Over to You, Mitt

By Mark Trodden | December 6, 2007 7:47 am

I find it sad that in American politics any candidate needs to devote time to talking about their religious faith, unless they are apologizing for the intellectual weakness it represents, or explaining why they have decided that the separation of church and state is wrong. And this brings us to Mitt Romney’s “statement on faith”, taking place this afternoon.

In Kennedy’s famous original version (it’s worth reading) his intention was to make faith irrelevant, since it was to be seen as a personal issue that should play no role whatsoever in governing the country. Although I find any such religious faith bizarre, it is true that there have been presidents whose beliefs do not seem to have been driving their decisions, and I can certainly live with that. But in Romney’s case, the situation is starkly different. As Andrew O’Hehir writes in Salon, beginning by quoting the speech

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Kennedy told the Houston ministers, “where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference … I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

Kennedy was seeking to take his then-controversial faith off the table by embracing the constitutional and secular nature of the American republic, and by asking voters to judge him on his own words and deeds rather than as a representative of his church. If Romney were trying to accomplish something similar, one could only commend him. But his task is more perplexing and difficult than that.

Romney needs to appease a constituency that conspicuously does not believe in the absolute separation of church and state, that favors public funding of religious education (or at least certain varieties of it) and has frequently sought to impose theological ideas or religious structures in the public sphere. He’s not trying to convince right-wing evangelical Christians that he would govern as a secular president; he’s trying to convince them that his ideas about religion are close enough to theirs, in some general way, that they should overlook the differences.

Read that first paragraph again and then wipe away your tears as you realize how far backwards our politicians have moved.

O’Hehir then goes on to discuss some of the aspects of Mormomism that will make achieving this difficult for Romney. But the most important part of all this seems to me that Romney should be losing the votes of rational Americans by having brought these issues to the fore himself. That he is one of the many Americans – the religious – who believe in a particular set of supernatural fairy tales should be a strike against him. But that he explicitly seeks to make these irrational beliefs part of his governing philosophy and thereby impose them on others is far, far worse, and should make them fair game. I’d love to see journalists stepping up and doing their part to interrogate Romney and any other candidate on their superstitions whenever one of them decides that those beliefs have a place in the political sphere. Right now that group includes Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and almost everyone else I can think of.

I have a hard time imagining most of these people making a statement that echoes Kennedy’s own

I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

Over to you, Mitt.

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  • http://stochastix.wordpress.com rod

    For some unfortunate reason, the U.S. is the only 1st world country where the separation of Church and State is non-existent. That is just sad.

  • Jeremy Chapman

    I have to admit that I’m too young to remember when politicians were that decent. This depressing state of affairs is the unfortunate norm I suppose.

    What’s worse than politicians touting their religious faith as reason to elect them, is that they are, in many ways, what the voting public has made them.

  • Michael

    Amen

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  • Roman

    Maybe because I’ve lived for 30 years in propaganda saturated country of Eastern Europe, I can almost smell bullshit coming from TV screens when I see it. And all this religious “correctness” in US certainly looks like this to me. Was Rudy really warring about his place in heaven making decisions as NYC mayor – common?
    They all play the game now, as imposed by media driven perception of correctness.
    But even though I believe it is all a game – I agree that it has consequences.

  • http://meadowsweet-myrrh.blogspot.com/ Ali

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the concept of “Separation of Church and State” is about the separation of religious institutions from political institutions, in order to preserve the sovereignty of both in their respective realms. It is not about demanding individual government officials renounce all religious beliefs and behave in their public role as if they were all materialist atheists. If you’ll notice, this is the very specific bent of Kennedy’s speech–he denounces the imposition of religious institutions on the government and on the general public, but he never says that a religious or spiritual worldview is an inherently dangerous or unhealthy one from which to make moral or political decisions.

    This is a subtlety in distinction that few people bother to notice these days, it seems. Religious believers themselves often assume that a religion is synonymous with its socio-political institution, rather than a worldview out of which that institution arises but which may also have other applications. They relinquish their capacity to act as thinking, moral agents so that, while in Kennedy’s day a Catholic might have been able to make decisions about policy based on his beliefs without the need for priestly dictation, today believers not only want to learn about “laws of love” and whatnot while they sit in church, they want their priest to work out the complicated application of such beliefs and endorse a particular candidate or policy so that they, the believers, don’t have to do that work for themselves. Couple this with the media-obsessed Information Age in which politicians are assumed to obfuscate and pander, and selling public policy and political candidates has become a matter of who can put on the most convincing act of sincerity and urgency, and you have a public making political decisions based on the illusion of “good character” instead of on the actual work accomplished and policies pursued. In such a situation, it’s only natural that candor about religious beliefs is mistaken for a sign of honesty, as well as a covert message that here is a leader who, like the local minister or the Pope, is willing to do the work of moral decision-making that the public has given up.

    This does not mean that all religious believers are inherently less intelligent than their secularist counterparts (this is, perhaps, the lie that has so convinced them they are not capable of making moral decisions themselves in the first place). It is perfectly possible for religious individuals to function as rational, moral participants in the political domain, making decisions that affect public policy without imposing on others the worldview from which those decisions were made–given that they are willing to do the work of analysis and application in the context of an infinitely complex and unpredictable world. The “fairy tales” of a given religious faith, however, are no more inherently ridiculous or a sign of intellectual weakness than are the “fairy tales” of Descartes (with his tale of the thinking ego eating its own tail (pun intended), which gave birth to a worldview in which matter and mind are irrevocably severed) or of Locke and Hobbes (with their mythologies of the “State of Nature” in which man is an isolated individual whose only social connections are that of imagined abstractions imposed out of convenience or fear). If anything, perhaps, religious believers can attain to a certain intellectual honesty (if they try), because they at least acknowledge the roots of their worldview and continue to explore the myths and stories that serve as its foundation, whereas most secularists are so entrenched in their own worldview that they rarely revisit their own founding philosophies and mythologies, and instead think they can get away with making bigoted statements about large segments of the population without being challenged.

  • jefe

    Romney is in a more difficult position than Kennedy was, but that’s not his fault. Why don’t you listen to the speech and then rant about it instead of a preemptive strike? Based on your attitude, I’m pretty sure you won’t like it, but at least give it a chance. I can imagine it sounding very much like JFK’s speech. But hey, maybe it will be some crazy, dogmatic, irrational tripe like Mark seems to think. Only one way to find out.

  • Terri

    Well, after wading through the rhetoric about intellectual weakness, supernatural fairy tales and superstitions and all, I have a few points.

    The focus on what people believe has become more pronounced simply because of the cultural changes that have happened in the last 50-100 years. It didn’t get much play in the past because, despite large political differences, most people in politics had roughly the same sort of cultural background. Most went to church or held to some sort of belief in God.

    Romney’s Mormonism is irrelevant to the election.

    What’s interesting is that the people who keep bringing this issue to the forefront are not evangelical Christians, but pundits and reporters. I have seen multiple interviews with Romney where he is questioned about his Mormonism and with Huckabee in which, right out of the gate, he is asked if he believes in evolution or the Bible.

    Huh?

    And that is relevant to balancing the budget, dealing with health care, and the war in Iraq in what way? ‘

    The speech is a mistake in the sense that it gives credence to the argument rather than ignoring it and focusing on the issues at hand.

    Christina scan get over the whole thing. I do wonder if people who are so anti-religious will be able to.

  • Terri

    oops…Christians can….not Christina scan! :-)

  • Erik

    “and instead think they [secularists] can get away with making bigoted statements about large segments of the population…”

    Would this be an example of such a statement?

    There are big, obvious differences between the ridiculous ‘fairy tales’ of religion and those of idle, armchair philosophy. Not the least of which is their effect on public policy, which is what this is all about. Crusades and witch trials don’t normally result from studying Kant. They are incomparable in their ultimate reward and punishment agendas.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    2007-12-05: Romney: No religious test for president

    COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Republican Mitt Romney, confronting voters’ skepticism about his Mormon faith, declared Thursday that as president he would “serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause,” and said calls for him to explain and justify his religious beliefs go against the profound wishes of the nation’s founders….

    —–

    2007-02-17: Andres Sullivan

    Mitt Romney states, “We need to have a person of faith lead the country.”

    Flippety Floppety.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Terri: “Christians can get over the whole thing. I do wonder if people who are so anti-religious will be able to.

    Is that why an atheist cannot be elected to office in this country?

  • Tom

    Rod’s comment in #1 that “the U.S. is the only 1st world country where the separation of Church and State is non-existent” illustrates an interesting dichotomy. Many european countries endorse a state religion (such as the Church of England), yet their populations are largely non-religious. Conversely, the United States, officially secular with no state endorsement of religion allowed, is the most religous of all first world countries.

  • John Merryman

    Erik,

    What about from studying Adam Smith and Karl Marx?

    Of course, if religion really ruled, we would still be fighting with sticks and stones. Thank science for our technological evolution. When it comes to politics, of which organized religion is mostly a subset of tribalist impulses, science and reason tend to be the weaponsmakers and the apologists, since the alternative is ostracism.

    Kennedy wasn’t a saint, he just happened to come along at the moment the US was at the apex of political power and in a state of cultural equilibrium.

    As for Romney, the evangelicals spent their power on Bush. This time, it’s the economy. Again.

  • ZW

    #13 Tom

    Interesting yes, but not a very deep relation; correlation does not imply causation. The US has always been full of zealotry, even before it was known as the United States — some of the original colonies also did have official religions.

  • boreds

    “presidents whose beliefs do not seem to have been driving their decisions, and I can certainly live with that”

    I find this statement odd. If it wasn’t specifically religious beliefs referred to, wouldn’t you find it hard to live with someone who *didn’t* let their beliefs drive, or at least inform, their decisions?

    Perhaps I am intepreting what you mean by `beliefs’ far too generally; I suppose what you say maybe is shorthand for `beliefs that are imposed on them from without, or by other people’, or something similar? Otherwise, I’m not sure what other than beliefs can (or should) ever drive ones decisions.

  • Terri

    Is that why an atheist cannot be elected to office in this country?

    “cannot”? As far as I can tell that is an assumption/opinion stated as fact. I think an atheist could be elected, depending on the type of atheist running.

    If an atheist candidate is constantly mocking, ridiculing and demeaning the beliefs of the majority of people within a country how could they expect to be elected?

    If they admited their disbelief, yet assured the public that they had no plans to attempt to legislate freedom of religion away, they would stand a chance.

    People don’t care too much about what an individual believes so much as they care that those beliefs/disbeliefs are not forced upon the country.

  • Jeff

    boreds #16: wouldn’t you find it hard to live with someone who *didn’t* let their beliefs drive, or at least inform, their decisions?

    Not at all. I envision the system working beautifully in this case: the legislative branch, who more directly represents the needs of the diverse citizentry, bring the ideas to the table, work out the compromises that are best for the nation, and vote them into law.

    The executive branch, rather than driving one person’s biases and presumptions into the whole system, simply execute the rules and manage the country. That’s it. The chief executive of the country would be more like a CEO – only the chief executor of the wishes of the people, not a super-representative of a subset of them (hypothetically, hawkish evangelical literallists).

    Concentration of power is dandy when your interests align with those of the powerful.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Here is an interesting reference to the comparison between Kennedy and Romney:

    Kennedy aide [Theodore Sorenson]: Romney’s views on religion very different from JFK’s


    * Ted Sorensen helped draft Kennedy’s 1960 speech on Roman Catholicism
    * GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney delivers speech on faith in politics
    * Kennedy, Romney views on religion differ greatly, Sorensen says
    * Sorensen says Kennedy viewed religion as more of a private matter

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/06/sorensen.romney.qa/

    PS: I try to get reminding people that “religion” is a type of institution, not legitimately to be conflated with belief in some supreme being/ground of being versus not. In principle, (and to some extent, Buddhism and Taoism fit the bill), if a founder started a tradition that there was no God, and people believed it through confidence and habit, that is a “religion” because of its form. OTOH, if a philosopher decides that there is some fundamental entity that could be called God (because of any of the very good arguments about the existential preferability problem, the messes caused by alternatives (like modal realism) to one-universe theories, etc.), that philosopher’s stance is not “religion” because it does not have that form.

    Note to those who didn’t get this in other threads, like Sean and Reginald S, here is a paraphrase of my comment #1 in the Huckabee thread:

    There is not one simple “dictionary definition” of “God.” (And remember, comprehensive dictionary definitions often have a list of numbered flavors of definitions appropriate to different types and contexts! God is one of them.) If you consider the history of philosophical theology, you appreciate the wide range of views of the ultimate being/ground of being/foundational given reality etc or whatever else to call it, all with their own connotations and implied characterizations. Why should the rabble or one social institution own a concept? There are some crude ideas about ultimate reality and some very advanced ideas about that, from banal grumpy mega people like Zeus, to more upscale Jehovah, to Hegel’s Absolute, to “The Plenum” (which is sort of an “opposite of nothingness”), to a field which creates but is more general than the “vacuum” which embodies only our specific particles, all with varying degrees of semblance to persons. There are ideas of something with a mind going through specific thoughts at specific times, but ideas of “Mind” which just holds all thought in Platonic majesty, etc. Sure, hard to conceive, but so is the Omega of infinite set theory which holds everything and every set there is in math (i.e., there is nothing which does not belong or is not subsumed) and yet It cannot be analyzed or describe any more than this AFAIK. Also, the various traits ascribed to “God” are mostly separately selectable, like “create” (or serves as necessary ground or pattern for existing), omniscient, omnipotent, etc. So there could in principle be a creator or backer of existence that was not omnipotent, etc.

    All of this is of course just grist for debate and can’t be proven one way or the other, and I think that the presumptuous end-run default attempts (like, if we have no proof of X, the default presumption should be “No X” even though our confidence in X should depend on the specific grounds and not some clumsy rule of thumb like that) can’t be either.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    PS: I meant that the points attempted to be proven by “end-run” arguments can’t be proven through them, not to be confused with not being able to judge (almost to the point of proving them fallacious, but they’re not as obviously wrong as formal fallacies) the general quality of such arguments. We can. As I said, they tend to logically suck despite their great appeal – for obvious “political” and convenience reasons – to “skeptics” and the like.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “cannot”? As far as I can tell that is an assumption/opinion stated as fact. I think an atheist could be elected, depending on the type of atheist running.

    In this corner, we have polls from veryreputable pollsters who have done a whole bunch of polls. In the other corner, we have Terri who apparently cannot be bothered to click a relevant link. I know where I’d put my money.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Terri: People don’t care too much about what an individual believes so much as they care that those beliefs/disbeliefs are not forced upon the country.

    Which “blue state” do you live in?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    TAPPED gives us the shorter version of Romney’s speech: “There are two things I hate in this world — religious intolerance and those damn atheists.”

    More sordid details from Ezra Klein.

  • Terri

    Reginald,

    Wow. There’s nothing like rude condescension to keep a conversation going.

    I clicked on your link. You know what was interesting? Athough only 13% of people thought atheism would produce “positive” effects, there were no statistics for those who thought atheism would produce negative effects.

    The statistics do not say an atheist “cannot” become president. That is your interpretation of them.

  • Terri

    I should explain further..I was looking at the first general graph before the break-down. Also, the statistics have continued to change and shift towards an acceptance of atheism and other religions over the years…not exactly showing that an atheist “could not” be president.

    Could not/cannot…is absolute. If you had said “would have a hard time” being elected. I wouldn’t have contradicted you.

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    I can’t believe I actually ever thought this speech might be an interesting political moment. And where the heck did “freedom requires religion” come from? What does that even mean?

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  • Erik

    John Merryman,
    Your point about Marx and Smith is well-taken, but one could argue that they belong to a particular branch of thinkers that could be considered much more political than Descartes et al, which was mentioned in comment #6 and spurred my retort. But, it isn’t too important to split hairs on definitions.

    The operative point remains: that both the ‘natural philosophy’ of old and modern science are predicated on reason, which ought to be the guide of public policy; at least well-above religious cranckery. To this end, your comments suggest an interesting point: if scientists (and those of ‘reason’) tend to be weaponsmakers, they should then be the people with the power to make policy. Yet, it’s rarely the case. Should scientists take more responsibility?

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  • Jason Dick

    Terri,

    The statistics do not say an atheist “cannot” become president. That is your interpretation of them.

    As near as I can tell, you are the first person so far to mention that atheists cannot become president. But, as it stands in the US, a majority of Americans currently state that they would not vote for an atheist:
    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/02/black_president_more_likely_than_mormon_or_atheist_/

    So yes, barring that the atheist president manages to change a lot of peoples’ minds, an atheist cannot, as it stands, be elected as president.

  • Ajatshatru

    “If an atheist candidate is constantly mocking, ridiculing and demeaning the beliefs of the majority of people within a country how could they expect to be elected?”
    – Terri, above, comment no. 17

    This is precisely what has happened in India. There are several Communist leaders that mock Hindus, the majority population, over and over again. But they are tolerated.

    On a related note, I wonder why the American government supports Communists in India as “Voices of Freedom” and denounces them in the US. I wonder why devout Hindus are made fun of and devout Christians praised in the same breath…

    Complex beings, you Americans…could never understand you. This is why I left…

  • Terri

    Jason…see Reginald’s comments. He’s the one who said they can’t.

  • Haelfix

    I can’t remember a candidate in American politics (either D or R) that wasn’t religious. In fact i’d argue this batch of presidential hopefuls are quite a bit less religious than previous squads, so im happy about that.

    Guiliani/McCain/Obama and Hillary aren’t exactly what I would call bible thumpers. The former two have to give lipservice to those people to win the primaries, but you can tell that they really hate the fundies and hurt all over when they are forced to do so. The latter two (particularly Obama) probably are more religious individually, but since they’re democrats it tends to moderate their actual policies.

    I have no idea how much Romney is or is not religious. His speech sounded ridiculous, but then again it strikes me as odd that the primary negative against him is that he is mormon (as opposed to being RC or Lutheran etc). Many Americans label them as a sort of cult.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    “Many Americans label them as a sort of cult.” That’s funny, isn’t it? I mean, all religions are technically “cults.” (Of course, such opprobrium should not be applied to philosophers engaging in fine sublime discussions about ultimate reality, in the manner of Plato and Aristotle … Yes, really, I’m not being sarcastic.)

  • NoJoy

    From Romney’s speech:

    We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny.

    Situational irony, much?

  • Chris’ Wills

    What I find interesting is people waffling on about seperation of church and state,

    In Great Britain there is no seperation of church and state, also we have no problem with religion.

    Perhaps statsians (those living under Canada, or Mexico depending on your viewpoint) should consider this,rather than believing that their constitution is perfect and (dare I write it) god given.

    It would be interesting if the democrat party candidates are asked if they believed in a creator God, especially as all of them claim to belong to a church.

  • Terri

    Chris Willis

    Isn’t that dependent upon what your perception of a “problem with religion” is?

    I just read an article about Tony Blair feeling that he had to sort of “hide” his religious beliefs so that others wouldn’t think he was wacky.

    Should people have to completely obscure their beliefs?

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Terri – Maybe people don’t have to hid their beliefs in religion as much as you think (at least in America!), I’m not sure. However, in the scientific world, especially the blogging world, it sure is ragged on. Just look at how it gets treated in these threads and similar! Sean isn’t mean, just generally dismissive (and does at least look at and wrangle over arguments) but PZ over at Pharyngula is downright derogatory. (Ironically, so much like how right-wing bloggers and commentators treat liberals – the broad-brush tarring to compare and fixate on the worst, the same sort of straw-man arguments, characterizations and framings, etc.)

  • Jason Dick

    Terri,

    I see it now. But Reginald’s link was even more comprehensive than my own in displaying the unwillingness of US citizens to elect atheists. You clearly did not look through it very well.

  • Jason Dick

    Neil,

    I don’t really see how PZ is being derogatory to religion. He is derogatory to creationists, but then, there’s very good reason for that: they’re stupid.

  • Terri

    I did look at it.

    It shows a progressive shift towards acceptance of all sorts of beliefs. I never said that atheists would have an easy time being elected. I just think stating things in absolute terms is dealing in polemics and overstating the case.

    AS far as PZ Meyers et al…….I disagree. There is a huge bias that is very easily seen in his blog and many others. This very post that we are commentling on has, itself, been prone to ridicule of faith in general, not just in regard to creationists.

  • Chris

    I find all this rather amusing. Atheists versus Believers. Science versus Religion. Whoever said they had to be mutually exclusive? This is not to say that the Bible is 100% accurate but science doesn’t hold all the answers either. I have yet to see any scientist give hard data on what occurred prior to the big bang or on what started it. That’s not to say it didn’t happen nor does it say that there wasn’t some sort of outside influence. Could be God, could be we are all living inside a collision event in a super collider. No one can say for sure. Why what different people believe is an issue to anyone other than that person is beyond my understanding. What should be of issue is whether that person is going to take actions against the greater good of the country. Religion has nothing to do with that as much as how the person chooses to use their position.

    Unfortunately, our current President is a poor example of a religious person. If you were to look at the beliefs of the Christian faith in general, few would or should advocate the actions taken by our President during his term of office. Even more unfortunate is the fact that he is in keeping with the day to day practice of most Christian believers. But he is only one man, and judging all Believers by him would amount to a scientist finding 1 star and saying all stars are yellow. We all know that neither statement is true nor should it be taken as such.

    In the case of the current candidates for President, Romney is the only one of them to have demonstrated that his personal religious beliefs do not take precedence over the greater good. If that were not so, MA (which is a “red state” is I remember correctly) would not have had him as governor or would now be a Mormon state that people seem to be dreading for some reason. What I have taken away from his speeches is not a sense of flip flopping (as Reginald notes in comment 11) or situational irony (as NoJoy notes in #35), but more of an awareness that we are a religious country. That does not mean that we can’t separate Church from State but that the majority of our country is religious. I do not get the sense that he intends to make the US Mormon, but that pandering to any one religion or any one religious sect or any one belief system (Atheists) is a Bad Thing. I happen to agree with him about that. If Atheists think they should be in charge, go for it. Show me an Atheist candidate that can make policies without completely trampling others’ beliefs and I would be more than happy to vote for them. However, I have yet to even meet an Atheist that isn’t offended by the concept of religion in general and feels that any such believers are stupid. That’s not to say there isn’t one out there, I just have never met him/her.

  • Jason dick

    Terri,

    It shows a progressive shift towards acceptance of all sorts of beliefs. I never said that atheists would have an easy time being elected. I just think stating things in absolute terms is dealing in polemics and overstating the case.

    Yes, but one in which the statistics still currently demonstrate that, barring a massive and rapid change of public opinion, it would be utterly impossible for an open atheist to be elected President.

    Nobody is saying that an atheist could never be elected. But the fact is that they couldn’t be elected now.

    And yes, I did some more looking around on Pharyngula, and he is quite critical of religion as well. But it’s not bias. It’s called being rational, and not being worried about treating the religious with kid gloves.

  • Jason Dick

    I find all this rather amusing. Atheists versus Believers. Science versus Religion. Whoever said they had to be mutually exclusive?

    Religion. Religion, almost invariably, attempts to claim that truth can be proclaimed from on high, and that certain truths should not be investigated. This is wholly and completely incompatible with science, and thus the two often come into conflict. You show me a religious person who claims this isn’t true, and I’ll show you one who claims that God exists (and a very specific one at that), or angels exist, or demons exist, or heaven exists, or hell exists, or any number of other self-proclaimed Truths that cannot be questioned. The truly skeptical religious person, the pantheist or the deist, is a rare thing indeed, and even then is indistinguishable from the atheist except for the way in which he defines religion.

    And Romney has also stated, in no uncertain terms, that he believes faith in God to be essential to being a good American. There is no way to twist this to state that his personal religious beliefs do not take precedence.

  • manyoso

    Shorter Mitt Romney:

    “We need to have a person of faith lead the country, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let’s not get into the details of what that faith *is*!!”

  • MedallionOfFerret

    From the actual speech: “It is as if they’re intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They’re wrong,” Romney said, being met by applause from the audience.

    For the record, Obama has also said words to the effect that them non-believers are a problem to ‘merican society. Sean’s Atheistic Democratic Party has a long way to go…

  • Ajatshatru

    Jason Dick – Comment no. 44:

    Hinduism states that “Vigyaan”, i.e. science and scientific curiosity are absolutely essential to “make a complete human being”. Many verses in the Rig Veda say – “Is there even a god that we can look up to?” – and there is no answer anywhere.

    Perhaps your definitions of religion are too tightly bound to Judaic faiths?

  • Jason Dick

    Ajatshartru,

    Christians that talk about how God wants them to pursue science out of one corner of their mouths while spouting irrational nonsense out of the other side are common too. The phenomenon can be understood very well in terms of “Morton’s Demon”, as described by a man who escaped the clutches of the obscenely irrational Young Earth Creationism:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/feb02.html

    As for Hinduism, it has its share of irrational beliefs as well. The degree of irrationality certainly varies from person to person, and though I am ignorant enough about Hinduism to be unaware of what claims are central to the faith, I am familiar enough that there are Hindus who are every bit as irrational as the worst of the Young Earth Creationists we get here in Christian territory. Within Hinduism, for example, we have such irrational beliefs as the existence of a multiplicity of deities, a rather peculiar and fundamentally incorrect creation story, reincarnation, as well as a number of others.

    If you say, “Well, I don’t believe any of that stuff is literally true. I just think that the moral precepts laid down by Hinduism are good moral precepts.” then you have a very different definition of what constitutes a religion than I do. Now, it may be the case that Hinduism is less predisposed to lunacy in its adherents than Christianity or the other Abrahamic faiths. That is entirely possible. That doesn’t make it reasonable to believe that there are certain spheres of knowledge that are immune to rational inquiry, and that tenet is the one that causes the conflict between religion and science.

  • Chris

    Jason Dick,

    While I certainly understand you position that beliefs of religion and beliefs of science do often conflict, you seemingly are assuming that religion is the only place where “irrational beliefs” exist. It also seems that you are stuck in the Dark Ages where “The Church” feared their power being taken away by that blasphemous science. In modern times I have not seen nor heard of any persecution of scientists for questioning anything. Last I checked, scientists have not been rounded up and jailed or executed for investigating whatever they choose. You being stuck in such an archaic time mentally seems rather irrational to me. But even science is not without conflicts in its’ theories. That is not a bad thing, it is simply the way things are. A rather famous German Patent clerk once said “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

    Our country has been based on religious freedom since it was formed (note: this does not include the various colonies prior to the Revolutionary War) and also has had a staple of religious intolerance. Atheists have been no different in this respect, in my experience, intolerant of people that do not share their beliefs. Atheism itself has become a religion and is as dogmatic as any Christian belief.

    You seem to be the same type of Atheist I am used to dealing with. The “You have to believe everything in the Bible or nothing” type. Unable to resolve conflicts in 5000 years of handed down stories and translations, having to believe every word of a text in it’s literal meaning. The exact polar opposite of the Young Earth Creationists. Have you ever thought that maybe the truth is somewhere in between? Or did you simply reject it because it was “irrational”? Shall we do that with super massive black holes? Or Higg’s Boson? Or any number of scientific theories we have no data to prove but can only conjecture? It is all just thought and faith until you have data. Some data is just easier to gather and interpret than others.

  • Jason Dick

    While I certainly understand you position that beliefs of religion and beliefs of science do often conflict, you seemingly are assuming that religion is the only place where “irrational beliefs” exist.

    Nope, not making that assumption at all. Religion is but one area of our lives where irrational beliefs persist. Other prominent examples are UFO’s, ghosts, various superstitions, acupuncture, holistic medicine, among many others. There are also many wonderful examples of irrational behaviors, such as appreciation of art and music, love, the joy we feel from helping others.

    The fundamental problem, the reason why religion and science come into conflict, is the belief that some truths can, often should, be accepted without investigation. Religion is by no means the only sphere where this belief exists, and, as I stated, there are some people who call themselves religious while not believing this at all (Einstein would be a prominent example, and you should note that Einstein explicitly stated that he believed in no personal deity, but rather used “god” and “religion” to describe the awe and wonder of the universe). But this is a difference in definition of what it means to be religious. I claim it means adherence to a system that is composed of supernatural beliefs, rituals, and to which adherents ascribe a sense of identity, and when I am arguing against religion, it is that definition against which I am arguing, not any definition that others may use.

    If your religion includes no supernatural entities, doesn’t involve a set of rituals (e.g. communion, marriage, confirmation, baptism), or it doesn’t have followers who consider the religion to determine at least a part of their sense of identity, then we aren’t talking about the same thing. If this is the case, then clearly my statement that religion is bad and irrational does not necessarily apply. But if you claim to be Christian, and you believe in the existence of the Christian God, then it most definitely applies. If not, then it applies if and only if you believe some truths can, should, or must be accepted without any verifiable supporting evidence.

    In modern times I have not seen nor heard of any persecution of scientists for questioning anything.

    It is debatable whether or not there is persecution of scientists today. But regardless, persecution isn’t the primary issue today where science is concerned. The primary issue is people explicitly denying scientific discoveries, and making poor, frequently damaging decisions as a result. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this today is the Intelligent Design movement where promotion of ignorance is concerned, and the most prominent examples of poor decision making are probably the opposition to stem cell research and the opposition to combating global warming.

    You seem to be the same type of Atheist I am used to dealing with. The “You have to believe everything in the Bible or nothing” type.

    Nonsense. I think I was pretty clear as to the specific sorts of beliefs to which it seems nearly all self-identified religious people seem to adhere that are patently irrational, none of which require a belief that the Bible is the literal word of God, or even belief in Christianity at all.

    Have you ever thought that maybe the truth is somewhere in between? Or did you simply reject it because it was “irrational”? Shall we do that with super massive black holes? Or Higg’s Boson? Or any number of scientific theories we have no data to prove but can only conjecture? It is all just thought and faith until you have data. Some data is just easier to gather and interpret than others.

    This is the typical religious canard. I’m sorry, but testable hypotheses that are being tested have no relation whatsoever to the superstitious nonsense that the religious so frequently promote as absolute truth that is immune to investigation, whether that nonsense is as insane as Young Earth Creationism, as pleasant-sounding as a benevolent god that is so vaguely defined as to prevent any investigation, or as dangerous as belief in a literal hell and heaven.

    The belief that some truths need not, should not, or cannot be investigated is to be found nowhere in science. Everything is open to investigation. That scientists are always testing multiple possible explanations for the same observations, and remain tentative as to their conclusions in relation to the strength of the evidence is a fundamentally different approach to that of religion.

  • Chris’ Wills

    37#

    Terri,

    Isn’t that dependent upon what your perception of a “problem with religion” is?

    Well, in this context, it is when politicians let their beliefs make them do something inimacable to the well being of the people they are meant to serve.

    Those beliefs could be religious or some philosophy pushed to the extreme.

    I just read an article about Tony Blair feeling that he had to sort of “hide” his religious beliefs so that others wouldn’t think he was wacky.

    Now Tony Blair is wacky, however I am not sure that this is down to the religion he follows. Never could understand why my fellow subjects re-elected the man.

    Should people have to completely obscure their beliefs?

    I think that politicians should be open about their beliefs. If they aren’t then they are hiding the truth from the electorate. Lying in fact as they are claiming to be what they aren’t

    I do agree that an atheist could be elected president of the USA; but they would have to a tad less snide and derogatory to those they disagree with.
    Maybe not this time around but until one stands how will we know?

  • http://magicdragon.com Jonathan Vos Post

    Re #34: all religions begin as cults, but not every cult becomes a religion.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Jason, and like-minded:

    Over and over again, you and others keep comparing “religion” to “science/rationality” and refer to how religion takes assumptions “from on high” but science actually finds out, etc. This is the wrong way to frame the most important issues – the question of God is best handled by philosophical investigation, not either science nor religion. Philosophy takes everything “we know” and applies *arguments* to it, not either experiments or teachings from an authority. I get tired of having to explain this, and tired of it not being framed that way in popularizations etc.

    BTW you are indeed wrong about PZ Meyers. He is not just out to get creationists, who are wrong because of what they think happened in the world and not because they think “someone” is behind it all per se. Meyers defends Dawkins’ attacks on religion against those who say, Dawkins don’t take into account more sophisticated versions of theology with his idiotic “Courtier’s complaint” argument – the pretense that those who want a higher study are like those complaining someone should have read essays about the Emperor ‘s (imaginary) hat or boots etc. But this is one of those arguments that only works if you assume that what you are defending (that the Emperor has *no* clothes) is right to begin with. It is as idiotic as if a classical physicist ridiculed the notion of matter waves or relative length standards in the same way instead of actually entertaining arguments or evidence.

    The whole point is, the more advanced philosophical methods are the very thing that sheds light on whether the Emperor is really naked, and therefore cannot be dismissed in that way. In advanced theology God is not an entity “in” the world but of some other nature like spirit ectoplasm, but the fundamental ground of existence and not a content in any reasonable sense. Of course, all this argument pro and con and even about its very intelligibility, is unprovable either way. You can really believe what you want with a good conscience, that does not *contradict* what we know – which is not to be confused with having to have proof, in order to rightly believe.

    I have noticed the irony, that so many of the scientism hacks use the shabbiest arguments per se despite their pretensions to the highest rationality, and are seen to be disingenuous or perhaps nearly philosophically illiterate to those who know how the honest practice works. For example, consider the execrable “celestial teapot” argument. It is “based” on the pretense that any given unproven entity X is just as ridiculous as any other that can be picked as a straw-man silly example, or deserves the presumptive default assumption of non-existence, even though the only way to evaluate the likelihood of unproven or even unprovable X (whether likely, such as life elsewhere; unknown and difficult like God, other universes, multiple worlds in QM etc, or unlikely like a perpetual motion machine) is to consider the particular pros and cons of whether X is likely to exist. It is clear, that those who bring up the CT or lists including tooth fairy etc., are trying to work off the psychological effect of guilt by association and their point has no relation to the existence of some other thing.

    In further irony, I note that so many scientists are quite willing to indulge in unproven and likely unprovable ideas of other universes etc., showing the hypocrisy of many of them in indulging such a double standard (yes, it is, since even if such ideas are extensions of what we already know, they still violate classic standards of empirical verifiability etc.)

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    #50: The belief that some truths need not, should not, or cannot be investigated is to be found nowhere in science. Everything is open to investigation.

    Actually, you are specifically wrong per the “cannot” part. Physics has for example literally given up on being able to know just when a muon will decay, or where an emitted photon will hit on a screen (and rightly calling it “random” only characterizes that situation, it does not answer the question or negate its implications.) If you meant, it’s OK to try, sure, I concur, so go ahead and try to find anything you want then including God, or other universes, or the actual events of the past (not just their present results), or even all knowledge of same such as the unrecorded things said by people even yesterday, etc.) Remember too that “philosophy” (which is what ultimately matters, not religion or science – science is just a subset of applied philosophy) can argue about anything whether “evidence” (not as clearly defined a concept as you think) can be found or not.

    Note that it is up to Reality as to whether some truths *can* be investigated effectively by the methods we want to use, not our desire for them all to be accessible thereby. To claim otherwise is, ironically, a logical fallacy of proof by convenience or proof by desire (and this is put out by “anti-religious” thinkers! What a hoot.) Again, we even have examples of such, or nearly such, already: the wave function, other universes, and even banalities like what people said at a picnic ten years ago – all their words lost *in principle* to uncertainties in the universe, in their brains, etc. And please, don’t indulge in the hypocritical practice of woo-pooing God etc, but evading scientific problems by the pretense that specific real empirical observations like collapse events are “illusions” etc. If that isn’t a repulsive Emperor-has-no-clothes moment, I don’t know what is.

  • Jason Dick

    Actually, you are specifically wrong per the “cannot” part. Physics has for example literally given up on being able to know just when a muon will decay, or where an emitted photon will hit on a screen (and rightly calling it “random” only characterizes that situation, it does not answer the question or negate its implications.)

    The difference is that the scientist doesn’t claim to be able to know these things. The problem I was attempting to highlight is the problem that people claim to know certain things that either need not, should not, or cannot be investigated. In the example you gave, our knowledge of quantum mechanics tells us that we should never claim to know where the particle will hit the screen, for example. But we can claim knowledge of the probability distribution.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Jason,

    I based my reply on what you said: “The belief that some truths need not, should not, or cannot be investigated is to be found nowhere in science. Everything is open to investigation.” Well, if you meant science at least believes anything is “open” to investigation, even if not discoverable due to intrinsic reasons, OK I dig that. But you go astray with an implied comparison to “religion,” which I keep saying is not the real point. A good *philosopher* doesn’t claim to “know” whether God exists *or not* either, only to have looked at the problem and come up with good arguments either way. As I have reminded you and others (over and over again to little effect), philosophy is neither religion nor science. Everyone who argues pro or con about God questions or anything else (as opposed to claims based on authority, human or otherwise) is “doing philosophy” while so arguing, neither science nor religion, whether they admit it or not.

    PS: I find the glibness of your list above of “irrational beliefs” to be very disappointing. Really, have you *investigated* for example whether acupuncture really works (as per the appropriate empirical studies, not the intuitive rationalism “sniff-test” that I suspect you are applying to all these)?

  • Jason Dick

    The real effect of acupuncture, if it exists at all, is minuscule compared to the placebo effect. But what’s more, acupuncture itself is surrounded by a whole bunch of mystical nonsense that is clearly irrational.

    As for the rest, Neil, the problem isn’t so much people who are agnostic. It’s people who strongly believe in the existence of a particular deity. Whether you like it or not, this is what comprises the vast majority of self-proclaimed religious people at least in the Americas and Europe.

  • http://www.gregegan.net/ Greg Egan

    Neil B wrote:

    And please, don’t indulge in the hypocritical practice of woo-pooing God etc, but evading scientific problems by the pretense that specific real empirical observations like collapse events are “illusions” etc.

    Since you seem to have no idea why people who understand quantum theory talk about illusory collapse events, I’ll give you a simple example.

    Consider a standard double-slit experiment: a single coherent monochromatic light source illuminates two slits in a barrier, and the pattern of photon counts on a screen behind the slits shows constructive and destructive interference. This sinusoidal pattern is maintained even when the luminosity of the source is so low that only one photon will be present in the apparatus at a time, suggesting that each photon passes through both slits simultaneously.

    Now replace the standard photon source with one that emits pairs of photons with total linear momentum zero, in a quantum state:

    sum over theta of |photon 1 at angle theta, photon 2 at angle pi+theta>

    for some set of values of theta. The precise values don’t matter, and it could be an integral over theta if you prefer; what matters is that the two photons have correlated momenta, but neither momentum is fixed at a single value.

    Add a second pair of slits and a second detector screen on the opposite side of the source to the original apparatus, so that the second photon gets to pass through a double-slit set-up of its own.

    What happens? Instead of the sinusoidal interference pattern of the original experiment, you just get peaks on the screens directly in front of all four slits, with the intensity dying off — without oscillating — as you move away from those peaks. In other words, you get exactly the pattern you’d expect from photons only passing through a single slit at a time.

    This certainly looks like a collapse: the photons now appear to be passing through single slits, rather than both at once. The correlation of their momenta seems to be “measuring” which slit they went through, and forcing a single choice.

    This “collapse” is, however, demonstrably an illusion. If you call the location where a photon is seen on one screen x_1, and the location where the other photon is seen on the other screen x_2, then a plot of counts versus (x_1 * x_2) will show a sinusoidal interference pattern. The photons are still going through both slits simultaneously, just as in the classic single-photon experiment (and if you block one of the slits, the interference pattern will go away). The only difference is, you need to collect more information — information from the entire system — to reveal the interference effects. A lack of complete information (i.e. looking at the counts for just one screen) is indistinguishable from a “collapse”.

  • http://houseoftrade.blogspot.com Rockey

    It’s such a huge step backwards that Religious preference has such a major impact on the world’s largest economy. I would love to hear one of the candidates respond “irrelevant” when quizzed on their beliefs.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Greg, I will get back on this more when I have time, but briefly, it seems you “overthought” the issue. I meant to criticize the idea that the specific “pings” at localized places on a screen, or the nucleus decaying 17 hours after formation, etc. are “not real” – rather than sophisticated notions of how to interpret wave and detection relationships.

    Just look at this sentence of yours:

    In other words, you get exactly the pattern you’d expect from photons only passing through a single slit at a time.

    The very existence of “a pattern” [of little “hits”] instead of eternal continuous waves is just what I and basically everyone else mean by “collapse” of the wave of each photon – ending up in a certain place, regardless of higher-level interpretations. BTW what do you think of the Afshar experiment? It raises issues similar to what you bring up.

    As I have told many of you before, you don’t always get the semantics issues. (I still think you don’t appreciate how we should *talk* about the fall of bodies relative to “floors” in falling reference standards, and the implications thereof.) Studying lots of science won’t ensure that you do.

  • http://www.gregegan.net/ Greg Egan

    Neil

    As I have told many of you before, you don’t always get the semantics issues. (I still think you don’t appreciate how we should *talk* about the fall of bodies relative to “floors” in falling reference standards, and the implications thereof.) Studying lots of science won’t ensure that you do.

    And studying absolutely no science ensures that you mistake your notions of “correct semantics” for some kind of insight into actual phenomena. Once you’ve learned the mathematics that unambiguously describes the predictions of GR and QM, then you can start sensibly debating how those predictions should best be discussed in plain English. At present, you just take a drizzle of pop-science factoids, combine it with what you imagine is philosophical and linguistic rigour, and generate a half-baked “critique” of ideas you don’t actually understand at all.

    I was hoping you at least had the high-school level trigonometry and calculus to analyse the geodesics on a sphere and come to grips first-hand with the consequences of non-Cartesian coordinates that are causing you so much angst in GR, but apparently hell will freeze over before you actually test your intuitions against even the simplest real examples.

    The very existence of “a pattern” [of little “hits”] instead of eternal continuous waves is just what I and basically everyone else mean by “collapse”

    “Everyone else”? That there are more people who have learnt to emit cocktail-party-level bluff about QM from crappy popularisations than people who’ve actually studied the theory is beside the point.

    I’ve only been reading this blog a short time, but in that time virtually all your hundreds of remarks about scientific matters have derived from the fact that you’ve read some half-baked version of a theory, found it wanting (a good thing), but then decided that you’re wedded immutably to the misconceptions you’ve already acquired, and that all the discrepancies are really down to lack of what you so charmingly call “linguistic hygiene” by professional scientists.

    Yes, pop science books are full of crap. Even a lot of pop science written by good physicists is full of misleading statements that will confuse lay people who try to pursue the subject further. It’s a pity — but get over it, and recognise that if you want to learn real science, you’re going to have to throw away half of what you’ve convinced yourself you know.

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    Greg Egan,

    Nice job on comment #58.

    Even a lot of pop science written by good physicists is full of misleading statements that will confuse lay people who try to pursue the subject further. It’s a pity — but get over it, and recognise that if you want to learn real science, you’re going to have to throw away half of what you’ve convinced yourself you know.

    Have you seen Feynman’s comments on this problem in The Character of Physical Law? He argues the point quite well, I think, emphasizing the problems which happen because popularizations leave out the mathematics. This makes the statements of individual ideas vague, of course, but it also cripples the ability to connect statements via reasoning. (The lectures on which that book was based used to be on Google Video, until a lawyer noticed — more’s the pity, really.)

  • http://www.gregegan.net/ Greg Egan

    Blake

    I should have singled out Feynman as the exception, of course. I re-read QED recently, and it’s just stunning the way he manages to make it all accessible, but he keeps a conscientious list of all the simplifications, keeps reminding the audience when he’s cutting corners, and comes back to dot most of the i’s later.

    it also cripples the ability to connect statements via reasoning

    Absolutely. All the user-friendly maths-free metaphors are provided with the best of intentions, but unless some substantial aspect of the reality is isomorphic to some non-trivial degrees of freedom of the metaphor, you don’t have a tool for deducing anything — but you might believe you do. The science blogosphere is clogged with the consequent frustration and delusions.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B..

    Actually I have had more of such math and science than you think, but admittedly not enough. A lot I do get from Feynman and real textbooks, and not really much from “populariztions” as you imagaine. (You don’t really think that “popularizations” say much about gravimagnetism, stress issues, the deep issues of mathematical representation of reality, etc? Sure, I often have to look at summaries and draw my own conclusions.)

    I get the clear impression that what I’ve said about collapse for example really was the orthodox way to talk about it until a recent sort of revisionism (based on not *wanting* to accept the apparent intractability of the collapse problem>) You could at least acknowledge the divergence between some classic views of recent decades, and ideas like decoherence and MW, and even the way you talk about it, that are not orthodox in terms of those previous views. Remember finally that I am making Socratic digs more than final arguments. Sometimes, as per the planar field question, you make a clear specific response, and other times, as per collapse issues, I don’t think you do. As for issues like multiple universes and the anthropic principle, you should realize that everyone, amateur gadfly or real physicist, are blind men poking at an elephant.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B..

    BTW, you can’t find about the motional issues of the field of a planar mass even in ordinary textbooks. I kept tweaking you about the falling moving mass because I didn’t see that you related your point to mine (about elevator progress), and showed the first negated the concerns of the second; not because you didn’t make your point well in its own context. As I said, you could leave that be until I fiddled with making them work together.

  • http://www.gregegan.net/ Greg Egan

    You could at least acknowledge the divergence between some classic views of recent decades, and ideas like decoherence and MW, and even the way you talk about it, that are not orthodox in terms of those previous views.

    That there are disagreements among genuine quantum physicists about the interpretation of QM is old news. This might well last another thousand years. But when you spam this blog with endlessly regurgitated comments about the “stupidity” and “hypocrisy” and “repellent emperor’s new clothes” of anyone who believes that decoherence can look like a collapse, you’re just showing your ignorance; every quantum physicist, whatever interpretation they favour, understands and accepts that this is the case. I’m actually entirely agnostic about the MWI, but I’ve studied enough QM to know what decoherence is. (There was a time when I did not understand what it was. At that time, I did not rush around telling everyone who did that they were fools and hypocrites.) Instead of dismissing my example as irrelevant, you might want to contemplate this: whenever those “hits” you are so enamoured with take place, the particle in question is interacting with a great many other particles in the screen or detector, none of which are accessible to detailed quantum experiments by the observer. Having seen what happens in the simplest case — when a particle is correlated with one other particle, to which we temporarily deny ourselves access — and noting that that gives the appearance of a collapse, you shouldn’t be surprised that having no access to billions of particles correlated with the one of interest has the same kind of effect. But to actually reason about this in detail, you need to go and learn about density matrices and observations on sub-systems, not just wave your hands and waffle about the philosophical issues that you imagine somehow trump everything else.

    You flatter yourself with the notion that you are engaged in some kind of Socratic dialogue here. The reason almost nobody responds to your thought experiments in GR is because they’re so steeped in misconceptions and misapplied concepts that it’s obviously going to be a massive, thankless job trying to disentangle your delusions about the subject. Yes, it’s obvious that you’ve glanced at some academic papers, textbooks and Wikipedia articles on GR, but the result of you nibbling around the edges is that you’ve acquired some buzz-words and a formula or two, but none of the fundamentals of the subject: you just keeping trying to jam Newtonian, or at best special-relativistic, pegs into GR-shaped holes. If you actually had an interest in gravitomagnetism, why is it that you hadn’t even read the warning at the start of the Wikipedia article you cited on the subject that stated that this model only applied to slow-moving particles? That kind of oversight and misapplication isn’t the exception with your comments on this blog, it’s the pattern shared by almost all of them.

    I know it’s a daunting prospect to study GR systematically outside an academic setting. Nobody’s blaming you for not knowing the subject. What’s exhausting and offensive about reading your comments is that you either don’t grasp that there are basic things you simply don’t know, or you expect people here to fill in all the gaps for you by responding to an endless stream of really dumb questions — many of which are posed as “Hey, looks like you experts don’t really understand anything, because I can come up with this scenario that shows that your theory means black equals white!” Like a customer complaining that the screwdriver you bought is really bad for opening cans of soup, there’s only so much of that kind of thing that anyone’s patience is going to bear. As a newby to this blog, I’ve done my stint of pointing out to you what screwdrivers are good for, and how much a can-opener will set you back. I’ll leave it to other newbies, and the occasional saint or masochist, to keep trying to hammer that message home.

  • Chris

    WOW! That was fun! :)

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Chris, you or anyone else still following this thread can have even more fun (and some enlightenment, I hope) at my indirect response #65 at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/12/10/a-dark-misleading-force/#comment-306605.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.

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