Bill Nye: creationism is bad for children

By Phil Plait | August 30, 2012 6:30 am

Bill Nye speaks the truth.

[Video credit: Big Think]

In science, it’s rare that you can actually state with certainty that something is wrong. Young-Earth creationism is wrong. The Universe is old.

However, I’ll disagree with Bill over one thing, and I’ll throw Neil Tyson into the mix too. First, here’s something Neil said about adults, children, and nonsense (from an image that’s gone around the web a few times):

Funny, Neil and Bill are saying the same thing, essentially, but Neil is saying he doesn’t worry about the kids, while Bill is saying he doesn’t worry about the adults.

I worry about both, for, oddly enough, the reasons Bill and Neil both give. We have entrenched adults teaching things to their kids that are clearly wrong, and will be damaging to them and others. Creationism, global warming denial, antivaccination, ridiculous ideas about women and their bodies… it’s a cycle from adults to kids who then grow up to teach more kids.

We need to break this cycle. Make sure the education kids get in school is reality-based. Keep religion (or the lack thereof) out of schools. Vote fundamentalists out of office. And keep making sure the facts are out there and our voices are heard. Facts aren’t enough. Science has facts on its side, but they’re simply not enough. We need to make our stories personal, emotional, and make sure they stick.

And I’d love to agree with Bill when he says that in the future creationism will go away. I sure hope so. But YEC’s been around for a while now, and is as strong as ever – after all, there are creationists on the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Science! Still, maybe Bill’s right. But it’s up to us to make sure his prediction comes true.


Related Posts:

Akin breakin’ science
Texas creationist McLeroy spins the educational disaster he created
Jindal dooms Louisiana

MORE ABOUT: Bill Nye, creationism

Comments (150)

  1. Odin

    Stupid parents invariably beget stupid offspring.

  2. Creationists are bad for religion too: they transform the belief in God to the belief in a book.

  3. Jeffrey

    It isn’t so much creationists in office. It is creationists in office enforcing their beliefs on to policy. I think government needs to be representative of the people even if it means having religious fundamentals in office as long as they don’t project what they believe and make policy out of it. Religion and politics can coexist as long as they don’t overlap.

  4. Lars

    And they transform fence-sitters to anti-theists. But that’s actually a good thing, as far as I am concerned.

  5. Jeff

    Creationism in no way invalidates any of the scientific theories about how the universe in its current state came to be.

    Biblical literalist creationism does, but those are two VERY different ideas. I agree that faith should be left out of schools (excepting the teaching of religions as it relates to history): both faith in god and faith that there is no god.

    There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for, so I would argue this is a subject science hasn’t touched and find it presumptuous for scientists to use their position to assume some kind of authority on the subject.

    Lars, I’m curious why the hostility towards faith? While dogmatic religion has caused much damage in the world, I can’t think of a single instance where simple belief has in itself caused harm.

  6. Gus Snarp

    I know I only submitted one comment, but now there are two. Wonder if editing this one will get rid of both, or only the duplicate.

  7. Gus Snarp

    This is right on. It’s the adults who spread these things that are dangerous to public policy, and it’s the children who are most vulnerable to being inculcated with these ideas by the adults repeating them in a vicious cycle. As you say, we have to break the cycle.

    As for creationism being gone, I don’t think that will happen any time soon, but I will be satisfied with it falling below the 20 percent threshold where it can be classified as the fringe belief it ought to be. Then it can live out its life as the subject of ridicule along side the flat earth and geocentricism (as the one true and correct reality, not as one of many frames of reference).

  8. John

    Bill Nye the Atheist Guy? Now that’s a show that may not have raised as many dollars during a PBS pledge drive.

  9. Erik

    You can’t compare these to statements as you have done in this article.

    See it like this.
    Neil says: Kids do not know superstition by nature so they are petting the black cat
    Bill says: You should not teach superstition as fact to a kid cause now the kid won’t be petting the black cat but avoid it.

    What Bill is talking about is what turns children into becoming the adults Neil worry about.

  10. Still, maybe Bill’s right. But it’s up to us to make sure his prediction comes true.

    My astrologer says you’re right.

    :-)

  11. VinceRN

    I too worry about what the adults are doing to the kids. Magical thinking is supposed to be part of what kids do, but they are supposed to move away from that as their education progresses and it’s the adults who are supposed to be providing that education. If the adults have never moved past it themselves, how can they?

    As for creationism going away? Not likely. Not for quite a few generations, if ever.

  12. lamanga2004

    I have long said, and will maintain this position into my decrepitude, that teaching children to *be* religious (as opposed to, say, an education in comparative religious studies) is an act of child abuse.

    Why would you want to allow the disabling of the intellect of a child, anymore than you would want to allow abuse of them in other ways?

    I teach science to kids aged 11-16 in the UK.

  13. Infinite123Lifer

    Such a dynamic world we live in.

    Speaking broadly about religion I have a million considerations when telling a person, or people, or the planet what they should think about who or what if anything made the Universe and all attempts at my reasoning about what I should say to them is suffocated . . . by further reasoning.

    If they ask I tell them about my experience’s and my questions and I clearly leave it at that, with a “that’s just me, I don’t know, seems crazy I know, I just don’t think about it, I spent enough time down that road questioning, but that’s what happened, and I have paperwork to prove it, and I just don’t know, everything seems like lunacy, what is the simplest explanation possible, who knows I sure don’t but that’s what i got” or something to those effects. And yes, I have many many many hours spent explaining to people my personal experiences and struggles and reasons for thinking the way I do, it is just part of my personality or reality that people tend to ask I suppose.

    Personally, I tend to think of religion almost like cordyceps.

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

    You never know what you will do if something takes control of your mind. The very nature of what mankind has created…our knowledge base…via a foundation in religion to unify people which has been and is evolving into and now becoming centered on observational analysis to explain the world is so intertwined, convoluted and related that its a pretty tall order to just tell the religionaholics to just put down their godly/spiritual dope in the next twenty years.

    Bill Nye kept it centered on evolution in the video. Seems appropriate to pick and choose the battles. I think the best thing to do is just keep picking the battles that are the most obvious and move forward from there. A couple old adages come to mind when thinking about this:

    Take the good with the bad-

    You catch more bees with honey than vinegar-

    Any idea can take over the mind. Which idea will you allow your reasoned imagination to take you to . . . somewhere you have never been before or are scared to go? If you were born into a priesthood and forced to train your mind and ways around the existence of an all knowing, powerful god could you escape it? Everything changes, the Universe relies upon it. It will pass, even if we must pass with it. Until then . . . steady as she goes.

    I really don’t know what to think about the percentage of insane people on the planet or how they should raise their kids. We are all insane to some degree, far flung ideas, hopes for a future that does not exist, fantastical imaginings about the Universe and the heaping pile of what if’s, imaginary beings and creatures thought to exist somewhere.

    But I do know that I believe this: if you say evolution is a religion, if you say the Earth is 6,000 years old, and if you say the Earth is flat . . . and for giggles I am going to say if you think we are the only Life in the Universe than I think your nuttier than a squirrel turd.

  14. Jagoff

    My views of teaching creationism in science class have actually evolved (see what I did there). I’m all for teaching creationism in science class. Bring it under the same scrutiny that any other hypothesis comes under. This could be a lesson to the children showing the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. This way, when a politician stands up and calls evolution “just a theory” in the context that it’s just some unobserved, untested idea that someone just came up with, that child can see through it.
    At the very least, it should quickly change the minds of the fundamentalists about whether they want creationism taught in science class.

  15. Gus Snarp

    @Erik – Um, I think that’s pretty much what Phil’s trying to say.

    @John – Saying that creationism is false (it is) does not make one an atheist. Creationism is one wacky belief of some god believers, not the core of all belief.

  16. truthspeaker

    Jeff, Bill Nye isn’t arguing against belief in God. He’s arguing against the unscientific idea of creationism.

  17. Jeff said:

    There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for, so I would argue this is a subject science hasn’t touched and find it presumptuous for scientists to use their position to assume some kind of authority on the subject.

    Science hasn’t touched it because there is nothing to touch. If you define “god” or “gods” as being somehow beyond the realm of the physical world, not beholden to its apparent laws, how can such a thing be studied?

    Of course, that works two ways. If gods cannot be studied, then any speculation as to what such a being is like is just that, speculation. Furthermore, to boldly state that such a being even exists is basically saying, I have no evidence for such but I will make believe it exists anyway.

    You can’t debate that kind of “logic.”

  18. James

    If creationism bothers you, then leave the USA and go and live somewhere else, where creationism is considered laughable. Like the UK for instance.
    I should know I live there. Religious types of all descriptions are considered a bit strange and peculiar.

  19. Kris

    Science is simply the empirical observation of what is. If God exists and created everything, then science shows us one of two things… what God actually created, or what God wants us to see (though I personally don’t think that God would cover anything up).

    Science neither supports nor denies anything theological. It simply shows us exactly what is.

  20. Gus Snarp

    @James – Thanks for the invite, can you also get me a job, a house, and whatever residency papers are necessary to immigrate? Be careful though, I’m not sure we’ll all fit. The last thing you want is your little island over-run with Americans, even if it’s mostly the non-religious ones.

    I do wonder if we’d never had that revolution if we’d be as irreligious as you lot, and still basically have the same freedoms and democracy, but with single payer health care and tuition free higher education (though I understand you aren’t likely to keep that much longer).

  21. John

    @Gus – Bill Nye the Atheist Guy was an attempt at humor (I would sooo watch that show), so please give some lee-way, but what religion are you refering to that is lacking a creation history?

  22. Jagoff

    “There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for”
    The same can be said for Sasquatch, ghosts, or anything else that doesn’t exist. Look up Russel’s teapot.

  23. Gus Snarp

    @John – Sorry, hair trigger today, apparently. Monday was my day to have a sense of humor and you missed it.

    Well, there are a significant number of religious people who are willing to continue to believe in their particular gods while simultaneously acknowledging that their creation accounts are not literally true. Admittedly there’s some inconsistency there, but you don’t have to be an atheist just because you accept evolution. See Ken Miller. It does apparently require you to jump through ridiculous hoops of convoluted logic while cramming god into ever smaller gaps, but you can do it.

  24. Anthony

    @kuhnigget As a religious, scientific person I will argue that logic. There are things that science states exist, or should exist, but have yet to be proven. I agree with your statement that science and God are two things that will very rarely if ever touch in practice. God is beyond our science to measure, we call it miracles, and science as we know it cannot measure God as he does not exist is a way that can be measured.

    So I would argue they are not mutually exclusive.

    That being said I think YEC is wrong and evolution is right.

    I like Jagoff’s idea to hold each up to scrutiny and let people see them for what they are.

  25. truthspeaker

    The thing is, those religious people raise their kids to believe the Bible is, in some way, the word of God, or inspired by God, or related to God in some way. And they also raise them to believe that believing something on faith rather than evidence is a virtue instead of a failling. So when the dogmatic literalists are looking for “lukewarm” believers to convert, they have a ready-made audience.

  26. Wzrd1

    I present the theory of evolution as a simple example that cannot be refuted.
    We breed animals. We breed new breeds of animals. Indeed, we can breed a brand new version of the original breed of animal, such as with the domesticated turkey, a bird quite unlike the wild turkey. It is larger, far less intelligent, has specific design features that the breeders desired, such as the large breast muscles we so love.
    And it was bred within a handful of turkey generations by humans. Culling any undesirable traits from the cultivar.
    Nature is an even harsher breeder, for it kills the ill adapted early on.
    To deny that is to call a dog a wolf, a domesticated turkey a wild turkey and a lion a house cat.

  27. Hannah

    This is why I homeschool my daughter. Secular homeschooling. Going back to the article, children should learn a reality-based curriculum. A lot of times they don’t.

  28. Tim

    How can you simultaneously keep religion AND “the lack thereof” out of schools? Something is either religion, or it is not. If teachers tell a kid 1+1=2, and don’t mention religion, isn’t that a lack of religion? seems to me like you’re drawing a false equivalency here. sure, teachers shouldn’t tell students “there is no god”, but that is not the same as lack of religion. let’s keep religion out, yes. let’s keep anti-religion out, yes. But what’s left IS simply lack of religion.

  29. James

    Science should be taught in schools. Religion should be taught in churches. It’s that simple.

    Until we can find a way to remove imagination from humans, religion and creationism will always exist.

  30. James Evans

    It would be nice to have the luxury of worrying about both children and adults equally, but if, as often happens with modern social issues, we have a triage situation where we need to prioritize due to time and resource constraints, then Bill Nye and Richard Dawkins have the right of it. Ignorant adults will have to go their own merry, confused way and find (or not find) the truth without (or at least with less) help. Children are easier to reach, since their walls of credulity are not built nearly so high and thick, and they are, after all, the future, so they need to remain our focus.

    Sure, the adults that are “abandoned” often attempt to poison the well, and it would be nice to win them over, and short-circuit their misguided, selfish attempts at discrediting legitimate science and reseeding the young thought process with credulity, but this challenge is much greater than teaching children important critical thinking skills and skepticism. And 9 times out of 10, the herculean task of changing the jaded, inculcated, and often hostile older mind is met with failure. As we’ve all witnessed here in the comment section and in real life, there’s just no getting through to some people. Ignorance is a badge of honor to be pried out of a cold, dead hand.

  31. I just watched a Deep Space Nine that had an extremely thinly veiled parallel to the creationism/evolution in schools debate. The episode is almost 20 years old, but the wacky world outside my space fantasies continues to blunder on.

  32. Anthony

    @Tim I agree in the teaching of facts. But if we limit our teaching only to facts, depending on who defines the fact, you may not like what you get. This said in an election year where truth is grey. Also, do you not make for a more well rounded citizen if you give them all the information and teach them to think for themselves instead just accepting what is presented. That sounds more like science to me.

    @Wzrd1 That is breeding, not evolution. There are no predatory or natural forces making those new breeds. That is humans imposing their will.

    @ truthspeaker I raise my children on the Bible. I do beleive that it was written and/or influenced by God and is the book to go to for instructions on life. The other side of the coin that we teach them that science is fact and as long as it is done correctly, the way we know our world. There is dicotamy there. You can have faith in God and trust in science. The two are not exclusive.

    If you can’t see that God and religion does not explain how your cellphone works, but does teach the foundation of society and morality in the Western world you’ve got bigger problems.

    Religion and spritualy can occupy one side of life, explinations of the natural world can occupy another side. Where they meet is up to the individual to decide and that is where I feel a lot of the debate takes place.

  33. Wzrd1

    @Tim, one can keep religion out of schools and keep the balance of not de facto enforcing atheism by teaching about ALL religions in social studies classes. Back when I was in school, that was what was done, teaching about ALL of the faiths of the world.

    @James, not teaching about the existence of religion ill prepares the student when said student moves out into the world. Consider that student later having to deal with Arabs and the Roman Catholic church, but having absolutely no knowledge about their cultures and beliefs. Worse, being taught nothing in school and learning from their parents that “All Muslims, especially Arabs are terrorists” and “All Catholics are child molesters”.
    That would better prepare a child for dealing with others in the real world?!

    @James Evans, the problem is, when the adult poisons the well by undermining anything being taught in school. I’ve chatted with one biology teacher who had a student disrupt the class when the teacher was trying to teach about the human lung. The student was hysterical and eventually was removed from class, to return the next day with a note from her parents stating, “Please excuse our daughter from any classes involving dissection”.
    As near as I can comprehend the rationale, the class must have involved dissection of humans… :/
    I DO have to agree, ignorance IS a badge of honor to be pried out of a cold, dead hand. I had a neighbor, many years ago, who declared with great pride that she was illiterate and she didn’t need her children to know how to read. Her eldest son is in prison for murder now. Her youngest son, in and out of prison for drug distribution. :/

  34. DanM

    @5 Jeff: “There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for, so I would argue this is a subject science hasn’t touched…”

    In fact, there is considerable reason to disagree with this point. If a divine being exists, then this very existence is a violation of what we know about the universe and how it works. That fact tells me that science is HIGHLY relevant to the question of the existence of a divine being. Not, as you say, irrelevant.

    To give an example: we know that there is no such thing as instantaneous teleportation because it would violate well-known conservation laws. We therefore feel quite justified in saying that nobody will ever be able to invent a Star-Trek style transporter device. It is something that cannot and will not ever exist. Why can we not make a similar argument about the existence of a divine being? It seems like an equally justifiable statement to say: we know that such a being’s existence would violate well-understood laws of nature, therefore such a being cannot exist.

    You may not buy this argument. But to claim that science has nothing to say about the existence of a divine being is clearly false. Science DOES INDEED have a lot to say about the existence of god.

    By the way, I didn’t invent this argument, and I’m undoubtedly not doing it full justice. Read Richard Dawkins’ book to learn more about it.

  35. Frost Bite

    I have a question. Could an advanced race of off-earthers giving a select group of apes a kick in their long-term memory capabilities be considered Creationism? No less crazy as a graybeard in the sky wagging his finger at mankind, eh?
    Unless a required IQ of 101+ is set for breeding, it will be awhile before religion is kept where it belongs, on a death-bed. :)

  36. Gus Snarp

    @Frost Bite: It’s much less crazy than a man in the sky wagging his finger. But it’s unnecessary and not supported by any available evidence.

  37. I beg to differ.

    “The US is the … etc etc”

    Don´t ever forget were the knowledge came from.

    * radiation is totally made by the Curie´s
    * rockets, thank Goddard and Von Braun
    * anitibiotics, duh
    * gravity was invented by us Europeans (ok he was one of the first apple fans and lived on an island, but still)
    * really really big bombs (including radiation), you´re welcome (and thanks for dropping it twice)
    * jet engines, you got it for free and Whittle got screwed out

    The list goes on, but heck.

    We all are on Mars nowadays.

    bygones

  38. Frost Bite

    @Gus Snarp: I know, and I support classic evolution. But as science demands, question everything.

  39. Daniel

    What a nightmare! Reminds me of the Southpark where Cartman becomes Buck Rodgers. Its not faith vs atheism…but atheism vs atheism…good luck.

    “Science damn you timechild”…lol ;)

  40. Chris

    Creationism and Santa Claus are both easily falsifiable hypothesis based on religion which are taught to many children. Why as adults do many more believe in Creationism than Santa Claus? And don’t say it’s because we have to buy presents. By the age of 10 many children have realized Santa Claus is not real, way before they have to buy presents.

  41. James

    @Chris – By the age of 20 many children have realized God is not real, way before they have to buy presents.

    You really should create a religion based on Santa Claus. Really.

  42. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    That was the typical accommodationist response to a very successful hard atheist media presentation:

    – Imply that the adults presents an unsurmountable near term political problem, even if the long term strategy is fully consistent. (Less young creationists -> less old creationists.)

    – Claim that science and its natural atheism isn’t enough, we also need accommodationism. (“Facts aren’t enough” … “stories personal, emotional”.)

    – Claim that proving a hard atheist point, that religion is erroneous, is equivalent to keeping atheism out of schools.

    – Claim that religion and atheism needs to be kept out of schools. The rest of the secular world enjoy comparative religion classes, which covers religions and secularism both.

    Now, seeing how Nye and Tyson are good friends, maybe we can instead expect Tyson to support Nye instead of being unknowingly shanghaied, as is Nye, to support the age old (as old as religion, AFAIK) and never successful accommodationist idea. Because that is a correct observation … despite all what NCSE and AAAS has done or not done, or because of it … because they have never forced the issue as in most of the secular world, religion is still a powerful force of politics and science in US.

    If US wants to force the issue, now is the time – for the first time there is a majority of voters that would accept atheist politicians. (Correlates nicely with the rise in hard atheism, btw. Just saying.) Maybe you should go for secularism instead of accommodationism as the rest of the world, seeing that it works?

  43. Toby Samples

    Isn’t making statement with absolute certainty the same thing that you are saying is so wrong?

  44. Regner Trampedach

    kuhnigget @ 16: “You can’t debate that kind of “logic.” “.
    Of course you can – it is done all the time. But you don’t get anywhere, fast :-)
    Wzrd1 @ 23: “I present the theory of evolution as a simple example that cannot be refuted.”
    Be careful with your words there. Because what makes a theory scientific is exactly that it is refutable. You have to be able to come up with scenarios, that if observed, would refute your theory (e.g., finding human bones in the stomach of an allosaurus fossil). The hypothesis of the existence of a god has no such counter scenario, precisely because a god per definition is omnipotent and exists outside the boundaries of physics. You can make no proof against a god.
    As an atheist you can say, on the other hand, that nothing you have seen and experienced so far required such an omnipotent entity. There is no need for a god in my world… And I have no problem with people believing in a god either as long as they still accept reality. It is when that grasp of reality fails and they want to force that failing on others that I have a problem.
    Allow me to fix your statement: “I present the theory of evolution as a simple example that has yet to be refuted, despite 150 years of relentless interrogation and cross-examination by scientists all over the World.”
    Cheers, Regner

  45. Frost Bite

    @Regner: Or…”I present the theory of Creationism as a simple example that has yet to be proven, despite 6000 years(biblical calender, not including tribal deities) of relentless interrogation and cross-examination by clerics all over the World.”.
    I like that.

  46. Regner Trampedach

    Frost Bite @ 40: “Frost bit”? Are you okay – missing any toes? tip of nose?
    Anyway, I am afraid your version doesn’t work. You cannot prove a theory right in science, – except in mathematics :-) You can only prove a theory wrong – with a counter scenario, as I described above. That is why it is technically correct to say that general relativity has never been proven, for example… But it is highly misleading not to follow such a statement by “but all observations so far agree with GR.” :-)
    And “observations” here, implies the “relentless interrogation and cross-examination by scientists all over the World.”-bit I used above. That is how science is practised, after all.
    A wholesale creation, a mere 6000 years ago, has been disproven as a scientific theory. But it cannot be disproven as an act of an omnipotent god, since such an entity could just have made things look like what scientists have found – that “argument” always works.
    Cheers, Regner

  47. Frost Bite

    @Regner: LOL! Nope, everything is where it should be. :)
    I’m just messing with Creationists.
    Now I’ll mess with scientists….
    The physicality of Time exists only in the synapses of a human brain. The Universe does not bend to your perception.
    :)

  48. TStein

    In response to:

    “While dogmatic religion has caused much damage in the world, I can’t think of a single instance where simple belief has in itself caused harm.”

    Indeed it is not as easy as you might think even to find cases where dogmatic religion has caused much damage at least when compared to other forces like nationalism or ethnicism or racism. For every case of dogmatic religion causing damage there are at least 10 cases where nationalism has caused the same amount of damage or worse.

    Here is a little exercise. Think of every war (or tragedy) that you can think of and write them down. You can even include the standard ones from hundreds of years ago that supposedly support the idea that religions are dangerous (such as the crusades, which had a large nationalism component as well). Just make sure to write them all down. Now go through and mark which of them were primarily about religion. If you are even remotely honest you will have significantly more wars and unjust wars being due to rampant nationalism.

    As a religious person, it is particularly frustrating to see Bill Nye being attacked on sites that I go to to discuss religious matters. (The skeptic part of me is equally frustrated when I go to ‘skeptic’ websites and see similar mass stupidity directed at other targets.) In the end, though, what Mr. Nye or anyone else says is not near as important as helping students develop the correct skills to make the correct decision.

  49. The Navy Corpsman

    Mind if I point something out, here? Teaching a child ABOUT religious beliefs is not the same as teaching them to believe religiously. Pushing an atheist agenda is no more acceptable to me than pushing ANY religious beliefs. I’d like to remind everyone that parents have the right to teach their children as they wish, regarding nearly any topic you care to name. In America, we have a Constitutional Amendment which prohibits Congress from making any law respecting the establishment of a religion, or any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

    I see nothing wrong with teaching children of a sufficient age about metaphysical concepts. I see a lot wrong with teaching children that their parents are superstitious fools. I see nothing wrong with teaching children of sufficient age about atheism, and I see a lot wrong with teaching children that God created the world in six days as a proven fact.

    Yes, a great deal of wrong has been done in the name of religious beliefs. A great deal of art, science and exploration good has been done in the same name. We should not teach only the good, or only the bad, we should teach critical thinking and then teach all of known history as well as theoretical conclusions about pre-history. Regardless of your own personal belief or non-belief in a superbeing, a child needs ALL the information in order to reach their own conclusions. I don’t quite understand how teaching a child about Nazi Germany can be construed as teaching them to believe in National Socialism as practiced by Hitler, or teaching that same child about Communism is the same as teaching them to believe that Joseph Stalin was a good and great leader of Russia.

    As much as I dislike this truth, we also must teach that science CAN be wrong, but that science also can, more than any other discipline, correct itself. Remember cold fusion? Remember Piltdown Man ? Being human, scientists of all flavors make mistakes as well, or draw incorrect conclusions from data. I’m of an age when high school children were taught that the Big Bang was merely a hypothesis, with no evidence supporting it. Fred Hoyle ridiculed the idea by calling it a ‘Big Bang’ and yet the evidence now supports it as the primary theory regarding the origin of the known universe. Ridiculing someone for their personal belief system is no more logical than ridiculing another for a lack of belief in a supernatural creator God.

    Using an appeal to emotion is a logical mistake of the first order, and frankly, I’m surprised that Dr. Plait has advocated this approach. I’m not fond of certain fundamentalist religious sects attempting to control the political will of my nation, but I do NOT agree with Bill Nye that the United States is unique among nations in the belief in creationism. The US is almost unique amongst all nations in not having an established national religion. I agree with jagoff in his/her comment about teaching about creationism right along with critical and logical thinking.

    As for creationism disappearing… I hope not. Regardless of how I feel about it personally, I’m all for keeping a diverse and tolerant collection of views on our world, our universe and life in general.

  50. TStein said:

    “In the end, though, what Mr. Nye or anyone else says is not near as important as helping students develop the correct skills to make the correct decision.”

    Not sure what you mean by that, T. “Correct” in what fashion? Coinciding with the observable universe? Because if that’s the definition of correct, and everyone were taught to “make the correct decision,” then religion would pretty much disappear, wouldn’t it?

  51. Wzrd1

    @ Regner Trampedach, I respectfully disagree. If one were to find human bones in an allosaurus fossile, that refutes nothing of evolution. Indeed, it merely moves the dates back a great deal and shows a lack of a fossil record for humanity or mammals. As that is not the case and DNA clock information supports the current theories on human evolution, the point is currently moot until we find that allosaurus with the human inside. :)

    As for any god, absence of proof is not evidence of proof of absence. Or, we must discard the notion of the graviton or a few other fundamental theories. Instead, one would lead the conversation to a creator who build a working universe that can support life, only permitted one planet to be special and have intelligent life and then has to micromanage that species, thereby implying an imperfect creator who can’t manage its own creation without micromanaging one species!

  52. Rosesh Absinte

    “Faith is believing in something that doesn’t exist.” – wise words from Homer Simpson

  53. Anthony

    @Wzrd1 #47: Oh what a tangled web we weave…

    The discussion of free will is not a direction this current topic of conversation is on. We are discussing scientific progress as it relates to religious dogma and their interaction.

    I am not a FM, but taking that statement and running goes in a very different direction.

  54. Steve Metzler

    You have to be able to come up with scenarios, that if observed, would refute your theory (e.g., finding human bones in the stomach of an allosaurus fossil).

    Sorry, but it’s rabbits in the Precambrian FTW! (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precambrian_rabbit)

    ETA: @Jeff:

    Lars, I’m curious why the hostility towards faith? While dogmatic religion has caused much damage in the world, I can’t think of a single instance where simple belief has in itself caused harm.

    What about the numerous cases of fundamentalist parents that have killed their children by praying for them to get better instead of taking them to a doctor?

  55. MadScientist

    I disagree Phil – both Bill and Neil are concerned with the kids because the grownups are a threat to them. As Neil points out, kids have fewer silly beliefs. Bill points out that the grownups want to impose silly beliefs on the kids. It’s the same problem stated differently.

  56. a Martin

    ”There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for…”

    I see you got a few answers on this already, but I’m curios how you’re thinking. If god doesn’t exist, how can you prove it? Can you give an example?

  57. Brian Too

    I worry about all people, children and adults alike.

    The thesis of children being less of a socio-political problem is reliant upon the notion of innocence & ignorance being more prevalent in children. While true in absolute terms, how long does it take for a child to learn something? Minutes? Seconds?

    This is also based upon my real-world experience. Have you ever had the experience of a friend or acquaintance, when you were a child, telling you some completely absurd story? Something you bought into at the time?

    Kids tell nonsensical stories to each other all the time. They do it to scare one another, or to form groups, creating “us” and “them” categories. They do it out of imagination, or mischief, or any of a thousand other reasons.

    A child can be innocent in one respect and worldly in another. In short, children have all the seeds of their parents gullibility (and sometimes wisdom), in them already.

  58. James Evans

    @#43 TStein:

    Here is a little exercise. Think of every war (or tragedy) that you can think of and write them down… Now go through and mark which of them were primarily about religion.

    OK, let’s take a look at some, TStein, shall we?

    Well, there’s that sticky bit about aggressive European expansion into Native American territory, and the countless resulting deaths mostly dismissed, justified, and allowed to continue for centuries by passages found in the Bible. Check for a strong religious influence here.

    African slave trade, similar Christian “they’re savages” style rationale. Check, religion at the root here as well.

    There are those church reformation conflicts in Europe that lasted over a century—you know, some with those guys named Martin Luther and John Calvin—often called the European wars of religion. Pretty safe to say we can check all these off in the major religious cause column.

    Revolutionary War…American Enlightenment produced a scientific and deist philosophy that insisted upon independence from England, and its tyrannical king and supreme religious leader, who declared it his duty to uphold his God-given right to rule over the American “usurpers” and people. Check, pretty serious religious presence behind all of that.

    Civil War…by now, fairly familiar biblical justifications by slave owners to maintain their rights to own slaves and secede. Check, religion playing a big role there.

    WWI…started by a Serb nationalist assassinating religiously-ordained royalty, the Archduke and Duchess, but whatever, I’ll give you this one. No notable religious causes here.

    Armenian Massacres…not too hard to recognize the potent religious forces at work here.

    WWII and Holocaust…Nazi Germany’s aggressions were justified by a pagan belief in Germanic racial superiority, enforced by a ranting Catholic leader who often quoted/thanked/claimed to perceive the mind of God in his public speeches, would not have been possible without the seeming moral legitimacy the Nazis gained by concordats/agreements with the Holy See and Lutheran church, and scapegoated and persecuted a particular religious minority to stunning and disturbing effect. Big religious check across the board here, even without mentioning the Japanese fighting for an emperor they believed to be a god.

    Indo-Pakistani conflicts after partition…short study of past and present animosity between Hinduism and Islam results in serious religious causes checked off here.

    Korean War and Vietnam…easy god-lovers versus the godless arguments can be made, and it’s worth noting that the spread/imposition of Marxist-Leninist style communism relied fairly heavily on some religious-like belief without question in ways to produce and distribute resources that ultimately fell on their faces and failed, but, whatever, I’ll grant you these two. They were merely examples of capitalism versus communism without religion involved in a clear manner.

    Israeli-Palestinian conflict/Iran-Iraq War/Six-Day War/problems in the Middle East in general…do I really need to say what column these fall under?

    Soviet invasion of Afghanistan… Mujahideen vs. atheists…meh, you can have this one.

    1st Gulf War…I’ll give you this one, too, but grudgingly, because truth be told, Saddam invaded Kuwait for its oil which he planned to use to pay off debt from the previous Sunni-Shia Iran-Iraq War included in an above religious bullet.

    Bosnian War…another big PUH-LEASE. Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim militias all going at it due to historical religious tensions.

    Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan…Islamic fundamentalism for the win, and another major religious check here.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom…the despicable crusade rhetoric, devout neocons all over the plans and run-up, and who was it again that told Dubya to invade? Oh, yeah, that’s right, that ever-present God character.

    Needless to say, TStein, I disagree with the outcome you predicted for your exercise. :) Religion and other similar forms of harmful credulity play major roles in most wars/non-environmental tragedies. We’d be better off without them.

  59. Mark

    The older I get the more I believe in science, and the more I believe in a divine spirit. Sounds silly to most of you lot, and I’m not necessarily enamored with the fact that something can’t be proven, now….or perhaps a very very long time, if ever. Call me stupid or silly, but if there is a “god”, count me in with perhaps a small group that would like to think he/she gave us science to aid in our quest to find him/her/it. It is the the greatest question of all time, for us mere humans.

    I’m not worried about the kids, they will be fine. The human race needs to overcome childhood times filled with uneasy proclamations. Adapt, learn, determine their own way. I have 4 kids of my own, haven’t evangelized one iota, whether it be lecturing of the benefits of science, or chastising them for an honorable cause greater than themselves by embracing a particular belief in the almighty or whatever entity we are speaking of here. The business Mr Plait speaks of here (the “dangerous” brainwash of kids) has been endured for millennia on the planet. The human race moves on. Don’t worry folks, we don’t need to entertain thoughts of groupthink to get the rednecks in line. Just live your lives the way you see fit, and be confident the human race will adapt to whatever is thrown at them (this side of a very dark asteroid).

    There is no need to change humanity during your lifetimes. There were as special times before you, and there will be special times ahead. We aren’t (as I believe some think) always insistent that now is all there is. If you don’t understand what I’m saying here….think.

  60. Grand Lunar

    I’ve seen both videos (by Bill Nye and Neil Tyson) and feel both are excellent and in fact should be shown in today’s classrooms.

    I do sincerly hope that Nye’s statement can come to pass.
    However, it might not be likely to take place for many generations.
    Certainly not in my lifetime.

  61. Chris2

    Of course, now Bill Nye and Neil Tyson need to make a video together.

  62. @ Mark:

    While you are absolutely free to bring up your kids as you see fit, I sure hope you change that attitude about “lecturing of the benefits of science.” Science works. Magic does not. Our society is based upon science and the technology that goes along with it. It’s the only thing that keeps our civilization from crashing in upon itself. If your kids don’t understand that, their future will not be what you probably wish it will be.

    And as for change in our lifetime, I suggest you not buy any coastal property anytime soon.

  63. Creationism bad for both adults and children. Yep.

    Superstitions, ditto – I am myself owned by* a black cat (well black and goldeny orange tortoiseshell) & 13 is a lucky number in my family.

    “Denial of evolution is unique to the US tho”- not really I’m afraid Bill Nye. One of my friends – a good person is a creationist living in Australia belonging to a creationist-believing Church. I’ve delivered hay to a creationist ministry for work. Plus so much of the world – Africa and the islamic nations are still very much creationist. Europe, the USA and Australasia are largely secular, Japan too and China & Cuba nominally atheist in theory if maybe not so much in practice. (Remember how the Soviet Union suppressed the Church but Russian Orthodoxy is , now, well kinda Orthodox again?)

    We live in a world where we agnostics** and atheists and secularists are badly outnumbered. We live alongside people holding beliefs that many of us consider anti-scientific and silly and worse. We may be correct on this but we have to get along with them. And, usually, we pretty much do.

    But, please, lets not teach creationism as science in science classrooms – unless its to illustrate the difference on what is and isn’t really science! Please let’s make decisions that are based on sound scientific evidence and that can pass rigourous tests of criticial thinking.

    ——————–

    * Legally it may be the other way round I register her as my “pet” to the council but, hey, she’s the one I feed, open doors for, gets my lap as a seat whenever she pleases, etc … Reckon that means she owns me more than t’other way around! ;-)

    ** I call myself an agnostic. I’ve been religious, I’ve been atheist, I’ve grown a lot less certain of things as I’ve gotten older and realised there’s an awful lot I don’t know. I’ve got friends on both sides of the belief in god / athiesm divide and I’m not going to tell other people what to believe or that something special to them is wrong and makes them bad thinkers when in many ways they’re not. I could be wrong or mistaken myself.

  64. P.S. On that black cat superstition : in some traditions a black cat is actually considered lucky, in others the exact opposite – and I believe the Madacasan Aye-Aye species of lemur experienced a tragic situation where it went from being considered extremely lucky to see one to the exact opposite as well and because of that superstition was hunted to its present incredibly endangered status.

    (The aye-aye – wiki-linked to my name here – featured in Stephen Fry’s Last Chance To see doco and book too.)

    *****

    PPS. A bit off topic sorry but thought this was interesting :

    Saw Romney’s Republican Convention speech today on the news. There was a moment where Mitt said something like that “Obama promised to stop the seas rise and heal the planet .. “ There was a long awkward pause and some uncomfortable laughter then Romney continued with something like “.. I’ll focus on your family and jobs instead.” (Implied : Forget the environment and do nothing to fight the HIRGO “hoax” / reality.) The audience’s seemingly flat and awkward reaction to this apparent appeal to selfishness over environmental action I found interesting.

    I got a vibe that they (These committed Republicans even!) were distinctly uneasy and uncomfortable about Romneys words. Maybe more of them really know that Global Overheating is a reality that needs to be tackled than they let on? Maybe bashing the supposed “Hoax” isn’t a vote winner given that surveys now say more of the US public accept the scientific consensus and that the trend in accepting the science is growing. Maybe they’re wondering about that Hurricane Isaac that took away their conventions first day, those serious midwest USA fires and droughts and the recent record low in Arctic sea ice? Maybe those observed and alarming facts and measured phenomena were at the backs of their minds?

    Maybe.

    Maybe I’m being too optimistic and seeing what I want to see rather than what’s really there like martian canals in the eyes of the observers like Lowell over a century ago. But still ..

    Anyone else here know the moment I’m talking about and get that same sense I’ve described?

  65. Hey, MTU, see anything ironic here:

    Superstitions, ditto … 13 is a lucky number in my family.

    Haw haw!

  66. Nigel Depledge

    Jeff (5) said:

    Creationism in no way invalidates any of the scientific theories about how the universe in its current state came to be.

    Well, true, but that’s because science is right (AFAWCT) and creationism is wrong.

    Biblical literalist creationism does,

    Nope.

    but those are two VERY different ideas.

    Not really. It all depends on what you mean by creationism.

    At its heart, any form of creationism states that organisms were created individually, rather than having evolved.

    And therefore all forms of creationism are wrong.

    There exist some grey areas in between, such as theist evolution, where it is claimed that evolution happened but with divine guidance. Evolution as god’s toolkit, if you will.

    Theistic evolution is not at odds with the scientific evidence, although it is as illogical as any other religious belief (all religious beliefs violate the principle of parsimony).

    I agree that faith should be left out of schools (excepting the teaching of religions as it relates to history): both faith in god and faith that there is no god.

    What do you mean by “faith that there is no god”?

    AFAICT, no-one on this planet has faith that there is no god.

    In the same way, it doesn’t require any faith to not believe in the Tooth Fairy.

    Atheism can best be summed up in the phrase: There’s probably no god; now just get on with your life.

    There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for, so I would argue this is a subject science hasn’t touched and find it presumptuous for scientists to use their position to assume some kind of authority on the subject.

    Well, isn’t it fortunate for you that scientists, as a group, do no such thing.

    Although, I will grant you that many (but certainly not “most”) scientists are atheists.

    Instead, we have what rational people call logic. The existence or otherwise of god is not a balancing act, requiring more evidence for one proposition than the other. We start from the parsimonious assumption that there is no god until and unless evidence convinces us otherwise. Thus, in the absence of evidence for the existence of a god, the only reasonable assumption is that there is no god. To do otherwise violates the principle opf parsimony, which is one of the foundations of logic.

    By way of comparison, do you think it would be reasonable of me to demand that you provide evidentiary support for the non-existence of the invisible pink unicorn in my back garden before I will accept its non-existence as likely?

  67. Nigel Depledge

    James (17) said:

    If creationism bothers you, then leave the USA and go and live somewhere else, where creationism is considered laughable. Like the UK for instance.
    I should know I live there. Religious types of all descriptions are considered a bit strange and peculiar.

    Well, this used to be the case perhaps 20 – 30 years ago.

    There has, over the last decade or so, been an upsurge in the number of religious schools cropping up (or existing schools becoming religious ones). These schools are required to meet national standards in science education, but have no scrutiny over what they teach in religious education classes. And no restrictions on timetabling. So, to take the extreme example, a Muslim or RC or CofE school might timetable four times as much RE as science, and can teach creationism in those RE classes if they so wish. And they get state funding.

  68. Nigel Depledge

    Wzrd1 (28) said:

    @Tim, one can keep religion out of schools and keep the balance of not de facto enforcing atheism by teaching about ALL religions in social studies classes. Back when I was in school, that was what was done, teaching about ALL of the faiths of the world.

    Wow, how did they squeeze anything else into the timetable?

    At my school, we learned only about the “big three” religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam, although I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more Hindus and Taoists in the world than there are Jews).

  69. flip

    @Wizard1 #23

    Thanks for that cliff notes version of Darwin’s Origin of Species. :)

    @Mark, #50

    It is the the greatest question of all time, for us mere humans.

    This is what I don’t get: it’s not the greatest question of all time for me. I couldn’t care one way or the other. *It’s important to you, not everyone*

    There is no need to change humanity during your lifetimes.

    Sheesh… there goes suffragettes, desegregation, and freeing the slaves and any number of other issues… Don’t worry about them folks, it’ll all fix themselves given time…

    …Anyway, on the topic at hand, the only thing I disagree with is the bit about ladders. It makes perfect sense to avoid walking under ladders, especially if someone or something is on one of the higher steps: this is because things may fall and people can get hurt. In fact, that’s why many if not most construction work with scaffolding and ladders are cordoned off so people don’t accidentally bump into or walk by them. It can be dangerous for both the person standing below, and the person on the ladder.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Regner Trampedach (41) said:

    A wholesale creation, a mere 6000 years ago, has been disproven as a scientific theory. But it cannot be disproven as an act of an omnipotent god, since such an entity could just have made things look like what scientists have found – that “argument” always works.

    Well, kind-of.

    But not really. The “Earth is young but was made to look old” argument is logically empty. It is known as Last Thursdayism. If the Earth is young but was made to look old, you can never have any idea of how old it is. The whole shebang might as well have been made last Thursday, complete with false memories of earlier times. Theologically, this argument demands that god be the Great Deceiver.

  71. Nigel Depledge

    Wzrd1 (45) said:

    If one were to find human bones in an allosaurus fossile, that refutes nothing of evolution. Indeed, it merely moves the dates back a great deal and shows a lack of a fossil record for humanity or mammals. As that is not the case and DNA clock information supports the current theories on human evolution, the point is currently moot until we find that allosaurus with the human inside.

    This is an example of the conflation of two different meanings of the term evolution.

    Such a finding would indeed refute our painstakingly-constructed evolutionary history, but it wouldn’t refute the theory that describes the mechanisms of evolutionary change. Although it might require that we modify some of the details. Now, to find some anatomically modern birds in deposits that predate the group of dinosaurs from which birds are descended : that would indeed be a significant challenge.

  72. TheBlackCat

    @ James: “If creationism bothers you, then leave the USA and go and live somewhere else, where creationism is considered laughable. Like the UK for instance.”

    I guess you haven’t heard about what happened at the Giant’s Causeway recently.

    @ MTU: ” in some traditions a black cat is actually considered lucky, in others the exact opposite”

    I can tell you I am bad luck

    @ Nigel: “Although, I will grant you that many (but certainly not “most”) scientists are atheists.”

    Polls on the subject indicate over 80% of scientists are atheists, more like >95% if you include top scientists (like from the national academies). So yes, “most” scientists are atheist.

  73. The Earth will be fine.

  74. @56. kuhnigget :

    Hey, MTU, see anything ironic here:
    “Superstitions, ditto … 13 is a lucky number in my family.”
    Haw haw!

    Yeah, well, there is that! ;-)

    Also I’ve heard it’s bad luck to be superstitious! ;-)

    Seriously, guess I could’ve put that better but point is several family members been born or got engaged on various 13ths of some months so, yeah, we don’t find it a particularly “unlucky” number – rather the reverse from our POV. So meant as a kind of counter-example as I ‘spose you gathered?

    Luck in the sense of chance, fortunate circumstances or otherwise arising out of uncontrollable factors, certainly exists; we’re lucky that we’re born at the time and place we are for instance.

    Luck in the sense of superstitions having any real value to them, not-so-much. If that makes more sense which I hope it does. :-)

  75. Nigel Depledge

    TBC (63) said:

    Polls on the subject indicate over 80% of scientists are atheists, more like >95% if you include top scientists (like from the national academies). So yes, “most” scientists are atheist.

    Well, that is a surprise.

    I guess you learn something new every day.

  76. Gary

    @ James: “If creationism bothers you, then leave the USA and go and live somewhere else, where creationism is considered laughable. Like the UK for instance.”

    Perhaps you should read the First Amendment to the U.S, Constitution. I know it’s considered a liberal socialist document by the Republican Party and the religious right these days. Contrary to right wing protest, it’s my rights that are being violated, not yours, when the beliefs of a single religion are forced on this country’s citizens.

    I would suggest instead of me leaving the U.S., you move to a country where the constitution and laws are mandated by a single religion’s beliefs, Iran comes to mind. Unfortunately I can’t think of a single country that enforces religion on its citizen’s that isn’t oppressive or I would have gladly suggested one.

  77. TheBlackCat

    @ Gary : You should read James’ next sentence: “I should know I live there.” I interpret his post as an advertisement for his home country rather than a criticism of non-religious people.

  78. Infinite123Lifer

    Am I really that bad Dr? Oh, there it is way back there.

    I wrote a long post which was probably wrought with ignorance trying to partly say the same things you said in your final paragraph @54 MTU and I agree completely with that last paragraph. And this bit

    “I could be wrong or mistaken myself.”

    Man I project that. Wish I could receive it sometimes.

    I was an atheist at 25 years old when I saw God for the first time and I am still an atheist. If you hooked me up to a lie detector test and asked me if I had ever seen God or talked with it and I said Yes I would pass with flying colors, but that doesn’t mean anything, I am just saying that I believe what happened was real but don’t acknowledge it except for when it feels appropriate. That’s right Torbjorn I am accomodating myself, and yes, its difficult, but I didn’t choose to float through a hospital ceiling and have an emotional and what can only be described as spiritual experience, it just happened so take pity. And yeah, it somewhat feels appropriate here. I am getting somewhere with this I hope.

    Hmm, so I hallucinated eh . . . had a mental breakdown er . . . temporarily lost me marbles, disintegrated from reality, cracked up, went cuckoo, became of unsound mind, gone bonkers, went splitsville, bankrupt, conked out, caved in, tripped out uh? No, I don’t think so, I was there for every minute of sound mind and body helping out in a very tough birth and afterwards for 12 days in the hospital, well, every minute but 1. The story is just like any other ghost story, I got no proof. It is simple though . . . it was special to me and entirely real as well and that has never hurt anybody and is far from creationism I know but still your telling people that teaching creationism to children is wrong and well, I am with you on that Dr’s but, now the tough bit. Do i tell my son what I experienced the day he was born? Or is that crossing some line science has drawn for me on what to consider as tenable?

    Nye and Tyson are telling people where to draw the line. Wheres the line? The reverend say’s the line is over here and the government says it is over there and now scientist are telling me the line is here, at teaching creationism to kids? Doesn’t anybody see a problem with that, oh I see a problem with teaching your children the Earth is flat and that God can just make us some new polar bears when these ones are gone but its like an order of operations thing almost, there is a problem with the line is there not? I don’t think anybody should lie to their kids, I am just unaware if it’s my business or not.

    IMO science needs to stay out of it, but if your thinking I mean way out I don’t, just a bit out, don’t assert some sort of policy on people, wouldn’t this be good to protect what science is? Let the religious thing sort itself out, it seems to be doing that itself to some extent anyway. Seems like everyday there are more and more people questioning their insane beliefs, keep on keeping science what it is . . . a tool to understand the world and not a mechanism for controlling people.

    Can I get a female atheist Dr to run for the Presidency of the United States in 2016 please? Force the issue . . . now is always the time . . . but do it naturally.

    Don’t draw lines or Maynard will make a song about you.

    Move past religion in 20 years, 30 years, 100 years? Don’t build castles in the air.

    I was discussing this and my drowning over at pharyngula a couple years ago and I was heading in with what I thought was a line of reasoning and the man says “get out of here, the ol’ no atheist’s in foxholes argument, its rubbish”. I even remember his name. Now I had never heard of the argument before but yeah . . . there are no atheist’s in foxholes, sure your gonna have a few anomalies here and there on both ends but in the end whether it be by consequence of living in our time or just an evolutionary instinct for survival people change when there belief no longer suits them. Can I prove this claim? Well, how have you reacted when your ass was on the line and be honest if you want to challenge the atheist in the foxhole because AFAICT it can only be proven by testimony and we know how pathetic that can be.

    I don’t mean to go off and write long comments. I am not really ranting, it’s how I discuss I guess, kinda long winded but I am passionate about a lot of the stories Phil writes about. Sorry for that, it just seems like every time I make a statement or read one by somebody else its, their always missing something key. Most of the time I can’t even find the lock but I know the locksmith is not infallible :) Everything just seems so incomplete all the time.

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    Three key points :

    I) Private religious belief is a personal choice I think everyone should be free to make on their own and up to the individual based on their own experiences and history and reasoning.

    II) Government imposing religious beliefs or getting involved in that area at all (eg. insisting creationism be taught as “legitimate” science in science classrooms or there’s a state religion or Sharia / Christian / Whatever religious law legally in force.) is something very different and to be rejected and fought for everyone’s sake. Because history and current world examples show state imposed religion is a dangerous and harmful thing.

    III) Worst thing about both religion and atheism in my view are the extremists who refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness.

    I find these three statements kind of axiomatic and self evident really but clearly they ain’t that way to everyone and maybe I’m wrong.

  80. Infinite123Lifer

    I love these threads, so many questions are brought to the table and so many answer with the best logic afforded to them. It is great.

    @70 Infinite123Lifer

    I left a few bits out

    I said:

    “If you hooked me up to a lie detector test and asked me if I had ever seen God or talked with it and I said Yes I would pass with flying colors . . . ”

    And if you asked me if I was an atheist directly afterwards . . . again I would pass with flying colors.

    I also said:

    “I was discussing this and my drowning”

    In one week two people drowned where I am from. I was the third and the only one who lived. On my way to a night chemistry class I took a canoe to cross the lake and fell in the water when a wave swept my canoe from under me. I swam out of a 32degree lake for almost an hour, ran naked (save for boxers, 3 t-shirts, a Life vest, 2 hand braces and 1 beanie . . . I am a horrible swimmer but even worse with winter gear on) through blackberry bushes and on gravel for 20 minutes and was saved by someones dog barking at me where I collapsed and was taken to the hospital for hypothermia and water inhalation. I consider myself an expert at understanding both sides of a no atheists in foxholes argument.

    Thank you Oreo. You saved my Life you little dee oh gee, you and the LIFE VEST!

    “III) Worst thing about both religion and atheism in my view are the extremists who refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness.”

    Seconded.

  81. Number 6

    It was good to see that the Chicago Tribune newspaper had a story about Bill’s video in their print and online editions. –> http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-28/news/sns-rt-us-usa-creationism-sciencebre87r04j-20120827_1_science-guy-bill-nye-evolution

  82. Regner Trampedach

    Wzrd1 @ 45: I think the problem would be a bit more serious than to warrant a “mere”. If a human fossil was found inside an allosaurus fossil, the big question is, where did the human come from (in the evolutionary sense). There where no human ancestor candidates at or before that time… Whereas, as things currently stand, we have a rather detailed human evolutionary history, going all the way back to the first pond scum.
    Nigel @ 62: Eh, Nigel – not to get pedantic, but exactly how does your example of the bird differ from my example. I don’t believe there were that many primates around when Big Al roamed the countryside… Apart from that, – always happy to be on the same side of the arguments here… :-)
    Cheers, Regner

  83. Renee Marie Jones

    I worry about myself.

    They poison the air and water and claim that it can’t hurt anyone because their book says the world will survive until god decides to destroy it. I used to live in Billy Graham country, he had a newspaper column where he said we must allow poor people to starve to death because anyone starving was starving because they were sinners and we dare not protect them from god’s wrath.

    These nitwits run the world and any criticism is branded as an attack on their religion. I am sick of it. They are destroying MY world. They are poisoning MY planet. They are killing MY friends. They need to be stopped. Their religion is not private, it is destructive and hateful and evil. If they want their religion to be respected the first thing they need to do is learn to respect others.

  84. #48 aMartin:
    Firstly, the main topic isn’t about belief in the existence or otherwise of God; it’s about creationism – the belief that the Bible is all true, and literally the word of God, and that the “Creation” actually happened as described therein. Those are two very different things.
    No-one can ( yet ) prove that God doesn’t exist, but proving that the Bible isn’t true is a trivial matter. You don’t even need any scientific evidence – just pure logic. If two statements are mutually contradictory, then at least one of them must be false – agreed? So all you have to do is find two mutually contradictory statements in the Bible, and you’ve proved that it isn’t all true. Ergo, the basic core belief of young-Earth creationism is false.
    QED.

    Secondly, it is in fact also a simple matter to prove, using pure logic, that God doesn’t exist – at least, a God with the attributes given to him by the three Abrahamic religions.
    The Abrahamic God is supposed to be both omniscient ( knows everything ) and omnipotent ( can do anything ). But this is a logical impossibility, as those two attributes are mutually exclusive!!!
    Think about it. If God is indeed omniscient, i.e. knows everything that can possibly be known, then that means he knows everything that will ever happen in the future, as well as everything that already has happened. ( Because he can, presumably, predict the future motion of every atom and particle in the Universe. ) But if that’s the case, then he can’t arbitrarily change his mind and alter the course of future events, can he? So he can’t be omnipotent!
    Conversely, if he is indeed omnipotent, i.e. can do whatever he likes, whenever he likes, then he can’t possibly know everything that will ever happen in advance – so he can’t be omniscient!
    So if he’s omniscient, he can’t be omnipotent, and vice versa.
    Ergo, the existence of the Abrahamic God is logically impossible.
    QED.

  85. @ Renee Marie Jones:

    Yup yup and yup.

    Respect must be earned, not legislated.

    The “poor me” Xians in the U.S. should look to Pakistan right about now if they want to see what their version of this country would be like.

  86. tim Rowledge

    Messier –

    III) Worst thing about both religion and atheism in my view are the extremists who refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument

    The problem here is the assumption that the religionists have anything to respect in their claims. If anyone can provide a list of exclusively religious claims that one might reasonably have respect for then many of us would be very interested.
    The whole ‘respect for religion’ thing has become ludicrous. I don’t have to have respect for any religion. I don’t have to have any respect for someone that partakes of a religion simply because of that religion. I don’t have to respect the ‘religious feelings’ of anyone. I *do* (to make a viable civilisation) have to respect the *freedom* to hold to those feelings just as long as the holders grant me the same freedom.
    Shorter;
    I don’t have to respect christianity.
    I don’t have to respect christians.
    I do have to respect the freedom to be christian; they have to respect my freedom to be other.

  87. Reggie

    I think both make valid points. It is right to worry about adults in the context Neil explains. However, Bill is correct in that worrying about adults who will likely never change their views is a waste of time and it is the children with whom the odds of influencing are higher.

  88. Jess Tauber

    General trends of differentiation to fill the available cognitive style spaces are what seem to be behind what is going on, similar in spirit to what one sees with fermion quantum states (though I suppose some Bose-Einstein mechanics could be thrown in for peaceful coexistence). If you have enough people you will eventually have (distributed over time as well as space) every type of belief you can imagine (not the particulars, but again the general picture). If this is true you will never entirely get rid of illogic, irrationality, etc. Eternal Whackamole.

  89. noen

    I tend to agree with Bill Nye because education sets a persons beliefs for a lifetime. I still believe that 2+2=4. Had I been taught differently coming to the right conclusion would be harder for me.

    And yes, the extreme religious right *does* have it’s own mathematics. (They reject set theory.)

    Democracy requires an educated populace.

  90. James Evans

    (Note: Eventually this may be a double post. The original submission has been awaiting moderation for some time now.)

    @#43 TStein:

    Here is a little exercise. Think of every war (or tragedy) that you can think of and write them down… Now go through and mark which of them were primarily about religion.

    OK, let’s take a look at some, TStein, shall we?

    Well, there’s that sticky bit about aggressive European expansion into Native American territory, and the countless resulting deaths mostly dismissed, justified, and allowed to continue for centuries by passages found in the Bible. Strong religious influence here, so check this one off.

    African slave trade, similar Christian “they’re savages” style rationale. Check, religion at the root here as well.

    There are those church reformation conflicts in Europe that lasted over a century—you know, some with those guys named Martin Luther and John Calvin—often called the European wars of religion (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion). Pretty safe to say we can check all these off in the major religious cause column.

    Revolutionary War…American Enlightenment produced a scientific and deist philosophy that insisted upon independence from England, and its tyrannical king and supreme religious leader, who declared it his duty to uphold his God-given right to rule over the American “usurpers” and people. Check, pretty serious religious presence behind all of that.

    Civil War…by now, fairly familiar biblical justifications by slave owners to maintain their rights to own slaves and secede. Check, religion playing a big role there.

    WWI…started by a Serb nationalist assassinating religiously-ordained royalty, the Archduke and Duchess, but whatever, I’ll give you this one. No notable religious causes here.

    Armenian Massacres…not too hard to recognize the potent religious forces at work here.

    WWII and Holocaust…Nazi Germany’s aggressions were justified by a pagan belief in Germanic racial superiority, enforced by a ranting Catholic leader who often quoted/thanked/claimed to perceive the mind of God in his public speeches, would not have been possible without the seeming moral legitimacy the Nazis gained by concordats/agreements with the Holy See and Lutheran church, and scapegoated and persecuted a particular religious minority to stunning and disturbing effect. Big religious check across the board here, even without mentioning the Japanese fighting for an emperor they believed to be a god.

    Indo-Pakistani conflicts after partition…short study of past and present animosity between Hinduism and Islam results in serious religious causes checked off here.

    Korean War and Vietnam…easy god-lovers versus the godless arguments can be made, and it’s worth noting that the spread/imposition of Marxist-Leninist style communism relied fairly heavily on some faith-like belief without question in ways to produce and distribute resources that ultimately fell on their faces and failed, but, whatever, I’ll grant you these two. They were merely examples of capitalism versus communism without religion involved in a clear manner.

    Israeli-Palestinian conflict/Iran-Iraq War/Six-Day War/problems in the Middle East in general…do I really need to say what column these fall under?

    Soviet invasion of Afghanistan… Mujahideen vs. atheists…meh, you can have this one.

    1st Gulf War…I’ll give you this one, too, but grudgingly, because truth be told, Saddam invaded Kuwait for its oil which he planned to use to pay off debt from the previous Sunni-Shia Iran-Iraq War included in an above religious bullet.

    Bosnian War…another big PUH-LEASE. Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim militias all going at it due to historical religious tensions.

    Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan…Islamic fundamentalism for the win, and another major religious check here.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom…the despicable crusade rhetoric, devout neocons all over the plans and run-up, and who was it again that told Dubya to invade? Oh, yeah, that’s right, that ever-present God character.

    Needless to say, TStein, I disagree with the outcome you predicted for your exercise :). Religion and other similar forms of harmful credulity play major roles in most wars/non-environmental tragedies. We’d be better off without them.

  91. TheBlackCat

    III) Worst thing about both religion and atheism in my view are the extremists who refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness.

    And the hypocritical agnostics and accommodationists in the middle who say things like this but then “refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness” themselves far more than the atheists they despise. The worst nastiness, pettiness, disrespect, insults, and refusals to listen I have seen came from people criticizing atheists for those very things.

  92. TheBlackCat

    Hmm, so I hallucinated eh . . . had a mental breakdown er . . . temporarily lost me marbles, disintegrated from reality, cracked up, went cuckoo, became of unsound mind, gone bonkers, went splitsville, bankrupt, conked out, caved in, tripped out uh? No, I don’t think so, I was there for every minute of sound mind and body helping out in a very tough birth and afterwards for 12 days in the hospital, well, every minute but 1.

    Sorry, but those sorts of experiences are well-understood, and easy to trigger both with medication, stress, and anything that deprives the brain of oxygen (loss of blood, heart failure, even high acceleration).

  93. Messier Tidy Upper

    @81. TheBlackCat :

    III) Worst thing about both religion and atheism in my view are the extremists who refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness.” – MTU
    And the hypocritical agnostics and accommodationists in the middle who say things like this but then “refuse to listen to and respect the other side of the argument and who abuse and insult their opponents leading to polarisation and hatred and general nastiness” themselves far more than the atheists they despise.

    I do NOT despise atheists. I think they may very well be right. There’s probably – not certainly but very high probability – no God in my view & I think a secular (& democratic) system of governance works best.

    I don’t believe in any organised religion. I do hope there’s something “godlike” out there in the best and, yeah, very hard to define form of the word out there but that’s a hope not knowing and sure I could be wrong. I know there’s a lot I don’t know and I want to learn and understand.

    I’m not into name calling and abusing people. I don’t think that’s at all productive or helpful & I’m not saying anyone’s hypocritical.

    You disagree?
    Why so?
    When or where have *I* done or said any of those things?

    The worst nastiness, pettiness, disrespect, insults, and refusals to listen I have seen came from people criticizing atheists for those very things.

    For example(s)? Who has done this, when, and under what contextual circumstances?

    Is that something which you think I personally am guilty of? (Can’t answer for anyone but myself, the only person I sometimes have control over!)

    ***************

    PS. Typing this from my brother’s place. Had problems with my home computer at present so may not be able to reply as quickly as usual I’m afraid. :-(

  94. TheBlackCat

    I’m not into name calling and abusing people. I don’t think that’s at all productive or helpful & I’m not saying anyone’s hypocritical.

    You disagree?
    Why so?
    When or where have *I* done or said any of those things?

    The last time we discussed “new atheism”. You arguments against Richard Dawkins in particular basically boiled down to you claiming you knew what was in his own head better than he did, and that his stated positions on issues were lies (with absolutely zero evidence).

    At least that was your position some of the time, it was impossible to actually nail down your position during that discussion since you kept jumping back and forth between a few different positions. You would state a position, then later when we repeated that position you claimed you didn’t hold that position, only to come back to it later. You made up evidence, and when it was pointed out the s0-called evidence was wrong you apologized, only to repeat it later in the thread as though the previous discussion had never happened. You quote-mined prominent atheists. You kept repeating claims after they were disproven. And you just ignored posts that were inconvenient, pretending later they never happened.

    Heck, another poster said that they didn’t hold the opinions you claimed he should hold, you told him he was wrong about his opinon.

    In another thread going on at the same time you demanded examples of this, and when I posted them you just ignored my post entirely. I’m not really in the mood to waste time doing it again because the thread was way back and I don’t think it will be productive enough to bother hunting down. I have better things to do with my time.

    On certain topics you apply skeptical thinking well, but on others you simply don’t, and is pointless trying to discuss these topics with you because you use the same tactics you criticize others for using on other topics.

  95. VinceRN

    DanM @29 – Just to play devils advocate, what well known rules would the existence of such a being violate? I concede that your statement is valid about many of the actions attributed to such a being, like creation, the flood, or any of numerous other miracles. I do not myself believe in such a being as there is no conceivable scientific reason to believe and such a being is not needed to have the universe here. It would be inelegant. However, the mere existence of a creator, so long as people say it created the universe we can see and measure, doesn’t seem to actually violate any particular physical law.

    Nigel @ 57 – There are actually quite a few people that believe that their god created the universe and set it all in motion, and had perhaps been guiding it’s evolution. Not all creationists think the world was created recently or intact as we see it today, not all believe that critters were created without evolution.

    James Evans @ 80 – In every single one of those wars you mention religion was used as an excuse, it was not the real motivating factor. People were fighting exactly those same kind of wars thousands of years before any of the Abrahamic religions existed. The real reasons for those wars are the same as for all wars. DO you really believe that if it hadn’t been for Christianity all those folks would have just been peacefully sitting around the camp fire smoking dope and playing their guitars? Throughout all of human history the strong have taken from the weak. Conquest, slavery, despotism and tyranny precede Christianity by many thousands of years. It would make as much sense to blame the hundred million or more killed by Stalin and Mao on atheism because they were atheists. All wars have very human, very secular roots, religion is just the window dressing.

    These days I avoid the term atheist because to me it now brings up images of a bunch of people getting together to congratulate themselves on being smarter than everyone else and to dump their hate on anyone that that believes in some form of Christianity (oddly they usually leave out all other faiths, despite the fact that Christians account for only about a third of religious folks). These days I am apatheistic and ignostic. (Largely because I think both are cool words and come close enough to my views).

  96. #80 James:
    And how about the so-called “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, which lasted decades, and which was a civil war in all but name. That wasn’t even between different religions, but between marginally different sects of the same religion, i.e. Catholics and Protestants!!!
    There were even cases of Catholics being murdered by other Catholics – for the terrible “crime” of marrying a Protestant!!!

  97. James Evans

    @#86 VinceRN:

    In every single one of those wars you mention religion was used as an excuse, it was not the real motivating factor.

    I don’t understand the distinction you’re trying to make. For instance, when Luther and Calvin parted ways with the Catholic Church and wars raged strictly over doctrinal disagreement for more than a century, the religion at the heart of the matter was all just an…excuse? When Sept. 11 hijackers killed thousands of innocents in the name of Islamic jihad, Allah, and martyrdom, all of that fundamental religious motivation we’ve all assumed was central to their actions was instead just some sort of excuse hiding some other secret agenda? Which was what exactly? Could you go into detail with one of the wars/tragedies I mentioned and show how religion was an excuse and not a motivation? And if the excuse helped leaders get the general populace/armies/followers to conform rather than recoil or rebel, can you explain why distinguishing excuse from motivation matters?

    People were fighting exactly those same kind of wars thousands of years before any of the Abrahamic religions existed.

    Which is why I was careful to choose conflicts involving other faiths besides the big Abrahamic threesome. Religions have been with man for as long as man has tried to make sense of his surroundings. I’m afraid it’s likely that tens of thousands of years ago tree gods “told” primitive, barbaric leaders that they had every right to the possessions of a rival tribe a few valleys away, because those backward fools worshipped gods that lived in a river, or up on a mountaintop, or in the clouds, etc.

    DO you really believe that if it hadn’t been for Christianity all those folks would have just been peacefully sitting around the camp fire smoking dope and playing their guitars?

    Well, yes. If you are not a member of people chosen by God, you have little justification for taking what never belonged to you in the first place. You might do it anyway, but likely you will have to do so on your own, or at least with dramatically less help from otherwise kindhearted people who need to be tricked into perpetrating atrocities.

    Conquest, slavery, despotism and tyranny precede Christianity by many thousands of years.

    True. For example, the pharaohs were Ra in corporeal form, and therefore had very, very, very special privileges such as palaces, and armies to conquer enemies, and the right to execute whomever they wanted, and slaves, and many other helpful, god-given entitlements.

    As Mel Brooks so aptly put it, it’s good to be the king.

  98. star-affinity

    @74.   Neil Haggath

    Thanks for your input, but I think when Jeff wrote “There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for…” he didn’t particularly mean the god of the Bible or the Bible itself, or did he?

    Anyway, thanks for these two reasonings. I was just trying to say that it is difficult (imposible) to disprove that something that doesn’t exist doesn’t exist. I wonder what kind of proof a theist would think is valid. Perhaps if god reveald himself and said “I don’t exist”… :|

  99. VinceRN

    John @86 – OK, here goes:

    European expansion into the Americas: This would have happened with or without religion. Humans expand, we move into new territories. That is why we are everywhere now. Once the technology to do so existed, the North American natives, still living in the stone age, were doomed. The stronger group always displaces the weaker group. That’s why hunter-gatherers all over the world have usually ceased to exist when they meat an expanding agricultural society. Religion in this case was, as I said, merely window dressing. This would have happened without Christianity just as readily as with.

    The African slave trade: Slavery has existed for all of human history in almost every society that has ever existed. This trade would have gone on regardless of Christianity as it had gone on for thousands of years already. The The Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Sumerians, even the various African nations themselves had done it. Slavery has been the status of almost all humans throughout history. Religion has nothing to do with this issue at all.

    The Wars of Religion I’ll give you, though even they were about power over the church and therefore over Europe.

    Yes, there was a religious presence in the American Revolution, but it was not the cause, nor even an excuse. The religious destiny that America presumed for itself did not come into play for generations after that.

    It fascinates me that you skipped the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that followed. The Terrors that followed the Revolution, then over twenty years of war that devastated Europe, throwing of a King to replace him with an Emperor that will try to conquer the world, millions killed for totally non-religious reasons.

    The American Civil War: Yes, both sides used religion, especially around the slavery issue, to justify their positions, but religion is not why this war was fought. This was a clash between an industrial and an agrarian society over power and wealth, very secular issues.

    WW2: Fear, hate and poverty, couple with a charismatic and probably insane leader is what lead the German people to try to destroy the world, not Hitler’s pagan beliefs. Any group is always happy to be told they are superior, and those in poverty, recently crushed in war will follow that insane charismatic leader anywhere, as they did. Religion here again used as an excuse, not the cause.

    Indo-Pakistani conflicts: Those folks had been killing each other since long before Islam existed. Religion just brought new context to the fight. It was only during the brief time that Europeans were controlling the area that their fighting stopped, or at least lessened.

    Korean War and Vietnam: Really? Calling Atheism a religion? This were simple wars fought between two opposed superpowers that wanted to rule the world. Any excuse would have done.

    The various conflicts around Israel you get, those were primarily about religion, at least on the Muslim side. Surprisingly few Israelis are actually religious. They are often culturally Jewish but have no real faith.

    The Iran/Iraq war you don’t get. Those folks have been killing each other since before the dawn of recorded history. Even tho old Sumerian epics talk of it. Persians and Arabs kill each other, regardless of what religion each professes at any given moment. Sure, religion can be used to stir up the masses to fight, but it is again only an excuse.

    The various wars that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia: Nope, you don;t get this one either. Yes the participants each had their own religion, but again those conflicts predate the arrival of Abrahamic religion in the area. They stopped killing each other briefly under Tito, and Soviet control, but after all that fell all they did was revert to what they had been doing for thousands of years. Religion agian was used only as an excuse.

    9/11 -Certainly religiously motivated. Much of the response to 9/11 was motivated by revenge and greed, religion was only lightly used as window dressing here. As for GWD and God – Do you really think anyone capable of being elected to that office, of any political persuasion, has any god other than himself? They use the idea of God for context, as an excuse for their actions, and to reach the common folk.

    Strangely you left out a few major conflicts and almost everything (other than Afghanistan) that the Soviet Union did, and everything that China did. You completely glossed over the vast majority of violent deaths caused in the twentieth century, all the wars you mention add up to a smallish fraction of the deaths caused by just Mao and Stalin.

    I am not religious myself, and I think much that most religions do is either despicable or absurd, your shallow belief that the world would be all goodness and light without religion is even more absurd. Wars are caused by humans being humans. We are a greedy, violent species and always have been.

    “Well, yes. If you are not a member of people chosen by God, you have little justification for taking what never belonged to you in the first place. You might do it anyway, but likely you will have to do so on your own, or at least with dramatically less help from otherwise kindhearted people who need to be tricked into perpetrating atrocities.”

    Wow that is a naive viewpoint. When times are tough few humans need religion to motivate them to violence, all they need is people that have what they want. Respect for the lives and property of others is a very recent development in human history, and we are still not very good about it. Atheism is an even more recent development, and astounding atrocities have been committed by atheists in recent times, atrocities beside which the worst that any religion ever did pales in comparison. Again, it is humans being humans that gives us war, we would have it with or without religion. We, some of us, are trying to get past this, but we are nowhere close yet.

    Take off your “I hate religion” goggles and take a good long, dispassionate, skeptical look at history. It is far deeper than you think.

  100. VinceRN

    To the whole “There has been no more evidence against god than there has been for…” discussion. Seems that doesn’t really matter. There doesn’t need to be evidence against, there is no evidence for, that is what matters. I could claim there is a thriving culture of intelligent but pre-industrial aquatic mouse like creatures in the waters of Europa. There is no evidence for or against this at this time, but only a fool would believe me.

  101. VinceRN

    Odd, double posted for some reason. Doesn’t usually happen here.

  102. TheBlackCat

    However, the mere existence of a creator, so long as people say it created the universe we can see and measure, doesn’t seem to actually violate any particular physical law.

    Therein lies the problem. People can make their statements about god so vague that they cannot be disproven, but that is because their definition tells us absolutely nothing useful. But pretty much nobody believes in such a being, they believe in a god with specific properties, and those properties are invariably mutually exclusive. What problems there are, however, depend on exactly how you define god.

    There are actually quite a few people that believe that their god created the universe and set it all in motion, and had perhaps been guiding it’s evolution. Not all creationists think the world was created recently or intact as we see it today, not all believe that critters were created without evolution.

    Then they aren’t creationists. Creationism, in its normal usage, refers to special creation, that is creatures were created from nothing. What you are talking about is theistic evolution, which is totally different (although also totally unsupported by any evidence, and gets into the logical contradiction problem, such a the problem of evil).

    In every single one of those wars you mention religion was used as an excuse, it was not the real motivating factor.

    Utter baloney. Religion may not have been the exclusive reason for all of the conflicts (although it certainly was for some, like wars to wipe out heretics in a country’s own population), but it certainly played a large factor in motivating the people to fight. It is hard to convince people to die for things like racism or nationalism. They will certainly fight, but it is hard to convince them to outright sacrifice themselves, or to take huge risks. Religion makes that much easier, with the promise of rewards in the afterlife for martyrs.

    People were fighting exactly those same kind of wars thousands of years before any of the Abrahamic religions existed.

    Who said anything about Abrahamic religions. Of course, any religion will suit this purpose nicely, although it helps if it is a religion that rewards martyrdom, which both Christianity and Islam do.

    DO you really believe that if it hadn’t been for Christianity all those folks would have just been peacefully sitting around the camp fire smoking dope and playing their guitars?

    Yes, some of those wars would not have existed at all. Others would have lacked many of the atrocities we have seen. Others would have seen much less support from the population. Others would have seen fewer people throwing their lives away. Others may be largely unaffected, but I honestly cannot think of a single war where religion played no part whatsoever.

    There is no equivalent to “kill them all, and God will know his own” in racism. Nationalists don’t put “God is with us” on their belt buckles. It is hard to convince an atheist to fly a plane into a ship or a building.

    It would make as much sense to blame the hundred million or more killed by Stalin and Mao on atheism because they were atheists.

    Look at the Russian front in WWII. They had to threaten their soldiers with death to motivate them to protect their own country.

    oddly they usually leave out all other faiths, despite the fact that Christians account for only about a third of religious folks

    Generally I single out Christianity because it is the one causing the problems in the U.S. However, Christianity is the single largest religion in the world, by a sizable margin, about 1/3 larger than the next largest (Islam).

  103. TheBlackCat

    European expansion into the Americas: This would have happened with or without religion.

    and

    The African slave trade: Slavery has existed for all of human history in almost every society that has ever existed. This trade would have gone on regardless of Christianity as it had gone on for thousands of years already

    It is not that simple. The expansion into the Americas actually has religious roots. You see, at the time there were numerous conflicts with the Arabs, and the populace was motivated to fight those by the desire to retake the “Holy Land” (a concept that is inherently religious), while the Muslims wished to convert the world to their religion. The Muslims, however, controlled the spice trade, which was essential to preserving food. So Christian Europe set out to find new trade roots to East Asia, where the spices came from. They already knew the northern routes were blocked by ice, since they controlled the north already. This left two routes: west and south. The exploration west led to the colonization of the Americas, and the expansion south led to the slave trade. So it is likely that the expansion in both directions would have been delayed by centuries without Christianity and/or Islam, or in the case of Africa done by another group like the Arabs (which were already expanding into Africa from the other direction).

    Further, the treatment of natives in both cases had significant religious components. There was a popular idea at the time that the blacks were the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah who was cursed by him. This was used to justify their barbaric treatment, which was much worse than the treatment of slaves in most other cultures like the Romans (which tended to treat their slaves pretty well relatively speaking).

    Similarly, the problem with the Christian doctrine that anyone who did not believe Jesus was God automatically going to hell, coupled with the issue that the natives of the americas could not plausibly have heard of Jesus, led many to conclude that the natives of the americas could not have souls, and thus justified their widespread slaughter.

    Once the technology to do so existed, the North American natives, still living in the stone age, were doomed.

    This is extremely ignorant and insulting. Many of the cultures in the americas had advanced societies, in some ways more advanced than Europe at the time (for instance in building construction), and in most ways on par with Rome. The Europeans did not win primarily on their technological superiority, especially in South America, they won based on, for one thing, convincing their enemies they were gods (this was particularly an issue in South America, where Europeans resembled common images of a primary diety), through disease, and by stoking local rivalries. They had neither the numbers nor the resources to win in a straight-up fight.

    The Wars of Religion I’ll give you, though even they were about power over the church and therefore over Europe.

    First, no, a number of the wars were to stamp out small splinter or heretical groups that could never have any chance of threatening the Church’s power. Second, the Church would not have had any power without religion, so this is a distinction without a difference.

    Yes, there was a religious presence in the American Revolution, but it was not the cause, nor even an excuse. The religious destiny that America presumed for itself did not come into play for generations after that.

    On the American side, not, but on the British side, again the King was God’s representative on Earth.

    It fascinates me that you skipped the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that followed.

    The French revolution would probably not have happened without the concept of the Divine Right of Kings leading the French aristocracy to ignore the needs of its people, and thus Napoleon would not have happened either.

    The American Civil War: Yes, both sides used religion, especially around the slavery issue, to justify their positions, but religion is not why this war was fought. This was a clash between an industrial and an agrarian society over power and wealth, very secular issues.

    Again, religion was a powerful tool to motivate people in the conflict.

    WW2: Fear, hate and poverty, couple with a charismatic and probably insane leader is what lead the German people to try to destroy the world, not Hitler’s pagan beliefs. Any group is always happy to be told they are superior, and those in poverty, recently crushed in war will follow that insane charismatic leader anywhere, as they did. Religion here again used as an excuse, not the cause.

    There is no indication Hitler was pagan, he was almost certainly a lapsed Catholic. This does not change the fact that Religion was a powerful tool to motivate the population, telling them that they deserved to control the world because they were God’s chosen people.

    Similarly, the idea that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, a long-standing Catholic doctrine long used an excuse to abuse Jews, was one of the main motivations for genocide against them by the Nazis.

    Indo-Pakistani conflicts: Those folks had been killing each other since long before Islam existed. Religion just brought new context to the fight. It was only during the brief time that Europeans were controlling the area that their fighting stopped, or at least lessened.

    Not really, for much of the time they were unified under a common rule. It was religious differences that split them up.

    Korean War and Vietnam: Really? Calling Atheism a religion? This were simple wars fought between two opposed superpowers that wanted to rule the world. Any excuse would have done.

    Again, on the communist side, no, they were motivated by another dogma. But on the American side, again religion was a powerful motivating factor. It was during this period we put “In God We Trust” on our money and “One nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance to show our distinction from the godless communists.

    The various conflicts around Israel you get, those were primarily about religion, at least on the Muslim side. Surprisingly few Israelis are actually religious. They are often culturally Jewish but have no real faith.

    Not true, there is a large group of very devout Jews in Israel, and they have a lot of political and social power there.

    The Iran/Iraq war you don’t get. Those folks have been killing each other since before the dawn of recorded history. Even tho old Sumerian epics talk of it. Persians and Arabs kill each other, regardless of what religion each professes at any given moment. Sure, religion can be used to stir up the masses to fight, but it is again only an excuse.

    No, it is not an excuse, it is a motivation. There is a big difference.

    9/11 -Certainly religiously motivated. Much of the response to 9/11 was motivated by revenge and greed, religion was only lightly used as window dressing here. As for GWD and God – Do you really think anyone capable of being elected to that office, of any political persuasion, has any god other than himself? They use the idea of God for context, as an excuse for their actions, and to reach the common folk.

    You apparently didn’t hear how GW liked to have the covers of his war briefings include Bible versus coupled with them-appropriate military pictures. The U.S. hired essentially a private army to help the fight, the owner of which flat-out said his motivation was a religious war with Islam, and which routinely got in trouble for trying to convert the local to Christianity.

    Strangely you left out a few major conflicts and almost everything (other than Afghanistan) that the Soviet Union did, and everything that China did. You completely glossed over the vast majority of violent deaths caused in the twentieth century, all the wars you mention add up to a smallish fraction of the deaths caused by just Mao and Stalin.

    In terms of the death toll that is not actually true. But yes, I will readily admit that any sort of unshakable dogma claiming absolute truth is a problem. But outside of religion those are extremely rare, in fact communism is probably the only one that has actually managed to get any power. In fact I have heard communism referred to as a “secular religion”, which although weird sounding actually has a lot of merit, since in most ways it behaves the same as a religion without invoking the supernatural.

    I am not religious myself, and I think much that most religions do is either despicable or absurd, your shallow belief that the world would be all goodness and light without religion is even more absurd.

    Stramwan. Please show me anyone who has claimed this. The question is not whether the world will be a utopia without religion, the question is whether religion is beneficial. And we can’t make an honest assessment of that without including the contribution they have made to death and suffering in the world. Just because they are not the absolutely only source of conflict does not mean they didn’t lead to more conflicts, larger conflicts, or bloodier conflicts.

    When times are tough few humans need religion to motivate them to violence, all they need is people that have what they want.

    You claim this, but you have a remarkably difficult time coming up with cases were religion did not play a role. If religion is really so irrelevant we should see a lot more conflicts with no religious component.

    Atheism is an even more recent development, and astounding atrocities have been committed by atheists in recent times, atrocities beside which the worst that any religion ever did pales in comparison.

    Baloney. Yes, atheists have committed atrocities (although never in the name of atheism, always in the name of some other unquestionable dogma). However, these are nothing compared to atrocities that had a significant religious component.

    Take off your “I hate religion” goggles and take a good long, dispassionate, skeptical look at history. It is far deeper than you think.

    I have. You are the one who is using this over-simplified “if religion isn’t the only cause it is irrelevant” position (paraphrasing).

  104. I can’t really offer much by way of adding to the discussion: except to say the whole thing reminded me of this German film (click on the link in my name), The Wave. It looks at how WWII can happen again, just by encouraging cliques, an “us v them” attitude, group solidarity, and belief in a leader. Worth watching.

  105. Messier Tidy Upper

    @84. TheBlackCat : Really? That’s really your opinion of the last time we discussed this issue a long time ago?

    Guess it won’t surprise you when I say that’s certainly NOT how I see things.

    I’m not even sure which threads you’re talking about now so it makes it hard to go back and check and see and you’ve provided no evidence only your own unsupported opinion.

    I will note one thing – you claim I quote mined Dawkins (I disagree) and was unclear about my position (yeah, maybe I wasn’t clear, not sure) but I was specifically asking about name-calling and abusing people there noting I didn’t (& don’t) do that and you don’t seem to make any claim there that I did. So I guess, that’s an admission from you that I’m right at least on that then is it?

  106. TheBlackCat

    Really? That’s really your opinion of the last time we discussed this issue a long time ago?

    Yes, it is. And I wasn’t the only one, other people were telling you the same thing during the discussion..

    Guess it won’t surprise you when I say that’s certainly NOT how I see things.

    Of course you don’t. If there was any possibility of that you wouldn’t have ignored me last time.

    I’m not even sure which threads you’re talking about now so it makes it hard to go back and check and see and you’ve provided no evidence only your own unsupported opinion.

    As I said, I provided the evidence before, and you ignored it. We haven’t had that many discussions involving Richard Dawkins, if you really cared it wouldn’t be that hard to find. But given your reaction now I see no reason to think it would have any more benefit than it did last time. If you just wish to ignore my opinion fine, I don’t care.

    you claim I quote mined Dawkins (I disagree)

    You admitted it at the time, then used the quote again later.

    and was unclear about my position (yeah, maybe I wasn’t clear, not sure)

    You weren’t unclear, you were very clear, you just changed your position repeatedly. You stated a specific opinion, then said it wasn’t your position later, then repeated that position. This kept cycling through multiple directly contradictory positions over and over.

    but I was specifically asking about name-calling and abusing people there noting I didn’t (& don’t) do that and you don’t seem to make any claim there that I did. So I guess, that’s an admission from you that I’m right at least on that then is it?

    I would call using quote-mining to attribute false opinions to people and then attacking people for those opinions abuse.

  107. James Evans

    @#90 VinceRN:

    Obviously we can’t keep going back and forth over numerous conflicts and tragedies, or our posts will be the longest this site has suffered, and since BA is ultimately about astronomy, Phil will probably and understandably ban us :).

    Yes, I realize I’m the one who accepted TStein’s challenge and created the initial long list/post, but hopefully we can now throttle back and address only a few and/or some related concepts about them that we’d like to discuss. It will help keep this thread readable for others.

    Anyway, Vince, you seem to be pretty adamant that when religion excuses a conflict/tragedy, rather than serves as the instigating or motivating factor behind it, this difference is important somehow. Personally, I believe this is an irrelevant distinction. In either case, religion played a significant role, but, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, so let me ask again. Can you please demonstrate why this difference is consequential using one of the conflicts/tragedies above? Thanks.

    The stronger group always displaces the weaker group.

    We should avoid platitudes. America, as far as I know, has no plans to invade a substantially weaker Canada anytime soon, even though it would be a fairly simple military operation with great oil reserves as a tempting reward, so this assertion has no legs. Many weaker groups may combine forces, internal rebellions can occur, etc., so the stronger group in most instances will require the robust perception of a justifiable cause for displacing a weaker group. Simply being stronger is not sufficient.

    Korean War and Vietnam: Really? Calling Atheism a religion?

    We should also avoid gross inaccuracies. I understand the posts are long and the temptation to simply scan and try to quickly glean meaning is great, but this is NOT what I said. My words were…

    …the spread/imposition of Marxist-Leninist style communism relied fairly heavily on some faith-like belief without question in ways to produce and distribute resources that ultimately fell on their faces and failed…

    Hopefully I don’t have to explain why this is a radical departure from saying, “Atheism is a religion.” Even writing that gave me the shivers :).

    You completely glossed over the vast majority of violent deaths caused in the twentieth century, all the wars you mention add up to a smallish fraction of the deaths caused by just Mao and Stalin.

    I “glossed over” many, many, many causes of violent deaths (hopefully you weren’t expecting me to mention ALL of them, sheesh), but Mao and Stalin were not among my oversights. For one thing, the majority of deaths under these leaders were caused by starvation, not violence. And I mentioned why (faith-like belief without question in an untested form of resource production). And if famine is to enter the conversation (please, let’s not, we already have enough to discuss), then one country, India, which suffers 10 million hunger/malnutrition/famine deaths per year, saw more chronic hunger deaths since partition and becoming a liberated democracy than ALL 20TH CENTURY COUNTRIES COMBINED. Mao and Stalin included. Can we please not revisit the silliness of Mao/Stalin debates? The hardest part is wading through the bizarre misinformation.

    Respect for the lives and property of others is a very recent development in human history

    On this we can agree, though I doubt we’ll see eye to eye on the reasons why. Why have we become more civil toward one another? Humanist and atheistic social developments like the Renaissance, Enlightenments, the influence of democratic, secular documents like the US Constitution, scientific developments improving medicine and resource development/distribution and improving length and quality of life, etc. In other words, we are slowly but surely distancing ourselves from untestable religious explanations of the world, and making it more difficult for leaders to use faith or similar forms of credulity to gain power.

  108. VinceRN

    @BlackCat. I did not claim that religion was not a factor. Every human society ever has had a religion, and religion has been a factor in almost everything. What I claimed was that religion was and is not the sole cause of all that is wrong in the world. Humans are humans, humans are greedy, cruel, self centered, violent critters and were that before there was any religion at all.

    If you really think that no human society would ever have expanded or encroached on another, that there would never have been war or slavery or despotism without religion, then all I can say is you need to get past your monomaniacal hatred and look a little deeper into the issues.

    As far as your “strawman” claim, I need only go as far as John Evans in post #87 in this tread to show you someone who claimed that. A quick google search will net you thousands of similar claims. Many, many people in organized atheism make exactly this claim. The world is not so simple as that, and humans are not somehow basically good and moral critter that are corrupted by religion.

    “In terms of death toll that is not actually true.” Good, a specific, testable claim. Please post examples atrocities that are clearly caused solely by religion that killed over a hundred million people in any given 50 year period, or in any given century. I am pretty sure you can not. And yes, many died of famine, but they died because they were being deliberately and systematically starved by their governments, and that is violence. Very different from India.

    Also, you read my posts and you know full well that I never claimed that religion was irrelevant, only that it was not the prime cause of all that is wrong in the world. In fact I specifically stated exactly the opposite of what you claim. I specifically stated that religion was a factor, yet you put the word “irrelevant” in my mouth. You state something there that you know to be untrue in the hopes of deceiving, in simpler terms, you are a liar.

    @James Evans – So long as you continue to claim that religion is the sole cause of all of humanities woes I will continue to say you are wrong. Wars and atrocities happen with or without religion and will continue to do so.

    Also, there is a profound difference between using religion as an excuse for what you want to do and doing that thing solely because of religion. Sure, the end effect is war and atrocity either way, but if we are to prevent these things we must understand them, and they are far more complex than that.

  109. Infinite123Lifer

    @ 83 TheBlackCat

    Yes.
    —–

    I seem to suffer from a bad case of perpetual digression, maybe I should get that checked out by my Primary Care Provider :)

  110. TheBlackCat

    I did not claim that religion was not a factor. Every human society ever has had a religion, and religion has been a factor in almost everything. What I claimed was that religion was and is not the sole cause of all that is wrong in the world. Humans are humans, humans are greedy, cruel, self centered, violent critters and were that before there was any religion at all.

    If that is what you claimed, then you are attacking a strawman, because no one claimed anything different. I challenge you to quote anyone here claimed that there would be no war without religion.

    But that is not, actually, what you claimed, in fact it is the exact opposite of what you claimed in post 85

    In every single one of those wars you mention religion was used as an excuse, it was not the real motivating factor.

    and this:

    All wars have very human, very secular roots, religion is just the window dressing.

    If you really think that no human society would ever have expanded or encroached on another, that there would never have been war or slavery or despotism without religion, then all I can say is you need to get past your monomaniacal hatred and look a little deeper into the issues.

    You either didn’t actually read my post, or you are attacking a straw-man. I flat-out said:

    The question is not whether the world will be a utopia without religion, the question is whether religion is beneficial. And we can’t make an honest assessment of that without including the contribution they have made to death and suffering in the world. Just because they are not the absolutely only source of conflict does not mean they didn’t lead to more conflicts, larger conflicts, or bloodier conflicts.

    So you are accusing me of holding a position I explicitly stated I do not hold.

    As far as your “strawman” claim, I need only go as far as John Evans in post #87 in this tread to show you someone who claimed that.

    No, he said that a few specific conflicts would not have happened, not that no conflicts would have happened. He then want on to say that conflicts would still have happened, but they would have had a harder time getting support from the population and would likely have had fewer atrocities.

    A quick google search will net you thousands of similar claims. Many, many people in organized atheism make exactly this claim. The world is not so simple as that, and humans are not somehow basically good and moral critter that are corrupted by religion.

    I have been following organized atheism for a long time and have never once seen someone make that claim. I have seen lots of people accuse atheists of having this position, but I have never seen them actually state this position. They often state, as I do, and as John did, that some wars would not have happened, others would have been smaller, and others less bloody, but I have never seen them claim that there would never be any wars, or that religion is the sole cause of all wars. Maybe you could point out some examples. I supposed it is possible that there are a few atheists who claim this, but it is certainly not widespread, nor is it a standard position amongst atheist organizations (which is what I assume you mean by “organized atheism”, if not then I don’t understand what you are saying).

    “In terms of death toll that is not actually true.” Good, a specific, testable claim. Please post examples atrocities that are clearly caused solely by religion that killed over a hundred million people in any given 50 year period, or in any given century. I am pretty sure you can not. And yes, many died of famine, but they died because they were being deliberately and systematically starved by their governments, and that is violence. Very different from India.

    First, no it isn’t violence, by definition. Second, even the most inflated numbers put the death toll at around 50 million, and it was probably less than half that. Third, they weren’t intentionally starved, the government thought their new system would work, and it didn’t.

    Also, you read my posts and you know full well that I never claimed that religion was irrelevant, only that it was not the prime cause of all that is wrong in the world.

    You claimed it was an “excuse”, which by definition means it was not relevant.

    Also, you read my posts and you know full well that I never claimed that religion was irrelevant, only that it was not the prime cause of all that is wrong in the world. In fact I specifically stated exactly the opposite of what you claim. I specifically stated that religion was a factor, yet you put the word “irrelevant” in my mouth.

    I said “so irrelevant’, not “completely irrelevant”. First, for honesty’s sake, you did repeatedly state that religion was irrelevant.

    You admitted religion played a role in a few conflicts, but there is nothing in any of your statements that would indicate you think religion was relevant to more than a few of the many wars in the last few thousand years. That means religion is mostly, but not completely, irrelevant.

    You state something there that you know to be untrue in the hopes of deceiving, in simpler terms, you are a liar.

    The only one doing that here is you. What I said was completely in line with what you have stated. I am not sure whether you just read into it more than I actually wrote, or if you quoted it out of context on purpose, but you are accusing me of saying something I never actually said.

    You, on the other hand, have attributed to me a position I have never even hinted at having, and explicitly and at some length denied having. So if that makes someone a lair, the only liar here is you.

  111. Reidh

    Creation is not the problem here either. the problem is people like Bill Nye et al. who are self centered, selfish virtual hedonists who can’t abide in a truly relativistic universe. In a truly relativistic universe all theories about the origin of the universe, called Cosmology, are allowed. they are all to be allowed because no one theory can be proven to be the Fact of its origin. the Speed of Light is the Cosmological Constant, and creation says it was the 1st thing created. Physics tells us that light is embodied in particles of light they call photons. Creation tells us that the light was divided after being created, how could the creation theory know what the physicists only found out since Einstein? Creation theory tells us that the world hangs upon nothing, and yet physicists didn’t find that out until sometime in the 1500’s? Creation theory tells us that fire was won’t to rain down from the sky, and that betimes great mountainous sized rocks and burning starlike objects have plunged into the seas and struck the earth, and mayhap do so yet again. physics shows us Meteors and comets and asteroids, and just recently realized that these objects striking the earth are more likely events than previously scientifically surmised. hence the NEO project and the latest NASA trip to an asteroid. To ascertain the feasibility of dismantling this threat that we first learned about Long ago from creation theory, not physics. That you Bill, and Tom and your trembling host cannot concede knowledge of the universe and/or its origin without utter dependence upon your ways and means of knowing, should not be the problem of other Free Thinking individuals. Take a number and get in line, who do you effing think you are? You cannot prove one thing about which you speak, without and that I should submit to your reasoning. Your logic does not prove the reality. There is no reason that there should be something rather than nothing at all. And vice versa. So Shut the front door a-h!

  112. James Evans

    @VinceRN:

    I did not claim that religion was not a factor.

    Well, yeah, actually you originally did claim religion was a negligible factor, as TheBlackCat has pointed out. You’re changing your tune a bit, Vince, and, no offense, but it’s really difficult to follow you and nail down what your ultimate point is here in this discussion, which is why I’ve asked a couple times for a specific elaboration from you. Think you could go back, read my request, and indulge me, so I understand you better? Thanks.

    And yes, many died of famine, but they died because they were being deliberately and systematically starved by their governments, and that is violence. Very different from India.

    You’re a bit too intelligent to be this glib. After nearly 70 years and hundreds of millions dead from hunger, you think there’s nothing systematic and deliberate the government in India is doing to prolong this tragedy? I guess we just need to go over there, tap them on the shoulder, point to the legion of graves, and they’ll smack themselves on the forehead, and say, “Damn! Our bad! We’ll get right on it!” And even if it’s been one bungling, unintentional screw up after another for almost three quarters of a century, with nobody to blame, or anyone willfully ignoring the problem to be found, in the end, do starving people really care? “Excuse me, sir, I know you and your family are dying, but please keep it in mind that these are just the breaks of a crappy economic system and government incompetence. Nothing personal or deliberate. Thanks.”

    @James Evans – So long as you continue to claim that religion is the sole cause of all of humanities woes I will continue to say you are wrong.

    You have my solemn promise that I have not and will not make this claim. Would it help if I made a list of human calamities that I believe have little or nothing to do with religion?

    BTW, who is this John Evans character? :)

  113. Ed Thomas

    I can’t comment on much of the side chatter here (I do have a life, small as it is.) The central issue of what to teach our children, especially in science class, is important and complicated. Problem 1(it seems to me)– Is that school boards are popularly elected, and many sb members think they should inject their faith into the curriculum. Problem 2 — Is the woeful ignorance of much of our population about a host of topics, chief here, is any concept what science is all about. Problem 3– Is that too many teachers are ill prepared to have to fight for the inclusion of evolution (or exclusion of “creationism”) in their classrooms– SO 1/8th of them IGNORE THE TOPIC, OR FLAT OUT TEACH CREATIONISM! Problem 4– Therefore, we are putting our whole society, and economy at a distinct disadvantage in the science heavy decades ahead. Problem 5– The first four problems feed on each other, and the cycle continues.

    What to do about it all? First, we are talking generations. Popular elections are here to stay! As are religious people! As are teachers, who like to keep their jobs, and not have to struggle at every turn! As are the consequences of the problem! (And if anything the consequences could cause everything to get worse). And the cascading isn’t likely to change. I’d suggest we try to support the science teachers who are teaching evolution, and pressure those who aren’t, to begin. Followed by, strengthening science education for science teachers. And work on persuading folks that just because we teach their kids that much of their most sacred book is worthless stone age mythology, is no reason to think that we are attacking their religion.

  114. 101 reidh:
    That is undoubtedly the most idiotic piece of drivel I’ve read in a long time!!! Do you actually have the remotest comprehension of how science works???
    All theories may be “allowed”, in the sense that people have the right to believe whatever they choose, but not all are supported by evidence! Evolution is very strongly supported by evidence; creationism is not supported at all. End of.
    You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

  115. Nigel Depledge

    Regner Trampedach (72) said:

    Nigel @ 62: Eh, Nigel – not to get pedantic, but exactly how does your example of the bird differ from my example. I don’t believe there were that many primates around when Big Al roamed the countryside… Apart from that, – always happy to be on the same side of the arguments here…
    Cheers, Regner

    Pedantry is a force for good! Isn’t it what the internet was invented for?

    Anyhow, my point was that dinosaurs and mammals derive from lineages that diverged (IIUC) in the late Permian or the early Triassic, so it would only be a matter of adjusting our understanding of the timings to accommodate the proposed finding of human fossil bones inside a fossil dinosaur. OTOH, modern birds are directly descended from a group of dinosausr whose name eludes me, so finding a modern bird fossil in deposits that predate the existence of this group of dinos would be more of an issue.

  116. Nigel Depledge

    TBC (68) said (in reference to preceding posts):

    @ Gary : You should read James’ next sentence: “I should know I live there.” I interpret his post as an advertisement for his home country rather than a criticism of non-religious people.

    And here’s the irony:

    The UK has a state religion (Anglican), but exhibits greater religious tolerance than does the US, in which religion and government are nominally separate.

  117. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (69) said:

    . . . The story is just like any other ghost story, I got no proof.

    In the absence of proof, then, one is forced to fall back on logic.

    Given that we have no way of distinguishing whether your experience was an hallucination or a genuine religious event, we have to examine both proposed explanations and decide which is more likely, given what we know of human neurophysiology and psychology on the one hand, and god on the other. Postulating the existence of a god on the basis of such an experience violates the principle of parsimony, so should be seriously considered only if evidence comes to light to refute the hallucination hypothesis (which, since it does not require the existence of an invisible omnipotent and omniscient being, accords with what we already know about the world).

  118. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (71) said:

    I consider myself an expert at understanding both sides of a no atheists in foxholes argument.

    Except that it’s not so much an argument as a soundbite. And has been refuted.

  119. Nigel Depledge

    Tim Rowledge (76) said:

    The whole ‘respect for religion’ thing has become ludicrous. I don’t have to have respect for any religion. I don’t have to have any respect for someone that partakes of a religion simply because of that religion. I don’t have to respect the ‘religious feelings’ of anyone. I *do* (to make a viable civilisation) have to respect the *freedom* to hold to those feelings just as long as the holders grant me the same freedom.
    Shorter;
    I don’t have to respect christianity.
    I don’t have to respect christians.
    I do have to respect the freedom to be christian; they have to respect my freedom to be other.

    Yes. This.

  120. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (79) said:

    And yes, the extreme religious right *does* have it’s own mathematics. (They reject set theory.)

    What?

    How?

  121. Nigel Depledge

    @ James Evans (80) –
    You missed the English Civil War, which started out ostensibly as Parlimanet versus the monarch, but ended up as Catholic versus Protestant.

  122. Nigel Depledge

    TBC (84) said:

    Heck, another poster said that they didn’t hold the opinions you claimed he should hold, you told him he was wrong about his opinon.

    Do you know, until I read your comment, I had forgotten about that thread.

    I have a vague memory that MTU was trying to tell us that all atheists (myself included) insisted that god’s existence was disproven when I did no such thing, and neither does any atheist of whom I am aware. (Of course, for such a claim is impossible to support with evidence.)

  123. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (85) said:

    Nigel @ 57 – There are actually quite a few people that believe that their god created the universe and set it all in motion, and had perhaps been guiding it’s evolution. Not all creationists think the world was created recently or intact as we see it today, not all believe that critters were created without evolution.

    I’m not sure what exactly you are trying to say here.

    I pointed out the existence of theistic evolution (although with typos first time round), which is the belief in some form of divinely-guided evolution. This is distinct from out-and-out creationism, because it does not insist that organisms were created distinct from one another, but allows both natural and god-the-tinkerer mechanisms for evolution to occur.

    In fact, one can subdivide theistic evolution into two main forms. The first form (which I call weak theistic evolution) takes the view that god (being omniscient and supernaturally powerful) set the entire universe up in the beginning to proceed as we find it has done. The second form (that I call strong theistic evolution) requires god to tinker with the process of evolution along the way. Theologically, the first form is far sounder than the second, as the second requires a god that is not foresighted, but must repeatedly interfere with the course of evolutionary history to achieve his/her/its ends.

  124. Nigel Depledge

    Star-affinity (88) said:

    Anyway, thanks for these two reasonings. I was just trying to say that it is difficult (imposible) to disprove that something that doesn’t exist doesn’t exist. I wonder what kind of proof a theist would think is valid. Perhaps if god reveald himself and said “I don’t exist”…

    Ah, well, it all comes down to the definition of faith, doesn’t it?

    The argument goes something like this:
    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says god, “for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing.”
    “But,” says man, “the Babel Fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It proves you exist, so therefore you don’t. QED.”
    “Oh dear,” says god, “I hadn’t thought of that” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    (With thanks to the late, great Douglas Adams.)

  125. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (85) said:

    In every single one of those wars you mention religion was used as an excuse, it was not the real motivating factor.

    Vince RN (98) said:

    What I claimed was that religion was and is not the sole cause of all that is wrong in the world.

    No. You claimed that religion was irrelevant as a motivating force, and was merely held up as a fig-leaf to excuse whatever atrocities / unjustifiable invasions were being perpetrated. What you clearly did not claim was that religion was only one of several motivating factors.

    The counter-argument was that religion was used to motivate people to support the war (or whatever) and that therefore it was indeed relevant. Now you are moving the goalposts.

  126. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (98) said:

    Humans are humans, humans are greedy, cruel, self centered, violent critters and were that before there was any religion at all.

    Wrong.

    The only pre-religious societies we have known in recent times are tribal hunter-gatherer societies, and these are the exact opposite of cruel, self-centred and violent.

    Google “Yequana” and “The Continuum Concept” for just one example that blows your contention out of the water.

  127. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (98) said:

    If you really think that no human society would ever have expanded or encroached on another, that there would never have been war or slavery or despotism without religion, then all I can say is you need to get past your monomaniacal hatred and look a little deeper into the issues.

    Where has anyone claimed this?

    Both James and TBC have acknowledged that some proportion of conflict and aggression has no religious involvement. The point they were making was that religion has been widely used (abused?) as a motivating factor, not necessarily (but sometimes) as the primary motivation, in the majority of conflicts for many years.

    Having read their and your comments, I do not see any “monomaniacal hatred”. Instead, I see reasoned arguments.

  128. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (89) said (in response, I think, to James @ #87):

    . . . your shallow belief that the world would be all goodness and light without religion is even more absurd.

    To which TBC replied (#93):

    Stramwan. Please show me anyone who has claimed this. The question is not whether the world will be a utopia without religion, the question is whether religion is beneficial. And we can’t make an honest assessment of that without including the contribution they have made to death and suffering in the world. Just because they are not the absolutely only source of conflict does not mean they didn’t lead to more conflicts, larger conflicts, or bloodier conflicts.

    To which Vince RN replied (98):

    As far as your “strawman” claim, I need only go as far as John Evans in post #87 in this tread to show you someone who claimed that.

    Erm, no.

    James’s post #87 does not claim anywhere that the world would be utopian without religion. AFAICT, he was pointing out that religion of one sort or another has commonly been used throughout history to motivate people to aggressive acts. Whether religion was a sole motivating factor is not what was argued, and neither was any claim made that the world would be all “goodness and light” without religion.

    The world could easily be better without being perfect.

    Using war, aggression and the atrocities that go with them as a yardstick, the world does seem likely to have been better off without religion (or, at least, without powerful organised religions).

    The world could be better without being all “goodness and light”. Your argument in #89 was indeed a strawman.

  129. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (98) said:

    @James Evans – So long as you continue to claim that religion is the sole cause of all of humanities [sic] woes . . .

    Where has he done this at all?

    Wars and atrocities happen with or without religion and will continue to do so.

    True, but not at issue. What is at issue is the role religion has played. You may indeed question whether or not it is the motivating factor of a nation’s leadership in initiating aggression, but it really has been frequently used as a tool to motivate the individuals who actually perpetrate killings and atrocities.

  130. Messier Tidy Upper

    @96. TheBlackCat wrote :

    “Really? That’s really your opinion of the last time we discussed this issue a long time ago?” – MTU
    Yes, it is. And I wasn’t the only one, other people were telling you the same thing during the discussion..

    Hmm .. Don’t recall that but it was a long time ago now. I did discuss the issue of atheism / agnosticism and there related things with you and, I think it was Nigel Depledge, maybe others too. Not sure. I could, of course, be mistaken. Would have to find the relevant threads and see for myself.

    “Guess it won’t surprise you when I say that’s certainly NOT how I see things.”
    Of course you don’t. If there was any possibility of that you wouldn’t have ignored me last time.

    I did? I certainly don’t recall doing that either. Maybe I just didn’t see your comment(s)? Maybe that came too late in the thread(s?) after I’d moved on to other fresher threads as sometimes happens. I certainly try not to ignore people if they’re responding and discussing things with me so I’d be surprised, but I’m certainly not infallible and have never claimed to be. Well that I can recall anyhow! ;-)

    “I’m not even sure which threads you’re talking about now so it makes it hard to go back and check and see and you’ve provided no evidence only your own unsupported opinion.” – MTU.
    As I said, I provided the evidence before, and you ignored it. We haven’t had that many discussions involving Richard Dawkins, if you really cared it wouldn’t be that hard to find. But given your reaction now I see no reason to think it would have any more benefit than it did last time. If you just wish to ignore my opinion fine, I don’t care.

    Maybe you’re Google-fu is better than mine then? Quite likely actually.

    I actually *do* respect your opinion – which doesn’ t necessarily mean we’ll always agree on everything, natch.

    “..you claim I quote mined Dawkins (I disagree)” – MTU
    You admitted it at the time, then used the quote again later.

    Did I? Citation needed. I’d have to see the threads and comments to tell for sure but it occurs to me that *if* that happened it could be because I posted a Dawkin’s quote on two threads without seeing your response accusing me of quote mining in the interim – or in another context or perhaps you just misunderstood what I’d actually said.

    “..and was unclear about my position (yeah, maybe I wasn’t clear, not sure)” – MTU.
    You weren’t unclear, you were very clear, you just changed your position repeatedly. You stated a specific opinion, then said it wasn’t your position later, then repeated that position. This kept cycling through multiple directly contradictory positions over and over.

    Well, that’s *your* view of a long past discussion and your opinion there is supported by, well, what exactly? Do you think Black Cat that just maybe you could be mistaken about this and that maybe you are not being fair to me here and not remembering things accurately here? You have said that I claimed to know what was in Richard Dawkin’s head better than he did. Don’t you think its possible that this is exactly what *you* are doing right there?

    Now I have changed positions on a few issues over a number of years and when I’ve been confronted with evidence that shows I’m wrong, I’ll fess up and say so. I can also be stubborn and argumentative and argue a case for idea X or Y.or describe what I see as arguments against those same ideas. Plus, I can be verbose (hard to beleive ain’t it), suck at typing and get things confused or unclear at times. (Like us all right? Almost all anyhow?) Maybe that was the case on some occassions there. Maybe its the case now. (Shrug) Point is, maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough and you got confused over what I was saying and thought I was said something I didn’t actually say or at least mean to say.

    “.. but I was specifically asking about name-calling and abusing people there noting I didn’t (& don’t) do that and you don’t seem to make any claim there that I did. So I guess, that’s an admission from you that I’m right at least on that then is it?” – MTU.
    I would call using quote-mining to attribute false opinions to people and then attacking people for those opinions abuse.

    Well kinda, yeah, *if* it were true which I don’t think it is.

    Maybe I’m mistaken here sure but then maybe you are. Unless I ( & others) can find those threads in question and check for ourselves it’s going to be very hard to tell.

    Maybe its just one of those cases where we’ll have to agree to disagree & move on?

  131. Messier Tidy Upper

    @99. Infinite123Lifer : “I seem to suffer from a bad case of perpetual digression, maybe I should get that checked out by my Primary Care Provider?”

    Hmm .. I hope that’s not contagious! In fact I reckon I suffer from that one a bit myself raising the question : Did I catch it from you or did you catch it from me? ;-)

  132. Infinite123Lifer

    Uh, religion really just permeates who we are and how we got here and what the majority of people are going through with today (in their lives as religious) and while religion is arguably outrageous and provably toxic, I really just think some are ahead of the curve, or more logically sound if you will . . . and for the ones ahead of the curve, being so carried on the back of logic, you should be used to being ahead of the curve and waiting for everyone else to catch up to you, I am sorry for that, but not all people are as capable skeptics. Perhaps it will always be an ongoing thing until logic which has been come to so crucially, slowly seeps it’s way through vast cultures and what is regarded as common and instinctually sound knowledge. As I notion, maybe some are just moving a little too fast for others with their logic, and I am not saying that is bad or good, I am saying that explains why many religious people cannot stomach the concept’s of the atheist.

    (wikipedia)
    “Although the term atheism originated in the sixteenth century – based on Ancient Greek ἄθεος “godless, denying the gods, ungodly”[1] – and open admission to positive atheism in modern times was not made earlier than in the late eighteenth century, atheistic ideas and beliefs, as well as their political influence, have a more expansive history.”

    Odd thing, I say the logic behind choosing atheism is moving to fast but in actuality it seems religion is what moved so quickly and suffocated any other ideas about the Universe as a whole before anyone other view had a chance.

    Maybe in 250-500 years when every person on the planet is entitled to the right to believe and generations have had time to grow use to such a broad concept of freedom of religion then we might progress to a create your own religion world dynamic where everybody, all people in space and on Earth are free to create their own fairytale. Once and if everyone on the planet; and off :), has their own individual religion . . . perhaps then religion will go away and become part of history where its curiosity and pull will probably continue even in the face of eradication. I think religion has an ability at transcending reality (a nice proposition for many in not so nice predicaments or for many who must have some type of answer for themselves whether it be sound or not) and even in a future where reality/evidence is more important than our comforting philosophies I have to wonder if religion can ever be set down as history and left there for good. I imagine that even in a world where religion lays dormant among the future people that even after a thousand years of dormancy the lure of fantastical thinking and the effects which “believing in god” have on the psyche might be too powerfully appealing to put down for good.

    —–
    @118 Nigel Depledge said:

    “Postulating the existence of a god on the basis of such an experience violates the principle of parsimony, so should be seriously considered only if evidence comes to light to refute the hallucination hypothesis”

    Yes, I agree. As I said, I have attempted to explain away my experience, to no degree of self satisfaction might I add. Of course these are all personal anecdotes and I am not claiming otherwise.

    @119 Nigel Depledge said:

    “Except that it’s not so much an argument as a soundbite. And has been refuted.”

    Refuted? I wondered how I might test this no atheist’s in foxholes soundbite years ago and I came to the conclusion that . . . no, it is not testable by any stretch of what testable might be defined as. When over at pharyngula and exposed to this I wondered how I might test it. I know about my experience and so I wondered how many others who consider themselves atheist have been in a Life or death situation and found themselves in their mind searching for something purposeful, something bigger than just their dismal predicament. Nigel, I thought a good place to look for evidence of the no atheist in foxholes might be the American television show, “I shouldn’t be alive”. There we have a TV show about all sorts of people who should have died but did not and they come on and tell their story. Now, as I mentioned earlier personal testimony is meaningless when searching for existence of god, but just to satisfy my own curiosity about whether or not others might have been through something similar as me I did a bit of looking, watching, listening. What did I find to satisfy my curiosity? Well, nothing reportable, I dare not report what atheist before incidents turned spiritual after incidence, do I?

    Nigel, many things can be refuted but surely you are not implying that there are many many atheists in foxholes? Again, I do not see how it can be confirmed either way. BTW, if I am an expert in something that cannot be proven either way to any level of certainty (since being atheist and then having an experience to change you in the moment is strictly a personal experience) well then that’s what it is, but you cannot refute no atheist in foxholes, you can refute my expertise about such a matter but since your evidence to refute relies upon the same data I would need to prove that there are no atheists in foxholes, I think you might be wrong. Unless of course you can point me to the studies done about what every atheist thinks in their mind right before they know there going to die.

    @132 MTU

    Don’t drink the water :)

  133. flip

    @Infinitelife123Lifer

    I came to the conclusion that . . . no, it is not testable by any stretch of what testable might be defined as.

    http://www.militaryatheists.org/expaif.html

    Quite well refuted as Nigel pointed out. If you can’t think of ways to look for evidence for it, you’re not looking very hard.

  134. Infinite123Lifer

    To be agnostic is the most logical conclusion of all. The most skeptical stance of all. Anything else is just opinion heaped on rubbish. Isn’t it TheBlackCat isn’t it Nigel? This has to be it folks. Nobody knows and if they do know, regardless of the flip of the coin they alas can not prove it, now and cleverly probably likely forever.

  135. If anyone wants some evidence of just how damaging a creationist worldview is to education, read this blog post about a creationist textbook:

    http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Eye-Opening_Highlights_From_a_Creationist_Science_Textbook

  136. flip

    My comment seems to have gone into a black hole?

    Hoping this isn’t a duplicate:

    Infinite123lifer, there is a website called Military Atheists, which quite clearly refutes the “no atheists in foxholes” thing. There’s a page on their website specifically about it. Google for a URL.

    EDIT: Never mind, I see now that I’ve posted a comment that the link sent previous comment into moderation…

  137. #134 Infinite123Lifer:
    “To be agnostic is the most logical conclusion of all.”

    Er – why, exactly?
    No-one can say for certain either way, but we can consider evidence. There is absolutely zero evidence for God’s existence, and mountains of evidence against it. ( As you admit yourself, personal “experiences” such as your own are not evidence, especially when they can easily be explained. )
    As I’ve already said, proving that the Bible isn’t true, and that Biblical creationism is completely wrong, is a trivial matter – but of course, this isn’t at all the same thing as proving that God doesn’t exist.
    While we can’t conclusively prove that God doesn’t exist, there is something else we can prove… There have been many statistical studies into the effectiveness or otherwise of “prayer” ( which someone defined as asking that the physical laws of the Universe be suspended, on behalf of a single person ), such as comparing the recovery rates of patients after common operations, between those who had been “prayed for” and those who had not. Surprise surprise, the difference is invariably zero, or at least statistically insignificant. Then of course, we have the more direct evidence of all those morons who chose to pray for their sick children, instead of taking them to a doctor… and are now rightly serving life for murder!
    Similarly, if someone did a study of the people killed by a major natural disaster, or the soldiers killed in a war, or people who died of diseases such as cancer, I would bet my house and pension that the proportion of those people who had been active church/mosque/synagogue/temple-goers would prove to be exactly equal to the proportion of such among the populace of the country or region.
    ( One of my favourite challenges to religious loonies of the more extreme kind – those who claim that “everything happens because God makes it happen” – is to ask them to explain why, on 26 Dec 2004, their “all-loving”, “all-merciful”, etc. God suddenly chose to kill 300000 innocent people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. )
    None of this actually proves that God doesn’t exist – but it surely does prove that even if any kind of God does exist, then it’s utterly indifferent to the fate of individual humans, and therefore that wasting your life worshipping it is a pointless endeavour. QED.

  138. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (133) said:

    Refuted? I wondered how I might test this no atheist’s in foxholes soundbite years ago and I came to the conclusion that . . . no, it is not testable by any stretch of what testable might be defined as.

    Easy.

    Since the statement claims the existence of no atheists at all in foxholes, all that is required to refute the statement is a single counter-example.

    Sadly, I cannot supply the reference because I do not recall where I read about it, but if memory serves, people have interviewed combat vets and found that a few of them do indeed retain their atheism when under fire.

  139. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123 Lifer (133) said:

    Nigel, I thought a good place to look for evidence of the no atheist in foxholes might be the American television show, “I shouldn’t be alive”. There we have a TV show about all sorts of people who should have died but did not and they come on and tell their story.

    The title of the show kind-of forces a selection for people who feel that there is some kind of intent or agency to the universe. A show entitled “I had a narrow escape but chance events came together in my favour” would lack a certain punch, wouldn’t it?

    IOW, would anyone who believes there is no such thing as “should have died” agree to be on the show?

  140. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (133) said:

    Nigel, many things can be refuted but surely you are not implying that there are many many atheists in foxholes? Again, I do not see how it can be confirmed either way.

    As I stated above, all it would take is one atheist to refute the statement.

    However, to test the claim, all one need do is interview combat vets and find one or more atheists whose views were not changed by being under fire.

    However, demonstrating its validity in a positive way is impossible, because no matter how many pre-combat atheists whose original views have been changed by being under fire, you can never be sure whether or not you have interviewed a sufficently representative sample of the combat vet population. After all, because the statement is so total, all it would take is one atheist remaining atheist while under fire to refute the claim.

  141. Nigel Depledge

    @ Infinite123Lifer (134) –

    In addition to Neil’s statements in #136, logic demands that atheism be the starting point.

    Even assuming the evidence against the existence of god to be merely circumstantial, in the absence of any evidence for the existence of god, Occam’s Razor, or the principle of parsimony, require that one does not assume the existence of something without evidence that the thing really does exist.

    Thus, the purely logical position is atheism, i.e. that one assumes there is no god until evidence comes to light to decide the issue. Agnosticism grants too much credence to the power of coincidence and the susceptibility of the human mind to see agency in the universe where (probably) none exists.

    All religious beliefs, by violating the principle of parsimony, are illogical.

    To draw an analogy, if I were to claim that there exists in my back garden an invisible pink unicorn, would it be more logical to assume that such a thing does not exist until I can provide evidence (such as some unicorn poo, for instance), or to sit on the fence and grant equal credence to both my claim and the likelihood of the unicorn’s not existing?

  142. Nigel Depledge

    Reidh (112) said:

    Creation is not the problem here either.

    What, so you think it’s OK to teach kids stuff that is demonstrably false?

    the problem is people like Bill Nye et al. who are self centered, selfish virtual hedonists

    Evidence needed for all three claims here.

    who can’t abide in [sic] a truly relativistic universe.

    Eh?

    First, what do you mean by a “relativistic universe”?

    Second, do you have any evidence to support your tacit claim that our universe is “relativistic”?

    Third, do you have any evidence that Bill Nye cannot abide a relativistic universe?

    In a truly relativistic universe all theories about the origin of the universe, called Cosmology, are allowed.

    Well, this kinda screws up any argument that our universe is relativistic, because the evidence we find within the universe directly refutes several of the accounts proposed for the universe’s origin (i.e. pretty much all creationist accounts).

    Unless you are a Last Thursdayist, in which case all logic is out of the window anyhow.

    they are all to be allowed because no one theory can be proven to be the Fact of its origin.

    This is nuts.

    Irrespective of whether or not we can prove one theory to be ultimately correct, we have already proven several proposed ideas (including all forms of creationism) to be wrong.

    Your argument is akin to someone saying that, because no-one has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt who shot JFK, every accusation is equally valid, including known impossibilities such as Genghis Khan.

    the Speed of Light is the Cosmological Constant,

    No, these are different things. Maybe you should go and look up “Cosmological Constant” before trying to use the term in an argument, do you think?

    and creation says it was the 1st thing created.

    No. Genesis says that light was created first (not the speed of light; there is a difference), but there are dozens of other creation myths that have other starting points.

    Physics tells us that light is embodied in particles of light they call photons. Creation tells us that the light was divided after being created, how could the creation theory know what the physicists only found out since Einstein?

    Easy. The phrases in Genesis don’t mean what you are reading into them. Genesis has the light being separated from the darkness (day and night, remember?). Photons are simply the packets in which light travels. The two concepts are unrelated, except insofar as they both pertain to light in some way.

    Creation theory tells us that the world hangs upon nothing,

    It does no such thing.

    and yet physicists didn’t find that out until sometime in the 1500′s?

    It took natural philosophy centuries to overturn church dogma about the structure of the universe.

    Creation theory tells us that fire was won’t [sic] to rain down from the sky, and that betimes great mountainous sized rocks and burning starlike objects have plunged into the seas and struck the earth, and mayhap do so yet again. physics shows us Meteors and comets and asteroids, and just recently realized that these objects striking the earth are more likely events than previously scientifically surmised.

    This is just nonsense. Meteors and meteorites have been known since antiquity. What was not known until relatively recently was what they were and how they came to fall from the sky.

    hence the NEO project and the latest NASA trip to an asteroid. To ascertain the feasibility of dismantling this threat that we first learned about Long ago from creation theory, not physics.

    Utter rubbish. It was not until astronomy was a developed science that it was realised that meteorites pose a threat beyond the small risk of a person being directly struck by one. Creationism has certainly never made any predictions about large meteorites and the potential effect one could have on Earth.

    That you Bill, and Tom and your trembling host cannot concede knowledge of the universe and/or its origin without utter dependence upon your ways and means of knowing, should not be the problem of other Free Thinking individuals.

    Yes? Tell me about other ways of knowing.

    AFAICT, if you don’t check what you think you know by comparing it against reality, then you know nothing.

    And if you are checking what you think you know by comparing it with reality, you are doing science.

    Take a number and get in line, who do you effing think you are?

    Substantially more educated and knowledgeable than you, that much is obvious.

    You cannot prove one thing about which you speak, without and that I should submit to your reasoning.

    I have no idea what you are saying here. Could you try re-writing the sentence in English, if you wouldn’t mind?

    Your logic does not prove the reality.

    Not by itself, no. But it can certainly prove that creationism is nonsense.

    There is no reason that there should be something rather than nothing at all. And vice versa.

    Well, it is suspected that there is a reason why there is something rather than nothing. This is an active area of exploration for theoretical cosmologists. What are you contributing?

    And even assuming your assertion is correct, so what?

    So Shut the front door a-h!

    So, do you think you’ve proven something?

    If so, could you state clearly:

    1. What you think you have proven; and
    2. How exactly your statements prove what you think is proven.

  143. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (133) said:

    Odd thing, I say the logic behind choosing atheism is moving to fast but in actuality it seems religion is what moved so quickly and suffocated any other ideas about the Universe as a whole before anyone other view had a chance.

    I disagree.

    Recent studies have shown that the human mind has a tendency towards assigning agency to things that appear to operate independently of any obvious cause (such as the transition from day to night, the turn of the seasons, volcanoes, weather, tides and so on). Thus, when faced with phenomena that existing knowledge cannot explain, it is a natural tendency for humans to invent spirits and gods to account for what they see.

    Only with the advent of improved ways of learning about the world has it even been possible to postulate natural processes to account for such phenomena. Even now, in casual conversation we still attiribute human-like awareness to weather phenomena and so on.

  144. Infinite123Lifer

    I sometimes feel like a thousand year old kindergartner. If that makes any sense? Thank you Neil Haggath for reminding me of the bigger issues which the world faces, which society and culture faces and that, here, at least, is not just for my personal fascination with the realm of questions and answers one can usually expect on the topic. I need to work on being a lot more exacting. I get the microscope on and the telescope set up and my magnifiers and finding the balance between the three can get a little confusing most of the time. If I or others zoom in on one issue too far I feel like I wanna shout “but the telescope picture” . . . and essentially that is important but handled by others more qualified here than I.

    Nigel Dipledge (138) said:

    ” A show entitled “I had a narrow escape but chance events came together in my favour” would lack a certain punch, wouldn’t it?”

    Yes it would. About the show, I was able to watch about three or four episodes (quick wiki: 6 seasons with 58 shows) and in there I only saw one guy who claimed he was really really an atheist and IIRC he ended with sort of a confused wonder to him and not so sure of himself after that dramatic, emotional, stressful event. I have wondered out of pure curiosity though if others might have been on the show. Seems about 3 people go on per show. It can be hard to watch.

    Nigel Depledge (139) said:

    “After all, because the statement is so total, all it would take is one atheist remaining atheist while under fire to refute the claim”

    Darn, yeah, “No” is kinda of specific and total, hmm :) I will have to concede that one, and as a bonus I won’t ask what you personally think about the question that naturally comes to mind after realizing the totality of “No”. Because, we do not possess empirical evidence of any such events and would therefor just be opinionated and such discussion should probably be left between friends and not on Phil’s blog.

    to Nigel Depledge @140

    I have some insignificant issues with the starting point being atheism. If its nothing vs. anything, then I have the problem. However, if its nothing vs. creationism I do not have the problem. Though I think i just contradicted myself because it should not matter what the something is. If i have nothing vs ________ I can conclude that not knowing is more logical than determining starting at nothing (of course nothing here equals the natural laws of the universe :) ) But once again, the broader issue is the false belief’s of millions.

    to Nigel Depledge @142

    Well, I was saying the logic behind taking on an atheistic view is moving to fast for your *basic religious folks* , I know in the case of family and friends their are some who cannot digest an atheist argument, when I see it not only as appealing but necessary to the discussion.

    I was also speaking about the march of religion across the globe essentially. I don’t know of any great atheist movements in history or of any time when atheism was dominant across the world.

    “Only with the advent of improved ways of learning about the world has it even been possible to postulate natural processes to account for such phenomena.”

    This is why I said I think that atheistic viewpoints and logical conclusions are moving too fast for people who were raised or stayed or are religious to a large degree. Because the framework and the context for the argument of being atheist is more complete than ever today it will take time for others to come to the argument, give it weight, and possibly become at least accepting of the idea, which has happened to some degree but there is a long ways to go obviously.
    —–

    Thanks flip.

  145. flip

    You’re welcome

  146. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (145) said:

    I have some insignificant issues with the starting point being atheism. If its nothing vs. anything, then I have the problem.

    Well, it’s not the conclusion but the assumption.

    Take the beginning of the universe as a starting point (heh!). We have pretty much zero data on what caused the big bang. We have some theories, some of which imply the existence of a universe before the big bang, some of which imply the existence of a kind of eternal multiverse, and some of which imply that nothing at all existed before the big bang, that time itself came into existence at that point. All of the theories are based on natural processes and laws that exist today and can be observed (or on logical extrapolations from what can be observed today).

    Whichever theory is actually right, there is no need to complicate things by invoking any kind of supernatural agency, unless we find evidence that such an agency actually exists.

    Therefore, the logical assumption is that the universe began through a natural process and did not require a supernatural agency to kick-start it.

    One can apply similar reasoning to any situation in which a supernatural agency might get involved with the universe, and find that explanations always exist that require no supernatural agency. Thus, positing the existence of a supernatural agency is non-parsimonious.

    So, the logical conclusion is that there probably is no god. Emphasis on the “probably”.

    In the specific case of the starting point being the assumption of there being no god (as opposed to agnostic fence-sitting), in the absence of knowledge about any phenomenon, the principle of parsimony requires that one never assume the existence of something until evidence suggests otherwise.

    Thus, given the choice between god, no god and agnosticism but no evidence, the logical, parsimonious assumption must be “no god”, because agnosticism tends to grant a likelihood “god” that is not warranted.

    I realise this is all rather rambling, but I hope it makes some sense.

    However, if its nothing vs. creationism I do not have the problem.

    Creationism is the situation where specific claims are made that have been refuted by physical evidence, so I should jolly well hope you would not have a problem here!

    Though I think i just contradicted myself because it should not matter what the something is.

    It does matter if that “something” is known to be impossible.

    If i have nothing vs ________ I can conclude that not knowing is more logical than determining starting at nothing (of course nothing here equals the natural laws of the universe )

    It is true that one does not know, but agnosticism goes further than simply “we don’t know”. Agnosticism denies the applicability of logical thought to the issue.

    To return to an analogy I used earlier, if I were to claim the existence of an invisible pink unicorn in my back garden, the agnostic stance would have you acknowledging the valid possibility of its existence, whereas logic requires that one assume it does not exist until evidence is produced or found to support the claim.

    But once again, the broader issue is the false belief’s of millions.

    I have no issue with people believing whatever the hell they like, as long as they don’t try to impose their belief system on other people.

    So, to my mind, the main issue is that millions of voters feel they have the right to impose their belief system on other people.

  147. Infinite123Lifer

    to Nigel Depledge @ 147

    “I realise this is all rather rambling, but I hope it makes some sense.”

    That was great! :)

    I would need a telescope to find a hole in this argument, certainly not a microscope and something odd there eh ;)?

    “To return to an analogy I used earlier, if I were to claim the existence of an invisible pink unicorn in my back garden, the agnostic stance would have you acknowledging the valid possibility of its existence, whereas logic requires that one assume it does not exist until evidence is produced or found to support the claim.”

    So maybe we could say that the agnostic stance is a stance where the human imagination is calculated in to the answer and the atheist stance is the logical stance in which imagination is essentially useless because only things that are NOT imaginary are considered, like . . . evidence and maybe more importantly the logical stance does not imagine a pink unicorn might be there, it just observes? I am leaving out a bit but I am trying to zoom out a bit.

    What if I said
    Imagination vs. Reality is like Agnosticism vs. Atheistic

    Is that too simple? I am trying to ask another question about what I know about our system for asking here.

  148. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (148) said:

    So maybe we could say that the agnostic stance is a stance where the human imagination is calculated in to the answer and the atheist stance is the logical stance in which imagination is essentially useless because only things that are NOT imaginary are considered, like . . . evidence and maybe more importantly the logical stance does not imagine a pink unicorn might be there, it just observes? I am leaving out a bit but I am trying to zoom out a bit.

    What if I said
    Imagination vs. Reality is like Agnosticism vs. Atheistic

    Is that too simple? I am trying to ask another question about what I know about our system for asking here.

    Erm, kinda, but not quite.

    After all, science requires quite a lot of imagination – look at some of the crazy ideas that cosmologists have come up with to explain our universe.

    IMO, it’s not so much a situation of reality versus imagination as imagination under the constraint of logic versus imagination (more or less) unchecked.

  149. #147 Nigel, #145 Infinite123Lifer:

    Nigel: “Therefore, the logical assumption is that the universe began through a natural process and did not require a supernatural agency to kick-start it.”

    Also, of course, any “explanation” involving a “supernatural agency” ( whether it’s called “God” or anything else ) doesn’t actually explain anything, does it? It simply replaces one question with another, i.e. “Where did the Universe come from?” is replaced with, “Where did God/whatever come from?”, and we have the first step of an infinite regression.
    This reminds me of this hypothetical conversation:
    Christian: “The Universe is far too wonderful and complex to ‘just exist’! It must have been created by a superintelligent, supernatural Creator!”
    Atheist: “OK, so where did your ‘superintelligent, supernatural Creator’ come from?”
    Christian: “Well, nowhere – he just exists!”

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »