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Just 60% Of Americans, 43% Of Republicans, Accept Theory Of Evolution

Darwin Fish

One of the things that has always puzzled me about the United States is the extent to which members of the public let religious beliefs interfere with their opinions on political and cultural matters. This seems especially true when it comes to the whole “War On Christmas” meme and the manner in which certain people become bizzarely offended if someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or the way that large segments of the public end up rallying around a public figure or business who they believe are being attacked because of their religious faith. Recent examples of this can be seen in the whole Duck Dynasty nonsense, the Chick-Fil-A controversy, or the manner in which the entire conservative movement seemed to defend Rush Limbaugh when he called a young woman a slut when she spoke out in favor of public subsidies for birth control coverage.

None of them, however, have struck me as more bizarre than the manner in which the question of “belief” in the scientific Theory of Evolution is treated in this country. This is an issue that has been a controversy in the United States going all the way back to the early 20th Century and the Scopes Monkey Trial, and its continued well into today. Opponents of the teaching Darwinian Evolution in public schools continue their efforts to restrict such education, often by disguising themselves as people who want to give “equal time” to the totally discredited idea of “Intelligent Design,” which is actually nothing more than Creationism dressed up with language that sounds like its scientific. Additionally, polling shows that when Americans are asked if they believe in the Theory of Evolution, the number is seldom higher than somewhere around 65%. I’d suggest that this is far lower than anything you’d garner in a poll conducted in Europe, Australia, or the industrialized democratic nations in Asia such as Japan or South Korea. At the very least, I doubt you’d find as much controversy over the idea of teaching the idea of Evolution via Natural Selection in school classroom as their is here in the United States.

Here in the U.S., though, it’s clear that evolution remains as nearly as controversial as it was when John Scopes was put on trial for daring to teach Darwin in violation of Tennessee law. The latest poll from Pew Research Center on this topic shows that a mere 60% of Americans accept evolution as the explanation for how the human race came to exist. What’s most interesting from a political point of view, though, is the extent to which there is a significant partisan gap on the issue:

When it comes to increasing partisanship in the United States, it seems no issue is immune. And that includes evolution.

A new Pew Research Center poll shows a widening political gap over theories about how humans came to be, with Republicans growing increasingly skeptical about the idea that humans evolved over time.

Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory has dropped 11 points, from 54 percent to 43 percent.

So while there was a 10-point gap in 2009, there is now a 24-point gap.

Pew says similar shifts have not occurred for any other demographics, either racial or religious.

For self-identified independents the numbers for 2013 are 65% to 29% in support of evolution, while in 2009 it was 67% to 27%.

Here’s the demographic breakdown on the polling question:

INSERT “evolution2013-5.png

Understandably, there’s also a significant gap based on religious beliefs:

A majority of white evangelical Protestants (64%) and half of black Protestants (50%) say that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. But in other large religious groups, a minority holds this view. In fact, nearly eight-in-ten white mainline Protestants (78%) say that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated (76%) and 68% of white non-Hispanic Catholics say the same. About half of Hispanic Catholics (53%) believe that humans have evolved over time, while 31% reject that idea.

(…)

Just as religious groups differ in their views about evolution in general, they also tend to differ in their views on the processes responsible for human evolution. For instance, while fully 78% of white mainline Protestants say that humans and other living things have evolved over time, the group is divided over whether evolution is due to natural processes or whether it was guided by a supreme being (36% each). White non-Hispanic Catholics also are divided equally on the question (33% each). The religiously unaffiliated predominantly hold the view that evolution stems from natural processes (57%), while 13% of this group says evolution was guided by a supreme being. Of the white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants who believe that humans have evolved over time, most believe that a supreme being guided evolution.

The above chart also shows us a less surprising split on this issue, and that’s the one based on the level of education that the respondent has achieved. Someone who has gone to or graduated from college is far more likely to accept evoluion than someone who has only a High School Diploma or never graduated from High School at all.

Rather than engaging in the same kind of let’s bash those idiot Republicans that many bloggers seem to be using these poll results to do, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to explore the reasons why we see poll numbers like this, and why they seemingly persist over such a long period of time. After all, it’s perhaps not too surprising that people in the early 20th Century might find the still relatively new theories that Darwin were presenting to be questionable at best, but one would think that human beings living in a much more technologically advanced and, presumably, more scientifically literate society to be more accepting scientific reality.

So, that leaves us with two questions.

Why is it that in the first decade of the 21st Century, only 60% of the American public accepts the general idea that human beings evolved over a vastly long period of time via a process of natural selection, something which every piece of archaeological evidence ever uncovered has largely confirmed, while a full 1/3 outright rejects the idea? Certainly, as noted above, demographic issues such as one’s level of education and the types of religious beliefs one holds are part of the equation. Is that all it is? Are people resistant to accepting the idea that they ‘came from a monkey,” which is the way many opponents of teaching evolution in schools fraudulently describe what evolution via natural selection actually says about human evolution? Is it some general distrust of science and scientists? These are some of the questions that I’ve asked, mostly to myself, every time one of these polls has come out.

The second question is why is it that Republicans/Conservatives are so much more skeptical of evolution via natural selection than Democrats or Independents and, indeed, why is the gap between political parties on this issue larger than pretty much any other demographic split in the poll?Part of this issue, of course, points right back to those same poll demographics. The GOP has a much larger percentage of Evangelical Christians among its members than Democrats and Independents. Conversely, Democrats and Independents tend to be more likely to have advanced degrees or to have gone to college. These are numbers that have been polled over long periods of time and are rather indisputable. Is that sole explanation for the fact that less than half of them accept evolution and nearly 50% reject it outright, a number far higher than for any other political demographic?

Perhaps part of all of this is a reflection of the state of science education in this country. Indeed, the most recent international survey of math,science, and reading test scores among industrialized nations shows the United States ranking below average in math, science, and history, and well below the top scorers in all three categories which was made of students in Shanghai, China. When you’re getting results like that, perhaps it’s not too surprising that acceptance of such a basic scientific principle as evolution via natural selection is so low in this country. There are more important things in the world, of course, than the evolution question. However, to the extent that it’s a reflection of a wider problem such as this, then it’s something we really ought to be paying attention to.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    Your headline is wrong. Only 32% of Americans accept the theory of evolution through natural selection. Its nice that another third or so believe in supernaturally-guided evolution, but that is not a scientific theory.

    Also, Republicans are getting dumber, if that’s possible. Devolving.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 5

  2. Mikey says:

    @mantis:

    Also, Republicans are getting dumber, if that’s possible. Devolving.

    A lot of people have stopped self-identifying as Republican, and the ones who still do are the furthest right and most religious. So no surprise the percentage accepting the fact of evolution is decreasing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 2

  3. Scott says:

    I don’t have any coherent discussion points, mainly because I have trouble understanding the minds that reject basic science. And a lot of these rejectors are friends and family!

    It used to be (I think) that Marxists held that everything has a political component. In this country, we have gone further. It seems as though everything, including facts, are political in nature. Belief systems are so tied up that even one strand like evolution can be pulled to unravel a belief system.

    It is possible that even our language is too loose and causes some of the trouble. We talk about belief in evolution. Evolution is not a belief system; it is a system of scientific facts and concepts. You do or do not believe in it; you accept or not accept.

    Part of the problem is the hold that fundamentalism has on our country. It first came into being around the turn of the 20th century as a Christian religious movement. Partly as a response to Modernity, fundamentalism resisted the increasing acceleration of science and technology as well as economic growth. It still resists in many different ways. It fuels the fights in the schools. It animates the tea party. It resists change in general.

    Like I said, this is a big, complex topic and these are just random thoughts. Hopefully others can constructively contribute.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  4. Franklin says:

    If we could just figure out a way to profit from evolution by natural selection, this problem would be solved. Republicans would become believers overnight!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mikey: I agree,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  6. Moosebreath says:

    Once again, Doug shows that he thinks all Conservatives and Republicans are economic conservatives like him who are in it for low tax rates and class warfare on behalf of the upper class. When it is repeatedly shown that most are social and religious conservatives who are in it to impose their laughably incorrect doctrines on the rest of us, he just gets confused.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 6

  7. Stonetools says:

    Very good post. As one who started out as a young earth creationist and who “evolved” on the issue, I can tell you that the theory of evolution does pose a serious challenge to those committed to a literal interpretation of the bible. It is only after you understand that the creation stories in Genesis werenot meant to be blow by blow descriptions of how God created the universe that you can resolve that conflict.
    A lot of folks of course reject that solution and thus the possibility of harmonizing their faith with science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  8. Woody says:

    Apologies for beating on a dead horse here, but the decreasing number of Republicans and evangelicals who believe in evolution is directly tied to the commingling of Charismatic Romantic (i.e. emotional/ecstatic) Christianity and neofeudalist conservatism. Worshipers gain their daily devotions through Fox News and rightwing talk radio.

    There is an intensely emotional need for these Believers to prove their heroic self-image and their media dutifully (and profitably) feeds this need by endlessly promoting fear of the Other, expressing outrage at every challenge to this worldview, and granting martyr status to approved brethren who have been criticized by non-Believers. This has been going on for twenty years, every single day. It cannot be questioned as this would endanger one’s faith and acceptance within this true community.

    They are proud to stand athwart Darwinism, whilst expressing disgust at US education, always losing ground in science to the secular, heathen foreigners. They will be steadfast. Their faith demands it.

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  9. CSK says:

    Perhaps I missed it, but was there any breakdown by geographical region? I’d think that you’d be far more likely to find Creationists in the south rather than the northeast.

    Paul Broun, who is running for Chambliss’s senate seat in Georgia, has stated that he has “proof” that the earth is only 9000 years old. Broun’s a medical doctor, which argues he has a high level of education (on paper), who’s repudiated what he learned in medical school as “lies from the pit of hell.” He’s also a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

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  10. Mu says:

    Whether you have an exclusive natural selection or divine guidance is currently untestable, so I don’t mind those who believe in guided evolution. At least they accept the observable facts. Unlike their vegetarian t-rex in paradise brethren who believe the dinosaurs died after the great flood who tell you god buried that dinosaur bone 6000 years ago to test our faith.

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  11. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @mantis: I do not see a problem with people who believe in a Divine Creator viewing the scientific evidence and deciding that natural selection is one of the tools in said Divine Creator’s toolbox (like quantum mechanics, or plate tectonics). In general, those folks are not the ones going around undermining the teaching of the scientific method or The Enlightment or using the phrase “but its just a theory”.

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  12. John Burkr says:

    “Why is it that in the first decade of the 21st Century, only 60% of the American public accepts the general idea that human beings evolved over a vastly long period of time via a process of natural selection, something which every piece of archaeological evidence ever uncovered has largely confirmed…”

    Hey, Mr. Science Big Shot, “archeology” is not the discipline that has “ever uncovered” any evidence to “largely confirm” anything about evolution one way or another. That would be paleontology, evolutionary biology, even physical anthropology. Archeologists can tell you a lot about ancient Egypt in the time of the Hebrew slavery though!

    If you are going to adopt a pose of condescension to the ignorant, unwashed masses, it would be better to bone up first.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  13. matt bernius says:

    @CSK:

    Perhaps I missed it, but was there any breakdown by geographical region? I’d think that you’d be far more likely to find Creationists in the south rather than the northeast.

    There was no geographic breakout of data. It would be interesting to see that.

    While I generally agree with your hypothesis, I think looking at the data in terms of an urban/rural divide might be useful as well.

    @Mu:

    Whether you have an exclusive natural selection or divine guidance is currently untestable, so I don’t mind those who believe in guided evolution. At least they accept the observable facts.

    Generally speaking, this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  14. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    What’s interesting is, that on the basis of the reading I’ve done, it seems to be the religious right that’s rejecting the Republican label, on the grounds that the Republican Establishment is composed of Godless Democrats-in-disguise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. CSK says:

    @matt bernius:

    Yes, an examination of the urban/rural divide would be interesting. But even there, you might find some unexpected results. Vermont is quite rural–but it’s also very blue. That may underscore the difference between north and south. I suppose you could argue, though, that Vermont is full of urban transplants who’ve brought their politics and world views with them from the city. In New Hampshire, which has fewer urban immigrants, you’d be likely to find more Creationists. Not, however, in overwhelming numbers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Al says:

    Hooray! My kid will automatically have leg up over a huge chunk of the population when she enters the workforce!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  17. PD Shaw says:

    @matt bernius: The geographic information can easily be assumed. Here are the groups that least believe in evolution:

    White Evangelical Protestants (8%)
    Black Protestants (17%)
    Hispanic Catholics (27%)

    While I believe most American Protestants are doctrinally evangelical Christians, the question appeared to give Protestants a choice between that and “mainline,” and I suspect that led the “White Evangelical” category to be fundamentalist and non-affiliated. In any event, these groups are not randomly distributed in the U.S., they are primarily in the South.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. mantis says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    I do not see a problem with people who believe in a Divine Creator viewing the scientific evidence and deciding that natural selection is one of the tools in said Divine Creator’s toolbox (like quantum mechanics, or plate tectonics).

    Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with it either. It’s logical and it reflects an acceptance of evidence. That’s a good thing. However, evolution through natural selection is a scientific theory, while evolution through supernatural selection is not. There is no observable, documented evidence of supernatural activity influencing the development and evolution of life on Earth. If some arises, then that would be something. Until then, it ain’t science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  19. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Scott:

    “It used to be (I think) that Marxists held that everything has a political component. In this country, we have gone further. It seems as though everything, including facts, are political in nature. Belief systems are so tied up that even one strand like evolution can be pulled to unravel a belief system.”

    And this is why I have given up trying to have “those” conversation.

    I am tired of trying to have logic-based conversations with individuals that are intentionally ignorant.

    I have finally started to say: “My belief system is not dependent on me convincing you, or of changing your belief system”.

    Yep. Total cop-out, I know.

    But it’s like me trying to teach trigonometric functions to my malamute… It’s a waste of time.

    Still, what do you expect…

    If individuals gather in self-identified clans weekly to convince each other in their belief of the supernatural, then they will have a tendency to admit that they believe in magic.

    What can you say to that, that would be fact based?

    I got nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @CSK:

    If you want to know why Vermont is different, the University of Vermont is the state university with the highest number of out of state students. It was once over 65%. So the urban transplants is very high. Vermont is also the whitest state so it does not have large cohorts of minorities to screw the results. It also a state where few people still attend church and has one of the lowest birthrate (fertility rate) out of all states. Whites are in Vermont are very different in many of the behaviors than whites in red states.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  21. ptfe says:

    @mantis: Standard-fare “spring is brought by the fairies” belief. If you don’t need to invoke something to explain a phenomenon, it should be left out. Unfortunately, belief in the supernatural demands that you incorporate that supernatural belief into experience, or it’s a worthless belief. That makes evolution (not-directly-observable events of long ago that operate on long time scales) an easy target.

    As a bonus, a lot of people don’t really understand evolution anyway. It’s something that people get causally backwards all the time, even the relatively well-educated. It’s easy to see how a belief in a divine entity + belief in the inevitability of the end state = belief in evolution guided by said divine entity toward that end state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @mantis:

    Also, Republicans are getting dumber, if that’s possible. Devolving.

    America has been on the dumbing down for the better part of a generation. Many people have no idea what scientific “theory” means. To these people the word “theory” signifies uncertainty, untested, unknown, ‘up-for-grabs’, and ‘we-just-don’t-know.’

    We’ve moved in a general direction of hostility to objective knowledge and inquiry. It’s going to take a generation before we turn this aircraft carrier around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  23. george says:

    @mantis:

    Your headline is wrong. Only 32% of Americans accept the theory of evolution through natural selection. Its nice that another third or so believe in supernaturally-guided evolution, but that is not a scientific theory.

    Also, Republicans are getting dumber, if that’s possible. Devolving.

    Couple of points.

    First, science is neutral on whether or not some supernatural being guides evolution (or quantum mechanics or any other theory). Some of the greatest scientists have believed in some sort of diety guiding things (a quick Google, starting with arguably the greatest physicist ever, Newton, should make that clear), without it harming their contributions. So long as that diety isn’t directly used as a mechanism in the theory it makes no difference.

    Second, evolution doesn’t have a direction towards intelligence (or anything other than reproduction). If becoming dumber is advantageous under some circumstances, that’s the way evolution will take it. Its not devolution, any more than a species growing smaller is devolution.

    Having said that, not thinking that evolution is by far (as in orders of magnitude better) the best theory to explain the diversity of life on earth is in bat sh*t crazy land.

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  24. matt bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:

    While I believe most American Protestants are doctrinally evangelical Christians, the question appeared to give Protestants a choice between that and “mainline,” and I suspect that led the “White Evangelical” category to be fundamentalist and non-affiliated.

    This is my understanding as well. Essentially “Evangelical” has come to stand for “Charismatic, non-Denominational.”

    You’re correct, that historically these churches have had the largest success in the South. However, my understanding is that in the last two decades the movement has made major in-roads throughout the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. stonetools says:

    I might add that conservatives have a problem with more than just evolution. There is a class of conservative that has no problem accepting evolution but who rejects climate change. The reason there is again ideological: they think its some kind of socialist plot cooked up by leftist scientists to justify taxes and regulation. There are other conservatives who reject environmental science for the same reason. For them,pollution isn’t “all that bad” and the degradation of the environment is less of a problem than “job-killing” regulations.
    Then there are the conservatives who embrace austerity as an answer to economic depression, rather than Keynesian solutions.
    In all these cases, conservatives are rejecting scientific and scholarly consensus for ideological reasons. Liberals have the problem too but to a much lesser extent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  26. PD Shaw says:

    @mantis: I think its simply an oddly worded question, but you’re reading it as a scientific question, which I do not believe it is.

    The question is more of a religious question; directed at dividing those who believe in a literal six day creation, etc., from those who believe that their religious texts are not to be read that way (like Obama), from those who don’t consider religious texts at all.

    I’m trying to think of a scientific question, it would be something to the effect of: Do you believe humans evolved from ape-like ancestors? Yes/No.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  27. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    The verb “to believe” has far less power than stated in the brochure. Zero, in fact. How many “believe” is really rather irrelevant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  28. KM says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I’m trying to think of a scientific question, it would be something to the effect of: Do you believe humans evolved from ape-like ancestors? Yes/No.

    Do you believe understand and accept humans evolved from ape-like ancestors? Yes/No

    Take believe out entirely and you have it. That’s a loaded word and doesn’t have the same context for a lot of these respondents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  29. Rick DeMent says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Vermont is also the whitest state so it does not have large cohorts of minorities to screw the results.

    Nor does it have Appalachian or Ozark “Whites” to screw the results either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  30. Paul L. says:

    that acceptance of such a basic scientific principle as evolution via natural selection is so low in this country.

    What scientific advancements rely wholly on the theory of evolution? Computers? Engineering?
    Mailvox: evolution and the slippery slope

    1. How do creationists “pose a serious threat to society”?

    Society only functions when the majority of the people agree on basic fundamental ideas. A critical mass of people who believe reason and evidence don’t matter is a slippery slope to tyranny.

    4. What scientifically significant predictive model relies primarily upon evolution by natural selection?

    Nothing as precise as physics, but holding a life science to that standard is stupid. Our understanding of genetics, animal behavior patterns, and in an incomplete way, social science, are all aided by the concept of natural selection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  31. Jesus says:

    Headline sould read Breaking news: 57% of Republicans are Idiots

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  32. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @mantis: Yes, I understand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. jib10 says:

    @Al:Yes, since I have became a father, my attitude about all this has changed. Instead of complaining about the crappy math education at our very good local school system, I quietly enroll my son in Stanford’s online math program. The rest of those kids can become lawyers (the fate of smart kids who can not do math), my son will have options.

    The parents who know math understand that the math program is inadequate. The more liberal arts parents are clueless. And I dont tell them. We live in an increasingly competitive world. Being good at math is like a super power. It will vault you ahead of most of the people in your age group.

    In my more contemplative moments I do wonder at what it would be like without the internet. I think the local math program would improve as me and other math oriented parents force the school district to change. But as it is, all the good math people in my area have their kids enrolled in after school online programs. And honestly, my son is getting a much better math education online from Stanford than he would get in a new and improved math program, much better in fact than either me or his mom (both of us have engineering degrees) ever did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  34. Tyrell says:

    I don’t buy that stuff, too many missing links; unless they count lawyers as the missing link. In that case I am in. If I descended from some animal, I certainly would want to be something besides a ridiculous monkey. A wolverine or wild boar maybe.
    My opinion is that the Bible is not and was never meant to be a science book.
    I am waiting for them to clone a mammoth, which I would like to see and may actually occur in the near future.

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  35. rudderpedals says:

    @KM: Maybe the “ape-like” is the sticking point? In light of all we’re learning about the mixemup babies produced by the Neandertals, Denosovians (?), the little people from SE Asian islands and modern humans getting it on, how about asking about the acceptance of these strains all having a common, hominid ancestor?

    @Paul L.: That’s some quality rant at the link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Stan says:

    Being religious doesn’t require you to reject science. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, is both a devoted Christian and a firm believer in Darwin’s theory. I think he’d subscribe to the following quote from an even better scientist:

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

    Galileo Galilei

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  37. editor-b says:

    But, beyond dogmatisms, is there evolution if there is no time? How will evolutionary biology meet new physical paradigms about time, space and so on? Will new conceptual changes deny evolution? Or on the contrary, will it become a more extraordinary process, full of astonishing implications? If so, will human being and the rest of life beings become different as science progresses? Will the image in front of the mirrow of theories change? After all, is life, its origin and evolution, something fix-finite-defined? That is,can one understand it with its peculiar brain and its limited words? Or will science add indefinitely without a complete undertanding? Along these lines, there is a book, a preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just a different-approach suggestion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  38. jib10 says:

    @Paul L.:

    What scientific advancements rely wholly on the theory of evolution? Computers? Engineering?

    Those are old tech. New tech is biotech / genetics. These are the most dynamic fields right now. I am a CompSci person but if I was going to school today, I would be aiming for biotech. As with all scientific fields, it is at the edges that the best work is being done. A lot of that today is trying to understand how genetics and environment interact. That is right in evolution’s wheel house.

    The problem is that blocking the teaching of the theory of evolution blocks the basic training of the next gen scientist and engineers. Evolution is pretty easy to understand and should be taught in middle school. The nice thing about genetics is that it does not require higher math to get the basics so you can start early. Once you get the basics and then move on to what we dont understand about it, it gets very interesting. This can start easily in late high school.

    But no, we cant even get started because crazy people will want to scream about it every step of the way. It would be as if when you started to teach math, you could not teach 1+1=2 unless you showed the formal proof that 1+1 actually equals 2 (this one is 52 steps long, the longest proof is 362 pages). A 1st grader can do 1+1 but you have to be at least in high school and honestly more like college to understand the proof.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  39. mantis says:

    @Tyrell:

    If I descended from some animal, I certainly would want to be something besides a ridiculous monkey.

    You did descend from animals, namely your human parents. Homo Sapiens evolved from great ape primate ancestors (hominids), not from monkeys. Also, it’s not about you personally, a common mistake made by those who don’t understand the science. The facts of evolution are not insults to you or your human ancestors.

    I don’t buy that stuff, too many missing links

    It’s not surprising you don’t believe things you clearly don’t understand.

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  40. mantis says:

    @george:

    First, science is neutral on whether or not some supernatural being guides evolution (or quantum mechanics or any other theory). Some of the greatest scientists have believed in some sort of diety guiding things (a quick Google, starting with arguably the greatest physicist ever, Newton, should make that clear), without it harming their contributions. So long as that diety isn’t directly used as a mechanism in the theory it makes no difference.

    I dispute none of that. I’m only saying that there is no measurable evidence of supernatural intervention, so it has no place in a scientific theory. That doesn’t mean belief in such contradicts science, per se, but rather that such a belief is not a scientific belief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  41. mantis says:

    @Paul L.:

    What scientific advancements rely wholly on the theory of evolution?

    For one, our understanding of viruses and bacteria, the changing nature thereof, and medical science’s ability to adapt would be virtually impossible without our understanding of evolution.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  42. KM says:

    @rudderpedals:

    how about asking about the acceptance of these strains all having a common, hominid ancestor?

    While I agree with the verbiage, somehow I don’t think the people who would object to “ape-like” are aware and/or care about the discoveries and distinctions you’ve made. I would also toss in something along the lines of “current form” or “dissimilar to a past species” to get past the whole same-as-we-always-were dichotomy – its the one where someone tells you “if we evolved from monkey why are they still here” malarkey.

    Do you understand and accept humans in their current form evolved from one or more common hominid ancestors into what they are today? Yes/No

    How’s that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  43. rudderpedals says:

    @KM: Perfect

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. george says:

    @mantis:

    No disagreement on that point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. PD Shaw says:

    Someone will have to prove to me that a majority of the population understands what the word “hominid” means.

    Returning to the original post, what’s odd to me is the poll Doug did not mention. 33% of Americans believe humans have always existed in the same form. 32% believe animals have as well. Selective breeding of plants and animals has long been an observable phenomena, particularly if you grew up on a farm, and animals are generally not treated the same as humans in religions common in America.

    33% of Americans believe that their Holy Book is to be taken literally, word for word. Pew 2008 Study pdf. That a third of Americans are religious fundamentals is all this study tells us. It doesn’t tell us about their schooling, since you can can read or hear that humans evolved from animals, but it doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  46. sam says:

    “Someone will have to prove to me that a majority of the population understands what the word “hominid” means.”

    At a guess, I’d say that in those areas of the US where the anti-evolution belief is the strongest, folks would say it means that stuff that grits is made out of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  47. ernieyeball says:

    @sam: At a guess, I’d say that in those areas of the US where the anti-evolution belief is the strongest, folks would say it means that stuff that grits is made out of.

    Since there are only a few hours left in 2013 I hearby confer upon you the Wavy Gravy award which will expire at midnight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  48. ernieyeball says:

    Do you believe in (insert idea here)?

    How about “Do you see evidence for…and how good is that evidence?”
    ——————————-

    Democrats and Independents tend to be more likely to have advanced degrees or to have gone to college.

    College degrees and such don’t seem to prevent Citizens here in Sleepytown from “believing in” Astrology, Tarot and other nonsense.
    ————-
    Genesis is not even a theory. It is a fairy tale.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  49. Buffalo Rude says:

    @Mu:

    Whether you have an exclusive natural selection or divine guidance is currently untestable, so I don’t mind those who believe in guided evolution.

    I get what you’re trying to say in your comment and largely don’t mind people who can rationalize acceptance of evolution as a legitimate scientific theory that jibes with their religion.

    But the part of your comment that I’m quoting. . . I have a problem with. Evolutionary biology is absolutely testable and, more importantly, falsifiable; while “divine” anything absolutely is not. The comparison is a false dichotomy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  50. sam says:

    “Genesis is not even a theory. It is a fairy tale.”

    Gotta disagree there. It’s one of the most powerfully moving pieces of poetry I’ve ever read, at least in the King James version (not surprising if you know the provenance):

    1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
    2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
    3: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
    4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
    5: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
    6: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
    7: And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
    8: And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
    9: And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
    10: And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
    11: And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
    12: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
    13: And the evening and the morning were the third day.
    14: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
    15: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
    16: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
    17: And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
    18: And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
    19: And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
    20: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
    21: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
    22: And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
    23: And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
    24: And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
    25: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
    26: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
    27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
    28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
    29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
    30: And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
    31: And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

    Always sends a shiver when I read it. Magnificent. And deeply, deeply moving. I’m not at all sure the banal categories of ‘true’ and ‘false’ even apply to it. Is Beethoven’s Ninth true or false? Michaelangelo’s Pietá? Stevens’s Sunday Morning? Some things are beyond the feeble claims of disputation. They just are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

  51. Gustopher says:

    But, they embrace social Darwinism..,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. ernieyeball says:

    Apache Creation Myth
    In the beginning nothing existed, only darkness was everywhere. Suddenly from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator, the One Who Lives Above. When he looked into the endless darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the east, he created yellow streaks of dawn. To the west, tints of many colors appeared everywhere. There were also clouds of different colours. He also created three other gods: a little girl, a Sun-God and a small boy.

    Then he created celestial phenomena, the winds, the tarantula, and the earth from the sweat of the four gods mixed together in the Creator’s palms, from a small round, brown ball, not much larger than a bean. The world was expanded to its current size by the gods kicking the small brown ball until it expanded. Creator told Wind to go inside the ball and to blow it up.

    The tarantula, the trickster character, spun a black cord and, attaching it to the ball, crawled away fast to the east, pulling on the cord with all his strength. Tarantula repeated with a blue cord to the south, a yellow cord to the west, and a white cord to the north. With mighty pulls in each direction, the brown ball stretched to immeasurable size–it became the earth! No hills, mountains, or rivers were visible; only smooth, treeless, brown plains appeared. Then the Creator created the rest of the beings and features of the Earth.

    Always sends a shiver when I read it. Magnificent. And deeply, deeply moving.
    However this does not mean I see any evidence that it is factually correct.

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  53. steve says:

    jib10- Also, sign your kid up for Matholympics. My kid is a Putnam student and a physics major, though he mostly seems to take math courses. Top performers in Matholympics get noticed by local universities since their profs are often judges. Makes for good recommendations and can help get involved with math projects/research.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  54. michael reynolds says:

    Religion trains people to ignore reality and believe in nonsense.

    We are the most religious country in the developed world, so we believe the most nonsense.

    You cannot expect to teach children both the scientific method and that there are magic, unseen creatures marking down every time they masturbate, and somehow square those two. The smart ones either abandon religion or put it into a box to be taken out on holidays for nostalgic warm fuzzies. The dumb ones end up believing the world is 6000 years old and that God buried dinosaur bones to test our faith.

    GIGO. With people just like with computers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 7

  55. michael reynolds says:

    And apropos of secularism, we secularists, we atheists and agnostics, need to do a better job of expressing our values. Not just the epistemology, but the morality required to maintain a decent civilization. Enlightened self-interest rather than just self-interest.

    We are all the products of a civilization without which we would enjoy life a great deal less — if we were able to stay alive at all. We inherited that civilization from the religious as well as the secular. But just as we have as a species taken over management of what was once seen as the domain of the supernatural, and as we now take an ever firmer grasp on our own physical as well as intellectual evolution, as we push gods aside, we need to replace pre-existing codes with something more useful. Maintaining and improving the civilization without which we and are children would be destitute, should be a moral direction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  56. Rick Almeida says:

    @sam:

    Can you show me someone who believes that Beethoven’s ninth spells out exactly how the world and everything in it came to be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  57. steve s says:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/chris-mooney-downplays-religion-as-a-cause-of-creationism/

    there is a strong negative correlation between religious belief and acceptance of evolution.

    Sarah Palin assures you, she didn’t come from no monkey!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  58. michael reynolds says:

    @steve s:

    And the monkeys disavow any connection to her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  59. sam says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    @sam:

    Can you show me someone who believes that Beethoven’s ninth spells out exactly how the world and everything in it came to be?

    I fear that both you and ernie misunderstood me. My fault, no doubt. I don’t believe the Genesis account is “true”, in any sense of that word. My point was, that I look at the King James version as a great piece of poetry. One of the greatest in the English language. A piece of poetry that defies the categories of true and false. A piece of poetry that speaks in a profound way to the mystery of existence. This mystery: Let yourself be struck by the existence of the world. Wonder at the existence of the world. If you can do that, then, I think, you’ll begin to see what I mean about the poetry. Now, if some people believe Genesis is a piece of divinely-inspired journalism, well, hoping to be charitable, I would convict them of a failure of the imagination.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  60. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds: Yes, because all religious people subscribe to a kindergartener’s version of God.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  61. James Pearce says:

    Is that sole explanation for the fact that less than half of them accept evolution and nearly 50% reject it outright, a number far higher than for any other political demographic?

    Is the Evangelical belief in biblical literacy the sole explanation? Pretty much.

    Back in the pre-scientific era, “Faith” was understood more as “loyalty,” as in loyalty to a particular doctrine. In those days, you could prove your faith by remaining loyal to it, even as they plucked out your eyes and stuck a pole up your butt. Now that “faith” means “baseless belief in the supernatural,” what can the faithful do to demonstrate their faith besides a) attempt to provide a base for the belief (ie, the Bible is literally true) and b) double-down on the supernatural explanation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  62. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    They all subscribe to a god. That’s the point. They all choose to believe in a creature for which no evidence exists. It requires a deliberate suspension of disbelief – faith. It requires one to choose to believe in things one knows one cannot prove. Deliberate credulity.

    From that point it doesn’t much matter whether they have a snake handler’s view of god or a Jesuit’s. They are still choosing to believe nonsense. How then to decide whether System #1 or System #2 should be used to examine any given phenomenon? You’re dealing with a person at that point who may either deal in evidence, or simply wish reality into existence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  63. MarkedMan says:

    First, kudos to Doug for a very well written post. And second, while there are no doubt myriad variations of why self identified Republicans repudiate evolution (and global climate change, the idea that leaded gasoline can lead to behavioral problems, that cleaning up water pollution can have net economic benefit, etc, etc, etc), I humbly submit that the main reason is a simple one: ‘the other team believes in it so we disbelieve’. The modern Republican party is increasingly team based, and simplistically team based at that. They have become the unwitting champions of reverse psychology – Barak Obama has the power to make them froth at the mouth in favor of something simply by disparaging it, or vice-versa. And one by one they are driving away anyone who is embarrassed by such childish behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  64. Grewgills says:

    Several people here have posited that belief is not the right word for the survey. For most Americans however it is. Even among that maybe 30% that believe evolution via natural selection is responsible for our existence I would be willing to bet that less than half could give an at all accurate explanation of what evolution or natural selection actually are. Most of that 60% believe in evolution without understanding it. Their belief comes from believing or accepting that the scientists that study it and/or their teachers know what they are talking about and believe them.

    We do not do a very good job of teaching the scientific method or what is required of a hypothesis or a theory and without that base understanding what is built on it is more than a little difficult.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  65. ernieyeball says:

    “Well…As long as they can think, we’ll have our problems. But those whom we’re using can not think…the dead. You know it’s an interesting thing when you consider the Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who can not. The dead.”
    Plan 9 From Outer Space 1959

    Happy 2014 to All

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  66. mannning says:

    There are at least two major groups being castigated here: 1) Creationists; and 2) ID Scientists. They are not the same at all. Rather than launching into a defense of ID Science, I will suggest that anyone that hasn’t read “Signature in the Cell” by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, is talking from a terribly biased view of what ID science is really all about. Coupled with the writings of Dr Michael Behe and Dr William Dembski, these scientists are pursuing a concrete goal using provably scientific methods in their work. That goal can be simply stated :
    What is the evidence for intelligence and intelligent design in the cosmos, and on earth.
    They do not bring God into their work at all; they do agree that the Big Bang was probably about 14.7 billion years ago, and they do believe that the earth is about 4.7 billion years old; they do not use the Bible as a resource; and they do subject their findings to tests, to the surprise of bigotted scientists worldwide.

    I am reminded of Alfred N. Whitehead’s statement that when there is wide agreement among scientists about a theory, it is virtually certain that the theory is wrong.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 19

  67. Grewgills says:

    @mannning:
    1) I have yet to see them produce even a single hypothesis, much less a theory that supports their contention that there is an intelligent designer. Perhaps you can point me to any hypothesis they have forwarded.
    2) It was shown rather convincingly via changes to the ‘science’ textbooks Behe and the Discovery Institute offered to schools was repackaged ‘creation science’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  68. Rolf Aalberg says:

    @mannning:
    Good to see you not “launching into defence of ID science.”
    There ain’t no such thing as ID science. The ID’ers try to assume a scientific stance
    but scratching at the surface one soon discover the basic tenet of ID creationism:

    Life and/or evolution of species from a simple beginning is impossible for such and such reasons, and that’s that.

    The scientific responses to Michael J. Behe and William Demski have been unequivocally rejectional. While Behe seems to accept the geological and paleontological evidence fo evolution, his position is that divine intervention at crucial points in the history of evolution has been required to cause certain features, for instance like bacterial flagella.

    Fundamental for both Behe and Dembski is the belief that the concept of “irreducible complexity.” (IC) is evidence that biological features like bacterial flagella could not arise by natural causes because they are IC. Dembski is best known for his use of mathematics to create proof that evolution by natural means are beyond some magical probability barrier.

    ID science is as much a reality as a three dollar bill. Creationists don’t do science; they cherry pick scientific issues for their own purpose. A visit to the blog formerly run by Dembski, now in the hands of Barry Arrigton, “Uncommon Descent” may be an eye opener for people willing to face the facts.

    The charade of introducing an unidentifiable actor under the ‘pseudonym’ of Intelligent Design(er) (there could be more than one of them – or he might even be dead by now, according to Behe), has been abandoned. They now admit that God is the designer. Or in the words of Dembski: ”Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” ID = science? No.

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  69. James Pearce says:

    @mannning: As others have pointed out, it’s pretty clear that ID is little more than re-heated creationism, despite the science-y veneer.

    For example, this question is not science:

    What is the evidence for intelligence and intelligent design in the cosmos, and on earth.

    That’s not an observation looking for a hypothesis, that’s a hypothesis looking for an observation. It’s a bit like Erich Von Daniken looking at the Nazca lines and asking himself how they were used to communicate with the ancient astronauts instead of asking “Why did the Nazca make these lines?”

    It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  70. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Perhaps part of all of this is a reflection of the state of science education in this country. Indeed, the most recent international survey of math,science, and reading test scores among industrialized nations shows the United States ranking below average in math, science, and history, and well below the top scorers in all three categories which was made of students in Shanghai, China.

    A couple of thoughts here Doug.

    #1, America seems to do quite well educating it’s white children, while doing a horrible job educating it’s children of color.

    #2, the news about schools in Shanghai may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  71. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Here in America we hear a lot of parents and educators speaking against “teaching to the test,” but in China that’s all they do. Of course they’re going to do well on the test. But they do very little to teach kids how to think, and for all the imperfections of American schooling, it does that pretty well.

    So when it comes to innovation, where the Western democracies rule, China is far behind. There are, of course, other reasons besides a focus on rote education, but that certainly doesn’t produce a population capable of innovative thought and action.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  72. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @michael reynolds:

    magic, unseen creatures marking down every time they masturbate,

    What? Wait! Aw, dangit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  73. george says:

    @mannning:

    I am reminded of Alfred N. Whitehead’s statement that when there is wide agreement among scientists about a theory, it is virtually certain that the theory is wrong.

    Unfortunately that applies to every theory we have. Read up on the various arguments on quantum mechanics and general relativity for instance (lots of literature on these fundamental disagreements in physics journals, you don’t even have to go to non-mainstream publications). If you’re going to throw out evolution on those grounds, you’re going to have to throw out all of modern physics as well (the disagreements on fundamental physics are larger within the physics community than the disagreements on evolution in the biology community). Which will of course mean getting rid of chemistry as well, which is based on it. And then of course organic chem and then biochem.

    In fact, we know that quantum mechanics and general relatively are mutually exclusive – they cannot both be right (String theory offers a possible way out, but that’s still applied math at this point). So we should give up on relativity and quantum mechanics until they’re sorted out, right?

    The last time there was complete agreement between scientists was on physics about 1900 – the time when Lord Kelvin said physics had solved almost everything, with just two small dark clouds on the horizon, the Michelson-Morely drift (or lack thereof), and black body radiation. Which of course gave rise to quantum mechanics and special relativity – and there’s been endless disagreement on those ever since (you need only read the literature of fundamental physics to know this).

    Of course, that’s probably inevitable, as every theory is just going to be a model of reality, and will turn out to be wrong at some point. However, it also means that Whitehead’s dictum doesn’t have much practical use, since it disqualifies just about every bit of science discovered in the last century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  74. ernieyeball says:

    @mannning: I am reminded of Alfred N. Whitehead’s statement that when there is wide agreement among scientists about a theory, it is virtually certain that the theory is wrong.

    Biology: cell theory, theory of evolution, germ theory
    Chemistry: collision theory, kinetic theory of gases, Lewis theory, molecular theory, molecular orbital theory, transition state theory, valence bond theory
    Physics: atomic theory, Big Bang theory, Dynamo theory, M-theory, perturbation theory, theory of relativity (successor to classical mechanics), quantum field theory

    So 2014 will is the year that manning declares germ theory invalid and resorts to hocus pocus mumbo jumbo!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  75. Grewgills says:

    @James Pearce:

    That’s not an observation looking for a hypothesis, that’s a hypothesis looking for an observation.

    It’s not even that, it’s an assertion looking for an observation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  76. ernieyeball says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: #1, America seems to do quite well educating it’s white children…

    So where did Sara “But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.” Palin; Michele “But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive wives; you are to be submissive to your husbands.’ ” Bachmann; Christine ”You know what, evolution is a myth. Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?” O’Donnell; Glen ”Some may believe we’re on the road to the Hitler youth.” Beck; Ann ”Marriage is not a civil right. You’re not black.” Coulter; Rush ”Exercise freaks … are the ones putting stress on the health care system.” Limbaugh et. al. go to school.
    Maybe they were all in the same class at How to be a Honkey Academy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  77. john personna says:

    Late to the thread, but I think the answer is simple enough: people choose religious beliefs over science because … they think they can.

    They think there is no single absolute, decipherable, reality, so they can just choose one. As “writ.”

    Those who have a faith while accepting the scientific process are accepting the central idea of one, absolute, reality. The others feel no obligation for such rigor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  78. Rick Almeida says:

    @sam:

    Thank you for your thoughful reply. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone taking umbrage at your views. Alas, the evidence seems clear that many Americans do believe the Genesis story is both journalism and science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  79. john personna says:

    Put differently, those raised in fundamentalist environments, are never told they should be rigorous in testing their own beliefs. They suffer the opposite experience, being taught that testing is attack.

    It takes a real rebel from that environment to go learn DNA and evolution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  80. ernieyeball says:

    @Eric the OTB Lurker: So you thought that was your girlfriend peeping through your bedroom window?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  81. mannning says:

    So far, no one here has tackled Meyer’s two book, Signature in the Cell, and Darwin’s Doubt, and responded with cogent comments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  82. michael reynolds says:

    @mannning:

    Here’s one: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/07/doubting-stephen-meyers-darwins-doubt.html

    Here’s another: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html

    Not that you are even remotely interested in facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  83. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    Put differently, those raised in fundamentalist environments, are never told they should be rigorous in testing their own beliefs. They suffer the opposite experience, being taught that testing is attack.

    Very well stated.

    Religion is the gateway drug of credulity. Once you’ve been trained not to question or test you’ve been shown a path to lifelong ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  84. Tillman says:

    @john personna: There’s no issue with categorizing fundamentalist religious expression that way since they are honestly taught against feeling any doubt or skepticism. My issue concerns how religion in general is now seen as essentially fundamentalist regardless of how it is practiced. You can’t regard a statement like this as accurate:

    From that point it doesn’t much matter whether they have a snake handler’s view of god or a Jesuit’s. They are still choosing to believe nonsense.

    Or at least you can’t without dismissing the majority of theists. It’s like categorizing all atheists as Christopher Hitchens anti-theist types.

    I blame thirty-odd years of a politically active religious right wing. Tim Noah had a great post on how the word “Christian” has been co-opted culturally to mean [probably] the worst Christians.

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  85. steve s says:

    IDiots even had a fake science journal to try to look all sciency. PCID: Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design. Dembski was an editor. They ‘published’ 8 thin, incredibly weak issues, the last one in Dec 2005.

    What happened? I’ll tell you what happened–the ruling in Kitzmiller vs. Dover came out Dec 20, 2005. A republican judge issued a 120+-page ruling basically saying ID is such a transparent attempt to get creationism into classrooms that the ID people came within a hair of contempt of court. Once the jig was up, with that ruling, the ID ‘scientists’ quit trying as hard to do their pretend science. The PCID effort was shelved. Dembski abandoned his blog. The ISCID stuff was mostly abandoned. The website doesn’t even work correctly anymore. Telic Thoughts shut down.

    ID was a cheap scam, and it’s over, for the most part. The people at After the Bar Closes can’t even find a good ID advocate to spar with.

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  86. steve s says:

    Ontogenetic Depth was my favorite bit of ID. What a complete humiliation Paul Nelson committed. What an embarrassment.

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  87. steve s says:

    manning, if you want to discuss ID with a bunch of biologists, physicists, geologists, etc, hop on over to after the bar closes. They’ll even give you yer own thread–although they already have ones for Meyer’s new collection of errors.

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  88. george says:

    @mannning:

    So far, no one here has tackled Meyer’s two book, Signature in the Cell, and Darwin’s Doubt, and responded with cogent comments.

    There are a lot of things to read – for instance, I haven’t finished making my way through Misner, Thorne and Wheeler’s “Gravitation”, which is the classic book on general relativity. If someone hasn’t read the books you suggested, do you think they would rush out and do so (on Jan 1st no less) simply on your word?

    Look, now that I’ve told you that “Gravitation” is the classic work on general relativity (as important to science I’d argue as the theory of evolution), are you going to go out, purchase and try to read it just on my recommendation? If not, why do you expect a different response from others to your recommendations?

    You’ll note the responses have been on Whitehead’s quote, because that’s something that doesn’t require extensive new reading to respond to. Expecting people to do extensive reading just to reply to your comment seems, well, odd.

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  89. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Is gravity a real thing, and does it continue to exist even when it annoys you? If you believe that sometimes gravity can be wished away, then I don’t want to go mountain climbing with you, even if you have the very most sophisticated and nuanced doctrine surrounding the non-existence of gravity.

    If you once convince yourself that things can be believed which on their face should require a great deal of proof and yet have no evidence whatsoever, then on what grounds can you disbelieve anything? If you can believe in god then why not leprechauns? There is exactly the same amount of evidence for both: none. So on what grounds do you believe in god and not leprechauns?

    That’s the meat of the issue. Religion creates a big tunnel in the brain through which any number of things might be driven. Faith prepares the mind to accept what simply is not true, or at least not demonstrable.

    The difference between a Jesuit and a snake handler is in the degree of b.s. they’ve piled around their insistence on believing in things which don’t exist. The Jesuit can spin you a much better tale, but in the end it’s no different than the snake handler. Your most sophisticated theologian is still saying, “I believe things exist because I want them to exist.”

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  90. ernieyeball says:

    @michael reynolds:Your most sophisticated theologian is still saying, “I believe things exist because I want them to exist.”

    Amen to that!

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  91. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Do you really want to dismiss the rationality of better than 90% of everyone who has ever lived including virtually everyone that built our society, science, and technology?

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  92. Grewgills says:

    @mannning:
    You’ve read the books, why not answer my previous question? Can you name a single hypothesis that the ID proponents have advanced?

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  93. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: If what you are saying is that 90% of rational people believe in a god then I would respond that 90% of people are not rational if they hold this belief.
    Disclaimer. That is just me and I am not responding for Reynolds.

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  94. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    Every single human that has ever lived, including you me and Mike, are irrational about some things. People are also very good at compartmentalizing. Newton had some wacky ideas about alchemy, but he was supremely rational in his development of calculus and physics.
    To hold one’s self to be one of the rational 5-10% of humanity simply because one’s irrationalities don’t include religion is a rather staggering act of hubris. By that construction Plato, Gallileo, Newton are all irrational, yet somehow Bill Maher is rational. I’m agnostic at best (so I get to be in the favored 5-10%), but I’m still not buying it.

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  95. john personna says:

    Reformed Jewish, and perhaps soon Catholics, allow agnostics to be members in good standing, right?

    This is the factoid that shoots down the hard antireligious arguments.

    They are not “all irrational and based on fairy tales.”

    Some perhaps are, but distinguishing some is harder than just saying “all.”

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  96. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    The numbers don’t make them rational. Actually, if you look at homo sapiens we have a very long history of not figuring out pretty obvious stuff we might have figured out a lot sooner had we not run to the supernatural as our default answer. We might have noticed, for example, that there was no clear correlation between a great harvest and killing a virgin. Or maybe we’d looked for proof that Jews were drinking the blood of Christian babies. We might even have figured out that if you sh!t in the same water you drink, you’re going to get sick.

    But there was always that convenient god theory to supply facile and wrong answers to everything.

    Now, I’m certainly not saying that believers are less intelligent, or that they are not responsible for most of the scientific breakthroughs we’ve enjoyed. Newton was crazy superstitious, and just a wee bit (orders of magnitude) brighter than me. But having an easy and wrong answer handy for everything inevitably slows the search for truth.

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  97. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    Bottom line is, if I ask you, “What’s two plus two,” and you not only answer, “Jesus,” but then threaten to kill me if I argue with you, we’re not going to ever get to algebra. That’s part of what religion does: it gives us wrong answers that stop the intellectual process in its tracks.

    The other thing it does is habituate us to making things up rather than finding things out. It prepares the mind to accept things for which no evidence exists.

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  98. ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: They are not “all irrational and based on fairy tales.”

    I am assuming that the word “they” in that sentence is refering to religion.

    Religion: Religion consists of very general explanations of existence, including the terms of exchange with a god or gods (Stark and Finke 2000: 91).
    http://www.thearda.com/learningcenter/religiondictionary.asp#God/Goddess

    Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods: New Oxford American Dictionary

    Which religions are rational and based on fact?

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  99. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Humans are great at compartmentalizing. Just because someone has an irrational belief about something does not mean that they necessarily toss rationality out the window for everything or even anything else. Newton wasn’t just more intelligent than most, he was also more logical and rational within certain disciplines.
    The short of what I am getting at is that someone having a few irrational beliefs does not necessarily make them an irrational person.

    Bottom line is, if I ask you, “What’s two plus two,” and you not only answer, “Jesus,” but then threaten to kill me if I argue with you, we’re not going to ever get to algebra.

    Thing is, that is not what all religions do, certainly not in the modern era. Religious men in India invented algebra and Islamic men brought it to the West.

    The other thing it does is habituate us to making things up rather than finding things out.

    Yet, somehow most of our scientific and technological progress has come from religious men, so it did not stop them from finding things out.

    I agree that religion can be corrosive and divisive and can slow down scientific progress. That does not mean that all religious people are less rational than atheists. Newton, despite some crazy superstitions, was more rational than Bill Maher.

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  100. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Descartes, Spinoza, and Kierkegaard also spring to mind as deeply religious yet very rational men. Kierkegaard in particular after spending considerable time attempting to square his rationality and his faith ended with a leap of faith to explain a rational man’s belief in the unprovable. To claim that these men are less rational than the average atheist is absurd.

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  101. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you can believe in god then why not leprechauns?

    Is marijuana a gateway drug to heroin?

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  102. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: To claim that these men are less rational than the average atheist is absurd.

    Please describe the average atheist.

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  103. Rafer Janders says:

    @mannning:

    I am reminded of Alfred N. Whitehead’s statement that when there is wide agreement among scientists about a theory, it is virtually certain that the theory is wrong.

    Like gravity, for example.

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  104. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @ernieyeball: See your last two posts for why New Atheists are generally considered to be pricks and have never made any serious inroads into the public discourse.

    Do you honestly believe you will convince anyone by engaging in nitpicky definition wars?

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  105. mantis says:

    @Grewgills:

    Newton had some wacky ideas about alchemy, but he was supremely rational in his development of calculus and physics.

    Does anyone think Newton, if living today, would still believe those wacky things? With all the knowledge we have now, it’s not irrational to believe in some creator God, but it is irrational to believe the stories told by pretty much every existing religion. Unless you believe magic just ceased to exist after the late 19th century, which would be rather convenient, no?

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  106. al-Ameda says:

    @mannning:

    I am reminded of Alfred N. Whitehead’s statement that when there is wide agreement among scientists about a theory, it is virtually certain that the theory is wrong.

    Oh my gosh: science is a fraud – what else can one infer from Whitehead’s statement?

    I am also reminded that there is no evidence – that is, unless you consider the very fact of our existence to be, de facto, evidence – to support a Theory of Intelligent Design that points us to the existence of an omniscient creator.

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  107. Tillman says:

    @ernieyeball: Describe the average theist. Let’s go ahead and air out our collective delusions, shall we?

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: To be fair, I’m nitpicking a generalization as well. It’s just one that makes any religion debate impossible. The reverse generalization, theists assuming atheists are all crass iconoclasts worshiping science, is equally insulting to me.

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  108. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grewgills:

    Do you really want to dismiss the rationality of better than 90% of everyone who has ever lived including virtually everyone that built our society, science, and technology?

    Sure, why not? Human beings are both rational and irrational creatures. 90% of everyone who has ever lived has believed some crazy stuff.

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  109. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grewgills:

    The short of what I am getting at is that someone having a few irrational beliefs does not necessarily make them an irrational person.

    No, but it does mean that those beliefs are irrational.

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  110. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    No, marijuana is a gateway drug to Twinkies.

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  111. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    To claim that people who believe in things which are on their face highly unlikely, and yet do so fervently on the basis of zero evidence, are as rational as people who eschew those beliefs, makes no sense. It’s pretty simple. If Subject A believes 10 crazy things while Subject B believes only two crazy things then (assuming the weight of craziness in the crazy beliefs is identical) then it follows that Subject A is less rational than Subject B.

    How much bullsh!t a man believes is a measure of his rationality.

    I think you’ll note that I gave full credit to various deeply religious men for huge contributions to our knowledge and our civilization. But would the world be a better place if Newton had spent less time on religion and more on physics and math? Likely yes.

    As for various philosophers who spent their lives twisting words and manhandling reality in a doomed effort to justify their childish faith, all I can say is that it’s somewhere between comical and sad.

    If you go through all you and Tillman have had to say on this and remove God and insert Leprechauns you’ll notice that your position becomes comical. Why? Because there is a general consensus that leprechauns don’t exist. And yet there is exactly the same amount of hard evidence for leprechauns as for god. Your arguments rely on a general acceptance of this irrational belief. You’ve carved out a special treatment for one mental delusion, and expect respect for it, and it alone. You and I would share a derisive laugh at a thousand other beliefs, all of which are as supported by evidence as the belief in god.

    In the end it’s special pleading. You want one group of people with irrational beliefs to get full credit for rationality, while dismissing a thousand different groups with equally irrational beliefs. That is itself irrational.

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  112. gVOR08 says:

    George Lakoff says conservatives have difficulty with complex causality. I don’t really want to believe that of a chunk of the electorate, but it gets harder every day not to.

    Part of the problem discussing this is that “believe” is a funny word. Some people believe the world sprang into existence in six days, 6,000 years ago, pretty much as we now see it. I believe that if I step out the door of my office I’ll be in the hallway. Those two uses of “believe” are not the same thing.

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  113. george says:

    @gVOR08:

    George Lakoff says conservatives have difficulty with complex causality. I don’t really want to believe that of a chunk of the electorate, but it gets harder every day not to.

    You don’t have to believe it, as its simply not true of all conservatives. Quite a few very good (as in Nobel Prize winning) scientists are fiscal conservatives (not so sure how many are social conservatives, I’d guess considerably fewer).

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  114. john personna says:

    Well, to restate and reemphasize, my problem with cool kid atheists goes like this:

    Me: “you can have religion without superstition”

    Cool kid: “no you can’t”

    Basically the cool kid demands that the religious do it his way, become superstitious, in order to satisfy his logic.

    A religious agnostic, or a theist who is scrupulous about separating the visible and invisible worlds must be denied.

    Only then do you have this binary system, with the “rational” on one side.

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  115. Moosebreath says:

    @gVOR08:

    “Part of the problem discussing this is that “believe” is a funny word. Some people believe the world sprang into existence in six days, 6,000 years ago, pretty much as we now see it. I believe that if I step out the door of my office I’ll be in the hallway. Those two uses of “believe” are not the same thing.”

    I think they are, they are just not beliefs equally supported by evidence.

    Or to quote someone, “Everybody needs to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”

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  116. ernieyeball says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Do you honestly believe you will convince anyone by engaging in nitpicky definition wars?

    Make love not war!
    ————-

    @Tillman: Describe the average theist.

    Gills was the one who made the claim that there is an “average atheist”. Since it’s on the table I figured a definition of terms is a resonable request. Silly me.

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  117. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    You’re misstating the positions. The atheist position is: Believers have zero evidence. And in the absence of evidence it is irrational to believe.

    Pretty simple, really. No hipster-ness required. You can’t say X exists without some evidence. Otherwise you’re making stuff up.

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  118. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @john personna: That’s not quite correct either. By the definition of the atheist, the act of belief itself is superstition. And if you take the not uncommon view of superstition = a belief in anything not positively proven by science that is correct. I personally would not object to be called superstitious in that sense.

    The problem arises when people start using colloquial terms like “irrational” or “superstitious”. This is usually used to denote people who generally object to rational inquiry. Modern believers just don’t fall into this category. Since their belief system is compartmentalized and essentially outside the scope of scientific inquiry one can be rational by most common definitions (even more so than the average human in the case of highly educated believers) and still believe in god.

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  119. ernieyeball says:

    “…twisting words and manhandling reality in a doomed effort to justify their childish faith, all I can say is that it’s somewhere between comical and sad.” (M.R.)

    Can I restate this as “making it up as you go along”? Not that anyone today would ever do such a thing.
    Or consider Tommy Smothers 50 years ago “Words are just a plaything to me.”

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  120. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    Pretty much the average person minus a belief in the supernatural.

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  121. Grewgills says:

    @mantis:

    Does anyone think Newton, if living today, would still believe those wacky things?

    I honestly don’t know, but his beliefs were out of the mainstream for his own time, so it’s not all that unlikely.

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  122. ernieyeball says:

    Well damn. I was still typing “making it up as you go along” when MR posted “making stuff up”.
    Then I could’t get to the editor fast enough to delete my line. Don’t want to plagiarize.

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  123. Grewgills says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Sure, why not? Human beings are both rational and irrational creatures. 90% of everyone who has ever lived has believed some crazy stuff.

    I’d bump that up by 9-10% and atheists are not immune.

    No, but it does mean that those beliefs are irrational.

    Religious belief by its very nature is not rational, that does not mean that religious people are necessarily irrational people as was asserted earlier in this thread. Some are some are not, the same is true of non-religious people.

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  124. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sorry, that really is a logical fail.

    If someone says “I have faith in something invisible and unprovable,” how do you disprove him?

    The cool kid trick is to flip him to a position that he does not have, to demand (unreasonably) that he argue a visible and provable God.

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  125. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You misunderstand me. I don’t want special treatment for religion or for the religious. What gets under my skin is sneering disdain for the vast majority of humanity.

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  126. john personna says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius:

    That might be semantics, but I think a logically consistent faith in the invisible is not the same as belief in Ghost Hunters.

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  127. Grewgills says:

    @gVOR08:

    George Lakoff says conservatives have difficulty with complex causality.

    Most people have difficulty with complex causality.

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  128. john personna says:

    Overall, militant atheists demand that their opponents conform to the athiets vision of theism.

    Neither fair nor rigorously rational on their part.

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  129. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You’re misstating the positions. The atheist position is: Believers have zero evidence. And in the absence of evidence it is irrational to believe.

    If that was the extent of what you had to say I wouldn’t have taken exception to it. You doubled down and said that all theists were/are irrational people and there was no meaningful distinction from snake handlers (that believe the bible to be the literal word of god) and Jesuits (that accept evolution and most science).

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  130. stonetools says:

    Wow, when this become an Internet Infidels Forum Thread? Anyway, maybe its time to tamp down on the atheist triumphalism. First of all, there is none such thing as a pure atheistic philosophy of reason . Even the most skeptical atheist in Athiestia has to believe in the reliability of his sense impressions, I.E that his senses correctly depict reality. David Hume, the father of modern atheism, described this belief as “sheer, animal faith.” So EVERYBODY starts from a position of faith.
    As for the idea that religious folk believe in blind faith without evidence, religious folks will retort that there IS evidence for the belief-its just disputed evidence. They might argue that a non-self-existent universe is itself an argument for the existence of God, and that their answer to the question ” Why is there something rather than nothing at all?” is a lot better than the atheist answer that it just popped into existence, all by itself.
    Finally, folks, there is some history on this. We know that atheists are aren’t all moderate rationalists. Back in the 20th century, some atheists had the chance to create societies based on atheism and “scientific socialism”. The results weren’t pretty. Indeed, those atheists (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) rank among history’s greatest mass murderers. OTOH, there are plenty of rational, moderate religious folks out there, such as Francis Collins, who helped map the human genome. Indeed, many of the people who laid the foundations of modern biology and geology were, in fact, Anglican clergymen-as Charles Darwin almost became.
    Fun fact, Michael: algebra is based on a Arabic word. Algebra (and indeed, the modern numbering system) traces its ancestry directly back to medieval Muslim philosophers.
    All I’m arguing for here is a bit more humility from all. These questions really are incredibly profound and will not be settled on this comment thread. Nor can they be settled by simply dismissing the other side as misguided idiots.

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  131. stonetools says:

    As for various philosophers who spent their lives twisting words and manhandling reality in a doomed effort to justify their childish faith, all I can say is that it’s somewhere between comical and sad.

    AN Whitehead? EO Wilson? Anthony Flew?

    I think you might want to rethink your rhetoric on this. Mocking these guys as childish is what looks comical and sad.

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  132. ernieyeball says:

    …logically consistent faith…

    Oxymoron anyone?

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  133. ernieyeball says:

    @stonetools:..the atheist answer that it just popped into existence…

    Are you referencing the Big Bang theory? My feeble mind might accept that the Universe just “popped into existence” as you propose. But I think the theory itself provides a more detailed explanation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

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  134. stonetools says:

    @ernieyeball:

    I’ve read the theory. As the article states:

    As a theory relevant to the origin of the universe, the Big Bang has significant bearing on religion and philosophy.[101][102] As a result, it has become one of the liveliest areas in the discourse between science and religion.[103] Some believe the Big Bang implies a creator,[104] while others argue that Big Bang cosmology makes the notion of a creator superfluous.[102][105]

    The theory is kind of a push, I think. If you are an atheist, you will accept the atheist arguments-which boil down to what I said.

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  135. ernieyeball says:

    …boil down to what you said…”popped into existence”

    If you are a theist all the arguments boil down to Hocus Pocus Mumbo Jumbo.
    That’s what I said…

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  136. Grewgills says:

    @stonetools:

    They might argue that a non-self-existent universe is itself an argument for the existence of God, and that their answer to the question ” Why is there something rather than nothing at all?” is a lot better than the atheist answer that it just popped into existence, all by itself.

    That just pushes things back a step. They then have to assert that God ”just popped into existence.” That doesn’t move us any closer to a real answer.

    We know that atheists are aren’t all moderate rationalists. Back in the 20th century, some atheists had the chance to create societies based on atheism and “scientific socialism”. The results weren’t pretty. Indeed, those atheists (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) rank among history’s greatest mass murderers.

    They didn’t kill for atheism; they killed for power. Those you named were atheists only because they wanted no competition for power and substituted the party for religion. Previous leaders simply placed themselves at the top of the church hierarchy; it boils down to the same thing.

    Fun fact, Michael: algebra is based on a Arabic word. Algebra (and indeed, the modern numbering system) traces its ancestry directly back to medieval Muslim philosophers.

    Another fun fact, they stole it from the Indians.

    All I’m arguing for here is a bit more humility from all. These questions really are incredibly profound and will not be settled on this comment thread. Nor can they be settled by simply dismissing the other side as misguided idiots.

    Amen to that.

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  137. Scott says:

    Of course, both sides may be wrong (or at least barking up the wrong tree).

    From Dec 13 Discover Magazine: http://discovermagazine.com/2013/dec/09-do-we-live-in-the-matrix

    some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences trapped in a fake universe than we are organic minds in the “real” one.

    We may all be theists because we believe in ourselves.

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  138. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    The vast majority of atheists (all humans for that matter) could not give reasonable definitions of the Big Bang Theory or the Theory or Evolution*. Most atheists, like theists, are putting their faith in a story someone told them rather than something they have seen the evidence for and actually understand.
    I think the atheists in this case have chosen more wisely who to put that faith in, but for the majority it still amounts to belief in what someone told them.

    * The ability to Google someone else’s explanation does not demonstrate understanding.

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  139. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As for various philosophers who spent their lives twisting words and manhandling reality in a doomed effort to justify their childish faith, all I can say is that it’s somewhere between comical and sad.

    Most atheists that I have interacted with base their ethics on some form of existentialism. Three guesses who that father of existentialism is. I’ll give you a hint; you think his life’s work is somewhere between comical and sad.

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  140. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: Very respectfully, I must disagree with you here. There is no equivalency between religious faith and “faith” in the products of scientific endeavor. I do not need to understand the nitty-gritty of gravitational theory to know that if I jump off the roof I’ll probably break my leg. I do not need to have a Ph.D. in biology to understand how reality conforms to the predictions of evolutionary theory. We can accept as valid the results of scientific experimentation without having to do all the experiments ourselves, because we see every day how those results manifest in the real world.

    Religious faith is different, because it requires one to believe in “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This religious faith is quite the opposite of “faith” in the products of science. It demands belief in the unverifiable and untestable–belief in the unbelievable.

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  141. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I think the atheists in this case have chosen more wisely who to put that faith in, but for the majority it still amounts to belief in what someone told them.

    I thought this for a time, but the problem is that atheism boils down to “everything unprovable is false.”

    Actually no, everything unprovable is unproven.

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  142. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    That might depend on the variety of faith. Or as I said to my atheist leaning nephew, “a lot of really smart guys in northern Europe have spent time thinking about this.” Their conclusion, which I think we now generalize as “traditional protestant” is that if God is unprovable, then His existence is only accessible by faith, and only justified by faith. Thus they at once yield the observable world to science, but also move themselves to a domain unreachable [unimpeachable] by science.

    The problem people, the ones that can’t quite accept evolution, have not made that rational transition. They want “faith” to be “provable” in the physical world, without recognizing the contradiction. (If it was provable, it wouldn’t be faith.)

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  143. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @ernieyeball

    Oxymoron anyone?

    Only if one has no idea what “Logical Consistent” means.

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  144. john personna says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius:

    You may have missed my last comments.

    How is a “faith” that yields the physical world to science, but puts itself in a purely experiential domain not logically consistent?

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  145. john personna says:

    @this is a case where the downvoter should come through.

    “If someone says ‘I have faith in something invisible and unprovable,’ how do you disprove him?”

    (The answer is you cannot, you neither prove nor disprove him. In a truth-table, this condition is called a “don’t care.” And indeed you shouldn’t care.)

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  146. john personna says:

    @this:

    Coward.

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  147. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: I think the atheists in this case have chosen more wisely who to put that faith in…

    Who dat?
    ———
    Even before the internet and Google I read books. Sometimes I understood what was written, sometimes I did not. Don’t see much difference between reading words off a computer screen or reading words off a paper page.
    ———
    My very limited understanding of a difference between the scientific method of finding things out and accepting things on faith is that the scientific method of finding thing out demands demonstrations of proof. (Did Sagan say that? I don’t recall.)
    Acceptance on faith…I defer to The New Oxford Americn Dictionary on my MacBook Air computer screen.

    Faith:..strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

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  148. john personna says:

    Faith:..strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    Sure, and there are faiths that manage to do that without tripping over one proof or observation of science.

    If they do, what’s the harm?

    (I don’t believe there is one, militant atheists just lump such people with young earth creationists, etc., for their (atheist) convenience … an irrational act.)

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  149. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:

    I do not need to understand the nitty-gritty of gravitational theory to know that if I jump off the roof I’ll probably break my leg.

    How many religious people do you know that don’t accept that basic truth?

    We can accept as valid the results of scientific experimentation without having to do all the experiments ourselves, because we see every day how those results manifest in the real world.

    True enough on the first part, but most people lack even a basic understanding of how those experiments show the modern theory of evolution to be the best approximation of how species develop. Most simply know that scientists have done experiments and accept that they know what they are doing. I think that is a much better bet than an old book says, but it still boils down to believing something they don’t really understand.

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  150. Grewgills says:

    @john personna: @john personna:

    Actually no, everything unprovable is unproven.

    More of an Occam’s razor, it isn’t rational to believe in the unprovable when the provable provides a solid explanation.

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  151. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Slow down. Are you arguing that “unprovable” must mean “true?”

    So that you can then say it is “false?”

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  152. john personna says:

    I should probably come straight out and argue that it takes more internal strength of rationality to leave “can’t knows” as “can’t knows,” and not to force them to true or false for convenience.

    Thus Agnosticism is actually more rational than Atheism.

    Atheism is itself a belief in something unprovable.

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  153. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:

    My very limited understanding of a difference between the scientific method of finding things out and accepting things on faith is that the scientific method of finding thing out demands demonstrations of proof.

    It demands falsifiability and testing. It is an excellent method for moving to better and better approximations of how our world works, as demonstrated by the explosion of scientific discovery and technology since its broad acceptance by scientists. It was invented by a religious man, which rather undercuts the argument that all religious people are irrational.

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  154. JohnMcC says:

    @stonetools: I often feel a sense of gratitude at having the opportunity to share thoughts with thoughtful folks such as yourself, Mr Stonetools. And also with all the others who regularly comment here.

    But I think that there is a psychological aspect to this business of evolution (remember evolution?) and religious faith in general that is not recognized by the non-believers here. Among the non-believers I count myself, BTW. But I wasn’t always such. Once I was a humble lower-middle-class southern boy who went weeping down the aisle at a Billy Graham rally. It took a war to shake my faith.

    I would contribute to this discussion that what believers mean when they use the word faith is a form of certainty in something that cannot be proven. For example, I am lucky enough to have two fine children. It has never occurred to me to have DNA testing to verify that they are in fact MY children. Neither has it ever occurred to me to try to discover whether my mother loves me.

    That is what Christians mean when they say ‘faith’ or ‘believe’. A favorite reply that Christians would give to the assertions of atheists is (or used to be): “Of course there is a God. I talked to Him this morning.”

    Going one step further: There is a certain subset of people who can look up into the starry sky and not imagine that there is Someone looking back at them. The rest of mankind simply cannot; for them, those stars are a twinkle in the eyes of God. There is no way to ‘prove’ to either side that the other is ‘true’. That ‘faith’ is not something that they chose to have in the same way you might choose between candidates or colleges or neighborhoods. It is something they’d have to alter themselves to give up.

    It seems completely irrational to me now that a God Who created the vast realms of space with billions of galaxies and sustains them in their billions of years old flight through an incomprehensibly expanding universe should have done every bit of that simply for the pleasure He could take in knowing that I love Him. But that is the core of the message Christianity gives to Christians.

    To imagine that humans became the thing we are by randomness and natural selection is really impossible for most of mankind. It’s not a rejection of rationality (altho of course there is plenty of that in the religious world), it’s the ‘proof of things not seen’ — as St Paul said in Hebrews.

    Rationality has nothing to do with it.

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  155. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Apparently Ernieyeball takes comfort from his faith position that ONLY atheists are rational. I suggest we leave him to the comforts of his … Religion, and just move on.

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  156. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Atheism is itself a belief in something unprovable.

    No, atheism, for most modern atheists at least, is the belief that it makes more sense to believe in what there is evidence for than what there is not evidence for. Pretty much everyone is atheist re: unicorns and leprechauns. That is no more irrational than atheism re: God.
    The ‘leap of faith’ required for a belief in God is an inherently irrational act. Kierkegaard came to this after considerable effort. That something is not rational doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong, it just means that you can’t come to it via logic and reason.

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  157. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    I am a big fan of admitting ignorance. It’s one of the reasons I dislike religion: it offers false answers.

    Atheism for me (since age 16 in a bus station in Youngstown, Ohio) has never been about asserting positively that God does not exist. It’s been stating the obvious: there’s no evidence he does.

    In that light agnosticism is absurd. Should I say I’m not quite sure whether there’s a winged horse named Pegasus? Maybe yes, maybe no? Or is it okay for me to say that no evidence of same exists?

    You all come back to a special pleading. You acknowledge that there are millions of things which cannot be proved, and in every case you’d agree with me that it makes more sense to accept that in the absence of evidence they probably don’t exist.

    But when it comes to God, you want an exception made. Only when it comes to God — and your particular notion of same — do you insist that it’s perfectly sensible to believe in something despite a total lack of evidence.

    To pretend this is reason is frankly laughable. It’s need.

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  158. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Again, slow down.

    Isn’t what atheists do, is look at theists, say “your belief in God is irrational, so I’ll choose the opposite.”

    I submit that if they were rational, they’d do something else. They’d say “your belief in God is irrational, so I cannot join you.” The key difference is that you don’t take an “irrational belief” as a proof of the opposite.

    As an illustration, say you make some argument to me about whether we can (or cannot) reach true Artificial Intelligence in 50 years. I might say “I can’t really accept such assurances.” What I shouldn’t say is “your argument isn’t too strong, so I’ll just take the other position that we cannot (or can) reach AI in that time.”

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  159. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Actually, no. It is rational to divide the world not just 2, but 3 ways.

    – There are things we can prove to be true.

    – There are things we can prove to be false.

    – And there are things we cannot prove one way or another.

    As I say, it actually takes intellectual rigor to keep things in the “can’t prove” pile. Human nature doesn’t like it. It tends to smoosh things into true or false, because those are oh so much easier to deal with.

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  160. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Many atheists are agnostic atheists–we don’t believe in any gods but don’t state as a total certainty “there are no gods.” We can’t know.

    What we do say is we have not seen any evidence supporting the existence of any gods. None of the stuff the religious say to support their belief holds up to scrutiny. It’s contrived to provide some level of importance (an all-powerful being cares about me!) and assuage the fear of death (an all-powerful being will take my immortal consciousness up when my physical body dies!). But you could get a billion people to pray all at the same time and it won’t cure one cold or regrow one amputated limb.

    To put God in a special box “outside” the rules of evidence we apply to pretty much every other aspect of our existence is simply special pleading.

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  161. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Put differently,

    Rational: “your arguments for faith do not convince me, so I will not accept faith at this time.”

    Irrational: “your arguments for faith do not convince me, so there is no God.”

    (The first does not make an provable claim of its own, the second one does.)

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  162. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    the problem is that atheism boils down to “everything unprovable is false.”

    Nope, sorry. Thank you for playing the atheism strawman game.

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  163. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    The agnostic sort of atheist is not the kind that tries to shotgun all “religion,” even those who accept agnostics as part of their community.

    To put God in a special box “outside” the rules of evidence we apply to pretty much every other aspect of our existence is simply special pleading.

    I don’t get that at all. There is this fuzzy human domain of spirituality which may or may not include god(s), and may or may not conflict with science in the physical world.

    Again, I think someone is trying to cram all of religion into one definition of God for their own atheistic convenience.

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  164. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Who just ducked and ran?

    Treat this as science for a moment. In the vast domain of possible gods in a vast domain of possible worlds, are there any gods who might exist without being provable?

    Of course. There are innumerable such solutions.

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  165. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Isn’t what atheists do, is look at theists, say “your belief in God is irrational, so I’ll choose the opposite.”

    I submit that if they were rational, they’d do something else. They’d say “your belief in God is irrational, so I cannot join you.” The key difference is that you don’t take an “irrational belief” as a proof of the opposite.

    What modern atheists do is more the latter. You are ascribing an antitheist position onto all atheists, which is just as false as stating that snake handlers are equivalent to Jesuits.
    There is no compelling objective evidence for the existence of any God, just as there is no compelling objective evidence for the existence of Thor. Is your position on the Thor that he doesn’t exist, or do you put him in your maybe pile? Most religious people and non-religious people, other than a handful of neopagans, put Thor in the doesn’t exist pile, rather than the maybe pile. That doesn’t mean that they are stating with 100% certitude that Thor doesn’t exist, just that it doesn’t make rational sense to believe he does.

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  166. john personna says:

    Rational: “I don’t have to believe in unprovable gods.”

    Irrational: “There are no unprovable gods.”

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  167. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Atheism is itself a belief in something unprovable.

    Nope, sorry. Atheism is the lack of theism. Just because I don’t believe gods do exist does not mean I believe they can’t exist.

    Thus Agnosticism is actually more rational than Atheism.

    Agnosticism is just a big shrug. “Who knows what to believe?” the agnostic says. The atheist says “believe what you observe and can prove.” The agnostic is not irrational, but then its hard to judge rationality when you have no position at all.

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  168. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I think you’ve forgotten the earlier parts of this thread.

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  169. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    You also have forgotten the earlier parts of this thread.

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  170. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Who just ducked and ran?

    Not me, jackass. Your atheism strawmen may be convincing to other religious people, but you’re just preaching to the choir a sermon the words to which you don’t even know.

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  171. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    What strawman?

    From that point it doesn’t much matter whether they have a snake handler’s view of god or a Jesuit’s. They are still choosing to believe nonsense. How then to decide whether System #1 or System #2 should be used to examine any given phenomenon? You’re dealing with a person at that point who may either deal in evidence, or simply wish reality into existence.

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  172. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Isn’t what atheists do, is look at theists, say “your belief in God is irrational, so I’ll choose the opposite.”

    Not this atheist. Thank you for playing. Keep building those strawmen if it makes you feel better about your beliefs.

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  173. john personna says:

    (Michael’s comments stood four-square that anything which can’t be proven to him is false.)

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  174. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    So, are you claiming rationality?

    Are you also claiming that there is no (or are no) god?

    Or are you saying that you are withholding your own faith?

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  175. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    One person does not speak for all atheists. You repeatedly tell us what “atheists” think and do, as if we are monolithic. On top of that, you mischaracterize specific comments (and attribute them to us all). You are a dishonest debater. That is all.

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  176. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Michael, from what I can tell, is an anti-theist. Anti-theists are a subset of atheists. You are falsely ascribing the anti-theist position to all atheists.

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  177. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills:

    Most simply know that scientists have done experiments and accept that they know what they are doing. I think that is a much better bet than an old book says, but it still boils down to believing something they don’t really understand.

    The major difference is if the scientists didn’t know what they were doing we’d see the results of their lack of knowledge, just as we see the results of their knowledge. We can know that they know without having to do the primary work ourselves.

    Acceptance of the products of scientific processes is not the same as acceptance of something purely “on faith.”

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  178. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    So, in an open forum I respond to posts that I believe have logical errors, and you are free to shout “strawman” because you didn’t write them.

    Have I got that right?

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  179. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I talked up top about “cool kid atheists,” and “militant atheists.”

    I believe I made quite the effort at differentiation.

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  180. john personna says:

    BTW, the formulation above from Mikey is a strange one:

    Many atheists are agnostic atheists–we don’t believe in any gods but don’t state as a total certainty “there are no gods.” We can’t know.

    I submit that those sorts of “atheists” are in fact “agnostics.”

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  181. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I was referring specifically to this mode of thinking:

    Their conclusion, which I think we now generalize as “traditional protestant” is that if God is unprovable, then His existence is only accessible by faith, and only justified by faith. Thus they at once yield the observable world to science, but also move themselves to a domain unreachable [unimpeachable] by science.

    “Let’s make a special box ‘unreachable by science’ and stick God in there, that way we don’t have to subject him to the same rules to which we subject everything else.”

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  182. ernieyeball says:

    Festivus for the Rest of us!
    I’m going into Sleepytown to get some grub and watch The Bulls kick some Boston ass!
    While I’m out please discuss the merits of Astrology and when I get back I expect an answer to the question “How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?”.
    ————-
    All this religion and faith talk reminds of something I heard some brother say on the radio somewhere in the past.
    He was asked if he was sure of something…
    He said: ” The only thing in my entire life I’ve ever been sure of was after the first time I got laid, I was sure I was going to do that again.”

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  183. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    I realize it is a bit of a slippery argument. The point I was driving at, is that most people believe in things that they cannot prove and so accept the word of people they consider wiser and more knowledgeable than themselves. I have known I wanted to be a scientist since I was in grammar school and at that point I accepted evolution because my science teacher gave me a very simplified (and largely incorrect) version of it. That is mostly what I got in high school. Most people don’t move beyond a high school biology understanding of evolution and most don’t even get to the high school version of the big bang theory. At some level they are accepting a word from on high. I realize that is not true of all people, but that is a substantial portion and it goes some way to explaining why so many people discount them.

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  184. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, if you make the “special box” as big as “spirituality” then sure.

    And that is the question. Once you’ve taken quantum physics, do you want to say that’s all there is? Or do you want to give that feeling you get in choir, or at yoga class, a place to live?

    … for many people it’s not really a box.

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  185. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    I submit that those sorts of “atheists” are in fact “agnostics.”

    Similar in one way but not the same. Agnosticism doesn’t have an opinion re: belief, while agnostic atheism does. I don’t believe in any gods, but understand it’s not possible to know with total certainty. However, that does not mean I am either seeking some god or think one will present itself anytime soon (or evidence for one).

    It’s much more a philosophical distinction than one of practice.

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  186. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Agnostics, by definition, do not believe in any gods.

    If “atheists” find that insufficient, it might because they want to imply an active disbelief.

    An active disbelief is another way to say “is false.”

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  187. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Once you’ve taken quantum physics, do you want to say that’s all there is? Or do you want to give that feeling you get in choir, or at yoga class, a place to live?

    They need somewhere besides “in my head?”

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  188. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Of course they are in your head, but “spiritual” is .. an idea-space

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  189. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Agnostics, by definition, do not believe in any gods.

    There are agnostic theists, too. Kierkegaard, for example.

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  190. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    So, in an open forum I respond to posts that I believe have logical errors, and you are free to shout “strawman” because you didn’t write them.
    Have I got that right?

    You have made a lot of general statements about atheists and atheism, and those are what I responded to. Let’s roll the tape:

    the problem is that atheism boils down to “everything unprovable is false.”

    Atheism is itself a belief in something unprovable.

    Isn’t what atheists do, is look at theists, say “your belief in God is irrational, so I’ll choose the opposite.”

    I actually agree with you on the position of some “militant” atheists via a vis their characterizations of religious people, bit you let the mask drop and your general dislike of nonbelievers became clear. In other words, you did exactly what you accuse those nasty atheists of doing. What did Jesus say about hypocrites, again?

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  191. stonetools says:

    I might add, by the way, that most atheists aren’t “atheist” with regard to lots of stuff. Plenty of atheists affirm “love your neighbor as yourself, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, etc. without submitting those positions to the tests of logic, falsifiability, and “empiricism”. They urge that we have a duty to be good stewards of the planet and to have “reverence for life”-without really explaining where this duty comes from.
    Now all of this is to the good-but a lot of secular humanist ethics silently draw strength and authority from religious roots, while disavowing the religion. .

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  192. Grewgills says:

    @stonetools:

    I might add, by the way, that most atheists aren’t “atheist” with regard to lots of stuff…but a lot of secular humanist ethics silently draw strength and authority from religious roots, while disavowing the religion.

    Some perhaps do so, but there is a pretty solid philosophical non-religious basis for various strains of existentialism and humanism. If you google atheism+ you can find quite a bit on the philosophical underpinnings of some of the modern atheist and agnostic ethics.

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  193. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    Kierkegaard, though he broke with the church, remained a deeply religious man to his death.

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  194. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: Yes, he did–yet he still held that true knowledge of the existence of God was impossible and would in fact destroy belief.

    “If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.”

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  195. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    Thus belief in God requires a ‘leap of faith’. That is one of his signature philosophical points.

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  196. Pharoah Narim says:

    The bottom line is that scientific evidence is limited by human tool making, which is limited by human intelligence, further limited by human reliance on the 5 senses, further limited by the very small sliver of spectrum those senses have the ability to interpret.

    We know there is a reality beyond our reach because we use (and still do) animals for their ability to extend our 5 senses for centuries before technology started replacing them. There is no reason to believe the same paradigm still holds. There is still reality beyond the reach of animals and technology. Simply, we don’t and probably will never be able to gather the correct evidence to answer where we came from…unless humans evolve with additional senses. Arguments such as these are functionally 3 blind people arguing what an elephant looks like. For this particular question, the only logical conclusion is, “we don’t know”

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  197. Grewgills says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Simply, we don’t and probably will never be able to gather the correct evidence to answer where we came from

    That very much depends on what you mean by that question. If you simply mean how did life on earth arise and how then did humans evolve, then I have to disagree. If you mean what happened prior to the big bang, I agree.

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  198. Pharoah Narim says:

    I really hate Religion and Science are framed juxtaposed to one another. They do not have to be but for sheer enjoyment of those with lesser evolved emotional intelligence in taking a shot at the their perceived arch enemies. You can cut the smug with a knife when these groups go at it. Science’s role is to determine how we came to be. Even if it could prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt in the mind of the staunchest fundamentalist, it still can’t answer the question the human psyche really wants to know: Why the f@$k are we here?!?! That is the role Religion is supposed to provide an answer to for its adherents. The people that wrote our religious texts did not write them to explain how…they knew better. They were written to explain why (despite the fact that the blind have convinced the ignorant otherwise). In a perfect world we’d have Reeses Cups instead of people shouting “chocolate!” and “peanut butter!” at each other.

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  199. Grewgills says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    The people that wrote our religious texts did not write them to explain how…they knew better. They were written to explain why

    Historically religion has tried to do both, thus every major religion having a creation myth and many trying to explain the how of events cosmic and mundane. Many modern theists, particularly in the developed world, di compartmentalize and put religion into the why box with philosophy, but that isn’t what the inventors envisioned. If it was Galileo and others like him would not have been persecuted for trying to show how the world worked.
    If religion did limit itself to the why box and left the how box to science, there wouldn’t be near so much friction between them.

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  200. ernieyeball says:

    @Pharoah Narim:..still can’t answer the question the human psyche really wants to know: Why the f@$k are we here?!?!

    Speak for your own psyche. I know why I’m here and I’m not telling. Besides I doubt that the reason I am here is the same reason anyone else is here.

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  201. mannning says:

    @michael reynolds

    I suggest that there is a compelling need for many scientists to go along with the classic and accepted theories extant at any point. And for some, it ia an article of faith that ID is not science, especially thoxse who are, i believe the term is scientific materialists, which by definition excludes ID as being non-scientific., There is a succinct section in “The Cell” that shows why this is a philoslphical scientists daily work, and they claim there is absolutely no reason to exclude ID from real science. “Channelled” scientists are poaching on the territory of the philisophical scientist’s, quite usually wht vituperation and sneering.. Which in my mind, is a disqualifier for a trrue scientist who is supposed to follow the data and evidence. wherever it leads. If one is to critique ID, then I believe it is imperative for open minded scientists to take the time to read one of the seminal wors in the field. We have a plethora of closed-minded scientists that refuse to make any effort to correct their settled minds.

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  202. Grewgills says:

    @mannning:
    I ask again, can you name a single hypothesis that has been forwarded by anyone that supports ID?
    You keep avoiding what should be a simple question if ID is real science.

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  203. george says:

    @mannning:

    If one is to critique ID, then I believe it is imperative for open minded scientists to take the time to read one of the seminal wors in the field. We have a plethora of closed-minded scientists that refuse to make any effort to correct their settled minds.

    Actually no, there’s far too much scientific literature to read as it is. What needs to happen is that a theory based on ID explains (or better) predicts new things. When that occurs scientists will read up on it, just as classical physicists began to read up on quantum mechanics and relativity because of the explanation of the Michelson-Morely drift and black body radiation, followed by a whole series of successful predictions based on quantum mechanics and relativity.

    There is no end of speculative philosophies of science; only those which lead to scientific predictions are important to read. ID so far doesn’t seem to have come up with the equivalent of QM and relativity, or genetic theory/DNA, or anything else that requires it as an explanation.

    If it is as powerful as you suggest, and the gaps in current science as large as you say, then it should be relatively trivial for an ID scientist to come up with some such theory (perhaps replacing DNA/genetics for instance with some ID equivalent which solves one of the unsolved problems in that field – a good prediction and successful experimental results would be much more useful than a philosophical treaty on ID).

    Until it does there’s no particular for a scientist to read it as opposed to any other non-scientific work.

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  204. Pharoah Narim says:

    @ernieyeball: Meaning…you know because wanted your own psyche wanted to know…like I said. Reading comprehension is a beautiful thing my friend.

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  205. ernieyeball says:

    @Pharoah Narim:..you know because wanted your own psyche wanted to know…

    Maybe if you wrote something that made any sense I could read it.

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  206. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Grewgills: Actually, you make the same mistake the fundamentalist makes because you don’t understand ancient culture or the genre. Religious texts are never about the surface plot or content of the story. This was well understood amongst the few educated of the day and certainly by the religious orders that produced them. Only to the uneducated were these writings represented at plain face value.

    It’s only been the last 1700-1800 years when the Roman empire decided it was useful to have EVERYONE believe the plain literal interpretations (and proceeded to eliminate or intimidate “non believers” in the religious orders ). That political decision prefaces the dark ages and the creation/evolution “arguments” that we find today…groups of people impeaching and defending deliberate straw men created by the texts. And that’s not to say that the subject matter being concealed is relevant today or can’t be found in plain sight nowadays. It certainly can, for those with the curiosity to search.

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  207. Pharoah Narim says:

    @ernieyeball: It could also make sense if you attempted understanding beyond your own strongly held opinions. So, I could write clearer and/or a smart person like you could understand better. It’s our fault. Happy New Year.

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  208. Stonetools says:

    Circling back to the political implications of all this, I think we need to figure out how we can govern when one major party is an “anti science” party. Frankly , I think we can survive if some Congressmen or some school board members in Texas believe that Noah herded dinosaurs on the ark. I worry though about a Party that thinks that climate change is a socialist plot or who don’t understand that overusing antibiotics on animals can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant “super germs “. Such a party can cause real harm if they have the power to block helpful legislation. Indeed, it is causing harm. We should be doing something on these issues already but we are not- thanks to Republicans.

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  209. ernieyeball says:

    @Pharoah Narim:.. strongly held opinions.

    Which opinions are those?

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  210. Pharoah Narim says:

    @ernieyeball: Your last statement is unequivocally true and at its deepest level was one of the conclusions religious orders/ writings were designed to lead their aspirants to.. until Rome got involved. My point may have been unclear….neither science nor religion can answer the questions they ask. Which is no big deal because an “answer” so to speak isnt the point. We are here… so we might as well play the game and run the race. What they do offer is a method of investigation (I’m speaking beyond the literal interpretations of religious texts) for the best strategies to playing the game and running said race. Not step by step..but more like how to solve a rubix cube, which, even after learning various techniques still requires experience, developing acumen, failure, and success to give oneself a high probability of solving any random cube.

    Frankly, from a practical standpoint most religious texts are irrelevant because you can find what they teach outside of them and updated to resonate with human consciousness of today. From a literary standpoint, the are priceless. I enjoy most of them immensely. I only regret that many are prevented from going beyond the surface stories by people who are well meaning by nevertheless ignorant.

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  211. Pharoah Narim says:

    @ernieyeball: Sorry, I confused you with another poster upthread. But even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t walk into such an easy debate trap. Cheers.

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  212. al-Ameda says:

    Again, the problem with a so-called Theory of Intelligent Design is that there is no observational evidence that points us to the existence of an omniscient creator, the omniscient intelligent designer.

    Where is the observational evidence? There is none.

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  213. Grewgills says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Actually, you make the same mistake the fundamentalist makes because you don’t understand ancient culture or the genre. Religious texts are never about the surface plot or content of the story. This was well understood amongst the few educated of the day and certainly by the religious orders that produced them. Only to the uneducated were these writings represented at plain face value.

    Literalist interpretations are not exclusive to Christianity and the vast majority of believers have not been in an elite educated clique. The average Norseman believed that Valhalla was a real place, just as the average Christian thinks heaven is a real place.

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  214. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    I think you were way more emotional there than I’ve ever been above. Speaking of “letting the mask drop.”

    The only think I dislike is the abuse of logic. Some atheists, call them the cool kids, or the militants, or whatever, really do pull dangerous reverses on the religious.

    It’s a fact.

    “Since you can’t prove God exists, all religions are irrational.”

    It’s a thing. A thing that is both technically wrong (religions including agnostics) and logically wrong (religions not arguing provability themselves).

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  215. john personna says:

    And again, if anyone here is arguing a positive position that “there is no God,” you are also arguing an unprovable.

    That’s a fact.

    You can’t say that sort of thing and then shore it up later with “well, I’m an agnostic sort of atheist.”

    Get your mind straight.

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  216. john personna says:

    An agnostic disbelieves assertions that the existence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated, but also disbelieves assertions that the nonexistence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated.

    If that’s what you really are, brand yourself properly.

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  217. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Do fairies exist? In other words, are you agnostic or atheist in your view of fairies?

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  218. ernieyeball says:

    @Pharoah Narim: I confused you with another poster upthread.

    So you do think I can understand beyond my own strongly held opinions. What a relief!

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  219. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    If I was an atheist on faeries, or dragons, would that prevent me from being agnostic on things unseen?

    (People have at one time or another attempted to pass off fairy photographs and dragon bones.)

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  220. john personna says:

    BTW, what if there were a “faerie club” who accepted as members people do not actually believe in faeries?

    Could we say that fairy clubs are irrational and dangerous?

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  221. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    I think you were way more emotional there than I’ve ever been above. Speaking of “letting the mask drop.”

    Please share more of your insights into my emotions. They are quite fascinating. Actually, why don’t you own up to what you have written instead of attempting such claptrap diversions?

    The only think I dislike is the abuse of logic.

    Then stop abusing it.

    Some atheists, call them the cool kids, or the militants, or whatever, really do pull dangerous reverses on the religious.

    Do you feel you are in danger? I think that has more to do with you and your emotions than others.

    “Since you can’t prove God exists, all religions are irrational.”
    It’s a thing.

    That’s nice. To whom, exactly, are you attributing such positions?

    And again, if anyone here is arguing a positive position that “there is no God,” you are also arguing an unprovable.

    At least you are now qualifying your strawmen. A good first step.

    An agnostic disbelieves assertions that the existence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated, but also disbelieves assertions that the nonexistence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated.

    This is also true of many atheists, including yours truly. Your attempts to label us otherwise only reveal your misunderstanding of what atheism is, as if that weren’t clear enough.

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  222. Mikey says:

    @john personna: That is a terribly inaccurate definition. Agnosticism has to do with knowledge, not belief. Theism and atheism are about belief.

    You can believe in God while still understanding it impossible to prove God exists, and therefore be an agnostic theist, as Kierkegaard was.

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  223. mannning says:

    george:

    Then, it is apparent that you should not critique the Theory of Intelligent Design.

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  224. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Let me put it this way, what utility is there in a definition of “atheist” that includes “agnostic” as a fully enclosed subset?

    Doesn’t it just muddy the definition of “atheist” so that it has everything from anti-theists to agnostics?

    What’s the point of even saying “agnostic atheist?”

    Doesn’t “agnostic” get it in one?

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  225. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    That was a very emotional fisking there.

    Hint: reason is more dispassionate and more concise.

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  226. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    If I was an atheist on faeries, or dragons, would that prevent me from being agnostic on things unseen?

    If you are atheist regarding fairies then you have no room to criticize others for being atheist regarding god or gods. Do you really think that belief in fairies or dragons or hidden underground cities on Mars is rational?

    Could we say that fairy clubs are irrational and dangerous?

    That is two separate questions. Yes, they would still be irrational. They would be dangerous only if they push tenets of that irrational belief into laws that govern others.

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  227. mannning says:

    @Grewgills:

    Since I am too lazy to either copy the Appendix of Meyer’s book, where he lists the predictions ID has made, and that have been comfirmed in the scientific literature, or to assimilate in particular the predictions about the DNA ‘enigma” that have been verified and then to spew out a summary of them that would undoubtedly be faulty on my part (not being a microbiologist), I can simply refer you to the book and to that Appendix, which for someone trained in that science could read in about ten minutes. Just go to Barnes and Noble, pick out the book and stand there for the necessary ten minutes.You will have a good answer. One of the first mentioned takes three or four tightly written pages to set forth; hence my laziness.

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  228. john personna says:

    Or maybe striking this way:

    knowledge, not belief

    Do you think brains even work that way?

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  229. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Again: gnostic/agnostic refer to knowledge (or, in this context, the ability to know with certainty), theist/atheist to belief.

    “Agnostic” doesn’t “get it in one” because it’s equally possible to be an agnostic theist–to acknowledge it impossible to know with certaintly the existence of God, but still believe God exists.

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  230. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I’ll be patient, because this is a point I have made many, many, times above.

    If all religions argued provable Gods, that is evidence in the world of Gods, then yes, you could go back at them and say that since that evidence is no good, their God is no good.

    But that’s not true. Not all religions argue that the universe proves the watchmaker, the flood proves the bible, or whatever.

    Now the difference with your faerie question, which I tried to highlight, is that to my knowledge all claims about faeries are IN THIS WORLD, and supported by PROOF, be it “eyewitness accounts” or photographs, or whatever.

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  231. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    That was a very emotional fisking there.

    No, it wasn’t. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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  232. Grewgills says:

    @mannning:
    In short no, you cannot point to a single hypothesis made that supports ID.
    Note, I didn’t ask for an entire appendix. I asked for a single hypothesis. A hypothesis should be able to be clearly laid out in considerably less than a page. If they have to state their supposed hypothesis in 3-4 dense pages then it lacks any semblance of elegance and is likely a circular in nature.

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  233. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    “Agnostic” doesn’t “get it in one” because it’s equally possible to be an agnostic theist–to acknowledge it impossible to know with certaintly the existence of God, but still believe God exists.

    OK, do you think it is “rational” the term we are using here, to “believe” something that you also acknowledge that it is impossible to know “with certainty?”

    What I’ve been saying is that is not allowed in a truth table. Allowed values are true, false, and don’t care.

    Now, you want a truth table with “I think true but I know don’t care.”

    In that case, I think you’ve really taken the “true” position.

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  234. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Mikey can do it, but not you, apparently.

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  235. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    to my knowledge all claims about faeries are IN THIS WORLD, and supported by PROOF, be it “eyewitness accounts” or photographs, or whatever.

    Actually, most faeries of myth and legend live in a parallel world. Norse myth puts them in Álfheimr, not Midgard (our earth). Myth also has them as powerfully magical and able to shield themselves from mortal sight. They are not disprovable in the same way that the God of Abraham is not disprovable and Nirvana is not disprovable, etc.

    If all religions argued provable Gods, that is evidence in the world of Gods, then yes, you could go back at them and say that since that evidence is no good, their God is no good.

    That is not what I, or most prominent atheists (Dawkins et al) have put forward. What is said, even by the cool kids (Hitchens et al), is that to believe in something with no evidence is irrational. Further they state that since there is equivalent evidence for the existence of God or Gods as there is for unicorns or faeries that it makes as much sense to believe in one as the other. Given the dearth of evidence, they see the rational choice is to say they most likely do not exist. No atheist I have ever interacted with or read has ever said that they were 100% certain that there is no god. That is not what being an atheist means, at least not to atheists.

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  236. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    OK, I did not know that anyone “believed” in a type of faerie which has no interaction with this world. Only entering dreams perhaps? Sure, I can be agnostic about that kind.

    No atheist I have ever interacted with or read has ever said that they were 100% certain that there is no god. That is not what being an atheist means, at least not to atheists.

    I guess we could look it as a confidence level without branching to cognitive dissonance.

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  237. john personna says:

    Ah, you know what might be confusing the neophyte?

    Some people might think that “true” is a value, and that “false” is the absence of a value.

    Thus believing in God without evidence is taking an irrational position, but disbelieving is not.

    In fact, “false” is just as much a value as “true.”

    Don’t know or don’t care is the absence of a value.

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  238. Mikey says:

    @john personna: What I’m saying is it’s impossible to know with 100% certainty either way, and I am choosing to take the position supported by the evidence–or, rather the lack of evidence–for the existence of any gods.

    As @Grewgills said, 100% certainty there is no God is vanishingly rare among atheists.

    I don’t even really consider it particularly irrational to believe in God–I was a believer once, myself. I just don’t find any support for it anymore.

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  239. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    I don’t have a problem with a system that goes from say -1 (full positive atheism) to 0 (don’t know) to 1 (full positive faith).

    But that is different than this idea that you can “believe” something while “acknowledging it impossible to know with certainty.”

    That is treating cognitive dissonance as a solution.

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  240. john personna says:

    (It might even hearken back to “special boxes” as above. In this case a special box for things we “believe” while acknowledging etc.)

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  241. Mikey says:

    @john personna: It’s more like Dawkins’ spectrum of belief:

    1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
    2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
    3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
    4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
    5. Leaning towards Agnosticism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
    6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
    7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

    On that scale, I am at 6. Does that make more sense?

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  242. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s not bad, but the asymmetry between 3 (leaning theist) and 5 (leaning agnostic) seems unnecessary.

    To be symmetrical 5 should be “leaning atheist”.

    And in a symmetrical spectrum 4 would be “agnostic.”

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  243. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Well, the distribution isn’t symmetrical, either. There’s a far higher proportion of theists at 1 than there is of atheists at 7.

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  244. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    That’s confusing the spectrum of belief with the population density.

    Again, the text I borrowed from the internets above:

    An agnostic disbelieves assertions that the existence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated, but also disbelieves assertions that the nonexistence of a deity or deities has been demonstrated.

    Dawkins shifts that definition a bit, to actually make an agnostic more atheist-leaning than what he calls “impartial.”

    Perhaps he thought he was implying that self-labeled agnostics leaned towards atheism, but unfortunately he has to prop up his system with this “impartial” word, a word no one ever uses for self-description.

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  245. john personna says:

    (And certainly Dawkins’ atheist-leaning agnostics are totally incompatible with the people you cited earlier, who self-labeled as “agnostic theists.”)

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  246. john personna says:

    I don’t care if you go from -1 to 1 or from 1 to 7, if you don’t put “agnostic” at the center you discard the central tenant of agnosticism through the ages.

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  247. john personna says:

    Searching the interwebs for “central tenant” produces this:

    Having decided that theism and atheism are equally based on assumptions rather than observation, it’s fair to ask if the central tenet of Agnosticism might, likewise, be a bald assertion. The answer, quite simply, is that it is not. To say that the existence of God is uncertain, is based upon the observation that there is no proof, or disproof, of God’s existence. In the face of a lack of evidence either way, one cannot assume that either proposal is true. This is a reasonable, logical conclusion, thoroughly rational, which makes no assumptions, and which does not engage in interpretation.

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  248. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Put another way:

    To say that the existence of unicorns is uncertain, is based upon the observation that there is no proof, or disproof, of unicorns’ existence. In the face of a lack of evidence either way, one cannot assume that either proposal is true. This is a reasonable, logical conclusion, thoroughly rational, which makes no assumptions, and which does not engage in interpretation.

    Basically what you are saying, John, is that no one can believe the nonexistence of anything without cognitive dissonance because one cannot prove a negative. Have I got that right?

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  249. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Basically what you are saying, John, is that no one can believe the nonexistence of anything without cognitive dissonance because one cannot prove a negative. Have I got that right?

    Two things might be wrong here.

    First, I don’t know the rules for unicorns. Do they live in China? Now? Long ago? Are you peddling a narwhal tusk? Or are you proposing an animal that lives totally on a metaphysical plane, and is championed by “inspired” writers and mystics, who themselves admit that there can be no proof?

    Second, if you have a belief in any kind of unicorn, in China, with tusk, or on a mystical plane, you can tell us your confidence level, and then the logic you used to arrive at it.

    But … if you say “I disbelieve in creatures in any plane I can’t see, because I can’t see them,” then yeah, you might have reached cognitive dissonance.

    I don’t know about planes of existence that I cannot see.

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  250. john personna says:

    You certainly don’t have to actively believe in any plane of existence that you cannot see.

    That’s not a requirement.

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  251. john personna says:

    Oooh, “I disbelieve in creatures in any plane I can’t see, because I can’t see them,” faces the literal black swan problem.

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  252. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    First, I don’t know the rules for unicorns.

    Well, I don’t know the rules for gods. Are there any?

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  253. george says:

    @mannning:

    Then, it is apparent that you should not critique the Theory of Intelligent Design.

    My critique is that it seems to be an unnecessary hypothesis, in that no major science that I’m aware of has resulted from it. Where is its equivalent to quantum mechanics, or genetics, which come out of the paradigm that if there is a deity, that deity doesn’t play a role in the running of the natural world (ie you don’t need a single variable in any of the equations to mark the deity’s role)?

    ID says the deity plays an active role in the natural world. Fine, its a plausible hypothesis. So where are the equations that take that role into account, and what problems do they solve that cannot be solved with current (non-deity role) equations?

    When a powerful new paradigm comes into place, you expect to see a huge flow of new discoveries (read up on what happened when Darwin released the theory of evolution, or De Broglie quantum theory, or Einstein special relativity). A common comment among physicists is that when relativity and quantum mechanics were just starting, second rate physicists were able to do first rate physics because of the sudden rush of new things that could be explained. Why isn’t that happening with the introduction of ID into science?

    Note we’re not talking about a few papers in obscure journals, but in an explosion of papers that make doing science without the new paradigm impossible. Classical physicists hated quantum mechanics. They used it because they couldn’t do without it, because scientists using it were solving problems they couldn’t even touch. Why isn’t that the case with ID, if it is what it claims to be?

    I’ve no idea if ID science is correct or not, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary – basically it seems to be adding a mechanism that doesn’t seem to significantly anywhere.

    Personally, I believe God started the universe (ie I’m one of those who believe in evolution and God); but if He did so He seems to have done it in a way that has left no trace in the underlying physics. I’d argue that seems like a reasonable way for an omniscient, omnipotent being to create. But it also means that ID science isn’t likely to be useful, and until it proves itself to be so, there’s no more reason to study it than there is to study the possibility of something like the many worlds hypothesis (cool idea leading nowhere).

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  254. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Well, I don’t know the rules for gods. Are there any?

    That’s the kind of thing an agnostic might be comfortable saying, given that he isn’t claiming to understand and disprove any of those gods’ existences.

    Back on top-topic, I think the God of Young Earth Creationists fails by what they tell us. There are just too many ways to see the age of the universe, and fossil record, for their God to be true. (And “it’s all fake age, fake evolution” is a poor riposte on their part).

    But that’s just one god, and certainly doesn’t say anything of West African gods of which I have no experience.

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  255. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Can you get Intelligent Design folks on the same page about what is a natural selection and what was guided?

    Cold virus, created? Side effect? Childhood leukemia?

    I mean, I know you might give us your answer, but the problem with this construction “the Theory of Intelligent Design” is that it is not in fact one theory. It is a family. They range from the easily disprovable (that we are not related to the animals is disproven by a lot of biochemistry), to the abstract (a God that gently guided evolution without letting his hand be seen can neither be proven nor disproven. See also Agnosticism.)

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  256. ernieyeball says:

    @mantis:..Well, I don’t know the rules for gods. Are there any?

    ?We are as gods and we might as well get used to it…
    S.Brand

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  257. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Put differently, if you are anywhere 5-7 on Dwakins’ spectrum, you better know the gods.

    Because you are saying you know enough about them to disprove them.

    The higher the position on the spectrum, the higher the knowledge requirement.

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  258. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    You’re ducking the question. As far as I can summarize your position, as I understand it so far, it’s anything that we can’t prove doesn’t exist could exist, and we can’t prove anything doesn’t exist. Doesn’t make sense in this world? It could on another plane of existence!

    While theoretically I don’t disagree with the “hey, anything’s possible” position, I still live my life on the assumption that reality exists and I, through my senses and the use of technology, can perceive and understand that reality. I believe in the existence of things for which evidence exists (e.g. gravity, plate tectonics), and I don’t believe in things for which no evidence exists (e.g. gods, unicorns). At the same time I recognize that I am not omniscient, our tools are imperfect, and I could be mistaken about pretty much anything. If evidence reveals my mistakes, my beliefs change. That is what I call atheism. I lack belief in gods because, despite no small amount of investigation, I see no evidence for them.

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  259. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    I really don’t think I’m ducking the question, I think you aren’t following the logic.

    Some things, some claims, impinge on this world and can be tested by science.

    Something are purely abstract, make no footprint on this world, and cannot be tested by science.

    Oh, maybe this will help, since it is “in this universe” but just so far distant to be moot. Is there intelligent life in the Andromeda Galaxy?

    We’d all be smart enough to say “who knows”, right?

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  260. john personna says:

    (Some religions have put their god(s) so far out there on the testability scale that they are like life in Andromeda.)

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  261. john personna says:

    (On the other hand, the Creationists insert themselves right into the testable, physical, world … inviting … testing.)

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  262. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Something are purely abstract, make no footprint on this world, and cannot be tested by science.

    What, other than products of the human mind, would those things be? I’m not convinced such things exist that cannot be tested by science (even if not by humans at this point in time). Sounds like a very shaky premise, and I’m not really buying it so far.

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  263. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    You don’t have to buy it, but it might go something like “if you give yourself to faith you will be filled with the holy spirit and experience the love of a compassionate God.” Or “if you pray daily, you will come to love God and feel his grace.”

    You can try that, or not.

    But if someone else says they did, and it worked, who are we to say “no!”

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  264. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    We’d all be smart enough to say “who knows”, right?

    I think this may come down to your refusal to accept a distinction between knowledge and belief, and your conflation of unknown and unknowable. I don’t get that.

    I believe it is quite possible, and fairly probable, that intelligent life in some form exists in most galaxies, Andromeda included (it has about a trillion stars, after all). I don’t know one way or another. The answer is, however, knowable, with the necessary means of travel and/or communication. It can be confirmed with solid, conclusive evidence. Just not by me at this time, by me.

    So my answer would not be “Who knows?” It would be, “I believe somebody knows, and I hope we find out,” and I’ll donate to SETI projects.

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  265. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    So the holy spirit, god’s love, and grace? Those are the abstract untestables? I don’t accept the premise that such things exist except as products of the human mind. The human mind is amazing.

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  266. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    I think this may come down to your refusal to accept a distinction between knowledge and belief, and your conflation of unknown and unknowable. I don’t get that.

    We could say knowledge is high confidence and belief is lower confidence. But you certainly can’t have knowledge and belief pointing opposite ways in one person. That is cognitive dissonance.

    I believe it is quite possible, and fairly probable, that intelligent life in some form exists in most galaxies, Andromeda included (it has about a trillion stars, after all). I don’t know one way or another.

    OK, you are using the words “knowledge” and “belief” to describe a confidence level, one that you cannot test.

    So the holy spirit, god’s love, and grace? Those are the abstract untestables? I don’t accept the premise that such things exist except as products of the human mind. The human mind is amazing.

    Nothing there said that such feelings had to exist outside the mind. The mind was where the “conversation” took place.

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  267. john personna says:

    Bottom line, you don’t have to believe in this hypothetical, experiential, God I’ve described, but I don’t think you’ve given us a way to say “no!” to a believer.

    Thus, we must remain Agnostic.

    Maybe it did work for him.

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  268. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    3, 4, and 5 would be agnostic with 3 and 5 being leaners, if we are trying to make an evenly balanced scale. The thing is most self professed agnostics tend more towards 5 than 3.
    @john personna:

    Put differently, if you are anywhere 5-7 on Dwakins’ spectrum, you better know the gods.

    Because you are saying you know enough about them to disprove them.

    That is really only true of 7. 5 and 6 are either somewhat skeptical or very skeptical because of a lack of positive evidence.

    The higher the position on the spectrum, the higher the knowledge requirement.

    Using your own criteria, the 1-3 cohort need considerable knowledge of a wide variety of religions or their decision to cleave to one is irrational. In the world you are setting up most everybody has to be a 4 or they are irrational. You don’t get to have it both ways.

    Something are purely abstract, make no footprint on this world, and cannot be tested by science.

    Would the existence of such a being matter? He/she/it will never affect me, so why should I bother to believe?

    Some religions have put their god(s) so far out there on the testability scale that they are like life in Andromeda.

    Actually, they put it further. It is conceivable that at some future date life in Andromeda could be proven. The being they posit can never be proven not to exist. All in all, it seems rather a dodge on their part. Trust me this entirely unverifiable being exists and and will grant you an eternal life of bliss if only you follow these rules in a really old book. Promises that big beg verification. Absent some sort of evidence it doesn’t make logical sense to buy in and follow a fair number of rather arbitrary rules.

    You don’t have to buy it, but it might go something like “if you give yourself to faith you will be filled with the holy spirit and experience the love of a compassionate God.” Or “if you pray daily, you will come to love God and feel his grace.”

    You can try that, or not.

    And trying that is an inherently irrational act. It CANNOT be come to by logic and reason period. That is not to say that it is provably false nor does it say that it can’t offer some solace, just that reason and logic will never carry you there.

    I can see some value in religion when it provides community, charity, and solace to people that need it. Too often though it does the exact opposite.
    A few years back my cousin died from a combination of pills and alcohol. He was kind of a hippy and the closest thing he had to religion was music. His parents are devout Catholics. Rather than their faith giving them solace and helping them through the most difficult thing a parent to go through, it has left them bereft because they believe his soul is suffering eternal torment in Hell. I see no benefit whatsoever in that.

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  269. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    3, 4, and 5 would be agnostic with 3 and 5 being leaners, if we are trying to make an evenly balanced scale. The thing is most self professed agnostics tend more towards 5 than 3.

    That’s just denying agnostics their traditional and longstanding position.

    That is, to put it bluntly, semantic rhetoric.

    Having decided that theism and atheism are equally based on assumptions rather than observation, it’s fair to ask if the central tenet of Agnosticism might, likewise, be a bald assertion. The answer, quite simply, is that it is not. To say that the existence of God is uncertain, is based upon the observation that there is no proof, or disproof, of God’s existence. In the face of a lack of evidence either way, one cannot assume that either proposal is true. This is a reasonable, logical conclusion, thoroughly rational, which makes no assumptions, and which does not engage in interpretation.

    Agnosticism FAQ

    So, are you honestly engaging with that?

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  270. john personna says:

    And trying that is an inherently irrational act. It CANNOT be come to by logic and reason period. That is not to say that it is provably false nor does it say that it can’t offer some solace, just that reason and logic will never carry you there.

    Why is trying something experiential, with no apparent downside, irrational?

    Couldn’t you describe it as self-experimentation?

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  271. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Thus, we must remain Agnostic

    Because we can’t prove god doesn’t exist? That ain’t so.

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  272. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I see no benefit whatsoever in that.

    So … you found a religion you did not like, and generalized from there?

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  273. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    Explain your logic, again with reference to the agnostic position that if you can neither prove existence or prove non-existence, you must leave it as an unknown.

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  274. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Put differently, when you say “most agnostics are really atheists” you try to rope-in people who have not signed on to that belief.

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  275. john personna says:

    (I think a lot of anti-religion does come from improper generalization. Just seen on twitter:

    “Gods don’t kill people. People with gods kill people.”

    As we’ve seen, people with and without gods kill people with and without gods.)

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  276. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Not all self experimentation is rational. I think your hang up here is you are somehow seeing irrational as a value negative judgement, rather than simply meaning you CANNOT come to it via logic and reason. Kierkegaard came to this conclusion re: faith a few years ago, thus the leap of faith. Despite realizing that it was not a rational position, he remained a deeply religious man. Just because something is irrational doesn’t mean it is bad or untrue.

    So … you found a religion you did not like, and generalized from there?

    You have no idea the path I have taken, so you would be better off not trying to pin that on me.

    Put differently, when you say “most agnostics are really atheists” you try to rope-in people who have not signed on to that belief.

    You seem to be changing your definition of atheism mid stream. Earlier you claimed atheists claimed that god(s) positively do not exist. Now you seem to be saying finding less than a 50% probability of god(s) existing is being an atheist. You need to stake out a consistent position.
    The reasonable position IMO re the spectrum is that 1 and 2s are theists, 6s and 7s are atheists, leaving 3,4, and 5 as agnostics with some leaning one way or another.* BTW virtually all atheists I have encountered and all of the prominent atheist philosophers and writers fall firmly into the 6 category. I grew up with mostly 1s and 2s.
    The way our society is structured, it is considerably less socially acceptable to be an atheist than it is to be a theist. That pushes things when people self identify. In my experience, the people who self identify as agnostics tend to be more 5s than 3s or 4s. If it were just as acceptable in our society to be atheist as theist, then that might not be so.

    * It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to label someone with a 60% confidence that either there is or is not a god as anything other than an agnostic. To pool them in with theists or atheists doesn’t make much sense.

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  277. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    One of my VERY rare down votes for an unwarranted generalization about me.

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  278. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    OK, I did not know that anyone “believed” in a type of faerie which has no interaction with this world. Only entering dreams perhaps? Sure, I can be agnostic about that kind.

    I overlooked this earlier. So are you really saying that you think there is exactly a 50% chance that this type of faerie exists? Do you really not lean even a bit towards thinking those faeries don’t exist, or at least that it is not rational to believe in them?

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  279. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    Explain your logic, again with reference to the agnostic position that if you can neither prove existence or prove non-existence, you must leave it as an unknown.

    The position you describe is false. I cannot prove anything doesn’t exist, therefore everything is unknown. That’s garbage.

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  280. Scott O says:

    @john personna:
    I don’t understand why you are making such a big deal out of the definition of atheism. I do not believe God exists. To me that is atheism. I do not know that God doesn’t exist. If you want to call me an agnostic, fine. In casual conservation I just say I’m not a religious person and leave it at that. As I see it there is no evidence that God exists and lots of evidence that humans invent Gods.

    What do you believe re God specifically?

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  281. Pharoah Narim says:

    An interesting back and forth and splitting of hairs. Seriously though, can anything be proven to exist outside of our minds? At the end of the day, every sense we have is nothing but electrical signals inside the brain. When I was a kid I used to ask myself hypothetically what if everything was a figment of my imagination, created by me to interact with…but only I was self consciousness. Seeing that in fact everything I experience does indeed happen inside of my head, there was a great deal of reality in that hypothetical question.

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  282. john personna says:

    @Scott O:

    Related:

    How to Make Atheism Less Awful in 2014

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  283. john personna says:

    I am on my phone and on vacation, but this boils down to “athiest” needs to disprove “religions” that in some cases include agnostics, and that in some cases operate purely on a spiritual plane.

    And where I am coming from is less about my views, and more that I want to be open and friendly to all the “religious” who themselves accept science.

    I’ll reserve my scorn (and/or pitty) for those like young earth creationists who make foolish war on science.

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  284. john personna says: