Questionable Motives

May 29, 2013

What is consciousness?

Filed under: cognitive studies,consciousness,Neurology,Neuroscience — tildeb @ 12:46 pm

From John Searle comes a TEDx Cern talk that is music to my ears:

May 15, 2013

Why can’t theists and New Atheists have a meaningful dialogue?

Filed under: dialogue,faith-based beliefs,New Atheists,regulation,Religion — tildeb @ 10:33 pm

religious confusionIn a nutshell, because theists alone try to moderate it.

I like to comment on other sites, like the give and take of a truncated argument where different people become involved and the original post can be explored in detail. This can be rewarding not just for the participants but for the host who can sometimes gather more hits to a site as they follow along. But sometimes I grow weary of  writing comments to start this kind of thread that end up going into moderation never to be seen again. Most religious sites are notorious for their moderation of comments, where the most outlandish and rude commentary is allowed when in support of the web site author but strangled when it becomes critical supposedly because of ‘militant’ tone!

I commented over at Just Thomism in response to a post about why the claim that ‘science destroys creation myths‘ did not matter to right religious creationist beliefs… a post that expressed the notion that myth shouldn’t be mistaken for being anything other than myth, and so any criticism of a creation myth shown to be false by scientific inquiry is not needed and in no way reduces the truth value of creationist claims.  Knowing full well that catholicism requires belief in a literal and historical Adam and Eve for them to have a literal and historical fall to own original sin and then pass it along to the rest of humanity that literally and historically descends from them, I commented how relieved I was that this notion could now be cast aside and that the redemption paid for by a literal and historical Jesus could now be seen as a literal and historical blood sacrifice for a metaphorical sin revealed in a creation myth.

I know, for example, that Pope Pius XII stated (with italics and bold added by me) : “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

Yes, it’s not apparent how reconciliation can occur when science examines reality and adduces that the tenet is factually wrong.


I also know, for example, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390)

Note the word ‘parents’ as in plural – male and female together. It’s important because it’s factually wrong.

So if scientific inquiry reveals, as it has done using genetics, that we do not share a common founding couple, then surely this raises a irreconcilable problem of an incorrect central tenet of the christian faith as it pertains to the need for a literal and historical redemption for a literal and historical Fall. I pointed this out and – Lo and behold! – out came the deluge of sophisticated theology in action!

I was the problem. My lack of understanding sophisticated theology was the problem. Atheism was the problem. New Atheism was the problem. The form of my argument was the problem. My tone was the problem. My faith in the religion of science was the problem, and so on.


Nowhere in this deluge was the criticism ever focused on the actual problem I had raised: that there really was an irreconcilable difference between reality and the faith claim. Several people tried (and I think utterly failed) to find a middle ground between reality and faith by changing the meaning of words and applying metaphysical nebulous terminology to obfuscate defining that a problem actually existed. No dice. There really is an irreconcilable problem that requires the tenet to be changed if what’s true in reality actually matters. But to most believers – and this group of sophisticated theologians relying on the the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and his right arguments specifically – it will never be the tenets of their faith that requires change because they already know The Truth and just have to get everyone else to squint at it the same way by hook or by crook.

As if this theological assault wasn’t enough to send someone concerned with knowledge and respect for reality running from the room that turned out to be padded for the safety of its patients, I find out that one of the inmates – Crude – has posted on his own site a skewed version of just how nasty a person I am In Which The Asshole Makes A Reappearance. I commented in as nasty a tone as he had maligned me and it wasn’t moderated! The Lord works in mysterious ways! But then Crude got to work and lied again. This time, however, I wasn’t allowed to have my rebuttal published, nor any other comments about different posts. No talking allowed, you see, by order of the administrator who wishes to malign.

Imagine the irony when I see this next post by Crude: Is Dialogue With An Atheist Possible? He argues it may be possible with agnostics and atheists (of the weak-kneed variety more concerned with tolerant tone than truthful content) but not with those nasty and brutish people who identify with ‘cult of Gnu atheists’. Yes, the Gnus cannot be reasoned with and so any productive – aka, willing to be respectful of woo – dialogue isn’t possible. What’s possible, of course, is to call them all kinds of nasty names, lie about them, and then ban them from commenting about their unfair treatment!

Anyway, I spent time and effort to make a meaningful comment on this post but, of course, it wasn’t allowed. So I figured, hey, why not post it here if for no other reason than I want to see it on a blog! And I can do that because I understand and appreciate that legitimate criticism is the very heart of any meaningful dialogue. So, here it is:

Crude writes But what makes an atheist a Gnu is, fundamentally, a commitment to the view that not only is theism or Catholicism or (etc) wrong, but that it is a view not worth taking seriously to begin with.

And why is this? Simple. Because supporters of theism don’t respect reality enough to allow it to arbitrate their faith-based beliefs. But this doesn’t stop these supporters from presenting their faith-based beliefs as if they were equivalent to knowledge adduced from reality. This is intellectual fraud and not worth ‘taking seriously’.

 Supporting faith respects a contrary and conflicting stance by respecting what is merely assumed, merely asserted, to be true, to be knowledge, because it is  believed to be true and treats this belief as if it is equivalent to knowledge adduced from the reality we share. But it’s not because it cannot be demonstrated to be so. In addition, in order to maintain this confidence in the belief claims, supporters of the belief will not allow reality to arbitrate them independently; instead, faith – defined as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – is deemed to be the higher virtue than respecting reality’s adjudication of these claims.

 When a believer approaches honest dialogue between those who respect what’s true and knowable about reality based on this arbitration by reality and those who do not allow it any such role (but presume their faith-based beliefs are still equivalent to arbitrated knowledge adduced by reality’s evidence) there can be no meaningful dialogue because there is no meaningful middle ground. If there were a middle ground between what reality tells us is true about it and faith-based claims that would willingly submit to the same arbitration, then we the means to find a common ground. But it is theists – by rejecting reality as the independent arbitrator to faith claims – who have already rejected this means by which we can have a constructive and meaningful exchange of knowledge-based ideas. Theists exercise dishonesty by then blaming others rather than themselves for misunderstanding and misconstruing the knowledge value of their claims based on faith, but when we ask for evidence of this knowledge, guess what we find? Nothing! Faith-based beliefs alone contribute nothing to independently verifiable knowledge (justified true beliefs), produce no practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere in reality. Sure, they produce assertions and assumptions masked by nebulous terminology if the theists are sophisticated enough to try to obfuscate this fact, but that’s it.

 So what is there to talk about?

 Well, the New Atheists talk about confronting religious privilege in the public domain and why this privilege is both unwarranted and unjustified, and for this audacity, are vilified. Just look at the kind of religious terms Crude uses to try to smear New Atheists. And we see these religious smears all the time. (This is a clue…) New Atheists are commonly called ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ and ‘angry’ and all manner of typical putdowns but they are also called ‘cultists’ and ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘evangelicals’ and ‘religious extremists’ and so on . This is the ‘dialogue’ that we have in play, and one that never treats the criticisms of New Atheists straight up and seriously by using reality successfully to arbitrate faith-based claims and  produce knowledge. Pointing out that there is no shared epistemology – no reliable and consistent method independent of faith – to connect faith-based claims to the adjudication of an independent reality means there is no common ground on which to discuss meaningful differences between those who respect reality’s role to arbitrate claims made about it and those who demand a special exemption for their faith-based claims… but want everyone to go along with accepting the charade that these claims are equivalent to knowledge… but another <i>kind</i> of knowledge.

 Not going to happen. Not ever. Not on our watch.

Although supporters of religious privilege effortlessly use reality-based knowledge all the time in their regular lives, when it comes to the public treatment of their faith-based claims, those who continue to respect reality and hold these beliefs in the same contempt believers themselves use elsewhere, are suddenly the bad guys, the ones who should be written off, the ones in need of… wait for it… blogging administration and comment approval! Why? Because such bloggers as Crude are more concerned with protecting their faith-based claims from legitimate criticism than dealing with it in a mature and intellectually open and honest respectful manner. And that’s why we cannot have any meaningful dialogue and why theists themselves – and not New Atheists – do not allow their faith claims to be taken seriously.

There. That feels better.

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