Tweet your skeptical journey

By Phil Plait | December 29, 2010 10:59 am

My friend Nicole Gugliucci (née Garvenflanargen) is a radio astronomer, and also a newly fledged skeptic. She wrote a post the other day on her One Astronomer’s Noise blog about her journey to becoming a skeptic, and it really struck home for me. Very few people, if any, are born skeptical. We’re hardwired to believe: to believe our parents, to believe our elders in general, to believe our peers. Turning all those thought processes around and starting to ask “Are you sure?” is really hard, and even harder to turn it inward. We’re all skeptical about something, but learning how to examine all your beliefs, all your thoughts, in a skeptical manner is a struggle.

Sometimes this conversion happens slowly, as it did for Nicole, or sometimes it happens in a flash of insight, but I’m guessing every skeptic has a tale to tell of turning from belief to evidence. And I’m just as sure any of us can write thousands of words about it.

So I got an idea. I want to hear these stories, but it would be impossible to read them all in their native narrative form. And skeptics are smart, right?

Right. So prove it! If you’re a skeptic, use that brain of yours to take your tale and boil it down to fewer than 140 characters.

Yes, you guessed it: I want you to tweet your skeptical conversion story.

I’ll collect the ones I like best and post them in a followup article on Friday. To make it easier for everyone to find them, use the hashtag #SkepticTale. And just to get you started, here’s my own SkepticTale:

UFOs. Telepathy. Clairvoyance. I believed them all… until my life got a little Randi. #SkepticTale

This is in reference to James Randi being a big inspiration to me when I was a teenager, and his work really fostered my own skeptical attitude. I’ve written about this in the past, but there it is in tweet form.

Can you do the same? Make it clever, make it poignant, make it whatever you want. But get it online by 9:00 p.m. Eastern time Thursday (02:00 GMT Friday) December 30 so I have a chance to go through them and post them on Friday, December 31.

What better way to end the year than to hear the stories of others who have made it here as well?

[UPDATE: The SkepticTale tweets are now online.]


Photo credits of Randi and me looking skeptical are from my pal Andy Ihnatko.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Skepticism

Comments (107)

  1. Chuck

    Young pastor wannabe. Bible study! Wait, WTF? Inquiry! Skepticism follows. Then agnosticism, atheism. Rational thought! How cool is that?

  2. Nice concise tweet Phil. Really, I am impressed how well you met your goal in less that 140 characters.

    I’d make a tweet too except I am skeptical of whether there is any real benefit to being a skeptic. I seem to be able avoid things like “UFOs, Telepathy, Clairvoyance” and at the same time publish several papers in major physics journals each year without having to feel the need for nor see the utility in being a skeptic.

    But whatever works for the rest of you I guess. Here’s to all the “real” success/benefits converting to skepticism brings you guys that you wouldn’t have already enjoyed anyways. (Some people just feel the need to put their faith in skepticism I guess.) :)

  3. Luke

    “Garvenflanargen”

    Best surname ever. Douglas Adams quality!

  4. MadScientist

    People often tell me “you’re such a scientist!” When people make a claim which is alien to me I usually go “how can you be sure” or “I don’t know about that” and most people find that reaction insulting – and yet they will argue rather than provide evidence. What strange apes.

    For me skepticism started when I was about 5. No one could give me an acceptable answer to any questions on religion. I wasn’t entirely skeptical of course; where I didn’t know much I tended to believe what I was told. I was probably in my late 20s when I was far more critical of stories that people would tell. How many people out there believe the numerous tales investigated by Snopes?

  5. Okay, I went through with two tweets I couldn’t tell between which one I liked better: (http://twitter.com/JosephSmidt)

    Looked at skepticism. Saw people putting faith into the idea no-faith is a superior lifestyle. Realized this is retarded. #SkepticTale

    or

    Saw skepticism. Realized being a skeptic has nor bearing one how well you do real science vs. talk. Realized this is retarded.

    This is *not* to be a jerk I promise, but to illustrate my personal journey with skepticism.

  6. Went to Catholic school. ’nuff said. #SkepticTale

    (Also, I don’t tweet.)

  7. Chris

    Phil, I’m curious and this is a serious question. Did you tell your kids Santa exists?

  8. Paddy

    Never believed in Santa. Liked fossils. After Dawkins’ RI Xmas lectures never believed in God(s) either. Flirted with alt med til looked at evidence. #SkepticTale

    Does Twitter count spaces as characters?

  9. Hobbynero

    I was a believer, living in my own reality, took an Astronomy course and the universe said hello. Books were read, ideas thrown away, forever empowered by critical analysis. #SkepticTale

  10. ntsc

    In my case not Randi, but Martin Gardner.

  11. Kristjan

    “clearness… doubt. more doubt. some maths and science… clearness!”

  12. breadbox

    Asimov. Sagan. Gardner. Nuff said.

  13. Tribeca Mike

    I’ve been an admirer of Mr. Randi’s for many years, both for his sane commentary and for his magical chops. But the origin of my own thought goes back to my dad, who always told me to be skeptical of anything claiming to come from a higher authority (or any sort of authority), but — and this is the important part — never, ever be cynical. And no, he wasn’t a scientist or a treehugging hippy. He was a poor kid who came up from nothing, and he had a career in the Air Force which he loved. He was fascinated by history and science, and he passed that fascination down to me. His name was Jake, and you would have liked him. Most everyone did, excepting perhaps those who dared to play darts against his Monday Night team at the pub (which for a time included another skeptic, the actor Lee Marvin). Then all bets were off.

    By the by, just had a skeptical learning lesson today about where many online climate change denial (among other subjects) comments originate:

    “Are Right-Wing Libertarian Internet Trolls Getting Paid to Dumb Down Online Conversations? There are daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks. ”

    http://www.alternet.org/media/149197/are_right-wing_libertarian_internet_trolls_getting_paid_to_dumb_down_online_conversations/?page=1

  14. mike burkhart

    Ok when I was a kid I beleved in :UFOs, The Bremuda Triangle(in fact I used to tell people I hated that I was going to send them there and hoped they disapered like everything else does) and that “Chariots of the Gods” book and lots of other things to numerious to mention . Why not ? I was a big scifi fan and had read all the books that suported all of this nonsence These books were bestsellers. So how did I change? smiple I read books refuteing all this ,they made more sence than the suporting books and the fact that often the suporting books have inacurate information in them and provided no evidence for what they were saying you were just supose to take ther wood for it. One of the things that made me a skeptic about UFOs is the number of hoaxes like I mentioned in a comment yesterday . I think all of this shakes the creditably of the proponets , and also there claim that the resion the sciencetific comunty rejects theses is because of a conspricy, again they provide no proff this is why I’m skeptical of all this now.

  15. mike burkhart

    One more thing I have said in the past that I think some UFOs maybe top secret aircraft. I admit that it may not be the whole answer. and it comes form studying aircraft of the past , and some of the experamental aircraft look like something Aliens would build , thats how I came to this conculsion.

  16. Tony Miller

    Not a twitter person. Hope replying here is ok.

    Learned my first card trick. Convinced me to question everything. #SkepticTale

  17. Richard Wolford

    experamental (sic) aircraft look like something Aliens would build

    How can you possibly know that? You have no known alien spacecraft with which to compare. You may see spacecraft that are very different from what would be the considered norm, but you have no reference point to do a comparison.

  18. I really became skeptical while in graduate divinity school (not a fly-by-night, but mainline Protestant, and tough). I started doing intellectual judo using the bits and pieces of critical theology my conservative denomination was teaching there. I then asked how more liberal Christians could question X but not question Y. And, so I went to some sort of Unitarian/Deist position. And, then, beyond that. I next questioned the political beliefs with which I had been raised. Finally, I questions my own self in some ways.

  19. Tribeca Mike

    Thinking about it a bit further, just growing up in the late sixties and seventies was enough to make one a skeptic. All those dog-eared Carlos Castaneda and Robert Anton Wilson paperbacks almost everyone seemed to have on their shelves (usually next to or under the bong) was enough to make one a raving skeptic, as well as wonder about the mental well-being of one’s friends. Never understood why anyone would rather read a fictional account of how James Joyce was inspired by the Illuminati than be inspired by the brilliance of Joyce’s writing.

    Sure will, SocraticGadfly, and backatcha! ;-)

  20. TribecaMike, thanks for the link, and PLEASE pass that on to m ore people.

  21. Joseph G

    I’d love to give it a shot, but I’m highly skeptical of Twitter. It just seems like a really overhyped minimalist blog site to me. And while ‘brevity is the soul of wit,’ and all that, I think it’s ridiculous to try and cram meaningful and complete thoughts into 140 characters when there’s no damned reason to.
    I do like this contest idea, simply because it’s novel – it’s like haiku, the challenge being to say a lot with a little.
    I still think Twitter sucks, though.

  22. Joseph G

    Also, while most people would consider me a skeptic, and even though I’m a very big advocate of evidence-based thought and public education on matters of science and critical thinking, I’m still kinda uncomfortable with labels like “skeptic”. The word has a bit of a negative connotation, too (at least it does to me), as someone who’s standoffish, demanding and cynical. Perhaps this says more about our society’s need for skepticism then anything else… Or perhaps I just have a really weird “first impression” definition of the word…

  23. Mazzaroth

    Deep honest young believer. Met Carl, daughter died and I became an atheist skeptic astronomer. #SkepticTale

  24. James Harmer

    UFOs. Telepathy. Clairvoyance. I believed them all… until my life got a little Randi.

    You might want to rephrase that if you ever cross the pond to England.
    Over here, randy = horny.

  25. Chris

    I remember being in 1st grade in Catholic school when the sister was telling us about the soul. I asked “Where is it? What does it look like? Any pictures?” Her answer was not to my liking. I actually probably believed in ghosts and aliens longer than religion because at least ghosts and aliens were on TV. Now I’ve come to the sad realization I’ll never be abducted or possessed.

  26. noen

    “We’re hardwired to believe”

    I doubt that.

  27. Keith Bowden

    @noen
    M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    A: It can be.
    M: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    M: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    A: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn’t! :)

    I think my skepticism comes mostly from my rejection of advertising. (I’m not being funny, I mean that.)

  28. Joseph G

    @#24 James: Psst – I think that was the whole point…

  29. brad tittle

    Edward talking to the dead. Me believing. Me panicking that I believed.

  30. mike burkhart

    Let me give an example of what I was talking about.Lets say you never heard of the F117 or SR71 never seen one before.One day while you are in your backyard a F117 flys overhead ,you have seen airplanes before but none that looked like that ,what would you think it is?probally you would think you just saw A UFO , the Aliens are hear. Later you would find out it was a Air Force jet .

  31. ND

    I used to have a book on the Bermuda triangle that someone had given. You know, the wooy kind. But I never remember taking it seriously hook line and sinker. I was into astronomy as a hobby at the time and I think that gave me a knowledge of the improbability of aliens visiting earth and abducting pilots flying over the ocean. That said, one can feel the fascination with such ideas and the mystery of the unknown. Lack of clues on a disappearance and the minds inclination to jump to conclusions need to be buffered by skepticism. That’s lacking in so many people.

    Although I do wonder if I’m retroactively remembering as being more skeptical than I was given how unreliable memory can be. Hmmm. Damn you skepticism!

  32. Greg in Austin

    1,001 little things that all add up. Thing 204: No dogs in Heaven. In Bible study as a teenager, the Pastor said that dogs didn’t have a soul, therefore couldn’t go to Heaven. How do we know if dogs have souls or not? How do we know if humans have souls or not? If dogs can’t go to Heaven, I don’t want to go there.

    8)

    #SkepticTale

  33. navyjeff

    Was raised YEC; became a nuclear reactor operator; learned about the Oklo reactor. People may lie, but isotopes cannot.

  34. Tribeca Mike

    Speaking of the Bermuda Triangle and doggy heaven, did cows say moo in Mu?

  35. QuietDesperation

    I have no memory of any specific transition point.

    Can I tweet my epiphany that things like Twitter will spell the death of deep human interaction? ;-)

  36. PayasYouStargaze

    With that picture, you should rename yourself the Badass Astronomer

  37. Mom said, “new brother!” I said, “we have enough!” Didn’t believe until she brought you home. Oh, well! One more. Bad astrology.

  38. Jeffersonian

    Really, we have to tweet?

    I’ll just comment that Phil closed the door on any turnaround. Long story.

  39. Reidh

    its really very Simple.
    Agatha Christy says it best through her character Mrs. Marple, you should see it on film to appreciate it. She says “Most people believe everything which they are told. I However, do not.”
    Now most will ripost “What, are you calling me a liar?”
    And I reply “What, are you Jesus Christ?”

  40. Reidh

    I am MOST skeptic of astrophysicists, as their subject matter is so distant, and they cannot conduct experiments, their instrumentation is sparse, and extremely expensive and depends upon Governmental tax monies, which affects me, and of which I am most skeptic.
    They find that the Universe is acting as though genesis 1:1 were true, and cannot believe it. They find that there is more mass in all of space than in all of matter, just the opposite of what we were all taught, that matter has mass, not not matter. And they cannot beleive it so they posit Dark Matter (unseeable, unknowable) but they don’t believe in what cannot be seen. A true skeptic cannot pick and choose what one will believe and or not. That which cannot be proven cannot be known. Jesus Christ, String Theory, the (present) Theory of the Evolution of the Solar System, Dark Matter and Energy, Creation, Big Bang, these are unprovable and therefore I would choose Jesus Christ, because the rest of it is only a incomprehensible tax bill, and no comfort to ME.

  41. Daniel J. Andrews

    Raised YEC. The critical thinking skills I was taught in Bible college dragged me kicking and screaming, following the evidence, to skepticism. Long rough journey.

    Don’t tweet, but if I did, that’s it above: 139 characters if you don’t include spaces. I am thankful the religious profs taught us how to think critically. It was excellent training for the science field I’m in now. On the downside is that I see skeptics making as many sloppy assertions and logically flawed arguments as the YECs, and those YECs (or non-YECs but Christians) trained the way I was regularly tear them a new one and then post the dissections on Christian message boards to show the believers just how ignorant us nasty skeptics are, therefore don’t pay attention to their arguments–after all, if we go wrong with such basic simple things then we can’t be trusted to get the more complicated issues right.

  42. Ray

    I spent 24 years in Air Force Intelligence. I was trained to question everything: sources, assumptions, conclusions. Everything. Just because the group thinks it’s so does not make it so.

  43. Jay

    At Dragon Con 2008. No sleep for 48 hours. Looking for place to set down. Empty chairs in room with strange bald guy talking and singing crazy songs. I still blame Geo for it till this day.

  44. Floyd

    When I was a 19 year old, nominally Catholic college student, I went to an Ash Wednesday service (with the smudge on your forehead and all that). I was thinking about some of the doctrine that I had been fed in church (like birth control being a mortal sin), and suddenly realized I didn’t believe any of it anymore. I washed the smudge off my forehead, and suddenly felt free.

  45. Monkey

    I’d rather get rugburn on me arse than spend a minute on twitter.

  46. Monkey

    …but that said:

    parents let me think/choose. I chose wisely, I guess.

  47. CarlfromColorado

    I had a cousin who explained away all the bad things in life (bus runs over and kills three seniors; cancer kills 4 year old; 50,000 plus dead in Viet Nam) by saying it was all part of Gods plan. We might not be able to see the reason, but it was OK, because God had a plan. By the time I was 10 or so this explanation wasn’t cutting it for me. Gods planning abilities were nothing to worship! Fear? Maybe. Worship? Never!

  48. Messier Tidy Upper

    Grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke,

    Loving SF and star-gazing, wondering.

    Went through phases of curiousity, belief and disbelief.

    Dawkins’ and other “New Atheists”" arrogance & strawmen

    Plus religious friends

    And the knowledge of my own fallibility meant

    Acceptence of probability we just don’t – and may not ever – know.

    Agnostic.

    ****

    Too many words? Hate & am not going to be on Twitter anyhow. :roll:

    Concise? Me? Unusual! ;-)

  49. Joseph G

    @#45 Monkey: Hear, hear!

    And monkey butts really get rugburn easily, so that’s saying something!

    Don’t ask me how I know that.

  50. sHx

    Looked through a telescope. Saw the light. Became a skeptic. 140 yet? How do U twit?

  51. noen

    Reidh Says:
    “I am MOST skeptic[sic] of astrophysicist, as their subject matter is so distant, and they cannot conduct experiments”

    This is false. Astronomers conduct experiments everyday.

    “and depends upon Governmental tax monies, which affects me, and of which I am most skeptic.[sic]”

    I’m pretty skeptical of you too.

    “They find that the Universe is acting as though genesis 1:1 were true, and cannot believe it.”

    No, they are not, and which creation account did you mean? There are two.

    “They find that there is more mass in all of space than in all of matter, just the opposite of what we were all taught, that matter has mass, not not matter. ”

    Gibberish.

    “A true skeptic cannot pick and choose what one will believe and or not. ”

    Obedience is not skepticism.

    “Jesus Christ, String Theory, the (present) Theory of the Evolution of the Solar System, Dark Matter and Energy, Creation, Big Bang, these are unprovable and therefore I would choose Jesus Christ”

    And neither is that.

    “the rest of it is only a incomprehensible tax bill, and no comfort to ME.”

    Because its all about you.

    “I spent 24 years in Air Force Intelligence.”

    Speaks volumes.

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    Evidence?
    Watch for error bars
    Uncertainties always, there are

    Of what you are certain
    Be wary always you must be
    Interpretations and definitions
    Vary your mileage may
    Crazy we all are
    To varying extents
    Know not how little we know
    So said Socrates.

    ***

    Like Yoda I sound! Drunk I am. ;-)

    Metaphor that may be – or not?

    Skepticism = QUESTION *everything.* Think! Assess. Know your limitations.

    We are not perfect.
    Nor are we thinking machines.
    Our minds can fool us.
    Easily.

    Be careful!
    Check. Czech again. Liszt what you think you know,
    We can never be sure.
    Not really.

    PS. Yeah, I may have confused skepticism and religious / non-religious faith somewhere along the line.

    PPS. Yeah, I may be be wrong.

  53. ellie

    I don’t have a Twitter account, but if you can use it, here is a post that I believe is 130 characters (including punctuation and spaces)…

    Always thought the things I was told to believe were weird,then along came The Demon Haunted World-Science as a Candle in the Dark

  54. Gunnar

    @Messier Tidy Upper

    I agree. I read the same authors you listed and other skeptics you didn’t list (which I am sure you also read) and most of what they said made infinitely more sense to me than most things I learned from religion. I long ago came to the conclusion that one of the silliest notions ever conceived by human minds is we can justly or reasonably conclude that some things that can only be justified by an appeal to faith are more certain than anything that is amply supported by hard evidence and sound reason.

    @Mike Burkhart

    There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the existence of UFOs, as long as you realize that UFO is just an acronym for “Unidentified Flying Object.” There will always be sightings of UFOs as long as there are people who see phenomena in the sky that they are unqualified by experience or training to identify. Once we try to identify them as possibly alien spaceships, angels, little understood or rare natural phenomena, mere illusions, top secret aircraft or whatever, it is silly to continue to call them “UFOs. I have seen UFOs myself. If I thought I knew what it was that I saw, they would not have been UFOs!

  55. Gary Ansorge

    24. James Harmer

    “Over here, randy = horny.”

    As one Randy old goat told another, ” I stink. Therefore, I ram.”

    Skepticism is a process, which started with my GreatGrandMother, who said “Grandson, if you believe nothing of what you hear and only 10% of what you read, you’ll probably be ok,”.

    ,,,and then, at 13, there was the kindly 7th grade teacher in Lutheran Day School, who skipped over the section of our science book that dealt with dinosaurs(my favorite critters at the time) saying
    ” We all KNOW they’re impossible, for earth is only 6000 years old, according to the bible.”
    Realized people use religion to avoid having to think. Dropped religion,,,

    Gary 7
    PS. Obviously, I don’t tweet.

  56. Gus Snarp

    It seems from reading these that most people don’t have a really clear “Ah hah!” moment with skepticism like Phil did. Nor even that much of a clear story. They were all just reading the right books, but why were they reading them? It seems like a lot of skepticism develops without our even knowing it, perhaps even very early on in our childhood. Which is why a lot of people seem to be narrowing the focus from general skepticism to religion. Perhaps I’m just projecting, since this seems to be my case. I always used to be vaguely “open minded” about the paranormal, and
    I fell for the anti-vax thing briefly after being handed the Kennedy article and not having any other information, and I was fairly in favor of alt-med in general, but never enough to eschew real doctors or to believe the ayurvedic “physician” really learned anything about my knee pain from checking my pulse or that his treatment did any more than a good therapeutic massage. I was always a bit skeptical, even about those things. As a young teenager I may have been more likely to say I believed in these things because it seemed cool to me, but I don’t think I was ever a true believer in any of it.

    But religion is another story. I know the path of my disbelief and can tell it as a story, and it led me to a stronger, more coherent kind of skepticism in general. Since I don’t tweet, in 140 characters it looks like this: Raised Methodist, searching for truth, got saved, 16YO Jewish friend died, surely didn’t go to hell. Scaffolding of religion fell apart.

  57. vel

    I don’t tweet, but this looked like fun:

    Read the bible. Realized my parents were wrong about it and other things. Started asking questions. Skeptic. Tah-dah.

  58. vel

    @ reidh

    “Jesus Christ, String Theory, the (present) Theory of the Evolution of the Solar System, Dark Matter and Energy, Creation, Big Bang, these are unprovable and therefore I would choose Jesus Christ, because the rest of it is only a incomprehensible tax bill, and no comfort to ME.”

    so you chuck skepticism because you need to feel like a special snowflake. You need to feel like some magical being is concerned about you and only you and you also feel the need to lie about anything that shows you wrong, by your false claims about astrophysics. How sad.

  59. My tale’s too long for Twitter, so here it is:

    I was always interested in science. I wanted to be a paeleontologist at one point and then an astronomer. I finally settled on physicist. That got siderailed when I hit Quantum Mechanics in my freshman year of college. (In the long run, a good thing, since I was ignoring a talent for computer programming.)

    My first encounter with skeptics wasn’t exactly the best. I entered a contest and won honorable mention. Why was this “not the best?” Well, my essay was about an experiment I tried (interviewing people about belief in ghosts, ESP, etc) and how I figured out that people tended to believe less in this stuff as they got older. The thing is, though, I did believe in it at the time. However, I knew the audience my entry would be judged by, tailored my findings for it and wound up winning $25. It was interesting seeing my father (who’ll believe anything an authority tells him… and by authority I mean a random e-mail) interacting with the skeptics there!

    In college, I went to see a talk about the Bible Codes. This hit during a time when I was attending an Orthodox Temple and I instantly believed in it. It made perfect sense to me at the time that God would stick references to future events in the Torah which could only be deciphered by looking at it after the fact.

    I think I only really began to question this stuff once I was exposed to the Internet more. It meant being able to do more research on subjects and find debunkings a lot quicker. Yes, woo travels fast on the Internet, but only because it’s on the run from facts. Now if I find out that giant spaceships are headed to Earth and due to arrive in 2012, I won’t go out and buy “Welcome Alien Overlords” signs (ok, was never *that* bad), but will do a few searches and will quickly discover the holes in the arguments.

  60. Martha

    I don”t tweet either, but:

    UFOs. Went to UFO conference at age 16 and saw every brand of woo on display. Read Sagan. Eventually became a skeptic.

  61. Maria

    Cute idea, enough to make me log back into twitter and post after months of nothing. :P

  62. mike burkhart

    I had this thought Why do we have a hard time being skeptal about things we see in science fiction ?Maybe because we want to do the things we see .I would love to jump into a star ship and go at warp speed to Alpha centaur or Sirus.I would like to get into a time machine and see historical events or see the future .So would a lot of other people on this blog. Speaking of skeptic I just reread Phils Bad Astronomy book the chapter about the so called ”worlds in collsion” I didn’t need Phil,l I was alredy skeptcal about this when I frist heard about it .

  63. Mario

    1987. John Paul II came to my city. Closeup on TV of old fart from my block conducting prayer. Ergo, religion is a joke. #SkepticTale

  64. the idea that skepticism=atheism or even agnosticism is too silly to be believed in by any person with a genuinely Skeptical mindset.

    Anyway my journey was: studied UFOs. All fuzzy pics. Opted for “if I choose a side/ it won’t take me for a ride” instead

    (twitter: @omnologos)

  65. noen

    Bertard Russel, Carl Sagan
    Hit me with their rational ray gun
    Into Darwin’s tangled bank
    Myths and fables wholly sank

  66. noen

    Maurizio Morabito said
    “the idea that skepticism=atheism or even agnosticism is too silly to be believed in by any person with a genuinely Skeptical mindset.”

    I think that agnosticism does equate to skepticism, atheism certainly does not. For a self-refuting and dead philosophy there sure are a lot of Positivists around these days. I chalk it up to fear and a lack of imagination. Many secular people today cannot imagine any other belief than either science or fundamentalism.

  67. DataJack

    @ reidh

    “Jesus Christ, String Theory, the (present) Theory of the Evolution of the Solar System, Dark Matter and Energy, Creation, Big Bang, these are unprovable and therefore I would choose Jesus Christ, because the rest of it is only a incomprehensible tax bill, and no comfort to ME.”

    If you want to believe in something for which there is no evidence, that is fine. But don’t lie about the lack of evidence for those other things.

    There is plenty of evidence for solar system formation, dark matter, big bang, and evolution. There is some compelling evidence for dark energy and string hypothesis, enough so that they should be further researched.

    “Unprovable” is a nonsensical term in science. All of these topics are “supported” by evidence, and therefore accepted as the best explanation in their respected fields.

  68. mike burkhart

    I have to say something about Christianty. From the comments many have only looked at the miracules well there is more to Jesus Christ then miracules,there is his message ,the message is what is most important this is What I and other Christans live by and many famous people lived by it people like Martian Luthor King ,his fath inspired him to leed the Civil Rights Moviement .Now there are some who abuse Christs mesage and use it for own gain but this is ture of any thing polltics and even Science have also been abuse by those who seek there own gain. I,d like everyone who spetical of Christiany to read the message of Jesus Christ then tell me what so bad about it.

  69. Keith Bowden

    Of course, we really only have 127 characters because we have to leave room for the “#SkepticTale”. Some skeptics! You believed we had 140! lol, just kidding.

    My sister’s really bad with email credulity, particularly the “panic attacks” (cell phones & gas stations, needles in restaurant playgrounds, free Disneyland trips from Apple, etc.). I’m sure she still forwards these things, but I don’t get many from her because I always rip them apart and direct her to Snopes (which she never does for herself, in spite of my urgings).

    I’ve a friend who swore he had a close encounter, but doesn’t like to talk about it because he knows how it sounds (an internal war between skepticism and belief).

    Me? I’ll remain open to anything… that I have evidence for.

  70. @noen (67): you’re right in that scientifically/objectively speaking the only reasonable option is agnosticism…but there’s more to a human being than pure objectivity!

  71. Gus Snarp

    @noen said:

    I think that agnosticism does equate to skepticism, atheism certainly does not. For a self-refuting and dead philosophy there sure are a lot of Positivists around these days. I chalk it up to fear and a lack of imagination. Many secular people today cannot imagine any other belief than either science or fundamentalism.

    There is so much wrong in that I hardly know where to begin, but I’ll try your incorrect understanding of the terms “agnostic” and “atheist”. It’s important to note that they are not mutually exclusive. One can be agnostic and atheist at the same time. Atheism means one does not believe in god(s). Agnostic means that one does not claim to hold absolutely certain, direct knowledge of the existence of god(s). Given a lack of knowledge and a complete lack of evidence, disbelief, or atheism, should be the default position.

    Your understanding of positivism may be a bit off as well, can you support your statement that it is a self-refuting and dead philosophy? I don’t think it is. You might also want to call it an epistemology rather than a philosophy.

    Fear and lack of imagination are essential to organized religious belief, as virtually every organized religion, whether fundamentalist or not, hands down a set of laws and beliefs about the world that are expected to be accepted without evidence and left unquestioned. That required no imagination from the believer. They also tend to rely on some notion of punishment in an afterlife that the believer is supposed to fear to keep them on the path of conformity. Science, on the other hand, is a fearless and imaginative endeavor, but not a belief system.

  72. Yojimbo

    I don’t tweet. But if I did…

    Read “Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science” when I was 8, Martin Gardiner fan in high school, roomed with Joe Nickell in my 20′s. No choice :)

  73. Jeffersonian

    I came back cuz I remembered what sealed the deal.
    [tweet]I heard the question:
    “If God existed, what exactly would be different about the universe?”
    And I instantly realized: nothing and the concept to evidence-based problems such as aliens and ghosts. [/tweet]. There is no need for supreme beings in the equation. If there WERE a supreme being and it was benevolent, it would be in-your-face obvious (beyond a requirement of faith) and things would be indescribably different than what they are. You can’t name one thing that we observe/experience that requires a deity. I wasn’t a theist per se when I heard the question.

    @69
    Mike, the “message” of Jesus isn’t definable. You can’t find two groups of people that agree what the “message” is. They just define it by reflecting things they alrerady believe and then credit Jesus as the source.

    If you use the (4 that are currently accepted by the church) gospels as your message, then, fail. Overall it’s convoluted and there’s plenty of stuff not up to snuff by today’s better standards*. (especialy considering that Jesus would have been a Jew and wanted his followers to practice Judaism, never asking them start a new religion and naming it after him).

    Hundreds of philosophers (that we actually know existed) throughtout the ages have done better so why put Jesus on a pedestal? What makes their “message” less important than his?

    *too many to name here and it makes it obvious that xtians don’t actually READ the “new” testament; especially the fundies who gloat on the evil god of the Jewish testament because it justifies their hate.

  74. noen

    Gus Snarp said:
    “There is so much wrong in that I hardly know where to begin”

    Gus, just because you say something doesn’t mean it’s so.

    “I’ll try your incorrect understanding of the terms “agnostic” and “atheist”. ”

    You will fail. I will simply refer you to an excellent article on the online Encyclopedia Britannica on atheism byKai E. Nielsen:

    Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

    I think the question is unanswerable which makes me agnostic and NOT an atheist. I understand that atheists today want to pretend they are something other than what they are. They have good reason. I think we can trace this modern confusion back to Gordon Smith’s book pub. in 1980. Smith is a far right lunatic and Objectivist nutcase and he attempted in that book to convert agnostics into atheists by simply redefining what atheism up till that time had meant. This was a political move done for ideological reasons.

    “One can be agnostic and atheist at the same time. ”

    No, actually you can’t. Atheism is the rejection of theism. Agnostics do not reject theistic claims, they defer judgment. Atheists have reached a conclusion and they are secure in their belief that they are right. We agnostics ain’t quite so sure.

    “Atheism means one does not believe in god(s).”

    No, atheism is the rejection of theism. Please notice that I am being precise in my words here. I intend to mean rejection and do not equate that with denial. Atheism is NOT the simple denial of theistic claims, rejection is the proper word as it denotes a particular propositional stance with respect to the proposition that god.

    “Given a lack of knowledge and a complete lack of evidence, disbelief, or atheism, should be the default position.”

    Skepticism, not atheism, is the default position. The word “belief” or disbelief is problematic so I think it best to avoid bringing it in as it only causes confusion. It is best to stick with propositional language. In that case theism then is the assertion of the truth of the proposition that P where P = {God exists}. Atheism then is the assertion of the truth of the proposition that ¬P. Agnosticism claims that the proposition P is malformed.

    “Your understanding of positivism may be a bit off as well, can you support your statement that it is a self-refuting and dead philosophy? I don’t think it is. You might also want to call it an epistemology rather than a philosophy.”

    Yes, another completely philosophically ignorant atheist. News flash, epistemology IS a branch of philosophy and yes, Popper and the other positivists have been completely refuted. No one today seriously thinks it has any legitimacy. The main reason being that it’s central tenet of verificationism cannot itself be verified and thus positivism collapses in on itself.

    “Fear and lack of imagination are essential to organized religious belief”

    Yeah, that is the typical atheist strawman view of religion. Religion = Culture. You should get out more and meet real people. The internet is a distorting mirror that reflects back to you what you most fear or desire. Real intellectuals treat their opponent with respect and do not construct a false representation in order to score points.

    ” Science, [is] … not a belief system”

    Science is one world view among many. I think it gives us true facts about the world but not everyone does. However science cannot tells us anything about values, about how we should live. To do so would be to go up against the Fact/Value distinction and there are many who have shipwrecked themselves upon those rocks. Those who try inevitably end up crawling in bed with Nietzsche and that’s a very uncomfortable place to be.

  75. Anchor

    At ~10 noticed beliefs can’t all be right & aren’t knowledge. Confirmed by Asimov to Sagan.

  76. The best science teacher in the world taught evolution by emphasizing how we resemble insects. I must agree, especially with grasshoppers. #SkepticTale

  77. John Sandlin

    OK, I forgot to cross post my tweet:

    Mix James Randi on Tonight Show w/Johnny Carson, Carl Sagan on Cosmos and a Marionist university education; let sit; makes one #SkepticTale

  78. don gisselbeck

    Don’t tweet, but…..

  79. don gisselbeck

    Any thought, no matter how profound you may think it is, which can be expressed in fewer than one-hundred-forty characters is surely not worthy of being entertained.

  80. No. 3702

    @don gisselbeck

    TL;DR.

  81. QuietDesperation

    Any thought, no matter how profound you may think it is, which can be expressed in fewer than one-hundred-forty characters is surely not worthy of being entertained.

    Here. I edited it down to 126 but it captures the essence.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights”

  82. Random Armenian

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unUFOable Rights”

    They weren’t just Masons, they were in contact with ETI!

  83. Matt B.

    Heard on TV, “Question everything.” OK, the first thing I’ll question is whether I should question everything. DVBIVM CERTVM GIGNET

  84. DLC

    hm.
    Randi, Sagan, Gardner, Asimov, Heinlein, Harrison. Mix well, let simmer.

  85. Gus Snarp

    @noen – It seems to me that you are arguing in a couple of places that there are dead issues in philosophy, which I don’t think is a claim that anyone can make. I’ll tackle this in two comments. First, the exact definitions of “agnostic” and “atheist”. There are an awful lot of people in the world who disagree with you about these things, many of them more learned than either of us. I don’t doubt that there are equally learned people who disagree with me. I made a fairly absolute statement on this subject myself, so I may be guilty of the same sin. But I didn’t quote Encyclopedia Britannica and say case closed. I think David Hume would disagree with you, as he regarded the absolute truth value of any claim as ultimately unknowable, and any statement of disbelief as tentative and based on current knowledge. But what I consider more important than Hume is the popular use of the term. A huge number of people who currently call themselves atheists also consider themselves, on some level at least, agnostic. And whatever the state of the past, it is atheists who determine the meaning of atheism. But even if we accept your statement that atheism is a rejection of theistic claims, it still does not imply gnosticism. Agnosticism and atheism treat on entirely different subjects. We reject many claims we are not entirely certain of, and atheism is most certainly not an absolute statement that there is not and cannot be any sort of god. As for the everyday use of the terms, ordinary people tend not to use the term agnostic according to it’s technical meaning, because the subject rarely comes up. “Hey Phil, what do you think about our ability to be certain of the truth value of claims of the existence of god?” No, the question is “Do you believe in god?” This has a yes or no answer. Many people prefer instead to say “I’m agnostic”. By which they mean they just aren’t sure, they’re wishy washy. But the fact is that they don’t believe. Belief is active, you do or you don’t. If you aren’t sure, you don’t believe. People say they are agnostic because they fear the social ramifications of saying they don’t believe or being labeled an “atheist” or they still harbor the fear of some potential eternal punishment. That’s why many who call ourselves atheists don’t like this use of agnostic as if it is an alternative to atheist. It’s not, it’s a different matter altogether, and it makes godlessness invisible and socially unacceptable. If all the people who don’t really believe in god had the courage to stand up and say so, I don’t think we would be such a tiny minority. I don’t mean to imply that you personally lack courage, or use “agnostic” this way, but many people do.

  86. don gisselbeck

    #80 has, of course, 139 characters. Wasted a good half hour on that.

  87. Gus Snarp

    @noen – Wow, this is getting crazy long. Lets see if I can keep the rest brief:

    “Yeah, that is the typical atheist strawman view of religion.” Yet somehow it was not a strawman when you applied the same statement to some conflation of scientists, positivists, and secularists? I didn’t just apply the label, I provided a justification for why I felt it applied better to religion than to science/secularism/positivism (which I’m not attempting to extract from your conflation). I stand by that justification, especially since you simply called the statement a strawman and pretended the justification of it did not exist. Organized religions have official teachings and doctrines. They rely on an appeal to authority and hand down these teachings as unquestionable. Yes, some religions encourage more questioning and personal doubt than others, but all expect that in the end you accept their teachings. This is the opposite of imagination. Nearly all organized religions also promote a vision of an afterlife with an eternal reward or punishment as a goad toward proper behavior in this life. That’s using fear, plain and simple. Science, on the other hand, encourages and requires imagination. Most who fail or don’t bother to complete a PhD do so for a lack of imagination. Or maybe I’m just projecting my own situation, but I’m certain I’ve seen it in others. Identifying a good research question and developing a way to test it requires imagination, and lots of it. Fear too has little place in science. Darwin was afraid to publish the Origin, thankfully he did so anyway. That’s overcoming fear. So if it’s a strawman, it’s yours, I simply submit that it applies better to religion than to secularism.

    I may, in fact, be ignorant about positivism, but I have learned nothing about it here. As I understand it from my History and Philosophy of Science class, positivism states that (and I’m making this necessarily brief and simplified) the scientific method is the best way of knowing about the world around us. You need not believe that, and on some higher plane of philosophy you may think it is self-refuting, but the reason there are so many people who believe that is that in the way we interact with the real world, it works.

    I make the point that it is an epistemology and not a philosophy for the same reason that I argue science is not a belief system (or your new term, world view). Science is a method, and since we’ve irreparably conflated it with positivism, it is a way of knowing, an epistemology. An epistemology, as you know, is a branch of philosophy but not a philosophy. It is only one piece of a philosophy. One can hold any number of philosophies that contain the positivist epistemology.

    And finally, I really like how you switch from calling science a belief system to calling it a world view, yet follow this with a paragraph that essentially proves my point, namely that it is not.

  88. Luke

    @Gus Snarp

    It’s ok Gus, noen “has been refuted,” so you can just sidestep this whole issue. Case closed, no further arguments needed. Clearly the skeptical thing to do.

    I believe in telepathy.
    I don’t believe in telepathy, an unproven claim. <– "Skeptical"

    I believe in God.
    I don't believe in God, an unproven claim. <– "Not skeptical, arrogant, mind made up, assertion"

  89. noen

    Gus said:
    “Wow, this is getting crazy long.”

    Thank you for your calm reply. This subject interests me so I bring it up when I can and the typical atheist reaction is one of intolerance and bigotry towards anyone who disagrees with them. You seem to be an exception to that rule.

    “First, the exact definitions of “agnostic” and “atheist””

    In this section you appeal to two fallacies, the argument from popularity and the argument from authority. That people call themselves green cheese does not make them green cheese and that those in authority solemnly nod their heads in agreement does not either. Also you are simply factually wrong. Instead of citing the Encyclopedia Britannic I might just as well have cited J.J.C. Smart’s entry on atheism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy where he has this to say:

    “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”

    That is what the word means, that is what it has always meant. Smart (and the Britannica article) then goes on to discuss how this understanding of atheism can be considered not an absolute claim but rather one that constitutes a justified belief. However he also concedes that the fine tuning argument or arguments from Bayesian probability are not irrational in themselves. But that still makes atheism a form of belief, albeit one that can be justified.

    PZ Meyers and other village atheists strongly object to this view of atheism. That is because they and frankly most online atheists, are True Believers in the one truth outside of which no one can be saved…. that Science is their god and they it’s humble priests. Or in PZ’s case, its fiery Ezekiel eager to bring down the wrath of science upon the heads the heathen unbelievers.

    “I think David Hume would disagree with you, as he regarded the absolute truth value of any claim as ultimately unknowable”

    Hume was wrong.

    “it is atheists who determine the meaning of atheism”

    This is deeply ironic. No, actually, you don’t get to define words as you please and you don’t get to define yourselves just however you like. If you insist at least acknowledge how postmodern such a claim is. But you’re not postmodern are you? So I suspect that this is just self serving rationalization on your part. You want your view to be correct and you’re willing to engage in any kind of false rhetoric to defend it. You’ve abandoned intellectual integrity for hubris.

    “atheism is most certainly not an absolute statement that there is not and cannot be any sort of god.”

    Fortunately I never said it was. Atheism is the belief that there is no god. One that can be considered a justified belief that is intellectually defensible, but a belief nonetheless. Your problem is that you’ve only read a little of the early philosophers and that you think Hume, who was an idealist after all, was right to deny we have any access to knowledge. A rather odd position I might add.

    ““Do you believe in god?” This has a yes or no answer.”

    It also has a third answer, namely, “I don’t know whether or not there exists such a thing as might be construed as a god . Therefore I remain uncommitted to the truth or falseness of the question.” Moreover, “belief” is problematic as I said. It has not always meant assent to the truth value of a proposition. In past it also meant allegiance or loyalty to a cause greater than oneself. Social movements have a vector. They are going somewhere. I do not like the direction in which atheism is going.

    I do not want either the red or the blue pill. I want a third pill. And if I have to I’ll create it myself.

    (cont)

  90. noen

    (cont)

    “People say they are agnostic because they fear the social ramifications”

    Strawman. See above.

    “If all the people who don’t really believe in god had the courage to stand up”

    But atheists are the true believers. They truly believe in the absolute rightness of their beliefs.

    “Yet somehow it was not a strawman when you applied the same statement to some conflation of scientists, positivists, and secularists? “

    It is my considered experience that by far most online atheists are what one would call Village Atheists. They are true believers in the cult of the New Atheism. There is indeed another atheism. That of the philosophical kind which I have cited but you and indeed the leaders of the New Atheists reject that view of atheism. It is the former rather than the later to which I refer.

    “As I understand it from my History and Philosophy of Science class, positivism states that (and I’m making this necessarily brief and simplified) the scientific method is the best way of knowing about the world around us. “

    No, that’s not what positivism says. Positivism says that scientific truth is the only kind of truth there is. That scientific statements can be verified as true and that any other statements are meaningless. Positivism asserted that the only true statements are those which can be verified but it could not verify its own principle of verification and was therefore inconsistent and incoherent.

    Positivism is(was) a philosophical ideology more like a religion than anything. It is the official dogma of the Village “New” Atheist and they defend it as violently as any true believer ever has.

    “I make the point that it is an epistemology and not a philosophy for the same reason that I argue science is not a belief system (or your new term, world view)”

    Well you can want epistemology to not be a part of philosophy all you like but you’re simply flat out wrong.

    “Science is a method”

    Which makes certain assumptions and has a particular view of the world. What shall we call that? Oh! Let’s call it a “world view”. One cannot not have a world view because if we exist at all in this world then we must have a relation to that world. We have a stance or a we place ourselves in a particular relationship with the world. It is not possible to be in this world and not be somewhere. Defenders of scientism always try to adopt this kind of “null position”. They want to place themselves above the world and yet be in it. This cannot be done.

    ” An epistemology, as you know, is a branch of philosophy but not a philosophy.”

    This is what happens when village atheists try to think.

    “I really like how you switch from calling science a belief system to calling it a world view”

    I think that science gives us true facts about the world but I’m just not willing to go all Totalitarian with it. Science can answer some questions, it cannot answer others. True believers of any stripe believe that their particular belief system can answer every and any question. I doubt that.

  91. Gus Snarp

    @noen – Every single thing you’ve said about “Village Atheists”, especially that “true believer” crap = strawman, a term you throw around a lot for someone making such extensive use of them.

    “In this section you appeal to two fallacies, the argument from popularity and the argument from authority.” – Argument from authority – you started it on this topic. I simply argue that there are other authorities than yours. As to argument from popularity, I’m not suggesting that one side is more popular than the other, only that there are two sides with equal weight. And since we’re talking about language, language changes based on how it is commonly used. Words do not have absolute and unchanging meanings, no matter what dictionary they are written in.

    “Well you can want epistemology to not be a part of philosophy all you like but you’re simply flat out wrong.” Way to quote mine and misrepresent me. Sorry, that doesn’t work when my comment is right there for everyone to read. Being a part of philosophy does not make an epistemology an entire philosophy unto itself. Sorry.

    “It is my considered experience that by far most online atheists are what one would call Village Atheists. ” I don’t even know how this is supposed to answer the quote you’ve put it in response to. You said that secularists/positivists/science were motivated somehow by fear and lack of imagination, with no justification. I said that organized religion more accurately reflects those terms and justified my statement, which you then called a strawman. I reiterate, it was strawman when you said it.

    “Hume was wrong” – Argument from nothing. My point in mentioning Hume is not that I necessarily agree with him, but that from his point of view even active disbelief is necessarily agnostic, because we can’t truly know anything for certain. In this view you can certainly be both atheist and agnostic. I reiterate, the two are in no way mutually exclusive, they treat different subjects, and none of what you’ve said has proved otherwise.

    Do you believe in ghosts, fairies, or unicorns? All things that cannot be absolutely proven false by science, but for which there is simply no evidence. Are you agnostic about them as well, or is god a special case?

    I think that science gives us true facts about the world but I’m just not willing to go all Totalitarian with it. Science can answer some questions, it cannot answer others. True believers of any stripe believe that their particular belief system can answer every and any question. I doubt that.

    Once again you’ve proven my point nicely. I doubt that most of your “Village Atheists” think that science can answer every and any question.

  92. Joseph G

    @66 noen:
    Bertard Russel, Carl Sagan
    Hit me with their rational ray gun
    Into Darwin’s tangled bank
    Myths and fables wholly sank

    Full of win!

  93. Joseph G

    Noen: I think that agnosticism does equate to skepticism, atheism certainly does not. For a self-refuting and dead philosophy there sure are a lot of Positivists around these days. I chalk it up to fear and a lack of imagination. Many secular people today cannot imagine any other belief than either science or fundamentalism.

    But isn’t agnosticism similarly antithetical to skepticism? I may be wrong, but I thought that the gist of agnosticism was “We don’t know, and there are some things we can’t know.”
    Whereas science would assume that it’s more or less possible to eventually find out anything, uncertainty principle and event horizons notwithstanding.

  94. Joseph G

    Ack… If you really want a headache, check out the Wikipedia entry on Positivism.
    Some highlights include the claim that there are 12 separate and distinct interpretations of positivism, Stephen Hawking referring to Karl Popper as a positivist and claiming positivism to be fundamental to modern science, and Karl Popper claiming that he never was a positivist and that his work was in direct opposition to positivism.

    *headdesk*

  95. Gus Snarp

    @Joseph G – if you think that’s bad you should have a go at “postmodernism”. A number of people often used as examples of postmodernism deny being postmodernist and the term is an umbrella for so many things that it is almost meaningless.

  96. noen

    Since I don’t drink and don’t care to be around those who do I guess I have some free time.

    “I simply argue that there are other authorities than yours. ”

    But I was not claiming any authority other than reason. If theism is the assertion of the proposition that god exists then it clearly follows that atheism, “a” means not, must be the negation of that proposition, that god does not exist. How could it be anything else? You are right that language changes and does not have a fixed meaning but things do have to “hang together” more or less. Humpty Dumpty was wrong, words can’t just mean whatever you like. They have to make sense. So if a bunch of people believe that X, let’s call them X-ists, what would we call those who reject that claim? Let’s call them a-X-ists. I don’t see any appeal to authority in that.

    “Being a part of philosophy does not make an epistemology an entire philosophy unto itself. ”

    Well no, it isn’t strictly speaking even philosophy, it’s a category, an entry in the library card catalogue. I think the word you were looking for is empiricism. What you were really doing was trying to make the bogus claim that science is somehow above philosophy, as if that were even possible. Which is nonsense. That is my principle objection to the New Atheism. It’s really just another metaphysical ideology attempting to claim dominance over all knowledge.

    We have a word for people who think they and they alone have the one truth, it’s called Fundamentalism.

    “My point in mentioning Hume is not that I necessarily agree with him, but that from his point of view even active disbelief is necessarily agnostic”

    Shorter: “My point in mentioning Hume, not that I agree with him, is that I agree with him.” Which is it?

    “Do you believe in ghosts, fairies, or unicorns?”

    No, I don’t. Am I being inconsistent? No I’m not. Is it possible to know that unicorns do not exist? Yes it is. Is it possible to know if god exists? I have no idea. I know what the words ghosts, fairies, or unicorns refer to. They refer to real things that that could exist in some possible world. I don’t know what god refers to, I don’t know what the word means or whether or not it could or could not exist. Therefore I simply can’t say anything about it.

    “I doubt that most of your “Village Atheists” think that science can answer every and any question.”

    In my experience they do believe just that.

    “if you think that’s bad you should have a go at “postmodernism”. ”

    Postmodernism is dead but what seems to be common among some circles is a kind of “perspectivism”. That is, that reality is such that there are multiple perspectives, world views if you like, but no one single world view which holds a privileged position above all the rest and from which all other perspectives can be judged.

    “Stephen Hawking referring to Karl Popper as a positivist and claiming positivism to be fundamental to modern science”

    Yeah, Hawking is not a philosopher so he should shut up about stuff he hasn’t a clue about. Frankly he’s kind of gone off his nut lately. As far as I’m concerned string theory is nothing more than theology.

  97. Messier Tidy Upper
  98. @Jeffersonian,

    especialy considering that Jesus would have been a Jew and wanted his followers to practice Judaism, never asking them start a new religion and naming it after him

    I took a history of religion course in college. One of the first things the professor told us was that if we had any religious views at all, they *would* be offended as he was going for a historical view of religion and not a religious one. When we got to Jesus, my professor taught that Jesus actually was teaching a super-strict version of Judaism.

    Let’s say you were Jewish and walking down the street. You pass a McDonald’s a smell a bacon double cheeseburger. The smell makes you think about eating one but it’s not Kosher so you avoid it. According to pretty much any Rabbi you ask, you did nothing wrong. Jesus, according to my professor, would have said that thoughts were just as sinful as actions and thus by merely thinking about eating that bacon double cheeseburger, you violated the Kosher laws same as if you actually ate it.

    Other rabbis of the time (thankfully) rejected this and he was on the fringe of Judaism. There were a lot of rabbis on the fringes, most of their teachings (and their names) died with them. Somehow, though, Jesus’ teachings survived and mutated through the centuries into Christianity.

    The irony, of course, is that (if my professor is correct) the people who “follow Jesus’ teachings” aren’t following anything close to the super-strict version of Judaism that Jesus was a proponent of.

    P.S Beyond the memories of my college course, I have no evidence that these were the real teachings of Jesus. I present it more as an anecdote than evidence. Still, given that we know that Christianity morphed through the centuries to absorb various pagan tribes, it isn’t entirely unlikely that Jesus’ real teachings differed from what the present-day Church says he taught.

    P.P.S. If anyone else has heard this Jesus Super-Strict Judaism historical theory and/or knows of any evidence to back it up or disprove it (not religious sources, of course… “The Bible says…” isn’t a valid source), I’d definitely be interested in hearing it.

  99. Joseph G

    @96 Gus Snarp: Ugh. My close friend went through a postmodernist phase. Call me a philistine if you want, but it all sounds like an enormous exercise in verbal masturbation. “Hey, let’s ‘deconstruct’ some ‘text’ (break it down into constituent words devoid of original context and separate from any agreed-upon etymology) and write a 5,000 word paper on why the definition of the word “is” should really be “has been,” and why this proves that English is a homophobic language”…

    @97 noen: Apologies, I know it’s been a few days and you probably won’t see this, but I just got back to it.
    Question: If scientists shouldn’t comment on matters of philosophy, what gives philosophers license to make sweeping judgements of science?

  100. Egill V

    my journey…

    i was born in iceland.

    that’s it, prolly more of a journey for the religious then for the majority of us here.

  101. Keith Bowden

    @messier – thanks! lol
    @noen, gus, joseph, et. al. (and messier):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_WRFJwGsbY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  102. Professor Mayhem

    Raised mostly by a skeptical grandfather. Grew up thinking I was alone in that aspect. Found out that I wasn’t, felt relieved.

  103. Tom
  104. Gus Snarp

    @Tom #104 – There’s a link in that NPR article to critics of the study, namely the Center for Skeptical Inquiry. The article there will tell you all that you need to know, albeit not briefly. In the comments to the NPR article someone has also posted a link to another critique on Common Sense Atheism. Between these links you should be able to see what’s going on. I won’t post the actual links so this doesn’t get trapped in moderation, but you can find them from the NPR story. Brief summary: poor research design, plus bad use of statistics to make a small effect seem significant, and attempts to replicate it have so far failed.

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