Atheists: I Need Your Help with a Scam

lee strobel case for christ atheist atheismI survived Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ movie, the story of a no-nonsense, legally trained journalist who tackled the Jesus story as an atheist (my review here). He was determined to knock down the Christian house of cards, but he convinced himself of the truth of Christianity and became a believer instead.

Stories like Strobel’s provide never-ending entertainment for Christian audiences. Here’s a smart guy, probably smarter than they are, who attacked Christianity with more energy and intellect than they could muster. The Christian ramparts were unscathed from the attack, and the enemy is now a brother.

Praise the Lord and buy some books.

The scam

Let me sketch out an alternate reality that wouldn’t be hard to create. Take the population of public atheists from celebrity authors and scientists all the way down to commonplace atheist bloggers. Imagine that a small fraction of these public atheists dedicated some time to a special kind of missionary work. Their project would be to loudly and publicly declare that, after deep study or perhaps personal tragedy, their atheism turned out to be a big mistake. Jesus lives! Whether their conversion was driven by emotional reasons, intellectual reasons, or both, they’d then lecture or write about their conversion, embraced and validated by prominent Christian leaders who would hog the spotlight with these fledgling Christians.

Think about the big deal evangelical Christians made when philosopher Antony Flew moved from atheism to deism in 2004. Many Christians eagerly declared him atheism’s most celebrated philosopher as they claimed him for their own, even though his conversion was built on scientific arguments he wasn’t qualified to evaluate (more here).

Consider the remaining Four Horsemen—Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett—and imagine what a catch any of them would be to today’s Christian establishment. Or imagine prominent atheist intellectuals like Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker, Dan Barker, or Richard Carrier. Or cocky and obnoxious atheist bloggers and speakers like PZ Myers, Matt Dillahunty, David Silverman, or Aron Ra—wouldn’t it be gratifying to see them with their tail between their legs coming to the Truth? As new Christians, they might write books with titles like I Was Wrong: How a Professional Atheist Found Jesus and appear on conservative and Christian shows, embracing leaders like Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen and telling their inspiring story of deliverance.

And then, maybe a year after their immersion in Christianity, the new Christian would reveal that it was all a spoof! Then they’d lecture about that—about the Christian celebrities who declared that God assured them that the ex-atheist’s heart was pure or about the publicity tour where the ex-atheist was used like a trained circus animal to raise donations. Don’t tell me that they couldn’t convincingly pull this off when many of them came from a deeply religious background—Michael Shermer, Matt Dillahunty, and Dan Barker come to mind, for example.

The point

The goal here isn’t to humiliate the Christian establishment, though that’s a satisfying side benefit. Rather, it’s to poison the well so that the next Lee Strobel conversion claim may not be so well received. The Christian marketing machine needs to be burned a few times, like it was in 2015 with “heaven tourism” books.

If Christianity’s mechanism for winnowing the true from the false is so imperfect that a fraudulent “I visited heaven!” or “I found Jesus!” story can be this easily believed, that says something about how they find truth in supernatural claims. If they refuse to learn the lesson when it’s clearly and logically presented by these atheists today, maybe they need a little public humiliation tomorrow. If the deception part bothers you, remember that they started it. They are the ones who declare that they have solid intellectual reasons behind their faith. If that makes them feel good about themselves, that’s fine, but they can’t insist that those of us in the reality-based world swallow that.

I’m half thinking about this just as a fun thought experiment . . . and half thinking that it’d be a great project to actually implement. Do you know any atheists who want an adventure?

See also:

Asking, “If there is no god, what is the purpose of life?”
is like asking, “If there is no master, whose slave will I be?”
— Dan Barker

Image credit: Frederick Dennstedt, flickr, CC

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  • wtfwjtd

    A little advice Bob: Don’t market your scheme as a “scam” , think of it as… “a money-making opportunity”.
    Now, dammit, if there wasn’t that little thing called integrity, I just might be able to jump on board this train… 🙂

    • Michael Neville

      Now, dammit, if there wasn’t that little thing called integrity

      That’s my problem too.

      • Greg G.

        Sometimes sheer laziness kicks in before I ever get to the part of considering the proposition in terms of integrity.

        I don’t rob banks because I don’t like carrying a lot of cash.

        • Michael Neville

          Advice from your friendly, neighborhood accountant. When robbing a bank, ask them to do a EBT (Electronic Bank Transfer) to your Swiss or Cayman Islands bank account. That way you don’t have to burden yourself with a bag of money when making your getaway.

        • I heard of a guy who grabbed four 30-pound bags of money from an armored car and ran. Unsurprisingly, he was fairly easy to catch.

          Turns out they were bags of pennies.

        • Michael Neville

          A pound of pennies produced from the design launched in 1982 is worth $1.81, containing 181 pennies at 2.5 grams each. So 120 pounds of pennies would be $217.10. That’ll buy you and the wife a decent dinner at Red Lobster

        • That’ll buy you and the wife a decent dinner at Red Lobster

          … except that they probably won’t take payment in pennies.

          There goes that romantic outing.

        • Anri

          The challenge will then be finding a decent dinner at a Red Lobster…

        • Shatterface

          My favourite con was the classic ‘biodegradable cheque book’ scam.

          Unfortunately nobody uses cheques anymore.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I don’t hack peoples’ bank accounts because I hate those deep chest colds.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I don’t rob banks because I don’t like carrying a lot of cash.

          this was essentially my attitude wrt knocking over liquor stores for quite some time.

          (no … the only ‘after quite some time’ part is that eventually i got a bit tired of drinking.)

      • ORigel

        I’m rubbish at lying.

    • Also, the Gawd crowd would just claim that it proves all atheists are liars all the time*, and we really do believe God exists and is named Yahweh, but we just want to have a sinful life, so we pretend. Or something.

      * That is, when convenient for argument’s sake.

    • As someone noted above, you could donate any earnings you made as a “Christian” to either atheist-ish charities or simply to good-works charities that the Christians would be happy with.

  • chemical

    Just out of curiosity, why did you throw Dillahunty in the cocky and obnoxious category? He always comes across as more intellectual to me.

    • Perhaps bob was thinking of how he looks from the fundy Christian view? To some holy rollers, there is nothing more obnoxious than a reasonable, pleasant fellow who shows no interest in “being saved”.

      • chemical

        Maybe, but PZ Myers and Silverman definitely qualify as cocky and obnoxious.

        • Tony D’Arcy

          I’d excuse Silverman, but definitely include Carrier. Since all that SJW nonsense, I’ve stopped visiting PZ. Dillahunty has a quick fuse, but he’s one of the good guys IMO.

        • I agree. I hope my comment above clarifies my intent.

          What’s SJW? Single Jehovah’s Witness?

        • Herald Newman

          Social Justice Warrior.

        • Tony D’Arcy

          The modern age ! It seems we have to write in initials to save time ! Innit ?

        • Greg G.

          WWJD?

        • Michael Neville

          It stands for “Social Justice Warrior”. That’s a term that MRAs*, gamergaters, and other reactionaries use as a way of dismissing contested issues out of hand, merely by labeling their opponents as SJWs. It denigrates the concerns of liberals, progressives, and feminists by calling those concerns “political correctness”.

          People like me who think social justice (a term with a history back to the 1840s) actually sounds like a pretty good idea worth fighting for, and aren’t accepting of racism and sexism, have in turn self-labeled as SJWs, particularly in the context of talking about reactionaries.

          *MRAs is Men’s Rights Advocates.

          The list of grievances for MRAs is long. It includes the elevated rate of suicide for men, educational discrimination against boys, economic and workplace conditions for men, violence against men, false rape reporting, fathers’ rights in custody battles, rates of male imprisonment and prison conditions, and the horrors of war. Many of these issues deserve a thoughtful response and the force of an organized movement for address them. It’s too bad that’s not what Men’s Rights Activists are offering. —Jaclyn Friedman

        • I’m all for social justice, but now I’m unclear about how you characterize PZ’s position in relation to that. My complaint about PZ was that all he wanted to talk about (last time I checked, which was probably several years ago) was the latest misogynistic charge against a prominent atheist. Reading the stuff on Freethought Blogs, any woman would think that a community/conference of atheists was the absolute least safe for her to be.

          Is that your view? Or are you saying something else about PZ?

        • Michael Neville

          I have my own problems with PZ Myers and some of his followers, which is why I’ve abandoned Pharyngula. But I don’t agree with you about Freethought Blogs being unsafe for women.

        • Greg G.

          I think Bob was saying the daily posts about those negative events at a conference made it seem like any atheist conference/event was unsafe for women.

          I remember chatting with PZ at talk.origins and when he started his blog. But I got tired of it.

        • racismisbaddude

          Freethought Blogs is safer for women since Jason and Richard took their deep, dark histories elsewhere, but I am still worried about the student who accused PZ of rape. We have never heard her side. False accusations are vanishingly rare.

        • False accusations are vanishingly rare.

          I had not heard this; do you have evidence to back it up?

        • racismisbaddude

          PZ has told the story on his blog a few times. You would have to ask him which version is most true. PZ’s posts are collected here. It is okay to ignore the commentary, as it is coming from the land of privilege.

          http://www.michaelnugent.com/2014/11/24/pz-myers-updates-story-threatened-false-rape-allegation/

          As for false rape accusations being vanishingly rare: only 2-8% are false. (What motivation would a woman have to lie?) jezebel.com/he-said-she-said-the-mythical-history-of-the-false-ra-1720945752/

        • From the abstract of the relevant paper:

          One of the most controversial disputes affecting the discourse related to violence against women is the dispute about the frequency of false allegations of sexual assault. In an effort to add clarity to the discourse, published research on false allegations is critiqued, and the results of a new study described. All cases (N = 136) of sexual assault reported to a major Northeastern university over a 10-year period are analyzed to determine the percentage of false allegations. Of the 136 cases of sexual assault reported over the 10-year period, 8 (5.9%) are coded as false allegations. These results, taken in the context of an examination of previous research, indicate that the prevalence of false allegations is between 2% and 10%. (False Allegations of Sexual Assualt: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases, 1318)

          Later on:

          A frequently cited statistic for false rape reports is the 8% figure reported by the FBI in its 1997 Uniform Crime Reports (FBI, 1997). However, that 8% is actually the percentage of rape cases classified as “unfounded” by police departments across the country, a category that includes “baseless” cases. It is abundantly clear that many departments include as “unfounded” cases that do not meet the IACP or the UCR definition of a false report (IACP, 2005b). (False Allegations of Sexual Assualt: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases, 1322)

          The paper goes on to say that much of the research done in this domain ought to be discarded for one reason or another. In the data the researchers personally collected, the following table is instructive:

          Category                    n   Percent
          False report                8    5.9
          Case did not proceed       61   44.9
          Case proceeded             48   35.3
          Insufficient information   19   13.9

          It seems to me that we ought to discern between these three categories:

               (A) allegation known to be false
               (B) allegation known to be true
               (C) truth or falsity of allegation unknown

          First, 2%–10% is not “vanishingly rare”. Second, the 2%–10% number is deceptive, given (C). However, it seems reasonable to say that of the allegations brought to police departments, only a small percentage are known to be false allegations. This is enough to defeat many stupid views on rape allegations—at least, those brought to police departments. (My guess is that people exert more sober judgment when they bring an allegation to a police department. But this is really a big unknown.)

          (What motivation would a woman have to lie?)

          People seek to damage each other all the time; lies are a potent weapon in doing so. A false rape allegation can be incredibly damaging to a person. One of my good friends was slandered by a young woman (not sexual) and the educational institution bought it without due diligence justice, greatly harming him. He was also slandered by someone at the school where he taught, forcing him into early retirement. This was discovered only after his teaching credential was almost revoked. The world is a nasty, nasty place—completely apart from false rape allegations.

        • racismisbaddude

          It sounds as though you are calling rape victims liars. So who is lying? PZ’s victim? Jason Thibeault’s victim? Are Richard Carrier’s victims of sexual harassment lying?

          No wonder we needed to implement extensive anti-sexual harassment and anti-rape policies at atheist conventions. No one believed women.

          This is why we don’t feel safe around atheist/skeptic men.

        • Pofarmer

          And as an atheist man, this saddens me.

        • No, he didn’t. He pointed out some reasons people lie. He never supported a claim that all or most allegations were false. I don’t agree with Luke about much, but this is unfair.

        • It sounds as though you are calling rape victims liars.

          Do please explain the chain of reasoning which led to this appearance. Or have you no interest in reason and evidence and every interest in sophistic rhetoric and power?

          So who is lying? PZ’s victim? Jason Thibeault’s victim? Are Richard Carrier’s victims of sexual harassment lying?

          Statistically, 2–10% of those who have reported to police departments are known to be lying. That’s what the data you presented says. Do you not trust your own sources?

          No wonder we needed to implement extensive anti-sexual harassment and anti-rape policies at atheist conventions. No one believed women.

          You’re not doing yourself any favors by deploying terrible logic and heinous rhetoric.

          This is why we don’t feel safe around atheist/​skeptic men.

          I’m not an atheist, and few skeptics would probably call me a skeptic. If you want my personal opinion on all this, it is that Modernity is in love with power, and it is always the weak who get screwed in such a paradigm. As long as the love of power is not condemned in an unadorned fashion, the weakest will continue to get screwed.

        • smrnda

          Isn’t modernity about rejecting the whole power thing (which was a relic of feudalism) in favor of democracy and universal rights?

        • That may have been the rhetoric. It was not the reality.

        • Carol Lynn

          Oh nonsense.There are assholes everywhere and most women learn to spot them early. I don’t think either theist or atheist circles have more than their fair share.

          There will always be a few women who are blinded by celebrity and can be taken advantage of. There will always be a few women taking advantage of men, as well. And systemic sexism is a still a thing.

        • smrnda

          Do you care to estimate how many victims of sexual violence are disbelieved? It’s certainly a larger % than the number of people falsely accused. Cops are also well known for being totally useless for rape allegations, unless of course it’s a case or rape that fits in with police prejudice.

        • Do you care to estimate how many victims of sexual violence are disbelieved?

          No.

        • You misunderstand my point. I’m saying that, according to the sense you get from hanging out a FTB (and this was several years ago), every other atheist male is a sexual predator. Hashing and rehashing accusations was all they seemed to want to talk about.

          I wasn’t saying that FTB was unsafe; I was saying that the impression FTB gave was that the atheist conventions were unsafe.

        • Michael Neville

          every other atheist male is a sexual predator.

          I didn’t get that idea at all. I strongly suspect, based on reasonable evidence, that Michael Shermer is a sexual predator but he’s not every atheist.

          the impression FTB gave was that the atheist conventions were unsafe.

          The Amazing Meeting has an unsavory reputation but, (a) since it’s in Las Vegas, a city I’ve been to once and have no desire to revisit and (b) it’s quite expensive, I’ve never attended so I don’t know.

        • I believe TAM is done now?

          I attended two or three times. My wife came with me once. I hadn’t heard of that reputation, but it always seemed perfectly safe to me.

          My problem is trying to disentangle what (I suspect) are overblown concerns about atheist leaders and conferences from reality. I certainly feel safe (I’m attending the American Atheist conference in August), though of course I’m not a woman.

        • Michael Neville

          Intensive research (I looked at a wikipedia article) informs me that the last TAM was in 2015.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The Amazing Meeting has an unsavory reputation but, (a) since it’s in Las Vegas

          right there i can think of one big way to mitigate the unsavoriness of just about any reputation. (assuming it’s Paradise you mean and not the relatively ordinary parts of the city.)

        • “Many of these issues deserve a thoughtful response and the force of an organized movement for address them. It’s too bad that’s not what Men’s Rights Activists are offering”

          Yes, that nicely states the paradox.

        • racismisbaddude

          +1. The white cis hetero patriarchy just doesn’t understand that their whiteness and masculinity means they need to step aside and let other people have rights for once in human ourstory.

    • I didn’t mean to offend Matt or any of his fans (I’m one). I am just guessing that from the Christian standpoint, he comes across as hard and unforgiving. Maybe even obnoxious.

      That’s just my guess at how they see him. I could easily be wrong.

  • Herald Newman

    If Christianity’s mechanism for winnowing the true from the false is so imperfect […]

    It’s not that the mechanism they have is imperfect, it’s that they don’t have a mechanism to verify what I say. If I say that I now accept Jesus, and I’m lying about it, but put on a good show, there may be no way to tell that I’m lying except when I finally reveal my lie.

    Do you know any atheists who want an adventure?

    If I thought, for even a second, that it would change the mind of even a single Christian, I’d be up for it. As it stands, I’m pretty sure they’ll rationalize this just as they rationalize every other piece of disconfirming evidence. You’ll see lousy excuses like “God is testing our faith.”

    Editor for typo’s and grammar fixes.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      If I say that I now accept Jesus, and I’m lying about it, but put on a good show, there may be no way to tell that I’m lying except when I finally reveal my lie.

      See, for example Hitler.

      By all appearances, Hitler was a Christian. He said and did all the things that Christians do. I don’t know what was “in his heart” or anything, but he appeared to be as much a Christian than pretty much anyone. Hell, he’s a lot more Christian than Donald Trump.

      It’s interesting that the Christians are the ones who insist that Hitler wasn’t a “True Christian.”

      • Greg G.

        It’s interesting that the Christians are the ones who insist that Hitler wasn’t a “True Christian.”

        They only look at the time he was backsliding.

      • busterggi

        They haven’t forgiven Hitler for failing to exterminate the Jews.

      • BelieverEqualsMenace

        The genius of the scam Christianity owes in large part to knowing how to deploy the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    • ORigel

      Making money off of lies? I’m not that low. One thing to fool xtians, another thing to part them from their money with book deals and stuff.

      • Herald Newman

        All of the money can be donated to a charity. I’d prefer something like Planned Parenthood, or the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

        • Or even a nonprofit that helps the homeless or funds medical research, if we’re trying to find a way to get the Christians’ money to worthy causes.

        • ORigel

          I don’t have good enough public speaking skills to pull this off, even if I write the book. For maximum impact, it would have to be someone who has the time and money to tour churches and universities. Unfortunately, I do not.

    • It’s not that the mechanism they have is imperfect, it’s that they don’t have a mechanism to verify what I say. If I say that I now accept Jesus, and I’m lying about it, but put on a good show, there may be no way to tell that I’m lying except when I finally reveal my lie.

      Hence the parable of the wheat and tares (Mt 13:24–30), the call to judge trees by their fruit (Mt 7:15–20), and the warning that not everyone who appears to be a follower of Jesus is a follower of Jesus (Mt 7:21–23). The trick is that God can make use of your lies and deception, as a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mt 12:22–28). As Joseph said to his treacherous brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

      The real difference is that Christians can tolerate lying and deception hidden in the depths of people’s beings, because they can trust that God will not let that destroy them. In contrast, atheistic totalitarian regimes must reach into the very core of human beings, to ensure that no rebellion is brewing. If humans are the only ones establishing and maintaining order, then much more can threaten them and much more needs to be controlled and/or quashed.

      BS: Do you know any atheists who want an adventure?

      HN: If I thought, for even a second, that it would change the mind of even a single Christian, I’d be up for it.

      Deception to lead to the truth, eh?

      As it stands, I’m pretty sure they’ll rationalize this just as they rationalize every other piece of disconfirming evidence. You’ll see lousy excuses like “God is testing our faith.”

      Your willingness to deceive is precisely what justifies the skepticism which you have labeled “rationalize”.

      • Herald Newman

        Missed the point entirely….

        • You made it rather obvious that you are willing to deceive to obtain your desires, which you conflate with what is true.

        • Herald Newman

          Again, you missed my point entirely…

          My whole point is that even if I showed how unreliable testimony is, Christians wouldn’t change their mind about how reliable testimony is as a basis of their faith. The whole of your religion depends on testimony, even though it’s far less reliable than you believe.

          Almost all religious people are already convinced of the truth of their proposition, but don’t seem to care that people lie, make mistakes, and sometimes have agendas. More specifically, my point is not to covert anyone to atheism, as you seem to think, but rather to get them to be skeptical of claims until you have some reliable way to validate what is being told to you.

          I don’t think this method would make Christians any more skeptical. Most don’t give a damn about disconfirming evidence, and only care to cherry pick out the weak evidence that confirms what they already believe.

        • My whole point is that even if I showed how unreliable testimony is, Christians wouldn’t change their mind about how reliable testimony is as a basis of their faith.

          Showing that testimony is unreliable by intentional unreliability is not evidence of unreliability simpliciter. The strongest argument you could make would have to demonstrate too much unintentional unreliability amidst the attempt to be reliable. If you’re going to simply dismiss the NT authors as having agendas, why ought the reader not dismiss you for having an agenda?

          The whole of your religion depends on testimony, even though it’s far less reliable than you believe.

          Life depends on testimony and trust. Right now, the US is dying proof of what happens when trust erodes (56% in 1968 → 33% in 2014). Unless you are going to 100% distrust another person when [s]he says, “Please don’t do that, it hurts me.”, you will also need to trust testimony. The idea that well-placed trust and reliable testimony are impossible to the level required for the NT to be true is destructive to life even if the NT is false. But hey, I’m just an idiot Christian. Let’s see how this world goes forward with the kind of distrust in trust and distrust in testimony you espouse. You like empirical evidence, right?

          Almost all religious people are already convinced of the truth of their proposition, but don’t seem to care that people lie, make mistakes, and sometimes have agendas.

          Of course: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24–25) What you are asserting here is that God cannot, or will not, correct these problems in willing humans. You are denying the plausibility of theosis. No, humans are too fragile for such a thing. Job 40:6–14 sets out an impossible ideal. Now, perhaps the potential of human nature is as pathetic as the picture you draw. But perhaps it is not. Perhaps it is only the current actualization of so much human nature that is pathetic.

          More specifically, my point is not to covert anyone to atheism, as you seem to think, but rather to get them to be skeptical of claims until you have some reliable way to validate what is being told to you.

          It’s not like I covered any of that in my initial response. As to the rest, are you really going to tell me that you never espouse anything which you have not validated in “some reliable way”, excepting when you give the proper qualifications? I doubt your ideal is possible for just about any human. I am, however, interested in where various people fail in that ideal. Perhaps those failures are … strategic.

        • Herald Newman

          Showing that testimony is unreliable by intentional unreliability is not evidence of unreliability simpliciter.

          If I can make testimony that isn’t truthful, how do you know that the NT authors are truthful in their testimony?

          If you’re going to simply dismiss the NT authors as having agendas, why ought the reader not dismiss you for having an agenda?

          Strawman. This isn’t what I’m arguing. I’m arguing that testimony itself is unreliable, that is, not a good indicator of truth.

          Unless you are going to 100% distrust another person when [s]he says, “Please don’t do that, it hurts me.”, you will also need to trust testimony.

          I don’t need their testimony to know that something will hurt somebody else. The testimony may alert me to the fact, but I can actually investigate and determine if it is a fact!

          When it comes to the testimony of the NT authors, we have literally NOTHING to verify. We must accept their claims on absolute faith, even when their claims contradict what we know of reality.

          […](John 2:24–25)

          Don’t give a shit what your holy book says.

          What you are asserting here is that God cannot, or will not, correct these problems in willing humans.

          No I’m not. I have no good reason to accept that God does try to correct these problems. You have yet more unjustified assumptions in your position, and lends no more credibility to your position.

        • If I can make testimony that isn’t truthful, how do you know that the NT authors are truthful in their testimony?

          trust ≠ know

          HN: Almost all religious people are already convinced of the truth of their proposition, but don’t seem to care that people lie, make mistakes, and sometimes have agendas.

          LB: If you’re going to simply dismiss the NT authors as having agendas, why ought the reader not dismiss you for having an agenda?

          HN: Strawman. This isn’t what I’m arguing. I’m arguing that testimony itself is unreliable, that is, not a good indicator of truth.

          It is not a straw man; one aspect of your argument was the danger of agenda, and I have said that if it is enough of a danger for it to matter in your argument, then there is enough of a danger that you have an agenda. But I’m happy to respond to the version of your argument which does not mention “agendas”; shall I?

          Furthermore, it is poisoning the well to actively deceive with alleged trustworthy testimony in order to demonstrate that testimony is untrustworthy. It is an illegitimately self-fulfilled prophecy.

          I don’t need their testimony to know that something will hurt somebody else. The testimony may alert me to the fact, but I can actually investigate and determine if it is a fact!

          You cannot empirically detect all forms of harm that you are able to do to other people.

          When it comes to the testimony of the NT authors, we have literally NOTHING to verify. We must accept their claims on absolute faith, even when their claims contradict what we know of reality.

          This is tantamount to saying that “Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection cannot POSSIBLY have the effects Christians say it has.” Because if it could, then it could be investigable in ways excluded by your “literally NOTHING to verify”. Your disagreement is philosophical, not evidential.

          Don’t give a shit what your holy book says.

          I see, so you criticize things and people you do not understand.

          LB: What you are asserting here is that God cannot, or will not, correct these problems in willing humans.

          HN: No I’m not. I have no good reason to accept that God does try to correct these problems.

          Ahh, my apologies. What would constitute “good reason”?

        • Herald Newman

          trust ≠ know

          So you’re going to believe, what may be one of the most important topics in our lives, based simply on blind trust? I gotta say, you’re a lot more willing to be wrong about this than I am!

          Furthermore, it is poisoning the well to actively deceive with alleged trustworthy testimony in order to demonstrate that testimony is untrustworthy.

          The whole point is that testimony isn’t trustworthy. Testimony, with no other corroborating evidence, it worthless!

          You cannot empirically detect all forms of harm that you are able to do to other people.

          If somebody claims that something will “hurt” them, but can provide no way to verify the claim, the claim is useless!

          This is tantamount to saying that “Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection cannot POSSIBLY have the effects Christians say it has

          No, it’s tantamount to saying you Jesus’ resurrection is supported only on the say-so of others. It’s a claim, and it has no credible evidence to support it. This is why Christians make such a big deal out of the importance of testimony!

          I see, so you criticize things and people you do not understand.

          Fuck off troll! I don’t care about your holy book because it’s a claim, not evidence!

          Ahh, my apologies. What would constitute “good reason”?

          You could start by demonstrating that your god exists. Then you could actually demonstrate that your god has any power in the world. Then you could demonstrate that your god would actually do the things you believe your god does/can do. Without that, these are simply fucking assertions!

        • So you’re going to believe, what may be one of the most important topics in our lives, based simply on blind trust?

          trust ⇏ blind trust

          The whole point is that testimony isn’t trustworthy.

          I do not believe this is necessarily true. You have given me no reason to believe that this is necessarily true. Your very willingness to demonstrate this by making it happen more frequently reflects poorly on your character and on your willingness to “fabricate” evidence to support your evidence-based claims.

          Testimony, with no other corroborating evidence, it worthless!

          “That thing you said was hurtful to me.” ← Worthless if I cannot stick the person’s head in an MRI, or if I myself have been hurt in precisely that way?

          If somebody claims that something will “hurt” them, but can provide no way to verify the claim, the claim is useless!

          Ahh, so if you do X to a person which [s]he then says is hurtful, perhaps the only way for you to be justified in trusting that it is hurtful is for him/her to do X back to you, lex talionis-style?

          Fuck off troll! I don’t care about your holy book because it’s a claim, not evidence!

          I thought it would be relevant that it acknowledges a fact you wished to enter into the discourse record. After all, those Christians who claim to trust that fact complicate the narrative you wish to apply to them. But perhaps you are not interested in your narrative being challenged?

          You could start by demonstrating that your god exists.

          Ok, what would suffice to “demonstrate” to you, @heraldnewman:disqus, that God exists? Hopefully not a demonstration of raw power?

        • Herald Newman

          trust ⇏ blind trust

          It is when you have no way to verify the claims you believe!

          “That thing you said was hurtful to me.” ← Worthless if I cannot stick the person’s head in an MRI, or if I myself have been hurt in precisely that way?

          This is not what you said. Your original statement was that the person said “Please don’t do that, it hurts me.” If your subjective feelings are hurt, I really don’t give a fuck! Suck it up buttercup!

          Ahh, so if you do X to a person which [s]he then says is hurtful, perhaps the only way for you to be justified in trusting that it is hurtful is for him/her to do X back to you, lex talionis-style?

          Unless this person is my friend, and maintaining a personal relationship with them is important, I’ll have to rely on my empathy to tell me how likely the claim is. If they’re too soft, they may be more hassle than their worth as a friend.

          Otherwise, as I stated about, I don’t really care much about feelings! It’s not the subject we were talking about, and you’re shifting the domain into some other topic. I’m talking about truth statements about reality, not feeling. Keep it on topic, or we’re done!

          After all, those Christians who claim to trust that fact complicate the narrative you wish to apply to them

          The fact that Christians put trust in their holy book is concern, but the contents are not! They seem to believe that their holy book is from some god, and cannot fathom the idea that other people have the same beliefs they do about a different holy book.

          The contents of books don’t determine the truth of reality! I don’t understand why this is hard for you?

          Ok, what would suffice to “demonstrate” to you, Herald Newman, that God exists?

          I don’t know. I don’t even know what a god is, let alone what your God is. Something objective, that leads directly to God, and not any other god, would be great. Something empirical would be fantastic.

          Why don’t you start by telling me what’s convinced you that God exists. Obviously you believe that God exists, and you seem to think that you have good justification for your belief. Why don’t you start there?

        • It is when you have no way to verify the claims you believe!

          That is something you have not established.

          This is not what you said. Your original statement was that the person said “Please don’t do that, it hurts me.” If your subjective feelings are hurt, I really don’t give a fuck! Suck it up buttercup!

          That’s very interesting; do you see anything wrong with emotional abuse which never turns into physical abuse? Or how about nonphysical sexual harassment? I’m trying to figure out just what you mean by “subjective feelings”; in my years talking to atheists, the words ‘subjective’ and ‘feelings’ tend to be highly variable in meaning and often quite amorphous.

          Unless this person is my friend, and maintaining a personal relationship with them is important, I’ll have to rely on my empathy to tell me how likely the claim is.

          Sure, and empathy is not necessarily possible if you have not been hurt in the way that the other person has been hurt (or will be hurt if the current trajectory of behavior does not change). So, perhaps you need to be harmed in all the appropriate ways to train up your ability to empathize. Or have I missed something? Is there another way to train up empathy, such as trusting others?

          Otherwise, as I stated about, I don’t really care much about feelings! It’s not the subject we were talking about, and you’re shifting the domain into some other topic. I’m talking about truth statements about reality, not feeling. Keep it on topic, or we’re done!

          Perhaps unlike you, I see feelings/​emotions/​sentiments as (i) grounded in reality; (ii) obeying rules instead of being formless. Temporarily accepting a dichotomy I find only somewhat helpful, they can be seen as the pineal gland which interfaces between the res cogitans and the res extensa—between consciousness and the body. See for example Antonio Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis. The concepts of repentance and forgiveness almost certainly involve the rules of emotions. And what do you know, Jesus’ death and resurrection is purported to be involved with repentance and forgiveness. But hey, if you declare feelings to be 100% lawless (and thus irrelevant to matters of fact), then you get to ignore a critical path of gaining additional confidence that Jesus did in fact die for our sins and then was raised, defeating death. What is the height of irony here is that I have more belief in more lawfulness of reality than you do!

          Furthermore, not caring sufficiently about others’ feelings can easily lead to war and death. The Bible has a lot to say about what it is in humans and society which leads to war and death. If in fact there is explorable structure in this domain, and if it turns out the Bible has a lot of accurate things to say in this domain, that would impact how much tentative trust it would be wise to place in those aspects of the Bible which are a tiny bit outside of the verified domains. One could then iterate on this process. But if one doesn’t believe that the inner worlds of human beings have any rationally explorable structure, then such opportunities for understanding what is true are out-of-bounds, prohibited by taboo.

          The fact that Christians put trust in their holy book is concern, but the contents are not! They seem to believe that their holy book is from some god, and cannot fathom the idea that other people have the same beliefs they do about a different holy book.

          What is your empirical evidence for said “cannot fathom”?

          The contents of books don’t determine the truth of reality! I don’t understand why this is hard for you?

          Did I claim or imply that they do? We’re both talking about ink on paper or a precursor of paper, right?

          LB: Ok, what would suffice to “demonstrate” to you, @heraldnewman:disqus, that God exists?

          HN: I don’t know. I don’t even know what a god is, let alone what your God is. Something objective, that leads directly to God, and not any other god, would be great. Something empirical would be fantastic.

          Thank you for your honesty and self-awareness. (I find at least the latter to be missing from too many atheists.) My fundamental objection is that until you can avoid the epistemological hurdles presented by Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15, there is nothing God can do without rewiring your brain to show that he exists and loves you. Perhaps Isaiah 29:11–14-type events would help, but I’m skeptical. Mere miracle-power is not enough. God must be able to shatter people’s sense of self-righteousness and that is a nontrivial operation if one wishes to maintain moral autonomy.

          Why don’t you start by telling me what’s convinced you that God exists. Obviously you believe that God exists, and you seem to think that you have good justification for your belief. Why don’t you start there?

          I do not ever recall claiming or implying that the way I justify my trust in God is something you would call “good”. Indeed, your probable belief in the fact/​value dichotomy would immediately peg the needle at “bad”. What I suspect is that you believe in a whole host of falsehoods (example: that the US is anything like a democracy—“reasonable approximation”) which collaborate together to give you extreme confidence that not only does God not exist, but he could not possibly exist.

        • Herald Newman

          That is something you have not established.

          First, supernatural causation cannot be established.

          Second, would you please, good sir, tell me how we can establish that Jesus died, and was resurrected, by God, for the remission of sin, or whatever nonsense you believe? I’ve been looking at this for a long time, and so far nobody has shown any methodology to establish Christianity as true. This is why Christians make statements of faith!

          Perhaps unlike you, I see feelings/​emotions/​sentiments as (i) grounded in reality

          How do you go from “I feel X” to “X is therefore true”. In particular, how do you go from “I feel X” to “therefore Christianity is true”?

          What is your empirical evidence for said “cannot fathom”?

          1. You take shit way too literally!

          2. Most Protestants are reasonably sure that Catholics are wrong. Most Christians are reasonably sure that Muslims are wrong. Most Jews are reasonably sure that Christians and Muslims are wrong.

          The fact is that it’s impossible for all religions to be correct, but it is possible for all religions to be wrong. By virtually the same standards of evidence every religion believes that they are correct, to the exclusion of others. I’m met, and heard, from plenty of Christians, and Muslims, who will tell me they are 100% sure that they got the correct religion, and that nothing would change their mind.

          Mere miracle-power is not enough.

          Have there been any established miracles? I’m not aware of any!

          . God must be able to shatter people’s sense of self-righteousness

          My position has nothing to do with self righteousness. It has everything to do with wanting to have good justification for what I believe, and not wanting to believe false things. When we have a reliable way to establish the claims of your religion, or any other, I will accept the claims of your religion as likely to be true.

          What I suspect is that you believe in a whole host of falsehoods (example: that the US is anything like a democracy—”reasonable approximation”) which collaborate together to give you extreme confidence that not only does God not exist, but he could not possibly exist.

          First, off, in my response, I told you that I didn’t really believe that the US was a democracy. It’s got the veneer of a democracy, but it’s been largely subverted by corporate interests, and subtle corruption.

          Second, I want everything I believe to be as likely to be true as possible, and based on good, reliably obtained, evidence and sound reasoning. If you can show me where I am wrong about the evidence, or that my reasoning is flawed, I’d love to hear it. I want to have the best model of reality that I can have, and not believe things that are false.

          Third, given most definitions of the Christian God, I can say with 100% confidence that many of those definitions cannot be true because they are self-contradictory.

          Fourth, my position is generally that gods are extremely unlikely, and we seem to have no way to verify the claims. We’ve also falsified lots of specific god claims. Of the millions of gods over thousands of religion, we understand how religions develop, and evolve over time, and even the Christian god shows signs of this evolution. My inductive, tentative, conclusion is that gods are probably invented, but I’ll change my mind if somebody provides a reliable way to confirm that any of them exist.

        • First, supernatural causation cannot be established.

          Ummm, by definition? Surely you would not just define God out of [knowable] existence, would you?

          Second, would you please, good sir, tell me how we can establish that Jesus died, and was resurrected, by God, for the remission of sin, or whatever nonsense you believe?

          You would need to establish how the remission of sin shows up psychologically and investigate. What are the psychological rules of forgiveness? Wrongs don’t just get magically forgiven; there is no magic. What does it take for cycles of violence to be broken, as e.g. folks are trying to do in Rwanda? After studying the lawfulness of forgiveness in psychology, we could then determine whether or not Jesus’ death on the cross could possibly be causally connected to people’s rational willingness to forgive others. But you see, all of this requires the subjective world to abide by rules instead of being formless/​lawless. Perhaps you just don’t believe reality has that kind of order. Perhaps you’re recapitulating these folks:

          In 1590, skeptics still doubted whether humans can find universal regularities in nature; by 1640, nature was in irremediable decay: but, by 1700, the changeover to the “law-governed” picture of a stable cosmos was complete. (Cosmopolis, 110)

          After all, things are pretty chaotic in the subjective realm these days, just like things were pretty chaotic in the natural realm in those days. (Note that Jesus calmed a physically violent storm one chapter before he calmed the spiritually violent Demoniac.) But perhaps you are terrified of anyone who might have deep insight into the subjective realm? Hitler clearly did, and we know what he did with it. Trump clearly does (here I make a comparative claim) and we see what he’s doing with it.

          How do you go from “I feel X” to “X is therefore true”. In particular, how do you go from “I feel X” to “therefore Christianity is true”?

          I don’t. Nor do I go from “I think X” to “X is therefore true”.

          1. You take shit way too literally!

          I take serious accusations seriously.

          2. Most Protestants are reasonably sure that Catholics are wrong. Most Christians are reasonably sure that Muslims are wrong. Most Jews are reasonably sure that Christians and Muslims are wrong.

          This does not entail, nor is entailed by, “cannot fathom the idea that other people have the same beliefs they do about a different holy book”.

          The fact is that it’s impossible for all religions to be correct, but it is possible for all religions to be wrong. By virtually the same standards of evidence every religion believes that they are correct, to the exclusion of others. I’m met, and heard, from plenty of Christians, and Muslims, who will tell me they are 100% sure that they got the correct religion, and that nothing would change their mind.

          Sure, which is why the Bible has stuff like:

          But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19–20)

          This of course follows on a radical critique of earthly notions of power. For a godly notion of power, see Job 40:6–14. Surely you would like it if all arrogance were crushed? For more instances of expected power, see Jn 17:20–23 and 13:34–35. These three passages offer atheists wonderful routes for critiquing Christianity. Sadly, they’re too naive to use them. Or perhaps too afraid.

          Have there been any established miracles? I’m not aware of any!

          It wouldn’t matter if there were (Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15), so I’m not going to go down that rabbit trail.

          My position has nothing to do with self righteousness.

          Who has ever admitted to believing [s]he is self-righteous?

          It has everything to do with wanting to have good justification for what I believe, and not wanting to believe false things.

          I also want to be able to distinguish between true people and false people. But it appears that you don’t really believe there is such a thing as personal truth—only impersonal truth. Of course, this stance would blinds you to the possible existence of God.

          When we have a reliable way to establish the claims of your religion, or any other, I will accept the claims of your religion as likely to be true.

          You have almost certainly defined Christianity to be necessarily false.

          First, off, in my response, I told you that I didn’t really believe that the US was a democracy. It’s got the veneer of a democracy, but it’s been largely subverted by corporate interests, and subtle corruption.

          Unless the bold has a rather unexpected meaning, any belief on your part that the underlined is anything other than a symptom would constitute extreme delusion.

          Second, I want everything I believe to be as likely to be true as possible, and based on good, reliably obtained, evidence and sound reasoning. If you can show me where I am wrong about the evidence, or that my reasoning is flawed, I’d love to hear it. I want to have the best model of reality that I can have, and not believe things that are false.

          Then start by processing through Converse 1964 The nature of belief systems in mass publics; that comes from WikiSummary. You might also grapple with Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government. The picture that the Bible paints of human nature is quite dark (e.g. compare the predictions to the empirical results at Milgram experiment § Results), and the more I investigate, the more accurate it is when compared to what our best and brightest love to propound (e.g. Steven Pinker with his The Better Angels of Our Nature). The problem is not that “corporate interests” have enslaved us or that our politicians exhibit “subtle corruption”. The problem is that most people want to be nannied when faced with taking true responsibility for their actions. Or as French sociologist (and Christian) Jacques Ellul put it:

              What people want when they talk about freedom is not being subject to others, being able to have their own dreams or go where they want to go. Hardly more. They definitely do not want to have to take charge of their own lives and be responsible for what they do. This means that they do not really want freedom. (The Subversion of Christianity, 168)

          The bigger excerpt is great, but I kept it brief for the first round.

          Third, given most definitions of the Christian God, I can say with 100% confidence that many of those definitions cannot be true because they are self-contradictory.

          General relativity and quantum field theory contradict near the event horizons of black holes. That a simplistic definition of God would be self-contradictory is just not interesting. There’s no guarantee that the kind of definition that conceptual analysis in philosophy loves is even possible; they can’t even figure causation out! (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3; excerpt available upon request)

          Fourth, my position is generally that gods are extremely unlikely …

          Given the following exchange—

          LB: Ok, what would suffice to “demonstrate” to you, @heraldnewman:disqus, that God exists?

          HN: I don’t know. I don’t even know what a god is, let alone what your God is. Something objective, that leads directly to God, and not any other god, would be great. Something empirical would be fantastic.

          —I have no idea how you could possibly hold that “gods are extremely unlikely”.

        • Herald Newman

          I also want to be able to distinguish between true people and false people. But it appears that you don’t really believe there is such a thing as personal truth—only impersonal truth.

          What exactly is “personal truth”? Are you going down some post-modernist bunny hole here? How do we determine “personal truth”?

          Unless the bold has a rather unexpected meaning, any belief on your part that the underlined is anything other than a symptom would constitute
          extreme delusion.

          Of what exactly?

          The problem is that most people want to be nannied when faced with taking true responsibility for their actions.

          Which is probably a reason why Christianity is so popular. Why take responsibility for actions when you can just blame sin, ask God to forgive you, and then start all over again.

          General relativity and quantum field theory contradict near the event horizons

          Singularities are very strange phenomena which we don’t really have a good understanding of. Even our understanding of the big bang breaks down as the universe collapses to very small sizes. All this means that our models either have limits, or are not correct.

          That said, general relativity makes empirical predictions that show themselves to be incredibly accurate. Models that make testable predictions are more useful than models that don’t.

        • What exactly is “personal truth”? Are you going down some post-modernist bunny hole here? How do we determine “personal truth”?

          To say that all truth is ‘impersonal’ is to basically assert the mechanical philosophy. In other words, only teleology-free statements can have truth-values. Phrased yet another way, take the fact/​value dichotomy and assert that ‘facts’ are about reality, while ‘values’ are about subjectivity. So, aspects of personality like ‘trustworthiness’ ultimately reduce to impersonal facts and equations. Indeed, ‘trustworthiness’ will probably break down, just like computer programs will choke on input which humans can properly process.

          Of what exactly?

          Of thinking that the biggest reasons we don’t have anything approximating democracy is because of greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians.

          LB: The problem is that most people want to be nannied when faced with taking true responsibility for their actions.

          HN: Which is probably a reason why Christianity is so populat. Why take responsibility for actions when you can just blame sin, ask God to forgive you, and then start all over again.

          Do you believe the Bible actually teaches this? And do you believe that I could go around the South with a baseball bat, smashing in the pastor’s car as the church empties after Sunday service, followed by asking forgiveness and being allowed to walk away without any sort of reparations? I recognize that there’s a lot of poisonous forgiveness teaching, by the way. There is a reason, for example that the anthology Forgiveness and Truth is not just titled “Forgiveness”. But I want to know if you are generalizing to all or most Christians or not.

          All this means that our models either have limits, or are not correct.

          The same is true of any understanding of God, an infinite being, by finite beings.

          That said, general relativity makes empirical predictions that show themselves to be incredibly accurate. Models that make testable predictions are more useful than models that don’t.

          Moving the goalpost, are we? Now God is supposed to be useful to us humans? Is he supposed to be a genie we can rub to get more of what we want?

        • Herald Newman

          So, aspects of personality like ‘trustworthiness’ ultimately reduce to impersonal facts and equations

          Trustworthiness ultimately reduces to objective fact about the person, namely quantities like how often they don’t tell the truth, and what other actions they take. Actions, and their consequences, are objective.

          So, my question is this. Given that we know virtually nothing about any of the New Testament authors, how did you assess that they are indeed trustworthy, and that they should be trusted about an otherwise absurd set of claims?

          Of thinking that the biggest reasons we don’t have anything approximating democracy is because of greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians.

          I do think that corporate influence, and the need for money for finance campaigns, are a big reason why Western governments are less democratic than their ideals. There are also lots of influences, including voters who are woefully uninformed about issues, who only care about one or two issues, and those who are too apathetic to engage in politics in general. In many elections, we’re lucky to get voter participation at 50%. The more local the election, the lower the voter participation, which is exactly the opposite of what we should have.

          EDIT: On top of all of that you have people who subscribe to magic thinking, and believe that somehow introducing more of God into our governments is going to fix all the government problems we have. God doesn’t fix shit! All the evidence we have is that if God exists, he doesn’t care about our governments.

          Do you believe the Bible actually teaches this?

          I think the Bible gives reasonable justification to people who believe the Bible. The problem is that the Bible is a mess of contradictory messages.

          In the end, it doesn’t matter what I believe about the Bible. It’s just a book, and not a reliable way to figure out how we should live our lives. Why do people want to live their lives, based on the writings of iron, and bronze, age writers?

          And do you believe that I could go around the South with a baseball bat, smashing in the pastor’s car as the church empties after Sunday service, followed by asking forgiveness and being allowed to walk away without any sort of reparations?

          I think, if you’re a Protestant, you would believe that that you won’t go to Hell for it. That said, I doubt most humans would care about whether you believe that God forgave you.

          The same is true of any understanding of God, an infinite being, by finite beings.

          How did you come to this conclusion, and why do you think the conclusion is reliable?

          Moving the goalpost, are we? Now God is supposed to be useful to us humans? Is he supposed to be a genie we can rub to get more of what we want?

          Not at all. Rather, my position is simply that if you have a model that doesn’t make any reliable empirical predictions the model is completely useless to us, and we may as well discard the model. Why clutter your mind with useless stuff?

          The only reliable way we’ve been able to determine if a model is true is to test the predictions that come from it. If you cannot test the predictions, or the model makes no predictions, why would you ever accept it?

        • Trustworthiness ultimately reduces to objective fact about the person, namely quantities like how often they don’t tell the truth, and what other actions they take. Actions, and their consequences, are objective.

          I just don’t think it’s that simple. But don’t believe me, watch the Star Trek TOS episode Court Martial, where captain Kirk is accused of an action which went against his character. This topic takes on additional import with the “Pence Rule” phenomenon currently occupying so many brain cells and electrons. How stable can human character be? How well can people hide icky aspects of their character that can then end in an affair or a rape? Trustworthiness is incredibly tricky.

          So, my question is this. Given that we know virtually nothing about any of the New Testament authors, how did you assess that they are indeed trustworthy, and that they should be trusted about an otherwise absurd set of claims?

          If I don’t know anything about an author, I can still judge what [s]he says. So for example, there are three passages in the NT having to do with what a mentor of mine called “relational sin”. The idea is that you take care of even plausible fractures in relationship within 24 hours. And there is no nonsense about having to play detective and see if you’ve offended the other person. My wife and I practice the wisdom in those passages (although we set the statute of limitations at 7 days, in the sense of allowing it to take that long to figure out the specifics of what was hurtful) and probably as a result, we have a fantastic marriage. It is ridiculously freeing to know that within your closest friends, you do not have to constantly be on the look-out for whether you sinned against them, or whether they even think you plausibly sinned against them.

          When I verify wisdom such as the above, I extend credibility to the author (or group of authors) to related areas. These areas aren’t related via strict logical entailment; it is fuzzier than that. But the more I verify and expand, the more I trust the person. That is, the more I trust the person to speak wisely and intelligently on whatever matter the person speaks on. I recognize that in the modern age, with so many people spewing nonsense about stuff they don’t understand at all, this is a rather difficult concept. But I don’t think it’s an impossible state of affairs to achieve even in this day and age. One thing that helps is to spend a lot of time talking about many different things in critical/​hostile environments where anything that even looks like bullshit is pointed out. That is exactly what I have done; I probably have 15,000 hours under my belt doing so. (Most if it at Something Awful, although Disqus may overtake it within a few years.)

          I do think that corporate influence, and the need for money for finance campaigns, are a big reason why Western governments are less democratic than their ideals. There are also lots of influences, including voters who are woefully uninformed about issues, who only care about one or two issues, and those who are too apathetic to engage in politics in general. In many elections, we’re lucky to get voter participation at 50%. The more local the election, the lower the voter participation, which is exactly the opposite of what we should have.

          I suggest looking for causal factors completely other than corporate influence. Go back enough in time to when corporations didn’t have that much influence. The present is incredibly shaped by the past; it is the powers that be which do not wish you to know this. One place you can go is Nina Eliasoph’s Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy in Everyday Life.

          EDIT: On top of all of that you have people who subscribe to magic thinking, and believe that somehow introducing more of God into our governments is going to fix all the government problems we have. God doesn’t fix shit! All the evidence we have is that if God exists, he doesn’t care about our governments.

          Oh I have many, many issues with Christians who want more God in the government. Chief among them is that the OT demonstrates that it doesn’t work. And yet somehow Jesus, who said the stuff we find in Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20, is supposed to make theocracy work all of a sudden? Nonsense. The New Covenant is the only solution other than de Tocqueville’s “immense tutelary power”. Now, if atheists really knew their stuff, they would be able to find deep resonance with the New Covenant (change ‘God’ → ‘Reason’) and they would be able to offer devastating internal critiques to Christianity (Charles Taylor defends internal critiques in his essay Explanation and Practical Reason). But most atheists I encounter seem stubbornly ignorant when I bring up such things. They seem to be incredibly naïve about human psychology and utterly unwilling to learn. You have the potential to be quite different. Perhaps you could help me attack what I see as diseased Christianity. You may believe that you’re attacking all of Christianity, but for the time being, I think I’m alright with us disagreeing on that point.

          I think the Bible gives reasonable justification to people who believe the Bible. The problem is that the Bible is a mess of contradictory messages.

          Could you possibly be wrong on it being so contradictory?

          In the end, it doesn’t matter what I believe about the Bible. It’s just a book, and not a reliable way to figure out how we should live our lives. Why do people want to live their lives, based on the writings of iron, and bronze, age writers?

          First, there’s a lot of wisdom that humans could figure out and write down 2500+ years ago. At least some of it we have forgotten to our detriment. Second, if you want to maximally undermine Christianity, you should understand what you are trying to undermine. But perhaps you are not that interested.

          I think, if you’re a Protestant, you would believe that that you won’t go to Hell for it. That said, I doubt most humans would care about whether you believe that God forgave you.

          You missed my point. I would not be quickly forgiven. Probably I would get physically assaulted. This reveals contradiction in Protestant thought which can be used to attack the disease.

          How did you come to this conclusion, and why do you think the conclusion is reliable?

          By definition, a finite being cannot contain a complete description of an infinite being. The same can be said of a finite being and infinite reality (i.e. suppose that science will never stop or approach a horizontal asymptote). The general idea is that there are two very different modes of modeling, depending on whether you’ve mostly figured a thing/​person out or whether you’re able to characterize at most a sliver.

          Not at all. Rather, my position is simply that if you have a model that doesn’t make any reliable empirical predictions the model is completely useless to us, and we may as well discard the model. Why clutter your mind with useless stuff?

          I am interested in much more than utility. I want to bless people, not merely control/​dominate them. Part of blessing people is to help them discover new, more intense, more glorious desires. This means reaching into the unknown with them, such that I’m not just imposing my own ideas on them. But I’m not necessarily a mere midwife to knowledge, either. In an important sense, this practice is antithetical to utility. It violates the hell out of Ockham’s razor.

          The only reliable way we’ve been able to determine if a model is true is to test the predictions that come from it. If you cannot test the predictions, or the model makes no predictions, why would you ever accept it?

          If my pursuit of God ends up blessing others in ways they can recognize as “blessing”, that is a reason to pursue God. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Humans are perceiving beings but also acting beings. Science as typically construed omits the acting in precisely the way that made the measurement problem shocking instead of expected. When one considers what should be built instead of merely what experiment should be run, the fact/​value dichotomy disintegrates, as does all reasoning founded upon it.

          The predicable objection at this point is that what “blesses” people has no relation to what is true. But this begs the question. Yes, people can be made happy with delusion, but they can also be made happy with truth, at least if they are sufficiently courageous. Which is why Revelation 21:8 first picks out the cowardly. The current incarnation of political liberalism, which presumes that my private good is largely in conflict with your private good (allowing for an overlapping consensus but perhaps only with the fact of oppression), occludes pretty much any clear thinking in this domain. Descartes’ res cogitans is basically assumed to be completely lawless. And therefore, so many atheists believe there is less discoverable structure in reality than I, a Christian, do. But reality loves irony.

        • Herald Newman

          If I don’t know anything about an author, I can still judge what [s]he says

          Yes, and for the claims that check out, you should accept them. For claims that don’t check out, or that you cannot verify, why on earth would you accept them? You know that con-men work by trying to build your confidence, and then spring their dubious ideas on you, in the hopes that you’ll trust them, right?

          If you want allow yourself to be conned, I can’t stop you. I can only suggest that if you don’t want to be conned, you’ll need a better method.

          By definition, a finite being cannot contain a complete description of an infinite being.

          What is an “infinite being” and how is it possible? I can’t even comprehend what it means to say that a being is infinite.

        • For claims that don’t check out, or that you cannot verify, why on earth would you accept them?

          Trust. Without it, life isn’t.

          You know that con-men work by trying to build your confidence, and then spring their dubious ideas on you, in the hopes that you’ll trust them, right?

          Yes; one of my friends is a sociologist in his 70s who recently told me that he’s going to burn all his notes on what he calls the “two body problem” because they would be invaluable to con men. But were I to really follow your advice, I would buy into the rampant cynicism which seems to be gripping the entire West right now (and for multiple decades, if not a century—see WW I). What will destroy the West is that cynicism, that lack of trust. And guess what? Sometimes you get burned. Indeed, in Jesus God was willing to let himself get burned. We demanded a blood sacrifice and Jesus obliged.

          What is an “infinite being” and how is it possible? I can’t even comprehend what it means to say that a being is infinite.

          To get your intuitive juices flowing, you can learn that a set which is not recursively enumerable is of infinite complexity of a very specific class. What is that class? The minimally larger class that is not susceptible to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. For specifics, go to the latter link and hit up § Effective axiomatization.

          To work with only finite numbers, you can consider the concept of Nyquist frequency, noting that if your measuring system can only measure discrete time steps up to a certain frequency, then you will be confused by any present signal components that are equal or greater to twice that frequency. If you are not able to ensure that those components are sufficiently low amplitude in comparison to the rest of the signal, you can easily be deceived by aliasing. This is very important in digital signal processing.

        • Herald Newman

          Trust. Without it, life isn’t.

          So you’re willing to devote yourself, and your entire life, to believing what may be an enormous lie. I don’t know what to say to this…

          To get your intuitive juices flowing, you can learn that a set which is not recursively enumerable is of infinite complexity of a very specific class. What is that class? The minimally larger class that is not susceptible to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. For specifics, go to the latter link and hit up § Effective axiomatization.

          To work with only finite numbers, you can consider the concept of Nyquist frequency,noting that if your measuring system can only measure discrete time steps up to a certain frequency, then you will be confused by any present signal components that are equal or greater to twice that frequency. If you are not able to ensure that those components are sufficiently low amplitude in comparison to the rest of the signal, you can easily be deceived by aliasing. This is very important in digital signal processing.

          I don’t even know where to begin with this….

        • So you’re willing to devote yourself, and your entire life, to believing what may be an enormous lie. I don’t know what to say to this…

          Tell that to Francis Bacon et al:

          I’m going to tangent for a moment. It really took two hundred years for Bacon’s academy to develop anything useful. There was a lot of dissecting animals, and exploding metal spheres, and refracting light, and describing gravity, and it was very, very exciting, and a lot of it was correct, but–as the eloquent James Hankins put it–it was actually the nineteenth century that finally paid Francis Bacon’s I.O.U., his promise that, if you channel an unfathomable research budget, and feed the smartest youths of your society into science, someday we’ll be able to do things we can’t do now, like refrigerate chickens, or cure rabies, or anesthetize. There were a few useful advances (better navigational instruments, Franklin’s lightning rod) but for two hundred years most of science’s fruits were devices with no function beyond demonstrating scientific principles. Two hundred years is a long time for a vastly-complex society-wide project to keep getting support and enthusiasm, fed by nothing but pure confidence that these discoveries streaming out of the Royal Society papers will eventually someday actually do something. I just think… I just think that keeping it up for two hundred years before it paid off, that’s… that’s really cool. (On Progress and Historical Change)

          Perhaps you would have been one of the 1590s skeptics:

          In 1590, skeptics still doubted whether humans can find universal regularities in nature; by 1640, nature was in irremediable decay: but, by 1700, the changeover to the “law-governed” picture of a stable cosmos was complete. (Cosmopolis, 110)

          Or wait … did Francis Bacon actually do something legitimate? Maybe what I’m doing is rather more like what he did than you wish to admit. Shall we explore this?

          I don’t even know where to begin with this….

          Maybe you’re just not up for the conceptual work to tease out the minimal model of an infinite being. As a final attempt, you could check out my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?.

        • I don’t know what to say to this…

          My thought as well. His answer was “trust.” The question was “For claims that don’t check out, or that you cannot verify, why on earth would you accept them?”

          Why indeed? Ask another way: “What do you do when something is untrustworthy?” and Luke would presumably still tell you that trust was justified.

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, fwiw, we didn’t demand anything.

        • Susan

          Indeed, in Jesus God was willing to let himself get burned. We demanded a blood sacrifice and Jesus obliged.

          You’re off in imaginary world again, expecting people to follow without giving them any reason.

          How many comments now, Luke? Not a speck of evidence or even a clear model. Fuck off with your preaching. You might as well be quoting Star Trek as though it were literally true.

          Picard’s much more interesting than Jesus.

          Godel’s theorem does nothing for an infinite being. That has been pointed out to you countless times before over at least the last couple of years.

          If it does, feel free to explain why.

          Gish Gallping is not an argument.

        • smrnda

          “It is ridiculously freeing to know that within your closest friends, you do not have to constantly be on the look-out for whether you sinned against them, or whether they even think you plausibly sinned against them.”

          As someone who was never a Christian, I never got why people needed this whole forgiveness thing so bad in their personal lives unless they were massive screw-ups. There are many things that, if I did, I would never get a second chance with anyone in my life; therefore, I don’t do them, and mostly because I do not want to do them. In terms of friends and such, I am not interested in being friends with people who are not reliable. And I don’t waste my time attempting ‘friendships’ with people who have incompatible standards. Maybe you find your situation freeing, but I feel pretty free myself.

          “I suggest looking for causal factors completely other than corporate influence. Go back enough in time to when corporations didn’t have that much influence.”

          When, before the Bronze Age? Corporations aren’t some new thing; they existed at the time of the revolution, and their power was certainly great even before the 20th century.

          “If my pursuit of God ends up blessing others in ways they can recognize as “blessing”, that is a reason to pursue God. ”

          The problem is that, any number of claims will have equally persuasive evidence in terms of these vague ‘blessings’ which will contradict your Christian religion. If paganism produces the same blessing, this makes it hardly evidence.

          ” Humans are perceiving beings but also acting beings. Science as typically construed omits the acting in precisely the way that made the measurement problem shocking instead of expected. When one considers what should be built instead of merely what experiment should be run, the fact/​value dichotomy disintegrates, as does all reasoning founded upon it.”

          This seems like a bunch of inflated obtuse verbiage. If you don’t have a falsifiable experiment, you don’t have evidence. You seem to be arguing that the scientific method is flawed because it doesn’t consider your ‘blessings’ to be proof. Isn’t that more a problem that you don’t have evidence?

          “The current incarnation of political liberalism, which presumes that my private good is largely in conflict with your private good”

          I didn’t really get this rant. Interests of people are often in conflict – Hobbes wrote about this quite a long time ago, and though i’m not a Hobbesian I give him a lot of credit for admitting this. It’s quite easy to look at economic issues and see where the private good of 2 parties conflict. As someone who has operate a business and done research which involved human subjects, I’ve seen how regulations clearly protected people even though, for someone in my position, the regulations created inconvenience. In other cases, regulations protected me – I’m disabled for one thing. Child labor was profitable, racial discrimination was mighty nice for racist white people, and it’s nice for certain employers to be free from liability for mistreating workers, all because the interests of people are often not in alignment.They aren’t always in opposition – but often they are.

          ” And therefore, so many atheists believe there is less discoverable structure in reality than I, a Christian, do. But reality loves irony.”

          Why is this ironic? There are any number of things which cannot currently be accurately measured or quantified. Maybe later we can, but for now, we admit where we have limits. Keep in mind – I’m a person who has a background in statistics and I think that most philosophy is a huge waste of time, just in case you think I’m a waste of time.

        • Herald Newman

          Keep in mind – I’m a person who has a background in statistics and I think that most philosophy is a huge waste of time […]

          As somebody with a math background, I tend to agree with you about philosophy in general being a waste of time. That said, there is one area of philosophy that I have found to be useful for dealing with religious apologists: Epistemology.

          I really want all religious believers to understand just how unreliable the methods they use, to come to their religious beliefs, actually are. All the religious methods, that I’ve encountered, allow us to come to wildly different conclusions, and don’t seem to have a way to separate truth from fiction.

        • As someone who was never a Christian, I never got why people needed this whole forgiveness thing so bad in their personal lives unless they were massive screw-ups.

          If you don’t know what lack of forgiveness does to humans, you are either blind or haven’t been around much.

          Maybe you find your situation freeing, but I feel pretty free myself.

          It is very important in secular states that you have the subjective feeling of freedom.

          When, before the Bronze Age? Corporations aren’t some new thing; they existed at the time of the revolution, and their power was certainly great even before the 20th century.

          Until you can demonstrate enough competency on this particular tangent, I’m afraid I don’t have the effort to educate you.

          The problem is that, any number of claims will have equally persuasive evidence in terms of these vague ‘blessings’ which will contradict your Christian religion. If paganism produces the same blessing, this makes it hardly evidence.

          Are you afraid of a friendly competition? As a Christian, I will abide by Mt 20:20–28. Will you, or will you lord it over me when you subjectively feel threatened—or possibly even subjectively feel discomfort?

          This seems like a bunch of inflated obtuse verbiage.

          Then I shall decline to discuss that topic with you in particular.

          I didn’t really get this rant. Interests of people are often in conflict – Hobbes wrote about this quite a long time ago, and though i’m not a Hobbesian I give him a lot of credit for admitting this.

          It is a matter of degree, and yet where exactly we are on that spectrum makes all the difference. I suggest investigating what happens when citizens in a country find they cannot trust one another. See for example the decline in Americans trusting each other in the US, from 56% in 1968 → 33% in 2014. That trend cannot continue indefinitely. Present happenings are not encouraging in this respect.

          Why is this ironic?

          Because I, a relatively orthodox Christian, am supposed to be fucked up in the head when it comes to science. That’s what I hear your kind tell me all the time. They tell me this with absolutely zero [relevant] evidence, but when did that stop anyone?

          … I think that most philosophy is a huge waste of time …

          WP: Sturgeon’s law

        • TheNuszAbides

          You seem to be arguing that the scientific method is flawed because it doesn’t consider your ‘blessings’ to be proof.

          i may be blurring or conflating Luke and Ye Olde Statistician (a Thomist who inadvertently inspired me to pay more attention to philosophy [of/and] science), but i would expect either of them to default to something like big daddy Augustine of Hippo or ontological-Anselm with the ‘reason can’t/mustn’t be a substitute for faith’ schtick.

          a background in statistics

          are there any particular polling organizations you support/oppose/dismiss/trust/distrust/etc. wrt their methodology? curious because pretty much all i grasp of the basics is from Altemeyer’s intro to his first book on authoritarianism. (and because i’ve read and agreed with enough of your comments to implicitly respect your judgment.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          If you cannot test the predictions, or the model makes no predictions, why would you ever accept it?

          clearly you underestimate the compulsion to be overawed by vacuum-packed ‘prophecy’ narratives.

        • smrnda

          “Phrased yet another way, take the fact/​value dichotomy and assert that ‘facts’ are about reality, while ‘values’ are about subjectivity. ”

          Yes, this seems to make total sense.

          “Of thinking that the biggest reasons we don’t have anything approximating democracy is because of greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians.”

          Certain Scandinavian states have something much more closer to democracy than the USA – fewer lying politicians, and less corporate influence.

        • Certain Scandinavian states have something much more closer to democracy than the USA – fewer lying politicians, and less corporate influence.

          Curious; from the article ‘Sweden’s being destroyed by political correctness’ Swede rages against asylum policy:

          He added: “I think it went wrong when immigrants went from assimilating into the country and into the communities to establishing their own cultures.”

          Expressing his concern over the increasing turmoil plaguing Sweden, Peter said his country had descended into a “low intensive civil war”.

          There is also Jeff Jacoby’s 2015-10-15 Boston Globe article No, Bernie Sanders, Scandinavia is not a socialist utopia. The whole thing is great, but I want to pick out this bit:

          The real key to Scandinavia’s unique successes isn’t socialism, it’s culture. Social trust and cohesion, a broad egalitarian ethic, a strong emphasis on work and responsibility, commitment to the rule of law — these are healthy attributes of a Nordic culture that was ingrained over centuries. In the region’s small and homogeneous countries (overwhelmingly white, Protestant, and native-born), those norms took deep root. The good outcomes and high living standards they produced antedated the socialist nostrums of the 1970s. Scandinavia’s quality of life didn’t spring from leftist policies. It survived them.

          It seems to me that we ought to consult more facts before saying too much of how [certain] good Scandinavian states are at democracy. Maybe Jacoby is wrong—after all, he’s a dirty, lying conservative, right?—but I find it rarely ends well to only listen to one side of the story.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Showing that testimony is unreliable by intentional unreliability ”

          I face-palmed in real life twice. People who are intentionally unreliable in their testimonies are the best Christians ever as they really make people believe that their money will be returned to them multiplied/Jesus’ Truth will win with your contribution/buy this book to touch you and yours’ hearts/etc while raking in money like gang-busters. They are not doing a stress test on the reliability of “convicting” testimony on the evangelical circuit. The idea is to get people to look at these folks closer (example: ‘Derren Brown: Miracles for Sale’ on YouTube).

          Briefly on the rest: Is God dead so that the the Bible is useful for knowing what he was like?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, just-wow. How do you miss the point so spectacularly so often?

        • TheNuszAbides

          How do you miss the point so spectacularly so often?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning ?

        • ORigel

          It would be to save people from religion and make it harder for people to trust liars like Lee Strobel when they claim to have been an atheist.

          Lee Strobel does not understand anything about atheism, so he is probably lying about that.

        • People who lie and deceive generally have justification for it.

        • ORigel

          Lee Strobel wants to brainwash people. That’s what he wants. I want to make people skeptical. Though in truth, I do not feel comfortable lying for a year, even if I donate the money I make off gullible xtians to charity.

        • Lying to make people skeptical, eh?

        • ORigel

          Xtians lie to make people gullible.

        • ORigel

          Yes. They pretend to be former atheists when they don’t know anything about actual atheism. No atheist I know is an atheist because they hate God or pesky moral codes. Those are only strawmen used by xtian apologists.

        • They pretend to be former atheists when they don’t know anything about actual atheism.

          To be an atheist you do not have to know anything other than that you do not believe in any gods.

          No atheist I know is an atheist because they hate God or pesky moral codes. Those are only strawmen used by xtian apologists.

          Why is your parochial, anecdotal experience relevance to this conversation? Generalizing from your own parochial, anecdotal experience is the antithesis of scientific thinking.

        • ORigel

          You don’t know scoentific thinking if it danced in front of you wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.

        • ORigel

          You are the troll. You’re on an atheist blog. Go to non-existent Hell.

        • ORigel

          Not if they claim they were secretly misotheists. Then they’re just liars.

        • TheNuszAbides

          or at best, extremely confused. (since, if at any point they’ve bought into “everybody really knows deep down that _____ exists”, all talk of disbelief/hate has to be informed/colored by that filter.)

        • ORigel

          That’s the whole thing. Conversion stories, which xtians use, are worthless as evidence.

          And in my years on the atheosphere, no atheist has ever said the strawman claims I listed above. Only xtian apologists do. Isn’t it suspicious that only Evangelicalists believe them?

        • ORigel

          No testimony is sufficent to establish a miracle unless the testimony being false is more incredible than it being true. Here’s some scientific reasoning for you.

        • Herald Newman

          Thanks for this. I was trying to think of this a few days ago and was drawing a complete blank!

        • Ahh, and you get your initial prior probability—you know, the one before a single piece of evidence is processed through the [e.g. Bayesian] inferential mechanism—from where?

        • ORigel

          Parsimony.

        • How does parsimony generate an initial prior probability?

        • ORigel

          Which is the simpler explanation: that the testimony is false or that the miracle happened. You probably knew this when I replied, “parsimony.” Again, you are trying to decieve me- and failing.

        • Your answer here presupposes an experience of what regularly happens, what statistically happens. It is not an answer to my question:

          LB: Ahh, and you get your initial prior probability—you know, the one before a single piece of evidence is processed through the [e.g. Bayesian] inferential mechanism—from where?

          My question prohibits you from appealing to anything like uniformitarianism. You don’t get to say that probably the next thing you observe will be like the last thing.

        • ORigel

          Which is the simpler explanation in a given case, that the miracle happened or that the testimony is wrong? It’s really that simple. Like the walls of a city in the Bible- I believe it was Jericho- were said to have fallen down instantly by the Bible. What’s more likely- that actually happened- that walls instantly fell- or the Bible is inaccurate? Obviously the latter.

          If it happened today and millions of people swore they saw Jericho’s walls collapse instantly- and there was video footage of the walls collapsing….the miracle would simpler than all the evidence being faked up and I would have to convert.

          Get it?

        • Which is the simpler explanation in a given case, that the miracle happened or that the testimony is wrong?

          Define “miracle” under these conditions:

          LB: Ahh, and you get your initial prior probability—you know, the one before a single piece of evidence is processed through the [e.g. Bayesian] inferential mechanism—from where?

          Have fun 🙂

        • Joe

          To be an atheist you do not have to know anything other than that you do not believe in any gods.

          Then why do apologists make more claims about atheism than that?

        • Partly: because people like @ORigel:disqus muddy the waters by making the term out to mean much more.

        • Joe

          Who would do such a thing? People like O’Rigel, or Christian apologists?

        • The evidence is before your eyes, in this very thread. What is confusing? Perhaps you missed my “Partly:”?

        • ORigel

          By definition, atheists are not angry at God. The fact that apologists make this claim shows they are liars.

        • By definition, atheists are not angry at God.

          True, but were you to present this to someone making that claim, [s]he would quickly clarify that the atheist is not really an atheist, but instead engaged in self-delusion. Or, the person making that claim could refer to the phenomenon whereby a relative is declared “dead to me” such that [s]he ceases to exist for all intents and purposes. There are quite a few possibilities in this domain which don’t have the cute little logical contradiction.

          The fact that apologists make this claim shows they are liars.

          Nope. C’mon, try harder at trolling. This is boring.

        • ORigel

          Then that person is a misotheist not an atheist. Name a single atheist who said that they’re angry at God.

        • Yeah?? I’m still furious at Zeus because I prayed for a bike as a kid and didn’t get it.

        • I’m not advocating the rebellion thesis (Randal Rauser seems to have done a decent job undermining it); I’m simply pointing out that your clever little criticism of those who do advocate the rebellion thesis is stupid. All they have to do is say that people who claim to be atheists are actually misotheists. Similarly, some atheists like to claim that Christians are deluded.

        • ORigel

          You are defending the strawmans, so you do not believe what you said.

          The truth is, we (non-trolling commentors on this blog) are not just atheists, but are naturalists, skeptics, evolutionists, etc.

        • The truth is, we (non-trolling commentors on this blog) are not just atheists, but are naturalists, skeptics, evolutionists, etc.

          Ahh, so when you said “actual atheism”—

          OR: They pretend to be former atheists when they don’t know anything about actual atheism.

          —you meant more than just “atheism”?

        • ORigel

          Strobel claimed to read Why I Am Not A Christian but he makes arguments that were debunked in that book.

        • Do you mean he might disagree with some of those debunkings? God forbid! Or do you mean that he is intellectually obligated to address every single such argument in a fashion you would have encountered?

        • ORigel

          Assuming Strobel was telling the truth about reading Russell, he’s in denial because Russell showed some of the arguments Strobel makes to be logically unsound. Like the cosmological argument.

        • It sounds like you and your fellow atheists would do well to maintain a rather short list of issues you think that various Christian apologists ought to address, as well as an exhaustive history of how they have addressed them in any way in the past (even glancingly), plus an exhaustive history of their opportunities to address them where they refused. Get organized and get the kinds of people with whom Craig and Strobel like to debate on board. But perhaps you’d rather moan and groan and cast aspersions than do something rational like that?

        • Pofarmer

          I say you’ve hit upon Lukes typical gambit, if not here than in another thread here, that we can’t really know anything.

        • TheNuszAbides

          No atheist I know is an atheist because they hate God or pesky moral codes.

          hating pesky moral codes (or rather, very specific encrustations within them) was at most a stepping stone on my journey from good little guilt-soaked protestant to slightly relaxed pan[en]theist. took a while longer to own up to atheism, but yeah, that leg had nothing to do with moral codes.

        • adam

          you OBVIOUSLY dont own a mirror.

        • Joe

          Or a pot and kettle.

        • TheNuszAbides

          well if you’re going with narcissism i’d say he must — but perhaps the view is obscured by post-its of bible verses or something.

      • ORigel

        So you admit that if this happened, you wouldn’t try to stop more liars from doing the same.

      • Raging Bee

        Sorry, parables and Bible quotes are not a mechanism for separating true from false conversions.

        • You seem to be under the impression that I said they were.

        • ORigel

          You definitely quoted them. You did say they were implicitly in doing so.

        • RB: Sorry, parables and Bible quotes are not a mechanism for separating true from false conversions.

          LB: You seem to be under the impression that I said they were.

          OR: You definitely quoted them. You did say they were implicitly in doing so.

          I suggest an improvement in reading comprehension:

          HN: It’s not that the mechanism they have is imperfect, it’s that they don’t have a mechanism to verify what I say. If I say that I now accept Jesus, and I’m lying about it, but put on a good show, there may be no way to tell that I’m lying except when I finally reveal my lie.

          LB: Hence the parable of the wheat and tares (Mt 13:24–30), the call to judge trees by their fruit (Mt 7:15–20), and the warning that not everyone who appears to be a follower of Jesus is a follower of Jesus (Mt 7:21–23). The trick is that God can make use of your lies and deception, as a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mt 12:22–28). As Joseph said to his treacherous brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

          The real difference is that Christians can tolerate lying and deception hidden in the depths of people’s beings, because they can trust that God will not let that destroy them. In contrast, atheistic totalitarian regimes must reach into the very core of human beings, to ensure that no rebellion is brewing. If humans are the only ones establishing and maintaining order, then much more can threaten them and much more needs to be controlled and/or quashed.

        • ORigel

          You mean Communist totalitarian regimes. Because atheism didn’t make them totalitarian. Nazi Germany was totalitarian after all- and xtian.

        • BelieverEqualsMenace

          You’ve already been called out on attempting to use bible quotes to separate truth from falsehood, and you respond by vomiting up more, more and more. Jesus, aren’t you ever special!

        • That’s like saying that if the Bible contained F = ma, it would be invalid because it’s in the Bible.

        • Herald Newman

          So what if the Bible says that F=ma? Would it be true because the Bible says it?

        • Where have I said or implied such a thing? I have not. And I would thank you and others to stop stereotyping me. I mean, you hate it when Christians stereotype atheists, don’t you? If it’s wrong for people to do the bad thing to you, then it’s wrong for you to do the bad thing to them.

        • Herald Newman

          Where have I said or implied such a thing? And I would thank you and others to stop stereotyping me

          I asked a question, and you assume I’m stereotyping you. Persecution complex much?

        • You didn’t just ask “a question”. You asked a question whereby I would expose myself as extremely stupid to answer “yes”. It is a common social technique to insult a person by suggesting that [s]he could plausibly believe an incredibly stupid thing. Perhaps you have always been in the dominant social group, and thus do not realize what happens if many people in a social group act this way toward the outsider?

        • Pofarmer

          Why couldn’t you just have answered “No.”?

          Seems reasonable.

        • I could have.

        • Pofarmer

          Then why didn’t you?

        • I explained in the very comment to which you replied.

        • Pofarmer

          You really don’t know what Harold Newman’s intent was. But you did succeed in making yourself look like an ass.

        • You seem to think that I care in the slightest what you and your kind consider “look like an ass”.

        • Pofarmer

          My kind? Wth?

        • TheNuszAbides

          categorical rejectors of divinity?

        • Pofarmer

          Hard to say now. LB seems to have left the building.

        • Michael Neville

          He’ll be back in a month or three.

          “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” –Proverbs 26:11 (NIV)

        • Greg G.

          He will probably resurrect on Easter.

        • Greg G.

          Not only that, you merely turned his question around.

          It’s like:

          A: Do you drink?

          B: No, do you?

          A: Stop accusing me of drinking too much!

      • atheistic totalitarian regimes must reach into the very core of human beings, to ensure that no rebellion is brewing.

        Why mention atheism? Was it the atheism that was driving their wicked deeds?

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately, you’ve now given LB a moral failing to latch on to.

        • Under atheism, God cannot be trusted to watch over people’s innards, so the State has to do it.

        • Under Christianity as well.

        • Assuming God does not exist or is not as Christians [like me] understand him to be, of course.

        • smrnda

          I guess this is why theocracies are so permissive 🙂

          The other problem is, you assume that anybody cares about people’s innards. You realize that most secular nations are pretty free, particularly in the whole ‘innards’ department? They just prohibit doing things which are harmful. Freedom of thought, expression, these are standard post-enlightenment rights that are part of secular states. Note that I said ‘secular states’ – not atheist states. Many nations which have a large % of atheists are not ‘atheist states’ – it’s just that, in the market of ideas, religion has lost, even in cases where there is state sponsorship.

          And many religious people justify totalitarian control on the belief that unless the whole nation honors their god in the right way, the nation will be collectively punished, or else that tolerating apostasy will encourage atheism.

        • I guess this is why theocracies are so permissive 🙂

          Do you have solid scientific data on this, or are you mostly speaking based on atheist dogma of “what religion is like”? BTW, these days we can neutralize people without killing them.

          The other problem is, you assume that anybody cares about people’s innards.

          How much do you know about how life was in the USSR? How aware are you of what went on during McCarthyism? How much do you know about the blackballing of Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky when they threatened the powers that be?

          You realize that most secular nations are pretty free, particularly in the whole ‘innards’ department?

          In the sense of allowing freedom in areas which are guaranteed to not threaten the powers that be, perhaps. But that’s a moving target. If the powers that be wish to avoid the next Trump, they will have to exert more control than was exerted in the past. You would be making a grievous mistake to assume that the current “secular” state of affairs is a stable one. Oh, and if you think innards aren’t being actively manipulated, see advertising or the experiment Facebook ran and published on (and you know they’ve run plenty of other manipulative experiments since then).

          They just prohibit doing things which are harmful.

          The harm principle is notoriously unstable when you actually try to apply it widely in real life; Steven D. Smith does an adequate job of explaining this in The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. An infinite number of psychological harms can be invented if need be, and of course mixed in with real ones (e.g. topics which could trigger a PTSD episode).

          Freedom of thought, expression, these are standard post-enlightenment rights that are part of secular states.

          Hahahaha, I suggest a look at Burr-Feinstein encryption bill is officially here in all its scary glory. The US government wants to force every internet-connectable device to guarantee that it can be silently taken over by the government. Your expression will be free until it is “felt” to be threatening to the powers that be.

          Note that I said ‘secular states’ – not atheist states.

          I am aware of the difference.

          And many religious people justify totalitarian control on the belief that unless the whole nation honors their god in the right way, the nation will be collectively punished, or else that tolerating apostasy will encourage atheism.

          Given that you provided the appropriate quantifier, I probably agree. (I would need scientific evidence to be more sure, but it sounds approximately right. The worry isn’t always atheism; it could be another religion/sect, but probably you’d be ok with that modification.)

        • adam

          “Do you have solid scientific data on this, or are you mostly speaking based on atheist dogma of “what religion is like”? ”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6fc7ab2c98ecd5d432d579b44c7bea11b9ca469d406c8e32490fe04a24f16a31.jpg

        • Raging Bee

          And theistic tyrants NEVER try to do that, do they?

        • Was that a special, spontaneous combustion strawman?

      • Joe

        n contrast, atheistic totalitarian regimes must reach into the very core of human beings, to ensure that no rebellion is brewing.

        Don’t theistic totalitarian regimes do the same? Are they hedging their bets, or does the clue lie in the word totalitarian rather than their other worldviews?

        • Don’t theistic totalitarian regimes do the same?

          That’s not clear to me. If they so distrust God that they have to do the same, it’s not clear what they mean by “God”.

        • smrnda

          It’s not clear what anyone means by ‘god’ to the point where the lack of any precise, agreed upon definition is a huge problem for theists. What people mean by ‘god’ is either vague, or gibberish.

        • The same problem occurs for ‘natural’ and ’cause’, so that’s not really a problem in my book. The Bible makes very clear that God is an infinitely complex being, such that we finite beings have to be very careful to not think we know more about him than we actually do. This is key to the “no idols” Word of the Decalogue. Idols provide safety, because they allow you to pretend away the endless complexity and variation of reality which can be quite threatening. You get to believe that it is “just this” and “just that”. This behavior allows one to think one is exerting control. Of course it is delusion, but this delusion can last for quite a few generations.

          Oh, even ‘science’ doesn’t have a “precise, agreed upon definition”:

              A deeper difficulty springs from the lesson won through decades of study in the philosophy of science: there is no hard and fast specification of what ‘science’ must be, no determinate criterion of the form ‘x is science iff …’. It follows that there can be no straightforward definition of Second Philosophy along the lines ‘trust only the methods of science’. Thus Second Philosophy, as I understand it, isn’t a set of beliefs, a set of propositions to be affirmed; it has no theory. Since its contours can’t be drawn by outright definition, I resort to the device of introducing a character, a particular sort of idealized inquirer called the Second Philosopher, and proceed by describing her thoughts and practices in a range of contexts; Second Philosophy is then to be understood as the product of her inquiries. (Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method, 1)

          This actually makes sense; if reality has infinite variety, then it will be impossible to lock down a finite, precise definition of the study of that reality. After all, the appropriate ways to study reality must have as much sophistication as the reality being studied.

        • TheNuszAbides

          very clear

          if only.

        • Do feel free to clarify with textual evidence.

      • Maine_Skeptic

        All in all, yours was a good comment, and I think it was invited by the article. Bob’s a good guy, and I think the article was more of a thought experiment than anything else. I don’t think his integrity would every let him come close to a stunt like the one he describes.

        You said, “In contrast, atheistic totalitarian regimes must reach into the very core of human beings, to ensure that no rebellion is brewing.”

        Here’s where I think you went off the rails. I don’t know how you make the leap from unbeliever to totalitarian regimes, and I don’t know why you think Christians aren’t trying to police people’s thoughts. You yourself suggest that there is lying and deception at the depths of people’s beings; I think most skeptics would think people are honest at their core but are often covering up with lies because they can’t deal with the facts.

        • All in all, yours was a good comment, and I think it was invited by the article.

          Wow thanks; I think that is the first time I have received what is plausibly a genuine compliment on CE. (Possibly excepting the last paragraph of this comment, a year ago.)

          Bob’s a good guy, and I think the article was more of a thought experiment than anything else.

          I’m afraid I have to disagree; you cannot fabricate evidence for your position and be intellectually honest. It would also be a terrible witness for the atheist community. Here’s the message: “If we think that deceit will get you to believe [in] what we think is true, we will deceive you!” But we could examine the history of people thinking that small lies can lead to bigger truths. Perhaps I am wrong.

          Here’s where I think you went off the rails. I don’t know how you make the leap from unbeliever to totalitarian regimes, and I don’t know why you think Christians aren’t trying to police people’s thoughts.

          The immediate topic of discussion was set by @heraldnewman:disqus: “it’s that they don’t have a mechanism to verify what I say [example: ‘I now accept Jesus’]”. That is, Christians do not have a perfect loyalty test. My response is that Christians do not need a perfect loyalty test, because God is their backup. Atheist governments do not have God as such a backup. These claims are true regardless of whether God exists; I’m speaking about psychological/​sociological logic, here.

          Nowhere did I say that Christians do not try to police people’s thoughts. In human society, people have always tried to police other’s thoughts. The modern incarnation of political correctness is an excellent example of this. How? What can be spoken of without derision has a powerful impact on what you can think about and how articulately. Humans are social beings, not Cartesian individuals. Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is important, here.

          I have more to say, but I think I’ll stop here to see if we’re even remotely on the same page.

          You yourself suggest that there is lying and deception at the depths of people’s beings; I think most skeptics would think people are honest at their core but are often covering up with lies because they can’t deal with the facts.

          Request for clarification: Did you intend the contrast “at the depths of people’s beings” / “at their core”? The former does not necessarily commit to there being a [finite] core; epistemologically, it does not commit to foundationalism. The latter seems to push more in that direction, or perhaps more strongly, to deny the existence of an unarticulated background. But my inferences here are quite tenuous, hence my request for clarification.

  • ORigel

    I wouldn’t want to get rich off of book deals where I lie to people, even if the result is poisoning the well for the next fake former atheist.

    • Lark62

      I agree.

      But it would be a fun* way to raise money for planned parenthood, FFRF, or other worthy organizations.

      (* For certain definitions of fun. Like the definition used by masochists.)

  • Kevin K

    Sadly, my humanist/atheist ethics prevent me from engaging in such a venture.

    But don’t think I haven’t thought about it. It would be the easiest grift imaginable.

    • Ol’ Hippy

      Actually the easiest grift imaginable is being carried out by the likes of Olsteen, Robertson and the like. It could be the second one though.

      • Odd Jørgensen

        Being a successful preacher takes time and dedication, being a grifter on the RW welfare circuit just takes a good story.

  • MR
    • Fascinating! I’d not heard of that.

    • Kuno

      I still have to read that one.

  • Trent Horn

    “If the deception part bothers you, remember that they started it. They are the ones who declare that they have solid intellectual reasons behind their faith.”

    Do you have evidence to support the claim of deception? Merely being wrong about the reasons for a Faith being true would be involve being mistaken, not actively deceiving others. Do you have evidence of a prominent Christian who knows the Faith lacks good reasons but still claims those reasons exist?

    And don’t give me WLC witness of the Holy Spirit. Craig says the Spirit could show the Faith is true apart from external reasons but he still believes those reasons do exist. You could claim he’s mistaken but you’ve really raised the burden of proof (and risked slandering Christians) by saying people like him are deceptive.

    • ORigel

      All Christian apologists are deceptive, so deceptive they’re decieving themselves as well. And when they talk about atheism, they’re intentionally disorting the truth.

      • All Christian apologists are deceptive …

        May I assume that this is an evidence-based belief?

        • Michael Neville

          All Christian apologists are deceptive …

          Exhibit A: Luke Breuer.

        • ORigel

          Well, you are. You have admitted that you are okay with people rationalizing things away.

        • You have admitted that you are okay with people rationalizing things away.

          False.

        • Michael Neville

          Come on, Luke. We both remember how you insulted me and then tried to make the insult be my fault. If that isn’t deceptive, then you’re not Luke Breuer.

        • We both remember how you insulted me and then tried to make the insult be my fault.

          We both remember the underlined; the strikethrough only ever existed in your imagination.

        • Michael Neville

          Yeah right. You called me deceptive and when I objected you pretended you were using an obscure, secondary meaning of a common English word. Then after a long, painful discussion you gave a halfhearted apology which you promptly negated by implying it was my fault that I was insulted. You’ve rewritten history in your own mind because you will never admit to being in the least bit at fault for any of your blunders, flaws or failings.

        • Then after a long, painful discussion you gave a halfhearted apology which you promptly negated by implying it was my fault that I was insulted.

          [citation needed]

        • Michael Neville

          Why should I? I’m under no obligation to satisfy you for anything.

        • Hey, if you want to be known as someone who makes claims with absolutely zero supporting evidence, go for it.

        • ORigel

          Projection. Xtianity is the claim that has zero evidence for, and abundant evidence against.

        • Deflection. But perhaps I tempted the troll past what he could bear.

        • ORigel

          You are the troll.

          And a designer would have to be more complex than the thing designed, which makes the designer more improbable than the thing said to be “designed.” Apologists claim that God caused the Big Bang, at least when they accept the evidence for the Big Bang.

          God would be more complex than a Big Bang singularity, and more improbable. To be capable of designing the initial singularity, God has to be at least as complex as the singularity, you ser.

          So this is evidence against any god who created the universe.

          No evidence for? Prove the existence of God if you want to change that.

        • adam

          “Hey, if you want to be known as someone who makes claims with absolutely zero supporting evidence, go for it.”

          But remember Michael, the name Luke has already been taken.

        • TheNuszAbides

          even worse, it was stolen from a gospel ghost-writer! at least MN’s is stolen from a bona fide archangel — even if he was only playing second fiddle prior to The Rebellion.

        • adam
        • ORigel

          Yes, you did.

        • [citation needed]

        • Michael Neville

          Typical Luke Breuer, tries to make his failings be someone else’s fault.

        • A lie which you repeat and have never been able to support with empirical evidence.

        • Michael Neville

          I remember how you insulted me and then tried AND FAILED to make the insult be my fault. And no, I have not forgiven you for that attempt.

        • ORigel

          Apply this to NDEs.

        • Go for it. I am almost certainly more interested in what is true than you are, but perhaps you could still be of some use.

        • ORigel

          Yes. Who hasn’t realized that the first cause argument leads you to ask who caused God? Or who hasn’t been told that evolution isn’t random chance? And what is church? Brainwashing people with emotional experiences.

        • OR: All Christian apologists are deceptive …

          LB: May I assume that this is an evidence-based belief?

          OR: Yes.

          Evidence, please. Let’s see what you, @ORigel:disqus, believe is a sufficient burden of proof to make such sweeping accusations.

        • ORigel

          Lee Strobel.

        • OR: All Christian apologists are deceptive …

          LB: May I assume that this is an evidence-based belief?

          OR: Yes.

          LB: Evidence, please. Let’s see what you, @ORigel:disqus, believe is a sufficient burden of proof to make such sweeping accusations.

          OR: Lee Strobel.

          Ahh, so one example, where you haven’t even demonstrated intent to mislead (see the definition of ‘deceptive’), suffices as the burden of proof for your “all” claim?

        • Raging Bee

          Yes, you may.

        • LB: Evidence, please.

        • Joe

          No assumption needed.

        • With atheists, I find the assumption is often invalid. I find this to be a good model:

              In one definition of the word, it is of course impossible to find any assertions of full skepticism; even silent enactments are difficult. A good general rule is: scratch a skeptic and find a dogmatist. (Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, 56)

        • Joe

          Do you have empirical evidence for such a claim?

        • Do you mean, do I have a list of people who appeared to be skeptics but were in fact dogmatists? Here’s an easily accessible kinda-sorta example:

          DS: In this context, my intended meaning of evidence for a proposition is any reason to believe that proposition. For nonempirical propositions, a reason could be any valid (or strong inductive) argument with credible premises with the proposition as its conclusion.

          @disqus_fRI0oOZiFh:disqus is a professed atheist, materialist, and skeptic. It took a while, but I finally scratched enough to find multiple beliefs which he could not justify with evidence. I can find them if you really want me to, but I request a good enough reason for doing so.

        • Joe

          That’s not empirical evidence. Where are the peer reviewed papers?

        • Peer-reviewed papers aren’t required for something to be empirical evidence. But since you wanted peer-reviewed papers:

          Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government
          Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory

          Now, these don’t narrow the field down to self-labeled “skeptics”. I know of no peer-reviewed research on that matter. Perhaps you could email the authors of the first paper and ask them if they found interesting outliers among the high-numeracy-scored people. Perhaps those exist and those people self-identify as skeptics. Or perhaps they don’t exist. Surely it would benefit you to learn more about reality?

        • Joe

          Now, these don’t narrow the field down to self-labeled “skeptics”.

          No, they don’t.

        • Sorry, what I’ve mentioned so far and my anecdotal experience is the best I’ve got. Fortunately, I did properly scope things from the get-go:

          LB: With atheists, I find the assumption is often invalid. I find this to be a good model:

          You are, of course, completely entitled to 100% disregard what I personally find to be the case. 😀

        • TheNuszAbides

          Peer-reviewed papers aren’t required for something to be empirical evidence.

          yet another heroically-constructed straw-inference to add to your heap. relevantly enough, such papers are generally known for containing or pointing to such evidence. but surely it was suitable for your ever-insightful and illuminating purposes to nix the likelihood that Joe was alluding to this fact.

        • ORigel

          We are not dogmatic.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Here’s your evidence:
          Dear atheists, please stop calling religion a meme

          In which papal employee Gary Gutting is interviewed about arguments for and against Christianity

          Gutting, who is based at University of Notre Dame…

          Which is to say, he works for the pope.

          Atheists have some strong arguments, he says, but “the weakest intellectual aspect of current atheism is its naive enchantment with pseudoscientific biological and psychological explanations of why people believe”.

          Seriously, do atheists have an obligation to explain why people might believe things that are not true? That large numbers of people believe things which are not adequately evidenced is commonly known, and commonly agreed upon. Christians, for example, mostly agree that billions of Muslims and Hindus worldwide believe things which are untrue. Protestants understand that Catholics believe in transsubstantiation, which is untrue. And so on.

          “For me, the overall weakness of arguments for atheism helps makes theism a live option.

          In which Mr. Professional Philosopher does not understand the concept of “the null hypothesis.”

          In fact, I’ve found that in an undergraduate class
          a careful reading of Dawkins’s arguments against God’s existence generally does more to move students away from atheism than does a careful reading of Aquinas’s proofs for God’s existence.”

          Shall we presume that the undergraduates in question are attending Notre Dame, which is a Catholic Jesuit university, and the professor guiding in their reading is an alleged professional philosopher who does not understand the null hypothesis?

        • OR: All Christian apologists are deceptive …

          Here’s your evidence:
          Dear atheists, please stop calling religion a meme

          Wow, that single article is all the evidence required for @ORigel:disqus’ “all”? I’ll be nice and add in OR’s “Lee Strobel.”

          Atheists have some strong arguments, he says, but “the weakest intellectual aspect of current atheism is its naive enchantment with pseudoscientific biological and psychological explanations of why people believe”.

          Seriously, do atheists have an obligation to explain why people might believe things that are not true?

          No. Those who claim to respect science do have an obligation to not deploy “pseudoscientific biological and psychological explanations”—for anything.

          That large numbers of people believe things which are not adequately evidenced is commonly known, and commonly agreed upon.

          Sure; here’s an example:

              Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

          When one chases such examples of “not adequately evidenced”, they end up being legion, and not statistically concentrated in Christianity. Another would be the idea that we live in anything like the folk theory of a democracy; that should have been greatly damaged by Converse 1964, but it wasn’t. For follow-ups, see Electoral Democracy (2003) and Democracy for Realists (2016). There’s quite a lot of delusion out there, and I just haven’t seen the evidence that your average atheist who claims to respect science is not extraordinarily prone to it. If you want to talk about dangerous delusions, I think the two I’ve indicated here rank up there. But perhaps you will simply dismiss the evidence which does not agree with your identity/​ideology, as predicted by Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government?

          “For me, the overall weakness of arguments for atheism helps makes theism a live option.

          In which Mr. Professional Philosopher does not understand the concept of “the null hypothesis.”

          Ockham’s razor applies to the methodological domain, not the ontological domain. We do not know whether reality is more or less complex, and so we do not know whether it is more or less likely that the lack of difference assumed by null-hypothesis testing is more or less likely to exist.

        • ORigel

          Christianity is a lie, therefore all apologists have decieved themselves.

          In cases like Strobel, where he makes the same bullshit arguments after they are publicly debunked, he is intentionally lying. Same with any creationist who.makes a Boeing 747 argument. They know perfectly well that evolution isn’t random chance, and are exploiting the ignorances of their audiences.

        • Christianity is a lie, therefore all apologists have decieved themselves.

          Ahh, let me see if I can try that on for size: “Democracy is a lie, therefore all many atheists have deceived themselves.” If you’d like support for the initial four words, you may consult Converse 1964 The nature of belief systems in mass publics, Electoral Democracy (2003), and Democracy for Realists (2016).

          In cases like Strobel, where he makes the same bullshit arguments after they are publicly debunked, he is intentionally lying.

          Oh I see, if someone claims X, you believe a debunking of X, and then the person re-asserts X, the only logical conclusion is that the person is [redundant word:] intentionally lying. Good to know that you are the god of [public] debunking!

          Same with any creationist who.makes a Boeing 747 argument. They know perfectly well that evolution isn’t random chance, and are exploiting the ignorances of their audiences.

          They are criticizing what they see as an oversized role for randomness (or perhaps: stochastic variation) in the process of evolution. If in fact epigenetics are crucial to evolution (see The Third Way: evolution in the era of genomics and epigenomics), then creationists might in fact be vindicated on this claim. The ultimate test is a full-complexity computer simulation of evolution, but that is far off. What suffices for now is that the theory of evolution continues to lead to new science and new medicine, while creationists are doing neither.

        • ORigel

          I know that true democracy does not exist.

          Not intentionally lying; fooling themselves, unintentionally or intentionally . But many apologists are intentionally fooling themselves. Like when they deliberately misrepresent evolution.

        • I know that true democracy does not exist.

          You seem to have missed my all many atheists”.

          Not intentionally lying; fooling themselves, unintentionally or intentionally . But many apologists are intentionally fooling themselves. Like when they deliberately misrepresent evolution.

          Interesting; why do apologists get the weightier charge? Is it because you hate them?

        • ORigel

          Lying about Occam’s Razor now. You have no integrity whatsoever.

        • Lying how?

        • ORigel

          If there is an interventionist God, as you believe, than that intervention moves God into the methodological realm. Occam’s razor does not work against a deity who never intervenes in the world, but you don’t believe in such a lazy deity.

        • If there is an interventionist God, as you believe, than that intervention moves God into the methodological realm.

          Let me understand you better: are you saying that you never ever believe that a matter is more complex than the simplest model your or others can imagine (which, noting Einstein, is not too simple)? In all domains of life, do you rigorously follow this rule, and punish yourself whenever you violate it in the slightest bit?

        • Joe

          et me understand you better: are you saying that you never ever believe that a matter is more complex than the simplest model your or others can imagine

          You’re being dishonest again.

          Occam’s Razor is an idiom, not an axiom. A more complex model of matter may exist, Occam would never say to throw out prior knowledge when positing a future proposition. Quite the opposite.

        • You’re being dishonest again.

          That word, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          Occam’s Razor is an idiom, not an axiom. A more complex model of matter may exist, Occam would never say to throw out prior knowledge when positing a future proposition. Quite the opposite.

          The underlined is a straw man.

        • Michael Neville

          Luke isn’t lying about Occam’s Razor, like so many other philosophical arguments he doesn’t understand it.

    • Raging Bee

      Evidence? Does personal experience of talking with apologists count? I’ve got decades of that, if you want me to try to upload my memories via USB cable. How about all the dishonest (and not even internally consistent) bullshit they publish on the Internet?

      Merely being wrong … would be involve being mistaken, not actively deceiving others.

      When they keep on saying the same wrong shit over and over, despite its having been publicly debunked several times, that crosses the line from “mistaken” to “lying.”

      • When they keep on saying the same wrong shit over and over, despite its having been publicly debunked several times, that crosses the line from “mistaken” to “lying.”

        Does the same apply to atheists?

        • ORigel

          No, because we gave debunked all the arguments for God and you do not admit that you are wrong. Our arguments are sound. Yours are not.

          BTW, you do not understand the burden of proof at all.

        • Our arguments are sound. Yours are not.

          Which arguments of mine? Please don’t stereotype.

          BTW, you do not understand the burden of proof at all.

          It is informative that you think so.

        • Joe

          Which arguments of mine?

          I don’t think I can recall you ever putting forward an argument. You mainly just bombard posters with non-sequiturs in the form of questions and never reply in kind.

          Please refresh my memory with your best theological argument.

        • OR: Our arguments are sound. Yours are not.

          LB: Which arguments of mine? Please don’t stereotype.

          J: I don’t think I can recall you ever putting forward an argument.

          Ah, so @ORigel:disqus has some sort of cognitive impairment? Surely it isn’t a moral impairment?

          BTW, I’ve put forth the argument ending in “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.” on quite a few occasions, so your own recollection seems rather untrustworthy. Unless what you really mean to say is that I haven’t danced to your tune.

          Please refresh my memory with your best theological argument.

          Probably the argument I just indicated is my best argument which could possibly push in a theological direction. Here’s a slightly updated version:

               (1) The forces of nature are the only causal powers.
               (2) All beliefs are caused by the forces of nature.
               (3) Some beliefs are true, others false.
               (4) The forces of nature cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.
               (5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.

          (One could also replace “true” → “more true” and “false” → “less true”, but that uglifies the argument. The change I did make was “physical laws” → “forces of nature”.)

          It is tempting to say that “I” determine what is true vs. false, but the forces of nature do not permit an “I”, except as a temporary confluence of chains of causation, none of which originate from “I”. Once you get an “I” with true (non-derived) causal power, a whole mess of false beliefs have been banished and it is much easier to talk about God.

        • Joe

          That’s the first argument I’ve seen you put forward.

          That’s valid in form, but I’d take issue with P4.

          How do you support that premise? I suspect the fact that ‘true and false’ are not defined helps prop up the entire argument. I hope i’m wrong.

          The whole argument comes across as an argument from consequences, dressed up in formal logic clothes. I hope I’m wrong.

        • That’s valid in form, but I’d take issue with P4.

          How do you support that premise?

          The forces of nature do not operate differently when bringing about true beliefs vs. false beliefs. Unless they are radically different from the diffeqs and pdes of physics, it’s the same thing happening when a true belief is brought into existence as when a false belief is brought into existence.

          I suspect the fact that ‘true and false’ are not defined helps prop up the entire argument. I hope i’m wrong.

          The argument is designed to play with various understandings of ‘true’ vs. ‘false’.

          The whole argument comes across as an argument from consequences, dressed up in formal logic clothes. I hope I’m wrong.

          Actually, as @ORigel:disqus kindly pointed out:

          OR: You’re saying that beliefs are false after you claimed that beliefs are unknowable. Make up your mind: are the beliefs false, or unknowable, or true, or half true, or….

          You see, (5) self-defeats.

        • Joe

          The forces of nature do not operate differently when bringing about true beliefs vs. false beliefs.

          So, for the false premise “water is dry”, the ‘forces of nature” would show water is both wet and dry?

          That would be a problem.

          The argument is designed to play with various understandings of ‘true’ vs. ‘false’.

          So what definition are you using? The rest of your post was a non-sequitur. The way I see it, a plain reading, stripped of the paraphernalia of formal logic, would be:

          “If god din’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to tell up from down. Wouldn’t that be silly.”

        • So, for the false premise “water is dry”, the ‘forces of nature” would show water is both wet and dry?

          My argument was about beliefs, not premises. And it is simply the case that on the model I see many naturalists espouse, the forces of nature could easily cause you to believe “water is wet” or “water is dry”. You’d have no way to distinguish between them. But of course you can, because you don’t actually act based on that model.

          LB: The argument is designed to play with various understandings of ‘true’ vs. ‘false’.

          J: So what definition are you using?

          I didn’t have a specific definition in mind; I had a class of them in mind. Something revolving around the ability to tell reality from delusion would probably suffice.

          The way I see it, a plain reading, stripped of the paraphernalia of formal logic, would be:

          “If god din’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to tell up from down. Wouldn’t that be silly.”

          Would you explain exactly how you reasoned to that?

        • ORigel

          Premise 4 does not follow.

        • Do please explain.

        • ORigel

          You’re saying that beliefs are false after you claimed that beliefs are unknowable. Make up your mind: are the beliefs false, or unknowable, or true, or half true, or….

        • Interesting; that doesn’t actually damage my argument you know. Premises which lead to a contradiction indicates that at least one of the premises is wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          Convenient to leave out intelleigence.

        • You are welcome to demonstrate how intelligence can arise out of “(1) The forces of nature”. If you get far enough, you will run into this problem:

          Specifically, Descartes speculated that the workings of res cogitans—second substance—may be beyond human understanding. So he thought, quoting him again, “We may not have intelligence enough to understanding the workings of mind.” In particular, the normal use of language, one of his main concepts. He recognized that the normal use of language has what has come to be called a creative aspect; every human being but no beast or machine has this capacity to use language in ways that are appropriate to situations but not caused by them—this is a crucial difference. And to formulate and express thoughts that may be entirely new and do so without bound, may be incited or inclined to speak in certain ways by internal and external circumstances, but not compelled to do so. That’s the way his followers put the matter—which was a mystery to Descartes and remains a mystery to us. That quite clearly is a fact. (Noam Chomsky – “The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding”, 9:58)

          This is precisely where free will shows up. Specifically:

              Finally, consider the libertarian notion of dual rationality, a requirement whose importance to the libertarian I did not appreciate until I read Robert Kane’s Free Will and Values. As with dual control, the libertarian needs to claim that when agents make free choices, it would have been rational (reasonable, sensible) for them to have made a contradictory choice (e.g. chosen not A rather than A) under precisely the conditions that actually obtain. Otherwise, categorical freedom simply gives us the freedom to choose irrationally had we chosen otherwise, a less-than-entirely desirable state. Kane (1985) spends a great deal of effort in trying to show how libertarian choices can be dually rational, and I examine his efforts in Chapter 8. (The Non-Reality of Free Will, 16)

          What is dual rationality required for? Well, playing with multiple hypotheses which account for the same evidence. And yet, if the person plays no causal role in which hypothesis is chosen, [s]he is like the Immobile Kitten.

        • Pofarmer

          Since every problem ever has been solved with “Not Magic” let’s just go with that.

        • Erm, I don’t think theosis will be achieved via “magic”. So maybe we agree on the “Not Magic” thing? If anything, I object to our giving up on problems such as the one Noam Chomsky described in my transcription. In that video, Chomsky notes that modernity has a history of forgetting problems it finds too hard. In my view, that’s lame.

        • adam

          “Erm, I don’t think theosis will be achieved via “magic”.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3e8cf5b743bdb737ae0f6745e608eb426f0017f72b3c6aa58fa138ca0b9ff0eb.jpg

        • Pofarmer

          Theosis is imaginary. It won’t happen at all.

        • Many inventions started out as imagination.

        • Pofarmer

          That doesn’t even come close to making sense in context.

        • Of course it does. I simply question that imagination can having nothing as a basis (Hume also questioned this).

        • Pofarmer

          I honestly can’t believe that even still a question.

        • Do you disbelieve in causation?

        • Pofarmer

          In the Aristotle Ian sense yes. There are some questions for which causation is not the right answer.

        • Like what? Under naturalism, all beliefs are caused, are they not?

        • Greg G.

          I read an article in a magazine several years ago that can explain the problems you suggest.

          The signal channels between brain cells help to trigger activity in different neurons. The greater the diameter of the signal channel (dendrites, IIRC), the more reliable the signal. But the larger the signal channel, the heavier they are, the more space they occupy, and the more energy and resources they use. So there is a trade-off between the different selective forces against the selective force of reliability of signals. Natural selection is a terrific method for such optimizations.

          By reducing the diameter of the signal channels and adding an error correction area of the brain. But the error correction may not be 100% accurate. This can account for mistakes, creativity, and the illusion of free will.

          Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

          There doesn’t have to be a “second substance.” The “ghost in the machine” seems like another supernatural explanation being replaced by science. You should be used to that by now.

        • Herald Newman

          This argument reminds me a lot of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. I think both rely on poor wording, and lack of understanding, to put forward that naturalism is somehow false.

        • Would you care to demonstrate said “poor wording” or “lack of understanding”? Also, I was unaware that I had completely covered “naturalism”; have I? Does it necessarily exclude agent causation?

        • Herald Newman

          Would you care to demonstrate said “poor wording”

          See premise 1. I think the wording of this is clumsy.

          [would you care to demonstrate] “lack of understanding”

          See premise 4. It’s essentially an argument about what nature cannot do, but I don’t know how you would ever establish such a thing.

          Does it necessarily exclude agent causation?

          Is “agent causation” a natural force? If it’s not, what is it, and how do you know?

        • LB: (1) The forces of nature are the only causal powers.

          HN: See premise 1. I think the wording of this is clumsy.

          What would constitute better wording?

          LB: (4) The forces of nature cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.

          HN: See premise 4. It’s essentially an argument about what nature cannot do, but I don’t know how you would ever establish such a thing.

          Pure logic. Given certain building blocks, some structures can be built, while others cannot. For example, within finite time, a Turing machine cannot possibly perform hypercomputation. Similarly, one’s epistemology determines what one can and cannot know. (I will note that people don’t always practice the epistemology they claim to follow. For more on this phenomenon, see Eric Schwitzgebel’s 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection.)

          Is “agent causation” a natural force? If it’s not, what is it, and how do you know?

          That depends on your definition of ‘natural’, of course. I’ve already requested a definition once from you:

          LB: Have fun rigorously defining “nature”. You are welcome to consult @jlowder:disqus’s The Nature of Naturalism. For some problems with naive definitions, feel free to peruse Randal Rauser’s Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism. Finally, note that I feel some resonance with Christian Naturalism and Leibniz’s theistic case against Humean miracles.

          One option is that you might believe that what is ‘natural’ is nomological, and then consult my excerpt of Gregory Dawes’ Theism and Explanation. This would constitute a denial of ‘singular causation’. I haven’t worked out all the details, but my argument may imply that singular causation must exist, on pain of radical incoherence.

        • Herald Newman

          What would constitute better wording?

          I’ll suggest something like:
          1. Only natural phenomenon have been demonstrated to have causal powers.
          or alternately
          1. Only natural phenomenon have been demonstrated to be causes.

          [..] but I don’t know how you would ever establish such a thing.

          Pure logic. Given certain building blocks, some structures can be built, while others cannot.

          Pure logic alone cannot tell us anything about the natural world. All logic can do is re-arrange what we already know, and (effectively) restate it. If you want logic to tell you about the outside world you need to have sound premises to arrive at a conclusion.

          So what logic, and premises, did you you use to arrive at The forces of nature cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.

          That depends on your definition of ‘natural’, of course.

          I asked you a question, is “agent-causation” a natural force? and you deflect once again. Tell you what. You define what you mean by natural, and what you mean by “agent-causation”, because it’s your argument!

          Now, I don’t have a rigorous definition of what “nature” is because, as far as I can tell, there is only nature, and everything is “natural.” It’s my null hypothesis. Literally everything we understand, we understand as “nature”.

          Now, because this is a null hypothesis, it can never be “proven”, but it could be falsified. All you need to do is come up with a better hypothesis, some reliable way to verify your hypothesis, and I’ll accept that there is something other than nature.

        • LB: (1) The forces of nature are the only causal powers.

          HN: See premise 1. I think the wording of this is clumsy.

          LB: What would constitute better wording?

          HN: I’ll suggest something like:
          1. Only natural phenomenon have been demonstrated to have causal powers.
          or alternately
          1. Only natural phenomenon have been demonstrated to be causes.

          That seems to actually break my logical argument. How? Because it admits that there might be other causal powers/​causes. But the whole point of the argument is that if you prohibit other causal powers/​causes (and we need that definition of ‘natural’ to proceed further), then a bad consequence follows.

          Pure logic alone cannot tell us anything about the natural world.

          It can tell us things about our models of the natural world. For example, logic could demonstrate that a certain conception of “natural phenomenon” is terrible—if you want a foundation upon which you can possibly distinguish truth from falsity (or “more true” from “less true”).

          So what logic, and premises, did you you use to arrive at The forces of nature cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.

          Some combination of monocausation and nomological constraint on causation.

          I asked you a question, is “agent-causation” a natural force? and you deflect once again. Tell you what. You define what you mean by natural, and what you mean by “agent-causation”, because it’s your argument!

          There is no single definition of “forces of nature” I am targeting; instead I am targeting a class, indeed, I’m targeting every example I’ve come across. One example would be built on the definition of ‘natural’ one sees in @jlowder:disqus’s The Nature of Naturalism.

          Gregory W. Dawes teases out a difference between nomological and not-nomological causation in Theism and Explanation (e.g. see my excerpt); I suspect that once you get to “not nomological” or “singular causation”, that is all that is required for “agent causation”, when it comes to the argument at hand.

          Now, I don’t have a rigorous definition of what “nature” is because, as far as I can tell, there is only nature, and everything is “natural.” It’s my null hypothesis. Literally everything we understand, we understand as “nature”.

          If you cannot define ‘natural’, and it means “everything that exists”, then God would simply be ‘natural’ by your understanding. You’ve virtually destroyed the word by making it so broad.

          Now, because this is a null hypothesis, it can never be “proven”, but it could be falsified. All you need to do is come up with a better hypothesis, some reliable way to verify your hypothesis, and I’ll accept that there is something other than nature.

          Falsification, at least in Popperian fashion, does not require a better hypothesis. According to Popper in The Logic of Scientific Discovery, scientific laws tell you what does not happen, and if you observe anything that isn’t supposed to happen, the laws are wrong. End of story. But you don’t seem to want to follow this pattern. Why?

        • Herald Newman

          That seems to actually break my logical argument. How? Because it admits that there might be other causal powers/​causes.

          If you’re goal is an argumentum ad absurdum, then why wouldn’t you start with something like only natural entities have causal power, or only nature has causal power?

          For example, logic could demonstrate that a certain conception of “natural phenomenon” is terrible

          Which is entirely consistent with what I already said: All logic can do is re-arrange what we already know, and (effectively) restate it.

          f you cannot define ‘natural’, and it means “everything that exists”, then God would simply be ‘natural’ by your understanding

          To some extent, yes. At the moment I don’t even know what it means to talk about something “outside”, or “above”, nature. Concepts like “outside of nature” seem absurd to me. It’s almost as difficult to understand as the “spaceless, timeless, …” attributes that sometimes get ascribed to God.

          Falsification, at least in Popperian fashion, does not require a better hypothesis.

          To show that the null hypothesis is false is to, by definition, have a better hypothesis. You do this by formulating a hypothesis, and then showing that the new hypothesis (H1) better explains the data than H0. Unless you have some new way to falsify a hypothesis?

          scientific laws tell you what does not happen, and if you observe anything that isn’t supposed to happen, the laws are wrong

          Sure, but what does that have to do with hypothesis testings? Laws are simply generalizations for a number of observations about how nature behaves. Falsifying a law leaves us with nothing. Falsifying a hypothesis leaves us with either a new hypothesis, or reverting back to a null hypothesis.

        • If you’re goal is an argumentum ad absurdum, then why wouldn’t you start with something like only natural entities have causal power, or only nature has causal power?

          Because in doing so, I would probably be conflating two things I wish to keep apart:

               (I) our models of reality
              (II) reality itself

          My argument targets (I), not (II). Actually, based on this, it may have been an error to make the following change:

          LB: (1) Physical laws are the only causal powers.

                    ↓

          LB: (1) The forces of nature are the only causal powers.

          If you’d like an example of (I) and (II) being carefully held apart, see Colin McGinn’s The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World. He thinks everything is material; he simply thinks that we may never be able to develop the concepts to properly understand consciousness. This is new mysterianism and has supporters such as Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, and Sam Harris.

          The reason that I think my argument is important is that I see atheists try to do too much with (I), including attack Christianity with it. It is motte and bailey on the part of atheists to attack Christianity with (I), but then fall back on (II) when I present my argument.

          LB: (4) The forces of nature cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.

          HN: See premise 4. It’s essentially an argument about what nature cannot do, but I don’t know how you would ever establish such a thing.

          LB: Pure logic. Given certain building blocks, some structures can be built, while others cannot.

          HN: Pure logic alone cannot tell us anything about the natural world. All logic can do is re-arrange what we already know, and (effectively) restate it.

          LB: It can tell us things about our models of the natural world. For example, logic could demonstrate that a certain conception of “natural phenomenon” is terrible—if you want a foundation upon which you can possibly distinguish truth from falsity (or “more true” from “less true”).

          HN: Which is entirely consistent with what I already said: All logic can do is re-arrange what we already know, and (effectively) restate it.

          By now, I think I have clarified that my argument is targeted at our models of nature (including the definition of ‘nature’ itself!). Thank you for helping me tease out that critical aspect of my argument. Our models determine what we can call “true” and “false” and what those words mean. If the naturalist’s model is flatly contradictory as I have argued (although I’m not sure I’m targeting all versions of naturalism), then surely that is important to know?

          At the moment I don’t even know what it means to talk about something “outside”, or “above”, nature. Concepts like “outside of nature” seem absurd to me. It’s almost as difficult to understand as the “spaceless, timeless, …” attributes that sometimes get ascribed to God.

          That’s easy: is the thing you’re trying to carefully describe with scientific models an open or a closed system? Have we ever [empirically!] studied a truly closed system? If not, then the proper thing to say is that you don’t know what it means to talk about there not being something “outside”.

          The problem here is that a tremendous amount of science and engineering assumes thermodynamic equilibrium and other kinds of equilibrium. Everything is assumed to have settled. We then talk about the properties of the settled state. I’m getting this from Yu-Chong Tai, long-time faculty member at Caltech in the EE department. He pointed out in the sensors class I took that charge-coupled devices operate outside of thermodynamic equilibrium, and that we need more people developing the math to help us understand systems outside of thermodynamic equilibrium. Having thought about and investigated the issue, I agree with him. We’re too used to approximating things as closed systems.

          To show that the null hypothesis is false is to, by definition, have a better hypothesis.

          That’s fine; you just weren’t speaking in terms of Popperian falsification. If you mean the null hypothesis to live in (II)-land, then I will object. If you mean it to live in (I)-land, that’s fine. Ockham’s razor is methodological, not ontological. Human brains seem to need to chip away at complexity bit by bit, to which Ockham’s razor caters.

          Falsifying a law leaves us with nothing.

          Incorrect. The falsification that was the ultraviolet catastrophe was incredibly important. It showed that classical physics had now-knowable domains of validity (see Ceteris Paribus Laws). There is no reason to think that any physical law applies everywhere and at all times, so falsification of the law is the first hint at helping you characterize just where the law is true.

        • Herald Newman

          Let’s go one further here and suppose that I accept the argument, as presented. What does it tell me? At best it makes me skeptical of the premises, and suspect that something is unsound.

          Here’s the problem I have. You haven’t advanced a positive case for anything yet. So, the question I ask is this: Where do we go from here, and what is the point of this argument?

          Edited to simply, and correct some problems with logic.

        • Let’s go one further here and suppose that I accept the argument, as presented. What does it tell me? At best it makes me skeptical of the premises, and suspect that something is unsound.

          I would be quite happy with that. My belief in theosis has a lot of resonance with what I take to be the spirit of methodological naturalism. Two months ago I explained some of what I mean; here’s the beginning:

          LB: I suspect the key value of methodological naturalism is that it forces a kind of rigorous, conscious connectedness in thinking, prohibiting intuitive leaps which are too large for most people to follow—often, follow subconsciously, so that they don’t even notice a gap.

          What most frustrates me is new idols being constructed which prevent further research into the structure of reality, the structure of the human psyche and social reality, and how to bless our fellow humans. (I say “bless” to signal that I am trampling the fact/​value dichotomy.) Francis Bacon had to smash some idols; I think more smashing needs to happen. Maybe my argument can help a little bit in that domain. Maybe not.

          Here’s the problem I have. You haven’t advanced a positive case for anything yet. So, the question I ask is this: Where do we go from here, and what is the point of this argument?

          In order to build a lasting structure of appreciable size, you must clear the ground of various impediments, check seismic properties, purify away pollutants, study the physical properties of one’s construction materials, and test the various theoretical models which will be used to design the ultimate structure. It is my belief that we moderns are really dumb in pretty much all of these areas. And so I find myself having to spend a ridiculous amount of time on deconstruction, which is tedious and leaves one with precisely the problem you just stated.

          What I would like to do is build glorious structures and relationships with fellow human beings. Here’s an example of an impediment. Experimental scientists are frequently quite bad about communicating how they did their more complicated experiments. That is part of the the reason that Amgen in 2012 “declared that they had been unable to reproduce the findings in 47 of 53 ‘landmark’ cancer papers”. My wife is a biochemist/​biophysicist doing her postdoc at UCSF; I have second-hand experience of this phenomenon. So one of the things I am working on is collaboration software to help scientists better develop, discuss, articulate, and track how they did their experiments. While the NIH is increasingly interested in “reproducibility in science”, nobody seems to really understand what kind of thing would maximally help the actual persons doing the experiments—graduate students and postdocs. Nobody is sufficiently interesting in serving them, Jesus-style (Mt 20:20–28). But why? Isn’t science so important?

          The problem is that the “free” market just wouldn’t reward such collaboration software all that much. Scientists at publicly funded research universities often don’t have very much money to spend on software. Moreover, labs like to keep their experimental methods secret, so that they can milk the hard-won effort they put into figuring things out. To make matters even worse, scientists can be pretty bad at communicating across interdisciplinary divides. I have some reasonable talents in the software domain, and I could make much more money helping some rich people make more money than serving scientists, who serve the rest of us. Our culture is massively screwed up. (I hesitate to call it a true Adam Smith-style free market, because his model seems to require much more information transparency than we have now.)

          A few years ago, I stepped back and asked two very big questions: “What’s wrong with the world and especially American Christians? What are some of the first things we can do to fix the root of those problems?” This led me on a wonderful journey through philosophy, sociology, economics, theology, political science, anthropology, etc. You see, the status quo can absorb “good-hearted” people quite well; see for example Peter Buffett’s 2013 NYT piece The Charitable–Industrial Complex. I’ve seen this happen. The powers that be find ways to give the “good-hearted” people things to do to feel good about themselves, while the status quo does not change appreciably. Sadly, this seems about as true with Christians as non-Christians. Whether or not the status quo is mostly maintained via conscious effort or unconscious inertia (with self-reinforcing systems helping) is an open question. Bureaucratic rationality is incredibly powerful.

          Switching back to theology, I increasingly believe that every single person has a poiēma which [s]he can develop arbitrarily far, in concert with others, violating the maxim “I am not my brother’s keeper” without falling prey to [non-inverted] hierarchy, examples being the medieval RCC and patriarchy. Key here is that the “dividing wall of hostility” between public and private life needs to be abolished; more people need to be able to have meaningful impacts in the public realm that isn’t just voting and consuming and cheering. But unless they are sufficiently synchronized in so doing, you can get very harmful anarchy. Exactly what this ‘synchronization’ has to look like (which is separate to what would constitute sufficiency in a concrete implementation) is an open question for me. It seems like it would have to somehow WP: Secularism § Secular society‘s “1. Refuses to commit itself as a whole to any one view of the nature of the universe and the role of man in it.”, unless you greatly dial back the role of the government in day-to-day life. To the extent that two groups have fundamentally different ideas in this domain instead of possibly-convergent ideas, they can be separate for a time, but I’m not sure that is an eternally stable solution. (We pretend it is eternally stable, but present geopolitical events are opening that to question. But hey, surely the war against terror itself won’t be eternal? Or maybe it will, if we change nothing in our thinking …)

          Sorry the above isn’t some formal system you can easily critique; I don’t have that and doubt I ever will. I’m not Hegel. If there is to be a formal system, it will be one created through massive collaboration, and always open to modification. Maybe I will have a part in building the software and culture to do that, but maybe not. I’m routinely told by atheists that I’m stupid, deluded, and dishonest—maybe they’re right. I mean, they tell me they base their beliefs on the evidence and I do not. We shall see.

        • Herald Newman

          I’m routinely told by atheists that I’m stupid, deluded, and dishonest […]

          For the record, I don’t think you’re stupid, deluded, or dishonest. You clearly are intelligent, you put forward a lot of effort to try and explain your position, and you seem to believe you have good reasons for what you believe.

          If I had to try and point to something that makes us disagree, I believe it comes down to fundamental differences in values, assumptions, and epistemology. I haven’t interacted with you enough to say exactly what the differences are, so I can’t offer much.

        • For the record, I don’t think you’re stupid, deluded, or dishonest. You clearly are intelligent, you put forward a lot of effort to try and explain your position, and you seem to believe you have good reasons for what you believe.

          Thanks; it is rare for me to hear such a thing on CE. Sadly, I think much of America is more like the bulk of CE, when it comes to interacting with people quite different than them and evaluating their moral/​intellectual character.

          If I had to try and point to something that makes us disagree, I believe it comes down to fundamental differences in values, assumptions, and epistemology. I haven’t interacted with you enough to say exactly what the differences are, so I can’t offer much.

          That sounds about right. I am extremely risky, in the sense that I think something fantastically better than our current state of being is possible, and can be obtained in a remarkably short time. I have bits and pieces of empirical evidence for such a position, but not enough to satisfy very many people. What I general observe in reality is a combination of naïve optimism and experienced cynicism. The world is becoming an ever-more complex place—even your phone is becoming an ever-more complex object—and when we try to change it and fail, usually the result is not pretty. I’m willing to be hurt again and again, but most people are not.

        • adam
        • adam

          “I’m routinely told by atheists that I’m stupid, deluded, and dishonest—maybe they’re right.”

          Well, your dishonesty has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, your denial of this demonstrates your delusions, and finally your lack of common sense about your dishonest plays into your stupidity.

          They are definitely right.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8a9c445af45e953d4208e553c51ae97b60263f4724d6c9ebf19ff30ec8cbcde1.jpg

        • adam

          “My belief in theosis has a lot of resonance with what I take to be the spirit of methodological naturalism. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0aec5bb6e3813d658dc99a8138b4905b1dbed26d29a303d2d70f69694c44450.jpg

        • ORigel

          You never made any arguments. The apologists of your tribe that do make arguments….they’ve been debunked again and again.

        • You never made any arguments. The apologists of your tribe that do make arguments….they’ve been debunked again and again.

          Who says I identify with those apologists? You just love to make assumptions, it seems.

        • Joe

          When you can prove God exists, yes.

        • RB: When they keep on saying the same wrong shit over and over, despite its having been publicly debunked several times, that crosses the line from “mistaken” to “lying.”

          LB: Does the same apply to atheists?

          J: When you can prove God exists, yes.

          Fascinating; so until the theist provides that God exists, the atheist can be intellectually dishonest except not. Are you connecting the existence of God to the law of non-contradiction or the law of symmetry (that is, prohibition of hypocrisy)?

        • Joe

          Fascinating; so until the theist provides that God exists, the atheist can be intellectually dishonest except not.

          I’m going to go with: Yes.

          Are you connecting the existence of God to the law of non-contradiction or the law of symmetry (that is, prohibition of hypocrisy)?

          No, that’s something a bad apologist would do. I beleive Craig uses the ‘argument from the existence of logic’, doesn’t he?

        • Michael Neville

          ‘argument from the existence of logic’

          That’s one of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s favorite arguments.

        • Joe

          I thought the argumentum ad Pepsi-um was his favourite?

        • Michael Neville

          His favorite argument is that God is the source of logic therefore it’s logical to say that God exists. Presuppositionalism at its finest.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Will the circle be unbroken ?
          Bye and bye Lord, bye and bye.
          There’s a better home awaiting,
          In the sky Lord, in the sky !

        • Michael Neville

          You will eat, bye and bye,
          In that glorious land above the sky.
          Work and pray, live on hay,
          You’ll get pie in the sky when you die. (That’s a lie!)

        • Pofarmer

          What a tool and unpleasant person.

        • ORigel

          Until God is proven to exist, it is the theist being intellectually dishonest. Burden of proof, remember?

        • Until God is proven to exist, it is the theist being intellectually dishonest. Burden of proof, remember?

          Interesting; does that mean any belief you cannot prove to me constitutes intellectual dishonesty on your part? Or is there a special clause which condemns only Christians/​theists?

        • Greg G.

          Interesting; does that mean any belief you cannot prove to me constitutes intellectual dishonesty on your part? Or is there a special clause which condemns only Christians/​theists?

          No, it is not for beliefs themselves, only for the arguments for the belief or the imposition of the belief on others.

          Atheists tend to not argue that no god exists but that there is no evidence for any gods, unicorns, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters, so there is not reason to believe in any of them. That does not require a burden of proof.

          If a theist believes there is a god is one thing. When the theists says there is a god, then the theist has the burden of proof.

        • Joe

          nteresting; does that mean any belief you cannot prove to me constitutes intellectual dishonesty on your part?

          Only if we told you it was true despite not being able to prove it.

        • Ok. But you’re willing to say that it immediately qualifies as “intellectual dishonesty”? I mean, if I think something is true, tell you it is, and am then somehow mistaken, I am immediately intellectually dishonest?

        • You were asked: what have atheists said that was repeatedly debunked?

          Go.

        • It was completely irrelevant to my question. I’m examining whether the same rules apply to atheists as theists, or whether atheists get off easier for infractions of moral and/or intellectual standards.

        • ORigel

          Tell us why you believe in a God.

        • Raging Bee

          What have atheists said that was repeatedly debunked?

        • Why do I need to give examples before you answer the question? That’s awfully suspicious.

        • Raging Bee

          Why are you not eager to give examples to back up your allegations? That’s even more suspicious.

        • Well you see, if I provide the examples before you answer my very simple question, I give you wiggle room. Instead, if you commit to holding atheists to precisely the same standards as theists beforehand, that would show you have some moral fiber.

        • Raging Bee

          Which atheists am I expected to hold accountable, and for what specific offenses?

        • Raging Bee

          If you can’t show examples of atheists consistently behaving as badly as theists, then all you have is an insinuating question. That’s something bigots and liars do all the time, to try to pretend they have some bombshell accusation but we have to agree to judge the defendant before we even know who the defendant is. If you want to show whether I have moral fiber, state an actual case and see how I respond.

        • If you can’t show examples of atheists consistently behaving as badly as theists, then all you have is an insinuating question.

          That’s stupid social logic which is anti-truth and anti-justice. Why do you reinforce it?

          That’s something bigots and liars do all the time, to try to pretend they have some bombshell accusation but we have to agree to judge the defendant before we even know who the defendant is.

          Nothing in my vast posting history will support that I operate this way. You know why? Because it’s a douchebag way of operating. Please stop supporting it!

          If you want to show whether I have moral fiber, state an actual case and see how I respond.

          Nope. I’m not going to let you post hoc rationalize away. If that’s the only way you will operate (especially given what I wrote above in this comment), then let it be known to all.

        • Herald Newman

          Are you going to get to the part where you actually provide evidence of atheists continually shooting out claims that are debunked, or not?

          If you can show that the claims are debunked, yes, I’ll hold them to account.

        • If you can show that the claims are debunked, yes, I’ll hold them to account.

          Excellent. You are more honest/​symmetrical than most atheists I’ve encountered online. Let’s examine the conflict thesis. Also, let’s examine the idea that religious belief screws with one’s brain and note that I’ve offered the following challenge to atheists time and time and time again. Show me peer-reviewed empirical evidence of at least one of the following:

               (1) Upon becoming an atheist, a scientist does better science.
               (2) Upon becoming a theist, a scientists does worse science.

          You are of course allowed to look at times before and after the explicit point of conversion. I’ve presented the above challenge on many occasions and I do not ever recall detecting any belief change on the part of my atheist interlocutors. By the way, this line of questioning is quite relevant to this nine minute clip (transcript), where Neil deGrasse Tyson expresses incredible prejudice against scientists who pray to a personal God. As far as I can tell, being black instead of white has as much impact on how good you are as a scientist as praying to a personal god vs. being an atheist. If you want to see how incredibly offensive that video is (my wife is a scientist; she could easily suffer the irrational prejudice Tyson stirs up with it), replace the idea of “becoming an atheist” with the idea of “taking a pill that makes black skin white”.

        • Raging Bee

          Scientists don’t automatically become worse scientists if they become theists; but once in awhile a particular scientist, such as (IIRC) Berlinski in evolution, may simply stop working in a particular field if it leads to conflict with his beliefs. Not sure if refusing to pursue a line of inquiry for religious reasons makes one a “worse” scientist.”

          So that idea, and the “conflict thesis,” are ideas that are wrong, and have been debunked. They’re also ideas that not all atheists or scientists continue to agree on, for that reason.

          And while the conflict thesis may be false, I can see where it might look mighty true to someone who’s been hearing religious bigots and nutcakes constantly reiterate it and treat all scientists as evil-incarnate. If there’s an inherent conflict between YOUR religion (or the religion you were raised in) and science, then the conflict thesis is indeed true for you, even if it’s not true for people who hold different beliefs.

          Also, the conflict thesis may be true in the sense that religious thinking is fundamentally different from rational thinking; and many people often find themselves turning off their religious thinking in order to solve worldly problems. So again, if you have to “turn off” or “set aside” your religious beliefs to do proper science, then the conflict thesis is true for you.

        • Scientists don’t automatically become worse scientists if they become theists …

          And so, religious beliefs don’t necessarily screw with one’s brain.

          So that idea, and the “conflict thesis,” are ideas that are wrong, and have been debunked. They’re also ideas that not all atheists or scientists continue to agree on, for that reason.

          Your “not all atheists” is a pathetic standard. It is also probably the case that “not all Christian apologists” do the bad things you pick out, and yet you seem to like broad-brushing. So there appears to be some gross asymmetry going on in your thinking. Perhaps it would be wise to clean it up?

          And while the conflict thesis may be false, I can see where it might look mighty true to someone who’s been hearing religious bigots and nutcakes constantly reiterate it and treat all scientists as evil-incarnate.

          Just like evolution can look mighty false … (My point is that you [partially] excuse atheists but not creationists; this is more flagrant asymmetry.)

          If there’s an inherent conflict between YOUR religion (or the religion you were raised in) and science, then the conflict thesis is indeed true for you, even if it’s not true for people who hold different beliefs.

          The fallacy is the generalization of “some” ⇒”all”. In my experience, atheists who like to argue on the internet love to engage in that fallacy. Perhaps Christians do as well, but I never found an online Christian community which wanted me around. I asked too many hard questions and one place even banned me because they were saying horrible things about homeless people and I called them on it, with scriptural support. So, I don’t have nearly as much data from Christians who like to argue online.

          Also, the conflict thesis may be true in the sense that religious thinking is fundamentally different from rational thinking;

          You are welcome to cite peer-reviewed science on this matter. Until you do that, you could easily be parroting an atheist/​secular catechism. BTW I’m married to a scientist (postdoc at UCSF) and buddies with a sociologist who studies how scientists actually do science; as a result, I laugh at many pretty little stories about how science is done and what scientific thinking is. Oh, my best man is a faculty member at one of the world’s leading research institutions. But you’re welcome to piss on all this and call me an idiot if you’d like. Maybe accuse me of gross immorality as well? 😀

          and many people often finding themselves turning off their religious thinking in order to solve worldly problems.

          Oh, you mean like this:

              There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

          Oh wait, that’s scientists treating an area of study as taboo. Wait, can you repeat what you said again?

          So again, if you have to “turn off” or “set aside” your religious beliefs to do proper science, then the conflict thesis is true for you.

          Of course that’s true by definition; the question is whether your model matches reality and if so, how much of reality.

        • Raging Bee

          (My point is that you [partially] excuse atheists but not creationists; this is more flagrant asymmetry.)

          So you’re implying I’m a hypocrite because I don’t treat different things as if they’re the same? That’s typical of the dishonesty that atheists and skeptics get from religious apologists and propagandists on a regular basis.

          And what the fuck does that “Missing Persons” quote have to do with anything I said? Your comments are starting to look like a Gish Gallop.

        • RB: And while the conflict thesis may be false, I can see where it might look mighty true to someone who’s been hearing religious bigots and nutcakes constantly reiterate it and treat all scientists as evil-incarnate.

          LB: Just like evolution can look mighty false … (My point is that you [partially] excuse atheists but not creationists; this is more flagrant asymmetry.)

          RB: So you’re implying I’m a hypocrite because I don’t treat different things as if they’re the same?

          I’ve underlined the key similarity.

          That’s typical of the dishonesty that atheists and skeptics get from religious apologists and propagandists on a regular basis.

          lulz

          And what the fuck does that “Missing Persons” quote have to do with anything I said?

          I provided you with an example of religious thinking which would have to be turned off in order to solve worldly problems. Except you almost certainly wouldn’t call it ‘religious’ because your definition of ‘religion’ is almost certainly ideological instead of scientific.

        • Raging Bee

          I’ve underlined the key similarity.

          That’s only your opinion, based on willful ignorance and refusal to admit the validity of the theory of evolution.

        • If you think I refuse to admit the validity of the theory of evolution, you are simply not a person who bases his/her beliefs on the empirical evidence. I am also amused that you aren’t similarly harsh on atheists who still buy into the conflict thesis. I guess your own people just get a pass, eh?

        • Raging Bee

          I already explained why the conflict thesis cannot be treated as an outright lie, just, at worst, an overgeneralization.

        • Still can’t admit you are wrong in any appreciable way, eh?

        • Raging Bee

          Not unjtil you prove it.

        • Raging Bee

          Also, let’s examine the idea that religious belief screws with one’s brain…

          “Screws with one’s brain” is a rather vague phrase, but I’ve heard plenty of people, theist and atheist alike, talking about personal experiences where religious beliefs, and religious thought-patterns, did indeed compromise their ability to think straight and deal sensibly with reality. So that’s not exactly a falsehood either.

        • “Screws with one’s brain” is a rather vague phrase, but I’ve heard plenty of people, theist and atheist alike, talking about personal experiences where religious beliefs, and religious thought-patterns, did indeed compromise their ability to think straight and deal sensibly with reality. So that’s not exactly a falsehood either.

          “some religious beliefs screw with one’s brain” ⇏ “all religious beliefs screw with one’s brain”

        • Raging Bee

          Possibly; but OTOH, one could probably find examples of people having their brains screwed with by ALL religions, even if neither screwed equally with all of their followers’ brains. So yes, one could plausibly argue that ALL religions — and religious/superstitious thinking in general — tend to screw with at least some people’s brains.

        • LB: “some religious beliefs screw with one’s brain” ⇏ “all religious beliefs screw with one’s brain”

          RB: Possibly;

          No, necessarily. Unless I can observe three atheists being dicks and generalize to all atheists being dicks.

          but OTOH, one could probably find examples of people having their brains screwed with by ALL religions, even if neither screwed equally with all of their followers’ brains.

          That makes no sense. What person has even been exposed to ALL religions?

          So yes, one could plausibly argue that ALL religions — and religious/superstitious thinking in general — tend to screw with at least some people’s brains.

          I have yet to see anything remotely resembling a good argument for this.

        • Raging Bee

          That makes no sense. What person has even been exposed to ALL religions?

          Dude, I know my words were a little hasty and not as well-chosen as they should have been, but you can’t possibly think I was alleging that. What I was alleging is that all religions can screw with one’s brain, and for each religion there may be people whose brains have been screwed with by it, just as there clearly are people who have been so affected by the best-known religions. I really don’t know why you refuse to accept this possibility, unless you’re choosing to ignore all the accounts of people having their minds screwed with by several religions. Religious thinking is known to screw with at least some people’s minds, so it’s reasonable to suppose something similar could be happening within nearly all religious communities, to varying degrees.

        • What I was alleging is that all religions can screw with one’s brain …

          Sure, and yet I have not seen any empirical evidence supporting that “all”, nor an operationalized definition of ‘religion’. You look like you’re parroting dogma.

          I really don’t know why you refuse to accept this possibility,

          I refuse to engage in invalid logic. Perhaps it would help you to understand that ‘⇏’ means “does not necessarily imply”.

          unless you’re choosing to ignore all the accounts of people having their minds screwed with by several religions.

          That makes zero sense. Perhaps you are unaware of Sturgeon’s law?

          Religious thinking is known to screw with at least some people’s minds,

          I would love to have a complete list of every peer-reviewed paper you have on this topic. But how about we start small; can you produce 3–5 citations? For my own contribution, which will either expand the term ‘religious’ quite a lot or show that ‘religious’ may not be the causal factor after all: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.

          so it’s reasonable to suppose something similar could be happening within nearly all religious communities, to varying degrees.

          Yeah we’re back here, with the tiniest modification:

          LB: “some religious beliefs screw with one’s brain” ⇏ “all religious beliefs screw with one’s brain”

          RB: Possibly;

          LB′: No, necessarily. Unless I can observe three atheists being dicks and generalize to nearly all atheists being dicks.

        • Raging Bee

          Why do I need peer-reviewed papers to prove something that’s been repeatedly observed, reported and discussed almost all over the world for at least as long as I can remember?

          Can you cite any peer-reviewed papers proving that religious thinking DOESN’T compromise rational adult thought? Or that religion does any good for people in general? Of course not – you’re just getting defensive and grasping at straws.

        • Why do I need peer-reviewed papers to prove something that’s been repeatedly observed, reported and discussed almost all over the world for at least as long as I can remember?

          Shall we talk about alleged appearances of Mary in the Middle Ages and how little disputed they were by so many people? What is commonly believed is not always true. And yet, it is possible for social groups to make it appear true. How do we test such things? Via peer-reviewed science. Or do you only consult peer-reviewed science when you want to be skeptical about a thing?

          Can you cite any peer-reviewed papers proving that religious thinking DOESN’T compromise rational adult thought?

          The burden of proof is not on me. But I think Francis Collins is decent anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, there is always the ad hoc hypothesis that he would be even better were he to go apostate. These just-so stories are devious beasts.

          Or that religion does any good for people in general? Of course not – you’re just getting defensive and grasping at straws.

          Of course not? Here’s some empirical evidence:

              Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people’s sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.    A central theme throughout this book is that religion “works” because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one’s God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach, 476)

          Does that constitute “grasping at straws”?

        • Raging Bee

          First, you fail to quote a definition of “Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives.” And second, the observed instances mentioned in the above quote must be balanced against observed instances of “faith” causing bad, negative or harmful behaviors as well — THE SAME FAITHS, mind you, not just outlier fringe cults. All this book appears to say is that religious self-delusion is a comforting coping mechanism. An opiate for the masses, if you will, with much of the same bad side-effects — and some even worse ones — as other addictive substances when used for coping purposes.

          And third, your quote appears to be from a review of the book, not the book itself. So yeah, you’re grasping at straws.

        • First, you fail to quote a definition of “Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives.”

          I don’t own the book; I had it checked out of the library for a time. I called your insulting bluff—

          RB: Can you cite any peer-reviewed papers proving that religious thinking DOESN’T compromise rational adult thought? Or that religion does any good for people in general? Of course not – you’re just getting defensive and grasping at straws.

          —deal with the fact that you were wrong.

          And second, the observed instances mentioned in the above quote must be balanced against observed instances of “faith” causing bad, negative or harmful behaviors as well — THE SAME FAITHS, mind you, not just outlier fringe cults.

          Sure; got peer-reviewed evidence? Or do you just have anecdotal stories shaped by an anti-religious dogmatic framework?

          All this book appears to say is that religious self-delusion is a comforting coping mechanism.

          You are of course welcome to more rigorously define what you meant by “does any good for people in general”.

          And third, your quote appears to be from a review of the book, not the book itself. So yeah, you’re grasping at straws.

          Oh the irony. Page 476.

        • Herald Newman

          I’m finally going to wade back into this.

          If this claim is: Atheists are necessarily better scientists than theists, then I would regard the claim as patently false, and people should know better than to make such a blanket statement.

          That said, to accept that their is a personal deity, who answers prayer, and performs miracles, is fundamentally in opposition to how science operates. Science operates on three basal assumptions:

          1. There are natural causes for things that happen in the world around us
          2. Evidence from the natural world can be used to learn about those causes
          5. There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world

          To accept that “miracles” (divine intervention in the world by some outside agent) happen is to assume that (1) is fundamentally false, or at least is false for some things, (EDIT) and the consistency assumption is also at question.

          If you’re a theist, and you’re trying to do good science, you must check your beliefs at the door. One cannot simultaneously believe in a personal god, and hold the basal assumptions of science, because they contradict each other.

        • If this claim is: Atheists are necessarily better scientists than theists …

          Nope, that’s not the claim. What I’ve said is that a naive understanding of the “religion damages the brain” meme (I won’t dignify it with the term ‘hypothesis’) indicates that atheism should positively correlate with being better at science. I am well aware that the atheist evangelist can always advance an ad hoc hypothesis, such as compartmentalization. But things start getting suspicious.

          That said, to accept that there is a personal deity, who answers prayer, and performs miracles, is fundamentally in opposition to how science operates.

          Then it seems to me that science is not well-suited to explore all theoretically explorable structure in reality. That’s fine, but I almost inevitably find that noisy atheists advance at least a soft scientism—that science is at least the best tool for exploring everything that has explorable structure.

          Science operates on three basal assumptions:

          1. There are natural causes for things that happen in the world around us
          2. Evidence from the natural world can be used to learn about those causes
          5. There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world

          Ok, then what do we do with this very basic aspect of language:

          Specifically, Descartes speculated that the workings of res cogitans—second substance—may be beyond human understanding. So he thought, quoting him again, “We may not have intelligence enough to understanding the workings of mind.” In particular, the normal use of language, one of his main concepts. He recognized that the normal use of language has what has come to be called a creative aspect; every human being but no beast or machine has this capacity to use language in ways that are appropriate to situations but not caused by them—this is a crucial difference. And to formulate and express thoughts that may be entirely new and do so without bound, may be incited or inclined to speak in certain ways by internal and external circumstances, but not compelled to do so. That’s the way his followers put the matter—which was a mystery to Descartes and remains a mystery to us. That quite clearly is a fact. (Noam Chomsky – “The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding”, 9:58)

          ? Charles Taylor gets at the same thing:

          For a nonlinguistic animal A, being aware of X consists of X’s counting in shaping A’s response. A characteristically responds to X in a certain way: if X is food, and A is hungry, A goes for it, unless deterred; if X is a predator, A flees; if X is an obstacle, A goes around it, and so on. By contrast, linguistic awareness of X can’t be reduced to or equated with its triggering a particular response, or range of responses, in certain circumstances. We could think of this as an awareness which is independent from, or can sit alongside of, response triggering. But it would be better to say that awareness involves a new kind of response, linguistic recognition, which cannot be reduced to or equated with any behavioral response.
              We can have this linguistic awareness even while inhibiting our standard behavioral response (I can see that you’re a dangerous character, but I stop myself fleeing); or even if I make this response, linguistic recognition involves something more than so responding. Of course, other animals can also have behaviorally inert awareness of some normally arousing object if the conditions aren’t right: the animal sees prey, but it is replete, and doesn’t react. But in the analogous human case, there will normally be the response I’m calling linguistic recognition. (The Language Animal, 9)

          It seems that a crucial aspect to [natural] language, in the sense that humans use it and not animals, is that the same causal stimulus does not always bring about the same utterance. There is a fundamental inconstancy here which seems to violate your 3. (which you currently have as 5.) And it’s not clear that the causes for which sentence you utter is always determined by natural laws. Shall we explore the epistemological consequences of applying your 1.–3. to the use of natural language, including how it gets used in science?

          If you’re a theist, and you’re trying to do good science, you must check your beliefs at the door.

          I’m not sure that this “must” is anything other than a relic of your epistemology.

          One cannot simultaneously believe in a personal god, and hold the basal assumptions of science, because they contradict each other.

          So says your model. But if you cannot show this actually happening with empirical evidence, then I will question your model.

        • Herald Newman

          Nope, that’s not the claim

          Then state the claim precisely so that I can address it.

          Then it seems to me that science is not well-suited to explore all theoretically explorable structure in reality.

          That’s fine. Come up with an alternate method, and show that your method is reliable! Until then, I have nothing else to work with.

          Ok, then what do we do with this very basic aspect of language

          I don’t know. It’s an unknown, and you seem to believe that there’s something magical going on behind it. If we don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t natural processes going on that we simply don’t understand. To argue that our lack of understand justifies anything other than to acknowledge that we don’t understand is to argue from ignorance!

          ? Charles Taylor gets at the same thing

          Okay, and again, what’s your point exactly??

          It seems that a crucial aspect to [natural] language, in the sense that humans use it and not animals, is that the same causal stimulus does not always bring about the same utterance.

          You do understand that our brains are likely stateful, right? Our brains, and the brains of animals, are able to learn, and behave different, based on past experience. Instrumental conditioning isn’t really a new thing here, and people have known about it for years, yet you seem to think that this throws the basal assumptions of science out the window. I don’t understand why?

          So says your model. But if you cannot show this actually happening with empirical evidence, then I will question your model.

          We know that people can hold contradictory beliefs, but doing so gives rise to cognitive dissonance. People are clearly able to compartmentalize their beliefs, which is what I mean by “check your beliefs at the door.” If you believe there are supernatural explanations for an event, you’re much less likely to find a natural cause, because that’s what biases do.

          Until we have a way to figure out if something has a “non-natural” cause, we’re stuck in this boat.

        • Then state the claim precisely so that I can address it.

          Feeling a bit impatient? I explain in the following sentences.

          LB: Then it seems to me that science is not well-suited to explore all theoretically explorable structure in reality.

          HN: That’s fine. Come up with an alternate method, and show that your method is reliable! Until then, I have nothing else to work with.

          First, one need not have other scientific instruments on hand to characterize a given one. Likewise, we can explore the detection limits of a whole endeavor without having another to compare it to. Quite simply, you can trace the boundaries of your knowledge.

          Second, your use of ‘reliable’ may end up defining science as something roughly similar to its current form. Why? Because I generally see ‘reliable’ as deeply related to imposing arbitrary wills on reality.

          LB: Ok, then what do we do with this very basic aspect of language

          HN: I don’t know. It’s an unknown, and you seem to believe that there’s something magical going on behind it.

          Why do I seem to believe that? Is agent causation necessarily magical? Did I miss the logic class where that was rigorously derived from axioms that all rational people must accept?

          If we don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t natural processes going on that we simply don’t understand.

          Your inability or unwillingness to provide a robust definition of ‘natural’ is making it rather hard to discuss these things with you.

          Okay, and again, what’s your point exactly??

          My point is to challenge your [apparent] notion of ‘natural’. If it cannot account for the phenomena, perhaps it needs alteration. If that is the case, then any aspects which would be altered are not legitimate grounds for criticizing Christianity. Or am I disallowed from examining the weapons used against me?

          You do understand that our brains are likely stateful, right?

          Sure. I write plenty of computer programs which are stateful (as well as some which aren’t). But you [apparently] have to claim something more than that. You [apparently] require every causal chain to merely pass through a person instead of originate within a person. I’ve never written a program which does the latter. But on what basis can you have confidence that persons never do the latter? You don’t seem to be agnostic on this matter.

          Instrumental conditioning isn’t really a new thing here, and people have known about it for years, yet you seem to think that this throws the basal assumptions of science out the window. I don’t understand why?

          If I wanted to control a digital simulation of sentient, sapient lifeforms, could I set up a deterministic, causal-chains-only-flow-through configuration where the ‘scientists’ therein only ever run certain experiments and not others? They would think they are exploring all of reality using a ‘reliable’ method, and yet in truth they would be locked within a prison with bars which cannot be seen, felt, tasted, smelled, or heard. (From here, we could go on to talk about which science gets funded and how that relates to configurations of political power.)

          We know that people can hold contradictory beliefs, but doing so gives rise to cognitive dissonance. People are clearly able to compartmentalize their beliefs, which is what I mean by “check your beliefs at the door.” If you believe there are supernatural explanations for an event, you’re much less likely to find a natural cause, because that’s what biases do.

          Can you point me to a shred of empirical evidence which operationalizes the terms ‘compartmentalize’, ‘natural’, ‘supernatural’, and ‘check your beliefs at the door’, and then finds what you claim that we find?

        • Herald Newman

          Second, your use of ‘reliable’ may end up defining science as something roughly similar to its current form.

          My use of the word “reliable” simply means that we’re able to use the methodology to produce predictions which have been shown to be highly accurate, and are useful building blocks for other scientific discoveries.

          Your inability or unwillingness to provide a robust definition of ‘natural’ is making it rather hard to discuss these things with you.

          Let’s start with this as a working definition for nature: all of the universe, the mass/energy within it, the interactions between that mass/energy (including any emergent properties), along with any cosmos for which our universe may be part of

          My point is to challenge your [apparent] notion of ‘natural’. If it cannot account for the phenomena, perhaps it needs alteration.

          How do you know that it cannot account for some phenomena, rather than us simply not understanding? Again, to argue that because we cannot explain something natural in terms doesn’t mean that no natural explanation is possible.

          If that is the case, then any aspects which would be altered are not legitimate grounds for criticizing Christianity. Or am I disallowed from examining the weapons used against me?

          That’s a pretty big “if” you’ve got there.

          You [apparently] require every causal chain to merely pass through a person instead of originate within a person.

          That’s because I don’t think that there is anything like “free will”. For the most part I’m a strong determinist, and believe that everything we do as determined by previous interactions.

        • My use of the word “reliable” simply means that we’re able to use the methodology to produce predictions which have been shown to be highly accurate, and are useful building blocks for other scientific discoveries.

          Ahh, but you seem to care very much that what is ‘reliable’ is … teleologically neutral. That is, if reality had some sort of teleological bias—such that acting according to certain purposes has better long-term results than acing according to other purposes—your stance here may be constitutionally blind to it.

          Although, there is another path we could take. Could we say that for science to flourish, there needs to be some minimal level of egalitarianism among scientists? If so, is that minimal level of egalitarianism part of the required methodology? Or is it somehow conveniently ignored, such that we can ignore the human element in defining ‘science’?

          Let’s start with this as a working definition for nature: all of the universe, the mass/energy within it, the interactions between that mass/energy (including any emergent properties), along with any cosmos for which our universe may be part of

          I don’t see how that rules out God. What’s the difference between ‘cosmos’ and ‘God’? What you seem to be presupposing is that causation is impersonal and only impersonal. Strictly speaking, the claim would be that causation has a maximum level of possible mathematical complexity. But I see no reason whatsoever to believe such a thing.

          How do you know that it “cannot account for some phenomena”, rather than us simply not understanding?

          A way to know is via my argument which ends in “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”, which targets the model of reality which is also used to critique Christianity.

          A way to suspect is if enough attempts have failed. But of course people will disagree on what constitutes ‘enough’, just like some people insist that communism could work if we just tried this other thing.

          Again, to argue that because we cannot explain something natural in terms doesn’t mean that no natural explanation is possible.

          You equivocated on ‘natural’ in this sentence. What was understood as ‘natural’ before the quantum revolution was different from what was understood as ‘natural’ after the quantum revolution. Models which do not rule out anything do not explain anything. And yet, it really isn’t clear what you are ruling out with the term ‘natural’—except for my guess above.

          LB: My point is to challenge your [apparent] notion of ‘natural’. If it cannot account for the phenomena, perhaps it needs alteration. If that is the case, then any aspects which would be altered are not legitimate grounds for criticizing Christianity. Or am I disallowed from examining the weapons used against me?

          HN: That’s a pretty big “if” you’ve got there.

          Nope. To the extent that your model of reality cannot account for the phenomena, it is weak as a weapon of critique against Christianity.

          LB: You [apparently] require every causal chain to merely pass through a person instead of originate within a person.

          HN: That’s because I don’t think that there is anything like “free will”. For the most part I’m a strong determinist, and believe that everything we do as determined by previous interactions.

          Agent causation is a kind of determinism. And your “previous interactions” doesn’t actually recurse infinitely to the past, does it? If it has a finite root, why must all causal chains originate at the big bang?

        • Herald Newman

          That is, if reality had some sort of teleological bias—such that acting
          according to certain purposes has better long-term results than acing
          according to other purposes—your stance here may be constitutionally
          blind to it.

          Why start with the assumption of design, or purpose, to the universe? How would you actually know if there is real purpose, and not just imagined purpose?
          My concern is that lots of people see agency in all kinds of mundane things when no agency can be shown. Human’s are literally wired to see agency even when none exists.

          I don’t see how that rules out God.

          It may not rule out “God”, whatever that is. Define what you mean by “God” and tell me how you know it exists?

          What’s the difference between ‘cosmos’ and ‘God’?

          I don’t know. I don’t even know what God is! What I do know is that some scientific models have predicted a multiverse, and that there may be nature beyond our universe.

          Strictly speaking, the claim would be that causation has a maximum level of possible mathematical complexity.

          I don’t know what this means.

          A way to know is via my argument which ends in “”(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”

          All that I accept from your argument is that at least one of the premises is not sound, because the conclusion is not sound. My best guess is that premise (4) is unsound.

          The problem I have is that logic, at it’s core, only allows us to re-arrange what we already know. It gives us a tool to re-express our existing knowledge, but CANNOT tell us anything we didn’t already *know*.

          A way to suspect is if enough attempts have failed.

          And this, once again, is an argument from ignorance, at its core. Unless you want to claim that we’re super smart, and know everything, you cannot use this as an argument that something does not have a natural explanation.

          All this really tells us is that nobody has a model which sufficiently models what is happening, but there could be reasons for this other than something like “science isn’t adequate to solve the problem.” It’s just fallacious reasoning.

          just like some people insist that communism could work if we just tried this other thing.

          There’s a huge difference between science, which has a history of success, when compared to communism, which doesn’t.
          But, like I’ve said before. If you have an alternate method, just lay it out, show us that it’s reliable, and we’ll come along.

          . And yet, it really isn’t clear what you are ruling out with the term ‘natural’

          Who said I was ruling anything out? There are likely a number of natural things that I don’t accept simply because the evidence doesn’t support them.

          To the extent that your model of reality cannot account for the
          phenomena, it is weak as a weapon of critique against Christianity.

          I’m not out to prove that Christianity is false. I do think it is just as likely to be false as every other religion out there, but I’m not out to prove that it’s false. Rather, I’m trying to show that you do not yet have a justifiable basis for accepting the core claims of Christianity, namely Jesus’ resurrection, an afterlife, and the existence of God.

          And your “previous interactions” doesn’t actually recurse infinitely to the past, does it?

          Some of them might, actually. Without a better understanding of the big bang, and if there is some kind of multiverse, I don’t see how we can claim to know either way.

          If it has a finite root, why must all causal chains originate at the big bang?

          The evidence we have is that some causal chains do originate after the big bang. Any causal chain based on radioactive decay rates (which are stochastic) would qualify.

          Unless you want to argue that there’s some kind of “random” generator inside our brains (which I seriously doubt there is), I don’t see how we could be able to start a causal chain independent of historical interactions.

        • Why start with the assumption of design, or purpose, to the universe?

          Why start with the assumption that there isn’t? Shouldn’t we be properly agnostic when it comes to what truly exists, if we haven’t properly tested it one way or another?

          How would you actually know if there is real purpose, and not just imagined purpose?

          Good question. The answer must be different from that of science, because scientific knowledge is purpose-neutral. You can make nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants. Science is used to being blind to purpose. How can we inculcate accurate vision when it comes to purpose? Ostensibly, Jesus had such vision:

          So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (Jn 5:19–20)

          The tricky part is that if we throw in theosis—a desire on God’s part for humans to become arbitrarily god-like this side of heaven—then we have a problem. To the extent that humans do not want that, they will probably stop progressing and then they will stop seeing that progress can be made. To the extent that we end up wanting only mediocrity or only to dominate others, we will blind ourselves.

          So, my answer is that to see anything of God’s purpose, we will have to want something sufficiently close to what he wants, and attempt to achieve it in a way sufficiently close to how he wants it achieved (e.g. no stomping on little people to get there) such that God causally aiding the process becomes discernible. The apprentice only really understands what the master is doing by attempting to emulate the master.

          My concern is that lots of people see agency in all kinds of mundane things when no agency can be shown.

          That is indeed a confounding factor. It should be properly characterized, so that we can get a better idea of what it is happening and when it is not happening. Otherwise, we will be tempted to take positions on the is/is not divide which are not robustly founded in the evidence.

          Define what you mean by “God” and tell me how you know it exists?

          I already did the first half, which is what is actually in the scope of this discussion. You dug into that, so I will continue:

          LB: Strictly speaking, the claim would be that causation has a maximum level of possible mathematical complexity.

          HN: I don’t know what this means.

          Imagine someone who claims that a program no larger than one megabyte in size, running in an operating system no larger than ten megabytes in size, can fully simulate the laws of nature. Does it make sense that someone might claim this, and that this person might be wrong? Now, replicate that thought experiment except by replacing size of program and operating system with level of complexity of the mathematics. (Say, number of symbols and laws of inference required to fully specify it. Which is basically a computer program.)

          Stepping back, there are at least two kinds of infinity that our universe could manifest. One is the number of particles which are moving around. Another is the complexity of their movements. Why they move the way they do is a matter of causation; I’m suggesting that causation could be arbitrarily complex. But how is arbitrary causal complexity distinguishable from God? I see no necessary difference at this stage of discussion.

          The strategy I just adopted above is to blur distinctions. The standard atheistic complaint against theism and God and the supernatural is that they create insuperable barriers to understanding. But I do not see why this is a necessary aspect of theism or God, except in the degenerate sense of us being finite beings who may never, in finite time, be able to fully understand something (or someone) of infinite complexity. But surely this degenerate sense is not enough to sustain the complaint.

          All that I accept from your argument is that at least one of the premises is not sound, because the conclusion is not sound. My best guess is that premise (4) is unsound.

          I understand that intuitively “(4) Physical laws cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.” may not sit right with you, but that’s not enough to reject it. It is quite possible that we necessarily require “sometimes-causation” (which is almost surely deeply related to how natural language is used and what agent causation would be like) to know what is true vs. false. It is quite possible that without that, we can only know better and worse adaptation to our environment—a far cry from most people’s understanding of truth vs. falsity.

          The problem I have is that logic, at it’s core, only allows us to re-arrange what we already know. It gives us a tool to re-express our existing knowledge, but CANNOT tell us anything we didn’t already *know*.

          Ok, but then if our logic system has a contradiction, we always *knew* it. That doesn’t seem like the most useful of statements. I’m suggesting that our logic system may well have a contradiction, at least if we want to be naturalists (of any kind I’ve encountered) and claim to know a difference between truth and falsity.

          HN: Again, to argue that because we cannot explain something natural in terms doesn’t mean that no natural explanation is possible.

          LB: You equivocated on ‘natural’ in this sentence. What was understood as ‘natural’ before the quantum revolution was different from what was understood as ‘natural’ after the quantum revolution. Models which do not rule out anything do not explain anything. And yet, it really isn’t clear what you are ruling out with the term ‘natural’—except for my guess above.

          HN: Who said I was ruling anything out?

          The natural rules out the supernatural. The problem is that your definition of ‘natural’ is so nebulous as to not clearly rule out anything, thereby failing to actually define ‘supernatural’ (via negation). If you prefer, you could try defining ‘supernatural’. I’ve already given you one option, that of insuperable barriers. Another option would be “pure lawlessness”—as in, there being no laws for the supernatural realm.

          I’m not out to prove that Christianity is false. I do think it is just as likely to be false as every other religion out there, but I’m not out to prove that it’s false. Rather, I’m trying to show that you do not yet have a justifiable basis for accepting the core claims of Christianity, namely Jesus’ resurrection, an afterlife, and the existence of God.

          One way of using your model of reality as a weapon is to implicitly suppose that is a good enough model to sort of slide under Christianity, then get Christianity to stick to it, then wiggle it and watch Christianity crumble because it cannot actually be sustained on your model. But if you could equally well do this to other things—such as [self-]consciousness—then again it becomes much less imposing.

          Now, the real problem I see with your model of reality is that you do not seem interested in rigorously tracing the boundary of what you know. Instead, you constantly require there to be some viable, alternative explanation for you to question what you think you know. I would compare this to the person who is not interested in developing the intuitions for appreciating basic research; if you cannot show a better final product (e.g. battery with increased capacity), it isn’t interesting. That seems to be your general stance; if it is, then I will probably not be able to say much more of possible interest to you. Why? Because I think that the West is deeply steeped in falsehood after falsehood after falsehood, and until we become sufficiently interested in pulling our heads out of our butts, there is very little God can do with us. I include Christians and atheists in this.

          LB: You [apparently] require every causal chain to merely pass through a person instead of originate within a person.

          HN: That’s because I don’t think that there is anything like “free will”. For the most part I’m a strong determinist, and believe that everything we do as determined by previous interactions.

          LB: Agent causation is a kind of determinism. And your “previous interactions” doesn’t actually recurse infinitely to the past, does it?

          HN: Some of them might, actually. Without a better understanding of the big bang, and if there is some kind of multiverse, I don’t see how we can claim to know either way.

          I see, but you’re allowing some chains of causation to terminate at the big bang and even later. Tell me, why can agents not be the sources of causal chains? Why must I, as a person, merely be a conduit for causal chains? This seems distinctly counter-inuitive to any experience people have had excepting akrasia and forms of oppression, and it’s not clear that it has superior predictive power. It seems more like a dogmatic belief than anything.

          Unless you want to argue that there’s some kind of “random” generator inside our brains (which I seriously doubt there is), I don’t see how we could be able to start a causal chain independent of historical interactions.

          There are many things you know work, but don’t know how they work. The idea that the only ways things happen are randomness or time-evolution by impersonal laws seems patently unscientific.

        • Herald Newman

          Why start with the assumption that there isn’t?

          Because it’s a good null hypothesis. If you think there is design in nature, it’s up to you to justify the claim.

          So, my answer is that to see anything of God’s purpose, we will have to want something sufficiently close to what he wants, and attempt to achieve it in a way sufficiently close to how he wants it achieved

          So who do we ask? Hindu’s? Muslims? Zoroastrians? Wiccans? Neo-Pagans? What happens if they all come back with different answers? You’ve got some mighty big assumptions in this.

          Even among Christians, how do we figure out, reliably, what it is that God wants? We don’t seem to have a way to do that, and everyone has a different idea of what God wants. That’s why we have so many denominations of Christianity.

          The apprentice only really understands what the master is doing by attempting to emulate the master.

          All well and good when one can actually interact with the master, and know it. Not so much with God!

          I understand that intuitively “(4) Physical laws cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.” may not sit right with you, but that’s not enough to reject it.

          Given that your statement is a universal negative, and I don’t know how you’ve investigated enough to know that it’s true, I can most certainly be skeptical of it! How did you figure this out?

          Ok, but then if our logic system has a contradiction, we always *knew* it. That doesn’t seem like the most useful of statements.

          Do you actually believe that analytic systems, that is system of pure thought, can tell us something about mind independent reality?

          The natural rules out the supernatural. The problem is that your definition of ‘natural’ is so nebulous as to not clearly rule out anything, thereby failing to actually define ‘supernatural’ (via negation).

          I’m not defining the supernatural, nor do I believe in the supernatural, and I don’t even know what the word means. If you believe there is something else other than nature, tell me how you know it, and how we can investigate it? Start with YOUR definition of nature, and “supernatural”, and tell me how you know it exists.

          Now, the real problem I see with your model of reality is that you do not seem interested in rigorously tracing the boundary of what you know

          Does this really matter? If you have a model that’s more useful, demonstrate it as such. For the most part, I care about whether beliefs are justified (which is what I consider to be knowledge), not what we might be able to know.

          What are the limits of what we can justify? I don’t entirely know, nor do I know how to know.

          Tell me, why can agents not be the sources of causal chains?

          In effect, what you’re saying is that an agent has the ability to cause something by acting without a prior cause. The only way I know for this to happen is from random events, and I’ve yet to see any reason to believe that humans can act truly “randomly.”

          It seems more like a dogmatic belief than anything.

          Not dogmatic, because my position will change when the evidence changes. The current evidence is that our conscious mind doesn’t really have control over our thoughts, or actions. The evidence suggests that consciousness, and “free-will”, appear to be illusions.

          The idea that the only ways things happen are randomness or time-evolution by impersonal laws seems patently unscientific.

          Except that these are, as far as I know, the only ways that things happen. If you know of something else, and can justify it, I’ll add it to my list, and change my perspective.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Why start with the assumption that there isn’t?

          Because it’s a good null hypothesis. If you think there is design in nature, it’s up to you to justify the claim.

          First of all, this answer is entirely correct and satisfactory on it’s own merits; whenever we consider “is xyz” happening?”, false-positives are more easily filtered out by starting from, and then trying to falsify, the null-hypothesis.

          Filtering out false-positives is an epistemological necessity, at least for humans: time/budget/ability/mortality constraints mean that we often have to build on the work which comes before us, ensuring that as little of that work as possible is faulty is therefore a priority.

          Further, though, it is not simply the case that we approach the question “has _______ been designed” tabula rasa.

          Innumerable times before us, we’ve had to deal with exactly the consequences of previous-humans-not-having-eliminated-false-positives.

          Whether it’s the-earth-is-a-flat-disk-with-the-firmament-suspended-above, or individual-species-creation-de-novo-by-a-“designer”, or disease-is-caused-by-[evil eye/god’s wrath/being “unclean” or “untouchable”] – we’ve seen the danger of generic false-postives before, and specifically the danger of assuming that [the appearance] of intelligent design necessarily implies [the existence] of intelligent design.

          IF we each popped into this world without any history books, we should, as you say, have [the preference for the null hypothesis] on which to base the non-apriori acceptance of design. But we do not pop into a world without a history, and we have seen that [previous humans who took “design” to be granted, unquestionable] have [time and again proven to have been wrong].

          When [the design hypothesis] has so often been both postulated and accepted before now, and to such historical/epistemological detriment, it is rationally justifiable to be wary of it’s future postulations/those who would postulate it.

          Edits for word-choice/clarity.

        • HN: Why start with the assumption of design, or purpose, to the universe?

          LB: Why start with the assumption that there isn’t?

          HN: Because it’s a good null hypothesis.

          What if we had applied this to Francis Bacon et al, when they claimed there was more structure to reality which could be discovered? It took them about two hundred years to really deliver on any of their claims. Application of your particular style of null hypothesis epistemology to that period would perhaps have been disastrous. Are you ok with that?

          If you think there is design in nature, it’s up to you to justify the claim.

          There are three claims one can make:

               (1) there is no such structure
               (2) we don’t know
               (3) there is such structure

          I am interested in why you hew to (1) instead of (2). You seem to be understanding me as asking why you hew to (1) instead of (3). See the difference?

          So who do we ask? Hindu’s? Muslims? Zoroastrians? Wiccans? Neo-Pagans? What happens if they all come back with different answers? You’ve got some mighty big assumptions in this.

          Why can they not compete? There are many active research paradigms in psychology, and that’s a much narrower realm of study than what religion must deal with.

          Even among Christians, how do we figure out, reliably, what it is that God wants? We don’t seem to have a way to do that, and everyone has a different idea of what God wants. That’s why we have so many denominations of Christianity.

          Ever hear of judging a tree by its fruit? Or Paul’s “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”? But if a group of Christians is not interested in collectively obeying the most basic of things like Mt 5:23–24, why should we expect that their attempts to pull off more complicated things is likely to work? But hey, if another group wants to claim that something else is more basic and I disagree, let us compete. What’s so terrible about that? We’ve learned to compete less and less violently.

          LB: The apprentice only really understands what the master is doing by attempting to emulate the master.

          HN: All well and good when one can actually interact with the master, and know it. Not so much with God!

          Off and on, I discuss reasons for perhaps why God cannot be more clear to people. Yesterday, I had a conversation about a person who needs to learn things he is not all that interested in learning (indeed, that he doesn’t even know he needs to learn). A lot of the same patterns showed up in that conversation as the interacting with God one. Furthermore, the crucial aspects of not pushing too hard on the person, not attempting to merely dominate them, were paramount in the human–human situation as well. My attempting to better understand God led to enhancing a human–human situation.

          Now, I’ve only had a few situations where I possibly heard anything explicit from God where I recognized it as such. But that’s probably because I’m an idiot with many false beliefs such that the channel is way too noisy. And yet, if my attempts to clear things up and understand things better and up enhancing other humans, what’s the problem? Is it that I’m not doing things the way some other human thinks they ought to be done? I think it would be positively irrational for me to cease a course of action which is yielding good results, when nobody has presented me with a superior course. Note that I’m not saying that you ought to follow this course. It is more that I am responding with the attempt to methodologically dominate me with empirical evidence. 😀

          LB: I understand that intuitively “(4) Physical laws cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.” may not sit right with you, but that’s not enough to reject it.

          HN: Given that your statement is a universal negative, and I don’t know how you’ve investigated enough to know that it’s true, I can most certainly be skeptical of it! How did you figure this out?

          It’s just logic. (4) is not a premise, but an implication of (1)–(3).

          Do you actually believe that analytic systems, that is system of pure thought, can tell us something about mind independent reality?

          On physicalism, there is no such thing as “pure thought”. I’m not a Cartesian dualist, and so I’m inclined to agree with the physicalists on this one. Anyhow, what can be done in the analytic realm is to distinguish sufficient and insufficient conditions for the possible intelligibility of reality. (N.B. This is different from establishing necessary conditions.)

          I’m not defining the supernatural, nor do I believe in the supernatural, and I don’t even know what the word means.

          That’s interesting, because you seemed to think you knew what it meant in other contexts.

          If you believe there is something else other than nature, tell me how you know it, and how we can investigate it? Start with YOUR definition of nature, and “supernatural”, and tell me how you know it exists.

          No thanks.

          LB: Now, the real problem I see with your model of reality is that you do not seem interested in rigorously tracing the boundary of what you know

          HN: [1] Does this really matter? [2] If you have a model that’s more useful, demonstrate it as such.

          [1] In the short term, no. In the long term, most definitely. [2] Before you can grow new plants, you must till the ground. If you’re not interested in the tilling process—if you just want to be notified when there is a new crop ready to pick—that’s fine. Although, if you’re standing on the ground that needs to be tilled, I will have to ask you to move.

          In effect, what you’re saying is that an agent has the ability to cause something by acting without a prior cause. The only way I know for this to happen is from random events, and I’ve yet to see any reason to believe that humans can act truly “randomly.”

          What is your justification for this belief?

          The current evidence is that our conscious mind doesn’t really have control over our thoughts, or actions.

          For some, most, or all people? The rise of bureaucratic rationality and globalization, combined with increasing hyper-specialization, can certainly make you feel powerless outside of your narrow little domain. But maybe the problem is a bag of false beliefs, such as the idea that the US is anything like the folk theory of a democracy/​representative republic.

        • Herald Newman

          What if we had applied this to Francis Bacon et al, >when they claimed there was more structure to reality which could be discovered? It took them about two hundred years to really deliver on any of their claims. Application of your particular style of null hypothesis epistemology to that period would perhaps have been disastrous. Are you ok with that?

          Until such time that the null hypothesis is overcome, people are completely justified in rejecting any other hypothesis, and should reject everything but the null before it is overcome. This doesn’t prevent people from trying to discover ways to overcome the null, as this is what research is supposed to be about!

          If you think there is design in nature, it’s up to you to justify the claim.

          There are three claims one can make:

          (1) there is no such structure
          (2) we don’t know
          (3) there is such structure

          I am interested in why you hew to (1) instead of (2)

          Do you understand that the null hypothesis is not, by itself, a claim, but rather an assumption? You cannot assert the null hypothesis as truth, but you can assert that it’s the only position justified.

          Why can they not compete? There are many active research paradigms in psychology, and that’s a much narrower realm of study than what religion must deal with.

          Fine, and if any of them can come up with objective ways to determine the “will of God” (assuming that they can objectively determine that any gods exist), I’ll be waiting.

          Now, I’ve only had a few situations where I possibly heard anything explicit from God where I recognized it as such

          And how do you know what you “heard” was from “God”, and not from some other source?

          It’s just logic. (4) is not a premise, but an implication of (1)–(3).

          And what do neuroscientists, and other people who study brain functions, have to say about this argument? Why are you bringing it forward to random people on an atheist blog, who may not have the background to assess it?

          I also hope you understand that arguments for existence of anything, on their own, aren’t usually compelling to me. Without some way of confirming what your arguing for, I’m very unlikely to change my opinion.

          Do you actually believe that analytic systems, that is system of pure thought, can tell us something about mind independent reality?

          On physicalism, there is no such thing as “pure thought”

          So can I define an realicorn as a 6 foot tall horse like creature that necessarily exists in my basement, and it must exist in my basement? Can definitions alone make things true in reality? That’s what I’m trying to get at with my question.

          That’s interesting, because you seemed to think you knew what it meant in other contexts.

          I’m only basing my statements about what others have told me. I don’t understand the concept, but I understand how to use the concept in conversation. As best I can tell, the supernatural is some realm that can produce effects in reality that cannot be achieved by reality itself.

          If you believe there is something else other than nature, tell me how you know it, and how we can investigate it? Start with YOUR definition of nature, and “supernatural”, and tell me how you know it exists.

          No thanks.

          Good. Then I don’t know if there’s much more we can discuss…

          Before you can grow new plants, you must till the ground. If you’re not interested in the tilling process—if you just want to be notified when there is a new crop ready to pick—that’s fine.

          If you’re asking me to not plant my crops, and just accept that there’s going to be a magical bounty at the end of whatever period you need, with some untested method you want to use, it’s really not going to happen. There’s plenty of space, and you’re free to do what research you need, but if you want acceptance from me you have to demonstrate that acceptance is warranted.

          What is your justification for this belief?

          No thanks. Not sure I want to share that with you…

        • Until such time that the null hypothesis is overcome, people are completely justified in rejecting any other hypothesis, and should reject everything but the null before it is overcome. This doesn’t prevent people from trying to discover ways to overcome the null, as this is what research is supposed to be about!

          This is a curious stance; it seems rather similar to the demand that authority be respected. Here the authority is that of Ockham’s razor based on some particular representation language (the more general kind of simplicity, Kolmogorov complexity, is uncomputable). Now, I can see a reason to maintain some amount of inertia, requiring challengers to the status quo to produce enough of a distinction to complete their challenge. But your stance seems to possibly head all the way to Max Plank’s [paraphrased] “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

          Furthermore, it seems like scientists are particularly excluded from your “should”. Why are they alone granted this freedom?

          Do you understand that the null hypothesis is not, by itself, a claim, but rather an assumption? You cannot assert the null hypothesis as truth, but you can assert that it’s the only position justified.

          But why default to “(1) there is no such structure” instead of “(2) we don’t know”? Why must justification work like this?

          Fine, and if any of them can come up with objective ways to determine the “will of God” (assuming that they can objectively determine that any gods exist), I’ll be waiting.

          You may have set them up to permanently fail, depending on precisely what you mean by “objective ways to determine”. After all, I’ve been saying that the “will of God” cannot be like extant laws of nature.

          And how do you know what you “heard” was from “God”, and not from some other source?

          I never said that I know it. I said “possibly heard”.

          [1] And what do neuroscientists, and other people who study brain functions, have to say about this argument? [2] Why are you bringing it forward to random people on an atheist blog, who may not have the background to assess it?

          [1] I haven’t asked them. [2] If they don’t have the proper background to assess that argument, then they don’t have the proper background to make many of the criticisms against Christianity (and other religions) which they make all the time. Making this clear would be quite valuable to me.

          I also hope you understand that arguments for existence of anything, on their own, aren’t usually compelling to me. Without some way of confirming what your arguing for, I’m very unlikely to change my opinion.

          Remember that my argument attacks models, not reality. It is these models which are used to attack Christianity, not reality. Given how many actions humans predicate upon their perception of reality, correcting models can be very important. I think that is, here. Especially given the alternative logical options such as Bruce Waller lays out in Against Moral Responsibility. Fundamental logical incoherence in the fabric of society is terrible. It trains you to accept deep contradiction from the cradle, and teaches you that not all contradictions are wrong. That in turn allows for flagrant hypocrisy and all kinds of badness.

          LB: On physicalism, there is no such thing as “pure thought”

          HN: [1] So can I define an realicorn as a 6 foot tall horse like creature that necessarily exists in my basement, and it must exist in my basement? [2] Can definitions alone make things true in reality? That’s what I’m trying to get at with my question.

          [1] A does not imply B. [2] On physicalism, definitions are caused and can cause things. On physicalism, there is no such thing as a definition popping into existence ex nihilo and then obtaining causal powers. Where you’d probably have to go on this is to explore the idea of a growing block universe—where not all time-evolution is unitary, but where new structure can be introduced into reality (and possibly existing structure destroyed). Although, there is also “every human being but no beast or machine has this capacity to use language in ways that are appropriate to situations but not caused by them” from the Chomsky excerpt. That is possibly a way that new structure can be introduced into reality, structure not caused by [anything in our current model of] reality. Whether you would be defining things into existence might become a semantic issue.

          I’m only basing my statements about what others have told me. I don’t understand the concept, but I understand how to use the concept in conversation. As best I can tell, the supernatural is some realm that can produce effects in reality that cannot be achieved by reality itself.

          Have you ever heard the term “the observable universe“? If the observable universe is an open system, then the supernatural is what the system is open to, on your current model. That’s not particularly mysterious or crazy. The thing is, we have this problem of equivocating between “all that exists” and “what our models robustly describe”, not to mention remaining conscientious about which parts of the models are actually supported by evidence (vs. being an extrapolation from evidence).

          … if you want acceptance from me …

          Nope, I desire nothing like that at this moment. I am more interested in various kinds of over-reaching I see atheists do a lot. You seem quite a bit better on that front, although I’m still not sure about (a) your use of the null hypothesis as an epistemology; (b) why you confidently bandy about terms when you don’t seem to understand them well at all.

          HN: In effect, what you’re saying is that an agent has the ability to cause something by acting without a prior cause. The only way I know for this to happen is from random events, and I’ve yet to see any reason to believe that humans can act truly “randomly.”

          LB: What is your justification for this belief?

          HN: No thanks. Not sure I want to share that with you…

          That’s unfortunate.

          HN: The current evidence is that our conscious mind doesn’t really have control over our thoughts, or actions.

          LB: For some, most, or all people? The rise of bureaucratic rationality and globalization, combined with increasing hyper-specialization, can certainly make you feel powerless outside of your narrow little domain. But maybe the problem is a bag of false beliefs, such as the idea that the US is anything like the folk theory of a democracy/​representative republic.

          Do you insist on abandoning this discussion? (You didn’t respond directly to anything in the above paragraph.) This felt loss/​lack of agency is very interesting to me. It is almost as if you are unable to define anything into existence. 😐

        • Herald Newman

          In effect, what you’re saying is that an agent has the ability to cause something by acting without a prior cause. The only wayI know for this to happen is from random events, and I’ve yet to see any reason to believe that humans can act truly “randomly.”

          What is your justification for this belief?

          Shortest answer I can give is this: We can, when a person’s brain is examined by an fMRI, predict the decisions of a person before the person is actually aware of that decision. To me, this very strongly suggests that free will doesn’t exist, and is illusory.

        • Based on exactly what scientific experiments? If the task is to act randomly—like with Libet—one is justified in questioning how useful results from that is for understanding how we make non-random decisions.

        • Herald Newman

          Going to make a more detailed response to your argument.

          For the record, your argument is:

          (P1) Natural forces are the only causal powers.
          (P2) All beliefs are caused by natural forces.
          (P3) Some beliefs are true, others false.
          (C4) Natural forces cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.
          (C5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.

          My first point is that your model is too simplistic, and doesn’t go far enough to understanding why we have beliefs. You’re creating a virtual strawman type argument, and then knocking it down in its absurdity. I agree with you that your conclusions are absurd.

          My main criticism is that your model seems to suggest that beliefs live in this vacuum where they don’t inform our actions, or help us to navigate the world. This is clearly false. Beliefs exist because holding beliefs has an evolutionary advantage. Animals hold beliefs, just like we do. Believing that something is dangerous helps to protects us against death, and believing something is good helps us to survive.

          How do we come to hold beliefs? Short answer is through learning. I’m not an expert at this area, and my background is in mathematics, but I’ve done some undergrad courses in psychology, and I understand a bit about learning theory. Beliefs come to us because of our interactions with the environment, They allow us to make predictions. If I believe that a rock is food, I end up with some pretty nasty consequences of that belief. Namely, I end up with a bunch of broken teeth (which is going to hurt), and my stomach isn’t going to be satisfied with hunks of undigestible carbon.
          Why does learning work? Because we get feedback from our environment, and the process is (to some extent) self correcting. If a belief is false, and that belief carries predictions, then at least one of the predictions of that belief will be false, and that will be evidence by the environment itself.

          If I follow your argument, it would seem to suggest that this feedback mechanism isn’t a result of natural forces at work, and I’m not sure why that should be the case.

        • Michael Neville

          You’re creating a virtual strawman type argument, and then knocking it down in its absurdity. I agree with you that your conclusions are absurd.

          From your analysis of Luke’s argument (I haven’t read it on general principles) it appears that he’s making the same anti-naturalism argument that Alvin Plantinga makes called “Naturalism Defeated” (PDF). Plantinga attacks evolution in his argument, except that he doesn’t understand evolution and so attacks a strawman version. Surprisingly for a philosopher he has no idea about how people learn from experience and incorporate that leaning into their decision-making. He also misuses statistics in the same way creationists misuse it to “show” that something which is actually commonplace might seem so highly improbable as to be impossible.

          Plantinga is wrong about naturalism and it’s likely that Breuer is wrong for many of the same reasons.

        • Herald Newman

          From your analysis of Luke’s argument (I haven’t read it on general
          principles) it appears that he’s making the same anti-naturalism
          argument that Alvin Plantinga makes called “Naturalism Defeated” (PDF).

          I made the same point, recently, here: This argument reminds me a lot of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

        • Michael Neville

          I missed that comment the first time around. You and I are in agreement on Plantinga and Breuer.

        • Pofarmer

          What Breuer is doing is nearly a very sophisticated form of gaslighting.

        • My first point is that your model is too simplistic, and doesn’t go far enough to understanding why we have beliefs. You’re creating a virtual strawman type argument, and then knocking it down in its absurdity. I agree with you that your conclusions are absurd.

          My main criticism is that your model seems to suggest that beliefs live in this vacuum where they don’t inform our actions, or help us to navigate the world. This is clearly false.

          These would be relevant criticisms if I were trying to model belief, instead of trying to model how naturalists treat causation.

          Beliefs come to us because of our interactions with the environment,

          I would caution you to differentiate between teaching the rat to go through the door with the triangle to get the cheese, and teaching the rat about triangles and squares and such. You can train a dog to do quite a few tricks, but these do not generalize with dogs in the way they do with humans. There is something different happening, and it may be that the model of causation represented by (P1) and (P2) do not suffice to possibly describe it.

          If I follow your argument, it would seem to suggest that this feedback mechanism isn’t a result of natural forces at work, and I’m not sure why that should be the case.

          There seems to be plenty of feedback in situations where (P3) is irrelevant, so I don’t know why you would say this. There is even self-reference where (P3) is irrelevant. The difference between distinguishing truth and falsity and merely adapting to your environment is a big one.

        • Susan

          Why start with the assumption that there isn’t?

          No assumption required. “Design” refers to specific qualities that make it distinct from non-design”.

          Should we assume a rock is conscious? Should we assume that if it falls on our head, it made a decision to do so?

          We see that a watch is designed. We see it in contrast to the beach on which we find it. We can show that a watch is designed. You cannot show that a beach is.

          We can show how a particular watch is designed (by persons), the long, development of time-keeping devices (by persons), the trials and errors (by persons) the refining of watches as time passes (by persons) and you can’t show or won’t show… (how many comments now, Luke?) how the rest of reality is the same.

          You are shifting your burden and ignoring the categories very much like Paley did.

          If you want to show “diesign”, show it. Think of how many tens of thousands of comments ago, you could have done that if you could do that.

          But you haven’t.

          The answer must be different from that of science, because scientific knowledge is purpose-neutral.

          But science didn’t start out that way. It started out assuming that there was purpose. And that assumption fell to pieces step by step, discovery by discovery.

          So, now it is different.

          If there is purpose, you need to show it.

          But you prefer to shift the burden.

          I can only assume you have nothing and that you’re about to quote Yahwehjesus nonsense as is your habit. You might as well quote Scientology.

          So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (Jn 5:19–20)

          Well, look at that!

          The tricky part is that if we throw in theosis—a desire on God’s part for humans to become arbitrarily god-like this side of heaven—then we have a problem

          Theosis is no problem at all. It’s an invocation of Yahwejesiusy powers very much like the invocation of Spideypowers. That is, it is apparently something imaginary until shown to be otherwise. And in all your comments, you have consistently neglected to show otherwise. No matter how many times you’ve been asked.

          I see, but you’re allowing some chains of causation to terminate at the big bang and even later

          .

          Because they do. Our models break down here. Some people make an effort to provide models that they can meticuously support. You are not one of those people.

        • Raging Bee

          So no examples then? I guess we’re done here.

        • Herald Newman

          He did finally offer one example , of NDG saying the theists make worse scientists. of the conflict thesis.

          See his response here: http://disq.us/p/1hrmthj

        • Pofarmer

          This is particularly humorous since he does it regularly. Repeat stuff that has been debunked, that is.

        • Raging Bee

          Really?! What a surprise that turns out not to be!

        • Pofarmer

          I know, shocking isn’t it.

        • [citation required]

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t know how anyone who witnessed your initial foray at Outshinethesun could think otherwise.

        • Given that Outshine the Sun was A-OK with slander and defamation, that is a rather meaningless statement. And you’re contributing to that very spirit: by refusing to support your criticisms of my intellectual and/or moral character without a shred of evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          Don’t you get tired of this game? I imagine most of those involved with back me up on this.

        • Yes, I do.

        • Paul B. Lot

          False.

      • I believe you’re quoting from The Secret History of Ray Comfort, the king of being correct by the experts and then returning to his wrong but useful arguments.

    • Joe

      Well, Craig is deceptive in that he deliberately misinterprets the findings and conclusion of Borde, Guth and Vilenkin even though Alan Guth showed up at one of his talks to correct him.

      Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.

      -Alexander Vilenkin (not quoted by Craig)

      • Someone might be guilty sloppiness when they cherry pick a quote from Vilenkin on one page of his book, not realizing that a quote on the very next page undermines the conclusion that the first (alone) would give you. WLC did this. But surely he’s been corrected on this.

        Similarly, Creationists do this with Darwin.

        After enough corrections, though, it goes from sloppiness to deception.

        • Trent Horn

          I don’t know if Craig acknowledges this quote but it doesn’t effect his argument. Craig doesn’t quote Vilenkin saying God exists, he quotes him on the beginning of the universe. They just disagree on the philosophical/religious consequences of this scientific theory. You can use a person’s evidence to validly support a conclusion of your own even if that person disagrees with your conclusion.

        • Vilenkin isn’t much of a support of WLC’s argument if he makes clear that WLC is drawing the wrong conclusion. The whole point of using Vilenkin is that he’s an expert and WLC isn’t.

        • Pofarmer

          “You can use a person’s evidence to validly support a conclusion of your own even if that person disagrees with your conclusion.”

          Because that’s not dishonest at all. Craig hasn’t shown he even has the required knowledge to evaluate the claims. I seriously doubt he could do the required math.

        • Trent Horn

          It’s not dishonest. For example, an atheist might cite the arguments of a young earth creationist who says Genesis has a literal meaning. The atheist disagrees with the YEC’s conclusion but he cites him in order to prove this argument:

          1. Genesis literally says the earth is 6000 years old
          2. Science shows the earth is billions of years old
          Conclusion: Genesis is wrong

          The atheist cites the YEC in defense of P1 even though the YEC disagrees with P2 and the conclusion. WLC does the same thing with this argument.

          1. If the universe had a beginning, God created it.
          2. The universe had a beginning.
          Conclusion: God created the universe.

          Vilenkin disagrees with P1 (and so he disagrees with the conclusion) but he supports P2, and that’s fine for Craig because he’s not using Vilenkin to support P1 or as one who agrees with the conclusion, he’s using him to support P2.

        • Pofarmer

          But the point is that Vilenkin’s work doesn’t necessarily support Craigs reading of P2 either. And this is what Vilenkin says. Vilenkin’s work only shows the Universe as it is now, not what was before the “boundary conditions” that we can figure back to. And it turns out that Craig is quoting from a popular (popular as in for a popular audience) book that Vilenken wrote, and not engaging with the actual paper. Which, once again, makes me think that Craig doesn’t have the chops to do it. Vilenkins work deals with the physical Universe as we see it now, back to the boundary conditions of the big bang, it doesn’t say anything about prior conditions. This is basically the same thing that LeMatre told the Pope. To continue to use Vilenken’s work in this way, after he has politely been told that it doesn’t support the argument he is trying to make is either disengenuous, dishonest or inept take your pick.

        • Joe

          Yet, Vilenkin is careful about saying his research doesn’t necessarily lead to P2.

          While we’re at it, why doesn’t Craig mention other theories such as those by Hawking and Krauss, which contradict those of Vilenkin?

          Because his job is like a lawyer trying to win a case, and he isn’t bound by any conventions such as full disclosure.

        • Yes, WLC is indeed very much like a lawyer. He doesn’t care about following the facts; he simply wants to make the best case for his pre-drawn conclusion.

        • Trent Horn

          Do you mean in his debates? In his writings like the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology he engages other views and attempted refutations of his argument.

          In a debate it’s not either person’s job to present the other side’s opposing arguments. Your opponent does that and then you respond to them. If he or she doesn’t do that, then that just shows they need more practice in how to debate..

        • Joe

          In his writings like the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology he engages other views and attempted refutations of his argument.

          How does he do that with theoretical physics, which has yet to be proven either way?

        • Susan

          In his writings like the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology he engages other views and attempted refutations of his argument.

          As far as I remember, without success.

          If you think he has a particulary strong argument in Blackwell, please highlight it for us.

        • Susan

          In a debate it’s not either person’s job to present the other side’s opposing arguments.

          Which makes it a superficial exercise indeed. One can blather on repeating oft-refuted points and ignore for the most part, problems with one’s argument that have been brought up time and time again. One can do this in front of an audience who isn’t aware of that.

          IIRC, the last time you were here, you had no interest in participating in discussion but were trying to get Bob Seidensticker to debate you.

          On a topic in which you’ve repreated the same old canards and have never responded to their problems.

          Your explanation for that was along the lines of “anonymous people on the internet aren’t worth responding to” vs. “anonymous audiences on Catholic radio are”.

          After many years of engaging with you and watching you engage with others, I would say that it’s no accident. Your choice to use the tactics you use is dishonest.

          In that sense, you are a classic apologist. You run away to places where people won’t question your position and occasionally visit places where people will, where you dodge the issues, hit The Reset Button and disappear when you are challenged.

          The tactics seem similar to the tactics used to sell tobacco to minors.

          I don’t think christians are necessarily dishonest. But I have found that every single apologist I’ve encountered in my travels uses tactics that are dishonest.

          This includes you.

        • Pofarmer

          Because simply ignoring everything that puts your position in doubt isn’t dishonest at all.

        • Trent Horn

          Are you saying Craig does this? He responds to critics in his writings and also to arguments raised against him in his debates.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve watched Craig debate quite a bit. I see him get clearly corrected before in one debate, and come right back with the exact same refuted argument in the next debate. He does his when people like, Guth, or Carroll, clearly correct him. Sure, he tries to “respond”? So what? His point has been refuted by an expert on that point. It ought to be dead. But Craig can’t let that happen.

        • Susan

          I see him get clearly corrected before in one debate, and come right back with the exact same refuted argument in the next debate.

          Not unlike Trent Horn.

        • Pofarmer

          I wasn’t gonna say it. But, yeah, peas in a pod.

        • Susan

          I wan’t gonna say it.

          There’s nothing wrong with saying it.

          We know dishonest motives exist in human behaviour but I know no one is qualified to demonstrate what motivates any single human being.

          We can evaluate dishonest methods. Methods that protect themselves from scrutiny, methods that silence or block that scrutiny. Methods aimed at repeating claims and ignoring the problems with those claims.

          It’s perfectly possible that (for instance) Trent Horn and William Lane Craig are operating with sincere motives.

          But it’s just as possible that they aren’t.

          It’s obvious that their methods aren’t honest. That is, they begin with their conclusion, do no work to support the assumptions on which they base those conclusions, ignore the problem with the work they produce and find themselves a market anyway.

          When a psychic does the same sort of thing, bilking money and celebrity out of vulnerable people on (say) the subject of lost loved ones, it’s perfectly reasonable to call them con artists.

          Somehow, when it’s christians, we start walking on eggshells.

          No. Dishonest methods are the first sign.

          I don’t care what role you play in the pyramid scheme when you benefit from it.

          If your methodology is dishonest, you are guilty of dishonesty, no matter how sincere your motives might be.

          And I have no reason to believe that their motives are more sincere than an average con man’s.

          They might be but they have to show it.

        • I like Pofarmer’s response. WLC is simply a debater. His goal is to pick and choose evidence to shore up his predetermined conclusion. He might be fairly nimble, though his arguments aren’t innovative or provocative (unless you haven’t heard them before).

          He’s like a lawyer. He has no intention of following the facts like a scientist. He’s simply entertainment. This is no way to learn about reality.

        • Joe

          Except when you’re tying to use the actual work of others, in legitimate fields of discovery, to lend credibility to your assertions in a completely different realm.

        • Trent Horn

          So Philosophy isn’t “actual work” in a “legitimate field.” Are philosophers never allowed to cite scientists in their arguments?

        • Joe

          So Philosophy isn’t “actual work” in a “legitimate field.” Are philosophers never allowed to cite scientists in their arguments?

          Where did I say that?

          I was talking about theology and apologetics.

        • Susan

          So, Philosophy isn’t “actual work in a “legitimate field|”

          .

          Philosophy itself shows the errors Craig makes which consists of a nauseating mixture of cherry-picking and equivocation and putting fingers in his ears.

          And repeating for a few decades.

          Craig is not “philosophy”.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Only Craig is also wrong about the physics.

    • It’s explained in the rest of the paragraph: “They are the ones who declare that they have solid intellectual reasons behind their faith. If that makes them feel good about themselves, that’s fine, but they can’t insist that those of us in the reality-based world swallow that.”

      I don’t say that they know that they’re lying.

      • Trent Horn

        When you said, “If the deception part bothers you, remember that they started it.” I took that to mean “If the deception part bothers you, remember that they started [being deceptive] first.” Did I misunderstand you?

        If I didn’t, wouldn’t you agree that a person must be aware he is lying in order to be deceiving others? If he is just mistaken, then he would be misleading people but not practicing deception

        • I don’t say that they know that they’re lying.

          Your confusion is understandable. I hope we’re on the same page now.

        • Trent Horn

          Yes we are, thanks for the clarification.

      • I don’t say that they know that they’re lying.

        Can you unwittingly lie? I thought lying required intention.

        • My view as well.

        • Ahh, ok. There are several other understandings of ‘lying’ floating around in the comments on this page. I think this is one reason that I have serious problems with dictionary definitions, and much prefer to infer a word’s meaning from usage.

    • Raging Bee

      If someone is saying things that are demonstrably false, it doesn’t matter whether he’s clueless or lying — either way, he’s saying things that are false, he has no credibility, and there’s no point in wasting any time listening to someone who is consistently wrong. “He might be sincere” doesn’t make him credible, reliable, or worth our time.

    • Susan

      Do you have evidence of a prominent Christian who knows the Faith lacks good reasons but still claims those reasons exist?

      I have encountered countless examples.

      Can you give me evidence of an honest apologist? That is, one that actually addresses the problems with their claims instead of making a living repeating the same old oft-refuted arguments?

      You could claim he’s mistaken but you’ve really raised the burden of proof (and risked slandering Christians) by saying people like him are deceptive.

      That is like saying that I am accusing people who pay psychics of being con artists who claim to have psychic ability or that I am accusing people who invested their savings in Bernie Madock of being Bernie Madock.

      • Phil Rimmer

        Can you give me evidence of an honest apologist?

        Kierkegaard, C.S.Lewis, the so honest its hideous WLC, Luke B even? A few non-American apologists, where there isn’t a market to attract the psychopath/parasites that prevail.

        I believe them in some profound sense deceived but honest.

        This whole exercise just appals me even as a jokey thought experiment.

        But then, I’m somewhat aspie. We’re the least comfortable in a world deliberately engaging in fake news.

        You need more humourless scientists here.

        • Pofarmer

          WLC is anything but honest. I spent quite a bit of time one spring watching a bunch of different WLC debates, He would get clearly corrected in one debate by an expert in whatever field he was drooling on about, and in the next debate, he’d use the same point again as if it had never happened. This happened several times on several different points in several different debates. You might say he’s just really, really ernest, which he probably is. But, repeating arguments that have been shown in no uncertain terms to be unsound isn’t honest, IMHO. He’s a charlatan.

        • I suppose if he’s your liar, he’s easier to take.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I don’t know why on earth you would want to discredit WLC’s bona fides???

          For me he’s the gift that keeps giving.as one of the truest living scotsmen….

        • I don’t know how Pofarmer challenged WLC’s credentials, but I do question them myself. How can a guy have two doctorates and yet make arguments that would get him an F in a freshman class? Several major tenets (including objective morality) he justifies with something like, “Almost no one seriously questions ___”

          No, Dr. Craig. That’s not an argument.

        • Phil Rimmer

          And nor is that. Incompetence and wish thinking is not the issue.

          But, think! Think how they feel from the inside. Most salesmen come to believe their own pitch. Yes, there are entirely a super abundance of manipulative psychopath parasites working the religion schtick, but not all. This groupism folk are evidencing here at the moment is as bad as any we accuse others of and entirely undercuts substantive engagement and worse, is psychologically disengaging. Bad faith accusations are the very last cudgel to employ, because then all other bets are off.

        • Greg G.

          I think the first instance that made me aware of Craig’s incompetence was his attack on the Problem of Evil, which he couldn’t properly state, so he ended up vanquishing a straw man.

          Then there was his argument against the Problem of Suffering by saying animals are not actually suffering when they appear to be suffering.

          My current favorite is where hi says that the combined weight of Plantinga’s two dozen or so best arguments for the existence of God is evidence for God’s existence. If he had just one successful argument, WLC would be touting that one. Instead we have two dozen or so of the best arguments for God being failures, so the combined weight of them is a better argument for the non-existence of God.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I don’t do POE arguments any more. Designing better gods is ridiculous. Simply an interfering theo is quite moral disaster enough, to say nothing of its fatuity. I don’t want to play at fine tuning one. I know that the aesthetics, the poetry, the mutuality, the morals I currently delight in are a direct product of this callous, miserable git of a universe that made me. I don’t know how else to be.

          Wishing for heaven-lite when heaven looks like hell is not a game that has much meaning for me. Craig is upfront about the miserable gittery. He just hasn’t created anything necessary that Deo, (physics with a cheshire cat smile), or with perfect parsimony, physics hasn’t created already.

          I see his arguments mainly engaging the ex-theists still exercised by their intellectual abuse rather than the plain realist.

          It is precisely Craig’s honesty, depleting the role of personal moral authorship that a “realist” Theo must entail, that is his apalling value.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t do POE arguments any more.

          The problem with the Problem of Evil is the definition of the word “evil”. I prefer the Problem of Suffering because they can’t argue that suffering does not exist.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Completely agree. I’ll happily rewrite with suffering for evil.

        • adam
        • MR

          I’ve never been comfortable with this phrase. Christians and atheists mean two completely different things by it and they always end up talking past each other.

        • Greg G.

          Christians think of evil as a problem and don’t really get the Problem of Evil as a problem for a tri-omni god thingy. They often try to turn it around into a problem for evolution, completely missing the point.

        • Another recent fumble of WLC’s is his mishandling of the concept of the Trinity. He claimed that it was quite sensible and then committed the heresy of Partialism. Perhaps we’ll be sharing hell with him.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2016/01/william-lane-craig-misrepresents-christianity-and-insults-islam/

        • Incompetence and wish thinking is not the issue.

          When I’m trying to explain how evangelists operate, I think it is part of the issue.

          This groupism folk are evidencing here at the moment is as bad as any we accuse others of and entirely undercuts substantive engagement and worse, is psychologically disengaging.

          You’ve lost me. Explain to me what problem you’ve uncovered here.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Indeed but incompetence and wish thinking is why they are wrong, not why they are dishonest. Using “honesty” in this cut down sense is disingenuous and self serving.

          “Groupism” was not exactly the term I wanted and a better term still eludes me. The idea that all apologists are dishonest is the meat of it.

          This disables credible engagement with apologists, most especially for the half religiously committed onlooker, who might benefit from the exchange.

        • I’m not saying that all apologists are dishonest. My guess is that they’re rarely dishonest. However, when an apologist says something (about something outside of their field of expertise, like science) and are then corrected by an expert, they are dishonest if they ignore the advice and repeat the false information. This happens.

        • Michael Neville

          they are dishonest if they ignore the advice and repeat the false information.

          Ray Comfort and William Lane Craig are both notorious for that.

        • adam

          “I’m not saying that all apologists are dishonest.”

          “However, when an apologist says something (about something outside of their field of expertise, like science) and are then corrected by an expert, they are dishonest if they ignore the advice and repeat the false information.”

          Which means we have yet to see an honest apologist who has participated in open debate.

        • Phil Rimmer

          they are dishonest if they ignore the advice and repeat the false information.

          Entirely so if they accept that expertise as such. This is sadly not the case or we might expect greater traction.

        • If you’re saying that a Ray Comfort (to take one example) might simply be so clueless as to not understand that he (a not-cosmologist) should take the input of a cosmologist, I think there’s a point beyond which cluelessness doesn’t address it. When he willfully rejects the conclusions of the experts (and he’s not one of them), over and over, that sounds like lying to me.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Ray Comfort.

          Ha!

          I’ve already made my exceptions. I can make plenty more categories of the wilfuly manipulative, downright liars and scumbags, but also a legion more of the childhood fritzed, too deeply, deeply stupid to notice. Then there is Ray inexplicably bestriding them all….

        • Susan

          Using “honesty” in this cut down sense is disingenuous and self serving

          Not necessarily. Show me an apologist in the last twenty years who doesn’t begin with their conclusion. These are the apologists we’re addressing. Not Kierkegaard.

          They attack strawman as a first line of offense. They equivocate. They cherry pick. They silence. They prefer to go where they have an audience. They ignore the problems with their claims. They disappear and hit the Reset Button if they bother to address us at all.

          They act like con men. Con men are a trivial reality. It’s not a leap to say that people who act like con men are con men.

          Show me one who doesn’t do this and I will not label them thus.

          “Groupism” is not exactly the term.

          Thank goodness. I’m very fond of your contributions and that seemed beneath you unless you can show it.

          This disables credible engagement with apologists

          Maybe, that’s a problem with apologetics. It seems mostly to be based on strawmanning and (ironically) accusations of strawmanning when you don’t recognize that they are the true christian. It provides no clear model, nor support.

          It’s simple enough to shrug and ask them to come back when they have something.

          most especially for the half religiously committed onlooker

          I was that. And all it took was to notice that when people asked apologists to support their positions, they couldn’t and resorted to shenanigans instead.

          who might benefit from the exchange

          I’m all for that. I don’t see how pointing out dishonest arguments is harmful to the exchange.

        • Phil Rimmer

          They act like con men. Con men are a trivial reality. It’s not a leap to say that people who act like con men are con men.
          Show me one who doesn’t do this and I will not label them thus.

          I thought I wrote perfectly clearly at the outset. I excluded (almost) the entirety of American freemarket religionists, indeed all those with power or money to gain. But there were one or two folk on Strange Notions who publicly strove for some sort of personal integrity consonant with religion. These folk are not absolutists, are not clear about what they know. There are public debaters who also need to test their own ideas. They feel confident about some things and are assertive about these, but not others.

          As an aspie scientist, I am appalled at folk bringing feelings-only into the public space as adequate for directing public policy. (Against Empathy, Paul Bloom, … I’m on commission.) There are folk (not just religionists) who live pretty much orthogonally to me. A weird world with SJWs and intense feelers, animal rights supporters prepared to kill to stop the suffering, a logical systemiser’s nightmare. My reasonable, tried and tested processes of negotiation have very little traction there. Given this, blanket accusations of dishonesty, the use of dishonest, when you mean wrong, the expectation of congruent brain workings so facts must work like thus and so, is…is…so unskilled. This whole putative enterprise seems so unskilled, psychologically duff.

          [groupism] that seemed beneath you

          Then let me plunge in your estimation. I was certainly dismayed that you didn’t allow the possibility of a scintilla of decency with “a most” apologists.

          Edit. Look. What I’m rooting for is an approach to the disaster of modern religionists hinged far more on treating children morally, specifically, not stealing their adult choices for themselves. Arguing adults out of beliefs is indeed near impossible if not argued into them in the first place. The pushback being generated by trying to unmake adults may possibly be polarising with even more kids at risk of panicky religionist inoculation. We’ll win, substantially enough, in the end, but we might create generations of chaos. We can do better.

          Sam Harris early on suggested “going under the radar” as Atheists. Childhood indoctrination is the source of this disaster. Its the tap that needs to be turned off. Far more than dealing with the already damaged and their weird non-facts, we should be focusing on persuading people of the morality of free choice and educating children for that. We need and deserve (at this moment) the moral high ground to do this.

          Further edit. I think the ex-religionists here are clever, very clever. Too often they forget this. Most religionists can never make this same journey. Most folk love their kids though…

        • Show me an apologist in the last twenty years who doesn’t begin with their conclusion.

          Ironically, their own academy accentuates the problem. Their “scholars” are bound by faith statements. When they declare something to be true, is that the evidence or their faith statement talking?

        • TheNuszAbides

          most especially for the half religiously committed onlooker, who might benefit from the exchange.

          this is what i prefer to keep in mind when i’m actually concentrating on my disagreement with any given theological rabbit-hole.

        • adam

          “Think how they feel from the inside. ”

          You mean like:

          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lying_for_Jesus

          Rationalizing dishonesty for the ‘end goals’

        • Phil Rimmer

          No. I’m excepting the psychopath parasites. I’m talking of the larger number of, sad needy folk.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I don’t know why on earth you would want to discredit WLC’s bona fides???

          For me he’s the gift that keeps giving as one of the truest living scotsmen….

        • epeeist

          WLC is anything but honest.

          I think I would take a slightly different position to Mnb on this, people like Craig and many creationists may not be liars, but they are dishonest.

        • Susan

          Kierkegaard

          Probably.

          C.S. Lewis

          Possibly.

          WLC

          No.

          Luke B. maybe?

          No.

          We’re the least comfortable in a world deliberately engaging in fake news.

          That’s why it’s important to try to understand the motives and recognize the tactics of those who deliver it.

        • epeeist

          Kierkegaard, C.S.Lewis, the so honest its hideous WLC, Luke B even?

          But are, to paraphrase Plato, these people with the gods or with the earth giants.

          Are they seekers after truth, or Sophists looking for arguments to support an already committed-to position?

        • Phil Rimmer

          More critically are they believed by others, religious and non-, to be earnest strivers?

          This is all an exercise in psychological manipulation.

        • epeeist

          More critically are they believed by others, religious and non-, to be earnest strivers?

          Kierkegaard possibly; C.S. Lewis with his overblown analogies, not outside a particular group of Christians; WLC, definitely someone to whom truth does not matter.

        • epeeist

          This is all an exercise in psychological manipulation.

          Well yes, when it comes to figures at the evangelical end of Christianity I tend to think of Elmer Gantry.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Appearance of earnest striving is tested in its foundations by evidence of hypocrisy and evidence of a desire to manipulate by any means.

          Our own manipulations need scruples… as many as we can manage. What we do and how it is perceived is to be perceived by society at large. There is no surgical precision in these things, no freedom from secondary effects.

          This is bursting with downside and hostages to fortune….even as a thought experiment.

          Bona fides count, especially, as American political analysts horribly have it these days, the optics of them.

  • busterggi

    I’ve been channelling the late Christopher Hitchens and he tells me that he has converted since his death. I’d better write this stuff down.

    • Raging Bee

      Can you get Darwin to corroborate that?

      • Kevin K

        Well, if they converted on their death beds, they’re in heaven with Jeffrey Dahmer, so we could ask him as well.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    The ‘adventure’ would have to be carried out by someone not known in the Xtian world. A covert operative comes to mind, a sort of double agent to expose certain ‘inconsistencies’ in their doctrine. The amusement factor would be huge and yes there would be hurt feelings. So does hurting those feelings overcome the other factors? They indeed can be quite cruel, but to be cruel in return maybe should be weighed against the already perceived immorality of atheists.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I enjoy the idea of it, but it would just give some real world validity to the “Not a True Christian” argument.

    “Oh, that bad person isn’t a real Christian. He’s probably just faking it like that Bob Seidenwhatever guy was a few years ago.”

  • Raging Bee

    I’ve wasted enough of my life on weed and other stupid mistakes. No amount of money would justify wasting even more of it pretending I’m even stupider than I was when I was high all the time.

  • Matt Cavanaugh

    Or imagine prominent atheist intellectuals like Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker, Dan Barker, or Richard Carrier.

    Barker and Carrier are neither intellectuals nor prominent. Carrier is a laughing stock among serious scholars. I mean seriously, including in the same sentence Pinker, who’s written several best-sellers and regularly publishes scientific papers, who has his own lab at Harvard, with an itinerant speaker at meet-ups in pubs, the Rainman of PUAs, who can barely give away his self-published garbage?

    Or cocky and obnoxious atheist bloggers and speakers like PZ Myers

    I think PZ went way beyond mere ‘cocky and obnoxious’ and into ‘abhorrent pariah’ zone with his unsubstantiated rape accusations, and his defamation of mild-mannered & highly-respected atheist activist, Michael Nugent. No one reads his sad little blog anymore; does anyone other than Skepticon even invite him to speak?

    You need to get out more.

    • Brive1987

      The Chinese Govt recently invited PZ to an all expenses paid knees up ‘conference’ – which he greedily accepted. Never let a human rights basket case seeking intl legitimacy get in the way of dim sum and a day on the Wall eh?

      • Raging Bee

        Citation required.

        • Brive1987

          The Chinese snout in trough was a government run and funded effort to engage with and co-opt western scientists. This wasn’t mentioned on his blog and took serious Google fu on behalf of the Pit crew. Dave Silverman has been on the gravy train for years and took PZ along for the ride. Are you actually interested in the details or just “nerd of red heading”?

    • I haven’t been following PZ’s ups and downs, but that’s not really the point. For PZ to publicly come crawling to Christians and ask for forgiveness would be a red letter day for them. Just like Antony Flew suddenly became, in their eyes, the most prominent atheist philosopher of the 20th century (perhaps I exaggerate), I would think that on that day of PZ’s public outing himself, he’d become, in their eyes, the King of All Atheists.

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        Since PZ Myers long ago abandoned any scientific scruples to promulgate pseudo-science driven by his radical socio-political agenda, has formally renounced skepticism, has long indulged in broadcasting his sexual perversions, including tentacle rape porn and sharing erotic dreams about his students, has expressly condoned bestiality, and has publicly fantasized about murdering priests and disemboweling missionaries, I would pop a bottle of Dom were he to renounce atheism and thus cease embarrassing the rest of us.

        • Raging Bee

          Why? It’s not like he can compete with you in the “embarrassing the rest of us” department.

          Oh, and, citation required for all of your claims about PZ.

    • Raging Bee

      First, PZ’s rape allegations were not “unsubstantiated.” ANd second, why are you and other quasi-MRAs so obsessed with hating PZ and pretending he’s a vanquished foe?

    • Shatterface

      How dare you disparage Richard Carrier’s work!

      His peer reviewed On the Historicity of Jesus is the most profound work of biblical scholarship since Chariots of the Gods?

  • Pollos Hermanos

    You’re dealing with a group of people who are prone to buying Survival Buckets of processed slop from Jim Bakker.

    They’ll keep coming back for more no matter how thoroughly you burn them.

    • Sophia Sadek

      Burning them only makes them more convinced that atheists are agents of Satan.

  • Dangitbobby

    As an ex-christian for 7 years…a fundy from the Southern Baptist Church…who has seen churches be duped by con-men and shysters up and down…what you speak of could easily be done.

    If I didn’t have any scruples about lying about who I am, I could make myself pretty damn wealthy talking the christian talk really well.

    The biggest problem, besides morals and guilt, is the fact you would have to keep the facade really well. Still, it could be done.

    • That’s the problem that lots of people have raised: it would feel bad to deceive people. I get it.

      What I don’t get, however, is how we atheists, unbound by moral constraints, can rape and murder with abandon (as one does) and yet be reluctant to deceive. God only knows.

      • Kuno

        That’s a good point. If we atheists really had no morals, why don’t we see more of us trying this sort of con? As anyone asked an apologist that?

        • Raging Bee

          The apologist would probably say that whatever Christian con-artist was most recently exposed and had to be thrown under a bus, was actually an atheist — because TRUE CHRISTIANS don’t do that sort of thing, remember? — therefore that’s proof that atheists have no morals.

        • Pofarmer

          You actually don’t know how many might be.

        • Kuno

          Fair point.

      • Raging Bee

        It’s not just that we’d feel bad about deceiving people; it’s that we’d have to literally turn ourselves into the kind of people we hate and want desperately to avoid, just to make it work for more than a week. That’s something the KGB and CIA would train you to do over many years, to serve your country, not something just anyone can do to make a few extra bucks. If you want to get a hint at what such a scam would involve, just watch a few episodes of “The Americans.”

    • Kevin K

      I dunno. Peter Popoff seems to still be doing rather OK, even after being exposed as a charlatan by James Randi.

      So, you only have to get the grift going — once in motion, cons of this nature tend to stay in motion. Positively Newtonian of them.

  • Richard Sanderson

    PZ has gone so far down the plughole, it would not surprise me if he “found God”.

    But with his heart-on-the-sleeve intersectionalism (post-modern, illiberal Neo-Marxist BS), he would no doubt find Allah, rather than Yahweh. More SJW points available.

    But really, are these Christian box office flops still being made? Lee Strobel? Geez, I last heard that name circa 2010. Michael Behe will be crawling out of the creationist woodwork, next.

    • Jennifer Burdoo

      I have no idea what anything in your first two paragraphs mean.

      • Raging Bee

        He seems to have a rather unhealthy-sounding obsession with PZ. He can’t stop himself from dropping his Unholy Name in threads that have absolutely nothing to do with him, and has at least once called me a minion of PZ’s, based on only-the-Old-Gods-know what evidence. He also claims to have totally and permanently crushed PZ and all his SJW minions/allies in some titanic long-ago flame-war, from which he claims to have emerged as, in his words, I kid you not, “The King.” Still looking for a link to that thread, in case you need some head-scratching comic relief…

      • Raging Bee

        Here’s that link:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/04/03/a-sex-educator-offered-to-teach-free-classes-at-maryland-libraries-and-conservatives-freaked-out/

        Not sure what his problem is, but it’s definitely something he needs help with.

      • Richard Sanderson

        If you don’t know the background to that, then don’t worry too much.

        • Jennifer Burdoo

          It’s not that so much as the word salad.

  • Robert Templeton

    Let us not forget James Randi’s antics with Carlos the spirit channeler who, iirc, eventually became his life partner.

    • Of course! I’d forgotten. And then there was Project Alpha, in which Randi planted a couple of young men in a parapsychology lab. After a while, Randi even wrote them a letter, detailing the precise tricks the men were using and warning that these would be ways they could be deceived. The scientists wouldn’t listen.

      It’s fascinating how we can be confident that we’re not decieve-able. Another surprise: the scientists wouldn’t let go of the results even after the scam was revealed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Alpha

  • Damien Priestly

    Interesting and would be hilarious…but is advertising the idea here on the CrEx blog, then really such a good idea?

    • If it can become a popular topic, maybe we can poison the well even with no one doing the fake-conversion thing.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Bob:
    “I’m half thinking about this just as a fun thought experiment . . .”

    Chuck:
    Well, then think “fun thought experiment” all the way.

    Our planet is littered with enough deceit and fake news already.
    Lies and deceit are a form of social pollution.

    We already have too many people who think that being successfully persuasive is more important than giving priority to valuing the truth. This is generally what politicians and religionists do.

    Somewhere in the past, religions got going because people decided that being successfully persuasive justifies disrespecting the truth.

    • ORigel

      Once I hoped Paganism was true, specifically the Norse gods, and I tried to pray to Odin to ask him to reveal himself with actual empirical evidence. I could only manage one insincere sentence. I cannot manage to lie for a wholy year, even if I donate the money I make off it to charity, because it would be mental torture for me.

      I doubt anyone will take this up.

  • quinsha

    I am sorry, but I strongly suspect that this would mean that I would have to go to church again. I put in the first 18 years of my life going to Mass, I have put in my time. I will let someone who has not had the experience of calisthenics Catholicism while being woozy from incense try this.

  • Scott Weiser

    That’s all you’ve got, Bob? A deliberately concocted charade intended to “poison the well?” That is the single weakest argument in favor of Atheism I’ve ever seen.

    You cannot win on the facts so you propose undertaking outright fraud in your zeal to forward your own religiously-zealous big “A” religious Atheist conceits?

    Really?

    How…intellectual… of you…not.

    Trust me, I’m going to use your words against you in highlighting the tyranny of religious Atheism.

    • Joe

      You realize this isn’t serious, right?

      • Pofarmer

        Hes an apologist, so no.

        • Joe

          Of course, he’s used to accepting people’s word and not questioning anything.

    • That is the single weakest argument in favor of Atheism I’ve ever seen.

      Agreed, since it’s not an argument in favor of atheism.

      You cannot win on the facts

      No, we win on the facts. But thanks for your concern.

      If you’re new here, I suggest you click on the All Posts link at the top to see all the posts and their summaries. There are dozens of arguments against Christian arguments plus dozens more arguing the pro-atheist side.

      Go search for them if you’re looking for the arguments.

      Trust me, I’m going to use your words against you in highlighting the tyranny of religious Atheism.

      No idea what you’re talking about. But Godspeed.

    • RichardSRussell

      That’s all you’ve got, Bob?

      Uh, no … Bob’s got about 2-3 essays per week going back for many years. You’re new here, aren’t you?

    • Raging Bee

      Um…you did notice this was just one of many blog posts, right? So no, this isn’t all he’s got. Do you need me to tell you how to get to the other stuff he’s got?

  • Or you could have a few convert to something other than Christianity, or to the wrong kind of Christianity, and wait to see the reaction. In fact, if quite a few were doing it it would be worth comparing the reactions of different religious groups…

    • Raging Bee

      We could revive Gnosticism. Or maybe start a Church of Mary Magdalene. Or, if we’re feeling really silly, something directly plagiarized from a Dan Brown novel. The Langtonite Order of Symbol-Chasers?

  • Maine_Skeptic

    James Randi did something like this in Australia years ago, but it was not about religion. He masqueraded as a ‘famous psychic,’ and only after he became a minor sensation as a psychic, he revealed the truth.

    I see Randi’s psychic role as more benign than the thought experiment you’ve proposed. Why? People can more easily shed their beliefs about psychics. Australia wasn’t rooted in hundreds of years of culture protecting and glorifying specific false psychic beliefs. People weren’t taught by their parents that they had to believe in psychic gifts or they’d be bad people and they’d go to hell.

    So when Randi revealed the truth, he embarrassed and angered some people, but he hadn’t toyed with beliefs they considered central to their own identities.

    • islandbrewer

      More importantly, James Randi didn’t make bank as a psychic.

  • Something similar to this happened in the late 1800s. A French writer (pen name Leo Taxil) known for writing works that satirized Catholics supposedly converted to Catholicism and wrote a long history of Freemasonry that fed into Catholic fears about it. These were increasingly ridiculous-they took it seriously regardless. Finally he announced it was all made up, including his conversion. Yet despite this a lot of it’s quoted to this day by anti-Mason conspiracy theorists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9o_Taxil

    I’m not sure whether Taxil explicitly was an atheist, and he also wasn’t Mason from what I can tell. So it’s not completely parallel to your proposal, but similar enough I thought it was worth a mention.

    • Kevin K

      Heck, we have Whitley Strieber and his experience with “aliens” (a term he eschews).

      • I don’t think he says it was a scam.

        • Kevin K

          He did, however, admit to heavy drinking.

        • A scam and hallucinations are different things.

    • Mimc

      Yeah I think that is the main reason a scam like this wouldn’t work. They’d keep selling the conversation story book and sweep the confession of it being a hoax under the rug. And then you’ve only accomplished adding another terrible book to the world.

      • Yes, that is exactly what happened here. Few recall it was all made up. No doubt many would just claim he was lying, or blackmailed into saying that by the Masons.

  • RichardSRussell

    An interesting thot experiment is all it would ever be, and the only satisfaction you’d get out of it would be equally imaginary. If anyone actually tried it, the response would be the same as what happens whenever another apocalyptist predicts the end of the world and it doesn’t happen — the TBs would go right on citing it as evidence of the wonders of faith, some of them claiming it actually did happen and we’re too blind to see, others saying it was just a rounding error out there in the 5th decimal place and the True End will be coming up next week, still others ignoring the specifics of the failed prophecy and building a whole new religion out of the personality cult that grew up around the “prophet”, and so on.

    Do you have any idea how many letters (many of them in the original crayon) that the FCC still gets every year protesting Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s evil atheist plot to deny broadcasting licenses to all the religious radio stations in the US? These people are impervious to facts, history, and reasoning, but they sure know how to regurgitate propaganda.

  • BelieverEqualsMenace

    I can only disagree with you on lumping Matt Dillahunty into the same group as the ideological, extreme culture warrior PZ Myers and the rather goonish Aaron Ra. Matt has publicly advocated fair treatment of theists and their questions, and in most cases he has lived up to that on the Atheists Experience.

    • Sure, that’s fair. I’m simply trying to imagine how Christians see Matt. He has to handle some Christian callers harshly, which is why I’d imagine that Christians who know him might think that way. On the other hand, he’s done more speaking and videos lately, and he’s quite reasonable there IMO, so perhaps that’s his persona now.

  • heddle

    (unintended post sorry)

  • Phil Rimmer

    What a dick!

    What attracted me to declaring for Atheism was to help better do personal moral authorship.

    (Have I missed something here? I’m not good at jokes.)

    • If you find something that you missed, please let me know. As far as I can tell the answer is “no”, but I know that my judgment and research skills are of zero (or negative?) value to many of the people who comment on CE.

      • Phil Rimmer

        I’ll be honest. I’m not going to go looking. I’ll wait for some notification to popup, pointing me at the drollness of the conceit or whatever I have missed. I’ll let you know….

        Oh…….oh……….bum!

        • So apparently (1, 2) you can always exonerate yourself by declaring a morally questionable thing to be “a joke”.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Its a joke, but, 400+ comments later (not from me or responding to me), what if….

          …someone were to deceitfully “convert,” that deceit could be used to support the charge of “There you go–all atheists are liars” or something similar by Christians. However, if that made things difficult for the next shallow, unthinking Strobel, that might be a cost worth bearing.

          Its not a joke, its now officially a kite

    • BlackMamba44

      It’s a joke. He isn’t being serious.

    • Kevin K

      Yes, you’ve missed the fact that this is a joke.

  • Mr. A

    Oh, I’d love to try it. Unfortunately I’m not famous, so none of that yet.

  • islandbrewer

    Throw in the book deal, and maybe a short stint as a celebrity evangelist (tax free! ChaChing!$$$$$) and I’d do it!

    But alas, I’m not sufficiently famous.

  • MarquisDeMoo

    Sorry but in any conflict a decision has to be made as to whether to stick to the moral high ground or descend to the level of your enemy. Surely the attraction of atheism is that it does not need circular sophistry, tricks, lies, conniving and fakery to make its case, that as you point out is preserve of the religious. Fools are to be pitied and helped not humiliated.

    • Greg G.

      I think the picture of the winking girl between the headline and the article is a clue that the article is not a serious proposal.

      • MarquisDeMoo

        Ahh..I did think it an odd proposal for someone who usually has their feet on the ground. Ohh well I better go and find another Windmill to tilt at.

      • Phil Rimmer

        It is a thought experiment, but of worrying ineptitude and the shakiest of morals..

        The goal here isn’t to humiliate the Christian establishment, though that’s a satisfying side benefit. Rather, it’s to poison the well so that the next Lee Strobel conversion claim may not be so well received.

        This isn’t like the proof positive that the Christian establishment can banner that atheists lie to gain traction? Like the sheeple will actually think again about “the next Lee Strobel” where there is never a subsequent chink in the armour of the “deception”?

        OK. I’m stopping. Promise. Just……. very disappointed*.

        A good sulk will fix me.

        (* I lit Gary Oldman’s first theatre show, you know.)

        • It is a thought experiment, but of worrying ineptitude and the shakiest of morals.

          Perhaps you explained your concern in an earlier comment but I missed it. Could you elaborate?

        • Phil Rimmer

          At RichardDawkinsdotnet we had a very emotionally needy (then atheist) guy who took offense at our joking about a Russian evangelist who was proved horribly wrong in his predictions of world’s end in front of his clearly feeble minded flock. This chap became utterly distressed at our callous nature (it wasn’t particularly). He became religious (more accurately recovered his religion) and publicised far and wide his conversion. Many thought him dishonest especially because his accounts seemed decidedly skewed and self serving.

          I thought he was just exhibiting the kind of behaviour a somewhat unbalanced but very needy person would, ingratiating his way into a nominally “loving” group and needing to repeat the process to make it stick better.

          Reason, sometimes, is not our best ally among such folk. I think pulling a trick of feigning neediness to gain attention then throwing it back with an “Ah-ha” will be taken (and used) as an example of atheist deceitfulness, ignorant of “real neediness” and Christian compassion. Lee Strobel’s stolid position of remaining needy puts the lie to the accusation of a trick. Besides, he probably believes his story.

          As Dennett has it. Wrong as the tenets of religion are, religion may be some folks only shot at love, which pathetic possibility should make us try all the harder for a more rational compassion. (Paul Bloom. Against Empathy.)

        • I agree–if someone were to deceitfully “convert,” that deceit could be used to support the charge of “There you go–all atheists are liars” or something similar by Christians. However, if that made things difficult for the next shallow, unthinking Strobel, that might be a cost worth bearing.

          I also agree with your point that religion may provide hope to an otherwise hopeless person (and have said so several times in blog posts). That’s a separate issue.

        • Phil Rimmer

          However, if that made things difficult for the next shallow, unthinking Strobel, that might be a cost worth bearing.

          My inclination if you were to think that would be to suggest that that was a near insane risk and on behalf of us all… Cheers. But hey, I think reputations are like money in the bank. Nigh on impossible to get in there. The cinchiest things to let out.

          Neediness is precisely the motivator for some of these sad folk Deceit is more for those psychopath parasites Nor am I suggesting that Strobel isn’t such. I don’t know.

        • Ficino

          Didn’t Bob talk about this guy some years ago in a post about atheists who converted and whether they had sound reasons? Leah Libresco was also in that post, plus Anthony Flew.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I never see an “ex-atheist” who hits me where I live, who explains why my arguments are wrong from my perspective.

          Exactly. Two reasons. They were merely atheist not an Atheist. Like many who consider themselves religious but not a Religionist. There is an un-examined habit, an absence of thoughts or even feelings. Second. Its often about an aesthetic for living and a need for feelings.

          Richard Morgan, the self publicising “convert” at RDnet had the “rationale” in the phrase, which became a mantra: “Because He loved us first.”

          Expecting exchange on matters of rational fact, which are mostly just orthogonal to their basic needs, is going to be a disappointment.

          Brian Dalton best nails Strobel for me. He’s a journalist, but a terrible one. He can’t do the job and never could. These are lower IQ folk with a powerful and urgent investment in their own happiness, which is contingent upon keeping up the carapace of faith. Look, Taps the wall where the wooden joist is. Solid.

          Nothing could be a greater relief for them to think that Atheism needs to resort to trickery.

        • Ficino
  • Sophia Sadek

    Back in the day, the Church insisted that heretics repent. Once they repented they were still burned at the stake for fear that they were lying about their repentance.

    • Anat

      They were burnt so they would arrive purified for their judgment, or something along those lines. IIRC the repentant ones were sometimes killed before being burnt.

      • Pofarmer

        And keep in mind, these are the folks who believe in the “Intrinsic value of every human life.”

    • Darkstarr

      If they had their way, they’d STILL be burning heretics and apostates like me at the stake! “We must kill you because God is love!”

      This is why I consider Giordano Bruno to be my spiritual brother–he was burned at the stake for heresy for daring to ask why Jesus was able to get people to follow him by healing the sick, giving alms to the poor, etc. while the Catholic Church had to resort to fear, torture, and guilt trips. As the late Douglas Adams pointed out, “nobody likes a smart-alec.”

      • Sophia Sadek

        Carl Sagan sort of channeled Bruno when he spoke of the enormity of the universe. Are you familiar with the speculation that Bruno started the Rosecrucians?

  • Anat

    Have you asked Hemant? He already sold his soul on eBay.

    • Darkstarr

      That was foolish of him! I leased mine out for a lifetime plus a year and a day, with option to buy later. I even got a pretty good deal on it, too!

  • Eric Sotnak

    The thing about alleged conversions is that they are irrelevant to the evidential basis of belief. Suppose I say I used to believe the moon landings really happened, but after watching a bunch of YouTube videos, I have become convinced they were hoaxed. Does my conversion, however sincere, count as evidence that the moon landings were hoaxed? No.

    When someone says, “I used to believe x, but now I believe y” this is at best a set up for a presentation of reasons to accept y rather than x. The change in belief, itself, has no evidential value.

  • Duane Locsin

    with all scams, you just starve it of money.
    don’t buy the movie or purchase tickets and/or encourage others to see these kind of films for free.

    The best way I watch these scam films are from comedic reviewers and analysis from serious critics.

    I did this for
    ‘Gods not Dead’
    ‘Gods not Dead 2’
    ‘Expelled’
    and a whole lot of films intended for Christians only.

    (I say ‘only’ because their ample use of cheap apologist tactics- projection, strawmans, half truths, out right lies, lack of evidence etc.. is appealing more to enforcing fundamentalist beliefs)

  • Thomas Goodnow

    Or maybe we could just examine the arguments themselves and not give a flying f*ck about what some celebrity Christian/atheist believed/believes?

  • Darkstarr

    I’d join in as a neopagan, but I can’t lie nearly as well as William Schnoebelen. Sorry!

    For those of you not in the know:
    http://www.masonicinfo.com/schnoebelen.htm
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/William_Schnoebelen
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2015/05/the-rantin-raven-i-met-bill-schoebelen-and-lived/
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2016/12/07/the-cult-of-before-stories-desperate-for-relevance/

    This guy is so pathological that I’ve decided that evangelical wingnuts deserve an award named after him for coming up with the most blatantly irrational and insane comments possible, such as Pat Robertson insisting that women who practice feminism worship satan and become lesbians or Ken Hamm insisting that dinosaurs went extinct because Noah wouldn’t let them on the Ark!

    • Deryl Fisher

      Well would you have let them big limbering beasts on the Ark? I sure wouldn’t have. They could do some real damage!

      • Greg G.

        That’s why they were all on Ark II but the whole herd migrated to starboard, causing it to capsize.

      • Darkstarr

        Well, considering that they went extinct millions of years ago, the problem solved itself, didn’t it now? ^_^

        • Deryl Fisher

          But, But, But didn’t Barney and hus buds ride around on them? Doesn’t the Bible mention them? Leviathan I believe was the Biblical name for them. Come on if the wrold was invented with the flick of an eye just 7 or so thousand years ago how could the dinos have gone extinct millions of years ago? You are letting reality impinge on your faith! Back off of that. No reality allowed here!

        • Darkstarr

          I don’t have faith. And if reality isn’t allowed here, then I should just go back to my science fiction. You’ll excuse me while I go catch the Dr. Who marathon on BBCAmerica, won’t you?

  • Craig Reynolds

    Discussed with an acquaintance of mine this current movie and its predecessor movie of the same title, and that product’s origin in the book – of the same title yet again,. Also noted the wealth of “study guides” and support materials generated in support of these features, all of them incorporating again that same title with the self-same pitch about the author’s revelations. My associate observed that all this activity reveals a classic case of narcissism – this enterprise is not at all about the Christ story/myth; it’s all about “ME!”

    • Maybe Strobel should take the advice of praying in a closet instead of in public like the hypocrites.

      • Duane Locsin

        if it’s a scam, no rational argument is going to ‘convince’ them, especially when incredulity heavily relies on a big pay check.

  • Duane Locsin

    there would clearly be other motives behind such a scam and most likely be $$$$$$ or some severe emotional vulnerabilities.

    think S.E. Cupp (an Atheist that constantly credits and praises Christian Religion, yet begs the question why isn’t she a Christian Theist herself?)

    The arguments against Religious beliefs and claims stand by itself regardless of who, how many and how famous spokespeople are for a movement.

    it would stand to reason, especially in this day and age that if well known sceptic Atheists were to ‘miraculously’ become a Christian Theist, they would have to answer the very scepticism and questions they have brought forth on a sufficient level and they would have to be incredibly special to present the fundamental
    crux that Religion fails time and time again to provide:

    extra-ordinary evidence
    demonstration

  • I’ve heard a similar story about astrology. Someone professor was hired to disprove it, he come to believe it due to the amount of information that appeared to be “right.”

    It’s extremely tempting to fake a conversion. But the backlash from within the skeptic and atheist communities could be huge, especially since we (in the general sense) prefer facts and not to be deceived. Imagine if christians did that to the atheist community. The loss of trust within the community would be phenomenal. It’s one thing to expose fraud, it’s another to masquerade one’s self as the opposition.

    But it would not surprise me if people “convert” in order to line their pockets (which is equally dishonest). As the heaven tourism books prove, it’s a huge market.