Bill O'Reilly: tidal bore

By Phil Plait | January 31, 2011 11:09 am

Look, I know. Bill O’Reilly is a far-right ideologue who couldn’t grasp reality with a hundred meters of velcro and a ton of Crazy glue. He’s mean-spirited, loud, and wrong, wrong, wrong. Debunking him is like debunking the Tooth Fairy; so easy and obvious that it’s almost mean on my part to do it.

Yet here we are.

By now the entire planet has heard O’Reilly’s bizarre litany about tides, and how he claims they prove the existence of God. As he has said on many an occasion, "tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication." By this he means that the harmony of nature, the amazing interconnection between things, clearly argues for God.

The problem is, he’s wrong. Twice, actually. First because he’s making the "God of the Gaps" fallacy: if something can’t be explained, then God must have done it. That’s pretty silly, since of course the far more likely explanation is simply that O’Reilly can’t explain it. That doesn’t mean I can’t! And in the case of tides, I can explain them, as can my friend Neil Tyson, and pretty much every other astronomer on Earth.

The thing is, either O’Reilly cannot learn, or he hopes his audience won’t. Because on his YouTube channel — yes, O’Reilly has a YouTube channel, I believe that’s the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse — he not only makes this same claim again, he digs himself deeper:

Wow. I guess O’Reilly hasn’t discovered Google. Or any astronomy textbook written in the past thirty years. Because we know how the Moon got there (a Mars-sized planet struck the Earth a glancing blow about 100 million years after it formed, splashing debris into orbit which coalesced to form the Moon). And we know how the Sun got there (a small region of a vast cloud of gas and dust collapsed under its own gravity, compressed in the center, ignited nuclear fusion, and Our Star was born).

It gets worse. He asks why we have a Moon, and Mars doesn’t. Pssst, Bill: Mars has two moons. Venus doesn’t have a moon, but if our theory is correct about how we got our Moon then it was a singular, unusual event, so it’s not surprising Venus doesn’t have one.

Now it’s possible that Bill is being metaphoric; he doesn’t literally mean the Moon, or tides, or anything like that: he means rules and order in general. We have the laws of physics, and we don’t know why those exist the way they do.

That’s true enough, and an interesting field of exploration. But to jump to say, "God did it" is a losing bet. They used to say that about thunder. They used to say that about people getting sick. They used to say that about, oh, why the Moon and Sun are in the sky, and why we have tides. Say.

But now we understand those things. We understand them because we’re curious, we humans, and we developed a method of understanding the Universe. It’s called science. And it went a long way to showing us why thunder happens, why people get sick, and why the Moon and Sun formed, and how their mass and gravity warp space-time around us. There are gaps in our understanding, but one of the big points of science is to narrow those gaps.

Saying "God did it" is not an answer. It’s an evasion. O’Reilly (and so many ideologues like him) wants his ignorance to be canonized, but ignorance is not a goal. It’s an opportunity to learn more.

Look: I seriously and strongly feel that everyone has the right to believe what they want, and to find comfort in it if they need it. But you can’t let that belief narrow your view of the Universe to where it’s simply easier to avoid what you don’t understand. That’s what O’Reilly has done — or is urging his listeners to do — and he’s missing out. Nature is subtle, and amazing, and layered, and complex, and interconnected on levels we’re only just now starting to suspect. That’s where the true mystery lies.

As long as we’re curious, and keep our eyes and minds open, we’ll be able to explore the Universe, and we’ll never run out of things to question and explain.

Tip o’ the self-gravitating disk to reddit.

Comments (416)

Links to this Post

  1. You Pinheads | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine | January 31, 2011
  2. God of the gaps | Evolving Thoughts | January 31, 2011
  3. Not A Single Person Died | Whimsy Speaks | February 2, 2011
  4. How'd It Get There? | Interwebosity | February 2, 2011
  5. Bill O’Reilly: You can’t explain the tides. « Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions | February 2, 2011
  6. Here’s Why the Moon Is There [Astronomy] | Blogging With The Stars | February 2, 2011
  7. WATCH: O’Reilly Doubles Down On God Controlling The Tides: ‘How Did The Moon Get There?’ at NEWS.GeekNerdNetwork.com | February 2, 2011
  8. Bill O’Rielly gets back to God and the Tides… « Under The LobsterScope | February 3, 2011
  9. DEVOLUTION « Once Upon a Paradigm | February 3, 2011
  10. pandagon.net - it's the eye of the panda, it's the thrill of the bite | February 3, 2011
  11. Bill O’Reilly: tidal bore | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | PalPie.Com | February 3, 2011
  12. O’Reilly Returns to Space, Defends God-Tide Theory : World Bad News | February 3, 2011
  13. When I Fight Authority « Science Vs. Pseudoscience | February 4, 2011
  14. Math and science « Petunias | February 4, 2011
  15. Bill O'Reilly Proudly Doubles Down On Dumb (With VIDEO) - Religious Education Forum | February 4, 2011
  16. God of the saps « Nadir Times | February 6, 2011
  17. Weird Science with the Great Theologian(?)/Scientist(?) Bill O’Reilly « Jitterbugging for Jesus | February 6, 2011
  18. Tides go up your butt & Subscribe to me, dammit « spencer portfolio | February 7, 2011
  19. Celebrating Evolution Sunday | Carl Gregg | February 7, 2011
  20. Pulse on Techs » You can’t explain Bill O’Reilly | Bad Astronomy | February 11, 2011
  21. A Sneak Real Into Natalie's Mind » Blog Archive » You Pinheads | February 15, 2011
  22. And now, something absolutely terrifying. | February 25, 2011
  23. Teach the Controversy – Geocentrism - Centre for Inquiry - Ottawa | August 29, 2011
  1. DennyMo

    “Because we know how the Moon got there”

    I’m sorry, but statements like this are no better than unverifiable claims that “God did it.” You’re constantly talking about how science is better than religion because science is observable, verifiable, repeatable, subject to change as new evidence comes in, etc. In the case of the moon, who observed the collision? Who has observed another planet’s moon being created by such a process? We “know”? Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.

  2. It’s always fun to see literal hand-waving.

    “How’d it get there?” repeated over and over again is also a good laugh line. Talk about desperate.

    @DennyMo: science has a theory that fits the known data and relies on observable mechanisms (=convenient exclusion of divine intervention). Creationists have a theory that explains nothing and is not actually inconsistent with the scientific explanation (since it lacks any mechanism for how the moon got there, for example, other than ‘abracadabra!’). Also, it relies on belief in the supernatural.

  3. Perhaps he should get this T-shirt?

    http://www.computergear.com/miracletshirt.html

    And I hate to admit it, but I agree with DennyMo’s objection to the (mis?)use of the word “know”.

    However, the difference between science and creationism is that science keeps looking for (and often finding) new data, and updating things that we “know”. In the immortal words of Agent Kay, “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow”.

  4. Jeremy

    @ DennyMo

    “Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. ”

    We have data, they do not. We went to the moon and brought back lots of data. They are choosing to ignore that data.

    I’m not saying the impact theory doesn’t have holes. I would imagine most theories about the ancient past do, but it wasn’t like we pulled this theory from a centuries old text. We did the experiments and furthered our understanding. Turns out their conclusion does not fit with the data at all.

  5. Stan9fromouterspace

    Starbuck did it.

  6. Dave

    Following his illogic, how did God get there?

  7. @Ken B,

    Sadly, the creationists see science’s new data/updating old theories as a weakness. Once, while attending an Orthodox temple (my parents belonged there and I was living with them at the time), the rabbi gave a sermon about how wrong science always was and how right religion always was. I didn’t correct him (would have been rude and the crowd wasn’t exactly on the fence when it came to this) but just sat back and listened (and bit my tongue).

    To him, religion “knows the truth.” The fact that they keep at the same explanation (“God did it”) is a strength. Meanwhile, science is constantly changing their story — a clear sign of weakness to them.

    So when we try talking about altering theories to better account for new data, they roll their eyes and think “science is changing its story again” just like we roll our eyes when they say “God did it… end of story” for the millionth time.

  8. TheBlackCat

    @ DennyMo:

    “Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. ”

    What we have is a theory that makes specific predictions about what features we should see in the Earth and the moon. It makes predictions about how, under circumstances we know were the case in early Earth, a specific event would lead to a specific outcome, predictions we can then test mathematically using the laws of physics. Although we cannot see the collisions as they happen, we can see conditions that the laws of physics tell us should lead to such events happening. We can see events fundamentally similar happening right now in our own solar system.

    Creationists do not make any testable predictions. Their is no comparison against the laws of physics. There is no way to ask “how would things be different if we were right than if we were wrong”. There are no laws of physics remotely compatible with what the creationists say happened. We can’t see anything remotely related to what the creationists claim happened going on right now.

  9. Dave:

    Following his illogic, how did God get there?

    Long ago, Thor and Odin were battling each other to see who should rule over everything. Suddenly, Thor’s hammer and Odin’s sword hit in just the right way, and there was a big “bang”. The rest, as they say, is history.

  10. mike burkhart

    I’ll just say this : Science tells us how God dose things ,Gods hand is in everything. But science cannot prove,nor disprove God. and science should not even try . God Belongs to Religon. It is up to the indvidul to beleve or not . The things I said at the start are what I beleve. If Phil and anyone else disagrees thats fine. The point is you are free to accept God or to Reject God .

  11. @DennyMo,

    Actually, the impact theory is testable. Not in the “let’s smack the Earth with a giant planet and see what happens” sense, of course. Instead, the Moon forming from Earth-splatter rather than from other methods means that it would have a similar composition to the Earth. We can test this and compare it to other moons on other planets. Mars’ moons, for example.

    I’m pretty sure this testing has been done, but I don’t have the data (or the time to look it up)… perhaps someone else can fill in the gaps here. If this holds up then Mars’ moons should have a different makeup than Mars does while the Moon is made of relatively the same stuff as Earth is.

  12. Dan I.

    1. DannyMo

    No you do not have a theory. You have a BELIEF without any evidence but a text written by people long after the fact.

    We have data and observation and reasoned experimentation. There is a difference.

  13. Belphegor

    Phil,
    I almost printed out your current post to frame it on a wall somewhere!!Listening to people like O’Reily just makes me cringe. We could ignore such blabbermouths if only they didn’t have such huge audiences! Nonetheless, I still believe every human is born with a certain amount of common sense, and that people will eventually forget such nonsense and let their proponents be recognized for what they are : narrow-monded ignorants.

  14. @mike burkhart,

    I’ll agree that Science can’t prove or disprove God’s existance. We can, however, prove that things have natural explainations to them. The problem isn’t that science is trying to disprove God. It is that some religious people see science as a threat to their world-view and try to get their religious beliefs to replace science. (e.g. ID in classrooms.)

  15. Darth Robo

    —”Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.”

    O hai, DennyMo! I’d like to ask you a question which I’ve been asking for about 5 or 6 years (count ‘em), the scientific community for about 20, or 200, or 2000 depending on how you look at it. And my question is this:

    What exactly IS the “scientific theory” of creationism? Thanks in advance.

  16. TheBlackCat

    @ Ken B :

    I thought Odin used a spear.

  17. Physics Guru

    My brain just had a vapor lock. Must remember to breathe….

    Every time he asks, “How did it get there?” I had to keep from yelling out, “I know how, idiot!” While I agree with him about the order in the universe, and frankly agree with a divine source for that order, refusing to think that there’s a natural means for phenomena is ludicrous.

    Just because someone doesn’t know the answer doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t either. And even if we all don’t know the answer, that doesn’t mean the answer doesn’t exist. I love science in that it’s always looking for answers, and not just repeating the dreck over and over again.

  18. Sir Craig

    That is some stunning stupid there, Bill. And calling people who pointed out your ignorance “pinheads” – classy. If you are some self-styled “culture warrior,” then I want no part of your particular “culture.”

  19. mike burkhart:

    Science tells us how God dose things ,Gods hand is in everything. But science cannot prove,nor disprove God. and science should not even try . God Belongs to Religon.

    Agreed. But, what do you do if science and religion disagree on something? If science says the Earth is billions of years old, but your religion says that it’s only a few thousand, what do you do? (Perhaps G-d created it billions of years ago?) And what if someone else’s religion disagrees with yours? Whose answer is “right”? Science doesn’t care what the right answer is, it only seeks to find it.

  20. The secondary clip makes it even more obvious that “Tide goes in, Tide goes out” was a trap for Silverman. Bill knows all the arguments. He wants to trap someone in a battle over the intricacies of how the universe works, all of which take longer to explain and result in less snappy soundbytes than the religious view. His viewers want to see the guy that claims to be religious defeating waffling scientists with snappy soundbytes.

    O’Reilly is educated enough that he could actually hold up a very interesting side in a debate if he could refrain from insulting and steamrolling his opponent. But giving a fair debate to a respected opponent isn’t what gets him viewers.

    I’m pretty sure Silverman totally derailed a trap with his Mt. Olympus crack, because the script was to get him digging deeper into science explanations that they didn’t have time for.

  21. Shane C

    Phil, why is your RSS feed no longer complete? I don’t understand this at all. The RSS feed includes ads, so that can’t be the reason. Most people who use RSS feeds do so because they don’t have time to go to each and every blogger’s site, and if the feed isn’t complete, well then they won’t read all of it. Period.

    Please get the Hive Overmind to change back to a complete feed.

    Sorry for the off-topic; hoping you’ll see this and try to do something.

  22. Anchor

    “Venus doesn’t have a moon, but if our theory is correct about how we got our Moon then it was a singular, unusual event, so it’s not surprising Venus doesn’t have one.”

    Actually, if the theory is correct, Venus was probably also struck by impactors large enough to toss up debris to make potential moons, so the mechanism behind such events is NOT so singular and unusual. It shouldn’t be surprising that Venus doesn’t have a moon for purely statistical reasons, not because it didn’t get clobbered.

    A big impactor striking a planet on a tangent against its rotation can retard, stop or even reverse its rotation, and any sufficiently large moons that are lofted into retrograde orbits can tidally slow the planet’s rotation while its still orbiting…and even stop it altogether when its orbit decays and it finally crashes against the rotational sense of the planet. It is interesting that the surface of Venus is everywhere less than 300-600 million years old, but determining its age through crater counts may be totally misleading if most of those impactors all arrived within a relatively short time, namely, from the splash-back of a large moon Venus may once have owned in a retrograde orbit that came crashing down only relatively recently. Interestingly, anbout 85% of the nearly 1000 impact craters on Venus seem to look about the same age: ‘pristine’, with little degradation. It appears some global resurfacing event took place, and the cause cannot be attributed entirely to global volcanism alone unless one totally ignores about 800 craters that look about the same age…and we still haven’t identified any spike in impact craters of that age on our Moon or Earth.

    Mercury was likewise probably also knocked around by big impactors and may have lost most of its original crust and mantle. But it shouldn’t be surprising it doesn’t currently have a moon 4 billion plus years later since one might expect the stronger solar tides can have disrupted moon formation out of the debris disks following such impacts.

    Finally, Pluto and other Kuiper belt bodies as well as many asteroids have satellites because of impacts. The point is that the mechanism is a COMMON one. There’s nothing singular or unusual about the mechanism. The early Solar System was a big craps shooting gallery that sorted it out to what we see today entirely by chance and chaos. The case against O’Reilly’s idiotic claims for divine order is strengthened BECAUSE the Earth’s Moon is NOT the result of a “singular, unusual event”, but an entirely plausible and unsurprising result based on nothing but probability.

  23. thetentman

    I wonder which god O’reilly is talking about? Did Zeus retire?

  24. Dennis

    You can fret until you’re blue in the face, but there are those who will continue to grunt and bang rocks with sticks until the end of time. And I don’t mean in a musical way (’cause those guys are coooool!).

  25. Steve

    I am constantly amazed at O’Reilly, but realize he’s just playing to his core audience in an attempt to rile the ‘heathens’. As data are accumulated, examined and put to tests, theories are devised and evolve to fit new data as they arise. Science does NOT say, ‘this is how it is, because some sheep herder 2000 yrs ago believed it and wrote it down!’ I’m a ‘skeptical’ christian, as in a person who uses certain tenets and beliefs in molding my interactions with other folk… not as a belief in going to heaven, etc, etc. And GOD please save us from folks who would deny modern medicine, science and technology, just because they didn’t have that in JC’s time.

  26. Darth Robo

    I’m too scared to watch the videos. The last (and first) time I saw Bill O’Reilly was when he interviewed Dawkins. And the totally dumb fallacies and general dumbness that spewed from Billy’s mouth was so dumb that the stability of reality itself was threatened with complete destabilization from such utterly dumb dumbosity that not even Touché Turtle and Dum Dum could save us from the sheer amount of dumb emanating from such a massive singularity of utter dumb.

    (cue short over-dramatic music)

    DUMMMB DE DUMB DUMB!

  27. Brian Utterback

    I get so tired of the “did anybody see it?” canard, as if you can’t “know” something that happened in the past, as opposed to physical laws, which can be tested now. It is no different, the process is exactly the same:

    1. Gather data.
    2. Form a hypothesis.
    3. Make a prediction.
    4. Perform an experiment.
    5. Go to step 1.

    In step 2, you evaluate the Null hypothesis of the previous iteration. The difference with repeatable physical laws is that the Null hypothesis quickly goes to zero, but for past events, it could take a lot longer, and maybe you never get to the level you would like. But how much confidence do you have to have before you are allowed to say that you “know” something? The usual standard is 95%. There are lots of things that we know about the past to within a 95% confidence.

    And before someone complains that you can’t perform an experiment with past events, that isn’t true. An experiment can mean just looking for more data in a new way or new place. All that has to happen is that new data is obtained that either strengthens or weakens the hypothesis. It’s all just a Bayesian analysis of all the data.

    Consider that the discovery of Mendellian genetic laws provided strong supporting evidence for evolution. When Darwin proposed evolution, perhaps one of the most amazing things about it was that according to the understanding of genetics at the time, it couldn’t have worked. Essentially, Darwin was making an implicit prediction that when the knowledge of genetics was more refined, that a mechanism for evolution would be found. And it was! Just think how strong that evidence really is, that an existing theory would be overturned and that the replacement would of necessity support evolution.

  28. Joseph G

    I’m hearing two arguments here – first the argument from ignorance, which is obviously fallacious. The larger question, though, seems to be “How do these physical laws produce such a complex and predictable universe?”
    Essentially he’s talking about the Anthropic Principle, and it’s understandable that this would come up in any discussion about God. The “default” scientific thinking, of course, is that, of course the fundamental constants of the universe make intelligent life possible, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to observe it. But I do understand why people who are religious can draw their own conclusions that are favorable to them. And it’s not just young earth creationists, either – I used to belong to a Reform synagogue, and I recall reading a prayer that talked about the consistency of the planets in their orbits, and similar stuff.

  29. OK, because I am lazy, I am reposting (with one typo and one technical error fixed) a comment I made on Facebook on the beauty of sunsets that also applies here:

    I remember once watching a magnificent sunset at the end of the workday with some of my coworkers. I gazed in stunned silence, drinking in the wonder and complexity of it all: the massive clouds suspended above the horizon, the differing densities of air at different levels, the reflections, the refractions, the sun reddening through hundreds of miles of atmospheric dust and water vapor. Molecules of air and dust and water, photons at play in our sky after an eight-and-a-half-minute journey from the sun. And one of my co-workers said, “How can anyone look at this and doubt the existence of God?”

  30. Jeff Fite

    @1. DennyMo:

    Denny, I think you’re making a common error about science and “observation.” Observation ≠ eyewitness account. In fact, eyewitnesses are so unreliable I’m amazed they’re admissible in court! :-) Every UFO, ghost and Bigfoot story has an eyewitness–but none of them have solid, verifiable evidence.

    In the context of science, “to observe” something means “to obtain data” about that thing. It’s color, mass, behavior, conductivity, what-have-you. Then, researchers formulate their best explanation of what that thing is and how it came to be, in such a way that all of the observations–all of the facts–are accounted for.

    Sure, I’d be nice to carom a small planet off a larger one in some corner of the galaxy, and see if a moon-like body forms over the next few thousand years, but it’s not required. Besides, I’m still waiting for funding.

    Also, the exclusion of divine intervention is not convenient, it’s deliberate. Look up Occam’s razor. A good theory accounts for all of the facts–without excluding any–while making the minimum number of plausible assumptions. I could argue that the moon was made by invisible pink unicorns, but my theory would probably fail the plausibility test. (For one thing, how could a unicorn be both invisible and pink?)

    [Creationists like to make a similar argument: since we can't repeat the experiment of evolution, we can't "prove" evolution. But my rebuttal would be the same: observation ≠ eyewitness, observation = evidence. Also, in this case, it's not true that you can't repeat evolution. Experiments have been done in which bacteria have been shown to alter their biochemistry in response to changes in their environment, meaning it is possible, in theory, to directly observe evolution occurring in real time. And no, I'm not talking about the recently-flubbed NASA announcement, but research over the last couple of decades.]

  31. RJ

    I feel dumber for having listened to O’Reilly’s ramblings. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it, cable news erodes one’s IQ.

  32. reidh

    First, you are sooo correct. Bill O’Reilly is no good spokesperson for God’s existence, as if He needs one. But to try to debunk O’Reilly makes you look sophmorick. This is why I won’t even read your book “death from the skies”. There is the best proof for the existence of God, its called Death. The best evidence is Life. Get to know it!

  33. Joseph G

    I think people are reading his overall statement a little too literally. I’m sure he’s heard about the “big splash” all of that – his question seems to be “So many things had to happen for us to be here – are we just plain lucky?” To which I would answer: “Yes, very”.
    Incidentally, that’s why I put my lot in with the “Rare Earthers”. I think we’re going to find many, many planets that are tantalizingly close to habitability, but few if any that are actually habitable.

    Anyway, I know O’Reilly is goofy at times, but he’s outnumbered by people who are far, far goofier. Why do we keep seeing him here instead of, say, Rush Limbaugh? That guy makes O’Reilly sound like a double PhD in earth science and cosmology.

  34. QuietDesperation

    Following his illogic, how did God get there?

    God bought the Universe second hand from the Old Ones when the latter wanted to do some home improvements around R’lyeh.

    So why are the Old Ones returning? God’s check bounced.

  35. QuietDesperation

    Actually, the impact theory is testable. Not in the “let’s smack the Earth with a giant planet and see what happens” sense, of course.

    Awww! :-(

  36. QuietDesperation

    yes, O’Reilly has a YouTube channel, I believe that’s the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse

    Er, not to defend O’Reilly, but my sister’s mother in law has a YouTube channel where she posts videos of her cat. It’s not a big deal.

  37. Hao

    “And in the case of tides, I can explain them, as can my friend Neil Tyson, and pretty much every other astronomer on Earth.”

    Hey, don’t forget us oceanographers!

    PS nice pun in the title :)

  38. Jeff Fite:

    I could argue that the moon was made by invisible pink unicorns, but my theory would probably fail the plausibility test. (For one thing, how could a unicorn be both invisible and pink?)

    “If G-d wanted to make a unicorn which was both invisible and pink, he could.” :-)

  39. “There is the best proof for the existence of God, its called Death. The best evidence is Life.”

    WHAT????

    Why can’t theists ever come up with something actually tangible, measurable, quantifiable for the existence of god. It would shut the lot of us up quickly.

    This is one of the most ridiculous “proofs” I have ever heard of.

    Anthropic principle, look it up. A puddle miraculously fits the hole it is in.

  40. bonekog

    Hey Phil, is it really glancing glow rather than glancing blow? I didn’t hear boxing commentators say glow in that case…. Just curious

  41. JD

    I had a term for people like O’Reilly when I worked in science education. They are the “Aggressively Ignorant”.

  42. CameronSS

    And now for some good news:

    Look at the Likes/Dislikes on his various videos. Clearly the audience he’s pandering to watches him on Fox, not on YouTube. YouTube, the archetypal home of utter idiocy in comments, apparently has quite a few sane people who see his nonsense.

  43. In the case of the moon, who observed the collision? Who has observed another planet’s moon being created by such a process?

    So if we don’t see it, there’s obviously no way to tell it ever happened. Just like if we see a car with a big round dent in the front bumper sitting next to a tree of the same size as that dent, we would never be able to figure out what happened to the car, right? Maybe not with 100% certainty, but we can get close. In the case of the moon, there are a number of ‘clues’. First, it’s composed of primarily plagioclase, which is much different than most primordial objects that contain higher amounts of iron. However, the earth’s surface contains a lot of plag. Second, it doesn’t contain a lot of volatiles, leading us to believe it must have been very hot when created. Then we can use things like physics to determine how far away the moon should be given it’s orbital rate and speed, the amount of time since its creation, etc. Maybe these things aren’t as obvious to the average person as a car hitting a tree, but the evidence is fairly strong once you understand where rocks and minerals come from and how physics works.

  44. frankenstein monster

    @DennyMo

    We “know”? Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data

    Wrong. Everything we know about the world around us is ‘only’ a theory/hypothesis that fits the known data ( while minimizing information-theoretic complexity ).

    Take for example the hypothetical observer of a planet crash. How does he know, that he is in fact witnessing a planet collision ? ( from safe distance, I hope )
    Think about it, and you will find out, that all he does is receiving a stream of data from his photon detectors ( CCD, vacuum tube, Mark 1 eyeball, what ever ) and creating theories about what the data means. It just happens that the theory ‘zomg the two planets just crashes into each other’ fits the visual data he is receiving better than the theory ‘a deity just poofed the moon into existence’.
    And the same goes also for inferring what happened not from the stream of photons, but from geological evidence. the theory ‘moon result of a collision’ fits the data better than ‘moon poofed into existence by a deity’.
    There is no a priori exclusion of’ ‘the poof hypothesis’ here.
    Just as there is no

    theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions

    Oh wait… You claim there is one. So I challenge you. Go on, find one and write it here. Prediction you won’t. Ever.

  45. Utakata

    I wonder if there was a god, if it ever would support peeps showing such willful ignorance and stupidity, only so they can get a higher Nielsen ratings for their show.

  46. Grog

    Careful… debunking the lunacy seen and heard on Faux News could become a full time vocation!

  47. Anonymous

    Phil, you’re very attractive when you’re kicking ass and taking names. I encourage this heartily.

    Guys like O’Reilly are dangerous.

  48. James Harmer

    Er sorry Phil, but America is not the entire planet.
    As in “By now the entire planet”.
    I live over here in England and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of this idiot.
    We do get types like him from time to time, but usualy large burly men in white coats take them away to nice cosy padded rooms and feed them gruel from rubber spoons.

  49. Iva

    When my second grader asked what I was watching, I said, “This man thinks that science can’t tell us how the moon got where it is.” I didn’t need to say any more. He quickly and excitedly explained it to me and his explanation was spot-on. I was surprised and impressed! He could give O’Reilly a lesson or two!!

  50. Josh

    I can’t stand when people argue that it’s “luck” that brought us here. It isn’t. It’s billions of years of natural selection. Not luck. Not God. Science.

  51. Yes I would say this argument of HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! is valid in science. WHY? because since the beginning of the comments in Phil’s blog to the end of it, I have laughed quite a lot and has made my day happier. What is a world without science and a world without people to debunk science? per example people like Bill’O Reilly, and by the way for those who don;t know this….he is getting paid for some reason of course… To participate in the media as the best well known clown in the world! ;) Thumbs up for Bill!! Keep the good work! the country needs you!

  52. Relens

    Religions have agendas which ultimately bias their “conclusions.” Science has no agenda other than finding the truth, whatever that truth may be.

  53. Joseph G

    @Quiet Desperation: So it wasn’t a big bang, it was a Big Bounce :D The second the check failed to clear, the Old Ones dragged the whole darn universe back into the mail slot (and out the other side) :D

    @49 James Harmer: As an American, I have to say, that sounds pretty sweet about now. Just a nice padded room with nothing to worry about. Is there cinnamon in the gruel?

    Also, I’d like to apologize. I’m sorry about us Yanks always assuming that everyone on Earth watches all of our asinine TV shows. I mean, you do watch a lot of our asinine TV, but I’m aware that you don’t watch all of it :)
    Also, “asinine” is a bit redundant in this case, I’ve realized.

  54. Arguments like this sort of look at things backwards anyway. Let’s say everything did indeed have to be exactly the way it was for us to be here. Every single sub atomic particle needed to be exactly where it was for this universe to play out with us on Earth. Astronomically small odds of that occurring? Sure. However seeing as we’re observing it, so it did happen that way, the odds that it happened that way are 100%. We wouldn’t be here to make the observation if a life free variation of the universe played out.

    That line of thinking also puts way too much of an emphasis on this universe as some sort of “goal” when that’s the incorrect lens to look through. Getting dealt a poker hand of the 3 of clubs, the 5 of hearts, the Jack of Spades, the Queen of diamonds, and the 7 of hearts is more unlikely than getting dealt a royal flush, we just have no meaning assigned to the hand I described. That being said, you have to be dealt SOME hand, and any exact hand is equally as unlikely.

  55. Tuttle

    Suddenly, Thor’s hammer and Odin’s sword hit in just the right way, and there was a big “bang”.

    Oh come on! There is NO WAY this could be true.

    Everyone knows Odin uses the spear Gungnir and not a sword.

  56. Joseph G

    @48 Dangerous? Papa Bear? Nah, he’s like your “colorful” Uncle who your mother doesn’t like to invite to social events, but he’s popular with some of the family due to his hilarious, rambling tirades about this and that.

    @43 Cameron: Sane people? On Youtube? A broken clock may be right twice a day, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a cuckoo that pops out of it.

  57. A few points:

    The giant-impact theory was first posited /because/ the Earth and the Moon are chemically similar, /but/ the Moon lacks a big iron core. These two facts ruled out /both/ the hypothesis that the Moon co-evolved with Earth /and/ the hypothesis that the Moon was captured. The third hypothesis, that the Moon spun off the Earth, had already failed for lack of a credible mechanism, but seems to have come closest to the truth of the three (traditionally known as the “sister”, “daughter”, and “pick-up” hypotheses).

    What does religion do when science says otherwise? Religion (if it’s a sane one) backs down. Even the man who put Galileo on trial recognized that in a letter he wrote at the time. If Galileo hadn’t been so — ahem! — socially maladjusted, the whole affair might have worked out differently.

    “Who created God?” Monotheistic tradition generally says that God always existed, and the question is meaningless. The more sophisticated go further, and say that “always” actually isn’t quite the right word, because Time is one of the things that God created.

  58. Rocky Roer

    As a Christian, I’ll admit that just because something is hard to admit doesn’t prove that God did it. But just because you CAN explain something, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a designer behind it. You can’t disprove God by explaining something anymore than one can prove He exists because there’s no other explanation.

  59. Anatol

    Call in Neil for another episode of “debunking Bill”. The guy is just desperate.

  60. James Harmer

    @51 Joseph G : Be fair, you watch a lot of our asinine tv too!!

  61. @49

    I don’t see Lord Monckton in a padded room…

  62. A Swede

    @ James Harmer:

    Heh. The same thing goes for Sweden, only more so.

    If someone like Bill O’Reilly tried spewing this kind of nonsense on national television over here, there’s no doubt he’d be unofficially declared insane by a large amount of the viewers unfortunate enough to watch his show. The only time guys like O’Reilly are on TV in Sweden is when they star in documentaries detailing the schizophrenic belief systems held among inmates in insane asylums. A large part of the US citizenry must truly be uninformed and/or delusional concerning science if they can watch a show like this and keep a straight face. And yet idiots like these are allowed to be on prime time television in the United States. Truly, truly disturbing stuff.

    Reality, people. It won’t bite you. Why not try to get to know it a little better?

  63. Wendy

    I was willing to think Billo was talking about the cosmic “why’s”, like an earlier poster said about why the laws of physics & the universe work the way they do. Then I watched another of his videos, where he said:

    “Well you know, if mr hawking wants to come on and tell us how the earth got here, why the sun goes up and down without interruption, why the tide goes in and goes out no miscommunications ever….
    If he wants to explain how all that happens, we’re ready to receive him. But of course, he can’t.”

    That’s worse than argument from ignorance. That’s assertion that if he doesn’t understand it, ONE OF THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN HUMAN HISTORY can’t possibly understand or explain it either.

    (I actually sat through the clip 4 times to make sure I get the quote accurate)

  64. Anchor

    DennyMo says, “…we [meaning scientists] have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.”

    BAH. Excluding divine intervention isn’t convenience but compulsory, otherwise taking out the trash, personal hygiene, paying bills and taxes and all forms of general maintenance in a world dominated by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (and which all require significant effort to hard work) would be considered pleasurable pastimes. Why would scientists possibly wish to hold on to junk, noise and nonsense that messes up or interferes or is irrelevant to the theories they wish to construct?

    Creationists evidently do NOT have a theory which fits known observations, since their explanation invokes a knowledge of nature that precludes having to bother making observations and conducting experimental investigations to start with, all of which is thigh-slappingly hilarious considering that – even with all of that monumental knowledge they claim to possess – they haven’t once predicted a smidgeon of what science has discovered in the last 300 years, and they’ve had over two millennia to come forward with such elementary revelations as that the Earth is round, the planets are worlds, and that the stars are distant suns.

    The hilarity is compounded when creationists and religous fundamentalists in general play up the “You-Weren’t-There-So-How-Do-You-Really-Know???” card.

    They’re adorable.

    What creationists actually find convenient is that they don’t need to discover anything or ask questions about anything, as scientists are obliged to. They have “revelation” to take care of all of those nagging “stupid questions” posed by their naturally curious children before they are irretreivably absorbed into the hive-overmi (…oops, good phrase already taken) uh, fold. They already know how it all got the way it is (“goddidit”) so why should anyone ever have to bother to look into understanding how stuff works when 100% certainty can’t be achieved through scientific investigation, but is attainable (somehow, they never say exactly how) only through ‘faith’.

    Right?

    Pssst…don’t look now, but it looks very much as if the allegedly great and powerful source of all this “revelation” reveals a vessel as empty as the heads that believe its there simply because somebody TOLD them so, and later came to accept the hilarious elaboration of the ‘mature’ expression of faith, that this knowledge, information and conviction all comes from…you guessed it: “divine revelation”.

    As circular an argument as any that can be fashioned.

    The whole frapping point is this: if science allegedly has no capacity to answer questions of the existence of divine agencies intervening in the natural world (the only place, after all, where anybody CAN spot any evidence for it if it is really there, you know, in the form of ‘miracles’ and such claptrap) then SURELY religious faith – which eschews observation and empirical investigation in favor of the alleged ‘first principles’ of faith in the existence of what is by definition inscrutable – has INFINITELY LESS BUSINESS WEIGHING IN ON THE QUESTION let alone affirming it with a Certitude that would make even their GOD blush in embarassment.

  65. Sir Craig

    reidh:

    First, to really look sophmorick you need to misspell sophomoric. Second…wow. You convinced me. That is perhaps the most elegant and straightforward argument ever put forth to convince me there is a “god.” I mean, it has everything: Evidence, logic, reason. I can’t see how anyone can possibly dispute you with this kind of argument.

    Just kidding – that was a whole truckload of nonsense you just made. Work harder on it.

  66. Daniel J. Andrews

    techskeptic beat me to it. darn. Delingpole then?

    Re: Moon and comment 1.
    See here: psi.edu/projects/moon/moon.html

    Hypothesis, prediction, test, support or disprove. Hypothesis, prediction, test, support or disprove.

    Quite a bit different than God did it–hypothesis, err….prediction, prediction, let’s see, we need a prediction…

    “God did it”, is a science stopper.

  67. Well here is a scenario for you Mr Science , Your telling me that all the perfect things in this world happened by accident! Its like me saying that the Swiss watch on my wrist was at first a whole lot of metal parts, and I had them all in a shoe box, and as I was flying on a plane, I threw them out down to earth, and Presto …A perfect Swiss watch came together by accident, Wow, I never realized I am smarter than a so called scientist. Also, God does not believe in Athiest, as far as God is concern, Athiests do not exist.

  68. Randy A.

    The real question is: why in heck would anybody watch Bill O’Reilly? He makes no sense at all, and does it in a really irritating way…

  69. Alan D

    If ignorance is bliss, Bill O’Reilly must be one of the most blissful people in the world.

  70. “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
    – Bertrand Russell

    Of course, there’s no doubt that O’Reilly’s an ass, and isn’t afraid to prove it. Cocksure indeed.

  71. James Harmer

    @55. techskeptic: Not yet you don’t. Give it time …

  72. Science can deepen our appreciation of the beauty of creation. Adding an imaginary axis and letting time run along it simplifies aspects of thinking about what was there before the universe was created. Take the rules of physics as consistency codes for the encoding of the universe, and quantum uncertainty as the fractal rendering of reality.
    I find this mix is more satisfying and allows for more perplexing and intriguing possibilities, If I put God into the mix in some form.
    But using him as a get out of jail free card to excuse intellectual laziness, and to avoid a critical examination of the wonderful universe we live in, is doing all of us an injustice.

  73. Eric K

    I would have loved to be the guest on that show, because the obvious answer is “Bill, how does your microphone work? You can’t explain that, can you?”

  74. Sarah

    Commentaries like this remind as to why I no longer subscribe to Discover magazine. And is nothing to do with O’Reilly or his opinions.

  75. Joseph G

    @56 Wendy: Stephen Hawking? Rly? Jeez.
    I guess that’s an argument from ignorance AND and argument from arrogance :P

    @59 Randy: You wouldn’t be a Keith Olbermann fan, by any chance, would ya? :) Seriously,
    I watch him from time to time and generally find him entertaining enough. The key point, though, is that when people become successful enough, they step away from commenting on what they know and begin to blab about that which they know nothing.
    Like the electrical engineers who look at the collapse of the World Trade Center and say “It was a controlled demolition! Listen to me, I’m an engineer!” Or my personal favorite, Noam Chomsky – brilliant linguist, but he thinks it qualifies him as an expert on global politics and religion, and he’s wrong.
    Bill is similarly mistaken. He gets paid to pontificate on social and political minutia. That’s what he does well. When he leaves that realm, he sticks both feet in his mouth.

  76. Fasil Z.

    Whatever happened to ‘the pleasure of finding things out’ ? O’Reilly is deeply complacent in his ignorance.

  77. QuietDesperation

    Also, “asinine” is a bit redundant in this case, I’ve realized.

    As a Yank myself (double entendre not intended) I distance myself from that sentence. They are few and far between, but we create some pretty awesome shows. My current must watch list is Fringe, Dexter and Venture Brothers.

    I live over here in England and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of this idiot.

    Imagine Jeremy Clarkson doing a political show without any humor content.

    There is the best proof for the existence of God, its called Death.

    Is he going to patch that bug soon? I mean, seriously, 6000 years between updates?

  78. Wendy

    @63 Joseph

    Yep. It was in response to the “Science doesn’t need God” assertion he made a while ago. As appalling as the quote is by itself, it’s infinitely worse when you watch the actual clip to see the scorn on Billo’s face, like he just smelled something rancid. For those brave enough or with strong enough stomach, here’s the clip in question:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt5Xn9X6xtU

  79. Joseph G

    @64 QuietDesperation: As a Yank myself (double entendre not intended) I distance myself from that sentence. They are few and far between, but we create some pretty awesome shows.
    That’s true. But we seem to cancel all the good shows (someone mentioned Firefly, I think). Meanwhile, those walking shells of spray-tan and hair-gel on Jersey Shore are writing BOOKS.
    Well, someone’s probably ghostwriting them. But people are buying. Gah.

    Is he going to patch that bug soon? I mean, seriously, 6000 years between updates?

    And I thought Ubuntu patches took forever to come out! Talk about ignoring your user base!

  80. Skiznot

    Face palm. Open a Astronomy textbook! We know how stars are formed. We know how planets and moons form. If he wan’ts to deny science, he shouldn’t be able to use a computer or a TV camera or the fiber optics cables that take his pro ignorance message to his under educated tribe. The same science that developed all those technologies is the process that reveals how stars are formed.

  81. Peter L

    @TechyDad
    If I remember rightly, the core of the impacter is supposed to have sunk into our own, while it was the outer layers ended up in the encircling cloud that became the moon, which is, I believe, largely consistant with what has been found out about the moon’s coposition.

  82. Ron1

    I was going to give Denny Mo the prize for DUMBEST COMMENT OF THE DAY :) , until @10 Mike Burkhart said,

    “I’ll just say this : Science tells us how God dose things ,Gods hand is in everything. But science cannot prove,nor disprove God. and science should not even try.”

    ……………………………………………..

    Really – “science should not even try” to prove or disprove God ?

    Mike, that’s like waving a red flag at a bull.

    Although it probably won’t happen in my lifetime, I am very confident that science will ultimately determine that God is a biochemically induced fabrication of the human mind resulting from genes carried by the believer living in an environment where delusional thought is encouraged. Of course, science being science, my hypothesis may, in fact, be deemed wrong and something better will arise. Who knows, in the end, science might determine that god is not a product of the human mind and is in fact something separate.

    Regardless, science is a process that arises out of curiosity. Right or wrong, curiosity has brought us to where we are today and saying “we should not even try” is simply denying what is probably the best of humanity.

    As an aside, I am in full agreement with you that using the phrase “science tells us how God does things” is an acceptable idea that can go a long way to maintaining peace between people. For me, it keeps God off in the realm of the irrelevant and my life goes on peacefully. For you, it keeps God in the realm of the intimately relevant and your life goes on peacefully.

    Cheers

  83. Gonçalo Aguiar

    @mike burkhart
    Wrong. God (if it exists) doesn’t “belong” to anything.

    —————————
    Believer: “Sun is God”
    Scientist: “No, Sun is a Star”

    Believer: “The moving stars are gods”
    Scientist: “No, moving starts are planets”

    Believer: “Earth is flat”
    Scientist: “No, Earth is a spheroid”

    Believer: “Earth is the center of the Universe”
    Scientist: “No, the Sun is the center of the Solar System”

    Believer: “God created the universe”
    Future scientist: “No, we’ve just discovered how the universe formed. It formed when …”

    (We will eventually discover it, as we have debunked all other past claims.)

  84. Larry

    From the corner of his mouth, reidh dribbled: There is the best proof for the existence of God, its called Death. The best evidence is Life. Get to know it!

    There is the best proof for the existence of god, it is called cream cheese. The best evidence are magnets. How do they f**king work?

    Tag, reidh. Your turn.

  85. Chris

    As much as I dislike Bill, I’m going to give him a tip:

    The tides and the creation of the moon are things that have been extensively studied and explained with rather sound theories.

    If you want something to use as a gotcha that actually is both inexplicable (well, except as a random coincidence with no actual cause) and neat as all get out, ask an astrophysicist why the moon and the sun have approximately the same angular size. Why the heck do our solar eclipses look so perfect?

    It’s still a God of the Gaps fallacy, and it doesn’t actually prove a damn thing, but it’s a much neater phenomenon that can only be explained as random chance, which I guess all those religious folks will take to mean “God did it.”

  86. Nemo

    @TechyDad #7:

    To him, religion “knows the truth.” The fact that they keep at the same explanation (“God did it”) is a strength. Meanwhile, science is constantly changing their story — a clear sign of weakness to them.

    I’m surprised that a Rabbi could be unaware of just how inconstant religion’s answers actually are — how much they’ve changed over time, even within his own sect, never mind how they change from sect to sect and person to person. But probably he is aware, and just chooses to ignore it.

  87. viggen

    Careful… debunking the lunacy seen and heard on Faux News could become a full time vocation!

    I dare you to adopt the same measuring stick with CNN and MSNBC. You’ll discover that they are exactly no better, just closer to your ideology. People are people, left or right wing.

  88. Nemo

    ask an astrophysicist why the moon and the sun have approximately the same angular size.

    OK, I’m not an astrophysicist, but I can answer this: It’s a temporary phenomenon. The Moon started out closer to Earth, and is slowly spiraling away. Given that, at any point, its angular size was larger than the Sun’s, then as its apparent size declines as it retreats, it’s inevitable that at some point their apparent sizes will roughly match. That point happens to be now — but for that to be meaningful, you first have to assume that “now” is a special time, just because we’re here to see it. Otherwise, it doesn’t even qualify as a coincidence.

  89. Joseph G

    @#70 Chris: Not only that, but the moon is slowly receding from the earth. At some point it will look significantly smaller then the disc of the sun. So it’s not just that we have a nice big moon that’s fairly close to us, we’re here at just the right point in Earth’s history to enjoy those eclipses.

    Clearly this is a sign writ large across the heavens by his Noodly Appendage – the sun and the moon represent the Meatballs of Beneficence, equal in size, as His aspects are in harmony.
    Praise FSM!

  90. John A.

    It’s all an act to draw attention. You’ve got to admit, he’s pretty good at that.

  91. Colin

    If anyone makes me want to return to being an atheist, it’s Bill O’Reilly. If you make it necessary to not believe in the universe in order to believe in God, you’ve really got a problem.

  92. Ron1

    @72 viggen.

    You sir, are guilty of making a false equivalency — the lunacy at Fox is demonstrably greater than the lunacy at CNN (?) or MSNBC.

    (And that’s using the same measuring stick .ie number and intensity of lunatic [false/hateful/inciteful] statements per time period.)

  93. Forget the astronomers and oceanographers. My 5th-grade students can explain it–and we’re even in TEXAS!

  94. Earl of Edmonds

    @72.

    my dear Viggen you are mistaken.

    i think the other cable news-lets can locate Egypt on a map…..but not Faux news.

    http://crooksandliars.com/nicole-belle/example-2439329-why-watching-fox-news

    nor have i seen any others mislabel the politicos in trouble like Foley with a ‘D’ nest to their names.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/10/9/255474/-Fox-News-mislabels-party-affiliations-AGAIN

  95. Eric

    While he’s on the subject: Magnets, how do they work?

  96. Jon

    Probably a bit late in this thread, but the first person to explain the tides (and provide mathematical backing, so they could be *predicted*) was Isaac Newton. His theories of gravity explained them quite well, far better than any theory had before.

    Oddly enough, for a seafaring nation before the era of tugboats, the tide was a fascinating topic long before him. If you’re trying to horse a sail-driven ship up the River Thames in a light breeze, you’d darn well better know what the tides are doing.

    Furthermore, I happen to have a copy of Bowditch’s Practical Navigator, and it has a monstrously thick chapter on tides. They’re not nearly as simple in most locations as the Earth-Moon-Sun model would make them (largely due to Earth’s geographical features, both above and below water).

    J.

    PS – Finally, on God and Predictability: Never a miscommunication? Hehe. Abraham takes his first-born son up to be sacrificed, and God comes back with “Oh, just testing”. And now Mr. O’ Reilly takes up the claim of God’s evidence through predictability by citing the tides, a matter made predictable by the mathematics of one guy named “Isaac”… *hehe*
    J.

  97. Frank

    I, in my tiny archipelago nation, will laugh at the land of the free for letting this man walk the streets. Ha! Ha hahaha!

    There.

  98. Brian Too

    Complete waste of time, I’m sorry. Bill O’Reilly is in the ratings game. He has a identified point of view, audience, and his show is about keeping that audience watching.

    What Bill does, what all believers do, is to start with the answer and work backwards from there. He could stop with the answer (state the answer; you’re done) but that makes for a show that is too short. He’s got a lot of air time to fill.

    So he backfills with as much logic as he can. When the logic runs out he starts with the logical fallacies and emotional ploys. When that doesn’t work (say, a determined opponent) he raises his voice and resorts to bullying.

    Have any of you ever witnessed Bill raising his voice and saying things like “Shut Up!” or “Get off my show!”. I have. It’s a fools errand trying to debate this guy. For each debating strategy you might come up with he has a response that will trump you. Ultimately it is his show and people come to watch the fights. The playing field is not level and that’s the way Bill (and his fans) like it.

    This is the modern day version of the Roman Coliseum epics. Battle recreations, gladiators, throwing Christians to the lions. A little blood sport to keep the citizens content.

  99. Messier Tidy Upper

    ignorance is not a goal. It’s an opportunity to learn more.
    .. [SNIP!] … As long as we’re curious, and keep our eyes and minds open, we’ll be able to explore the Universe, and we’ll never run out of things to question and explain.

    ^ This!!! Well said BA & seconded by me 100%. :-)

  100. Alan D

    @Chris, who wrote, in part…
    “If you want something to use as a gotcha that actually is both inexplicable (well, except as a random coincidence with no actual cause) and neat as all get out, ask an astrophysicist why the moon and the sun have approximately the same angular size. Why the heck do our solar eclipses look so perfect?”

    Chris,
    I’ve put my thinking cap, because I recently read something about this. It argued that having them appear close to the same size wasn’t actually that unlikely. Now where was that?

    Oh dear, I think this came up during a question period after a talk on the formation of the Moon, so I probably can’t retrieve the argument.

    Clear skies, Alan

  101. QuietDesperation

    Finally watched the video. Some other above are correct. At the end of the day, ideologues play to their audiences. O’Reilly was an honors student in college and got a history degree. He went on to get another degree from Boston U and a Master’s from Harvard. You think for one second he doesn’t know what causes tides or where the Moon came from? C’mon… He’s playing you guys just as much as his audience.

    I don’t think Michael Moore, if he got cancer, would be running down to Cuba for treatment, either, or that he really is a 9/11 Truther.

    I also think Ann Coulter parties it up with left wingers after hours and has a good laugh at the reaction he books cause, but I admit that one is heavy speculation. ;-)

  102. QuietDesperation

    I’ve put my thinking cap, because I recently read something about this. It argued that having them appear close to the same size wasn’t actually that unlikely. Now where was that?

    I’d say it’s just a coincidence, and that there is nothing at all profound about it. As someone else mentioned above, this angular size match hasn’t always been the case, nor will it always be. People might as well find some significance in the fact that one side remains tidal locked to us.

    That idea is the one of the main drivers in the early history of science. That the Earth and its environs are ever changing, albeit slowly, was an early major point of contention between the theistic orthodoxy and the fledgling craft of scientific inquiry. Any vast change to the Earth from the church’s point of view had to be quick and catastrophic- the biblical flood, for example- and of divine origin.

  103. Jordan

    So many of you guys are making so many generalizations about christainity. Half of what you think about christainity is completly wrong and your philsophy about God and science is so inncorrect that you can’t even give a proper argument. And yeah this guys seems half retarded. So case in point, before you defend your beliefs, pick up the slack and read the bible ( or any religious book)so you really know what you are talking about. Disscuss.

  104. Alan D

    No, it hasn’t always matched. As I said, the argument was that it wasn’t odd that their apparent size would be reasonably close. It may have started with “once we had a Moon of this size…” Too close, and it would have eventually collided with Earth. Too far away, and it would have escaped. At the right distance for a stable orbit, and it would been very roughly the same apparent size of the Sun, and thus have a better chance of the two matching at some point in the history of the Earth-Moon.

    Anyway, that’s all I can dredge up, and I can’t guarantee its veracity. Should have taken notes – but I may be able to find someone who did.

    Clear skies, Alan

  105. Gunnar

    One big problem is that too many people (especially many of those who are religiously devout) are reluctant to believe in improbable coincidences. Whenever they see something improbable, the automatic assumption is “Goddidit.” If they really took time to think about it, they would realize (if they are not complete morons) that absolutely nothing would be more improbable than the complete absence of improbable coincidences. Sure, it may be highly improbable that a given planet might form that is just the right size and placed in just the right orbit around just the right star and with a moon of just the right mass to create the conditions that are suitable for life as we know it, but in a universe as vast as we know it to be, the probability that even such an improbable occurrence would NEVER occur anywhere at all is infinitesimally tinier still. This just happens to be one of the few places where that improbability happened to occur. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here discussing the matter. The God hypothesis does not even come close to being a necessary explanation for that coincidence.

  106. MattF

    DennyMo: “Because we know how the Moon got there”

    I’m sorry, but statements like this are no better than unverifiable claims that “God did it.”

    That’s where you’re wrong. It’s wrong precisely because of how we know the Moon got there that way.

    If we have a potential explanation involving a massive collision with a proto-Earth, we can test that explanation. The facts are either consistent with that explanation or they aren’t. So far, an amazing pile of facts agrees. That’s as close to knowing as humanly possible (since even our eyes can play tricks on us).

    The “God” hypothesis, by contrast, is completely untestable. You can’t tell whether or not the facts you observe are consistent with the idea that God created the Moon; especially if you posit an omnipotent God, there is no way to falsify the idea, even in principle. In other words, you can’t know it because you can’t demonstrate that it is true in spite of potential falsification.

    DennyMo: You’re constantly talking about how science is better than religion because science is observable, verifiable, repeatable, subject to change as new evidence comes in, etc. In the case of the moon, who observed the collision? Who has observed another planet’s moon being created by such a process?

    Newsflash: Not even close to all of the things that science understands have been directly observed. Especially in astronomy. (Unlike other sciences, it’s often impossible even to get a different point of view on something being directly observed; much of our understanding must be derived from logical inference.) The entire notion of forensic science as a discipline depends on the fact that we can know things without directly witnessing them.

    DennyMo: Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.

    You’ve missed the point. Creationists conveniently have an explanation which requires absolutely no knowledge, and which knowledge cannot inform. We have a theory which improves as our knowledge does, and requires some knowledge to understand in the first place.

    See the word underpinning the key difference? Hint: It’s the word related to the word “know”.

    Oh, and for those arguing the same apparent size of the Sun and Moon as evidence of God: They don’t have the same apparent size, most of the time. Close, but far enough from exact that the difference can be detected with the naked eye. Is God imperfect, that He would screw up the very evidence of His existence? If He meant for this to be evidence of His existence, why would He make it so flawed (and potentially misleading)?

  107. steve

    Try checking his facts. He is almost never wrong.

  108. IF you have not read NDT’s latest book Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, I highly recc. it. Just excellent.

    ds

  109. Jonathan

    The real question, of course, is how did Bill O’Reilly get there, and the answer is obviously even god makes mistakes. :p

  110. Ron1

    Sorry @10 Mike Burkhart, but @69 Larry is right – @33. reidh wins the DUMBEST COMMENT OF THE DAY, and by far.

    Go get ‘im Larry – he deserves it.

  111. jld

    Do you americans realize how RIDICULOUS you appear to the rest of the world?
    Not only having the likes of O’Reilly but having to ARGUE AGAINST such retardation?
    Less offensive but just as daft as the Islamists…

  112. Sam

    Though I agree with you almost entirely, Dr. Plait, I think you should watch out for one word when describing science. Science doesn’t explain “why” things happen; it explains “how.” “Why” implies meaning and will. We don’t know the meaning of the sun and moon’s existence; science has elucidated how they came into being. And yes, Bill O’Reilly has the most pin-shaped of heads.

  113. Messier Tidy Upper

    @101. myself – Messier Tidy Upper said :

    “..ignorance is not a goal. It’s an opportunity to learn more. ..

    ^ This!!! Well said BA & seconded by me 100%.

    However, ..

    [I meant to add there but had to rush off & didn't have to time to finish that : ]

    … As long as we’re curious, and keep our eyes and minds open, we’ll be able to explore the Universe, and we’ll never run out of things to question and explain.

    It is NOT just being curious and having the right open enquiring mind set, good & necessary though that is.

    We also need to display the will to do such exploration and partaking of such scientific journeys of discovery – & to support those doing so – and we also need to make sure that gets funded sufficently.

    Without the determination and funding to go out explorng and getting answers to our endless questions such rhetoric is goes nowhere.

    Incidentally, I haven’t seen much of Bill O’Reilly at all. I’ve heard him mentioned by various folks on blogs, in the media etc .. second or third hand, but I don’t get Fox and have never once seen his show. I did see him interviewed on Letterman once and he came over quite well & reasonably there.

    So I’m going to reserve judgement on how typical or otherwise the clip with the idiocy expressed above is of him. Maybe like many folks he’s reasonable on some things where he knows what he’s talking about and not on other things where he doesn’t? Just a thought?

  114. Jeffersonian

    seriously, you gotta be an incredible idiot to think O’reilly should have anybody listening to him
    what a pox on humanity

  115. O’Reilly would never understand the science anyway, but the bigger problem here is that he breaking the first commandment by committing idolatry…

    If you want to follow Jesus, you’re (essentially) supposed be nice to everyone.. do unto others, etc etc, not go around pointing out all the things that god did. (if god made the universe, then isn’t it beating a dead horse to point out the individual components of the universe?)

    using “things” to validate your beliefs, sees you focusing on those “things”, like the tides coming and going, and if you just have some “thing” to prove that your god exists, then you start to assume that that’s all you need to believe..

    the only proof that people should be giving to “prove” god, at least for christians, is to act like Jesus actually exists, because if you aren’t nice to everyone at all times and claim to be christian, then you are indeed proving that there is no god, because what true believer would *dare* not do what their Jesus taught them?

  116. tudza

    Last time I was reading about tides I was surprised to learn that some places don’t have tides. I got the impression that local water conditions in some places had what I thought of a a tide capacitor, evening out the tide rise and fall.

    So, most places have a daily rise an fall, but some places apparently do not.

    They didn’t give an example of such a place. Anyone know of one?

  117. Crowley

    It’s worth becoming a member of Bill’s website to hear more of this rubbish. I really needed a pick me up and his video above did it, its the funniest thing I’ve heard today :-)

  118. Messier Tidy Upper

    Well having looked at a couple more O’Reilly Youtube clips I have to say that NOT everything O’Reilly says is dumb. For example who would argue with this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=718JRbn7VLY&feature=channel

    Direct Bill O’Reilly quote from there :

    “…Americans have common sense, most of them that I’ve met, I mean there are dunderheads .. y’know you’re born with this [taps head]; you don’t use it, you’re an idiot, you develop it, you can go far.”

    Then again his comments on the Stephen Hawking one :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt5Xn9X6xtU&NR=1

    *Shudder* :-(

    Although please note he also notes there :

    “.. if they want to be non-believers I don’t care that’s up to them.”

    So chalk one up to him being reasonably tolerant of those who disagree with him.

  119. Messier Tidy Upper

    @119. tudza :

    Last time I was reading about tides I was surprised to learn that some places don’t have tides. I got the impression that local water conditions in some places had what I thought of a a tide capacitor, evening out the tide rise and fall.So, most places have a daily rise an fall, but some places apparently do not. They didn’t give an example of such a place. Anyone know of one?

    I could be mistaken about this but I think the Meditterrean Sea is one such example – apparently the ancient Greek and Roman sailors were surprised to find tides (or at least big ones) elsewhere.

    I think most landlocked bodies of water – inland seas like the Black Sea, Dead Sea & The US-Canadian Great Lakes are fairly tideless.

    Does anyone care to confirm or deny that idea?

  120. Adrock

    As the moon moves slighlty further away from us every year, does this mean God’s power is diminishing? Maybe he’s getting tired.

  121. Messier Tidy Upper

    @9. Ken B :

    Dave: “Following his illogic, how did God get there?”

    Long ago, Thor and Odin were battling each other to see who should rule over everything. Suddenly, Thor’s hammer and Odin’s sword hit in just the right way, and there was a big “bang”. The rest, as they say, is history.

    I thought God was the love child of the Invisible Pink Unicorn & the Flying Sphaghetti Monster! ;-)

    Seriously though, I gather that the usual idea is that God has *always* been here. That God is Eternal and thus had trillions of yeras & more before Creation.

    Or there’s Isaac Asimov’s answer to that question in a great little short story – called the last Question or something like that. :-)

  122. Messier Tidy Upper

    @11. TechyDad :

    @DennyMo, Actually, the impact theory is testable. Not in the “let’s smack the Earth with a giant planet and see what happens” sense, of course. Instead, the Moon forming from Earth-splatter rather than from other methods means that it would have a similar composition to the Earth. We can test this and compare it to other moons on other planets. Mars’ moons, for example. I’m pretty sure this testing has been done, but I don’t have the data (or the time to look it up)… perhaps someone else can fill in the gaps here. If this holds up then Mars’ moons should have a different makeup than Mars does while the Moon is made of relatively the same stuff as Earth is.

    Pluto which is similar to Earth in a number of respects (eg. nitrogen atmosphere, snowfall, seasonal weather) is also similar in this one – we think Charon & its other moons were formed in a similar Big Splah impact event – although Pluto might additionally have faint rings from that as well – see :

    http://www.space.com/724-pluto-hit-twin-create-moon-study-suggests.html

    & also

    http://www.space.com/2075-pluto-rings.html

    BTW. ‘P1′ & ‘P2′ Pluto two smaller moons are now named Nix and Hydra.

    @8. TheBlackCat :

    We can see events fundamentally similar happening right now in our own solar system.

    And NOT just in our solar system but among other stars as well for instance :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/08/10/when-worlds-collide/

    When we observed an interplanetary collisison around the star HD 172555 involving an object the size of the Moon slamming into a planet the size of Mercury! :-)

    Althoough I’m not sure about such major impacts occuring in our solar system right now – thankfully! ;-)

    (We have observed an asteroid collisionor its aftermath recetly however.)

    There is plenty of evidence for planetary collisions being fairly common as (#22) Anchor has also noted.

  123. Father Tyme

    “THOU art God!” – V. M. Smith

  124. Gunnar

    @MTU

    Which story are you referring to? I imagine you probably mean the one where the Universal Super Computer which was the last surviving relic of mankind’s existence finally computed that the answer to the question “can entropy be reversed?” was “yes!”, long after entropy had reached a maximum and all the stars had burned out and man was long gone, and said “Let there be light!”

    Are you also familiar with the story set in the far future when mankind finally finished a project to connect all computers in the Galaxy via hyperspace radio connections to form one humongous super computer and asked it “Is there a God?”, and the computer answered “Now there is!”, whereupon the panicked chief technician who had just soldered the last connection and turned on the main switch was vaporized by a bolt of lightening as he leaped for the switch to turn it off again?

  125. Snowshoe the Canuck

    How about A.C. Clarke’s “Nine Billion Names of God” where a group of programmers write code to print out the 9 giganames of god using some secret alphabet? The stars go out one by one.

  126. Messier Tidy Upper

    @40. techskeptic :

    …Why can’t theists ever come up with something actually tangible, measurable, quantifiable for the existence of god. It would shut the lot of us up quickly.

    I’m no theologican*, however, I think the standard answer to that question is because it would remove our Free Will. If we had Absolute Proof of God’s existence then we wouldn’t need Faith – or Science – and we would no longer be independent and have the ability to choose for ourselves how we relate to God.

    *If* there was Absolute proof of God then, probably, we would not be living in this world & would NOT be who we are. Maybe God loves us for who we are and wants us like this? So if there is a Diety then perhaps It / She / He may deliberately have set things up so that we *cannot* determine His / Her / Its reality for ourselves because that’s what God wants for whatever mysterious reasons?

    You may find that an unsatisfying answer but I think its a hard one to refute.

    The notion of such a God then deciding to send non-believers to some form of hell for not-believing when that Absolute Proof is withheld seems pretty harsh and nasty – but that is NOT necessarily a true situation (reality?) and the God that I’d like to think exists is forgiving and merciful and understanding and would NOT have hell or at worst have it severely limited and temporary not the endless torture some religions claim.

    ———-

    * I am an agnostic who can see both sides of the “Does some sort of God exist” question. There are good arguments (& I have good friends &family members) on both sides of that issue – and *both* sides, I think, also unfortunately engage in a lot of cherry-picking, strawmen arguments and hurtful, unhelpful name-calling nastiness.

    I am unconvinced by either side, each has its flaws and its strengths. I probably lean slightly more towards more to the atheists side than the religious one (55 : 45 maybe?) but I also still see some possibility that God be real – and I don’t think the case against God is so strong that the possibility of Gods existence can be entirely ruled out.

    I have concluded in my reading and reflecting on this matter though that this is a much more complicated area than the simplistic arguements – and arguers – on the atheist and the religious side would have everybody think.

    I would also say I am not a follower of any organised religion and strongly think that religion should be a matter of personal individual choice (preferably based on study or personal experiences) rather than any form of compulsion.

  127. Messier Tidy Upper

    @125. Gunnar :

    @MTU – Which story are you referring to? I imagine you probably mean the one where the Universal Super Computer which was the last surviving relic of mankind’s existence finally computed that the answer to the question “can entropy be reversed?” was “yes!”, long after entropy had reached a maximum and all the stars had burned out and man was long gone, and said “Let there be light!”

    Yes! That’s the one. :-)

    It was called The Last Question and can be found on Wikipedia :

    (Usual web address starter code) en (dot) wikipedia (dot) org (slash) wiki (slash)The_Last_Question

    with the full text available here :

    http:// www (dot) multivax (dot) com (slash) last_question (dot) html

    It was apparently Isaac Asimov’s personal favourite story out of all those he wrote and its one of mine too. ;-)

    I like that idea, heretical as it may sound to some, the idea that we can build / become God through science .. who knows it may even happen -and if it does if we can cretae an entity that can do anything then that anything would include time-travel and .. all sorts.

    Not a scientific idea really, nor a provable one either way (yet) and *if* such an AI-Human (or other alien sentience?) God *does* exist then the “Multivac” model God would also – perhaps – need us to be scientific and logical NOT live in joyous but perhaps unproductive absolute Faith & harmony in order to come into being. :-)

    Asimov also had a great religion themed short story joke / serious idea in another story where Aaron decides the price of papyrus means Moses can’t write the proper (billions of years) account of the creation buthas toshorten it to just six days! ;-)

    (Called I think ‘How It happened’ if memory serves.)

    There also seem similar sort of ideas – not quite the same – in Clarke’s Space Odyssey monolith building aliens and in his Childhood’s End novel.

    SF religions~wise there’s also something to be said, methinks, for the Minbari / Narn one in ‘Babylon-5′ – except for the excessive numberof hyper-precise rituals – the idea of the Universe itself as sentient and Divine is interesting if undeveloped in the series.

    Are you also familiar with the story set in the far future when mankind finally finished a project to connect all computers in the Galaxy via hyperspace radio connections to form one humongous super computer and asked it “Is there a God?”, and the computer answered “Now there is!”, whereupon the panicked chief technician who had just soldered the last connection and turned on the main switch was vaporized by a bolt of lightening as he leaped for the switch to turn it off again?

    Yeah I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of it at least as a joke. Very UnAsimovian though – that idea smacks more of technophobia and what Asimov called the “Frankenstein Complex.” Are you sure that’s one of his? ;-)

    @126. Snowshoe the Canuck : Yes, Clarke’s “Nine Billion Names of God” is a good one too. I wonder if it inspired the somewhat similar~ish Logopolis cncept in Dr Who? (Tom Baker era – with companions Tegan and Nyssa.)

  128. Nigel Depledge

    DennyMo (1) said:

    “Because we know how the Moon got there”

    I’m sorry, but statements like this are no better than unverifiable claims that “God did it.” You’re constantly talking about how science is better than religion because science is observable, verifiable, repeatable, subject to change as new evidence comes in, etc. In the case of the moon, who observed the collision? Who has observed another planet’s moon being created by such a process? We “know”? Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention. Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.

    I’m sorry, but this is utter hogwash.

    You are omitting everything that we know about the context of the moon’s formation.

    You are conveniently “forgetting” that events that happened in the past have left evidence that we can interpret and examine today.

    So, correcting your strawman about the moon’s formation:

    We have a theory for the formation of the moon that fits all the known data; furthermore, no other plausible mechanism also fits the known data. Therefore, as far as anyone knows anything about anything, we do know how the moon got there.

  129. Messier Tidy Upper

    To refresh your memory on Logopolis see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logopolis

    We *have* observed an asteroid collision or its aftermath recently however.

    This one :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/02/hubble-captures-picture-of-asteroid-collision/

    was what I was referring to there.

    While this gives the very basics on the Minbari religion idea :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minbari#Religion

    ” The Minbari have a belief that the universe itself is sentient, and that the universe has the ability to break itself into many pieces and invests itself in every form of life. Consequently, every being is a projection of a part of the universal soul. They believe that the universe uses the perspective of individual sentient beings in a process of self-examination and a search for meaning (similar to the real-life belief of pantheism), this could also be a reference to the quote “We are a way for the universe to know itself”[5] from astronomer Carl Sagan.

    There are actually lots of interesting and generally well-handled stories, scenes and ideas religion~wise in Babylon-5. One of my faves is the candle metaphor used by Delenn on the eve of the Telepath war or Narn-Drazi attack on the Centauri. (I forget which now.) Simple but very moving I thought. Also Dr Stephen Franklin’s religion was an interesting and, I think, good idea. :-)

  130. Gunnar

    @126 MTU

    I’m fairly sure that second story was also one of his, but I could be wrong. I realize that Asimov was no technophobe. It was intended, I think, to be very much “tongue in cheek”–even more so than the first. I thought it was funnier than the other one, even though, overall, I liked the other one better.

    Clarke’s story is another one of my favorites as well.

  131. Gunnar

    @MTU and techskeptic

    I find it impossible to believe in a god who would deliberately withhold conclusive evidence of his existence and then punish anyone for all eternity merely for failure to accept his/her/its existence on faith alone, and would be so narcissistic and insecure as to need anyone’s worship.

    Even if there is a God, those who live an honorable life and strive to deal honestly and compassionately with others, as they would like others to treat them, without any expectation or hope of reward or punishment in the hereafter for how they have treated others, are, if anything, more deserving of divine reward than devoutly religious individuals whose main motivation is the promise of such reward, or fear of punishment.

    I find the idea of a god who cannot forgive anyone who has ever misbehaved even in the slightest, no matter how sincerely repentent, unless someone who has never “sinned” was cruelly tortured to death to atone for the sins of the guilty, to be particularly reprehensible!

  132. Martin

    Alan Musgrave has a most excellent anecdote abut David Stove going to a postmodernist’s lecture with his friend, a physicist. The postmodernist said “The moon is not there if we d not observe it” (an extension of the world is only a text) and Stove’s friend quipped “Luckily the tides keep track of it…”

  133. Happy Camper

    Phil:

    Tidal bore is a pretty good play on words. I don’t know if anyone else caught it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z5hxPdhtvg&feature=related

  134. Donovan

    Phil did not overstep his credentials by saying we KNOW how the moon got there. We do KNOW. To say we don’t really KNOW is absurd.

    I don’t really KNOW I was born in 1976. My memory on that is a little hazy. I don’t really KNOW I am not a Peruvian elderly woman having a dream in 1237bce. Wow, deep, huh?

    Now, if we can move beyond freshman “Intro to Philosophy” and all the epistemological relativism and cognitive game playing, we might get somewhere. We do, indeed, KNOW how the moon came to be. We KNOW how the sun came to be. We KNOW how YOU came to be.

    Might we be wrong? Technically, yes. There is nothing wrong with saying we KNOW something in science. There is nothing wrong with calling something a FACT in science. There is nothing wrong with calling something TRUE in science. The only thing we need to do is make sure what we KNOW to be a TRUE FACT fits the evidence, and if not, then we KNOW we are wrong and accept the new FACT. Because of this, science KNOWS more than any other thought process.

  135. Snowshoe the Canuck

    According to Wikipedia, Leigh Brackett wrote a story in 1942 where there was a line “Witchcraft to the ignorant, …. Simple science to the learned”.

    So if tides prove the existance of God, then God doesn’t exist where are no tides? Alberta & the Dakotas are now the homes of the heathens and atheists? Yahoooo!

  136. Messier Tidy Upper

    That Minbari candle scene here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihA4qZYWikw&feature=related

    Via Youtube with Delenn telling Sheridan about the symbolism. Poetic.

    And I’ve just found out the actor who played Dr Stephen Franklin, Richard Biggs, has died – back in 2004. He was only 44. :-(

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cHWjTZC3QI

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Franklin

    I hadn’t heard. I was aware that Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar) had passed away soem years ago but not Biggs. :-(

  137. Nigel Depledge

    Rocky Roer (59) said:

    As a Christian, I’ll admit that just because something is hard to admit doesn’t prove that God did it. But just because you CAN explain something, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a designer behind it.

    In principle, you are correct.

    However, in any meaningful sense, that doesn’t matter. The universe (Earth and its moon included) appear to be exactly the way we would expect them to be if everything had developed to its present state through natural processes.

    You can’t disprove God by explaining something anymore than one can prove He exists because there’s no other explanation.

    But god is superfluous as an explanation for how and why the universe is the way it is. The positing of a god therefore violates the principle of parsimony and is therefore irrational.

    And humans have always been irrational . . .

  138. Messier Tidy Upper

    Then there’s this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGRxM1I-M_0

    other Babylon-5 religion! Complete with one awesome diety. ;-)

  139. Nigel Depledge

    Imad (68) said:

    Well here is a scenario for you Mr Science , Your telling me that all the perfect things in this world happened by accident!

    Erm … what perfect things?

    Come on, ante up. Show me one thing that is perfect.

    Second, nothing became the way it is through “accident” as your strawman argument would have it. Things became the way they are through the action of known natural processes. That’s not “accident”.

    Its like me saying that the Swiss watch on my wrist was at first a whole lot of metal parts, and I had them all in a shoe box, and as I was flying on a plane, I threw them out down to earth, and Presto …A perfect Swiss watch came together by accident, Wow, I never realized I am smarter than a so called scientist.

    This is rather a pathetic argument.

    First, there is no parallel between the parts of a watch and (say) the molecules that make up living things. Watch parts are fixed, rigid things, each serving one (or perhaps just 2) specific functions within the entirety of the watch.

    The components of living organisms are flexible, versatile and may serve half a dozen different functions sufficiently well to be useful today. Don’t believe me? Google “MAP kinase” and see if you can count the known functions of it.

    Second, you demand that these disparate parts come together in one instant to form a whole that works at its present level of competence, whereas the components of living things started from being very inefficient (probably) and have gradually become more and more efficient (in most cases) at what they do.

    Your argument by analogy fails.

    Also, God does not believe in Athiest, as far as God is concern, Athiests do not exist.

    Does this actually mean anything?

  140. L Stearn

    I don’t understand the need to denegrate religion on the part of “scientists”. I also don’t understand Discover magazine publishing this anti-God crap in a country where 80% of the people believe in God. I for one, will NEVER subscribe again. Good luck with “Athiest Discover” subscriptions.

  141. Dunc

    In the case of the moon, who observed the collision? Who has observed another planet’s moon being created by such a process? We “know”? Not really, we have a theory which fits the known data, and conveniently excludes divine intervention.

    I came home from work one day to discover my front door lock was broken and all my stuff was missing. But since I wasn’t there to see it, I have absolutely no idea what happened… Maybe God did it.

  142. Nigel Depledge

    Jordan (105) said:

    So many of you guys are making so many generalizations about christainity. Half of what you think about christainity is completly wrong and your philsophy about God and science is so inncorrect that you can’t even give a proper argument. And yeah this guys seems half retarded. So case in point, before you defend your beliefs, pick up the slack and read the bible ( or any religious book)so you really know what you are talking about. Disscuss.

    Did you have a point to make?

    If so, perhaps you can point out some of the specific errors that people have made, hmmm?

    Hey, how about you make an actual argument to support the claims you are making, or would that be too much like hard work?

  143. Nigel Depledge

    L Stearn (144) said:

    I don’t understand the need to denegrate religion on the part of “scientists”. I also don’t understand Discover magazine publishing this anti-God crap in a country where 80% of the people believe in God. I for one, will NEVER subscribe again. Good luck with “Athiest Discover” subscriptions.

    So, tell us:
    Which part of “O’Reilly is a moron” (my paraphrase) is denigrating god or religion?

    And, if you want to suppress criticism of religion, perhaps you should move to an actual theocracy?

  144. Someone commented way up in the list here about the Moon having the same angular size as the Sun. That’s mostly true but the Moon varies in distance from Earth. The orbit is elliptical, even if slightly. Same for Earth and Sun. Distance varies, and so we have a perihelion and an aphelion.

    A great example of the Moon having a varying distance is the type of eclipse called an Annular eclipse. Also called the ring of fire. The Moon is a little further away during this kind of eclipse and you can see the solar disk. Just google annular eclipse. They look amazing, like someone punched a hole in the sun. :)

    http://www.mreclipse.com/SEphoto/ASE2005/image/A05-105900w.JPG

  145. Andrew

    Of course the real Bill O’Reilly was an Australian cricketer. The extrordinary exploits of Tiger O’Reilly – the best bowler in the world for much of his career – are still remembered 65 years after he stopped playing, and 18 years after his death.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_O%27Reilly_(cricketer)

    I wonder how long the other Mr O’Reilly will be remembered, and why.

  146. Quark1

    Do you americans realize how RIDICULOUS you appear to the rest of the world?

    Do you “non-americans” realize what ignorant bigots you sound like every time you try and paint us with a broad brush? Oh, and that shattering sound you hear is your glass house flying into a million pieces. Go worry about your own issues.

  147. Messier Tidy Upper:

    The notion of such a God then deciding to send non-believers to some form of hell for not-believing when that Absolute Proof is withheld seems pretty harsh and nasty – but that is NOT necessarily a true situation (reality?) and the God that I’d like to think exists is forgiving and merciful and understanding and would NOT have hell or at worst have it severely limited and temporary not the endless torture some religions claim.

    “I hereby give you free will, and you are free to decide if you believe in me. But, if you choose to not believe, I will condemn you to eternal torment.”

  148. TheBlackCat

    I am unconvinced by either side, each has its flaws and its strengths. I probably lean slightly more towards more to the atheists side than the religious one (55 : 45 maybe?) but I also still see some possibility that God be real – and I don’t think the case against God is so strong that the possibility of Gods existence can be entirely ruled out.

    I have concluded in my reading and reflecting on this matter though that this is a much more complicated area than the simplistic arguements – and arguers – on the atheist and the religious side would have everybody think.

    Come on! Are you still going on with this strawman? As a bunch of people explained repeatedly to you in the last thread atheist do not claim that “Gods existence can be entirely ruled out”, in fact all the prominent atheists claim exactly the opposite.

    This is not news to you, we have told you this over and over. Yet you still insist on repeating these strawmen.

  149. Ron1

    @144. L Stearn Says: “I don’t understand the need to denegrate religion on the part of “scientists”. I also don’t understand Discover magazine publishing this anti-God crap in a country where 80% of the people believe in God. I for one, will NEVER subscribe again. Good luck with “Athiest Discover” subscriptions.”

    …………………………………………………………

    Aw, come on Stearny, have a sense of humour.

    To begin, Phil is not the source of, what you call, this anti-God crap, nor is Discover Magazine. As Phil says in his post, “Look: I seriously and strongly feel that everyone has the right to believe what they want, and to find comfort in it if they need it.” You might want to blame the commentors, myself included.

    Second, I thought you lived (assuming you’re American) in a country where everyone has the right to free speech, a country where everyone is free and equal. If so, why the criticism of Discover’s right to publish whatever they want? Or, is it perhaps because you intuitively know that, free speech, freedom and equality apply to a narrow range of societal behavioural norms which the majority (profess to) adhere to? Move outside those norms, as did the Dixie Chicks, and the hate attacks begin. Regardless, it is your right to criticize.

    Third, Discover magazine publishes in a lot more countries than just the US. Similarly, those who leave comments on Phil’s blog reside around the world and they probably don’t abide by US societal norms.

    And last, to make up for your non-renewal, I’ve today decided to obtain a subscription to Discover. It’s my way of supporting Discover’s support of Phil’s blog.

  150. Dunc (145):

    I came home from work one day to discover my front door lock was broken and all my stuff was missing. But since I wasn’t there to see it, I have absolutely no idea what happened… Maybe God did it.

    Well, that’s what you get for being a non-believer. :-)

    Gunnar (134):

    I find it impossible to believe in a god who would deliberately withhold conclusive evidence of his existence and then punish anyone for all eternity merely for failure to accept his/her/its existence on faith alone, and would be so narcissistic and insecure as to need anyone’s worship.

    But the Babel fish is proof that G-d exists. Therefore G-d does not exist.

  151. technochill

    Obviously Bill O’Reilly believes God created everything. Many people do.

    All the insults and mocking in the world will not change that. It makes Scientific elitist look petty and intolerant (especially you Euro weenies).

    As long as the religious types aren’t blowing us up in an attempt to make believers out of us let them believe what they want. We should just smile and say “that’s nice”. And if your worried about what our kids are being taught in school ( and you should be) take personal responsibility of your kids, not mine, I look after my own. I’m not responsible for what my neighbors kids are taught. If they want to worship the Great Pumpkin, that’s fine by me. I’ll defend their right to do so.

    Take a lesson from Star Trek. Don’t interfere with the ideas and beliefs of others, we’re all on our own path of discovery.

    OH, and I could care less what you Euro Weenies (or whatever patch of dirt you call home) think about us Yanks. We’re still the land of the free and the home of the brave. And the USA is the greatest country on Earth.

    I wish Phil would stay out of politics and religion and just stick with science, it really irks me to see such intolerance. And I hate being irked.

  152. Ron1

    @152 technochill says … “I wish Phil would stay out of politics and religion and just stick with science, it really irks me to see such intolerance. And I hate being irked.”

    Ah, poor baby. Did the big bad foreigners say something that hurt your feelings? Perhaps if you dug your head out of the sand you’d be a little more irked in the right direction, and a little more tolerant.

  153. Roni (150):

    Second, I thought you lived (assuming you’re American) in a country where everyone has the right to free speech, a country where everyone is free and equal. If so, why the criticism of Discover’s right to publish whatever they want?

    You should subscribe to “This is True”. (There’s a free edition.) Whenever he runs a story about something stupid done by a person who happens to be a “Christian”, he gets a slew of unsubscribes from people who can’t stand his “anti-Christian” publication. Yet, he never gets any complaint about his supposed “anti-police”, “anti-teacher”, “anti-whatever” stories.

  154. PayasYouStargaze

    @152 technochill

    In Star Trek they do nothing but interfere with alien races and try to impose Federation lifestyles on them.

  155. Technochill:

    I’m not responsible for what my neighbors kids are taught. If they want to worship the Great Pumpkin, that’s fine by me. I’ll defend their right to do so.

    But, will you defend their “right” to force the schools to teach all children to worship the Great Pumpkin? Will you defend their “right” to force the schools to teach all children “Intelligent Pumpkinology” in science class?

    And you are, at least partially, responsible for what your neighbor’s kids are taught in public school.

    Believe what you want. Just don’t try to force your particular beliefs on the rest of us, claiming it’s “science”.

    PayasYouStargaze:

    In Star Trek they do nothing but interfere with alien races and try to impose Federation lifestyles on them.

    “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  156. Ron1

    @154. Ken B

    Do you mean Randy Cassingham’s ‘This is True’ (http://www.thisistrue.com)? Thanks for the idea – I’m always looking for insights into new ideas and how people think.

    As for your last sentence, it sounds like a classic example of cognitive dissonance.
    Cheers

    PS. While waiting for this comment to undergo moderation, I went to Randy’s site for a looksee. Looks like fun. The Moonlite Bunny Ranch Mensa tour article is a hoot (nothing nasty ladies, gents/kids).

  157. Doc Rocketscience

    Quoth technochill:

    “…I could care less what you Euro Weenies (or whatever patch of dirt you call home) think…”
    “… it really irks me to see such intolerance.”

    *sproing*

    Dangit, there goes another irony meter.

  158. Technochill wrote:

    I’m not responsible for what my neighbors kids are taught.

    Really? In a representative democracy where everybody’s vote counts equally, you don’t care how ignorant your fellow citizens are?

    Now, I agree with the government keeping out of religion, but that doesn’t mean that public schools shouldn’t be able to teach facts that contradict some people’s religious beliefs. I DO care that my neighbors’ kids understand evolution, since it will influence their understanding of things like bacterial resistance. And I DO care that my neighbors’ kids understand geology and climatology, since it will influence their understanding of global warming and how we should address it. And how those kids vote once they’re 18 will have an influence on my life, so I want to make sure they’re as informed as possible.

  159. Ron1

    Ken B.

    My cognitive dissonance comment should have said; As for your last sentence, the examples you give sound like classic examples of cognitive dissonance.

    Sorry if it appeared I was criticizing you.

  160. Ron1

    @161 Doc Rocketscience …

    LOL

  161. EricH

    @122 Messier Tidy Upper:

    I think most landlocked bodies of water – inland seas like the Black Sea, Dead Sea & The US-Canadian Great Lakes are fairly tideless.

    Does anyone care to confirm or deny that idea?

    Correct–tides in the Great Lakes, at least, are only a few inches–well below the average wave height–and also hidden by phenomena like seiches, where atmospheric pressure changes the water level.

  162. vel

    People don’t have a “right” to believe any nonsense they choose. That belief can hurt other people. Just like how the beliefs of parents that “god” is going to heal their children get those children dead by willful ignorance.

  163. PayasYouStargaze

    Well from my own experience the Med has noticable tides. My own home (Gibraltar) has a good metre or so between high and low.

    Southampton in the UK gets double tides, due to the effect of the tides round the Isle of Wight. You get one high tide, followed by another a short while later.

  164. frankenstein monster

    @155

    Don’t interfere with the ideas and beliefs of others, we’re all on our own path of discovery.

    So why do you interfere with our ideas and beliefs by telling us to shut up ?

  165. Joseph G

    @ 90 Nemo: hah. I didn’t even see your post before I posted… pretty much the exact same thing. I guess I’m a “glass is half full” kinda guy :P

  166. DennyMo

    Thanks to folks for the (mostly) constructive discussion of my question.

  167. Joseph G

    @Ron1: The Dixie Chicks? Really? That’s your shining example of moving beyond cultural norms?
    Baaahahahahaha!

  168. Ron1

    @171. Joseph G Says, ” @Ron1: The Dixie Chicks? Really? That’s your shining example of moving beyond cultural norms? Baaahahahahaha!”

    ……………………………

    Perhaps I’m wrong. If so, I take this as a learning opportunity – please enlighten me, if you’re able.

    From my perspective, Ms Mains’ London comments, and the resulting backlash, was a pretty straight forward example, familiar to people around the world, that showed that there was a very real limit (a societal norm) to free speech in much of the US at that particular time.

  169. TR

    @155. technochill writes:

    “… just stick with science, it really irks me to see such intolerance.”

    It seems someone has to write this every few days or so. Putting aside the obvious answer (“If you don’t enjoy this feed, stop reading it.”), I would have to ask, in what sense is this post NOT about science? O’Reilly asks (and asks, and asks) “How’d it get there?” And Phill offered an answer. That’s about as ‘sciencey’ as you can get! The fact that O’Reilly was using his ignorance of an answer as some sort of evidence for the existence of a god is his problem. Though some of Phill’s posts deal with religion more-or-less directly, this one deals only with the creation of the moon and the cause of the tides. If an astronomy web site can’t address those issues, what CAN it do?

    Moreover, I can’t say that I see any evidence of “intolerance” here (unless you want to count O’Reilly’s epithet against all those who try to point out that there are answers to his questions). The man asked an astronomical question, and an astronomer offered an answer – how is that intolerant?

  170. TR

    @ Messier Tidy Upper

    Tidal swings, as experienced by those who live on coastal waterways, are almost entirely the result of the surface contours of the local sea floor. If all the Earth’s crust was smoothed out so that all of the world’s water was distributed at a uniform depth all across the planet’s surface (leaving out the issue of centripetal force), then it would be very difficult to see the effect of the tide against the background noise of the waves.

    To put it another way, if you could stand on top of a very tall pole set in the middle of an ocean, you probably wouldn’t notice any tidal swing, because it would only be a few dozen centimeters tall.

    But that bulge of water, while not very tall, extends (more-or-less) from pole to pole. So, while it may not look like much slipping smoothly across the surface of the open ocean, it still represents a huge volume of water on the move. And when that big bulge comes sloshing against a cost, all that water goes piling in on top of itself, leading to the appreciable tidal swings that we all know so well.

  171. vel wrote:

    People don’t have a “right” to believe any nonsense they choose.

    I think Thomas Jefferson put it well when he said that “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions”.

  172. Sean H.

    @mike burkhart

    “The point is you are free to accept God or to Reject God .”

    That is a rather dishonest and presumptive way of stating your belief. IF your God is real then none wouldn’t be free to accept or reject him/her/it; it would be an indisputable fact, in much the same way that I am not free to accept or reject your existence: you are here in fact and form. It also makes the assumption that people only have the option to either choose to believe in YOUR god or not believe in any god. Please do bear in mind that there were numerous “gods” LONG before yours that are still being worshiped and their beliefs run counter to yours (at least the beliefs that your religion hasn’t co opted from prior religions or assimilated in an attempt to win converts).

  173. Smarter Thanyou

    Phil,

    You arrogant prick.

    You cannot explain why it happens.

    You can only describe what happens.

    Big difference.

    See Dr. Richard Feynman on this point.

    QED

  174. frankenstein monster

    You cannot explain why it happens.

    You can only describe what happens.

    Utter nonsense. Virtually every scientific hypothesis includes causal explanations. ( a.k.a. answers to ‘why’ questions )

  175. Sir Craig

    It seems to me someone with the handle “Smarter Thanyou” would find other, better, and certainly more polite ways to address Dr. Plait. Also, to understand the “how” you sometimes need to understand the “why,” philosophical discussions notwithstanding.

  176. Sir Craig

    Ron1 (@172): The backlash was predictable, yet still Ms. Mains was in the right (and I’m not talking about her actual viewpoint, although…). If a large percentage of the populace cries “Foul!” because someone says something does not mean that person should stop saying it. Understand both why she said it and why there was a backlash. That is what a truly free society should reflect: The right to intelligently offend.

  177. Mike G

    So, most places have a daily rise an fall, but some places apparently do not.

    They didn’t give an example of such a place. Anyone know of one?

    There are points known as amphidromic points that have no tides, but they’re located in the center of basins. Close to land you can sometimes get close to zero tidal range as well due to local topography. There are examples of this in the Mediterranean, but it doesn’t apply to the whole basin.

    So if tides prove the existance of God, then God doesn’t exist where are no tides? Alberta & the Dakotas are now the homes of the heathens and atheists?

    Nope, God must be there too. There are tides on land, just like in the oceans. They’re just smaller magnitude since the Earth’s crust isn’t as plastic as water. Their impact is measurable though and affects things like the accuracy of GPS readings.

    To put it another way, if you could stand on top of a very tall pole set in the middle of an ocean, you probably wouldn’t notice any tidal swing, because it would only be a few dozen centimeters tall.

    The equilibrium tide would be almost 2 feet at the center of the bulge. That would be smaller than the magnitude of typical open-ocean waves, but still pretty noticeable from a fixed observation platform unless the sea was really whipped up.

  178. George S

    I honestly love the pictures and the astronomy posts on this blog, it’s the reason I started following it. Unfortunately, the rabid liberalism displayed in this post has really put me off. Yes, I can skip this sort of thing, realizing people are people and free speech is free speech. I am a skeptic by heart and agnostic; I always skip past channels that are showing things with a religious bent unless I see something that applies to my intel background (Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, you say??). So, stop lumping us reasonable Conservatives and Republicans in with the talking heads in the mass-media who are stirring the pot for the sake of ratings. Please.

  179. James

    Did Phil just say (paraphrasing) that “God of the gaps is the canonization of ignorance?” I have googled for this phrase and some similar, and cannot find a reference. That is a brilliant concept. Is it original to this blog post?

  180. Doc Rocketscience

    @179

    “Smarterthanyou” is a known troll and idiot. He’s famous on the Orac’s Respectful Insolence blog for claiming he had evidence that would bring down the entire vaccination “industry” and the he was about to release it… before the end of 2010. We wait with baited breath…

  181. Patrick

    @129: The top three dumbest arguments for defending the existence of God: Pascal’s Wager, any version of the ontological argument, and any sort of “God has to respect free will!” defense.

  182. TheBlackCat

    @ Patrick: I have to disagree with you, “God works in mysterious ways” takes the cake in my book.

  183. Patrick

    @TheBlackCat: True. I may have to expand the list.

  184. TR

    @Mike G:

    To the extent that “a few dozen centimeters” and “almost 2 feet” are essentially the same thing, we clearly concur.

    However, I would respectfully suggest that the seas don’t need to be all that whipped up before a 2-foot swing (spread over several hours) would pale in comparison to the average mid-ocean wave, which tops out at over 12 feet (at least in the Atlantic: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/15/science/atlantic-waves-higher-independent-of-winds.html).

    That said, I certainly take your point: a careful, systematic observation of the water’s height at the cm- (or inch-) level of precision would eventually reveal the existence of the tides. I thought I had conveyed that with the phrase “you probably wouldn’t notice any tidal swing [new emphasis mine],” but perhaps I could have been more clear.

  185. Ron1

    @180. Sir Craig Says: “Ron1 (@172): The backlash was predictable, yet still Ms. Mains was in the right (and I’m not talking about her actual viewpoint, although…). If a large percentage of the populace cries “Foul!” because someone says something does not mean that person should stop saying it. Understand both why she said it and why there was a backlash. That is what a truly free society should reflect: The right to intelligently offend.”

    ………………………

    Sir Craig, my intent was not to say whether or not her comment was right (I think it was), rather, it was to indicate that her behaviour violated a social norm resulting in an adverse response from her society. I fully understand why she said it and why there was a backlash.

    My comment was a followup from an earlier comment I made; “free speech, freedom and equality apply to a narrow range of societal behavioural norms which the majority (profess to) adhere to? Move outside those norms, as did the Dixie Chicks, and the hate attacks begin. …”.

    cheers

  186. Keith Bowden

    Harlan Ellison has said that people are only entitled to an informed opinion; I’m not sure about people who have information but blather on in opposition to that anyway.

    This is an interesting thread! And (mostly) very civil. :)

  187. Tywine

    Come on Phil! You can’t leave out the deGrasse!

  188. maximus trollus

    “Assertions made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” – Christopher Hitchens

  189. Jess Tauber

    It is time to eat all the stupid people. Then we can leave the whales alone. Yum!

  190. Jeffersonian

    #1 Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions.

    No, creationists have an ancient myth (one of thousands on the subject) and it doesn’t fit modern observations – big difference. How do you vet which ancient myth is the correct one?

    #59. But just because you CAN explain something, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a designer behind it. You can’t disprove God by explaining something anymore than one can prove He exists because there’s no other explanation.

    Yes, it does. Using your method, I can say “my wife says she bought a new car and it’s in my garage but I didn’t see her buy it therefore her claim doesn’t dissprove that a magical unicorn poofed into existence”. You can’t logically jump to an unnecessary and complicated answer for no reason. Lack of something isn’t a proof for something different. There’s no logical sequence that says “We know what a molecule consists of therefore the Abrahamic mono-theistic deity exists”. Using your method, why not believe in Ganesha as an answer?

    #144
    I also don’t understand Discover magazine publishing this anti-God crap in a country where 80% of the people believe in God.

    80%? I don’t buy the stat you’re selling. Even if it were true, reality isn’t a consensus that’s voted on. If 80% of the populace think leeches can cure cancer, it has no bearing on reality. It just means they’re illogical, ill-informed and/or uneducated. Science-type magazines (contrary to your apparent belief) don’t exist simply to reiterate ancient tribal belief systems; quite the opposite.

    #184
    Try bated (unless yr eating worms) ;0)

  191. Keith Bowden

    Just a thought… in discussing (or arguing against) Creationism or any Fundamental willful stupidity, the answer isn’t simply “god did it”. The answer is “it’s god’s will”. Poor anatomical design? It’s god’s will. Something wonderful happens? It’s god’s will. Something awful happens? It’s god’s will. Nothing happens? It’s god’s will, mysterious are his ways, we don’t know what his plan for us is. There’s no reasoning with someone who parrots this non-sequitur.

    (Now, intelligent religious folk may also use this rhetoric, but they will also reason with you and accept evidence for most things.)

  192. Keith Bowden

    [I apologize... I timed out while fixing my post above - serves me right for doing this on my phone, I guess. Here's the corrected post.]

    Just a thought… in discussing (or arguing against) Creationism or any Fundamental willful stupidity, the answer isn’t simply “god did it”. The answer is “it’s god’s will”. Poor anatomical design? It’s god’s will. Something wonderful happens? It’s god’s will. Something awful happens? It’s god’s will. Nothing happens? It’s god’s will, mysterious are his ways, we don’t know what his plan for us is. There’s no reasoning with someone who parrots this non-sequitur, and at this point they may become cultist, frequently with glazed (or manic) eyes.

    (Now, intelligent, reasoning religious folk may also use this rhetoric, but they will also reason with you and accept evidence for most things.)

  193. Brian

    Does he need to use such a snappish tone of voice? He might as well reach through my monitor and poke me with a stick repeatedly. What a dick.

  194. Nigel Depledge

    Ken B (154) said:

    But the Babel fish is proof that G-d exists. Therefore G-d does not exist.

    However, many leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingoes’ kidneys.

  195. Jamesonian

    The Cult Of Phil is alive and well, but c’mon… only 197 comments?!? I call on all COP members to voice their blind allegiance to all things Phil by posting more insufferable comments here. Phil is counting on you, COP members! Don’t let Phil down!

  196. Nigel Depledge

    Technochill (155) said:

    Obviously Bill O’Reilly believes God created everything. Many people do.

    All the insults and mocking in the world will not change that. It makes Scientific elitist look petty and intolerant (especially you Euro weenies).

    Eh?

    Is anyone here even trying to change O’Reilly’s view?

    No, I think not.

    However, you have quite clearly missed the point. And some of the “ha, ha, look at those dumb stupid yankees” type comments have clearly got to you – tell me, why do you feel so insecure about your nation’s place in the world?

    As long as the religious types aren’t blowing us up in an attempt to make believers out of us let them believe what they want. We should just smile and say “that’s nice”. And if your worried about what our kids are being taught in school ( and you should be) take personal responsibility of your kids, not mine, I look after my own. I’m not responsible for what my neighbors kids are taught. If they want to worship the Great Pumpkin, that’s fine by me. I’ll defend their right to do so.

    Of course, I respect the right of any adult to believe anything they wish. But that right stops at their own skin.

    So, given the influence that children’s opinions have over each other, do you not care that so many of your child’s peers are being taught stuff that is counter to reality?

    And do you not care about the welfare of those children who are being taught such nonsense?

    And do you not care that so many voters in the USA have decided that they can define reality any way they want to?

    Given the USA’s foreign-policy track-record, I think the rest of the world should be deeply concerned about the state of education in the USA.

    Take a lesson from Star Trek. Don’t interfere with the ideas and beliefs of others, we’re all on our own path of discovery.

    Hey, tell this to the creationist fundies who have repeatedly and persistently tried to prevent the teaching of real science in American schools.

    I wish Phil would stay out of politics and religion and just stick with science, it really irks me to see such intolerance. And I hate being irked.

    Yeah, and I bet we forced you to read all the comments, too.

    Oh, and “intolerance”? Go and re-read your own post you hypocrite.

  197. Nigel Depledge

    Eric H (165) said:

    I think most landlocked bodies of water – inland seas like the Black Sea, Dead Sea & The US-Canadian Great Lakes are fairly tideless.

    Does anyone care to confirm or deny that idea?

    Correct–tides in the Great Lakes, at least, are only a few inches–well below the average wave height–and also hidden by phenomena like seiches, where atmospheric pressure changes the water level.

    A sea does not have to be completely landlocked to be essentially tideless.

    The Mediterranean has almost no tides. The Strait of Gibraltar is too narrow to allow enough water to flow between the Med and the Atlantic for the Med to have any appreciable tide.

    Oh, and having just re-read your comment and my initial answer, I realise I might have misunderstood what you meant by “land-locked”, since you include the Black Sea, which is linked to the Aegaean (and hence the Med) by the Bosphorus (sp?).

  198. Nigel Depledge

    Vel (166) said:

    People don’t have a “right” to believe any nonsense they choose. That belief can hurt other people. Just like how the beliefs of parents that “god” is going to heal their children get those children dead by willful ignorance.

    Oh, they have the right to believe – but they don’t neceaarily have the right to act on that belief.

  199. Nigel Depledge

    PayAsYouStarGaze (167) said:

    Well from my own experience the Med has noticable tides. My own home (Gibraltar) has a good metre or so between high and low.

    Well, that is the only part of the Med that does, I think.

    Certainly the south coast of France has only a couple of decimetres between high and low tide.

  200. Nigel Depledge

    George S (182) said:

    I honestly love the pictures and the astronomy posts on this blog, it’s the reason I started following it. Unfortunately, the rabid liberalism displayed in this post has really put me off. Yes, I can skip this sort of thing, realizing people are people and free speech is free speech. I am a skeptic by heart and agnostic; I always skip past channels that are showing things with a religious bent unless I see something that applies to my intel background (Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, you say??). So, stop lumping us reasonable Conservatives and Republicans in with the talking heads in the mass-media who are stirring the pot for the sake of ratings. Please.

    What?

    Please explain what you mean when you use the word “liberalism”.

    Please provide examples of where Phil is being “liberal” (according to your definition of the word).

    Please explain why you think this is a bad thing.

  201. TheBlackCat

    So, stop lumping us reasonable Conservatives and Republicans in with the talking heads in the mass-media who are stirring the pot for the sake of ratings. Please.

    Please show me a quote where did Phil do anything remotely similar to this?

  202. RobertC

    Without reading every comment, sorry,….

    39. Ken B Says:
    January 31st, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Jeff Fite:

    I could argue that the moon was made by invisible pink unicorns, but my theory would probably fail the plausibility test. (For one thing, how could a unicorn be both invisible and pink?)

    “If G-d wanted to make a unicorn which was both invisible and pink, he could.” :-)
    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    GOD, it is spelled gOd. Substituting a dash doesn’t hide that you wrote GOD.

    GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD

    See, it’s OK. The make believe can’t hurt you.

    My patience is at an end, I now return to my semi civilized self.

  203. Quiet Desperation

    As long as the religious types aren’t blowing us up in an attempt to make believers out of us let them believe what they want.

    And then they create and pass Prop 8 in California that denies an entire class of people the right to marry.

    Oops. Oh well. Life goes on.

    And then they effectively blow up the educational process in some states by inserting their religion into science classes.

    Oops.

    As a great religious leader once said, “Fool me once, shame on — [pauses] — shame on you. Fool me — [pauses] — You can’t get fooled again.”

    Actually, the education process in this country does need to be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up, but that’s a different thread. ;-)

  204. Quiet Desperation

    GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD

    Geez, get a room.

  205. TR

    @ Ken B:

    But he didn’t write “GOD”, he wrote “G-d,” and I think it’s safe to assume he knows how the word is spelled.

    Rather than pointing out that you don’t see the harm in writing “GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD,” why not give him the benefit of the doubt and try to figure out what he’s trying to convey by choosing not to spell out the word?

  206. PayasYouStargaze

    @202 Nigel.

    Yeah that might be because we’re in the Strait of Gibraltar so we get an effect from the Atlantic. In fact we also get quite strong tidal currents in the Bay of Gibraltar which make sailing quite interesting. Must be due the water trying to flow in and out of the Med.

  207. Ron1

    Nigel Depledge

    It’s always entertaining to see the results of the ‘overnight’ shift. Nice cleanup of the day shift’s mess. :)
    Cheers

  208. PayasYouStargaze

    Yeah I too wouldn’t mind an explaination of why Ken B types G-d every time he means god. It’s a bit strange. No reason to insult him about it though.

  209. lerosn

    PayasYouStargaze…

    Religions type God with a cap to show respect and some are not to type it at all (to show respect) …. hence G-d.

  210. Lerosn

    @ Ken B.

    And they are making a movie about it. Now we will be able to see it for real!

  211. QUIDNUNC

    I thought Al Gore invented the universe!

  212. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ron1 (212) -
    Eh?

    I do this in my lunch-break – it’s you night-owl types I can’t keep up with! ;-)

  213. Left wing ideologue bemoans right wing ideologue.

    Also fire is hot. Water is wet.

    Stick with the science Phil, that is what you are good at.

  214. frankenstein monster

    Left wing ideologue bemoans right wing ideologue.

    Also fire is hot. Water is wet.

    And false equivalences are, well, let me think about it… false ?

    Stick with the science Phil, that is what you are good at.

    where ‘science’ is defined as anything where the trolls don’t disagree with Phil, and non-science is, where they do.

  215. Ron1

    @218. The Arquette Sisters said, ” Stick with the science Phil, that is what you are good at.”

    …………………………………………………………..

    He he. But this post was about science. As one wag put it earlier, it’s us COPs (Cult of Phil) that have morphed this discussion into whatever it now is.

    Keeping on topic (morphed science) here’s a little cartoon about Capt Sagan and his starship vs the, well, whatever they are. Cartoon is ripped from one of PZ Meyer’s blog posts this morning.

    Cheers

    http://ninjerktsu.blogspot.com/2011/01/carl-sagan-and-his-fully-armed.html

    PS. I wonder how long this will sit in moderation due to the link? It’s 10:50 am now.

  216. PayasYouStargaze

    Thanks Lerosn. I didn’t realise some religions put their god’s name in the same category as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter universe. He who shall not be named, haha!

    Actually, it does appear to be putting the name before the god. Plus, do they actually say “god” or do they not say it either. I guess it’s not a big deal, considering what some religious beliefs are. Which brings us nicely back to the nutbar of the topic: O’Reilly.

  217. DER

    Why is he asking us to educate him? What is he a SOCIALIST COMMIE????

  218. A.Boyd

    I must actually had it to Bill. His audience must have been amazed that the moon caused tides. He is just the manifestation of a bigger problem, American Ignorance.

  219. rweixel

    religion now a days will just become part of the mythology stories. they will be called jesus the magical jew, catholics and the choir boys, mormons and there silly views, and the scientologists “they almost had us with that one”. the bible has debunked so many times. it was created with political agendas in mind. its been the longest running joke. o’reilly is just another wannabe bible thumper that only spits out beliefs that benefeit him and his show. how else is he supposed to make that 6 figure income if not 7. find out what makes people angry and talk about it if not smear it.

  220. Darth Robo

    @ 155. technochill

    —”All the insults and mocking in the world will not change that. It makes Scientific elitist look petty and intolerant (especially you Euro weenies). ”

    Someone complaining about “scientific elitists” and “intolerance” calling others “Euro weenies”. Ironic.

    —”We’re still the land of the free and the home of the brave. And the USA is the greatest country on Earth.”

    As long as you stay away from fundie creationists that is. Oh, and anyone else whose ego has trouble fitting on their own continent.

    —”And I hate being irked.”

    And I thought you were brave?

    Yours sincerely,
    potential Euro-weenie

    @ 170. DennyMo

    —”Thanks to folks for the (mostly) constructive discussion of my question.”

    You’re welcome I’m sure. So what was the “scientific theory” of creationism then? Anybody? Anybody at all? Hello?

  221. Quiet Desperation

    Yeah I too wouldn’t mind an explaination of why Ken B types G-d every time he means god. It’s a bit strange. No reason to insult him about it though.

    He’s Jewish? Taking care with the name of God doesn’t officially apply to the English word, but it’s seen to be an extra bit of care. If he’s not Jewish, well, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe he just likes it? Some atheists might use it ironically.

    Fun fact: Hebrew scribes would take a bath when it came time to write God’s name in whatever they were scribing.

  222. Quiet Desperation

    As long as you stay away from fundie creationists that is.

    Most of us do. The real fundies are not all that large in number, and they tend to be a bit insular.

    Oh, and anyone else whose ego has trouble fitting on their own continent.

    Well, deflating any big ego is an American pastime, and a proud one at that, to be honest. A little self-deprecation takes you a long way here. Isaac Asimov once voiced a similar sentiment- dunno why that popped into my head. Honestly, I thought Europeans were mostly of a similar mind for the most part except when some of them paint the U.S. with their tiresome broad brushes.

  223. Sir Craig

    Oh, darn – O’Reilly killed the comments for this particular video. Last I saw it looked pretty much like he was getting his butt handed to him by nearly every commenter.

  224. Rhonda

    Creationists remind me of my sainted mother… “But WHY, Ma?” “‘Cause I SAID SO! SO SHUT UP!!”

  225. ErikJ121

    Phil,

    The problem with the physical sciences is the same as the problem with religion, namely, the difficulty of accepting its own limitations.

    You even acknowledge this when you write “If our theory about the moon is correct…” Many of the commenters here, however, ignore this limitation of science and make the illogical leap to “Because we have an explanation for something, that must be the truth.”

    The fact that we have one explanation for how the moon came to be which happens to fit all the known measurements and data does not prove that that is the only possible explanation. One thing the history of science has taught us is that nothing is ever truly proven, and what scientists believe to be knowledge today will be seen as ignorance by scientists 500 years in the future, as more data comes to light.

    This in no way means that science is useless or that scientists should not seek answers. But it does mean that ultimately, science requires faith. You also acknowledge this when you write that we don’t know why we have the laws of physics.

  226. Keith

    The biggest problem with O’Reilley is;
    he has no foundation for inspiration
    he looks at things from a very secure closet that doesn’;t have but one entrance and one exit, a form of simpleton.
    I would ask him where have you ever been to adorn any logic? what languages do you speak? when have you last traveled on the North American continent ?
    I bet with these questions you will find the answer to all of his ridiculousness.
    the silver spoon doesn’t move far from the plate and in his words “God forbid someone like him should ever raise children”

  227. Steve Metzler

    75. Sarah Says:

    Commentaries like this remind as to why I no longer subscribe to Discover magazine. And is nothing to do with O’Reilly or his opinions.

    Shorter Sarah: “There goes Phil again, being a dick.”

  228. JohnV

    @DennyMo Saying “we know” is a bit presumptious, since (especially in the field of astronomy) we are constantly changing our answer. But the point he was making is that it isn’t a big mystery, we have evidence and answers for those questions that attempt to solve the riddle far more accurately than saying it’s just magic.

    But the bigger issue here is your comparisons with science and religion. The main difference that separates Creationist from Astronomers is how they form their conclusions. Creationist have their conclusion down, for everything. They jump to the answer and seek to shape the equation to fit it. That’s no way of getting something right, try that on any sort of test and I think you might fail horribly. To have the conclusion before you are even asked the question reeks of ignorance. Science looks at the evidence and seeks to explain it from the beginning while Religion does the exact opposite. If you can’t see why that is wrong when trying to find the truth, then you aren’t thinking very hard.

  229. Joseph G

    @ 172 Ron1: I didn’t mean to insult you personally, I just found the Dixie Chicks reference funny for some reason. Just so ya know.
    I wouldn’t say the Chix comments were that far out of the mainstream for America as a whole, they just made the mistake of forgetting who their audience was. If you play country music, it’s probably not a great idea to attack Republicans (similarly, if you’re in a punk band, it’s probably unwise to sing the praises of Dick Cheney).

  230. Me

    Didn’t you see the Family Guy episode that explained the origins of the Universe? Well, God and his roommate were arm-wrestling. God was starting to lose, so he farted to distract his roommate. He then asked his roommate for his lighter. God farted again and lit his fart with the lighter. The resulting explosion created the universe.

    Simple.

  231. By any chance, did Bill O’Reilly attend that “Galileo Was Wrong; the Church Was Right” conference?

  232. gnomic

    Arguing with idiots is a waste of time. You will just get frustrated and waste time, and the idiot will still spout BS. The best thing to do is to point and laugh.

  233. Godslayer

    O’Reilly doesn’t personally believe any of this nonsense. It’s just his job to keep other people stupid, namely the people who watch Fox News, who are pretty stupid to start with.

  234. essy

    Science is about understanding things. The opposite is just perpetuating and glorying ignorance. The distinction and choice is obvious. Or is it?????

  235. Pelat

    Bill’s purpose is not to allow anyone the platform to speak reason, because he lacks the art of persuasion.

  236. Leah

    Hmmm….has anyone noticed that the people supporting Mr. Billo on this thread seem for the most part to have an absolutely atrocious grasp of grammar and or spelling? I say it doesn’t make them look very credible.

  237. Kevin McIntyre

    Ok lets be specific – when the religous people here are referencing god, what are they talking about – Jesus, Yahweh, Krishna, Allah, Thor, Osiris. What god are you referencing and why should I take your word for it. O’Reilly is clearly referencing the trinity god (he is a catholic) but so what there is no reason to believe that the trinity god is any more real than zeus or any other god.

  238. Trismegistus22

    As an amateur astronomer for years (I have a very nice 8in scope in a small observatory) I of course agree with your smack-down of stupidity. Thank you very much.
    I think, however, we need to consider more deeply the thought/belief that “everyone has the right to believe what they want….”
    While it is difficult to disagree and I am not doing so, we must ask “Where do we draw the line?”
    Religious zealots and fundamentalists have extremist beliefs. These beliefs threaten all of us, our lives, and our blue planet we call home.
    I do not have a good answer but it is a question that must be dealt with.

  239. If Bill O’Reilly thinks Mars doesn’t have a moon, that just shows that he needs better fact checkers… and some adult supervision. If ignorance is bliss, then O’Reilly must be a very happy man.

  240. bill

    I agree with Godslayer (#240). O’Reilly is a paid to generate revenue for Fox News. He went to Harvard which proves that he at least has enough intellect to understand basic science.

    The latest big science conjectures a multiverse, but that just kicks the “why is there something rather than nothing” can down the road. Like God, a multiverse cannot not be proved (or disproved).

    There is one explanation that you may find intriguing and therefore entertaining. It is on the web:

    http://donnee.com/why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing.htm

    Enjoy.

  241. Terra

    Personally, I do believe in a higher divine power… Do I understand it? No… I don’t think science and spirituality must be mutually exclusive… One does not necessarily negate the other. I am fully comfortable with believing that something higher than myself has created this immense and beautiful existence of the universe and beyond… Will I ever understand it? Probably not? Will this society ever reach that understanding? I would hope so, but let’s face it, probably not.

    Only a fool does not recognize what he can see before his eyes. Evolution is evident from the simplest of lifeforms. WE evolve from zygotes to fetus to baby to adolescent and beyond. Giving a blanket statement of “God did it” may work if you have no need to actually understand the world around you… But if you truly want to appreciate “god’s creation” (if that is what you believe) why not find out WHY and HOW it was done?

  242. Dennis R. White

    DennyMo writes:
    “Creationists have a theory which fits known observations and conveniently excludes planetary collisions”. They have a “theory” but it does NOT fit known observations without believing a god exists. There is no proof of a god existing.
    At the same time, and ironically, he also thinks that what we cannot see with our eyes does not exist. None of us can see an atom with our eyes, but there is irrefutable proof they exist.

  243. Fly Germ

    mike burkhart Says:
    “Science tells us how God dose things ,Gods hand is in everything. But science cannot prove,nor disprove God. and science should not even try . God Belongs to Religon.”

    Sorry to disappoint you mate but nothing “belongs” to anything. Why people believe in one god or another or believe anything at all is as scientific a field as any other. So, no, you can’t just hide god away and say “mine mine mine”. In a general sense, though, well, you can have him–a growing number have no need for such a concept.

    “The point is you are free to accept God or to Reject God.”

    True enough. Doesn’t act as a conclusion to your earlier premise though. These are very different levels–a person’s specific and individual motivatiosn versus attributing the ownership of a concept to a vaguely defined group.

  244. MDL

    A criticism of O’Reilly has nothing to do with a criticism of religion or of God[s] unless you think O’Reilly is a religion or a God. Sure, some here do criticize religion and religious folks. But this Discovery piece is not about that and anyone who reads it that way is projecting their own incorrect interpretation.

    Clearly, O’Reilly is highly uninformed about science and nature and astronomy etc. And he uses his forum to espouse this ignorance as though it was not ignorance. Basically he doesn’t get it and because he thinks he knows everything then everyone else must be wrong. He is a crazy meglomaniac.

  245. drew

    Well said!

    But then how did the internet get there? Seriously – did it just happen? Of course not, God made it.

    Lol. Awesome ignorance. On TV and now on YouTube!

  246. Jason

    DennyMo is the best troll I’ve ever seen.

  247. stockton abstract

    To the 1st post to say no one observe how the moon was formed. Correct but by scientific methods there is a theory, not that it just happened to be there. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0714_040714_moonfacts.html)

    As for the religion, isn’t that just a Christian’s belief? What about Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism? And these are just a few from the East. Should their views be discounted since they don’t believe in god the way we do? And isn’t that how all those holy wars started? my goodness . . . come on people . . . .science is a tool to help us understand the world around us, and god, in his various forms, is the spiritual aspect of what we want to be, now and in the afterlife.

  248. Ron1

    @247. Trismegistus22 Says:
    I think, however, we need to consider more deeply the thought/belief that “everyone has the right to believe what they want….”
    While it is difficult to disagree and I am not doing so, we must ask “Where do we draw the line?”

    ………………….

    Gee, this thread is still going … cool.

    Where do we draw the line? Excellent question.

    From my perspective, the line is drawn where an individual takes a belief and presents it into a public forum. In that forum it stands on its merits, or lack thereof. If he or she doesn’t want it criticized, then it should not be presented into a forum where that is known to occur.

    Everytime I submit something to this forum, I fully expect the possibility that someone will find my comment stupid or offensive and they will call me on it. Again, the issue is the person’s statement, not they themself.

    Cheers

  249. hecramsey

    You seem pretty smart, I planned on breaking up with my GF this weekend but I have a big interview on Monday. I don’t want to be all emotional on Monday so I want to postpone breaking up, but then next week end is Valentine’s Day and I couldn’t do THAT, I mean it goes on and on. What do? Also, I like the joke about the tooth fairy being debunked. Very dry.

  250. Whaley

    Denny Mo discusses the theories of moon formation and creationism; scientific theories are capable falsification (rejection) due to subsequent discoveries. Science accepts that as a tenant of theory – can that be said of creationism?

  251. Messier Tidy Upper

    @149. Andrew Says:

    Of course the real Bill O’Reilly was an Australian cricketer. The extrordinary exploits of Tiger O’Reilly – the best bowler in the world for much of his career – are still remembered 65 years after he stopped playing, and 18 years after his death.

    ^This! Yes indeed! That’s who I think of when I hear the O’Reilly name too. :-)

    @165.EricH & #202. Nigel Depledge : re : Tideless seas & lakes – Thanks. :-)

  252. bernard elias

    Fox news, news for the learning disabled. Sounds like a good and accurate slogan, but I know you will say that is offensive to those with disabilities. I agree, so in actual fact it is news for the lazy and learning disabled those who either have the inability or the drive to take in new facts on anything. That explains a lot of the tea partie’s positions now doesn’t it?

  253. Iggy K.

    Such an eloquent, but utterly pointless response…

    People like O’Reilly don’t ready anything that doesn’t have a cross, a dollar sign or the word “Holy” printed on the cover.
    Not to mention blogs on the internet, which are clearly devil’s work.

    Nicely put, though.

  254. Messier Tidy Upper

    @174. & 188. TR & 181. Mike G & #211. PayasYouStargaze on the tides /tidelessness thing : thanks to you folks (& anyone I may have inadvertantly left out this time) too. :-)

    @245. steven : Hmm .. Is that a Godwin or not? (Puzzled.)

    @152. TheBlackCat :

    Come on! Are you still going on with this strawman?

    Eh? What strawman? The idea that its more complicated than either side would have it? That both Theistand anti-Theist sides make some good points but I can remain unconvinced by both of them and unsure thus ‘agnostic’ rather than either athiest or theist /religious?

    Also just because you say some otherperosn’s view is a strawman does NOT make it so!

    As a bunch of people explained repeatedly to you in the last thread atheist do not claim that “Gods existence can be entirely ruled out”, in fact all the prominent atheists claim exactly the opposite. This is not news to you, we have told you this over and over. Yet you still insist on repeating these strawmen.

    Which is why Dawkin’s titled his polemic, ‘The God Delusion I suppose? Yeah, he’s *really* open to the possibility that he’s mistaken and NOT the other side isn’t he? :roll:

    I think Dawkins and some of the other new Atheists are trying to have it both ways here – trying to claim they are listening to the other side and are accepting the possibility that God is real whilst in reality NOT doing so at all.

    I think Dawkin’s is doing to theology what Bill O’Reilly is doing to astronomy in the Opening Post & Youtube clip here – speaking well outside his expertise and still trying tocome across as an authority.

    Richard Dawkin’s is a fine evolutionary biologist – he knows what he’s talking about there.

    But he isn’t – as far as I know qualified or experienced in talking about theology and philosophy which is the territory he’s strayed into.

    Bill O’Reilly is a popular and obviously good if divisive and partisan political commenter – NOT an astronomer – or theologian either for that matter.

    If you’re going to talk authoritatively about something its best if you’ve studied and understood a bit of what you’re talking about. Dawkins and O’Reilly are here comparably guilty of NOT doing their research and NOT listening to those who know more about the subject area in question than they do.

    I guess, Black Cat we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue.

  255. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! Sorry about the italics fail there. :-(

    That’s :

    ***

    Which is why Dawkin’s titled his polemic, ’The God Delusion I suppose? Yeah, he’s *really* open to the possibility that he’s mistaken and NOT the other side isn’t he? :roll:

    With everything after that NOT meant to be in italics. Apologies for that. :-(

    ***

    A further example from an area I know you’ve argued on well before & on which I know we (now) agree :

    Dawkins authority to speak on theological issues such as the existence or otherwise of God

    is the same as :

    Bill O’Reilly’s authority to speak on astronomy such as why the tides work and where the Moon came from

    is the same as :

    Christopher Monckton’s authority* to speak on Global Warming caused by the Anthropogenic Greenhouse Effect.

    Ie. None. In all three cases.

    All the above are examples of publicly prominent people vigourously and loudly declaiming one-sided and ignorant arguments in areas where they are NOT qualified, have no expertise & have NOT earned the right to do so.

    Don’t get me wrong they (& us all) have the right to have and express their *opinions*, sure! But they are NOT experts or qualified to speak on such areas justas a layperson can say “that arm looks broken!” but NOT be medically qualified to diagnose or heal such injuries.

    Is all that a strawman argument? If so *how*??

    I agree with Dawkin’s in defending evolution against Creationists. He knows what he’s on about there. However, in his attacks against the very idea of religion (all and any religion!) he’s crossed a line and is out of his depth.

    —-

    * Monckton was a classics major & journalist NOT a scientist.

    See :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfA1LpiYk2o&p=029130BFDC78FA33

    &

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duxG4lyeSlc&p=029130BFDC78FA33

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Monckton,_3rd_Viscount_Monckton_of_Brenchley

    Incidentally, Maggie Thatcher is NOT (&, AFAIK, never has been) a “Climate skeptic” & herself scientifically trained.

  256. Nigel Depledge

    And now, back to the Euro-weenie day-shift . . .

    ErikJ121 (232) said:

    The problem with the physical sciences is the same as the problem with religion, namely, the difficulty of accepting its own limitations.

    At what point does any physicist indicate that they are unaware of the limitations of their knowledge?

    Either put up – with examples and quotes – or shut up.

    You even acknowledge this when you write “If our theory about the moon is correct…” Many of the commenters here, however, ignore this limitation of science and make the illogical leap to “Because we have an explanation for something, that must be the truth.”

    Wrong.

    So, so wrong.

    No, in fact most people here in the “Cult of Phil” (hey, let’s make it our own!) accept the provisional nature of the knowledge that science gives us. However, it gets tiresome prefacing every statement with “unless we fnd evidence to suggest differently …” so we simply take that as read.

    So, our knowledge of how the moon came to be is as certain as it can be – given that no-one has yet thought of a better explanation* and that the only competing ideas have been shown to be wrong.

    * By which I mean an explanation that is logically consistent and fits the data more closely than our present “knowledge”.

    The fact that we have one explanation for how the moon came to be which happens to fit all the known measurements and data does not prove that that is the only possible explanation.

    True, but actually irrelevant. See above.

    One thing the history of science has taught us is that nothing is ever truly proven, and what scientists believe to be knowledge today will be seen as ignorance by scientists 500 years in the future, as more data comes to light.

    Perhaps. But, actually, perhaps not.

    Some of our modern scientific theories are so firmly supported by evidence that, if they were wrong in any gross way, we would already know this. Therefore, we can say – with a high degree of confidence – that our best modern theories (such as evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity et al.) are at the very least a good approximation to how the universe operates.

    Certainly, any new theory to explain – for instance – particle physics must encompass the existing Standard Model, which has been so successful in explaining experimental data.

    Likewise, any new theory that replaces any of our best existing theories will probably encompass the existing theory, in the same way that Newtonian gravitation, although technically “wrong”, has been shown to be a special case of General Relativity.

    This in no way means that science is useless or that scientists should not seek answers. But it does mean that ultimately, science requires faith. You also acknowledge this when you write that we don’t know why we have the laws of physics.

    No, science does not require faith. That suggests that there are questions to which we refuse to seek answers.

    Instead, science requires that one apply the principle of parsimony when deciding what to accept as fact. Science therefore gives us knowledge that – no matter how much evidence supports it – can never be “proven” in any absolute sense. Just as it is impossible to prove anything else that is purely empirical. For example, do you have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, or do you accept it as fact – even though we can never “prove” it – because it would be insane to do otherwise?

  257. Messier Tidy Upper

    @241. essy Says:

    Science is about understanding things. The opposite is just perpetuating and glorying ignorance. The distinction and choice is obvious. Or is it?????

    No.

    It is not obvious.

    What about art – is there no need for understanding there?

    What about religion is there really no understanding there?

    Even sport – to follow cricket or baseball for example, first you have to understand the rules.

    There are different types of understanding than science, different aspects and realms of life than it.

    Wonderful, useful and important as it is, Science is not the *only* road to truth, not the *only* sort of truth, methinks.

    Science – and logic are useful tools, useful methodologies, but to think they are the only possible means of getting true and valid answers to things in life is, I think incorrect.

    As I’ve noted before, I think Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) is probably the closest thing to the mark in this area.

    @185. Patrick Says:

    … The top three dumbest arguments for defending the existence of God: Pascal’s Wager, any version of the ontological argument, and any sort of “God has to respect free will!” defense.

    I may agree with you about those firts two. But what is so dumb about the idea God has to – or chooses to – allow us free will? It may be hard to answer but why does that make it dumb?

    @186. TheBlackCat Says:

    @ Patrick: I have to disagree with you, “God works in mysterious ways” takes the cake in my book.

    Plus again, why?

    Doesn’t it make logical reasonable sense that a superior “supernatural” being (or even a hyper-advanced alien species or artifical intelligent entity?) seeing things from a perspective and in a way vastlydifferent from our own would be ‘mysterious” and behave and think in ways we find difficult even impossible to fathom?

    Perhaps “God” is something so far above us that human minds and human words and even human science and logic cannot explain or fully comprehend. perhaps all religions are garbled reactions to the unfathomable thatcan only be experienced and that only partially?

    Perhaps with religion we’re all blind people trying to explain an elephant or the colour red to each other?

    I don’t know if that’s true or not.

    I don’t claim to know whether God exists or not.

    But I will NOT rule out that possibility based on an arrogant assumptuion that I am smarter than everyone else and have the right to deny something other people find deeply important and deeply life-changingly effective as Dawkins and the New Atheists seem to do.

  258. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. I’ve discussed this thoughts on religion topic more on this thread in the comments here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/01/06/texas-creationist-mcleroy-spins-the-educational-disaster-he-created/#comment-353020

    A-a-n-d I’ve just seen that some folks have responded to those comments there too. I thought everyone had forgotten about & moved on from that old thread & its discussion as much as I had!

  259. Nigel Depledge

    Trismegistus22 (247) said:

    I think, however, we need to consider more deeply the thought/belief that “everyone has the right to believe what they want….”
    While it is difficult to disagree and I am not doing so, we must ask “Where do we draw the line?”
    Religious zealots and fundamentalists have extremist beliefs. These beliefs threaten all of us, our lives, and our blue planet we call home.
    I do not have a good answer but it is a question that must be dealt with.

    I have an answer.

    The right of a person to believe what they want ends at their own skin.

    Anyone has the right to believe in whatever nonsense they choose. They do not necessarily have the right to act on that belief.

  260. Nigel Depledge

    @ MTU (265) -

    Hey, isn’t it time you went to bed? It’s the turn of us Euro-weenies! ;-)

  261. Clint

    “but ignorance is not a goal. It’s an opportunity to learn more.” Great Quote.
    Another person once said
    “Admitting your own ignorance is the first step towards true knowledge.
    A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
    A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
    Albert Einstein

  262. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge : Nah, its not all *that* late at night in my Aussie timezone – yet! ;-)

  263. The interesting thing about O’Reilly’s moronic pseudo-logic is that if one accepts his reasoning, then we have been DESTROYING EVIDENCE FOR GOD by learning about the universe through the scientific method for the past few centuries.

    Let’s say it again: he literally believes that our own ignorance is proof of God. Therefore, when we acquire knowledge, we are destroying evidence of God. Three thousand years of Judaism and we still had no idea what causes rain. Throughout all that time, we thought it was the whim of God. A few hundred years of science and BOOM! We figured out a testable mechanism. Three thousand years of Judaism and we had no idea what causes lightning. A few hundred years of science and BOOM! We figured out a testable mechanism for that too. If we subscribe to O’Reilly’s moronic pseudo-logic, we destroyed two pieces of evidence for God by doing so.

    Surely, if something really were evidence for God, it would not be possible to destroy it through a single experiment, right?

  264. Nigel Depledge

    Bill (249) said:

    The latest big science conjectures a multiverse, but that just kicks the “why is there something rather than nothing” can down the road. Like God, a multiverse cannot not be proved (or disproved).

    The multiverse is but one interpretation of some facets of the latest science. It is part of some attempts to generate a theory to explain either (a) what quantum mechanics actually means, or (b) how and why the big bang happened. It is hoped that such theories will generate predictions that can be tested. Once you have a prediction you can test, you can work out if your idea is better than the current one or not.

    So, the multiverse is a postulated entity in some theories, not an accepted conclusion. And people are trying to come up with ways of testing for it.

  265. Nigel Depledge

    Terra (250) said:

    WE evolve from zygotes to fetus to baby to adolescent and beyond.

    While this is indeed change over time, it is not what a biologist means by “evolution”. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what you were saying.

  266. almondice

    To anybody who says they don’t ‘believe’ in science, I challenge them (including this O’Reilly person) to give up all the fruits of scientific research and labourand see how far they get. For one, he won’t be able to spout his nonsense to a large audience and maybe that would be worth it!

  267. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (263) said:

    Which is why Dawkin’s titled his polemic, ‘The God Delusion I suppose? Yeah, he’s *really* open to the possibility that he’s mistaken and NOT the other side isn’t he?

    I think Dawkins and some of the other new Atheists are trying to have it both ways here – trying to claim they are listening to the other side and are accepting the possibility that God is real whilst in reality NOT doing so at all.

    As has been pointed out before, you are indeed making a strawman argument.

    You claim “new atheists this” and “new atheists that” but have never told us what you think a new atheist is, or why they’re different from old atheists.

    You have claimed that atheists (some at least) claim that there is no god, and this is quite clearly not true. The closest I’ve ever seen one come is the “There’s probably no god” campaign that I mentioned in the last thread where this came up.

    Also, you do not seem to have answered the question (again from the last therad): How can you distinguish religion from a delusion? IOW, which parts of religious belief make it qualitatively different from a clinical delusion?

    AFAICT, Dawkins’s main postulate is “why the hell do we give these people so many concessions for believing weird stuff?” (my paraphrase).

    If Christianity had a mere 3 adherents, rather than about a billion (or whatever), we certainly would lock them up for being delusional. For their own safety, and for the safety of their kids.

    And why do we consider it acceptable to force young children to try to imagine what it would be like to be nailed to a tree?

  268. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (263) said:

    Dawkins and O’Reilly are here comparably guilty of NOT doing their research and NOT listening to those who know more about the subject area in question than they do.

    Not really.

    O’Reilly is being wilfully ignorant, whereas Dawkins has interviewed many creationists, and frequently reads the bible (yes, he enjoys it as a work of fiction). Dawkins has certainly put himself in the position of (effectively) saying to a creationist “here I am, persuade me that your view of the world is valid”.

    Guess what? Their arguments fail to convince him. Not because he is closed-minded, but because the arguments themselves are so poor.

  269. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (265) said:

    As I’ve noted before, I think Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) is probably the closest thing to the mark in this area.

    Yes, and your previous arguments have failed to convince me that you can realistically exclude scientific investigation from any area of the human experience.

    IOW, NOMA demands that scientific investigation be excluded from certain areas. You have tried to liken religion to art or literature, and so on, but you have not satisfactorily explained why you think science will never uncover the fundamentals of those aspects of being human.

    After all, given the huge leaps that science has made as a way of understanding the world over the last 400 years, how can you tell what it may or may not uncover in the next 400; or the next 4,000; or the next 40,000?

  270. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (265) said:

    I don’t claim to know whether God exists or not.

    But I will NOT rule out that possibility based on an arrogant assumptuion that I am smarter than everyone else and have the right to deny something other people find deeply important and deeply life-changingly effective as Dawkins and the New Atheists seem to do.

    But he doesn’t, and neither does anyone else I’m aware of.

    So this really is a strawman.

    Likening belief in god to a delusion is not the same thing as saying you are certain there is no god.

    When atomic theory was first postulated (about 2,400 years ago, IIUC) there was no evidence to support it and pretty much no-one believed it apart from the guy who thought it up and his students. However, as evidence accumulated and our knowledge of the world increased (especially through the 19th century), the idea cam back.

    Now, it would be one thing to say to a believer in atomic theory “you’re delusional!” in 400 BCE – because there was simply no evidence to support the idea. Even though the idea was right. I am sure that if ancient Greece had had actual scientists rather than philosophers and mathematicians, they would never have claimed that atoms could not possibly exist. But they would have quite happily pointed out that it was irrational to believe in atoms at the time.

    What Dawkins is saying is that – even though we can never prove there is no god – it is irrational to believe in one. You might as well forget the whole concept and just get on with your life.

  271. You have to love the capacity for intellectual compartmentalization in the person who thinks that “why is there something rather than nothing” is a sound argument for the existence of God. Even if you were to believe in God, it only begs the question: “why is there God rather than nothing”?

  272. Messier Tidy Upper wrote:

    I will NOT rule out that possibility based on an arrogant assumptuion that I am smarter than everyone else and have the right to deny something other people find deeply important and deeply life-changingly effective as Dawkins and the New Atheists seem to do

    So you’re saying we do not have the right to deny something that religious people consider important? That’s pretty disturbing. I thought we had the right to believe or deny anything we like. Perhaps you should try living in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Their approach to faith seems similar to yours.

    In any case, for someone to say that something deserves credibility just because he believes in it is the most incredible kind of arrogance there is. It is ironic, therefore, that people who do this invariably believe atheists are arrogant, for not joining in.

  273. Messier Tidy Upper

    @273. Nigel Depledge :

    As has been pointed out before, you are indeed making a strawman argument.

    Just because that’s what *you*, Nigel Depledge thinks does NOT make it true as I’ve pointed out before. We disagree on this topic. Natch, I think I’m right & you think you are. I’m not sure arguing is going to resolve this disagreement although it is kind of fun & interesting! :-)

    I have read Dawkin’s God Delusion book (& also much of Hitchens one) which I borrowed from the library. I returned it as, y’know, you *have to do* with library books eventually. :roll:

    I’ll try and find a copy again but until I do I can’t give you exact quotes and direct references. But I do recall reading it and also seeing Dawkins’ interviewed and debating sometimes on TV and in the media. I know what impression I got from him and I recall at many points thinking “hang on thats not entirely right” or “but you’re NOT seeing the *other* side of things” and so on. I did – & still do – think he comes across as an extremely arrogant, rude and prejudiced individual who is so convinced at his own cleverness and ego that he’s forgotten to listen to and respect other points of view and other possibilities than those he prefers.

    You claim “new atheists this” and “new atheists that” but have never told us what you think a new atheist is, or why they’re different from old atheists.

    I have now on the other old thread – see :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/01/06/texas-creationist-mcleroy-spins-the-educational-disaster-he-created/comment-page-5/#comment-356004

    My definitions as I understand & view things here :

    Agnosticism = the belief that there may or may not be a God.

    Atheism = the belief that there is NO God.

    & I’ll add another one too :

    Anti-Theism / New Atheism = The conviction not only that there is no God but that religious people are deluded and harmful and that religion should be abolished.

    You call that a strawman if you like but that’s how I see it.

    Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!
    He also claimed the Amish way of life should disappear and his very book title states up-front that those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism are deluded, insane. :-(

    Those are NOT, in my view, tenable or reasonable or justified claims. They are, frankly, intolerant and extremist and offensive things to say.

    Incidentally, I agree with a lot of what Dawkins says too and admit he is a good polemicist and writer who makes a strong case – but then goes & takes it too far and is too dismissive of the alternatives and what the other sides position really is. :-(

    By contrast, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were, I think, reasonable old athiests who made a good case but weren’t, y’know douchebags about it & didn’t demean and disrespect and show contempt to those who disagreed with them. ;-)

  274. Josh

    FYI we have a theory about how the moon got there, we don’t KNOW how it got there… It’s not that I disagree with you but you really should not overstate your case.

  275. Kazmi

    @DennyMo

    Conveniently charging and questioning whether scientists “actually” saw the collision sounds a bit self-righteous…as if YOU saw God creating all that is in between….err..wait..don’t answer that.

  276. Messier Tidy Upper

    @273. Nigel Depledge Says:

    Also, you do not seem to have answered the question (again from the last thread): How can you distinguish religion from a delusion? IOW, which parts of religious belief make it qualitatively different from a clinical delusion?

    Good question but clearly many individuals do feel they can answer it satisfactorily and that they are NOT hallucinating. I’m not oenof those individuals myself. Its a personal thing.

    Religious people would certainly argue that a religious experience is real in a way a hallucination is NOT and the fact that religious experiences change people and alter their behaviour, even their personalities in a way mere hallucinations do NOT.

    AFAICT, Dawkins’s main postulate is “why the hell do we give these people so many concessions for believing weird stuff?” (my paraphrase).

    That’s easy to answer :

    1. That “weird stuff” isn’t “weird” to them. To them we’re weird for NOT believing in it and seeing it as weird! ;-)

    2. Because of our collective history and culture and national identity.

    3. Because Western democracies are “government of the people, by the people” and religious people make up a very significant percentage of those people. Majority wishes rules.

    Actually, I think Dawkins is right to an extent there. I’d like to see religions pay taxes and lose many of their concessions myself.

    If Christianity had a mere 3 adherents, rather than about a billion (or whatever), we certainly would lock them up for being delusional. For their own safety, and for the safety of their kids. And why do we consider it acceptable to force young children to try to imagine what it would be like to be nailed to a tree?

    Christianity isn’t ALL religion. It isn’t the only religion. It is one part – a big one granted – of the religious population and religious sphere and is, itself, broken up into so many sub-groups.

    Not all religious people and NOT even all Christians force kids to imagine the crucifiction. Besides imagination is always going to lead to children thinking of strange and possibily frightening and upsetting things.

    Plus again, there are the raw numbers and percentages, Christians are a majority whether we agnostics, athiests, humanists and non-Christians like that reality or not.

    Incidentally, while few religions would boast a mere 3 members, there are many very tiny little religious groups and sects. Unless they are doing something actively wrong and criminal, they are allowed their religious freedoms – even those with the most despicable, offensive beliefs such as the Westboro homophobes cult. So, no, I don’t think we’d lock them up if there were only 3 christians in the world.

  277. Messier Tidy Upper

    @274. Nigel Depledge :

    O’Reilly is being wilfully ignorant, whereas Dawkins has interviewed many creationists, and frequently reads the bible (yes, he enjoys it as a work of fiction). Dawkins has certainly put himself in the position of (effectively) saying to a creationist “here I am, persuade me that your view of the world is valid”. Guess what? Their arguments fail to convince him. Not because he is closed-minded, but because the arguments themselves are so poor.

    Yes, well I agree there to some extent & especially agree with that last line.

    Creationism is NOT something I support or think any good of whatsoever.

    But while Dawkins reads the Bible for recreation, he is NOT a theologian or an expert on the area. I read lots of books on lots of different things and don’t consider that makes me an expert on them necessarily.

    Plus as observed earlier religion doesn’t just mean the Bible or even Christianity. So merely reading the Bible isn’t enough to qualify Dawkins as an expert in religion any more than just reading The Origin of Species would give someone an instant right to to be hailed as an expert on biology.

    If Dawkins wants readers to take what he says as gospel ( ;-) ) then he needs to do the serious research and spend the years of study necessary to aquire a reasonable understanding of what the religious side actually think rather than having the unsophisticated caricature of religion he seems to have.

    @275. Nigel Depledge Says:

    IOW, NOMA demands that scientific investigation be excluded from certain areas. You have tried to liken religion to art or literature, and so on, but you have not satisfactorily explained why you think science will never uncover the fundamentals of those aspects of being human.

    Not aspects so much as experiences.

    You can have a painting described and know what it is but if you are blind then you cannot say you’ve seen it or really experienced it.

    @276. Nigel Depledge :

    What Dawkins is saying is that – even though we can never prove there is no god – it is irrational to believe in one.

    That would be making the error of thinking Humans are rational beings! ;-)

    Or / & the error of imagining that rationality is the be-all and end-all of everything!

  278. Andrew M.

    Aren’t there any real issues you can bash him or challenge him on?

  279. Quiet Desperation

    “why is there God rather than nothing”

    I’m not a believer, but I sometimes wonder if there are things in Reality our brains simply cannot conceptualize, but that are there nonetheless. I’ve read articles about some of the newer cyclic universe theories, and some speculation on the universe really not having a starting point, that there has been an infinite number of cycles.

    Imagining an infinity of time in front of us is tricky enough, but you try imagining an infinity of time behind us, and the brain sort of just goes “LOL! WUT? NO WAI!” That doesn’t mean it can’t be true, however. It’s sort of an anti-anthropic principle. The true nature of the universe does not require the human mind to be able to accept it, understand it or even have the capacity to be aware of it.

  280. Quiet Desperation

    If Dawkins wants readers to take what he says as gospel ( ;-) ) then he needs to do the serious research and spend the years of study necessary to aquire a reasonable understanding of what the religious side actually think rather than having the unsophisticated caricature of religion he seems to have.

    Well, one of the problems is that many religious people *are* unsophisticated caricatures. For each theologian at Harvard Divinity School you have who knows how many people teaching their kids Jesus Camp lessons and worrying that Harry Potter books will lead their children to having blood orgies with demons.

  281. Harpcat

    Look, There are a lot of different kinds of creationists. Theist, deists, 10,000 year young earthers, old earth “Special” creation, and finally “theistic evolutionists”

    Within these varied groups there are varied levels of acceptance of the scientific data that is presented. With the YE (young earth) they pretty much ignore everything they do not want to hear. OE special creationists, believe that there is micro, but not macro evolution, that the universe is indeed 14 or 15 Billion years old (or whatever they are saying now) and that speciation was caused by divine intervention.

    The theistic evolutionist essentially believes that an all knowing God set the machinery in motion, macro and micro, and that survival of the fittest was a engineered quantity that would go exactly where it has. Leading to intellect and curiosity, discovery, and yes, even faith.

    I belong to this latter group. I do not deny the necessity of the things in space and their weight in earths existence. I pretty much believe in the big bang, an old universe, evolution and a lot more.

    Absolute evidence of this does not erase God. Never could. It just demonstrates amply the hows. The whys are another thing all together. That is an issue of faith. If you have that kind of curiosity, great. If you do not, that is fine as well. In either way of thinking, there is more than enough beauty to be seen and enjoyed.

  282. Nicolas

    To all those who feel this article is somewhat anti-god and claim that scientists “conveniently omit” the god hypothesis: calm down. Let us go back to the immortal words of LaPlace who, when asked by Napoleon why God was noticeably absent of his astronomy replied : “Sire, I had no need for this hypothesis”.

  283. TheBlackCat

    Just because that’s what *you*, Nigel Depledge thinks does NOT make it true as I’ve pointed out before. We disagree on this topic. Natch, I think I’m right & you think you are. I’m not sure arguing is going to resolve this disagreement although it is kind of fun & interesting! :-)

    No, this is not a matter of disagreement. The opinions you attribute to them are directly opposite their express opinions on the matter. You either have to admit that you are wrong, or flat-out accuse them of lying. There is no other solution here.

    I did – & still do – think he comes across as an extremely arrogant, rude and prejudiced individual who is so convinced at his own cleverness and ego that he’s forgotten to listen to and respect other points of view and other possibilities than those he prefers.

    Except that he knows far more about the history and current opinions of religious people then you do. By saying this, you are arguing that you know more about this then he does, but by doing so you are doing exactly the same thing he does.

    Add that to the fact that you totally misrepresent their arguments, you attribute positions to them that are the exact opposite of the ones they actually hold, and now you say you can’t actually remember what they said, I would say you are far more guilty of this then Dawkins is.

    Atheism = the belief that there is NO God.

    Please show me any quote where Dawkins, or any other “New Atheist”, has made this claim. You keep attributing it to them, but you have provided nothing that would indicate they hold this position. I can provide direct quotes asserting exactly the opposite.

    You don’t just get to pick your own definition of a word, then assert that everyone who uses that word must use your definition, then criticize them for holding the position in your definition. You need to address the position they actually hold.

    To take an extreme example, let’s say I define agnosticism as “wanting to kill anyone you disagree with”. Then I start criticizing you for wanting to murder people. Would that be a reasonable argument? Of course not. But that is exactly the same as what you are doing.

    Anti-Theism / New Atheism = The conviction not only that there is no God but that religious people are deluded and harmful and that religion should be abolished.

    Please show me quotes where Dawkins has claimed that:
    1. Religious people are all deluded (remember religion != belief in God)
    2. Religion and/or belief in god is always harmful
    3. Religion and/or belief in god should be abolished

    You can’t, because they have said the exact opposite.

    You call that a strawman if you like but that’s how I see it.

    It is not a matter of how you see. It is a matter of attributing positions to people they don’t actually hold based solely on the fact that they use a word that you define a certain way.

    Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!

    NO HE DIDN’! This is NOT what he said. I already pointed this out to you in the other thread. He said nothing even remotely similar to this.

    If you are going to continue asserting this blatant lie, please provide a quote where he said anything remotely similar to this.

    his very book title states up-front that those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism are deluded, insane. :-(

    No, he didn’t. First, there is a big difference between “deluded” and “insane”. Second, he did not say that “those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism”, in fact there is no possible way that anyone could jump from “the god delusion” to “anyone who isn’t anti-theist is insane”. They aren’t even remotely similar.

    Those are NOT, in my view, tenable or reasonable or justified claims. They are, frankly, intolerant and extremist and offensive things to say.

    Well then it is a good thing he doesn’t hold the position you attribute to him. You are making stuff up out of thin air, or grossly distorting things he said, and then criticizing him for it. This is a strawman.

    By contrast, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were, I think, reasonable old athiests who made a good case but weren’t, y’know douchebags about it & didn’t demean and disrespect and show contempt to those who disagreed with them. ;-)

    Tell that to my Dad, who was furious after reading the Demon Haunted world because he thought it was too dismissive of religion. You should actually read some of the stuff those two have written about religion, it is every bit as strident as Dawkins. I can provide quotes if you don’t believe me.

    I originally gave you the benefit of the doubt. But you are repeating things many have already told you are wrong, you are attributing arguments to them that they never made and that many have pointed out to you that they never made, you are criticizing them for holding positions based on you defining words differently than them, and criticizing them for doing things you are do far worse than them on.

    I am frankly having a hard time giving you the benefit of the doubt, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that you care more about your crusade against Dawkins than you do about the truth. You are getting dangerously close to just being a blatant liar. If you don’t either start giving direct quote to back up your claims that they hold the positions you attribute to them then I will have no choice but to conclude that you are simply a liar.

  284. Nate Phelps

    “Saying “God did it” is not an answer. It’s an evasion.”

    And for too long it’s carried an implicit order not to ask questions, not to go looking.

    I just can’t believe that Bill doesn’t recognize the weakness in his argument. The very best he could hope for is the vague argument that something we don’t understand put this whole thing together. Setting aside the infinite regression challenge to that argument, it’s still not a 42nd cousin to the notion that the Christian god is the cause.

  285. Umesh Singh

    I think you folks missing the forest for the trees. O’Reilly is not trying to debate science. If you think Bill just brought up some scientific facts and interpreted them a different way, you are rather gullible.

    Bill O’Reilly’s paid purpose in life is like Glenn Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh’s. Their purpose is to be the cheer leader for their side. Since the “other” side appears to be winning using science, these buffoons have to claim that science is on the side of the illiterates who eagerly listen to them for moral and emotional support. It does not matter that it is or it isn’t.

    It is convenient that these listeners, who are easily tricked by religious mumbo jumbo, generally do not need their rhetoric to be self-consistent. They can quite literally say two contradictory thoughts in consecutive sentences and not be bothered by the conflict. If you point out the contradiction, they will simply utter a third sentence attacking you (“liberal”, “communist”, “socialist”, “nazi”, etc …).

    Note that as long as they are fed a steady diet of what appears to be rhetorical ammunition against their political enemies, they feel just fine. That is why they come back day after day to watch and listen to such media outlets. It tells them something they feel good about.

    It isn’t just political conservatives that do this. It is human nature to go seek out what sounds and feels comfortable and easy.

  286. Joseph G

    @Nigel Dipledge: O’Reilly is being wilfully ignorant, whereas Dawkins has interviewed many creationists, and frequently reads the bible (yes, he enjoys it as a work of fiction). Dawkins has certainly put himself in the position of (effectively) saying to a creationist “here I am, persuade me that your view of the world is valid”.
    Guess what? Their arguments fail to convince him. Not because he is closed-minded, but because the arguments themselves are so poor.

    O’Reilly has done the same.
    I know that people who don’t like him love to cherry-pick comments that make him look bad, but he’s actually more reasonable then about 80% of the political commentators out there (not that that’s saying much).
    That’s not to say that he isn’t wrong, but he does routinely talk to people he disagrees with, and makes some convincing arguments (when he stays away from theology).

  287. Joseph G

    @MTU Agnosticism = the belief that there may or may not be a God.
    Atheism = the belief that there is NO God.
    & I’ll add another one too :
    Anti-Theism / New Atheism = The conviction not only that there is no God but that religious people are deluded and harmful and that religion should be abolished.

    That’s the thing, I still have a hard time getting a consensus on what exactly an atheist is. Or agnostic, even. My understanding is that an agnostic believes that it’s not possible to know if there is a God or not, while an Atheist believes that there isn’t one. But as you point out, there’s a big difference between “not believing in God” and “disbelieving in God”.

    I’m not even sure what I am. I guess I’m an agnostic agnostic – I don’t know if it’s possible to know whether it’s possible to know if God exists.
    (But I hope that it is) :D

  288. Joseph G

    @Quiet Desperation: It’s sort of an anti-anthropic principle. The true nature of the universe does not require the human mind to be able to accept it, understand it or even have the capacity to be aware of it.

    Man… you just blew my mind. Srsly.
    Whoah.
    I’m gonna go meditate for awhile :)

  289. Sean

    “How could a unicorn be both invisible and pink?”

    Easy. First, you make the pink unicorn. Then you change the visible light spectrum so that pink is over there with ultraviolet. Call it “infrapink.”

  290. Allibyx

    I think I finally caught on to O’Reilly’s game. I believe there’s no way someone that stupid can make so much money. You can find idiot commentators all over the internet and youtube, but this man has made a successful career out of it.

    I need more faith to believe that he is the perfect amount of stupid at the right place and the right time, than the faith I need to believe that he’s a genius and not only doesn’t believe what he says, but knows how to start arguments.

  291. Verifiable

    is it really worth the time and effort to pay attention to this obviously insane man.
    There’s a fella lives down the street shouts about martians in his head.
    I feel no need to intervene with his insanity either.
    Leave O’reilly alone…early onset dementia.

  292. melior

    I’m still chuckling that Bill O’Really really asked someone to explain “why the sun goes up and down without interruption.” The earth rotates as it revolves around the sun; no part of the sun moves “up and down”.

    The truly unsolved mystery for the ages is still, “How many angels can dance on Bill O’s pin-sized head?”

  293. TheBlackCat

    That’s the thing, I still have a hard time getting a consensus on what exactly an atheist is.

    Amongst actual atheists I have not seen much disagreement (although they may word it slightly differently). At the very least you could say an atheist is someone who thinks that “no” is the best answer we currently have to the question of “does god exist”. How much certainty they put in that “no” varies enormously, but I have not heard of a single atheist, certainly not a prominent one, who is 100% sure about that “no”.

    The only people I have ever heard say that atheism implies certainty that god does not exist or that god has been conclusively disproven are non-atheists. They may be religious people or self-styled agnostics, but I have never heard an atheist claim this, and every atheist I have heard comment on the matter has explicitly stated the opposite.

    So much of the disagreement I have seen is with non-atheists telling atheists what their beliefs are supposed to be (like MTU here). This, of course, leads to inconsistent definition, with one side saying what their beliefs are, and the other side telling them that they have to believe something other than what they actually do believe.

  294. Stefano

    In the USA, where I lived for 5 years, I had the impression many people are proud of their ignorance when this allows them to “prove” the existence of God. In Italy (the sea around the Vatican’s island) I’ve never seen something like that: believers believe both in God (actually they talk more about “religion”, since they say “don’t call the name of God in vain”, something apparently totally forgotten in the US) and in science, and they don’t mix them. Science is for the Earth, religion for the Heavens. In Denmark it seems to be the same case of Italy (actually it’s even easier since here they seem all atheists), and in England as well, so I guess it’s just a matter of European culture versus North American.

    On a side: wouldn’t it be easier to explain tides by saying that the Earth rotates around the common center of mass with the Moon, and the closest area of the seas to the CoM feels the strongest gravitational and weakest centrifugal forces, and vice versa for the farthest?
    I’m not sure O’reilly would be able (willing) to understand an argument based on addition of vectors.

  295. idogiam

    Right, so, hang on. If the event in which “a Mars-sized planet struck the Earth a glancing blow” is “singular and unusual”, why do so many of the other planets have moons? Heck, Jupiter has 63 of them.

  296. James Jones

    Just throwing this out there….
    Where did matter come from? If you expect me to believe that it has just “always existed” then how is that different than faith? The universe is mostly a vacuum…so, where did matter come from? Did the vacuum just vomit? Did two particles that did not exist collide?

  297. ber

    thanks discover mag, keep showing this we win, you loose attitude of oreilly. his shows it’s his way or the hiway, others are loosers. this is soooooooooo not full of depth, openness and compassion

  298. Messier Tidy Upper

    Reflecting on the New Atheists (Dawkins, PZ Myers, Hitchens) versus the Old Athiests (Asimov, Sagan, Stephen J. Gould) – & agnostics divide further, I think for me a lot of it boils down to the fact that the New Atheists are going out of their way to insult and mock my friends – some of whoem are religious – and some good and admirable religious people. :-(

    The Old Atheists didn’t do that – they disagreed with religion & spoke out against religion when it was needed but they didn’t indulge in the sort of religion-basing that the New Atheists seem to. The old atheists treated dissenting opinions and the religious folks generally with courtesy and respect. They were prepared to listen calmly and not just say outrageous things for the sake of publicity and scoring debating points with their followers as Dawkin’s esp. seems to do. :-(

    PS. I stopped off at the library on my way home today & have now re-borrowed Dawkin’s God Delusion book and will be re-reading it again so I can provide proper quotes etc .. for y’all. :-)

  299. Messier Tidy Upper

    @310. idogiam :

    Right, so, hang on. If the event in which “a Mars-sized planet struck the Earth a glancing blow” is “singular and unusual”, why do so many of the other planets have moons? Heck, Jupiter has 63 of them.

    Well not all the moons in our solar system formed the same way! ;-)

    Jupiter captured many asteroids – and briefly one comet, Shoemaker-Levy 9 – into becoming moons while other Jovian moons such as the large Galilean natural satellites probably formed from a disk of material around the gas giant when it was still forming – it has been compared to a mini-solar system in this regard! ;-)

    Much the same applies to Saturn, Oranos and Neptune. Saturn may have gained some moons -and its rings – from the destruction of moons that were brken up by impacts fromone larger object into multiple smaller ones. Neptune captured Triton, its largest moon form the cometary disk and thisevent mayhave destroyed or atleats severely disrupted its pre-existing satellite system.

    OTOH, Earth, Pluto and Mars most likely owe their moons – or Mars case moonlets – to giant splash type impacts.

    *****

    “To get a sense of the scale of the Jovian system, consider that if the Earth was placed at the centre of Jupiter, our Moon would lie inside the orbit of [Jupiter’s nearest large moon] Io, while distant [outer moon] Sinope would be a third of way to Mars.”
    - P. 186, Ferris, ‘Seeing in the Dark’, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

  300. “Messier Tidy Upper”, you write at great length about the offensiveness of atheists saying there is no God. Tell me, do you feel the same way about people who believe that Thor or Zeus are not real people?

    It’s perfectly acceptable to use the “no evidence, so it’s nonsense” logic when it’s a different culture’s belief system, isn’t it? When someone states definitively that Zeus is not real, you don’t accuse him of “religion bashing”, do you?

  301. TheBlackCat

    The Old Atheists didn’t do that – they disagreed with religion & spoke out against religion when it was needed but they didn’t indulge in the sort of religion-basing that the New Atheists seem to.

    Of course they did. The difference with the “New” Atheists isn’t what they are saying, people have been saying it for hundreds of not thousands of years. The difference now is that people are listening. This is what has religious people so outraged.

    Nothing that the so-called “New” Atheists is the least bit new, many “Old” Atheists were just as much into religion-bashing, including Asimov and Sagan. You should see some of the stuff Thomas Jefferson said, and he wasn’t even an atheist. He did say the sorts of things you now wrongly attribute to Dawkins.

    The difference now is that the same things that atheists used to put in obscure philosophy books or published in small runs post-houmously out of fear for their lives are now on the New York Times best-sellers list. They are all over the news, self-identified atheists, agnostics, and non-believers are either rapidly increasing in number or at least rapidly increasing in openly admitting their lack of belief. The message is reaching people, people are listening, demographics are changing. That is the only thing that is new.

  302. Messier Tidy Upper

    Thinking about the case for religion, while I don’t necessarily agree with all of this online article :

    http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nowayjose.html

    “The Impossible Faith” or “How Not to Start an Ancient Religion” it does make for fairly interesting and thought-provoking reading. It argues that Christianity did everything – well, at least 17 things – wrong according the mores of the day – yet somehow survived and spread.

    Excepts :

    The message of the cross was an abhorrence, a vulgarity in its social context. Discussing crucifixion was the worst sort of social faux pas; it was akin, in only the thinnest sense, to discussing sewage reclamation techniques over a fine meal – but even worse when associated with an alleged god come to earth. Hengel adds: “A crucified messiah…must have seemed a contradiction in terms to anyone, Jew, Greek, Roman or barbarian, asked to believe such a claim, and it will certainly have been thought offensive and foolish.”

    &

    the Jewishness of Jesus even by itself means that it never should have expanded in the Gentile world much beyond the circle of those Gentiles who were already God-fearers (i.e., Gentile proselytes to Judaism)…

    &

    Ethically, Christian religion is “hard to do”. Judaism was as well, and that is one reason why there were so few God-fearers. Christianity didn’t offer nice, drunken parties or orgies with temple prostitutes; in fact it forbade them. It didn’t encourage wealth; it encouraged sharing the wealth. It didn’t appeal to the senses, it promised “pie in the sky by and by.” This was a problem in the ancient world as much as it is now — if not more so. It would not appeal to the rich, who would be directed to share their wealth. The poor might like that, but not if they couldn’t spend that shared dough on their favorite vice-distraction ..

    &

    If Christianity wanted to succeed, it should never have admitted that women were the first to discover the empty tomb or the first to see the Risen Jesus. It also never should have admitted that women were main supporters (Luke 8:3) or lead converts (Acts 16)…It would have been much easier to put the finding of the tomb on the male disciples .. [SNIP] .. or someone like Cleophas or even Nicodemus, find the tomb first, or to mediate the witness through Peter or John. But they were apparently stuck with this — and also apparently overcame yet another stigma.

    & finally

    Throughout the NT, the apostles encouraged people to check seek proof and verify facts: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. [Italics original - ed.]
    And when fledgling converts heeded this advice, not only did they remain converts (suggesting that the evidence held up under scrutiny), but the apostles described them as “noble” for doing so ..[Snip] .. As if the apostles weren’t making things hard enough for themselves by making extraordinary and testable claims in a social environment where it was difficult to keep secrets, they increased the odds significantly by actively encouraging people to check out their claims. Encouraging people to verify claims and seek proof is a guaranteed way of ensuring that your fledgling cult is a flop – unless, of course, those claims hold up under the scrutiny that your encouragement will undoubtedly generate.

    Now I’m not saying this any or all of this means Christianity (or any religion) is right, just that there may well be a lot more of a logical, stronger case for it than some extreme atheists would have us think.

    As noted before, I can see *both* sides of the whole Theism /Anti-Theism issue and find neither wholly convincing.

  303. Messier Tidy Upper

    @317. TheBlackCat :

    many “Old” Atheists were just as much into religion-bashing, including Asimov and Sagan.

    Really? Got any examples to quote of that?

    I am a big fan of both these individuals & while I can remember them supporting atheism (or in Asimov’s case Humanism) and arguing against religious extremism, I don’t recall any cases where either Carl Sagan or Isaac Asimov attacked *all* religions and *all* religious people with the sort of nasty rhetoric I find Dawkins doing all too often.

    ***

    PS. I can see a number of folks have replied and commented on what I’ve said here earlier – I will certainly try to respond as soon as possible to as many as possible of these but I may find time constraints and Real Life get in the way too. Please bear with me & be a bit patient – I’m not meaning to ignore anyone.

  304. Messier Tidy Upper

    @316. Michael Wong Says:

    “Messier Tidy Upper”, you write at great length about the offensiveness of atheists saying there is no God. Tell me, do you feel the same way about people who believe that Thor or Zeus are not real people?

    Since there are no longer very many – if any – Zeus worshippers around the debunking of Zeus worship is NOT likely to cause emotional pain and hurt to real people – esp. people I know & consider friends – in the same way as attacking Judaism or Christianity does. So, yes, there’s a big difference. Then too there’s the fact that Dawkins & co have NOT been attacking Zeus-worshippers with the sort of savage bile they reserve for the main Western religions. So your argument there is just hypothetical sophistry.

    It’s perfectly acceptable to use the “no evidence, so it’s nonsense” logic when it’s a different culture’s belief system, isn’t it? When someone states definitively that Zeus is not real, you don’t accuse him of “religion bashing”, do you?

    Depends on the context & how they’re doing it. ;-)

    @317. TheBlackCat :

    They are all over the news, self-identified atheists, agnostics, and non-believers are either rapidly increasing in number or at least rapidly increasing in openly admitting their lack of belief. The message is reaching people, people are listening, demographics are changing. That is the only thing that is new.

    For the first line there, duh! I’m one of them! Has it *really* escaped your attention that I’m agnostic & not a religious believer myself? :roll:

    I’ve already noted there is a nastiness and extremism about the New Atheists that is, if not entirely new, then one of their distinguishing traits. The Over-The-Topness factor of Dawkins, PZ Myers with his deliberate communion wafer descration stunt* & so on combined with the “guilt by association” phenomena is one contributing reason as to why I call myself an agnostic rather than an athiest.

    —-

    * There has recently been another long debate over PZ Myers “Crackergate” stunt on the excellent Slacktivist blog – run by (very!) Left-wing Evangelical Christian Fred Clark who has been demolishing and ridiculing the appalling Left Behind novels.

    PZ Myers stunt was, I think, a textbook example of a New Atheist going out of his way to offend and hurt religious people & thus a douchebag thing to do. Yes, I do know *why* he did it and about the death threats he and the other communion-wafer stealing student suffered. Two wrongs don’t make a right and offending people by outrageous publicity stunts like that actually distracts from fighting the fundamentalist religious extremism rather than helping. IMHON.

  305. Messier Tidy Upper

    @311. James Jones asks :

    Just throwing this out there : Where did matter come from? If you expect me to believe that it has just “always existed” then how is that different than faith? The universe is mostly a vacuum…so, where did matter come from? Did the vacuum just vomit? Did two particles that did not exist collide?

    Vacuum Vomiting .. (Nice alliteration there btw. :-) ) ..
    Dust and gas came out,
    from this stardust aeons on,
    We arose! :-)

    See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang for the wiki-basics there.

    The Big bang created the first elements – the matter (dark and visible alike) along with spacetime itself.

    Stellar nucleosynthesis :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_nucleosynthesis

    over several generations of stars and over thirteen billion years of slow cooking eventually produced the chemical elements and molecules we know and love today. :-)

  306. Messier Tidy Upper

    @308. TheBlackCat :

    So much of the disagreement I have seen is with non-atheists telling atheists what their beliefs are supposed to be (like MTU here). This, of course, leads to inconsistent definition, with one side saying what their beliefs are, and the other side telling them that they have to believe something other than what they actually do believe.

    Well, sorry TheBlackCat, if you think that’s what I’m doing because that’s not my intention.

    The definition I use is I think the standard one & is certainly how I’ve always veiwed things.

    @307. melior asks :

    The truly unsolved mystery for the ages is still, “How many angels can dance on Bill O’s pin-sized head?”

    Ah, *that* one is easy! ;-)

    The answer is, as Marcus said in Babylon-5, : “.. as many as want to!” ;-)

    @ 301. Joseph G :

    I’m not even sure what I am. I guess I’m an agnostic agnostic – I don’t know if it’s possible to know whether it’s possible to know if God exists. (But I hope that it is)

    That also describes my views pretty well too. :-)

    Religion seems to me to be a very complex and personal area.

  307. TheBlackCat

    Carl Sagan:

    “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. “Credulity kills”"

    “But religions are tough. Either they make no contentions which are subject to disproof or they quickly redesign doctrine after disproof. The fact that religions can be so shamelessly dishonest, so contemptuous of the intelligence of their adherents, and still flourish does not speak very well for the tough- mindedness of the believers. But it does indicate, if a demonstration was needed, that near the core of the religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.”

    “Anything you don’t understand, Mr. Rankin, you attribute to God. God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challenges to our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it. ”

    In the Demon Haunted World, he also directly compared Religion to belief in the Tooth fairy. He also directly rejected the idea that religion and science can co-exist.

    Isaac Asimov

    “I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.”

    “There’s something about a pious man such as he. He will cheerfully cut your throat if it suits him, but he will hesitate to endanger the welfare of your immaterial and problematical soul.”

    “To transcend the laws of nature, be “supernatural” is, however, impermissible in the Universe as interpreted by science, in the “Scientific Universe”…

    It might easily be argued that human beings have no right to say that this or that is “impermissible”; that something that is called supernatural receives its name by arbitrary definition out of knowledge that is finite and incomplete. Every scientist must admit that we do not know all the laws of nature that may exist, and that we do not thoroughly understand all the implications and limitations of the laws of nature that we think do exist. Beyond what little we know there may be much that seems “supernatural” to our puny understanding, but nevertheless exists.
    Quite right, but consider this-

    When we lead from ignorance, we can come to no conclusions. When we say, “Anything can happen, and anything can be, because we know so little that we have no right to say ‘This is’ or ‘This isn’t,’” then all reasoning comes to a halt right there. We can eliminate nothing; we can assert nothing. All we can do is put words and thoughts together on the basis of intuition or faith or revelation and, unfortunately, no two people seem to share the same intuition or faith or revelation.
    What we must do is set rules and place limits, however arbitrary these may seem to be. We then discover what we can say within these rules and limits.

    The scientific view of the Universe is such as to admit only those phenomena that can, in one way or another, be observed in a fashion accessible to all, and to admit those generalizations (which we call laws of nature) that can be induced from those observations.”

    “To be sure, the Bible contains the direct words of God. How do we know? The Moral Majority says so. How do they know? They say they know and to doubt it makes you an agent of the Devil or, worse, a Lbr-l Dm-cr-t. And what does the Bible textbook say? Well, among other things it says the earth was created in 4004 BC (Not actually, but a Moral Majority type figured that out three and a half centuries ago, and his word is also accepted as inspired.) The sun was created three days later. The first male was molded out of dirt, and the first female was molded, some time later, out of his rib. As far as the end of the universe is concerned, the Book of Revelation (6:13-14) says: “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” … Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly. ”

    “There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.”

  308. TheBlackCat

    Well, sorry TheBlackCat, if you think that’s what I’m doing because that’s not my intention.

    That is utter baloney. You did this repeatedly to Nigel in the other thread, explicitly and repeatedly telling him that his definition of atheism is wrong.

    You also have consistently done this to “New” atheist like Dawkins, presuming to tell them what their beliefs are despite the fact that it directly contradicts their own statements regarding their beliefs.

    You did it in this very thread, in post 129. When I pointed this out, you explicitly accused them of lying about their beliefs.

    You are the textbook example of this, something I have pointed out to you repeatedly. Despite the fact that I pointed out to you repeatedly that you are doing this, you still continue to do it.

    If this was so unintentional, why didn’t you stop doing it the last dozen or so times people pointed it out to you?

  309. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ TheBlackCat : So now *YOU* are telling me what *MY* intention was /is like you know *that* better than I do?!? *facepalm* :roll:

    As I said, I’m using the definition I’ve always held which is the simple one that an athiest is someone who does NOT believe God exists. I’ve already given you my definitions, you claim they are somehow false but, by Jove( ;-) !) I cannot see how! :roll:

    I’m really seriously, not sure why you seem to feel this is such a big issue or problem. Sigh. :-(

    Thanks for posting those quotes there anyhow.

    @297. TheBlackCat Says:

    Except that he [Dawkins] knows far more about the history and current opinions of religious people then you do.

    Maybe, maybe not. I’m not sure exactly how much Dawkins knows in this area and how much is just his interpretation or opinion. As noted before Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who became prominent for atheism via fighting creationism. His perspective on religion may then, I think, understandably have been coloured by this.

    By saying this, you are arguing that you know more about this then he does, but by doing so you are doing exactly the same thing he does.

    No. Not at all. I’m just saying how he comes across to me based on reading his book(s) before, seeing him on TV and so forth. Its *my* personal impression and opinion and I’m certainly not claiming any more authority than he claims.

    Add that to the fact that you totally misrepresent their arguments, you attribute positions to them that are the exact opposite of the ones they actually hold, and now you say you can’t actually remember what they said, I would say you are far more guilty of this then Dawkins is.

    You say I’m misrepresenting them, I say I’m accurately representing them.

    That’s where as I said, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You see things one way & I another very different one.

    I do recall reading Dawkins book and I recall both agreeing with much of what he said and also feeling he was going too far and being deliberately outrageous and offensive to the religious at other parts as I’ve already noted.

    – Taking a break now I will respond again here later —–

  310. TheBlackCat

    Maybe, maybe not. I’m not sure exactly how much Dawkins knows in this area and how much is just his interpretation or opinion.

    You criticize Dawkins for not knowing enough about religion, for not understanding the opinions of religious people, yet you don’t actually have any clue whatsoever about how much he actually know about religion, or how much he know about the opinions of religious people? Then on what grounds were you criticizing him? Gut feeling?

    AS noted before Dawkins is an evolutionary bilgist who became promient for athiems via fightingcretaionism. his perspective onreliguion may then, I think, understandably have been skewed by this.

    If you are trying to argue against someone, it is probably good to not just fabricate motives out of thin air. You have no clue when or how he got his opinions on religion, so please don’t just make stuff up like this.

    No. Not at all. I’m just saying how he comes across to me based on reading his book(s) before, seeing him on TV and so forth. Its my personal impression and opinion and I’m certainly notclaiming any more authority than claims.

    Your whole argument is based on him presenting a strawman version of religion. You said this repeatedly. But if you know less about religion then he does, then you have no way of knowing whether he is presenting an accurate picture or not. In other words, your entire argument rests on you knowing more about it than he does.

    Of course, whenever I try to ask you for examples of him presenting strawmen, you suddenly switch gears to talking about how mean he is, so I can’t actually address any specific examples.

  311. TheBlackCat

    So now *YOU’RE* telling me what *MY* intention was /is like you know that that betetr than I do?!? Really? :roll:

    Yes, when you explicitly tell someone they are wrong, you are telling them they are wrong. It doesn’t take any interpretation. You told Nigel, an atheist, that his definition of atheism is wrong.

    You repeatedly and explicitly stated that Dawkins in particular and “New” Atheists in general think god has been disproven. Once again, this is not something that is really open to any interpretation.

    And this has been pointed out to you repeatedly, yet you continue to do it.

    As I said, I’m using the definition I’ve always held which is the simple one that an athiest is someone who does NOT believe God exists.

    No, you are telling atheists who hold other definitions that their definitions are wrong.

    You say I’m misrepresentinmg them, I say I’m accurately representing them.

    The positions you attribute to them directly contradict their explicit statements on the issues.

    That’s where as I said, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You see things one way & I another.

    Sorry, no. You are attributing specific claims to them that they never made. You are attributing specific positions to them that they have explicitly and repeatedly stated that they do not hold. You are defining their beliefs in a way that directly contradicts their own express statements about their beliefs. You are not arguing against me, you are arguing against their own statements on the subjects. And when this is pointed out to you, you either ignore it, change the subject, or accuse them of lying.

    This is not a matter that is open to interpretation. These are factual questions that are very easy to answer. I am not going to “agree to disagree” any more than I am going to “agree to disagree” about whether 2+2 equals 4 or 398. You are simply wrong.

  312. Nigel Depledge

    Wow, I’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll try to hit the highlights, but I apologise in advance if I miss anything important.

    MTU (285) said:

    My definitions as I understand & view things here :

    Agnosticism = the belief that there may or may not be a God.

    Atheism = the belief that there is NO God.

    & I’ll add another one too :

    Anti-Theism / New Atheism = The conviction not only that there is no God but that religious people are deluded and harmful and that religion should be abolished.

    You call that a strawman if you like but that’s how I see it.

    Yes, I do call that a strawman.

    As I have stated repeatedly, I have never met (nor seen on telly, nor read the writings of) any atheist who claims absolutely that there is no god. You could easily change my viewpoint by quoting some of them who do claim there is no god, but you have not done this.

    Also, as I have stated repeatedly, the closest I have ever seen Dawkins come is to support a campaign with the statement “There’s probably no god”. This is a whole world apart from claiming that there definitely is no god.

    In fact, atheism is simply life without religion. Technically, an atheist could have some vague belief that there is something higher behind the big bang, but if they never act on that belief, then they are functionally atheistic.

    Therefore, agnosticism is either a subset of atheism, or a mostly overlapping set with atheism. As I have stated in a previous thread, I can envisage a situation where an agnostic regularly attends religious functions as a form of hedging their bets.

    So, can you see that there is a difference between life without religion and the conviction that there is no god at all?

    Furthermore, while I am sure that some atheists do believe that there is no god, I do not think any of them would go so far as to claim that anyone can prove it.

    In a vaguely related way, science has shown us that god is not necessary to explain any aspect of the natural world. Thus we can conclude that any belief in a god is irrational. But that is also a very long way from the claim that there definitely is no god.

    D’you see?

  313. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (285) said:

    Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!

    No, he didn’t. He stated that scaring children with images of hellfire and eternal torture was. Can you see the difference?

    . . . his very book title states up-front that those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism are deluded, insane.

    I’ve asked you this question twice and have not seen an answer yet. Maybe third time is the charm:

    In what ways is religion different from a clinical delusion?

  314. Nigel Depledge

    Josh (286) said:

    FYI we have a theory about how the moon got there, we don’t KNOW how it got there… It’s not that I disagree with you but you really should not overstate your case.

    This semantic argument is trivial.

    We know how the moon got there in exactly the same sense of “know” that we know the sun will rise tomorrow.

  315. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (288) said:

    Good question but clearly many individuals do feel they can answer it satisfactorily and that they are NOT hallucinating. I’m not oenof those individuals myself. Its a personal thing.

    Religious people would certainly argue that a religious experience is real in a way a hallucination is NOT and the fact that religious experiences change people and alter their behaviour, even their personalities in a way mere hallucinations do NOT.

    This is an evasion, not an answer.

    Whether religious people would argue that it is different or not is irrelevant (’cause, duh, of course they will argue that there is a difference!).

    You have claimed that calling religious belief a delusion is insulting.

    Why and how is it insulting?

    In claiming what you did, you have implied that there is a qualitative difference between religion and delusion, but you have not made any attempt to explain what the difference is. Nor, indeed, how we can reliably distinguish the one from the other.

    So, if calling religious belief a delusion is an insult, there must be a difference between the two states. What is that difference?

  316. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (289) said:

    You can have a painting described and know what it is but if you are blind then you cannot say you’ve seen it or really experienced it.

    So, are you excluding science from ever being able to explain – and perhaps induce – the experience of viewing a masterpiece?

  317. Nigel Depledge

    Quiet Desperation (293) said:

    I’m not a believer, but I sometimes wonder if there are things in Reality our brains simply cannot conceptualize, but that are there nonetheless. I’ve read articles about some of the newer cyclic universe theories, and some speculation on the universe really not having a starting point, that there has been an infinite number of cycles.

    Imagining an infinity of time in front of us is tricky enough, but you try imagining an infinity of time behind us, and the brain sort of just goes “LOL! WUT? NO WAI!” That doesn’t mean it can’t be true, however. It’s sort of an anti-anthropic principle. The true nature of the universe does not require the human mind to be able to accept it, understand it or even have the capacity to be aware of it.

    You are quite correct. There exist people who like tripe. WTF?

  318. onehipdad

    One of the best explanations of the Big Bang theory can be found on the Vatican Library’s website.
    Further vindication of the appellation “True Believers” used by some Catholics, yours truly included.

    “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the endless passion of Life”
    -Fellini

  319. Nigel Depledge

    Harpcat (295) said:

    Look, There are a lot of different kinds of creationists. Theist, deists, 10,000 year young earthers, old earth “Special” creation, and finally “theistic evolutionists”

    Within these varied groups there are varied levels of acceptance of the scientific data that is presented. With the YE (young earth) they pretty much ignore everything they do not want to hear. OE special creationists, believe that there is micro, but not macro evolution, that the universe is indeed 14 or 15 Billion years old (or whatever they are saying now) and that speciation was caused by divine intervention.

    The theistic evolutionist essentially believes that an all knowing God set the machinery in motion, macro and micro, and that survival of the fittest was a engineered quantity that would go exactly where it has. Leading to intellect and curiosity, discovery, and yes, even faith.

    I belong to this latter group. I do not deny the necessity of the things in space and their weight in earths existence. I pretty much believe in the big bang, an old universe, evolution and a lot more.

    Absolute evidence of this does not erase God. Never could. It just demonstrates amply the hows. The whys are another thing all together. That is an issue of faith. If you have that kind of curiosity, great. If you do not, that is fine as well. In either way of thinking, there is more than enough beauty to be seen and enjoyed.

    Yes, I’ve encountered many different varieties of religiously-minded folk in various discussions on the t’internet. I’ve even been told I will burn in hell for eternity.

    Anyhow, I am quite happy with the form of Theistic Evolution (TE) that accepts the findings of science but posits an omnipotent and omniscient god that set it all in motion at the big bang. It is unlikely that this TE position will contradict the findings of science in the foreseeable future, and it is (IIUC) the official position of the Church of England.

    However, I feel compelled to point out that even such a moderate position is irrational, because god is unnecessary as an explanation for how and – yes – why the universe is the way it is. You stray into the area of NOMA, which makes the mistake of assuming that science can never offer us understanding of certain aspects of the human experience.

    You say that the whys are a matter of faith, but what if science does eventually answer those questions? Or do you suggest that – if the means to investigate those questions become available in the next 100,000 years – we should refrain from undertaking that investigation?

  320. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (300) said:

    That’s not to say that [O'Reilly] isn’t wrong, but he does routinely talk to people he disagrees with, and makes some convincing arguments (when he stays away from theology).

    This is different from everything else I have read about him (and no, I have not watched more than a small fraction of his TV appearances).

    According to several other comments, he generally does not let his opponent finish making a point, and uses various rhetorical tricks that make them look inferior.

  321. Nigel Depledge

    Sean (303) said:

    “How could a unicorn be both invisible and pink?”

    Easy. First, you make the pink unicorn. Then you change the visible light spectrum so that pink is over there with ultraviolet. Call it “infrapink.”

    Heh. That has got to be a Lazlar Lyricon custom job. See the infra-pink lizard emblem on the neutrino cowling?

    Here’s hoping more than one person gets the uber-geeky reference.

  322. Nigel Depledge

    The Black Cat (308) said:

    This, of course, leads to inconsistent definition, with one side saying what their beliefs are, and the other side telling them that they have to believe something other than what they actually do believe.

    Oh, man! Now you’re making my head hurt…

  323. Nigel Depledge

    Idogiam (310) said:

    Right, so, hang on. If the event in which “a Mars-sized planet struck the Earth a glancing blow” is “singular and unusual”, why do so many of the other planets have moons? Heck, Jupiter has 63 of them.

    The myriad small moons of Jupiter and Saturn most probably formed in situ.

    Our moon is unusual in being so large in relation to the planet it orbits.

  324. Nigel Depledge

    James Jones (311) said:

    Just throwing this out there….
    Where did matter come from? If you expect me to believe that it has just “always existed” then how is that different than faith? The universe is mostly a vacuum…so, where did matter come from? Did the vacuum just vomit? Did two particles that did not exist collide?

    OK, assuming this is a straight question and not a Poe or a troll…

    Matter is a form of energy. It condensed out of the fireball of the big bang some time (not exactly sure of the timescale here – is it minutes or hours?) after the beginning.

  325. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (313) said:

    New Atheists are going out of their way to insult and mock my friends – some of whoem are religious – and some good and admirable religious people.

    You have claimed this over and over again, but you have not demonstrated it.

    Why is calling a religious belief a delusion an insult?

    Again, how do they differ?

  326. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (313) said:

    They were prepared to listen calmly and not just say outrageous things for the sake of publicity and scoring debating points with their followers as Dawkin’s esp. seems to do.

    Another strawman.

    Where and when has Dawkins (or any other atheist) said something outrageous merely for publicity?

    I’ve only ever seen and read him making reasonable points about the way our modern society makes so many unreasonable concessions for religion, to the point of very nearly tolerating them teaching nonsense instead of science in science classes. And debunking the feeble arguments the creationists use.

  327. Nigel Depledge

    Michael Wong (316) said:

    “Messier Tidy Upper”, you write at great length about the offensiveness of atheists saying there is no God. Tell me, do you feel the same way about people who believe that Thor or Zeus are not real people?

    It’s perfectly acceptable to use the “no evidence, so it’s nonsense” logic when it’s a different culture’s belief system, isn’t it? When someone states definitively that Zeus is not real, you don’t accuse him of “religion bashing”, do you?

    Wait, what?

    You mean Zeus ain’t real???!!! ;-)

    More seriously, though, this analogy illustrates the weakness of the “Ma, the nasty man, he said god isn’t real – Waaaah!” argument. And that’s entirely aside from the fact that no atheist of whom I am aware has ever actually claimed that there is definitely no god.

  328. TheBlackCat
    Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!

    No, he didn’t. He stated that scaring children with images of hellfire and eternal torture was. Can you see the difference?

    He didn’t even say that, he said that filling their heads with images of hellfire and eternal torment was the same thing as child abuse, not sexual abuse. I pointed this out to MTU the last time he/she claimed this, but apparently I was ignored.

  329. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (318) said:

    Now I’m not saying this any or all of this means Christianity (or any religion) is right, just that there may well be a lot more of a logical, stronger case for it than some extreme atheists would have us think.

    It doesn’t matter how many semantic or philosophical arguments you assemble, the case for any religion remains the same. Show me the evidence!

    Show to me genuine evidence that any miraculous event really did occur as described and I will reconsider my position.

    As noted before, I can see *both* sides of the whole Theism /Anti-Theism issue and find neither wholly convincing.

    Given the lack of evidence to support the existence of a god, belief in a god is irrational. Belief in a god violates the principle of parsimony.

    The widespread nature of religion is a stronger indicator that humans are mostly irrational than it is any kind of validation of religion.

    Which part of this is not “convincing”?

    Note, please that I am not claiming that there is no god, I am simply pointing out that it is a belief with no basis in any evidence whatever.

  330. Nigel Depledge

    @ TBC (344) -

    Oh, yeah. My bad, I misremembered the actual text.

  331. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (319) said:

    … the sort of nasty rhetoric I find Dawkins doing all too often.

    What “nasty” rhetoric???

  332. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (320) said:

    Since there are no longer very many – if any – Zeus worshippers around the debunking of Zeus worship is NOT likely to cause emotional pain and hurt to real people – esp. people I know & consider friends – in the same way as attacking Judaism or Christianity does. So, yes, there’s a big difference. Then too there’s the fact that Dawkins & co have NOT been attacking Zeus-worshippers with the sort of savage bile they reserve for the main Western religions. So your argument there is just hypothetical sophistry.

    Wait, what?

    So, the validity of an argument rests not within the argument itself but according to how many people it might offend?

    In what way is that logical?

  333. Knox

    The thing I don’t understand is why a person can’t have belief in a supernatural omnipotent being AND believe in science’s theories.

    I’m a Catholic and I do. I don’t think that evolution disproves the existence of God but that through time species that were created evovled to better their life.

  334. TheBlackCat

    @ Knox:

    I think Carl Sagan, ironically, actually said it best:

    In a life short and uncertain, it seems heartless to do anything that might deprive people of the consolation of faith when science cannot remedy their anguish. Those who cannot bear the burden of science are free to ignore its precepts. But we cannot have science in bits and pieces, applying it where we feel safe and ignoring it when we feel threatened – again, because we are not wise enough to do so.

  335. Labguy23

    When I was in college, I and my roommate had a discussion about religion vs science. “Who is to say gravity is caused by mass and not by God? What makes you think your way is right?”

    I conceded that God may in fact cause gravity, but it doesn’t matter. If you are trying to measure which theory is *more* correct, then you need to judge each theory based on it ability to allow you to predict future events, understand past events, and manipulate the environment in PREDICTABLE and REPEATABLE manner. Basically, is the theory a good tool or not?

    Today, I can use Newtonian physics to launch a vehicle to the moon and other planets. I can use it to predict where that planets/moons/asteroids will be on X date in the future. I can measure the difference in gravity between different bodies. Even airplanes are a testimate to our ability to use physics to understand and overcome gravity. So on and so forth. There are too many examples to provide.

    If I believe that God did it, then I should be able to use that knowledge to predict future events and launch spacecraft to the moon. Prayer can’t overcome gravity (even though God produces gravity and answers prayers), and God has never told anyone the position of a meteorite 25 years into the future with any sort of accuracy. Believing that God manages gravity gives us ZERO capability to manipulate, change, or use our environment to our advantage.

    Strictly as a tool, Mass causes Gravity = Excellent; God causes Gravity = Total Failure. As long as science continues to be the better tool, it will always be more right than religion. Results matter.

  336. dandehan

    As the great Frank Zappa wrote:

    Hey, we can’t really be dumb if we’re just following god’s orders
    Well let’s get serious, god knows what he’s doin’
    He wrote this book here and the book says, “He made us all to be just like him”
    So, if we’re dumb, then god is dumb and maybe even a little ugly on the side

    “Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side”

  337. Joseph G

    Nigel Dipledge: More seriously, though, this analogy illustrates the weakness of the “Ma, the nasty man, he said god isn’t real – Waaaah!” argument. And that’s entirely aside from the fact that no atheist of whom I am aware has ever actually claimed that there is definitely no god.

    I don’t think anyone here is complaining about Atheists asserting that there is no God. That’d be silly. What’s offensive is statements along the lines of “The only people who believe in God are insane or mentally deficient.”
    Not only is this an ad hominem, it’s not even true.

    FWIW, I’m pretty sure there is no God, so I’m not being defensive here :P

  338. TheBlackCat

    I don’t think anyone here is complaining about Atheists asserting that there is no God.

    MTU has complained about this repeatedly. See post 129 for an example.

    What’s offensive is statements along the lines of “The only people who believe in God are insane or mentally deficient.”
    Not only is this an ad hominem, it’s not even true.

    Who claimed this? I haven’t seen anyone here claim this. Perhaps some trolls somewhere have claimed it, but none of the prominent “New” atheists have claimed this, either. On the contrary, they said that a lot of very smart and well-educated people believe in religion, and I think they have stated they don’t think believers are insane either although I am not as certain about that.

  339. Mark DTruth

    In another 5000 years, if human beings last that long, the current crop of religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam & all the rest of monotheistic religions will be discussed and studied for their mythology. It will be finally proven that there are no supernatural forces that created the universe. After all, at one time everyone believed in the Roman or Greek pantheon and these are now studied for their myths. However, when everyone believed in these gods no one could imagine a time when they would be usurped by a single supernatural being. In order to keep the peace among the people and to control their allegiance the monotheistic religions were invented. I will not be here to be proven correct but I have no doubt that at some point in the future human beings will have advanced intellectually and socially to the point where a belief in an omnipotent god will not be necessary. Our era will be viewed with wonder and amusement. Future generations will wonder how so many otherwise intelligent people continued to believe in an all powerful supernatural being even as we dismissed as ridiculous the notion of a chariot pulling the sun across the sky. The future generations will be amused by our beliefs even as they are horrified by the number of people who were murdered in the name of this supernatural being. It will take time but just as the Greek and Roman gods were dismissed so to will the god of the Christians, Jews and Muslims.

  340. Joseph

    So you openly admit that science offers no explanation of *why* the rules of the universe are the way they are. Whether that makes you believe in God or not is pretty much irrelevant. Bill is obviously saying that there’s no reason that all the things that make life possible on our pitiable dirt ball occurred completely at random chance. That Earth just happened to get the sweet orbit and got lucky with the moon, and somewhere along the lines, spontaneous genesis occurred (or if you prefer, abiogenesis-it’s still life from non-living matter), and then a brutal grind of natural selection and all of that, BAM! Here we are fighting on your page.

    What he is saying, and I think people would do well to remember that his show is not “the news,” but is “news commentary,” is that he believes that it makes more logical sense that a Wizard Did It then it all being a random cosmic lotto win for life on earth.

    When it comes to your views on science, the way you reacted so caustically to an exhausted man in an off air interview shows that you are clearly an ideologue vouching for your beliefs. I could infer from your derision you may be a lefty, but honestly I have no idea. Nor do I care. For your own reference, science deals in facts, and while there are no facts that prove the existence of God in a concrete manner, there are no facts that disprove this concept either. So until then, take your own advice, and keep looking for answers.

    Finally, all science tells us is how things work. There’s no reason why they work that way. Science tends to be answers without context, save what the answer directly pertains to. Are you seriously going to be known as someone who objects to other people using religion to explain the why? Considering the number of atheists vs the number of people who believe in something, that sounds like a losing argument.

  341. Bill D.

    “Instead, the Moon forming from Earth-splatter rather than from other methods means that it would have a similar composition to the Earth.”

    That is not the case. You’re assuming that the “Earth-splatter” was a representative sample of the Earth, when in fact the Earth has long been stratified into several layers of differing composition and density. When the impactor hit Earth, much of the outer layer(s) of Earth splattered off to later form the moon, and what was left behind was disproportionately the inner layers. This is why the Moon, unlike the Earth, is short on iron and does not have a magnetic field. Nearly all the iron was left behind in the Earth’s core.

  342. Messier Tidy Upper

    @326. TheBlackCat Says:

    You criticize Dawkins for not knowing enough about religion, for not understanding the opinions of religious people, yet you don’t actually have any clue whatsoever about how much he actually know about religion, or how much he know about the opinions of religious people? Then on what grounds were you criticizing him? Gut feeling?

    Seeing Dawkins in the media and reading his books, its how he comes over to me and I’m not criticing his lack of knowledge so much as the one-sidedness and strawman nature of the case he tries to present.

    Its my opinion and I’ve never suggested otherwise. Its a subjective thing – I think Dawkins and the New Atheists go too far & you clearly don’t.

    If you are trying to argue against someone, it is probably good to not just fabricate motives out of thin air. You have no clue when or how he [Dawkins] got his opinions on religion, so please don’t just make stuff up like this.

    Make stuff up?? [Incredulous.]

    Oh yeah, right I just made up that Richard Dawkins was an evolutionary biologist who opposes creationism-ID, I mean that’s not true is it? :roll:

    WTF?! Are you *really* saying Dawkins isn’t an evolutionary biolgist and suports Creationism I mean W. T. F!

    Oh & yes, it is a guess on that colouring his attitude to religion but I think its a reasonable one isn’t it? It makes sense.

    Your whole argument is based on him presenting a strawman version of religion. You said this repeatedly. But if you know less about religion then he does, then you have no way of knowing whether he is presenting an accurate picture or not. In other words, your entire argument rests on you knowing more about it than he does.

    No. Clearly I have a different perspective on religion than Dawkins does. Dawkins has a juandiced antipathic view of religion, I don’t. I see things from another angle.

    Of course, whenever I try to ask you for examples of him presenting strawmen, you suddenly switch gears to talking about how mean he is, so I can’t actually address any specific examples.

    *Sigh* I have already explained that – & I have already given examples eg. in comment 265.

  343. Messier Tidy Upper

    @347. Nigel Depledge : What “nasty” rhetoric??? [Does Dawkins use.]

    & 326. TheBlackCat looking for examples of Dawkins strawmen too :

    As I’ve already noted 3 in # 288 above but once again :

    ***

    1. Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!

    2. Dawkins also claimed the Amish way of life should disappear.

    3. Dawkins book title states up-front that those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism are deluded. (IOW : religious folks are insane.)

    (Maybe the last one was the publishers choice of title not Dawkins. But I don’t think I’ve heard Dawkins objecting to or disavowing that title – if you *have* then please provide the relevant quotes.)

    Those are NOT, in my view, tenable or reasonable or justified claims. They are, frankly, intolerant and extremist and offensive things to say.

    ***

    Now of (1) there #344. TheBlackCat has argued :

    No, he didn’t. He stated that scaring children with images of hellfire and eternal torture was. Can you see the difference? He didn’t even say that, he said that filling their heads with images of hellfire and eternal torment was the same thing as child abuse, not sexual abuse. I pointed this out to MTU the last time he/she claimed this, but apparently I was ignored. [Strikethrough addded.]

    Maybe I missed that one, so many posts to read and respond to in this debate. Now I’ve got a copy of the book handy I’ll look again at it. I’ll try and find the exact words and quote.

    But, no, I don’t see that huge a difference. I guess it may be that “abuse” was used to refer to physical instead of sexual child abuse or the term abuse could equally mean both. But either way I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing to say that religious parents – warning their children who they love of Hell (a danger those parents see as real although Dawkins does not) is the same as *child abuse* any more than warning them of “stranger danger” or not playing with matches is.

    Hell may not be real, I don’t think it is myself – but *if* you do think Hell’s real then you’re going to want to teach your kids about because you love them. That may cause the more imaginative kids some sleepness nights, we may not agree with them doing that – but it is Astronomical Units from cruelly and maliciously physically or sexually abusing their kids! Dawkins equating the former to the latter is just an appallingly OTT thing to suggest. Do you really deny that?

    327. TheBlackCat Says:

    Yes, when you explicitly tell someone they are wrong, you are telling them they are wrong. It doesn’t take any interpretation. You told Nigel, an atheist, that his definition of atheism is wrong.

    Did I really? Where? I’m pretty sure I was explaining what I think an atheist is & the definition I use.

    If he – or you – wants to use a different definition to the standard widely-understood one then that’s his /your choice but it may make life confusing & he needs to specify early what he means by it. It is sometimes hard to disentangle atheist / “New Atheist” /agnostic / non-religious etc .. We probably do need an agreed set of definitions in order to – quite literally – know what we’re talking about.

    I’ve given you my definitions (#288), there’re pretty straightforward & clear I think. I’m not sure what your problem is or what your precise definitions are and how they’re better than my definitions which are, I gather, how most folks would view things.

    You repeatedly and explicitly stated that Dawkins in particular and “New” Atheists in general think god has been disproven. Once again, this is not something that is really open to any interpretation.
    And this has been pointed out to you repeatedly, yet you continue to do it.

    Truth is my defence here – the New Atheists *do* seem to be arguing and implying that as, yes, I continue to point out. I feel I keep repeating my opinion, you keep repeating yours and as I’ve said we see this in very different ways. I’ll try & find you some quotes on this but note frex (3) & (1) in the earlier examples provided in this comment.

  344. Messier Tidy Upper

    @348. Nigel Depledge Says:

    Wait, what? So, the validity of an argument rests not within the argument itself but according to how many people it might offend? In what way is that logical?

    Its not about logic there but rather NOT hurting people and showing respect and kindness for other human beings rather than going out of your way to upset and hurt them. Is that really so hard to grasp? :-(

    I have religious friends and admire some religious writers & bloggers. I feel that the New Atheists are insulting and attacking those friends and heroes – and this means I want to stand up for my friends and oppose those who are insulting them.

    @345.Nigel Depledge :

    It doesn’t matter how many semantic or philosophical arguments you assemble, the case for any religion remains the same. Show me the evidence! Show to me genuine evidence that any miraculous event really did occur as described and I will reconsider my position.

    Well that’s exactly what that my post that you referred to – #318 was doing.

    Christianity did & was a lot of things that should have meant it disappeared quickly. Its leader was horribly & humiliatingly executed, his followers fled .. and that should been that. It wasn’t. Something extraordinary must have happened that so many of Rabbi Jesus’es followers were inspired to keep preaching an unpopular message. Many of them gave their lives to convey what they considered the Truth. We know what they say happened – is it really so unthinkable that there might be something to it? Recorded history *is* evidence of a kind.

    Or consider how often history records attempts at wiping the Jewish people out. The Assyrians, the Egyptians, the neighbouring tribes, the Romans, The Arabs – both of Mohammad’s time and now & of course the ones that can’t be mentioned for Godwin’s sake. Time and time again, the enemies of the Jewish people and their religion have vanished. Time & again, the Jews survived and are living on today when their far more powerful would-be destroyers have long since faded into history.

    Co-incidence? Maybe it is, a dice can land on 6 a hundred times in a row purely by chance. But then again, if it does you’d start to wonder wouldn’t you? Could we call the survival of the Jewish people and their culture and works a miracle? Maybe?

    Given the lack of evidence to support the existence of a god, belief in a god is irrational. Belief in a god violates the principle of parsimony.The widespread nature of religion is a stronger indicator that humans are mostly irrational than it is any kind of validation of religion.
    Which part of this is not “convincing”? Note, please that I am not claiming that there is no god, I am simply pointing out that it is a belief with no basis in any evidence whatever.

    The principle of parsimony might sometimes prove false.

    There *is* some evidence although it might not be of the kind you accept (history, personal testimony, etc ..)

    I tend to think that atheism would win its a case against God in a civil court where the level of proof is “on the preponderence of the evidence” but NOT win in its in a criminal court where the level of proof is “Beyond all reasonable doubt.”

    There is, I think, still “reasonable doubt” over the atheist assertion that God does not exist.

    @323. TheBlackCat : Thanks for those Asimov & Sagan quotes. I see what you mean. :-)

    Still it may be a matter of degree & subjective opinion but I see nothing there as offensive and as mean-spirited towards religious people in general as the examples of Dawkins noted above in comments # 288 & 362.

    It also occurs to me that neither wrote a dedicated anti-religion polemic or seem to have made a career out of being hurtful to religious people in the way Dawkins increasingly seems to have done.

    Sagan and Asimov were indeed firm humanists and atheists & I agree with them. Personally, I don’t think they went as far or used a style as nasty as Dawkins & his fellow New Atheists do. They had other better priorities in their lives, it seems to me, than making a living and a big claim to fame by going out of their way to bash the beliefs of others. Still YMMV I guess.

    Anyhow, Asimov & Sagan just don’t rub me the wrong way about religion & atheism in the way that as Dawkins does.

  345. Messier Tidy Upper

    Nor am I the only person to feel this way & find Dawkin’s approach lacking – a number of books have been produced in response to Dawkins God Delusion one – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_Delusion#Responding_books

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_Angel

    While wikipedia’s page on atheism : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

    Observes that :

    Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism,[33] contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. A variety of categories have been proposed to try to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

    So clearly there is considerable debate over what “atheism” even really means and exactly how it is best described.

    My dictionary lists it as :

    athe.ism, n. (belief of) the doctrine that there is no God. – atheist n.
    - Page 32,The Little Macquarie Dictionary, General Editor David Blair, Macquarie library Pty Ltd, 1988, italics & bold original.

    If that helps. It certainly backs up my definition of that term. Aptly, it shares the page with ‘astronomy’. :-)

  346. Messier Tidy Upper

    While on definitions – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_atheists

    which describes “New atheism” diffferently from me – as a particular cultural academic movement of 6 books by 5 authors :

    I. Sam Harris,
    II. Daniel C. Dennett,
    III. Richard Dawkins,
    IV. Victor J. Stenger &
    V. Christopher Hitchens

    (At least two of which I recall reading – Dawkins & Hitchens.)

    Oddly enough, Christopher Hitchens brother, Peter Hitchens, has renounced atheism and written a book of his own detailing his return to religion :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rage_Against_God

    which might be an interesting read if I can find a copy. Anyone read it & if so would they recommend it?

    Same question applies for this book :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Religion_Becomes_Evil

    too, which is written by a Baptist minister Charles Kimball, showing again that some religious people are well aware of the darker side to their and other faiths whilst still seeing the positive side to religion as well.

  347. bob smith

    Someone posted “I’ll just say this : Science tells us how God dose things ,Gods hand is in everything. But science cannot prove,nor disprove God. and science should not even try . God Belongs to Religon. It is up to the indvidul to beleve or not . The things I said at the start are what I beleve. If Phil and anyone else disagrees thats fine. The point is you are free to accept God or to Reject God .”

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but replace “God” with “Fairy/Pixie” and the statement is equally valid.

  348. TheBlackCat

    Seeing Dawkins in the media and reading his books, its how he comes over to me and I’m not criticing his lack of knowledge so much as the one-sidedness and strawman nature of the case he tries to present.

    But you don’t know enough about religion to know if what he says is actually one-sided or a strawman or if it is 100% accurate. And we don’t know either, because no matter how many times we ask you to provide actual examples, you refuse to do so.

    Its my opinion and I’ve never suggested otherwise. Its a subjective thing – I think Dawkins and the New Atheists go too far & you clearly don’t.

    On other words you base factual criticism, that he is using strawmen and his position is one-sided, on nothing but gut feeling? Wow.

    Make stuff up?? [Incredulous.]

    Oh yeah, right I just made up that Richard Dawkins was an evolutionary biologist who opposes creationism-ID, I mean that’s not true is it? :roll:

    WTF?! Are you *really* saying Dawkins isn’t an evolutionary biolgist and suports Creationism I mean W. T. F!

    Ah yes, more strawmen. You admit in the very next sentence that you understood perfectly well what I meant, yet you still use this blatant strawman. If you knew what I was saying, what purpose did these sentences serve?

    Oh & yes, it is a guess on that colouring his attitude to religion but I think its a reasonable one isn’t it? It makes sense.

    I don’t particular care what seems reasonable to you. You are attributing motives and actions to him based solely on your own gut feelings, and then trying to act like we should take these seriously.

    No. Clearly I have a different perspective on religion than Dawkins does. Dawkins has a juandiced antipathic view of religion, I don’t. I see things from another angle.

    This is not just a matter of you having a different opinion. You repeatedly accuse him of using strawmen and over-simplified arguments, yet you cannot provide a single example of either.

    *Sigh* I have already explained that – & I have already given examples eg. in comment 265.

    Where is the example in 265? I don’t see any examples. I see you repeating the same unsupported assertions, but no examples.

    Also, that post is a great example of you accusing them of not doing their research and not listening to the other side. You don’t call it just a feeling or impression there, you flat-out accuse them of not doing enough research. That is a factual, you can’t back factual claims like that on gut feelings.

    Maybe I missed that one, so many posts to read and respond to in this debate. Now I’ve got a copy of the book handy I’ll look again at it. I’ll try and find the exact words and quote.

    That was the third time I said it.

    But, no, I don’t see that huge a difference.

    WHAT! You don’t see a big difference between child abuse and child molestation. Are you insane? Yes, I will call someone who doesn’t see a difference between those two things insane. I am sorry, I may be overstepping here but I simply refuse to believe you don’t see any difference between those two things.

    I guess it may be that “abuse” was used to refer to physical instead of sexual child abuse or the term abuse could equally mean both.

    He didn’t compare it to physical abuse, either. He specifically referred to psychological abuse.

    But either way I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing to say that religious parents – warning their children who they love of Hell (a danger those parents see as real although Dawkins does not) is the same as *child abuse* any more than warning them of “stranger danger” or not playing with matches is.

    Then you obviously didn’t pay any attention to what he wrote (surprise, surprise). He was specifically comparing the negative effects on the child’s psychological well-being to other forms of psychological abuse, and makes a good case. Unlike you, he didn’t throw out a blanket assertion based on gut feelings, he provided specific arguments backing up his position. He wasn’t equating the intent of the parents, he was equating the harm to the child.

    In other words, you got every single part of his entire argument totally and completely wrong. That should tell you something.

    Did I really? Where? I’m pretty sure I was explaining what I think an atheist is & the definition I use.

    Please re-read the very first sentence of that post. You flat-out say his definition is wrong. In that case you completely either misread or misrepresented his position, but you still said it was wrong.

    If he – or you – wants to use a different definition to the standard widely-understood one then that’s his /your choice but it may make life confusing & he needs to specify early what he means by it.

    Look, you are saying right here that he is using the wrong definition, and that yours is the right one!

    Truth is my defence here – the New Atheists *do* seem to be arguing and implying that as, yes, I continue to point out. I feel I keep repeating my opinion, you keep repeating yours and as I’ve said we see this in very different ways.

    No, your imagination is your defense here. You claim that this is your opinion, but your opinion doesn’t matter in the slightest bit here. This is a factual claim.

    Its not about logic there but rather NOT hurting people and showing respect and kindness for other human beings rather than going out of your way to upset and hurt them. Is that really so hard to grasp? :-(

    This isn’t about hurting people, this is about criticizing ideas. Unfortunately some people conflate their ideas with themselves and take offense at any criticism of those ideas, but that is true for everything. Few have any problem with this except when it comes to religion, despite the fact that its ideas are not more strongly-held than many others. I don’t see you criticize Phil when he is just as dismissive of astrology as Dawkins is of religion, despite the fact that what Phil says is just as strident. All of your arguments would apply equally well to Phil and to astrology. But you don’t, you apply them selectively only to religion.

    Christianity did & was a lot of things that should have meant it disappeared quickly…

    AURGH! You keep doing this. You say something, several people present criticisms, you ignore those criticisms, then repeat the same argument again later as if it were new. I pointed out above that you do this, and then you apologize and then just do it again.

    Please don’t repeat arguments like this until you have dealt with the previous criticisms of that arguments. I don’t want to repeat the exact same thing all over again. These comments are just getting filled with you repeating the same arguments we have already addressed over and over again, us presenting the same arguments against these, you ignoring them or changing the subject, then you presenting the same arguments again as if they were new.

    I am not doing it anymore. I am not going to keep repeating the same arguments over and over and over in hopes that you finally decide to respond to it after the 6th or 7th time. I am just going to say “I’ve already dealt with all this”.

  349. Messier Tidy Upper wrote:

    Since there are no longer very many – if any – Zeus worshippers around the debunking of Zeus worship is NOT likely to cause emotional pain and hurt to real people – esp. people I know & consider friends – in the same way as attacking Judaism or Christianity does. So, yes, there’s a big difference. Then too there’s the fact that Dawkins & co have NOT been attacking Zeus-worshippers with the sort of savage bile they reserve for the main Western religions. So your argument there is just hypothetical sophistry.

    In other words, it’s OK to bash Zeus as nothing more than a primitive superstition because there aren’t a lot of Zeus-worshippers: classic Appeal to Popularity fallacy. And it’s immoral to do it to Christianity because people might get offended: classic political correctness. And it’s not really “bashing” to do it to Zeus anyway, because it doesn’t feel as “savage” to you, even though similar words are being used: classic Appeal to Emotion fallacy.

    Do you have any kind of response to the Zeus/God comparison that is NOT some sort of fallacy?

  350. Jason

    In other words, Bill shares Insane Clown Posse’s understanding of the universe: “F***ing magnets, how do they work?” Obviously it’s a miracle.

  351. Scott Davis

    Sun comes up, the sun goes down. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. It always happens. Never a miscommunication.

    >miscommunication
    >communication
    >wat

  352. Darth Robo

    —”there are no facts that prove the existence of God in a concrete manner, there are no facts that disprove this concept either.”

    There are no facts that prove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a concrete manner, there are no facts that disprove this concept either.

    A point many people fail to grasp.

    Ramen.

  353. The OP’s insinuation that laws of physics are an equivalent problem to finding how given laws explain phenomena, is false. The trouble with finding an explanation for laws: there is no property of mathematical “model worlds” than can represent, or the preferability of, the further existential status, beyond mathematical representation we call “realness” in the sense of material existence etc. Think about it: that’s the very nature of math, it can’t go beyond itself and add extra properties to its own Platonic content. That’s why modal realists and promoters of the MUH (mathematical universe hypothesis) like Max Tegmark say that all possible worlds must exist in the same way, without such inexplicable special choice reifications (which violate the principle of sufficient reason.) It’s hard to say what the alternative is, but science and math can’t in principle give us an answer to why some PWs exist in a more substantial way, and some do not (if indeed some do!)

    BTW Darth Robo: the question really is, if there is some necessary being, uncreated, that is responsible for everything else then what is it like? “God” is defined by that sort of logical specification, even if not describe per se. So it isn’t really a matter of just inventing any number of notional beings and saying “does X exist, does Y exist ….” So you are in effect saying (realize it or not) that it’s just as plausible for the NB (“God” in philosophical rather than religious traditional terms) to have the characteristics defined (by fiat as a notional being) to the FSM rather than some other supposition. That may be a game point, but the specific form attributed to the FSM violates a key logical necessity of God, that It (no need for gender discrimination ;-) not violate the POSR by having a given form, of which we could ask “why that *particular* form and not some other” and so on (in like vein to the same question asked about our universe.) FSM isn’t as credible a likely description of what the NB would be like, as say the plenum-like whole described by Plotinus and thinkers like Hegel.

  354. TheBlackCat

    Table 3, your word salad is ready!

  355. TheBlackCat

    The trouble with finding an explanation for laws: there is no property of mathematical “model worlds” than can represent, or the preferability of, the further existential status, beyond mathematical representation we call “realness” in the sense of material existence etc.

    Tell me that while standing in front of a bus going 60 miles an hour and I will take you seriously. But the very fact that you are typing this on a computer shows the utility of the mathematical constructs you are so dismissive of.

    That may be a game point, but the specific form attributed to the FSM violates a key logical necessity of God, that It (no need for gender discrimination ;-) not violate the POSR by having a given form, of which we could ask “why that *particular* form and not some other” and so on (in like vein to the same question asked about our universe.)

    First, this argument applies just as well to all Abrahamic religions. One of the key points of these religions is that man is created in God’s image. This provides specific properties that violate this principle as well. It doesn’t really matter in what manner humans are in God’s image, no matter what manner you choose it still violates this principle.

    Second, you are essentially defining God as being undefinable. But, first, you provide no justification for this definition. You assert it is true but provide no reason to think it is.

    Second, and more importantly, that makes God a meaningless concept. If God is a being that you can’t ask those sorts of questions about, then it is impossible to say anything whatsoever about God. “Why is it everywhere instead of nowhere?” “Why does it exist instead of not exist?” If you define God as a being for which those questions don’t apply, then you can’t even say God exists at all. It is an inherently self-defeating position.

  356. flip

    Sigh… I missed the conversation because of a dud RSS feed. I know I’m late to the party, but I still wanted to add some things because they’re not covered by anyone else’s responses to MTU. I doubt anyone will see it, but hey…

    #285, MTU

    Has it occurred to you that the title “The God Delusion” is actually just a marketing tactic? Editors in the publishing world have, as part of their job, a responsibility to help the author decide on an appropriate, attention-grabbing name. They also have to ensure the name is not similar to another book already on the market. My point is: Dawkins may not be the only person involved in naming the book, and the title may not be as important as you think to the content within.

    I would suggest you’re reading too much into the title, considering that fact alone.

    EDIT: Your post at #362 does acknowledge this. I will also add therefore, that an editor/publisher can’t force a book title on an author. They can however, try to persuade that a title change is beneficial for whatever reason. But again, just because Dawkins doesn’t ‘disavow’ the choice, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than a smart tactical marketing ploy on his part. If you go to a book shop, you’re going to pick up the book that has the most interesting title.

    Furthermore, it’s common in philosophy to discuss the idea of god as irrational. Irrational is not the same as ‘crazy’; fear of the beams cracking in our house is irrational. Fear of the dark is irrational. Plenty of things we do are irrational. Delusion is just another word for irrational.

    Honestly, you’d think you’d never heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”.

    #289, MTU

    You can have a painting described and know what it is but if you are blind then you cannot say you’ve seen it or really experienced it.

    I think you’re forgetting Braille. A blind person can feel the brush strokes, and experience a painting. I would suggest, while it’s not exactly the same experience as seeing a painting, that that’s pretty much as close as you can get.

    #313, MTU

    I wonder if you’re confusing the comments for the content. That is: I find, like the people who comment on this site, that there are varying degrees of snarkiness from those who post comments. This however, does not reflect the actual views or politeness/lack of from the person who makes the actual blog post that starts the discussion.

    As much as PZ is far more blunt than Phil is, I feel that PZ’s followers tend to be 20 times more mocking than those who post here – not/including a few crossover people of course.

    #320, MTU

    I actually read about ‘Crackergate’ mainly through veiled interpretations by commentors here and on a few other sites. When I finally read the original post that started the whole thing, I found that PZ and his attitude had been entirely misrepresented. I don’t agree with what he did, but I don’t think his attitude or actions was over the top in any way. This too, happened for me with Dawkins: kept hearing about how anti-religion he was, and this and that… when I finally sat down and read one of his books, I came to the conclusion that the people who keep talking about him are just projecting their own anger. I disagreed with some of Dawkins opinions, but found none of them to be angry tirades aimed at religious folk: just a reasoned and measured discussion of philosophy and society designed to make you think about the way we approach religion and our basic ideas. I found nothing extreme at all in his writing or opinions, nor in anything I’ve seen on TV/Youtube.

    In fact, the only times when I’ve read/heard comments about nasty rhetoric, it’s by people (including concern trolls and apologists) who take issue with atheism and/or the way some other people – not Dawkins, etc – mock religion, and end up using nasty rhetoric themselves.

    #363, MTU

    Ignoring the fact that your statement about Jews can go both ways (their salvation is a miracle, but the fact that they’re persecuted in the first place suggests nothing about god? Really?), I think the Jewish people aren’t so much saved/persecuted because there is a god. I think it’s more likely that simply other people didn’t like the fact that they said they were the ‘chosen ones’. Speaking as someone who grew up with Judaism, I have never met a Jew who felt like the past thousand and more years has been any kind of ‘miracle’ or proof of anything other than some people are violent and prejudiced. Besides, ‘miracle’ is pretty much a Christian thing, not a Jewish one; the Torah is taught in terms of parables, rather than literally.

    I also find it strange that ‘personal history’, AKA anecdotes, is fine when it comes to religion for you: but anecdotes aren’t ok for any other topic where you’re skeptically minded.

    On the issue of seeing Dawkins as more offensive than Asimov and Sagan: is it possible your opinion has been coloured by your friends and heroes, who may be more aware of Dawkins than the others?

    .. On a side note, thank goodness I’m more of an existentialist than an atheist. I don’t particularly care one way or the other if there is/isn’t a god. It is what it is!

    Personally, the more I think about the earth I stand on to be a round object, with other round objects flying around even more round objects… where is this so called Heaven and god going to reside? One can say: outside the universe. But as far as I’m concerned, this is just the flat earth/glass ceiling kind of idea that just keeps getting pushed further and further away. A “god of the gaps” kind of argument that’s more “god of the ceiling gap”. God and heaven/hell makes perfect sense if you are earth-bound and unable to see above/below/left/right. But the more you get to see of the universe, the less place there is for God/heaven/hell to go.

    But hey, whatever a person wants to believe is their business.

  357. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (356) said:

    What’s offensive is statements along the lines of “The only people who believe in God are insane or mentally deficient.”

    Yeah, this is the strawman I’ve been complaining about.

    No-one – among currently prominent atheists – has claimed what you think they have claimed.

  358. Nigel Depledge

    Mark DTruth (358) said:

    It will be finally proven that there are no supernatural forces that created the universe.

    I don’t see how. After all, the modern versions of god are carefully formulated so that they are undetectable.

    Even in principle, how might it be possible to prove the non-existence of an invisible and intangible being?

  359. Nigel Depledge

    Mark DTruth (358) said:

    . . . I have no doubt that at some point in the future human beings will have advanced intellectually and socially to the point where a belief in an omnipotent god will not be necessary.

    Erm, belief in an omnipotent god is unnecessary now.

  360. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph (359) said:

    So you openly admit that science offers no explanation of *why* the rules of the universe are the way they are.

    You’ve missed a critical word from this sentence: YET.

    Whether that makes you believe in God or not is pretty much irrelevant.

    Depends on whether or not you hope that humans will one day understand.

    Bill is obviously saying that there’s no reason that all the things that make life possible on our pitiable dirt ball occurred completely at random chance.

    This is a strawman, and irrelevant. No-one is claiming that random chance is how stuff ended up the way it is. The laws of nature are far from “random chance”.

    That Earth just happened to get the sweet orbit and got lucky with the moon, and somewhere along the lines, spontaneous genesis occurred (or if you prefer, abiogenesis-it’s still life from non-living matter),

    Uh, yeah, life from non-life is pretty much what “abiogenesis” means.

    And the positioning of the Earth didn’t “just happen” – it arose through a process that is not yet understood in detail, but of which we have a reasonable overview.

    and then a brutal grind of natural selection and all of that, BAM! Here we are fighting on your page.

    No-one’s forcing you to fight.

    What he is saying, and I think people would do well to remember that his show is not “the news,” but is “news commentary,” is that he believes that it makes more logical sense that a Wizard Did It then it all being a random cosmic lotto win for life on earth.

    And so it does.

    But science does not claim that there was any random cosmic lotto.

    . . . For your own reference, science deals in facts,

    Not exclusively. It also deals with logical inference from facts.

    and while there are no facts that prove the existence of God in a concrete manner, there are no facts that disprove this concept either.

    This old saw is getting tired.

    Absence of evidence against the existence of an intangible being does not make belief in said intangible being reasonable, logical or rational.

    Belief in a god is irrational. Most humans are irrational most of the time, so it’s not a big deal. I just wish the people who trot out this argument would get over themselves and wake up to the principle of parsimony. Or Occam’s razor.

    So until then, take your own advice, and keep looking for answers.

    In the meantime, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that no god exists.

    Finally, all science tells us is how things work. There’s no reason why they work that way.

    Wrong. There are plenty of instances where science has explained a “why?”.

    For example:
    Why do living organsims all use essentially the same genetic code?
    Answer: common descent.

    You cannot use your ignorance of science as an argument against its ability to answer questions.

    Science tends to be answers without context, save what the answer directly pertains to.

    What the hell does this mean? Answers without context? I think, if you bothered to investigate, you might find that science provides us with far more context than any other approach.

    Are you seriously going to be known as someone who objects to other people using religion to explain the why? Considering the number of atheists vs the number of people who believe in something, that sounds like a losing argument.

    No, the statement you make here is a losing argument. Many people believing in something – if that something is wrong – does not make it any less wrong.

    Using religion to “explain” why (especially when we actually have a pretty good idea about the why through empirical means) may comfort some people, but it represents the cessation of inquiry.

  361. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (361) said:

    Seeing Dawkins in the media and reading his books, its how he comes over to me and I’m not criticing his lack of knowledge so much as the one-sidedness and strawman nature of the case he tries to present.

    Its my opinion and I’ve never suggested otherwise. Its a subjective thing – I think Dawkins and the New Atheists go too far & you clearly don’t.

    But how does Dawkins make a strawman argument? I’ve certainly never read anything of his – nor seen it on TV – that didn’t make a competent argument. So, your claim that he makes strawman arguments is not – AFAICT – supported.

    Additionally, you have not provided any examples of how Dawkins et al. “go too far” except your own strawman. He has not claimed that which you attribute to him.

  362. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (361) said:

    Oh yeah, right I just made up that Richard Dawkins was an evolutionary biologist who opposes creationism-ID, I mean that’s not true is it?

    No, but that’s not what TBC was addressing, is it?

    You have made up that Dawkins accusing religious people of being insane. You have made up that Dawkins equates religion with sexual abuse. These are claims you attribute to Dawkins but that he has never made.

  363. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (362) said:

    1. Dawkins’ claimed reigion was worse than sexual abuse for pity’s sake!

    He never did. You have made this up.

    2. Dawkins also claimed the Amish way of life should disappear.

    I cannot speak to this one, as I do not recall any detail. Perhaps, since you attribute this claim to him, you caould actually quote what he has written?

    3. Dawkins book title states up-front that those who disagree with his ultra-strength anti-theism are deluded. (IOW : religious folks are insane.)

    Wrong, wrong wrong.

    A delusion is not – by itself – insanity (although, obviously, many illnesses that once were called insanity may include delusional components).

    You have (AFAICT) yet to address the question without building a strawman.

    Let me break it down:
    How is religious belief any different from a delusion? IOW, in what way exactly is his use of the word “delusion” wrong?

    How is it an insult to anyone to point out that religious beliefs that are irrational and indistinguishable from a delusion are both widespread and granted unearned concessions in our societies?

    Furthermore, you seem to think that he intended to apply the word “delusion” to anyone who disagrees with him, yet you have not supported this and I do not believe that it was his meaning.

    You have made many claims about what he meant in that one book, but you have yet to support any of those claims, or even to explain – in any useful detail – what the problem is.

  364. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (362) said:

    But, no, I don’t see that huge a difference. I guess it may be that “abuse” was used to refer to physical instead of sexual child abuse or the term abuse could equally mean both. But either way I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing to say that religious parents – warning their children who they love of Hell (a danger those parents see as real although Dawkins does not) is the same as *child abuse* any more than warning them of “stranger danger” or not playing with matches is.

    Hell may not be real, I don’t think it is myself – but *if* you do think Hell’s real then you’re going to want to teach your kids about because you love them. That may cause the more imaginative kids some sleepness nights, we may not agree with them doing that – but it is Astronomical Units from cruelly and maliciously physically or sexually abusing their kids! Dawkins equating the former to the latter is just an appallingly OTT thing to suggest. Do you really deny that?

    Or, indeed, psychological abuse, which seems to me to be far closer to the mark. I wonder why the possibility did not occur to you?

    OK, try to think outside the straitjacket of your social context. In what way is making a child imagine all kinds of unpleasantness (hellfire, eternal torture etc.) beneficial to that child? Surely, a child will grow up with better mental health if they are not scared witless with imagining such things? So, tell me exactly how such a thing is different from psychological abuse of the child.

  365. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (362) said:

    Did I really? Where? I’m pretty sure I was explaining what I think an atheist is & the definition I use.

    If he – or you – wants to use a different definition to the standard widely-understood one then that’s his /your choice but it may make life confusing & he needs to specify early what he means by it. It is sometimes hard to disentangle atheist / “New Atheist” /agnostic / non-religious etc .. We probably do need an agreed set of definitions in order to – quite literally – know what we’re talking about.

    Ooh, what a classic bait-and-switch.

    Under your definition of an atheist, I don’t believe there exist more than a handful of atheists in the entire world.

    However, under a more widely-accepted definition of atheist, I think we both are. Certainly, I am a functional atheist, because I do not regularly participate in any religious ceremonies (a little akin to a “lapsed Catholic” apart from not having been rased Catholic). Philosophically, I might be better described as agnostic.

    So, the point that TBC was making, which you seem to have tried to evade, is that all of your complaints about atheists and atheism have been made operating on your definition of the term, which includes the assumption that self-declared atheists firmly deny the existence of any kind of god. This is demonstrably wrong – most self-declared atheists (of which I am aware) would never deny at least the possibility that a god does exist.

    The closest I have ever seen Dawkins come (and you have never responded to this point despite the fact that I’ve mentioned it 3 or 4 times already, on this thread and the previous one on this topic) was to support a campaign bearing the slogan “there’s probably no god”. Thus, Dawkins – and many other people who consider themselves atheists – simply asserts the needlessness and unlikelihood that a god exists.

    Therefore, the definition of “atheist” you use is not the one that most self-declared atheists would use.

    IOW, your definition of atheist – and, consequently, your argument that it is not a reasonable position to adopt – is a strawman.

    Since you were using your own definition of atheist in arguing against points I had made about atheism, I think TBC is correct in accusing you of pretending to know better than an atheist what an atheist actually is.

  366. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (362) said:

    Truth is my defence here – the New Atheists *do* seem to be arguing and implying that as, yes, I continue to point out.

    No, truth is not your defence here.

    Dawkins and other atheists are most definitely not arguing that god has been disproven.

    They may argue – convincingly, IMO – that god is unnecessary to explain how and why the universe is the way it is; or that belief in god is irrational; or that religious organisations get a free pass to behave differently from what we consider societal norms for no good reason; or whatever. But I have never seen any prominent atheist argue that god is disproven.

  367. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (363) said:

    Its not about logic there but rather NOT hurting people and showing respect and kindness for other human beings rather than going out of your way to upset and hurt them. Is that really so hard to grasp?

    Is it so hard to grasp that respect must be earned, not taken as a due?

    I have religious friends and admire some religious writers & bloggers. I feel that the New Atheists are insulting and attacking those friends and heroes – and this means I want to stand up for my friends and oppose those who are insulting them.

    And I maintain that those “insults” are based on nothing more than your own strawman. You have taken Dawkins’s words in one specific way without considering that you might be over-reacting, or over-interpreting, or assuming things that are not so, or reading things between the lines that are really not there at all.

    I have relatives who are both creationists and dear to me. Yet I do not consider the title of Dawkins’s book to be an insult to anyone.

    After all, how can you tell the difference between a religious belief and a delusion?

  368. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (363) said:

    Christianity did & was a lot of things that should have meant it disappeared quickly. Its leader was horribly & humiliatingly executed, his followers fled .. and that should been that. It wasn’t. Something extraordinary must have happened that so many of Rabbi Jesus’es followers were inspired to keep preaching an unpopular message. Many of them gave their lives to convey what they considered the Truth. We know what they say happened – is it really so unthinkable that there might be something to it? Recorded history *is* evidence of a kind.

    Or consider how often history records attempts at wiping the Jewish people out. The Assyrians, the Egyptians, the neighbouring tribes, the Romans, The Arabs – both of Mohammad’s time and now & of course the ones that can’t be mentioned for Godwin’s sake. Time and time again, the enemies of the Jewish people and their religion have vanished. Time & again, the Jews survived and are living on today when their far more powerful would-be destroyers have long since faded into history.

    Co-incidence? Maybe it is, a dice can land on 6 a hundred times in a row purely by chance. But then again, if it does you’d start to wonder wouldn’t you? Could we call the survival of the Jewish people and their culture and works a miracle? Maybe?

    This is at best circumstantial. Does it not occur to you to wonder how much of that “history” was made up 400 or 600 years later?

    We could equally call the survival of the Jewish people a testament to bloody-minded doggedness. This isn’t evidence that religious beliefs are correct.

  369. TTT

    Messier Tidy Upper:

    Your silly claim that “old atheists” were so much nicer than the “new” ones has by now been thoroughly demolished thanks to the multiple quotes from Sagan and Asimov provided earlier in this thread. To those let me add the fact that Steven Jay Gould was one of the most notoriously mean-spirited and tyrannical professors at Harvard, with his more or less open joy at abusing and bullying his lecture students and ESPECIALLY his seminar participants over basically anything that irked him being so well-known that I’m amazed you could try to cite him as one of the imagined good-guy faction you made up to stand in opposition to Dawkins. Gould was clear enough in “Wonderful Life” that he thought creationists were imbeciles.

    As a rule, this tactic that the only good atheists were dead ones–those who can’t actually get on a cable news channel today and proclaim religious leaders to be liars–reminds me of Jonah Goldberg’s irritation over how many liberals seem to bemoan the decline of conservative discourse since the good old days of William F. Buckley…. who really was no different in opinion from a Limbaugh or a Malkin, but who simply isn’t around to bother them anymore. And on that one occasion, Goldberg was right.

    Finally, as for NOMA: the very continuance and even expansion of creationist argument over the subsequent decades only shows the uselessness and inapplicability of NOMA as an idea. Much like E.O.Wilson’s “consilience,” it was nothing but a well-meaning vanity project from an academic genius whose other works were all far more meaningful, and which continues to be namedropped by people of lesser stature trying to climb the coattails.

  370. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (363) said:

    The principle of parsimony might sometimes prove false.

    Of course it may.

    But the only rational way to draw conclusions about the universe is to accept the simplest explanation unless evidence comes to light to show that that is wrong.

    There *is* some evidence although it might not be of the kind you accept (history, personal testimony, etc ..)

    The historical records to which you refer are . . . open to interpretation. They are neither unambiguous nor conclusive.

    Personal testimony is not evidence. How does an individual distinguish a religious experience from an hallucination? IIUC, this is philosophically impossible.

    I tend to think that atheism would win its a case against God in a civil court where the level of proof is “on the preponderence of the evidence” but NOT win in its in a criminal court where the level of proof is “Beyond all reasonable doubt.”

    There is, I think, still “reasonable doubt” over the atheist assertion that God does not exist.

    But this assertion does not exist.

  371. TheBlackCat

    @ MTU:

    Let me ask you a simple question. You have asserted repeatedly that New Atheists think that God has been disproven. But despite probably at least a dozen requests, you so far have provided no valid reason to think this. As best as I can tell, you only have two reasons. At least, these are the only ones you have presented so far:

    1. Your own gut feeling about what you think they believe

    2. Your own definition of atheism, which you have provided no evidence whatsoever that any atheist, not to mention the atheists in question, actually holds.

    Do you have any other reason to think they believe this? I am specifically looking for anything that could remotely be considered to have even the slightest semblance to evidence. I mean actual quotes where they hint at something even remotely similar to this, or where they support a definition of atheism remotely similar to yours, or something else more valid than gut feelings and logical fallacies?

  372. D. A. McBride

    I’m surprised at how stupid his rhetorical questions actually are. He should take a nice long break from his show on Fox and do some reading. The thing is, he seems ignorant of even the most elementary science (literally – science we are teaching in grades 4, 5 and 6). It’s also alarming and embarrassing to Americans that he actually influences so many of our citizens with his uninformed blathering.

  373. Nigel Depledge

    One additional thought about MTU’s definition of atheism:

    If you and at least one dictionary use one definition of the term, but all prominent self-declared atheists (and, it seems, the atheists that visit this blog) use a different definition, which of these options do you think is more likely to be the case:
    1. atheists are secretly hiding what they really believe because they know they cannot support it and are trying to subvert the definition of “atheist”; or
    2. that dictionary (and thus your personal definition) is wrong or in need of updating?

    A third possibility has occurred to me, which is that the dictionary is a tool of the creationists who are trying to spread the conviction that all atheists consider god to have been disproven. This is perhaps a bit too Machiavellian, but if successful it would certainly make it easier to argue against atheism in a public forum.

  374. TheBlackCat

    @ Nigel Depledge:

    I would be surprised if it was an intentional effort to subvert atheist. I would not be surprised, however, if it was a sort of projection where the theists who wrote the definition assumed atheists have the same sort of certainty they do.

  375. jld

    The very length of this thread is evidence of the daftness of “the problem”!
    Only in America, Eh?

  376. Being a Christian, and also an armchair scientist, I will never understand why people are so insistent on trying to “prove” religion with science??? They are two completely separate things. It’s like saying, “I’m going to spell my name in numbers – watch!” and then it makes no sense to anyone. Sure, I suppose you can do it, but can anyone read it?

    I was reading an article by Michael Shermer in Scientific American yesterday once again talking about a good argument against Creationism and suddenly I realized the big question was, “Why are we even arguing with Creationists?” Doing so just gives them some sort of validation that what they are saying is worth arguing about when really – it is not. Creationism is so out there (even to most Christians) that it is worth arguing about as much as some crazy guy talking about his search for Cinderella’s glass slipper which he is sure still exists because there is an ancient story about it.

    There should be no need to argue science with people who try to prove God with it – really, it is such a ludicrous blending of two totally different subjects I just can’t believe it’s gotten so big in our country. People and their crazy ideas never cease to amaze me.

  377. Slightly off topic as I’m reading through these posts. Someone wrote “replace God with fairy/pixie” and it reminded me of my neighbor’s daughter. Both parents are atheist fundamentalists (ie: they really do believe anyone who believes in god is mentally deficient and insist that everyone think their way or not talk to them). They forbid their children to believe in god, Santa, tooth fairy, all that kid stuff. One day the little girl said to me, “I see fairies sometimes out my window in the garden. I believe fairies are real,” then all the sudden she looked really scared and said, “But don’t tell my mom I said that!” I just thought that was really sad. Young childhood is the best time to believe all that fantasy stuff. As for me, I never wanted to stop believing in it and God is the only socially acceptable fantasy left for grown-ups to believe in so I’ll take what I can get :)

  378. Nigel Depledge

    Julia (400) said:

    “Why are we even arguing with Creationists?” Doing so just gives them some sort of validation that what they are saying is worth arguing about when really – it is not. Creationism is so out there (even to most Christians)

    Unfortunately, the creationists are organised and well-funded. They have persistently been trying to dilute or remove the teaching of evolution in American schools for most of the last 50 years. To some degree, they have succeeded, because the average Joe American seems to have very little idea of what evolution actually means.

    A more insidious tactic that many creationists have used is to suggest or imply that any opinion is – in principle – as valid as any other. Widespread ignorance of the science in their target audience makes life easier for these people who wish to argue against science.

  379. dave t

    I am a Christian and someone who believes that facts need to be verified. Don’t you see that Bill O’Reilly’s assault on facts is the PRECONDITION for the invasion of Iraq and hopefully Iran? If we can’t verify things, all the better! Believing in God isn’t the same as disbelieving science. If we think that those are two separate things, then Bill O’Reilly has won. I don’t mean that atheists have to be Christians…all I am saying is that O’Reilly’s war on facts is a war on facts. Nothing more. It isn’t a statement of belief or disbelief. Not a statement on the state of religion. It is nothing more than a hatred of facts as such. Because facts are those pesky things that prevent nations from invading other nations for no reason. Facts prevent people who think the wrong idea from being locked up. Facts are pesky things and that’s why Bill O’Reilly and his friends are on a mission to make sure that facts are defined on their terms and not on reality’s terms.

  380. Now it’s possible that Bill is being metaphoric; he doesn’t literally mean the Moon, or tides, or anything like that: he means rules and order in general. We have the laws of physics, and we don’t know why those exist the way they do.

    You didn’t pick up on this right away??

    and then…

    you explained how we got our moon as if everyone should know this well-known fact only to follow it with

    but if our theory is correct about how we got our Moon then it was a singular, unusual event, so it’s not surprising Venus doesn’t have one.

    Do you really know that much about how and why we have an orderly universe and why all the millions of details have fallen into place so that life can exist on planet Earth?

    You say that ‘Nature’ is subtle, amazing, interconnected’ etc. To whom are you referring when you reference ‘Nature’? Are you truly that much ahead of Bill O’Reilly or anyone else in your ‘knowledge’ of how this planet and life here came to exist?

    Some of us look at creation and worship the Creator. Others look at creation and worship the creature. Evolutionist worship the creature. Christians worship the Creator. Sadly it seems that those who worship the creature have decided to ridicule and despise those who worship the Creator.

  381. Nigel Depledge

    Jlue (406) said:

    You say that ‘Nature’ is subtle, amazing, interconnected’ etc. To whom are you referring when you reference ‘Nature’?

    Not to any living being, but to the universe (and its processes and laws) itself.

    Your use of the word “whom” suggests that you cannot envisage anyone attributing those qualities to the laws of nature and what has arisen from those laws.

    Are you truly that much ahead of Bill O’Reilly or anyone else in your ‘knowledge’ of how this planet and life here came to exist?

    Apparently so.

    Some of us look at creation and worship the Creator.

    [devil's advocate]Not so. You look at existence and you imagine it was created. You imagine a god and worship that.[/devil's advocate]

    More seriously, can you not come up with a better reason?

    Others look at creation and worship the creature. Evolutionist worship the creature.

    Why do you find it so hard to understand that some of us feel no need to worship anything?

    Christians worship the Creator.

    Worship what, exactly?

    Show me this creator and I will join you.

    Sadly it seems that those who worship the creature have decided to ridicule and despise those who worship the Creator.

    This is a feeble straw man.

    What actually happened was this:
    1. Investigation of “god’s creation” led to the understanding that there was no need to include god in explaining how and why it came to be the way it is.
    2. Religious fundamentalists made it illegal to teach our best understanding of how life changes over time in schools in the US.
    3. After a substantial amount of time, the USA worked out that this was unconstitutional, because it forced state endorsement of one specific religious position. Evolution became part of the science curriculum.
    4. Religious fundies came up with the phrase “creation science” in an attempt to disguise their lame strawman attacks on evolutionary biology as a form of science.
    5. “Creation science” was shown to be nothing more than one specific religious view, and so its teaching in science class was ruled unconstitutional.
    6. Those same religious fundies funded some lawyers and others to come up with an alternative. Thus was born ID.
    7. ID also was shown to be one specific religious idea (Christian creationism) disguised with new buzzwords. Its teaching in US public schools is also unconstitutional.
    8. Rational people the world over laugh and point at the American religious fundies, who are so ignorant and blinkered that they do not even understand their own constitution.
    9. Said religious fundies spread rumours on the internet that atheists and other rational people hate religion and all that comes with religion.

    In fact, jlue, if you bothered to look into the topic, what you will find is this:
    Most supporters of the teaching of good science firmly support the right of everyone to believe whatever they choose to.
    Many atheists question the number of concessions granted to religious beliefs and religious organisations in our so-called “free” societies.
    Many rational people recognise religious belief as irrational (and, hey, being irrational is part and parcel of being human, so it’s no surprise).

    Personally, I have relatives who are creationists and I love them dearly. Their choice baffles me, as they seem otherwise intelligent people, but I respect their right to believe whatever they wish. I am offended by your claim that I (a) worship “creature” (does this even mean anything?) and (b) despise people who worship something of their choosing.

    Let me ask you this: if you are a Christian, why are you being so hateful of (including spreading malicious lies about) those who are not? That behaviour does not seem very Christian if you ask me.

  382. je-eb-ers

    WTF?religion was SOOOO 1800′s

  383. Buzz Parsec

    tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication.

    - Bill O’Reilly

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    - Maya Angelou

    Maya gets it, Bill doesn’t.

  384. Messier Tidy Upper

    @396. Nigel Depledge :

    One additional thought about MTU’s definition of atheism: If you and at least one dictionary use one definition of the term, but all prominent self-declared atheists (and, it seems, the atheists that visit this blog) use a different definition, which of these options do you think is more likely to be the case:
    1. atheists are secretly hiding what they really believe because they know they cannot support it and are trying to subvert the definition of “atheist”; or
    2. that dictionary (and thus your personal definition) is wrong or in need of updating?
    A third possibility has occurred to me, which is that the dictionary is a tool of the creationists who are trying to spread the conviction that all atheists consider god to have been disproven. This is perhaps a bit too Machiavellian, but if successful it would certainly make it easier to argue against atheism in a public forum.

    Option number two, I suppose.

    Option 3 – and option 1 there – are, indeed, both a bit paranoid, methinks.

    I apologise if you, Nigel Depledge, were offended by my previous understanding of what the word “atheist” actually means. It was, simply, how I have always understood the word / concept of an atheist. No offence intended. It does sometimes take me awhile to get my head around things.

    @400. Julia :

    Being a Christian, and also an armchair scientist, I will never understand why people are so insistent on trying to “prove” religion with science??? They are two completely separate things. It’s like saying, “I’m going to spell my name in numbers – watch!” and then it makes no sense to anyone. Sure, I suppose you can do it, but can anyone read it?

    ^ This! Seconded by me. I agree & well put. :-)

  385. John Sandlin

    MTU: The hallmark of an irrationally held belief is how hard it is to get rid of once evidence to the contrary is available. That it happens at all is a good thing. Even in the world of science, not all cherished beliefs are easily dismissed when a better idea is available. It takes time and pain – and occasionally large servings of humble pie.

    On the other hand, in no other endeavor that I’ve seen is the ability to change your mind and admit you were wrong so prevalent as in the world of science and rational thought. These are still human endeavors and many resist, but when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

    An astute observer might have noticed (or even the not so astute) that Dr. Plait regularly admits his errors and corrects them (and leaves the evidence of his change available). His is a decent example to follow, I think.

    jbs

  386. Mstairwood

    This debate started when fire was discovered, right. And it will continue until the end of time. Until then, goal should be to keep it out of the legislative arena, PLEASE: Schools teach science and churches/families teach religion. We have the right to believe or practice personal faith, not legislate personal beliefs for everyone. Doing so will cause a revolution we’ve yet to see in this country. Is that what the O’Reilly’s of the world want? O’Reilly and right wing extremist are proof of deeee-evolution, which should support evolution, right?

  387. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Mstairwood : “PLEASE: Schools teach science and churches/families teach religion. We have the right to believe or practice personal faith, not legislate personal beliefs for everyone.”

    That part I certainly and whole-heartedly agree with.

    @412. John Sandlin : Hear, hear. Agreed. :-)

  388. daos

    tbh, i don’t know why you waste useful time and effort on asinine specimens like o’reilly.

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