Questionable Motives

March 1, 2011

What’s so special about my special way of knowing?

From the Atheist Ethicist:

 

I have a special way of knowing things.

This special way of knowing is not subject to proof of any kind. These facts exist outside of any realm touched by reason or demonstration. I simply know them. God must have planted the knowledge of these things into my head directly. Since God would not deceive me, I trust these facts beyond all reason. I can trust God because this is one of the unquestionable facts that God has placed in my head.

These facts that I know that are beyond all reason are moral facts. They are facts about who I may kill, who I may maim, who I may imprison, and who I may enslave. They are facts about what I may do to women, what I may do to homosexuals, and what I may do to those who do not believe.

When I come to kill or maim or imprison or enslave you, do not ask me to justify my actions. My actions are self-justified. They come from my special way of knowing that is beyond inquiry – beyond reason.

If you deny that I have this special way of knowing, if you deny that I may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave those that I know I may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave, then you are insulting my beliefs – and that is something I will not tolerate. I do not have to tolerate your insults because my special way of knowing tells me that I do not have to tolerate your insults.

Do not question how I treat women, because in doing so you insult my beliefs.

Do not question my attitude towards or treatment of homosexuals, because that is also an insult to my beliefs.

Do not question my distrust of those who do not believe as I do, because by their mere existence they insult my beliefs.

Do not question me in any way, because to question me is to insult me.

In case you have not figured it out, my special way of knowing also tells me who you may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave. It tells me what you may wear, who you may be alone with, what you may say, and who you may have sex with. If you disobey any of these rules that my special way of knowing gives me, then you have insulted me and my beliefs.

Of course, my special way of knowing tells me what you may say with respect to questioning the facts that I know beyond all reason through my special way of knowing. You should be clear on that matter by now. I will expect you to comply and I will respond in a way that my special way if knowing tells me is appropriate if you do not.

Everything above this point is satire. But, I hold that it represents a very common way of thinking – and a very dangerous way of thinking. While not everybody thinks this way (obviously) we clearly have a lot of people who are far too close to this way of thinking – even if they do not put it exactly this way.

51 Comments »

  1. It must be a particular fantasy of yours that people who believe in God suspend their reason and senses. This whole post is one big straw man.

    Comment by Daniel — March 2, 2011 @ 9:08 am | Reply

    • They do suspend their reasoning when they utilize theology as if it were true.

      Comment by tildeb — March 2, 2011 @ 9:57 am | Reply

      • They’re doing no different than you when you have faith in yourself that you are self-sufficient to supply your own purpose, meaning, or truth; or having faith in what you’ve been taught by your teachers and trustworthy subject authorities. You and they both do the same things. The difference being in the object the faith is put in. Reasoning is not suspended by either party. Reason can only take you so far. Where it leaves off some put their faith in a limited being (self), and other put their faith in a limitless being (God).

        Quite simply, you and they have different starting points for handling reality and truth.

        Comment by Daniel — March 2, 2011 @ 10:15 am

      • But the object of faith in god is purely imaginary. Or do you have evidence that suggests otherwise?

        Comment by tildeb — March 2, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  2. “They’re doing no different than you when you have faith in yourself that you are self-sufficient to supply your own purpose, meaning, or truth; or having faith in what you’ve been taught by your teachers and trustworthy subject authorities. You and they both do the same things.”

    Ermm – nope, reason doesn’t work that way.

    Reason is the application of critical thinking. To be able to think critically, you have to be able to criticise your own thinking in a way that helps you to identify your own weaknesses and biases within your method of inquiry. And if you can’t do that, you have to get others to do it for you. When true reason is applied you never mark your own homework.

    People who use true reason seek out and are guided by knowledge and evidence that fits with reality, even if it goes against their most sacred beliefs.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 2, 2011 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

    • “Ermm – nope, reason doesn’t work that way.”

      absolutely reason works that way. Daniel’s reasoning is solid and he just OWNED y’all. but if you’re talking about “a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration : the science of the formal principles of reasoning” then that would be logic and i think that’s what you mean. reason and logic have long been considered different, yet related, things in philosophical and theological circles.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 2, 2011 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

      • Some people that hold only a few pieces of the puzzle like to pretend that they have the answer to the whole and call it critical thinking, logical, reasonable and whatever else. The object of their faith is imaginary: a sufficient, completely capable, and benevolent self.

        Comment by Daniel — March 4, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

      • That’s a terrible conclusion, Daniel. I have yet to read any gnu atheist who suggests that they “have the answer to the whole…”. But what I do read is a lot of honest people who are atheists who explain over and over that the only way to ‘know’ anything factual about the universe is not to make shit up like those who tell us over and over that god is ‘real’, that god is an actual interventionist agent of creation, that god has purpose and supplies meaning and holds humanity in some special regard, that god’s nature is loving and caring and like a father figure who bestows free will and choice, who is the source for human morality, and and the list of made-up shit just grows and grows.

        When gnu atheists push back and challenge those who makes such bald assertions and who have zwero evidence to back up these claims, the faithful quickly shift into metaphysical nonsense and try to argue that we can figure out all this without hard and fast evidence by substituting bad arguments and poor reasoning. When these are revealed to be nothing more than another batch of made-up shit, the faithful then retreat to metaphor and myth and claim the theology is sophisticated, which really represents the god behind the god in Armstrong-ian terms and that the gnus have impolite tone. Then we move from the ridiculous to the absurd when the faithful try to argue that atheists are just fundamentalists of another kind of faith, are devoted to dogmatic scientism, who hold certain atheists as high priests and accuse gnus as devoted followers of a secular pope, and so on, scattering their unjustified and desperate accusations wherever they can hoping something somewhere – anywhere! – will stick.

        It’s pathetic.

        You say the object of my ‘faith’ is imaginary. If by my faith you mean my confidence in the method of science to produce practical knowledge is imaginary, then I call bullshit. Odious bullshit. The medicines you require are based on what you claim is imaginary. Stop being such a hypocrite: if you honestly believe this ‘faith’, this confidence, is misplaced then walk the walk and reject it. Stop believing the technology it produces actually works. Stop utilizing it in your daily life. After all, it’s all imaginary, right?

        Come off it. Face reality. Learn. Become whole and stop letting your faith-based notions lead you down these intellectual dead ends and turn instead to the method of gaining knowledge that offers humanity our last best hope. Don’t believe me? Fine. How about Captain Jean-Luc Picard? I think this little speech nails it.

        Comment by tildeb — March 4, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

      • I didn’t say the “answer to the whole” was in the positive direction, although I have heard atheists positively proclaim that there is no God. The answer could be in the negative “we don’t have the answer yet and we’re fine with it, although we reserve the right to knock down people’s epistemological systems and put nothing in their place.”

        The latter statement admits the limits of human reason. Both are statements of faith in the sufficiency of self. Even laws of logic cannot be proven scientifically, they must be taken on faith.

        Comment by Daniel — March 4, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

      • There is no evidence for god. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that all the empty claims that there is, that it has a nature and intention and so forth, are based on fabrications. That falls under the conclusion that there is no god like this, although there is always the possibility that a god does exist and has just such characteristics. There is no reason to believe this is true. This is not a statement of faith but a statement of fact: there is no evidence for god.

        Again, science is not a result; it is a method. It has proven to be a highly effective method not becomes someone says so but because it produces something religion does not: testable, verifiable, consistent practical knowledge that works. That’s why you use this method yourself in every area of your life but one which you then hold in a state of special exemption without good reasons to do so.

        Comment by tildeb — March 5, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    • “There is no evidence for God.” This is a fallacious statement for you can’t prove this negative assertion. At best, you could say, “No evidence exists for God within my limited field of knowledge.” At worst, you could say, “No one holds any evidence for God within their limited field of knowledge.”

      Both of these statements support an agnostic point of view, not an atheist point of view.

      Comment by Daniel — March 5, 2011 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

    • But there isn’t! You can qualify that all you want about limited knowledge and a lack of access to every nook and cranny of the universe but it doesn’t change the lack of evidence that should be everywhere if the god hypothesis as so many humans pretend is true. Your position is exactly the same as suggesting that unicorns are real in spite of the absence of all evidence to support it and that failure to locate any so far is not in any way a mark against believing the claim. You then go one step farther and suggest that we can’t conclude that unicorns aren’t real but must settle for the “I don’t know” answer to remain intellectually honest. That’s why the correct default position is non belief. That’s the starting assumption you have to every extraordinary claim in the world and rightly so, or you end up the fool pretending that every claim without any evidence must be answered with an “I don’t know.”

      Is it raining pink elephants in your bathtub right this instant? Pretending you are honest only if you say you don’t know is absurd. Are extraterrestrials living in your left nostril? You don’t know. Got it. Is your neighbour really a mushroom pretending to be a human? Again, you don’t know.

      Riiiight.

      I think agnosticism to be honest must come with equivocal evidence for and against whatever the claim might be. Your assertion that anything less than certainty is an intellectually vacuous position that is DIShonest. And it is dishonest to pretend you actually don’t know when you have no reasons to think it’s even possible.

      Comment by tildeb — March 5, 2011 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

      • “Your assertion that anything less than certainty is an intellectually vacuous position that is DIShonest.”

        I’m not demanding 100% proof positive evidence or 100% certainty of your negative statement. That’s an unrealistic criteria for handling the issues of life. I’m more concerned with what’s more plausible. Your claim is that there is no evidence for God, and that it should be everywhere. Fine. Let’s use the evidence of the entire universe itself. Why is there something rather than nothing? Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature (like numbers or mathematical objects) or in an external cause. If the universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is God. The universe does indeed exist and the explanation for its existence is God. You can disagree with the conclusion, but the argument does logically follow from the premises. And the premises are more plausible than their opposites. In other words, they are more true than false. I am not saying this is 100% true just more plausible than its negation. So you see, there is indeed evidence for God’s existence, God being defined basically as a being that exists by the necessity of its own nature. Having this nature, it would be impossible for this being, this uncaused cause, not to exist and it would exist in every possible world and in every possible universe.

        If you like to imagine that a unicorn exists and have the same importance and properties as God, then you are just giving God another name. Unicorns themselves are of no consequence to the cause of the universe, and irrelevant to this discussion.

        Comment by Daniel — March 6, 2011 @ 9:30 am

      • You want plausibility? Then provide plausible evidence for god. What you are doing is metaphysical game that calls something else ‘god’ – in this case the universe – to deduct god.

        If you honestly want to find out how something has come to be as we find it, then do your homework. Stop jumping to the conclusion therefore god to provide you the ‘proof’ you need to assert therefore god is the explanation! You assert over and over that the universe is, therefore god. That’s mere tautology when we substitute your definition for a god as the universe to say god is, therefore god. To then claim that this premise is more true than false is intellectual folly. Because you don’t know how something has come to be as we find it, you pretend you have a knowable answer called ‘god’. But you haven’t a clue what that means because the meaning of the term ‘god’ is completely subjective without any reference points in the universe. In other words, this concept of yours that defines god is an exact replica of what we define as made-up shit. There is no knowable difference between them. To claim there is but have no evidence for me to differentiate between the two is intellectually dishonest when your intention, you say, is provide plausibility. For there to be any plausibility between your concept of god and made-up shit requires you providing some means for me to differentiate between them. Claiming that the nature of god exists by the necessity of its own nature is metaphysical bunk (a closed circle of assertion that is the conclusion) that does not provide any plausible evidence that the claim is, in fact, likely true. There is only tautology.

        Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

      • Let me be clear. I’m not calling the universe “God”. I don’t know how you got that. And I’m not concluding “God” to prove “God” in order to claim “God” as the explanation. How about, you read what I wrote correctly, and then summarize what I said with some intelligence. The way you summarize it makes me think you just skimmed over it. Again, let me be clear – God is not the universe.

        Also, you seem to be confused on the definition of God. I don’t know why when I provided an extremely basic one for you: an uncaused cause existing by its own necessity of nature. And this uncaused necessary being is needful to explain the existence of the universe. If the universe doesn’t need an explanation, then this definition of God will be invalid. But, If you refuse to carry on a logical argument within the given parameters, let me know. I don’t want to discuss an issue with someone who can’t define the issue, won’t accept my definition, or won’t provide a definition himself. I thought you wanted a rational discussion.

        You said, “Claiming that the nature of god exists by the necessity of its own nature is metaphysical bunk”

        I have provided two explanations for things that exist: either in the necessity of its own nature (like numbers or mathematical objects) or in an external cause. There isn’t any cause of the existence of these mathematical entities. They just exist by a necessity of their own nature. Even if there are not 3 objects like three rocks, some philosophers still say that the number three exists because mathematical truths are necessary. 2+1=3 is a necessary truth, and numbers are abstract necessarily existing things. Maybe you don’t understand the concept of things existing by a necessary nature. If that’s the case, I can provide you with more examples of things other philosophers say exist by the necessity of their own nature.

        If you would like to provide another way that you think things can exist, please do so. Otherwise, it is completely logical to propose that if there is a God then it exists by the necessity of its own nature since we can see examples of this in the universe we are in.

        Comment by Daniel — March 6, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

      • Let’s look at your language: you want me to first accept the premise of an uncaused cause. This is nonsensical. If you want me to agree that everything has a cause – and I don’t – then you immediately want me to assume that the first cause must be exempt. I don’t accept this special exemption because it is inconsistent reasoning. Either everything has a cause or everything does not have a cause. You can’t even make up your mind on this first premise. So where does that leave your supposed agency ‘existing by its own necessity’? It leaves it dependent on that special exemption that I do not accept because you’ve offered me no good reason to. You assume that everything has a beginning, which means everything must come from nothing, but you don’t want to accept that notion, hence your reasoning to stick some uncaused cause in there to begin things not from nothing but from something… a supernatural special exempted critter of undefined origins and undefined creative powers. I don’t accept this line of reasoning because it’s full of contradictions that always lead one to insert that which one is trying to prove: god! At the very least, there is no absolutely no way for us to know anything about this uncaused cause that came from nothing or was always present by means of a special exemption. Yet you assert this being as if it were true without any means to inform that opinion other than circular reasoning and special pleading and the existence of the universe. You assert that the universe must have had a beginning and come from not nothing but from this special exemption of an uncaused cause and that this first cause must be exempted from being caused by the existence of its own necessity. And what is that necessity? Why, it’s the universe, of course! The universe proves god because only god could create the universe!

        The form of a logical argument does not establish the truth of the conclusion unless the premises are also true. You simply assert the premises that god fits the criteria you need it to fit by special pleading and then reach the preordained conclusion as if it proves the truth value of the premises. This is exactly backwards.

        The beginning of the scientific revolution really began when this metaphysical foundation that objects had ‘natures’ that were described by properties was revealed to be hollow… a model built on sand. We can thank Galileo for this. He showed that the properties once assigned to objects did not in fact describe the objects themselves but forces acting upon them. We make a mistake assigning natures to objects but because the early church absorbed platonic ideas we find this continued reliance on a thoroughly discredited epistemology of metaphysics. A rock does not fall because it’s in its nature to be heavy and wish to rejoin other objects that have the same ‘property’. A rock we now know has no nature whatsoever and to continue thinking it does is a throwback to earlier times when ignorance looked just like metaphysical assertions… with no way to determine the difference. Now we can determine the difference using the method of inquiry called science and this method has allowed us to make remarkable progress in our knowledge about the physical. But theology only changes when forced to do so and your argument for uncaused causes by critters beyond the physical ring hollow because there is no way to differentiate between these claims and delusion. The metaphysical has no epistemology available to check assertions made in its name. That’s why you can claim god – a metaphysical critter – is like this or that, causes this or that, wants this or that, intends this or that, and have nothing but your assertions about the properties you assign to the metaphysical nature of your god to back you up. As far as I can determine, all these claims you make about god are identical to delusion. There is no way to check.

        You attempt to use numbers as evidence of metaphysical natures that are uncaused. But numbers are not real; they are symbolic representations of relationships about quantity. The number four is not real in and of itself. It does not have a nature and it has no mataphysical properties on its own. The concept of the number four is what it represents and this representation is wholly dependent on our understanding of greater and lesser. The number four does not exist based on the necessity of its own nature but as a symbolic descriptor of a quantity greater than three but less than five. Of course this relationship does not exist as a physical thing but that does not make it true in some metaphysical sense of existing beyond our reality as you suggest, a thing that is uncaused. And that’s why I call these metaphysical notions of natures absolute bunk because they cannot be trusted to accurately reflect what’s true.

        Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

      • I’m not here to debate whether numbers exist or not. I’m using them as an example which I’m sure by now you understand even though you reject the possibility. Your understanding was all I was driving at.

        All you really have to do to knock down a logical argument is not accept one of the premises. You’ve made it clear that you reject almost all (or maybe all) of my premises. However, you’ve put nothing in their place so far. You can’t just leave holes in arguments. Replace them. Start with your argument about not everything having a cause. You could also add another explanation for existence other than the two I wrote.

        Comment by Daniel — March 7, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

      • That’s too easy:

        (1) The Fine Tuning Argument is sound. (2) If the Fine Tuning Argument is sound, then there is a Tuner. (3) Therefore, there is a Tuner. (4) If the Tuner is not God, then God does not exist. (5) The Tuner is not God. (6) Consequently, God does not exist.

        And the point of logically ‘proving’ an absurdity is?

        Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  3. Those who put reason on themselves or their teachers are basing it on something that is real – it can be checked and verified independently and with relative consistently. Those who are basing their reasoning on God are putting their faith on something that cannot be tested.

    The other issue is this statement “Reason can only take you so far.”

    And so it is true of faith – the trouble is, faith does not make planes fly, or cure the sick, or blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe, or split the atom…. … …..

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 3, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

    • “Those who put reason on themselves or their teachers are basing it on something that is real”

      are you talking about reason or logic? once again, two different things. gloria steinem stated “Reason is in the eye of the beholder.” Origen stated “we all have our reasons, seldom are they good or logical ones.”

      “the trouble is, faith does not make planes fly, or cure the sick, or blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe, or split the atom…”

      it absolutely can. faith that one can make planes fly, blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe causes these things to happen. if there were no faith in these events, they would have never happened.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 3, 2011 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

  4. it absolutely can. faith that one can make planes fly, blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe causes these things to happen. if there were no faith in these events, they would have never happened.

    Here we go with the bait and switch again.

    Don’t you love the word ‘faith’ that means one thing in the secular world and the exact opposite meaning in the religious? In the secular, faith means reasonable trust based on evidence, a prior history that establishes a knowable and predictable pattern, a confidence earned built on good reasons subject to verification and testing.

    In the religious world, faith means trust for trust’s sake, a willingness to trust in things unseen, an idea to accept as true with no requirement of evidence nor testability nor verification, a confidence granted not because of good reasons but it their absence.

    Comment by tildeb — March 3, 2011 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

    • I am using reason in the Neo-Kantianism sense.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 3, 2011 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

      • what cracks me up about Neo-Kantianism is it’s based on Kant who definitely believed in God and was highly influenced by the church. however, he stated that “The reality of the idea of God can only be proved by means of this idea, and hence only with a practical purpose, i.e., to act as though (als ob) there is a God, and hence only for this purpose” (Lectures on Logic, p. 590-91) and adds in the same lecture that the idea of God cannot be separated from the relation of happiness with morality as the “ideal of the supreme good.” which is much different than the fundamentalists would view God and is the same tradition i come out of… he was quite influential in formulating modern biblical criticism.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 3, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

  5. no bait and switch, just picking up on Ranter’s lazy use of language and using it to my advantage. so yes, i do love how nebulous words can be and i love word play. so it’s not a bait and switch but good debating. especially where the words have multiple meanings like faith. faith has many uses both inside of religion as well as outside. plus how you define is wishful thinking. “a prior history that establishes a knowable and predictable pattern” this was not the case when the first programs to land on the moon, split the atom, or even to build a flying machine. there was no pattern, no history aside from failure and a belief that we would eventually get it right. thus these ideas were accepted as true with no requirement of evidence nor testability nor verification until after the fact.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 3, 2011 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  6. ” this was not the case when the first programs to land on the moon, split the atom, or even to build a flying machine. there was no pattern, no history aside from failure and a belief that we would eventually get it right.”

    There was a pattern – the pattern was mathematics, theory and experiment.

    We built prototypes and tested them, to refine and prove our theories beyond reasonable doubt… that’s why we sent dogs into space first and it is why animals are involved in the testing of drugs.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 3, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  7. “what cracks me up about Neo-Kantianism is it’s based on Kant who definitely believed in God and was highly influenced by the church.”

    So was Darwin, and so was Newton?

    Your point being?

    What cracks me up is the more these arguments that were dreamt up by the religious and funded by the religious establishment, the more popular they became and the more people started to question the role of religion in society as something that is necessary. The controversy that religion focused on such ideas fuelled its demise – which is poetic.

    You have to remember that religion was much more of a social norm during their lives than it is today, my family is not religious, neither are my parents, but their parents were and so were their parents. People were not allowed to question religion, if they did they were considered heretics and treated as social outcasts. In addition, religion was more involved in state affairs such as the provision of schools and education. This mode of thinking is still reflected in our laws which is why we swear on the bible in court, have only just began to undo unjust religious laws – for example homosexuality laws. In fact Alan Turning as recently as the 1940s was persecuted under United Kingdom homosexuality laws – such was the grip of religion on the human rights of the innocent.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 4, 2011 @ 1:16 am | Reply

  8. “So was Darwin, and so was Newton?”

    not Darwin as much as Newton. Darwin was influenced and his wife was very religious but he wasn’t at all. Newton and Kant were very much so. Hume, a contemporary of Kant, was an outright skeptic and in later years an atheist.

    “You have to remember that religion was much more of a social norm during their lives… ”

    yes and no. around some 40% were regular church attenders (criteria being 1 visit each month) and yet Kant was a super-regular church goer (almost never missing service, even going while sick) but his ideas, while rooted in Christianity and influenced by Lutheranism, didn’t keep him from taking a non-being image of God. the church did have more political capital than it does today and thank God for that.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 4, 2011 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

    • and faith that these things would work out.

      No! There was zero faith in the religious sense involved. Faith in the scientific sense is a FAILURE of procedure – a substitution of what is knowable only through inquiry-based effort with what is merely and simply imagined. That’s what theological faith is. Only in theology are faith-based beliefs – because that’s what you’re pretending is the case – acceptable. In every instance you listed – landing on the moon, building flying machines, splitting the atom – faith-based beliefs were NOT any part of the success whatsoever. To suggest otherwise is intentionally misrepresenting how these achievements were obtained and you know it!

      Comment by tildeb — March 4, 2011 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

    • Darwin went to school to become a clergyman, was fascinated by natural history (as biology was called in those days) and was intrigued by Paley’s idea of some kind of divine design. It wasn’t until the death of his daughter long after his voyage on the Beagle that he could no longer bring himself to accommodate even the appearance of religious involvement. As he writes, he could not find any way to allow belief in a kind and loving god who would have created the ichneumonidae (wasp) to lay its eggs in the living body of a caterpillar where the young would feed on the living flesh of a caterpillar with locked-in syndrome.

      Newton spent far more time trying to figure out some laws to inform astrology (he failed) than he did on calculus, optics, and physics combined. And that’s what faith-based beliefs do: they waste your time.

      And yes, MUR, of course religion – as far as respecting it enough to allow its inclusion as right and proper in the public square – was much more a social norm.

      Comment by tildeb — March 4, 2011 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  9. “And yes, MUR, of course religion – as far as respecting it enough to allow its inclusion as right and proper in the public square – was much more a social norm.”

    Indeed – I know this is true, because the town centres in England are littered with buildings dedicated to god – and not just churches, hospitals, schools, public baths, libraries – religion was pushed by the state and used by the state to assert the state’s authority over the population. People were more religious in the last century and the century before, but they were also more ignorant of the wealth of scientific knowledge that we have today… if they knew what we now know then, these buildings would not be dedicated to god.

    When a new hospital is built these days it is far more likely to be named after a scientific contributor than a Saint – and this I think is also telling of where the public’s appreciation of the standard of living is actually coming from.

    I think religion is fast becoming socially unacceptable in the public space. We have a preacher in town, the type who stands on a soap box shouting – a hundred years ago, a crowd would have gathered to listen. These days, people go out of their way to walk around him. Our churches are standing empty; our religious leaders are ridiculed for their odd beliefs and traditions that are not compatible with modern life.

    The world is changing.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 5, 2011 @ 7:09 am | Reply

  10. “No! There was zero faith in the religious sense involved.”
    -really? you have evidence that these scientists never went to church and prayed about these things while they were in the process of discovering them? seems a lame claim.

    “Darwin went to school to become a clergyman,”
    -absolutely! the church was his spring board, he knew it inside and out. his wife remained religious and he knew the implications that his book would have in that particular world. that’s why he withheld publishing it for twenty years as he worked on gathering data and securing arguments against his book. when it came out, in hyper-religious Victorian England, it was a great success and generated no controversy. that came later.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 5, 2011 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

    • No, the lame claim is that there was faith involved… with zero evidence to back that up.

      The interesting bit about Darwin and his work is the letter writing campaign he undertook before publishing. He actively sought out the best and brightest minds he could to get them to offer him their criticisms. Remember, he was looking for design originally but came to his conclusions honestly by following the evidence.

      Also of interest is how evolution replaces the notion of a necessary creator with a natural mechanism for which oodles of evidence has poured. It is exactly this problem that has the likes of Uncle Gibberson of the Southern Baptists all a-flutter with the position of those at Accommodationist Central: BioLogos. With no need of a necessary creator – especially for human kind – this mechanism lays bare the claim that we were made in god’s image. We weren’t ‘made’ at all but evolved to our present state. This is a major problem not for science one whit but for those who cling to imaginary notions unsupported by and in this case contrary to overwhelming evidence for the mechanism Darwin first enunciated.

      Comment by tildeb — March 5, 2011 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  11. “the lame claim is that there was faith involved… with zero evidence to back that up.”
    -i have no evidenced they brushed their teeth either, but since it is what most ppl were doing then, seems to be a good surmise.

    “Remember, he was looking for design originally but came to his conclusions honestly by following the evidence.”
    -which is why he’s always trumped up by your kind, forgetting the basis of the church and his kindness toward those still in it, even though he wasn’t.

    “th no need of a necessary creator”
    -yet he didn’t push for that. just laid the mechanics and stated that the theologians would sort it out. plus this heavily depends on how one defines “a creator.”

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 5, 2011 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

    • But you’re not suggesting that the brushing of teeth was an important or necessary component to figuring out how we could land on the moon and return, build flying machines that do various kinds of tasks, splitting the atom and harnessing this energy, are you? But you ARE making the following claim to MUR’s statement faith does not make planes fly, or cure the sick, or blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe, or split the atom…” to which you replied it absolutely can. faith that one can make planes fly, blast rockets to the moon, or build a knowledge of the universe causes these things to happen. if there were no faith in these events, they would have never happened.

      You are making a specific claim that faith in the religious sense was a necessary condition. I think you are unquestionably wrong in this assertion. Faith-based beliefs had nothing whatsoever to do with attaining these accomplishments not because I think or because I would prefer it to be so, but because the accomplishments themselves have no requirement AT ALL for these faith-based beliefs to be a necessary component. They are completely unnecessary. They are not even trivially necessary. But rather than admit to having cast out a claim that has no merit in fact, you attempt to squirm your way out of backing up your claim first by altering the language and by then suggesting that faith might simply have been a part of the common life of some of these scientists… like the brushing of one’s teeth. This is typical obfuscation by the faithful: no matter what claim is made and no matter how outrageous or extraordinary it might be, to support the notion of wide-spread acceptance of some faith-based belief means we’re all supposed to just go along and pretend it’s okay to do so over and over again.

      Well, it isn’t okay to make these outrageous and extraordinary and expect everyone to just go along. It’s dishonest. It’s disreputable. It’s disrespectful of what’s actually true.

      Unless you can show why faith in the religious sense is or was a necessary condition for these technological advances specifically, then retract your claim or alter to show that it’s merely your opinion and one you prefer to hold in spite of no evidence to back it up. You have over-reached and I’m simply calling you on it… as should everybody who hears others make these sorts of empty claims.

      As for Darwin, I just wanted to point out that like most well educated young men of his time he was typically religious and perhaps slightly more so than most because of his enrollment to become a member of the clergy and expectation to work after graduation as such. But he, like Newton, didn’t let their faith-based beliefs curtail their honest inquiries into the natural workings of the world. And I do this only because you said “Not so much Darwin as Newton” from MUR’s comment questioning the assertion that such people must have necessarily been highly influenced by the church because they were religious. I think MUR’s point that this is not necessarily true stands unopposed. Although this point of mine is no more than an historical quibble, I think Darwin was probably more religious than Newton who purposely avoided becoming a priest but I don’t know a whole lot about Sir Isaac and could easily be mistaken in these specifics.

      Comment by tildeb — March 5, 2011 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  12. “Your position is exactly the same as suggesting that unicorns are real in spite of the absence of all evidence to support it and that failure to locate any so far is not in any way a mark against believing the claim.”
    -if i claimed that unicorns caused existence and all there is to it, then you’d be correct. i think this is an intellectually dishonest strawman on daniel. theists and atheists are asking the big questions “why are we here? how did we get here?” taken the presupposition that nothing can’t create something, then something had to have created this. to ascribe it to God is one narrative.. to ascribe it to nothing or accident is another. i don’t find nothing or an accident appealing.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 5, 2011 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

    • It was an analogy, Z1G, not based on the size and scope of the claim but the form of it. According to Daniel’s reasoning it is never allowable to assert non belief. That’s absurd and I’ve tried to point out why the form of his reasoning is flawed because it is dishonest.

      Most gnu atheists I think (and I’m just going by what I’ve read by many of them) think such ‘big’ questions about the ‘why’ are really bad questions because we cannot know the answers in any meaningful sense of the verb ‘to know’. And most gnu atheists I think (and I’m just going by what I have read by many of them) assert that theological answers to the ‘big’ questions about the ‘how’ belong solely to science.

      Even the notion ‘something cannot come from nothing’ becomes just another in a long line of cases for special pleading by those who wish for there to be some creative agency. This reveals the befuddled state of the underlying epistemology upon which the wobbly structure of faith-based beliefs must rest. You call this structure a ‘narrative’ but then almost immediately cross the line from the metaphorical and symbolic meaning such a narrative can provide and start making literal claims about this agency, its attribute, its intentions, and so on. When you held to account, you reveal what’s true: all of theological faith-based assertions and assumptions are merely your preferences which have no relationship whatsoever as to how things really are. Preference – fine and dandy in and of itself – has no role to play in what’s probablytrue, probably correct, probably accurate. On this spectrum, preferences have no merit nor relevance. Stop making claims about what’s probably true, probably accurate, probably correct based on your preferences and we’ll get along famously.

      Comment by tildeb — March 5, 2011 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  13. “It was an analogy, Z1G, not based on the size and scope of the claim but the form of it.”

    then it was a bad analogy. analogies state “this is like this” and unicorns are not like God in anyway, shape or form, aside from the fact that YOU think they are made up. try again please.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 6, 2011 @ 7:55 am | Reply

    • Unicorns and the god construct are identical in that they are both completely imaginary – not because I believe they are imaginary but because there are no good reasons to believe otherwise. The idea that you feel confident enough in your belief of what god IS to step forward and say god is not like that (a unicorn) proves my point that the analogy holds.

      Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 8:57 am | Reply

  14. “Unicorns and the god construct are identical in that they are both completely imaginary ”

    even then, it’s a poor analogy as no one has ever claimed unicorns have ever created anything… just played in the rain when the floods came. nor has anyone created world-wide institutions in their names. analogy fails completely.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 6, 2011 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

    • It doesn’t matter what the imaginary claim consists of… the point is that they are equally imaginary. Substitute whatever imaginary claim you want for the analogy to hold. Popularity does not make an imaginary claim true or even possibly true.

      Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  15. “You want plausibility? Then provide plausible evidence for god.”

    infinite universe with an infinite multiverse, therefore the probability is pretty good… depending on one’s definition of God. with Kant’s “highest good” then it’s 100%. ontological models decrease the likeliness from there on out.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 6, 2011 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

    • Yes, the probability is pretty good… in the sum total… but negligible in this particular one.

      Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  16. “Substitute whatever imaginary claim you want for the analogy to hold.”

    you haven’t happened to take a literature appreciation class have you? or any literary criticism? cause you’re wrong any way you cut it. the analogy doesn’t fit. you’re only focusing on the part you like, nothing else.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 6, 2011 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

    • Obviously no analogy will work by your standard because you’re so focused on what you believe is the important part. But from my point of view the important part is trying to describe why Daniel’s 12:32 comment is incorrect to assert that the only appropriate response to a lack of evidence for god is for me to say ONLY “I don’t know” rather than “I do not believe”. My point is that this is ridiculous in the face of a claim that asserts as far as I can tell is imaginary. I then give several examples to show that Daniel is being dishonest to suggest ONLY the “I don’t know” response is proper because he himself fully appreciates that imaginary claims have no equivalent starting point in the middle of some spectrum of what is and is not plausible. That you, Z1G, are so entrenched on insisting that my providing an acceptable analogy to the imaginary term ‘god’ by substituting another imaginary term is tedious because it entirely misses the point I was addressing.

      As for my education on literary criticism being inadequate, that may very well be true. Perhaps I am too unimaginative to come up with some other way to try to open Daniel’s eyes to the absurdity of his position that will be met with your approval. I suspect there is nothing available to me regardless because you disagree with the part you think I supposedly ‘like’ and once again you attempt to paint the lack of evidence for faith-based claims that is the heart of my criticism to be nothing to be really be concerned about, that holding claims to be true that have nothing to back it up is just another kind of preference similar to the knowledge that informs practical technologies that work. Your point as I have surmised it to be is utter bullshit and I suspect that, deep down, you actually understand this criticism of mine is fully justified. After all is said and done, I think you understand that there is a necessary difference between knowledge and ignorance – between what can be known and faith-based claims – that you seem determined to fight against no matter how it is described. And you do so because it causes you cognitive dissonance between your willingness and desire and preference to believe and your ability to know.

      Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2011 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

  17. “Obviously no analogy will work by your standard because you’re so focused on what you believe is the important part.”

    how is this obvious? why are you giving up so quickly? if you want to speak to theists, then you have to speak their language. we theists know a good analogy when we hear it and yet this is the first thing Dawkins throws out and many gnu atheists ignore. get the analogy right, you could have a compelling argument.

    “Z1G, are so entrenched on insisting that my providing an acceptable analogy to the imaginary term ‘god’ by substituting another imaginary term is tedious because it entirely misses the point I was addressing.”

    but God is not imaginary like a unicorn. it’s a bad analogy from your own standpoint. it gets multiplied when you offer it up to theists because we do indeed become entrenched. i’m offended for two reasons that Daniel isn’t (he’s mainly offended that you don’t believe in God) while I take that 1. your site is entirely based on being anti-religious and anti-theist yet you don’t take the time to know what exactly you’re against which leads to 2. your arguments fall very flat due to the first reason which leads to bad analogies like the one you presented. it’s a systems thinking issue, not so much that i agree with your stance, cause i don’t, but your reasoning is biased and thus make really bad arguments because of this.

    “And you do so because it causes you cognitive dissonance between your willingness and desire and preference to believe and your ability to know.”

    and when in doubt, we kill the messenger. i think your claims do have some weight to them and if reasoned throughly do have a lot to say about the current situation of the world and the growing fundamentalist science divide. however your method and total disdain for all things religious (without ever defining what that means: eastern or western? just judeo-christian or all religion?) really needs improvement if you want to reach people on the fence. unless i’ve missed the point of your site which is to be the “amen-corner” for you and ranter… or if it’s purpose is to raise questions and poke holes in beliefs that have no evidence to back them up. so which is it?

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 7, 2011 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

    • Its obvious because you insist any analogy must be ‘just like’ your god with equivalent world-wide institutions. And that’s possible how?

      You assert that god is not IMAGINARY like a unicorn but you will require a buck twenty-five to go along with that assertion to buy a cup of coffee. You need to show (but can’t) good reasons HOW these two ‘things’ are not equally imaginary by providing evidence to establish their differences.

      This site – set by asking important questions – is about showing why faith-based beliefs are not only insufficient but actually toxic to human reason and human rights, freedoms, and dignities. You assume – incorrectly – that this automatically means religion and/or theology and quite often it is. But it’s really about the kind of faith – belief without good evidence – that includes all kinds of woo, from complimentary and alternative medicines and homeopathy to anti-vaccine and wi-fi lies, from the superstition behind witch burning to exorcisms, from anti-intellectualism to the unfounded attacks on the facts that inform the theory of evolution and global warming, from the vatican culpability in child rape to religious claims, it’s all the same thing: faith-based claims in direct competition with what is knowable and true. None of these issues are trivial and I think require good thinking to inform what we know about them.

      By far the most disturbing aspect of this site for most people is understanding why faith-based beliefs in religion are not compatible with science. When someone makes a claim about the universe or something within it, and then tries to assert some faith-based beliefs to support the claim, then that person has crossed the divide from the arena of faith where evidence and good reasons are not necessary into the arena of science where they are a fundamental necessity and this occurs most often regarding some religious claim. That’s why the majority of posts are about these kind of religious faith claims. But is by no means my exclusive area of criticism or complaint.

      I am not disdainful of all things religious. You assume that because I am contemptuous of vacuous faith-based claims still held desperately by many that have been thoroughly discredited and debunked far more eloquently than I will ever be able to replicate. Daniel’s fine tuning argument is a perfect example of a broken argument put to bed centuries ago but still pulled out at the drop of hat by people who really do know better. It’s a stupid and vapid argument – not because it’s religious but because it has a broken epistemology that is less than worthless because it is intentionally misleading.

      Now we turn to question of tone, and I have been receiving advice about my tone for quite a while. You are not the first and you won’t be the last. Rest assured, however, that I think respect for what’s true deserves our primary consideration whether you agree with that or not rather than the feelings of those easily bothered by mistaking legitimate criticism for hostile tone. Want to shoot something I say down? Fine. Show better reasons for thinking differently than I do and you will accomplish this task. I will even thank you for it and mean it. Keep dodging my criticisms as you do and you will earn a harsher and more critical tone from me for being more concerned about evading responsibility for the claims you make than finding out if what you believe is actually true. In other words, these folk deserve a more hostile tone for their misplaced priorities and intellectual cowardice because their concern for what’s true is missing in action.

      Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2011 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  18. I’m not really offended that Tildeb doesn’t believe in God. I think that’s a legitimate choice. However, I’m offended that he doesn’t extend the same respect to me. He believes my choice not to be legitimate but ignorant. Through my arguments I’m trying to show that the theists position is legitimate and doesn’t leave reason behind. I don’t really think I’ll change his mind, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I like testing his version of truth.

    Comment by Daniel — March 7, 2011 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

    • Guilty as charged: I do not respect the argument that bad reasoning should be respected. And I also cannot honestly respect someone’s opinion if that person’s opinion is to denigrate what is true to some secondary and inferior position in favour of some kind of made-up shit.

      Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2011 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  19. gotcha, thanks for clarifying Daniel.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 7, 2011 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  20. “You need to show (but can’t) good reasons HOW these two ‘things’ are not equally imaginary by providing evidence to establish their differences.”

    that’s very easy. even if they are imaginary, we can still see and establish their differences. unicorns are horses that have a horn sprouting out of their foreheads. they occur in Greek natural history texts and are described as in even the earliest references as fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, but always mysteriously beautiful. They could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison.

    God would have created the unicorn, and all of existence. unicorns create nothing save for pooping rainbows or skittles. unicorns could be captured, God can’t. unicorns are geographically bound, God isn’t. unicorns have physical bodies, God doesn’t. you can see unicorns, but no one can see the face of God and live.

    i could go on and on, but i would hope you’d see the difference. a better analogy would start with Zeus and work you way toward the judeo-christian God… or show that the belief in the Jewish God didn’t start out as monotheism (there is ONE God, rest are fake) but monolotry (we worship ONE God out of many). use science and anthropology and history. this of course would take time and studying, which i don’t think you’ll do because despite your protestations, you’re not all that committed here. you think a fly-by should suffice to take down religion which has been with humans from the start of the species.

    i like your list until you hit ” it’s all the same thing: faith-based claims in direct competition with what is knowable and true” it’s NOT all the same thing. not in the least. “from complimentary and alternative medicines and homeopathy to anti-vaccine and wi-fi lies,” don’t rule out the nonrational means that healing takes. you can “cure” a person but to heal them takes touch and more than a little woo.

    “from the superstition behind witch burning to exorcisms,” this is different from above as i find those means rather mundane and good even though they misrepresent science often. this is about power and believing “correctly” in the “correct way through the correct doctrine” and removing those who won’t conform. exorcisms are not the same as witch burning, they would land in the afroementioned catagory.

    “from anti-intellectualism to the unfounded attacks on the facts that inform the theory of evolution and global warming,” agreed, this would fall into the modernist/fundamentalist divide which is mainly a protestant centered issue. Catholics, not so much as they are on quite good terms with science and support evolution and global warming and don’t attack them.

    “from the vatican culpability in child rape to religious claims” this is about power and maintaining the holiness of the Church. completely unrelated to the others. and religions claims you’ll have to define more thoroughly because i don’t know exactly what you mean.

    “Keep dodging my criticisms as you do and you will earn a…”
    -i’m over your tone. and i would do the same for you, to thank you for pointing out inconsistencies and such in my belief system if you’d bother to learn it. my buddy Sabio has, he’s an atheist and has helped me see some holes in what i believe and has helped shape how i approach things. i see your criticisms largely as vacillating between a strawman, Reductio ad absurdum (unicorn and god analogy), and ad hominems.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 8, 2011 @ 10:21 am | Reply


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