiosity… found an abrupt ending at the age of twelve, through the reading of popular scientific books.

    I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.

    Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.

  118. Stargazer

    @50 Kevin

    I have faith in God because of many different reasons.

    No. You don’t arrive at faith through reason.

    I’ve seen what belief in God can make of you. My grandfather was the most selfless man I’ve ever known, and he was absolutely on fire for God. His influence in my life, knowing what kind of person he was has caused me to want to be like him. He wasn’t a Bible thumper, and I’ve met old friends of his that say that you could just tell how in love with God my gransfather was.

    Entirely irrelevant. That’s what a belief in god can do to you, but that doesn’t mean he would be an insufferable bastard if he didn’t have a certain baseless faith. I am sure you are fully aware of the bad things faith can do to you.

    There are the ‘voice of God’ situations I’ve been in, too. Times when I’ve been so completely down and upset (like when my cat died) I’ve heard and felt a calming sensation through me. It wasn’t so much a voice as just a feeling of calm. Happens when I get really angry, too, before I snap, I feel that same calming tone. It’s almost the same feeling as you get when you know someone loves you.

    Not evidence for any god, or yours specifically.

    I’ve got a lot of reasons, a lot of times I’ve felt His touch in my life, but like I said, all anecdotal, all faith. It’s certainly not proof. I don’t expect to be able to qualify any of that as proof in God’s existence.

    Of course we’re not dealing with proof. It’s called evidence, and at least you realise you have none of it. One does not arrive at a faith through reason and evidence, you do it by abandoning them. But why that particular god? How can you know which one exists? You can’t, yet you seem to know there’s only one of them, and that it is a male god. How on Earth can you know? What made you decide? Surely it can’t be that you grew up in a society where the most popular religion is a monotheism with a male god…

  119. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The logic problem that science is unable to solve is that once they identify what made our universe it becomes a part of a greater universe that requires more investigation into where it came from. Multi-verses and membranes lead not to the beginning but to a continuation from something else. Would an eternally evolving situation have to come from some where? Not if it has been evolving eternally. It always was, and always will be. On the other hand, if nothing is eternal, then where did it come from, and where will it go? Is change the only constant, or does change make itself not a constant? A mobius strip here.

  120. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The answers seem to lead to the questions.

  121. #30 Astroquoter:
    Your Galileo quote is the wrong way around. The correct quote is:
    “The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.”
    And it was said not by Galileo himself, but by the cardinal who defended him at his trial.
    In other words, the Bible was written as a guide to morals and religious principles; it was never intended to be an accurate history book or a scientific textbook. Some in the church realised that 400 years ago; it never ceases to amaze me that some people today still can’t accept it!

  122. The Yorkshire Sceptic

    Re the video:

    Stating the obvious much.

    I also thought that, while interesting, it was pointless. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    As no one can prove, one way or t’other, whether or not there is some sort of divine power, there’s nothing more to be said. Neither side is going to change its stance.

  123. uudale

    @ Erik R. (#13):

    I like the way the wooden spoon lady is looking at me :-)

  124. 88. Neil Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Having said that, I’m glad to argue issues like abortion without referring to the Bible. I just focus on the scientific fact that a new human being is created at conception and that it is immoral to kill her for 99% of the reasons typically given for abortion.
    _______________

    No, it’s not scientific fact. The determination of when a human life begins is a semantic opinion, based on culture. Not fact. In some cultures, it begins at conception. In other cultures, it begins at birth. In other cultures, it begins after birth.

    One of the oldest civilizations in the world, the !Kung San of southern Africa, believe life begins when a new baby is first presented to the tribe. Women give birth isolated from the tribe, and carefully inspect the newborn for any defects or deformities. If any defects are found, the baby is destroyed. It’s not infanticide, because the baby isn’t alive yet – it hasn’t been presented to the tribe. It’s not immoral, it’s a survival mechanism.

    If you want to consider life to begin at conception due to your own personal biases, you’re welcome to do so. But your personal biases should not determine the law of the land.

  125. @ Neil:

    Yes, we overlook those because the early church, whose members risked their property, freedom and even lives over the real Gospel, did not consider those writings to be authentic. Read Eusebius’ Church History, for example, and see what they thought about the Gospels and the rejected texts.

    Thank you for strengthening my argument for me.

    “…the early church…did not consider those writings to be authentic.”

    Meaning they, those people, decided what was “authentic” and what was not. Their motivations matter not one whit. It was a human decision to decide what they’re faith was going to be, just as it was a human decision to decide the divinity of Jesus, the immaculate conception of the virgin Mary, and on and on and on.

    Religion, like every other human invention, is a product of its time and it evolves over time. Your apparent version of “christianity” probably would be unrecognizable to the early church, let alone to the apostles, who still clung to their Jewish faith, transformed with the arrival of the person they believed to be the Jewish messiah.

    Christians can point to all sorts of evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus and the accuracy and reliability of the Bible: Cosmological, teleological, logical, moral, historical and more.

    This, from the person whom one post earlier complained of circular logic? Proof of the bible’s truth is the bible itself?

    I have a revelation for you, Neil: I am God. How do you know this is true? Because I said so. Prove me wrong.

  126. Keith (the first one)

    I think some people have missed the point of the video. It is saying that there is no evidence for any gods, therefore we cannot know one way or the other whether any gods exist. That is, any statement made about a god is as valid as any other about any other god.

    It is not saying that there is no evidence of any gods, therefore gods don’t exist.

    Hence, people can believe in any gods they want, but they shouldn’t EXPECT anyone else to agree with them.

  127. @ jessie k (#14)

    > So if there was nothing, then all of the sudden the big bang happened,
    > it makes the big bang theory no different from the creationist theory.

    No it doesn’t, because the big bang theory has no proposed causal mechanism. There is no statement about what existed, if anything, prior to the big bang, nor what caused the big bang to come into existence. The big bang theory is descriptive of what occurred from the moment of the event onwards. Compare this with Creationism, which makes a statement regarding both a causal mechanism (some Being(s) caused the universe to be) and an existence statement (this Being(s) existed prior to the creation of the universe).

    @ Neil (#87, and further)

    > The demand of some atheists for scientific evidence for God’s existence
    > is born of either disingenuousness or a lack of understanding.

    That is not what is claimed in the video. Some atheists do claim this (you cannot prove the existence of God with empirical evidence, ergo there is no God), but properly there is a difference between making an existence claim and refuting one.

    I can refute an existence claim based upon a lack of evidence, that does not imply that the thing proposed does not exist, merely that there is insufficient evidence to justify the claim.

    > They can’t use empirical testing to prove that only empirical
    > testing qualifies as evidence, as that is a circular reference.

    You’re confusing or conflating “the existence of different systems” with “provable statements within different systems”. In the context of science, itself, repeatable empirical evidence is the strongest sort of evidence for any theory, and the only acceptable evidence for an existence claim. Scientists can certainly assert that empirical evidence is the only acceptable evidence for a scientific theory. Some scientists admittedly claim that only scientific investigation is a valid method of inquiry towards discovering “truth” (which I agree is very weak sauce), but don’t conflate this problem with your rejection of the method of science itself.

    > They also make a category mistake. You don’t use a scale to weigh
    > the color blue, because colors don’t have weight. In the same way,
    > you don’t use methods designed to test material things if you want
    > to determine the truth about immaterial things.

    You’re the one actually making a category mistake here; you’re misunderstanding the application of science. Science is not *about* immeasurable things. If something cannot be exposed to observation, it cannot be investigated with science. You cannot make a meaningful statement about immeasurable things using the framework of science. You cannot prove that God exists scientifically, and you cannot prove that he doesn’t exist.

    Now, using pure syllogistic logic (and not empirical evidence) you can actually make a number of statements regarding immeasurable things provided you agree on underlying axioms. But those statements can only be true provided the axioms are true, and you cannot “prove” the axioms inside the system itself, they have to be given to be true to have any sort of meaningful analysis.

    > Christians can point to all sorts of evidence for the existence of
    > God, the resurrection of Jesus and the accuracy and reliability
    > of the Bible: Cosmological, teleological, logical, moral, historical
    > and more.

    All of those classes of evidence only make sense in the framework of thought in which they are proposed; as an aside, “historical” does not belong on this list, as there is no historical evidence for the existence of God (merely the existence of a *belief* in God). Teleological arguments for the existence of God cannot be examined inside the framework of science.

    All this means is that one cannot prove the existence of God within the framework of science. One also cannot disprove the existence of God within the framework of science (although one can certainly falsify *many of the codified dogmatic beliefs* of various religions inside the framework of science, as many of those dogmatic beliefs are in fact measurable beliefs inside the observable world).

    Certainly, there are scientists who are atheists, just like there are scientists who are believers and atheists who are not scientists. There are many atheists who claim that science proves there is no God, and I agree that they are in fact incorrect; however, it is certainly possible for an atheist to say, “Using science as an investigatory tool, I find no empirical evidence for the existence of a deity or deities, and thus I reject that existence claim”.

  128. @ Neil (specifically, #88)

    > Here’s the whole 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting
    > an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
    > abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
    > peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
    >
    > It doesn’t even hint that my religious views can’t inform my political views.

    Yes, it does, actually, but only in a very specific way.

    You are certainly welcome to have your political views informed by your religious views, up until the point in which you desire to have your religious view codified into law, at which point your barriers are (a) ensure that your religious view is not being established via that law or (b) supersede the first amendment by amending the constitution.

    Example:

    If you say, “My religion believes that everyone should spend Sunday in a state of prayer and fasting,” it’s perfectly okay to pass laws to prevent religious persecution of the people who believe in your religion… for example, to forbid the government from forcing you to do something on Sunday. That is a law preventing the government from infringing upon your free practice of religion. Kosher.

    If you say, “My religion believes that everyone should spend Sunday in a state of prayer and fasting,” it’s *not* perfectly okay to pass laws to force other people to observe your religion… for example, to *forbid* the government from operating on Sunday, or to force employers to hire you in spite of the fact that they wish to be open on Sunday and you refuse to work that day. That’s *establishment* of your religion; you have a primacy over others.

    If you say, “My religion believes that everyone should spend Sunday in a state of prayer and fasting,”, it *is* perfectly okay to attempt to *amend the Constitution* to allow the previous example. Your barrier is very high. Presumably, people not of your religion must come to your consensus; they will do so for non-dogmatic reasons. Thus, you are not establishing *your* religion counter to the Constitution, you’re extending the Constitution to enable some legal context that happens to agree with your religious belief.

    Note, this still does not give you the right to enforce a class of behaviors (everyone must pray and fast on Sunday), merely the right to reject a specific class of behaviors (governments and businesses can’t be open on Sunday). If people still wish to run around naked in their house playing sex games on their computer while dictating business letters that will go out on Monday, that’s still their business. By the 10th Amendment, anything not expressly delegated to the federales is reserved for the states & the people, so anything included in a Constitutional amendment must be explicit.

    In the particular case of abortion, simply attempting to outlaw it via a normal legislative process is going to run afoul of the first Amendment, as you are establishing your particular religious belief about the “beginning of life” as *the* standard for personhood. People not of your religion now have lost equal footing, your religious belief has primacy. That’s a violation of the establishment clause. In order for you to meet the standard of Constitutionality, you must in fact amend the Constitution to define “personhood”, which is not currently included in the Constitution at all.

  129. mike burkhart

    As I’ve said I am Catholic but also an amuter astronomer . I don’t want to force anyone to follow my faith nor do I want any scientfic theroy baned from schools (unless they are ridculis sauch as saying the earth is flat ) and I am concerned about growing religous extreamism I don’t want to live in a therocy. nor do I want people who are not Catholic to be put into conceration camps in fact if the extreamists ever come to power in this country I am going to leave

  130. ndt

    Keith (the first one) Says:
    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:49 am
    I think some people have missed the point of the video. It is saying that there is no evidence for any gods, therefore we cannot know one way or the other whether any gods exist. That is, any statement made about a god is as valid as any other about any other god.

    It is not saying that there is no evidence of any gods, therefore gods don’t exist.

    Hence, people can believe in any gods they want, but they shouldn’t EXPECT anyone else to agree with them.

    But isn’t it patently ridiculous to believe a god exists when there is no evidence to suggest that one exists?

  131. @ ndt

    > But isn’t it patently ridiculous to believe a god exists when there is
    > no evidence to suggest that one exists?

    This is largely dependent upon your definition of “existence”, and “evidence”; you’re making basically the same error that Neil is making.

    If you define “existing things” as “those things which can be directly observed and measured”, then you don’t properly have evidence for many things – some of which are actual “real things” (you can’t directly observe an electron or a black hole, for example). If you start arguing that direct observation is not required, and indirect observation is sufficient, then you get into subjective questions about indirect observations. You also have very little grounds to posit the existence of anything conceptual (justice, love, what have you) that has no directly observable manifestation in fourspace.

    In the particular context of science, the video creator does a pretty good job of explaining the limits of scientific investigation: things we cannot empirically measure can’t properly be investigated using science. That does not mean that they don’t exist (at least in some sense of the term “existence”). If something happens that we can’t explain, the best we can say is “we don’t know (yet) why that happened”; we can’t conclude that it’s a miracle, but we can’t conclude that it isn’t, either. In fact, from a scientific standpoint, we can’t ever rule out that it *is* a miracle unless we actually find a causal mechanism for the event.

    For another example, you cannot state *scientifically* that genocide is wrong. You can possibly explain societal causes of genocide, or social or economic impacts of genocide, but the actual *value judgment* of genocide can’t be investigated scientifically. So “wrong” vs. “right” aren’t properly scientific questions, either.

  132. From the standpoint of the philosophy of science, as well, you have to remember that there are completeness and consistency issues.

    Given any reasonably complex system, and a set of axiomatic statements about that system, there will be statements about that system that cannot be proven to be true inside that system itself. The status of these statements is indeterminate: we cannot prove those statements to be true, or to be false. Presumably those statements actually will be either true or false. See Gödel for reference :)

    Generally, I accept the following axioms to be true in science:

    (1) The universe operates according to a set of consistent laws.
    (2) Those laws can be at least partially derived by observation and experimentation.
    (3) It is possible to expose phenomena to indirect observation.
    (4) Useful, descriptive, and causal frameworks can be constructed using logic and the partially derived laws exposed via observation and experimentation.
    (5) Those frameworks will not be fully accurate representations of the universal laws.
    (6) Anything capable of creating phenomena inside the observable universe must conform to the laws of the universe.

    Some scientific philosophers may agree or disagree with some of those axioms, but you can see that all my particular axioms don’t eliminate the possibility of paranormal activity (which is simply “that which we cannot currently explain”), although my version eliminates the possibility of supernatural activity (that which bypasses the laws of the universe). It also doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a divine being, just one that interacts directly with the universe (you can easily remove my axiom #6 and still have scientific investigation. In fact, you still build a logically consistent, empirically based method of scientific investigation.)

    But, due to #5, it’s a given that we cannot fully express the laws of the universe (ever) through scientific investigation, we can only get closer to the actual laws (for the record, as far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on whether or not we can get arbitrarily close to the actual laws). If you agree with this, then there are by definition things that exist that will never be exposed to empirical observation.

    So, there’s a perfectly non-absurd reason to posit the existence of things when you have no evidence that they exist; there are, in fact, infinitely many things that exist that we will not be able to observe.

  133. petrolonfire

    @36. kuhnigget Says:

    It only took 30 posts for the Einstein quote troll to show up. Not bad!!!

    What’s that, kuhnigget, Albert Einstein’s a troll? 😉

  134. Salaam-Shalom-Peace

    @ 125. toasterhead Says:

    The determination of when a human life begins is a semantic opinion, based on culture. Not fact. In some cultures, it begins at conception. In other cultures, it begins at birth. In other cultures, it begins after birth.

    That’s just wrong. And I see you are another victim of the whole cultural relativist/post modernist/ poststructralist philosophy which has been so sadly and detrimentally in academic vogue recently.

    One of the oldest civilizations in the world, the !Kung San of southern Africa, believe life begins when a new baby is first presented to the tribe. Women give birth isolated from the tribe, and carefully inspect the newborn for any defects or deformities. If any defects are found, the baby is destroyed. It’s not infanticide, because the baby isn’t alive yet – it hasn’t been presented to the tribe.

    Wrong. It is infanticide. The baby is alive. And we all really know it.

    If this custom was used by a mother in the USA or Britain or elsewhere in the civilised world we would consider it – quite rightly – to be murder & prosecute accordingly. We know that just because they have a cultural belief that says it is not infanticide simply doesn’t make it so any more than the Australian aborigines thinking the landscape was made by a magic snake makes that notion real.

    If the !Kung people believe such infanticide isn’t murder then that is their view – but we know it is a false one. We know it is murder based on reality not cultural opinions or interpretations.

    Moreover, arguing otherwise shows what a nasty slippery slope you’re sitting on. Do you really mean to advocate this practice and idea toasterhead? If itwere up to you in this situation what would you do?

    We know that a human life begins when a genetically unique being that will become a unique individual person is first formed – at conception. If a baby is aborted or miscarried we know a life is lost. A being that would have been – that was genetically unique* has been killed and prevented from fully being.

    (* Aside from identical twins, triplets etc .. but that’s a side point)

    We know that fact is not culturally derived and that whilst culture is one set of prisms or ways of looking at the world it cannot make what is wrong right.

    Defining life in this culturally relativist /post-modernist /post-structralist way permits murder – even genocide. If you define someone or some group of people as sub-human as, indeed, has happened in historic times then you think it is acceptable to kill them?

    Do you see, toasterhead, where this is heading?

    Imagine it is *your* group – imagine if say atheists were considered inhuman by the group culture – would it be acceptable to kill them?

    This is exactly the same sematic line that you imply justifies abortion and the !kung infanticide practice.

    I’ll even go a step further & say not only do we know that the !Kung cultural belief justifying murdering babies is wrong we know that our culture is objectively better than theirs because we – unlike they recognise this practice – for what it is & consider it ethically abhorrent. We can – & lets face it all do – rate cultures by their behaviours and we can tell for instance that Western culture is superior to Chinese or African cultures precisely because of how we treat people – how we do not oppress women, practice infanticide or celebrate monstrous tyrants like Stalin, Mao or the Banana Republic’s Dictator de jour.

    If you want to consider life to begin at conception due to your own personal biases, you’re welcome to do so. But your personal biases should not determine the law of the land.

    Read what you wrote again toasterhead – and this time substitute one word – cultural for personal.

    If you want to consider life to begin at conception due to your own cultural biases, you’re welcome to do so. But your *cultural* biases should not determine the law of the land.

    Please think about how that applies to the !kung culture and the pro-abortion lobby in the West.

    Life begins when a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell and a unique individual that will one day, all things proceding normally, be an independent thinking, loving, feeling, human woman or man is born.

    No amount of spin or semantics can make this objective, scientific fact other than what it is.

    As for the “putting faith in its place” video here I think it is a flawed and unhelpful piece of sophistry that preaches to the converted athiest whilst ignoring a whole level of evidence and that its own negative stereotypes and bias are all too clear.

    Do its creators really think this piece of simplistic sophistry will convince anyone?

    I think instead that – like Dawkin’s bitter and extreme rants – this will do the atheist cause more harm than good by alienating and offending reasonable people who know things are not as simple as such bullies and sophists try to make them seem.

    Logic can be used to argue convincingly that black is white – but if you look at a white light you’ll get very few who accept a black=white logican’s notion that the light is black instead!

    Logic and science do have their limits, not everything is amenable to scientific study and things outside a laboratory or observatory or formula can mean and be a whole lot more.

    I love science, I love astronomy but I am not crazy enough to say they are everything or that that science and logic can answer everything.

    I personally am quite happy to accept the strong evidence for God that exists within my own heart and mind & I believe most religious people are also.

    And no I don’t mean to impose my believes on anyone else or insist everyone belives as I do. I just ask to be treated with the same courtesy and respect you wish for yourselves.

    To quote Islam “there is no compulsion in religion.”

    To quote Christianity “Let he is who is without sin cast the first stone – love thy neighbour as yourself.”

    To quote Judaism “Do unto others are ye would be done unto.”

    Now look again at that “putting faith in its place” video and imagine it was arguing exactly the reverse (“Putting Science in its place”) – would you find it so convincing and reasonable then?

  135. Salaam-Shalom-Peace

    To clarify what I meant:
    —————————————————-

    Read what you wrote again toasterhead – and this time substitute one word – cultural for personal and add two more ‘does’ & ‘not’ in place of ‘to’.

    If you want to consider life *does not* begin at conception due to your own cultural biases, you’re welcome to do so. But your *cultural* biases should not determine the law of the land.

    Please think about how that applies to the !kung culture and the pro-abortion lobby in the West.

    Deliberatley ending another persons life is murder. This is what abortion is, regardless of the fact that the baby being murdered is still in its womb and still growing towards being born and growing up one day.

    I respect women and their right to choose – on most things.
    I respect most people generally (you are my neighbours after all!) and their right to choose.
    But if the choice a person makes is to committ murder – well I cannot support that.

    I understand that women face some incredibly difficult sitautions and decisions, I can just about see a case occassionally for abortion where a woman has been raped and is pregnant from that or the child threatens her health or is too ill to survive after birth. But, let’s get real – most abortions do NOT fall into those categories. And even when they do, in most cases the best option is to offer the baby for adoption rather than kill it.

  136. Keith (the first one)

    131. ndt Says:
    September 23rd, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    “But isn’t it patently ridiculous to believe a god exists when there is no evidence to
    suggest that one exists?”

    My post that you responded to was the agnostic argument presented in the video. The athiest argument derived from that is that if there is no evidence, there is no reason to believe. Also, the burden of proof is always on the claim that something exists when no evidence is found, not the claim that it doesn’t.

  137. Nigel Depledge

    Astroquoter (30, quoting John Glenn) said:

    “How can anybody prove there’s a God? I said. “I can’t. There’s no mathematical formula or chemical composition that adds up to God, just like there’s no formula for love or hope or honesty. I don’t believe that God is dead. I can’t look around this world and believe that it came out of chance encounters of cosmic debris. But you know God doesn’t have to be believed in to exist.”

    First off, I’ll demolish Glenn’s argument from ignorance and personal incredulity:
    Just because he cannot imagine (or does not understand) how the world came to be the way it is through natural processes, does not mean that those natural processes do not account for the way the world is. If there is a god, she works through natural processes. Otherwise, there would be stuff all over the place for which the natural processes that we observe cannot account.

    Now the more general point:
    If god doesn’t have to be believed in to exist, then by the same token no amount of faith forces a god to exist. In other words, belief in a god does not make it so. This is where logic comes to our aid. Is it more logical to suppose that the natural processes we observe today are sufficient to explain the way the world is (with, of course, the awareness that we don’t know everything but that “we don’t know yet” is a perfectly acceptable answer to many questions); or that there exists some all-powerful being that created everything, cannot be detected in any meaningful way and yet cares deeply for each and every one of us?

    The principle of parsimony requires that we opt for the former, unless there is real evidence for the latter. Therefore, any religious belief is inherently irrational.

  138. Nigel Depledge

    Astroquoter (30) also quoted:

    “Science can only describe what, guess at why but cannot offer ultimate meaning. When man’s [sic] limited intellect has the arrogance to pretend an ability to analyse God, its time for me to get off that train.”
    – Laura Schlessinger, radio talk show host & former editor of ‘Skeptic’ magazine in her letter resigning from its editorial board. Quoted pages 151-152 The Science of good & Evil’ By Michael Shermer, Henry Holt & Company, 2004.

    This shows an incomplete understanding of scepticism, and an unquestioning acceptance of religion.

    Of course we have to be able to analyse any putative god. If, as is claimed, god made us to be special but refuses to communicate directly with us then it is up to us to assess the world as best we can. And that best way is by looking for evidence, understanding what the evidence means, and concluding from it only what can be logically supported.

    Thus, the corpus of knowledge derived through science.

    She is also wrong in her opening statement. Sicence does not guess at why – it provides detailed explanations, which is far better than religion ever does. This is especially the case for biological evolution, where “goddidit” is wholly unsatisfying and unenlightening, whereas understanding the details of natural selection etc. offers us an illumination of why and how the biota of Earth are the way they are.

  139. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Probable reasons that God doesn’t communicate directly. Too Loud. Can’t decide which language to use. Doesn’t have an I phone. People who hear God are called nuts. Filtered out on e mail. No mail drop at this location. How would we communicate with a boson or who ever was living on one. I have it! A billboard!

  140. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    God would just have to hold it back a little…..like outside of the universe.

  141. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

  142. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Oh! My God! I’m deaf! I’m deaf!

  143. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.
  144. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.
  145. 139. Nigel Depledge Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 5:51 am

    She is also wrong in her opening statement. Sicence does not guess at why – it provides detailed explanations, which is far better than religion ever does. This is especially the case for biological evolution, where “goddidit” is wholly unsatisfying and unenlightening, whereas understanding the details of natural selection etc. offers us an illumination of why and how the biota of Earth are the way they are.
    _______________

    It depends on how you interpret the word “why.” When science answers the question “why is the sky blue?” by explaining that it is the result of Rayleigh scattering of sunlight in the 450 nanometer range by air molecules and aerosols in the atmosphere, which then strike the cones on the retinas of our eyes and are converted to neurochemical impulses that are interpreted by our brains as the color we refer to as blue, it is actually answering the question “how is the sky blue?,” not “why.”

    If you look at why in the more poetic, philosophical sense – why does light interact with gaseous matter in that way; why did our eyes evolve to interpret the color blue the way they do; why does blue appear blue and not orange or octarine; why do matter and energy exist in the first place; etc — it is a question not answerable by science. These “why” questions are in the realm of philosophy, of which religion is a subset. It’s not that science is bad at answering them, it’s that science is irrelevant to them.

    And here’s the thing about “why” answers – they’re not verifiable. They’re purely subjective, purely interpretive. They’re based on feeling, not fact. Thus, the philosophers can stay gainfully employed for many lifetimes by continually answering and re-answering the why questions, just as scientists will always be pursuing better data and more accurate answers to the how questions.

    When science sticks to the how and philosophy sticks to the why, both cultures can peacefully coexist. It’s only when this barrier is breached – say, by creationists or intelligent designists attempting to use philosophy to answer the “how” question of how life evolved – that problems arise.

  146. 135. Salaam-Shalom-Peace Says:
    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Wrong. It is infanticide. The baby is alive. And we all really know it.

    No. You don’t know it. You believe it based on your Western-centric interpretation of “alive.” But you don’t know it.
    _________________

    If this custom was used by a mother in the USA or Britain or elsewhere in the civilised world we would consider it – quite rightly – to be murder & prosecute accordingly. We know that just because they have a cultural belief that says it is not infanticide simply doesn’t make it so any more than the Australian aborigines thinking the landscape was made by a magic snake makes that notion real.

    Yes, because in a Western society, which is based on the social groupings that evolved in the European context, society has generally defined the beginning of life semantically to mean birth, with some subsets choosing to define it as conception. That doesn’t make our society or culture any better or more evolved than that of the !Kung or the Aborigines. Just different. Call it cultural relativism if you want, but I don’t recall the Aborigines dropping nuclear weapons on innocent civilians, or the !Kung invading a Middle Eastern country for no reason.
    __________

    Please think about how that applies to the !kung culture and the pro-abortion lobby in the West.

    Deliberatley ending another persons life is murder. This is what abortion is, regardless of the fact that the baby being murdered is still in its womb and still growing towards being born and growing up one day.

    As a proud member of the pro-abortion lobby, I have thought about it. And I have concluded that while I consider it the wrong choice for me, it is not up to me to decide for all society what women cannot do with their bodies.

    Is it homicide? Yes. But does that make it morally wrong? Not necessarily. Not all homicide is morally wrong. Is premeditated murder morally equivalent to killing someone in self-defense or via freak accident or when commanded to on the battlefield? Our society says no. Our laws and courts say no. Why not? The end result is the same.

    In the case of the !Kung, it is a matter of survival. An indivudual unable to provide or contribute to the group is a drain on the resources of the entire group. Eliminating that individual is a necessary sacrifice for the survival of the group.

    Why is abortion any different? Studies have shown a strong correlation between legalized abortion and lowered crime rates, so one could look at abortion as very preemptive self-defense against a future criminal, a future drain on society. Or do you consider yourself pro-crime?

    You and I will never agree on the fundamental morality of abortion, though personally I think we do agree – it’s not the choice that we ourselves would make. I’d even venture that we both agree that there should be fewer of them. So the real relevant question is: what should society do about it?

    If the goal is to reduce abortions, then banning the practice is absolutely the wrong way to go. Banning alcohol did not end the use of alcohol. Banning drugs has not ended the use of drugs. Banning slavery did not end the practice of slavery. Why would you think that banning abortion would end abortion?
    _________________

    We can – & lets face it all do – rate cultures by their behaviours and we can tell for instance that Western culture is superior to Chinese or African cultures precisely because of how we treat people – how we do not oppress women, practice infanticide or celebrate monstrous tyrants like Stalin, Mao or the Banana Republic’s Dictator de jour.

    Resorting to racism doesn’t exactly help your case, chuckles. Just saying.

  147. TheBlackCat

    If you look at why in the more poetic, philosophical sense – why does light interact with gaseous matter in that way; why did our eyes evolve to interpret the color blue the way they do; why does blue appear blue and not orange or octarine; why do matter and energy exist in the first place; etc — it is a question not answerable by science. These “why” questions are in the realm of philosophy, of which religion is a subset. It’s not that science is bad at answering them, it’s that science is irrelevant to them.

    You are totally wrong in every single one of these examples. Science cannot answer those questions yet, but that does not mean that science is not capable of answering them. It is completely plausible that science will come up with a comprehensive explanation for how the rules of basic physical interactions came about, or why the universe exists instead of not existing, and it is pretty much certain that we will understand the detailed workings of the brain that underly our subjective perceptions of the world.

  148. 148. TheBlackCat Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 11:49 am

    You are totally wrong in every single one of these examples. Science cannot answer those questions yet, but that does not mean that science is not capable of answering them. It is completely plausible that science will come up with a comprehensive explanation for how the rules of basic physical interactions came about, or why the universe exists instead of not existing, and it is pretty much certain that we will understand the detailed workings of the brain that underly our subjective perceptions of the world.

    I still don’t see the questions you cite as “why” questions. They’re “how” questions. How the rules of physical interactions came about. How the universe came to exist. How the brain interprets input.

    And perhaps science will find answers for some of the “whys”, but not without generating more “why” questions. As anyone who’s ever argued with a two-year-old knows, there’s always another “why.”

  149. TheBlackCat

    We know that a human life begins when a genetically unique being that will become a unique individual person is first formed – at conception. If a baby is aborted or miscarried we know a life is lost.

    No, you claim to know this. I simply do not agree, and neither do most people in the U.S. You state it as though it were a proven fact, but provide no justification for that.

    Life begins when a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell and a unique individual that will one day, all things proceding normally, be an independent thinking, loving, feeling, human woman or man is born.

    If all things proceed normally, nothing will be born. The vast majority of conceptions end in miscarriage, something like over 90% if I recall correctly. Usually this happens before the woman even knows she is pregnant. Birth is the exception, rather than the rule.

    A being that would have been – that was genetically unique* has been killed and prevented from fully being.

    I think this is where your central problem lies. You are mixing up potential life with life. A potential life is not the same thing as an actual life. A potential human is not the same thing as an actual human. Preventing something from forming is not the same thing is destroying something that has already formed. You can claim all you want that they are the same, but they aren’t. If it were, we would all be murders because we all have the potential to become murders. We would all be millionaires because we all have the potential to become millionaires.

  150. TheBlackCat

    I still don’t see the questions you cite as “why” questions. They’re “how” questions. How the rules of physical interactions came about. How the universe came to exist. How the brain interprets input.

    You were the one who said those were “why” questions, not me.

  151. @ Nigel

    > The principle of parsimony requires that we opt for the former, unless
    > there is real evidence for the latter. Therefore, any religious belief is
    > inherently irrational.

    Parsimony is a great operational guideline. It is not an iron law, for obvious reasons. There are huge scopes of phenomena that we cannot expose to observation currently, in every scientific field. We have no direct evidence of the existence of these phenomena. Every science right now is studying a system that is vastly more complex than classical mechanics, and Occam’s Razor predates mechanics by a quite a bit. The 14th century was a period when people were trying to understand basic phenomena; complex explanations were contraindicated. The 21st century is a period when people are trying to understand vastly more complicated phenomena, usually transdisciplinary. Complexity is the norm.

    Parsimony is also not required in any system of logic, and has absolutely nothing to do with either logic or irrationality.

    @ TheBlackCat

    I think you have a vastly more optimistic view of scientific progress than I do, although I agree that toasterhead picked some bad examples. Not that I don’t think that any of those things is, in and of itself, worthy of investigation, but I simply do not believe that science is capable of answering every question.

    Science is about derivation. We have to find things out. Every time we find something new out, it opens up new things to learn about, not less. Every model I’ve seen of scientific knowledge is a growth model: we learn more, we expose more things to observation, we can learn more about those new things. It’s not about less unknowns, it’s about more unknowns.

    Part of this comes from my background as a mathematician. If you can’t prove *basic algebra* on the natural numbers to be complete and consistent (again, reference my earlier mentioning of Gödel), you can’t arrive at a complete and consistent descriptive theory about anything that relies upon such a structure. We know that there are infinite unprovable things in mathematics, and we know that there are actually infinitely more infinite unprovable things in mathematics than there are provable things. If basic addition is that impervious to complete understanding, there’s just no way we’re going to get anywhere near to full understanding of the universe.

    Which, IMO, is a great thing. It means that there’s always something new to find out, right?

  152. 151. TheBlackCat Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    You were the one who said those were “why” questions, not me.
    ______________

    Yes, but the answers you proposed were not answers to the “why” questions, they were answers to the “how” questions. If my examples were poor, I apologize. It’s only because of the imprecision of our language that the two have become interchangeable, but in my mind they are very different.

    How, as I see it, refers to mechanism. It’s inherently objective. How things work, how they originated, how they came to be, how their pieces fit together, etc.

    Why, as I see it, refers to value. It’s inherently subjective. By “why does the universe exist” I mean “is there a fundamental purpose to the universe existing?” By “why does life exist” I mean “is here a purpose for life to exist?” By “why is the sky beautiful” I mean “why do I like that particular hue of blue?”

    You cannot attempt to answer those questions objectively – not without creating more questions. If there’s a purpose to the universe, who decided on it? If someone decided on it, who designated that being the purpose-giver. Or one could argue with equal validity that there’s no purpose to the universe, and if not, why not. It’s a matter of opinion. I see this type of question as infinitely debatable but fundamentally unanswerable.

    Our brains are capable of both. In fact, our brains require both. We cannot survive being solely objective and logical, nor can we survive being solely subjective and emotional.

  153. 138. Nigel Depledge Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Therefore, any religious belief is inherently irrational.
    ________________

    I’d take it a step further. All belief is inherently irrational.

    By definition. “Belief” derives from the world for “love.” Love is irrational.

    Love – and I don’t mean sex or altruism or familial bonding here, I mean the Beatles lyric, Hollywood montage, Shakespearean sonnet version – makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective. Not as a survival mechanism, not as a reproductive strategy, not as an instrument of group cohesion.

    It can’t be measured, it can’t be weighed, it can’t be photographed, it can’t be spectrum-analyzed. Yet I doubt any of us would say it doesn’t exist. None of us (I hope) would say it’s a bad thing.

    But it’s still irrational.

  154. TheBlackCat

    @ toasterhead: but what it boils down to is that nothing can answer those questions. All we can do is make wild guesses. Religion is not superior to picking answers out of a hat in that regard. So your argument seems to be there are two types of questions: those that science can answer, and those that nothing can answer.

    So what, exactly, are we supposed to conclude from this? That people are capable of asking questions that even in principle cannot be answered? That is obvious, and I don’t see how it is really helpful to the discussion.

  155. TheBlackCat

    By definition. “Belief” derives from the world for “love.” Love is irrational.

    Do you have a source for this? As best as I can tell “belief” derives from the old high germanic word for “faith”, with “belief” and “faith” switching definitions some time between the 14th and 16th centuries. Whatever the case it, the entomology is irrelevant, it is the current definition that matters.

    It can’t be measured, it can’t be weighed, it can’t be photographed, it can’t be spectrum-analyzed. Yet I doubt any of us would say it doesn’t exist. None of us (I hope) would say it’s a bad thing.

    In principle, sure it can. Our ability to non-invasively analyze the functions of a human brain is becoming more and more sophisticated every day. There is no reason to think that love cannot be measured in time, probably sooner as opposed to later.

  156. @ 135. Salaam-Shalom-Peace,

    And no I don’t mean to impose my believes on anyone else or insist everyone belives as I do. I just ask to be treated with the same courtesy and respect you wish for yourselves.

    To quote Islam “there is no compulsion in religion.”

    To quote Christianity “Let he is who is without sin cast the first stone – love thy neighbour as yourself.”

    To quote Judaism “Do unto others are ye would be done unto.”

    Now look again at that “putting faith in its place” video and imagine it was arguing exactly the reverse (”Putting Science in its place”) – would you find it so convincing and reasonable then?

    You earlier criticize this video with –

    I think instead that – like Dawkin’s bitter and extreme rants – this will do the atheist cause more harm than good by alienating and offending reasonable people who know things are not as simple as such bullies and sophists try to make them seem.

    Apparently, from watching a video critical of the abuse of power by those trying to push their religion on others, you come away with a video critical of the abuse of power by those trying to push their religion on others.

    The part you seem to ignore, is the essential part. You act as if the video is calling for laws banning religion. Nowhere in the video is there any suggestion of this, or anything even remotely similar.

    Let me write out the last part of the video, which says pretty much the same thing as the religious quotes you provided at the end, and what you wrote just before that.

    It’s not whether we believe in gods, but how we treat each other, that says the most about our character.

    If you attack, condemn, or use emotional blackmail on people, because they don’t share your belief in one or more gods, you’re invited to consider what this says about you and how it squares with the values you claim to embrace.

    Nothing in this video is contradicted by any of the religious quotes you provided, apparently for the purpose of contradicting this video. These religious quotes actually present the same message as the video, since all of the quotes are about the hypocritical abuse of power.

    You wrote –

    And no I don’t mean to impose my believes on anyone else or insist everyone belives as I do. I just ask to be treated with the same courtesy and respect you wish for yourselves.

    You comment is not a disagreement with what is stated in the video, but a summary of what is stated in the video.

  157. 155. TheBlackCat Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    @ toasterhead: but what it boils down to is that nothing can answer those questions. All we can do is make wild guesses. Religion is not superior to picking answers out of a hat in that regard. So your argument seems to be there are two types of questions: those that science can answer, and those that nothing can answer.
    _____________

    Exactly. Religion, philosophy, belief, whatever you want to call it – is great at answering the unanswerable – or, more accurately, unverifiable – questions. That’s where it belongs. Religions and philosophers can debate their own answers to the purpose of life, the universe, and everything for the forseeable future and never get it “right,” because there is no verifiable answer.

    Where religion and philosophy do not belong is in the realm of the verifiable. When they start trying to prove the unproveable – say, using the fossil record or the nature of galaxies as “evidence” for God – they are stepping outside of their boundary, and creating conflict unnecessarily.

    Science and faith can coexist peacefully as long as each sticks to its area of expertise. I think that was the point of the video, wasn’t it?

  158. TheBlackCat

    Exactly. Religion, philosophy, belief, whatever you want to call it – is great at answering the unanswerable – or, more accurately, unverifiable – questions. That’s where it belongs. Religions and philosophers can debate their own answers to the purpose of life, the universe, and everything for the forseeable future and never get it “right,” because there is no verifiable answer.

    No, that is the exact opposite of what I am saying. I am saying that religion is not great at “answering the unanswerable”, it is terrible at it. If, as you admit, religion will never get the right answer, then by definition it is a terrible way to come up with an answer. It is no better than a random answer generator.

    In fact it is worse than a random answer generator, since for the most part religion only comes up with answers that people find comforting, while there is no reason to think that the “correct” answer is the least bit comforting. If the “correct” answer is one that people would really not like, then a random answer generator would be much more likely to pick it than a human religion or philosopher would.

  159. 159. TheBlackCat Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    No, that is the exact opposite of what I am saying. I am saying that religion is not great at “answering the unanswerable”, it is terrible at it.

    Fair enough. But if religion is not great at answering the unanswerable, it logically follows that it is also great at unanswering the answerable.

    Think about it.

    Exactly. That’s the problem.

    If, as you admit, religion will never get the right answer, then by definition it is a terrible way to come up with an answer. It is no better than a random answer generator.

    No – it’s a terrible way to come up with the answer to the unanswerable. But it’s a great way to come up with an answer to the unanswerable. And if religion can be distracted with the unanswerable long enough, it’ll leave science free to answer the answerable without having to go to court constantly to keep itself in the textbooks.

  160. TheBlackCat

    Fair enough. But if religion is not great at answering the unanswerable, it logically follows that it is also great at unanswering the answerable.

    No, it doesn’t logically follow. Not answering and unanswering are two different things. Although it is true that religion is quite good at, and in many cases tries very hard to, unanswer the answerable, it is not necessarily the case. For instance canaries are not good at answering the unanswerable, but neither are they very good at unanswering the answerable.

    No – it’s a terrible way to come up with the answer to the unanswerable. But it’s a great way to come up with an answer to the unanswerable.

    Compared to a random answer generator it is a terrible way since it only comes up with a tiny subset of possible answers.

  161. Salaam-Shalom-Peace @ 135

    While I, and many others, would certainly agree that the !Kung practices you refer to “ought to be” considered infanticide, I am afraid I must loudly and clearly dispute your view of when a “human life” “begins.” For most medical and legal purposes, a “human life” is said to “end” when the human body/brain can no longer support the level of activity that gives rise to an integrated, self-aware, human personality. In infants, this arises slowly, as any observant parent, unblinded by religious nutballery, will know. In full-term infants, it takes several months before they become noticeably aware that they are separate beings, distinct from their parents/caregivers, and there is no “magic moment” that is rationally defensible in the biological development of a human person, just as there is no developmental “magic moment” when a child ceases to be a child and becomes an adult.

    It is true that, upon conception (and even before), there is something “alive.” However, to maintain that (cue my channeling Sam Harris) a ball of 150 cells, lacking ANY neurons can somehow suffer its own destruction, or if you must, “death,” CANNOT BE LOGICALLY OR RATIONALLY SUPPORTED IN ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER.

    To believe that a 3-day old blastocyst has moral interests capable of trumping our concern for an otherwise normal 9 y/o girl with 3rd degree burns on over 70% of her body, a girl whose suffering might be relieved through embryonic stem-cell research that “Salaam-Shalom-Peace” would prohibit, is in fact, a moral invalid them self.

    I will throw a bone out there for the pro-life types. As a general rule of thumb, I consider an infant to be a human being worthy of my moral concern from:

    a. the time it comes out, or,

    b. from such time as recognizably human brain-wave activity can be detected while still in utero.

    (note that the above in no way trumps my moral concern for the legitimate health and well-being of the mother)

    This raises a legitimate moral, and perhaps legal, concern. The “age of viability,” usually considered to be the time at which a newborn can survive outside the body of the mother, is being continually pushed back by advances in neonatal medicine. Infants born as early as the 23rd week have survived to go home with the parents (after spending a considerable time in the neonatal ICU of course).

    If it would be murder (as I think it is) to kill a 23-week “preemie” in the neonatal ICU, that does raise, as I said, a legitimate legal and ethical question of why it would be legally/ethically permissible to destroy an infant at the same stage of development which is still inside the womb (provided the health and well-being of the mother is not endangered). I do not pretend to have an answer, and if anyone else’s answer invokes the presence of an immortal, immaterial, supernatural, human soul (for as Thomas Jefferson said, one is then essentially talking about “nothings”), then as far as I am concerned, they have nothing useful to contribute to a grave moral and ethical dilemma.

    No matter what answers you or I could come up with, I feel that such a grave decision should be left up to the consciences of the concerned parties (primarily the pregnant woman and her partner, if the relationship is a healthy one) and the best medical advice of a compassionate, expert physician.

  162. Well, that was a huge waste of time. Stupid blog ate my comment.

  163. 161. TheBlackCat Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    No, it doesn’t logically follow. Not answering and unanswering are two different things. Although it is true that religion is quite good at, and in many cases tries very hard to, unanswer the answerable, it is not necessarily the case. For instance canaries are not good at answering the unanswerable, but neither are they very good at unanswering the answerable.

    As I don’t speak canary, I’ll defer to ignorance on the second half of your point. For all I know they could be tweeting about differential equations.

    But by the law of contraposition, the statement, “religion is not great at answering the unanswerable” is logically equivalent to the statement “religion is great at unanswering the answerable. It’s just logic.

    And it’s true – why else would 60% of Americans not believe in the theory of evolution if religion were not damn good at unanswering it?

    Compared to a random answer generator it is a terrible way since it only comes up with a tiny subset of possible answers.

    Depends what metric we’re using for “good.” If the metric is accuracy, than religion and random are equal. Since there can be no correct answer to an unanswerable question, all wrong answers are equally valid, as they’re equally wrong.

    If, on the other hand, you factor in quality of narrative, I’m afraid religion wins. I mean, to answer the fundamental unanswerables, religion has wrathful Gods and vengeful demons and smiting and begatting and all kinds of action-packed stories.

    Ask the same unanswerables of a random generator and what will you get? “The color of hubris?” “A tincture of Dada?” “Minneapolis on a stick?” Yeah, that’ll fill the pews.

  164. TheBlackCat

    As I don’t speak canary, I’ll defer to ignorance on the second half of your point. For all I know they could be tweeting about differential equations.

    Perhaps, but they are of no use to us for answering the unanswerable, just like religion.

    But by the law of contraposition, the statement, “religion is not great at answering the unanswerable” is logically equivalent to the statement “religion is great at unanswering the answerable. It’s just logic.

    That is not what the law of contraposition says. The law of contraposition says “p then q, not q then not p”, or “p then no q, q then not p”.. First, there is no “if” or “then”, there is no one thing that implies the other. Second, it would be “not answer”, not “unanswer”. Saying that something is not answering and saying it is unanswering are two entirely different things.

    And it’s true – why else would 60% of Americans not believe in the theory of evolution if religion were not damn good at unanswering it?

    A true conclusion can still result from an illogical argument. “Illogical” does not automatically mean “false”.

    Depends what metric we’re using for “good.” If the metric is accuracy, than religion and random are equal. Since there can be no correct answer to an unanswerable question, all wrong answers are equally valid, as they’re equally wrong.

    As I already stated, random answer generators are more likely to produce a correct answer than religion is because it is able to cover a much larger subset of possible answer spread more evenly over the range of possible answers.

    If, on the other hand, you factor in quality of narrative, I’m afraid religion wins. I mean, to answer the fundamental unanswerables, religion has wrathful Gods and vengeful demons and smiting and begatting and all kinds of action-packed stories.

    You apparently have not looked at many random generators. I have seen some pretty cool plots and characters come out of those things, far more interesting than most religion stories IMHO (and most movies, actually).

  165. Astroquoter

    @ 56 Toasterhead

    (& thanks Kuhnigget for your post 117.)

    Can you provide proof that you exist? Or is it merely belief?

    Former atheist & philosophy Professor Anthony Flew who went onto accept that God exists has an answer for this:

    “To the question, “how do I know I exist?” a professor famously replied, “And who’s asking?”
    – Philosopher and author, Antony Flew, P.181 ‘There is a God’, Harper One 2007.
    😉

    Interesting though isn’t it that a number of atheists such as Professor Flew, Laura Schlessinger who was a former editor of ‘Skeptic’ magazine before converting to Judaism and becoming a prominent radio talk show host & even C.S. Lewis the renowned Christian apologist and author of the ‘Narnia’ series among others, have reflected some more on their former atheism and decided against it and in favour of religion after all.

    Now, honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t claim to be the greatest mind in history or anything and I can see the case for both atheist & religion sides here. I’ve also read widely and from both sides of this debate and I think at times both sides and many individual sources and commenters have had their flaws, fallacies, misunderstandings and strawmen. No one here I think can cast the first stone being without sin. (Logical, metaphorical, personal & bias-wise.) But I guess what I am trying to say is just:

    “Its NOT that simple.”

    Far greater minds than ours have struggled heavily with this issue and come to differing conclusions. It is one of the great philosophical questions – perhaps the greatest. It isn’t just a simple and straightforward and clear as the videoclip here & many atheists seem to suggest.

    I do think the videoclip is overly stereotypical and reflects an overwhelmingly negative one-sided biased perspective against those who are religious – a category I wouldn’t necessarily include myself in. I do think they have made a straw man caricature and failed to properly see the other side of the coin.

    Myself, I just don’t know, not really. I find some atheist arguments convincing and they do argue well and logically in a rather cold sort of way but when I ask myself quietly “is there a God?” something deep inside me replies “yes.”

    I’m sure that sounds silly and irrational & it doesn’t really get it across properly and as I’ve noted I’m really not sure but hey, that’s where I’m coming from.

    As for quoting Einstein and others, well as I said before, I’m not meaning to be a troll or rude or disruptive or anything but merely to offer a few words of wisdom and alyernative perspectives from folks who I freely acknowledge to be much smarter than me that provide a bitof extra context for this whole matter. I’m amazed some people seem to be so offended and so furious with doing that. While I can understand you’ve had other religious “trolls” here before please try not to over-react and assume that anyone who thinks differently and disagrees with you is one of them. That’s all.

  166. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The last person I asked to prove his existence, kicked me in the shins. ……..I believe!

  167. Arcturus

    There is a logical fallacy in this video in assuming that universe does not equal “everything that exists”, same as when galaxies outside our own were termed “island universes.” Confusion of terms is most likely the culprit in all communication between deeply religious and the deeply scientific, or skeptic.

    The philosophical background to this dichotomy comes from the fact that what we can measure and what we can theoretically measure have always been in a flux. Quantum mechanics posits that we cannot measure certain things if we measure certain other things, and that such is built into the structure of the universe. The universe in this case means everything that exists, and “other realms” is a meaningless concept. Just like saying as a childish game “infinity plus one”, which is meaningless unless defined as infinity, or equal, when it loses its meaning alltogether.

    To me, personally, the universe, nature, means reality, and the supernatural, or the religious, means non-reality. These two cannot coincide, nor can they live together in co-existence, because while fantasy might help us in the lack of knowledge, rules of thumb and simplistic models of the human condition are never good enough for the curious mind. Science is the process of gathering knowledge and producing more reliable models that can be used to better our existence, and to feed our intellectual pleasure just to know more.

    The problem with religion in general is that it’s handed down, and it tries to deal with reality, all in different ways. All religious interpretations are bursting at their seams to acommodate the reality science has brought us. Any creationist or otherwise “fundamentalist” religious observer should not be reading this, as computers are impossible. The same scientific theories that make your personal computers possible prove the mainstream scientific concensus of the age of the universe.

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