Christian Magic Doesn’t Work if You Don’t Believe It

video gameA Finnish karate master can defeat opponents without a punch or kick (see video on The Friendly Atheist). He used what he calls “Empty Force.”

You can, too—for a fee.

The video shows opponents falling to the floor, but these were students of the master. When he tried his magic on skeptics, nothing happened.

The Friendly Atheist noted that the students falling to the ground in response to the master’s touch was like Benny Hinn’s celebrated public healings, where sick believers are “slain in the Spirit” as they fall back and writhe on the floor in response to Hinn’s magic wave. But you have to be a believer for it to work—or be in on the scam. When faith healers do their mumbo jumbo on children, the children don’t know that they’re supposed to flop backwards. Hilarious!

What if the opponent isn’t your own student?

Another example is Kiai Master Ryukerin, who has a touchless energy technique similar to Empty Force. Here’s a demonstration of the master sparring with and knocking over his students.

It looks like a stunt but is still intriguing. How would this work in an actual fight? Surprisingly, Master Ryukerin was confident enough not only to offer to fight anyone but to put up prize money. An MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter accepted the challenge, and the results are predictable. Though respectful, he quickly thrashed the old man. The magic force field was only in the mind of his students and had no hold over an outsider.

The Christian energy field

The naïve Christian street preacher or door-knocking missionary is similar to Master Ryukerin. They care what the Bible says, so they’ll support their argument with Bible quotes. They had a compelling personal experience of Jesus, so they’ll share it. They are swayed by emotional (rather than intellectual) arguments, so they’ll use them.

They’ll talk about how the church community is important to them, or that the pastor is charismatic. It works on them, so it should work on others, right?

But this has as much impact on skeptics who demand evidence as Master Ryukerin’s energy field does to a fighter not in on the gag.

More experienced evangelists faced with such an atheist may try intellectual arguments or move on to look for easier conquests.

Christians know what I’m talking about when it comes to cult leaders like Jim Jones or disgraced televangelists like Jim Bakker. They might enjoy a video of Benny Hinn fighting demons with video game sound effects. How could people have not seen through them? But, of course, to the people in their circles of influence, these frauds were very persuasive.

As was Master Ryukerin to his students.

If your religious faith 
is what stops you from raping and murdering, 
that doesn’t make you a good person, 
that makes you a sociopath on a leash.
— commenter Sven2547

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 1/20/14.)

Image credit: VGjunk

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  • Sophia Sadek

    That is only because Christian magic is powerless against those who are firmly under the spell of the evil One, like children and rational adults.

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    The idea that X only works if you believe in X is curious; in addition to religion, it applies to money, to civil rights, and to professional sports. One can of course stoke belief in falsehood and then kinda-sorta reify it as a collective delusion (stock market bubbles come to mind), but one can also stoke belief in truth and then reify it in awesome ways—see Francis Bacon’s prophecies of what science could do, prophecies which took 200 years to come true. Had enough people not believed in that particular X, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      So you’re saying that Christian magic does work if you believe it? As far as I can tell, you would get the same poor results praying to your god as praying to an old stump.

      • MadScientist1023

        It might “work” the way a placebo “works”. A placebo might not have any biochemical effect, but there have been plenty of cases where a placebo somehow helps a patient.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          If the patient believes it’s helping, sometimes that’s enough to remove stress, to a point where the lack of stress contributes to faster healing. But that doesn’t mean the placebo itself has healing powers – it just means a reduction in stress does, but that’s hardly a surprise.

        • MadScientist1023

          That’s an oversimplified version of what’s happen, but the basic gist of it. If it really were as simple as just “removing stress”, the standard treatment for any disease would be soothing music and massage therapy. There’s obviously something more complicated going on, but it undoubtedly occurring because of the patient, not the treatment. The treatment itself is nothing, be it sugar pill or faith healing.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          “If it really were as simple as just “removing stress”, the standard treatment for any disease would be soothing music and massage therapy.”

          Well, the problem is, it’s not really as simple as that. One person’s “soothing music” might be another’s “appalling elevator muzak”, and one person’s “massage therapy” might be another’s “Hey, don’t touch me, you pervert!” 😀

        • Michael Neville

          Some years ago some bright executive in my company decided that piping music into the back offices would improve productivity or some such benefit. Within a day people were complaining about the music, saying it was a distraction and pointing out that different tastes in music meant that some of the music would be irritating for those who didn’t care for the particular music being played. The music was stopped the next day.

        • Greg G.

          A pedicure would be a good stress reliever if it didn’t leave my toenails that shade of pink.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i always (= that one time in college) go with black.

        • Greg G.

          Lemme guess. Rocky Horror Picture Show?

        • TheNuszAbides

          nah, that was a few years earlier, and that crew didn’t *quite* rope me in, even though a few already-friends were involved. (NGL, i was built to play Rocky … at the time /humblebrag)

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        Prayer to God-as-genie? Prayer as God getting me more of what I want? We’ve been over this, Bob.

        • Greg G.

          Yet many Christians insist their prayers are being answered. Of course, they don’t account for every prayer that was not answered but confirmation bias tells them it works most of the time, even if it is just at the law of averages and blind squirrel level of coincidence.

        • adam

          Hey, God helps my wife find her keys and good parking spaces.

          Not to mention ‘bargains’.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t tell my wife about the bargains method. Please!

          We visited my sister and we went to the mall so they could bond while shopping. I spent an hour and half in the food court when they called to say they were finished. I was leading the way through one set of doors when I heard my wife say, “Oh! 70% off!”

        • al kimeea

          Facebook teems with memes of this sort. One recently imparted how the individual will never be convinced that prayer doesn’t work.

        • Tommy

          Yeah because True Believers ™ like yourself know how to properly summon all powerful all knowing all loving imaginary beings. LOL.

        • Michael Neville

          The True Believers™ also know that the creator of hundreds of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars and planets has deep concerns about whether or not traffic lights turn green before the believers reach them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Oh, yeah–my bad. I forgot about the typo in the verse that says, “Ask and ye shall receive.” And those other verses.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          “God, please destroy the world.” Yep, God was obliged to answer such prayers by what is written. Makes total sense.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Jesus, why do you supervise your employees raping children and not call the cops at the bare minimum? Please, repent of your SINS! Amen.” Yep, God was obliged to answer such prayers by what is written. Makes total sense.

        • adam
      • Giauz Ragnarock

        The refridgerator prayer experiment works wonders!

        • Greg G.

          There must be a milk jug inside for it to work, I believe.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          One cannot underestimate the power of smoked gouda, either.

        • Greg G.

          Damn, now Ima gonna go get two packages of smoked gouda. One to be released into the wilderness and the other will be sacrificed. One of my new deepest desires will be satisfied.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          How did you know my name is ‘the wilderness’ and ‘sacrificed’ is a common phrase in my family for ‘the wilderness is planning to eat that later. He’ll be pissed if you violate the sanctity of the dibs!’?!!?

          This whole refridgerator prayer mojo continues to really freak me out, Greg. Whatever you do, don’t touch the Soy Sauce! Its side effects last for a few hours, but its effects will last my entire life… maybe longer…

    • Anthrotheist

      I think you may be conflating the concepts of believe versus agree. We agree to abide by civil rights, professional sports, and money exchange. Their power is in that continued consent en masse, not because of any objective force that any of them produce in the natural world beyond the consenting society. The karate students similarly consent to the sensei’s power, while the MMA fighter did not.

      To that end, religion “works” for those who consent to its requirements (including going along with prayer, faith healings, etc.), what religion, God, and so on fail to produce is any result outside that consent.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        I’m pretty sure that Francis Bacon’s belief was more than just what you call agreement. And it was belief well ahead of confirming evidence:

        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)

        We could generalize this as the process of “actualizing potential abilities of humans and nature”. There is a crucial extra-mental component. The system is open, not closed.

        • Anthrotheist

          Even if the Royal Society had never produced tangible technologies, it was continuously producing knowledge through its activities: “dissecting animals, and exploding metal spheres, and refracting light, and describing gravity … and a lot of it was correct…”

          Christianity has produced no knowledge in two thousand years. It has been so well funded that some brilliant minds, having no other publicly supported institution available, has paid lip service to Christianity for the opportunity to pursue the creation of knowledge (most of them, it seems, monks; i.e., those who don’t have to hold services and take confessions and conspicuously promote the faith).

          If you are making an argument, it is for publicly funding universities and the academic world, and not hoping that corporate R&D — with its sole focus on utilizable results — will continue to further positive production of knowledge. You are not arguing for faith that fails to produce even abstract results.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Christianity has produced no knowledge in two thousand years.

          I’m well-aware that you can define ‘knowledge’ to ensure the above sentence is true. What you conveniently ignore is that the following does not necessarily take any such ‘knowledge’:

          The Dutch historian Jan Romein coined the phrase “the common human pattern” to denote some features of society and culture that can be found throughout history. The modern West deviates sharply from this common pattern, not least in the character and degree of individuation. This is the sound empirical foundation for the claim that Western individualism is an aberration; the common pattern has the individual tightly bonded within his community. (A Far Glory, 101)

          And yet, it’s not clear that modern science would be possible without escaping that “common human pattern”. I find that atheists I encounter in places like this tend to under-appreciate the sociological and psychological prerequisites for scientific endeavor. These prerequisites tend not to involve ‘knowledge’. And yet, the Bible seems rather concerned with them. It is as if doing science is much easier than treating one’s fellow human beings decently.

          You are not arguing for faith that fails to produce even abstract results.

          Tell that to T.H. Huxley:

              Elsewhere, Huxley described the Bible as the foundation of modern freedom, including the scientist’s liberty of enquiry. “Throughout the history of the western world,” he wrote in a late essay, “the Scriptures, Jewish and Christian, have been the great instigators of revolt against the worst forms of clerical and political despotism. The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and of the oppressed; down to modern times, no State has had a constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account.” It was “the most democratic book in the world.” The Bible, he continued, “insists on the equality of duties, on the liberty to bring about that righteousness . . . [and] on the fraternity of taking thought for one’s neighbour as for oneself.” “That one should rejoice in the good man, forgive the bad man, and pity and help all men to the best of one’s ability, is surely indisputable,” asserted the agnostic. “It is the glory of Judaism and of Christianity to have proclaimed this truth, through all their aberrations.” (The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, 187)

          I guess he’s just hilariously wrong?

        • Anthrotheist

          Regarding individualism, it seems to me more a feature of post-neolithic society in general than modern/post-modern in particular. Socrates: “Know Yourself”; Hinduism: personal and eternal Karma. Modernity appears to have amplified nearly every aspect of society, and individualism is no exception. You don’t explain the “sociological and psychological prerequisites for scientific endeavor.” Perhaps you could connect that to how science is easier than treating people with decency? Or for that matter why one would have to choose between the two?

          I do find it interesting that you have encountered atheists in places like this, and yet still pull out an apologetic account of the Bible. Most atheists, in my experience, have looked at what is in the Bible and concluded that you can attribute nearly any philosophy to some part or parts of its writings. It has been used to justify defying despotism in exactly the same way it has been used to justify perpetuating despotism. If anything distinguishes Western culture from those that weren’t exposed to Abrahamic religions, it generally comes down to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Make a solid case for why those things could not have happened without the Bible, and you will get atheists’ attention.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Regarding individualism, it seems to me more a feature of post-neolithic society in general than modern/​post-modern in particular.

          Are you quite sure that Jan Romein is wrong with what he characterizes as “the common human pattern”? I’ve had some troubles getting access to his paper, but I do have some understanding of “the individual tightly bonded within his community”. For example, do your rights come from your position in society, or do they exist no matter who you are in society? The latter appears to be a rather new thing—MacIntyre claims it only shows up at the close of the middle ages (After Virtue, 66–67).

          Another way to look at this is to ask where our moral sources come from—inside, or outside? We Westerners are very used to replying, “Inside!” And yet, this was not always so. Anthropologists know this, as well as many historians. But unless you’re one of them or have read something like Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self (11,000 ‘citations’), it’s easy to think that humans in millennia past understood themselves rather like us, but with worse science and technology.

          You don’t explain the “sociological and psychological prerequisites for scientific endeavor.”

          I don’t have an exhaustive list, but here is one I presented to Phil recently:

          LB: And I take there to be quite a few social prerequisites: (i) some sufficient approximation of egalitarianism; (ii) a balanced focus on both the theoretical and the practical; (iii) belief that humans are well-suited to understanding reality increasingly well; (iv) a belief that there is that much more to discover; (v) fortitude to embark on a path of discovery which may not bear significant fruit for two hundred years.

          The idea is that we were not destined to do science, and we could royally screw it up at any time. This means we need explanations for why things are stable enough and why the conditions are right for us to be able to do science. But getting these things right is not clearly a matter of what you call “knowledge”, and so if Christianity had any role in them, it could be possible for (a) Christianity to have not produced any ‘knowledge’; (b) Christianity to have contributed profoundly to science.

          Perhaps you could connect that to how science is easier than treating people with decency? Or for that matter why one would have to choose between the two?

          I took your “Christianity has produced no knowledge in two thousand years.” as meaning to indicate that “Christianity has delivered nothing of value in two thousand years.”—was I incorrect?

          If anything distinguishes Western culture from those that weren’t exposed to Abrahamic religions, it generally comes down to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Make a solid case for why those things could not have happened without the Bible, and you will get atheists’ attention.

          This is a ridiculously high standard. My guess is that you’re basically saying that the Renaissance and Enlightenment were great things, and though they happened largely in Christendom, Christianity can take zero credit for anything in them unless it can be shown that it was absolutely necessary for them. I’m unaware of where else this standard is used.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          I think it’s interesting that Christian apologists so frequently try to claim that Christianity should be given credit for the advances in scientific knowledge gained during the enlightenment, simply because the scientists doing the work happened to be Christians. They seem to ignore the fact that: 1, if anyone renounced or denounced Christianity, they would risk being hanged or burned at the stake; and 2, any scientist whose findings disagreed with church doctrine would be in danger of being burned at the stake.

          It’s kinda like ISIS making the claim that terrorism is beneficial because Islamic doctors exist.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          … Christian apologists so frequently try to claim that Christianity should be given credit for the advances in scientific knowledge gained during the enlightenment …

          Have I done that?

          They seem to ignore the fact that: 1, if anyone renounced or denounced Christianity, they would risk being hanged or burned at the stake; and 2, any scientist whose findings disagreed with church doctrine would be in danger of being burned at the stake.

          Hmmm, it’s like I wrote this a month ago:

          LB: What I do wish to question is whether we should call Newton “deeply religious”, given his Arianism. Would he not have been burned at the stake, or at least his ability to do science been greatly limited, had this Arianism been made widely known?

          That’s on the Catholic site Strange Notions.

        • Anthrotheist

          It seems we agree that our morality does not come from the individual; where I suspect we disagree is that I believe it also does not come from outside society. As for why things are stable enough — with the right conditions — to do science, I would argue that conditions in which science could not be done are also conditions in which life could not develop to the level of complexity needed to produce a science-capable organism. Science does explore the explanations for these conditions, and they absolutely are a matter of what I would call “knowledge.”

          As far as Christianity delivering nothing of value, that would be a gross overstatement. For the most part, I think Christianity advocates a path of peace, compassion, and fellowship: what I grew up learning was “Christ-like.” It’s the arbitrary, bronze-age woo-woo that goes along with that essentially simple and positive philosophy that most atheists object to. We don’t need to be born into sin to be good to each other, we don’t need salvation to be good to each other, etc. In fact, it seems obvious to many that it is far, far easier to be good to each other than to practice Christianity, to paraphrase your earlier question. I do believe a great many good people gravitated to the church as a means to do good in the world. I don’t believe at this point in time that the church is necessary to do that good, and the aforementioned woo-woo interferes with doing so.

          As far as the Renaissance, and more importantly the Enlightenment, Christian philosophy absolutely played a part in their development; it just didn’t play as large a part as ancient Greek philosophy or intellectual counter-Christianity. (so buku credit for being the philosophy to beat!)

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          In light of the conversation to-date, would you be willing to explain what you meant by the following:

          A: Christianity has produced no knowledge in two thousand years.

          ?

          I’m afraid I lack a specific enough referent for “bronze-age woo-woo” to respond. If you mean to refer merely to beliefs not founded in the evidence, I’ll bet you have plenty of those. If you mean beliefs not in keeping with Enlightenment dogma, then we can talk about why that particular dogma is better than any other dogma.

        • Anthrotheist

          I admit, I was being condescending with the “woo-woo” bit. I do feel regret on that count, I was needlessly unkind; but don’t believe I was incorrect in my evaluation. For my unkindness, I am sorry.

          As far as knowledge, it seems to me to come down to taking a subjective experience (such as perceiving evidence or considering an idea), and finding a way to make it objective (that is, acceptable and hopefully irrefutable to anyone regardless of personal subjective experience). Making that evidence or idea universal makes it accessible and useful to anyone, any place or time. This is what I consider “knowledge.” Example: when you release an object that isn’t supported, it falls toward the ground until it comes to rest on something; that is a universally known phenomena. Newton studied that effect and devised formulas that explain it quite precisely; he produced new knowledge about a universally known phenomena, and his conclusions hold true anywhere (on earth) even hundreds of years later (though they have been improved with greater precision and understanding about variation).

          Texts such as the Bible describe very particular subjective experiences that serve no utility to anyone else, outside of prompting the reader’s own subjective experiences. Let me be clear, as a rule there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! It is true of any inspirational or entertaining work, and they have great utility to their audience. It is when someone takes the Bible and tries to assert that it contains knowledge (as I described anyway), or derives ideas from the Bible with little or no other source for inspiration, that people like me (atheists, generally) loudly protest. Those ideas in the Bible that have been considered or demonstrated in such a way that they are universally understandable, are as a whole universally accepted even by atheists. Generally, though, those ideas are also not unique to the Bible (such as the love proposed by Jesus).

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I admit, I was being condescending with the “woo-woo” bit.

          Oh I don’t particularly care about the condescension aspect; what I care about is whether you can turn that into a well-articulated referent which does not also refer to anything which you Brights may believe. Basically, I want to see if the implicit “they believed in silly things; we don’t” is true. This should be easy for you, as I’m infected by a mind virus while you aren’t.

          Making that evidence or idea universal makes it accessible and useful to anyone, any place or time. This is what I consider “knowledge.”

          Why does utility have anything to do with what is knowledge? Consider that people with pathetic desires and pathetic imaginations will not find a great many things “useful”.

          Your requirement of “universal” would seem to drastically reduce what could reasonably be called “knowledge”. After all, there are a great number of things that people know which is only true in some particular domain. The philosophy of science formalization is Ceteris Paribus Laws. But you seem to want to rule out what is sometimes called “local knowledge”. One of the results of this restriction of yours would be that if you were dropped into the middle of twelfth century Europe, you probably wouldn’t “know” enough to appreciably help them with science.

          If you want to read some science on how damaging that “universal” requirement is, check out Doing Research that Makes a Difference.

          Texts such as the Bible describe very particular subjective experiences that serve no utility to anyone else, outside of prompting the reader’s own subjective experiences.

          This claim is refuted by works such as Joshua A. Berman’s Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought and Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. I can summarize, if you’d like. The idea that all the Bible does is inspire and entertain is really laughable on its face, but I can make a rational case that you’re quite wrong if you have the patience.

        • Anthrotheist

          To your first point: do you believe that we do not not, 2000 years later, have a clearer understanding of the universe that we live in and how it works? How do you explain aircraft without acknowledging that our understanding of physical forces is far better than our ancient ancestors’? 2000 years ago, it wasn’t silly to believe that the sun was a giant flaming chariot wheel riding across the sky, there was no better explanation to compete with that belief. It seems to me very silly to believe today in such outdated –though remarkably imaginative — superstitions.

          Regarding utility: it has been my experience that people who would find no use for a certain knowledge tend not to waste their time on such knowledge. I think that’s true for everyone; I have no reason to know all the bones, muscles, vessels, nerves, and organs of the body, but I sincerely hope that my doctor finds such knowledge indispensable. Something isn’t purely useful or not, it is conditional.

          My notion of “universal” refers to physical science, your point of “local knowledge” is a consideration in social science. I studied Anthropology for a couple of years before changing my major of study, and I still struggle to reconcile social science methodology; it cannot be the same as physical science, nor can its knowledge be considered “universal” in the same regard. The article you linked was quite interesting, and I find myself intrigued by its potential. The combination of macro-level knowledge (the representational) with micro-level familiarity (the practical) seems at least to be intuitively sensible to me. Your argument reflects my distaste for the notion of “human nature”, which would imply universal behaviors for humans, as opposed to socialized norms dictating one’s “nature.”

          As for the Bible being more than inspiration or entertainment, it is my understanding that at one time it contained the laws of society. It does not fulfill that function any longer, at least for me here in the U.S. As far as its benefits to social equality, it seems to me that sharp divisions of “have” versus “have-not” are never sustainable in the long run. If it hadn’t been the Bible, it could have been Buddha, Socrates, or any other sufficient philosophy. The Bible being “the one” that was used to justify movement toward equality does not mean that the Bible is “the only one” that could have sufficed.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          To your first point: do you believe that we do not not, 2000 years later, have a clearer understanding of the universe that we live in and how it works?

          Obviously we have a better understanding of some things. We probably have a worse understanding of others (e.g. how rational people are, or what “rationality” really is). Unless you can argue that there is pretty much nothing in the second category, your “bronze-age woo-woo” would appear to be profoundly unscientific.

          Regarding utility: it has been my experience that people who would find no use for a certain knowledge tend not to waste their time on such knowledge.

          That’s not the point; the point is if they can’t find a use for it, is it even “knowledge”?

          My notion of “universal” refers to physical science, your point of “local knowledge” is a consideration in social science.

          Sure. And if you are interested in the social underpinnings of successful science, then you will care about the latter. Recall that this was launched in part by my saying “I find that atheists I encounter in places like this tend to under-appreciate the sociological and psychological prerequisites for scientific endeavor.” I suspected that you were using a very specific notion of “knowledge” and my suspicions are being corroborated.

          Your argument reflects my distaste for the notion of “human nature”, which would imply universal behaviors for humans, as opposed to socialized norms dictating one’s “nature.”

          Ummm, tabula rasa is dead. See Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and Donald E. Brown’s Human Universals. This is perfectly consistent with socialization being quite powerful.

          As for the Bible being more than inspiration or entertainment …

          I will pay attention to your claim that it is nothing but “inspiration or entertainment” if you can support it with the burden of proof.

          The Bible being “the one” that was used to justify movement toward equality does not mean that the Bible is “the only one” that could have sufficed.

          This seems to have absolutely nothing to do with your original question:

          A: Christianity has produced no knowledge in two thousand years.

          Perhaps you would like to rephrase, to something like:

          (X) You cannot prove that had Christianity not existed, something else [less offensive/​obnoxious to me, Anthrotheist] could not possibly have sufficed to get us the nice things we have now in a similar (or better) time frame.

          Of course, (X) is a ridiculous thing to ask someone to prove.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The idea that all the Bible does is inspire and entertain is really laughable on its face

          Are you working with a very narrow definition of “inspire”? Because I don’t see why that quality alone isn’t perfectly adequate justification (even merely “on its face”) to keep just about anything in print. Is there something any scripture needs to do other than inspire?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I think it tells us truths about ourselves—individuals and societies—which we frequently don’t want to hear. For example, those intellectuals who were glorying in how awesome the West had become in the decades leading up to WWI were in lala land when it comes to human nature. N.B. I don’t mean to imply that humans are horribly, terribly evil. Sin is rather more subtle than that. For example, just a smidgen of felt superiority can go a long way.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I think it tells us truths about ourselves—individuals and societies—which we frequently don’t want to hear.

          okay … but that isn’t particularly special, either. (not that I was asking for an appeal to special-ness, of course, but still.)

          those intellectuals who were glorying in how awesome the West had become
          in the decades leading up to WWI were in lala land when it comes to
          human nature.

          And? Are you a fan of “prophecy” as well? Was something more notable about this period of folly compared to any other – perhaps the fact that they were referring to something as broad as “the West”? Sure, pride is often the easiest balloon to laugh at or despair over, before, during and after any given fall; do we observe the bible obviously reining in earlier, supposedly-less-secular cultures from comparable silliness/blindness/what-have-you? (It doesn’t seem to have had measurable utility in putting the brakes on war, either … or have you got compelling stats saying otherwise?)

          Sin is rather more subtle than that.

          Sin as a distinct concept – let alone a necessary precursor to the formulation of a moral code – surely does require subtlety to survive extended scrutiny. I do hope we’re not about to be treated to the unfalsifiable whoppers of Moroney’s ilk. But if you’d care to make a case for its significance as anything more profound or insidious than anti-social behavior … ? I can’t promise Bob won’t call Topic Drift, of course. (I’ve certainly forgotten the main thrust of the OP by now.)

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          but that isn’t particularly special

          Why is specialness relevant? If in fact we fuck up on the most boring things time and time and time and time again, then what we most need is someone to point that out, not to be “particularly special”. Well, unless you think the mode of correction ought to be by force. Should God carry out a “shock and awe” campaign against us? Because we know that works fantastically well.

          Are you a fan of “prophecy” as well?

          Based on what I think you mean by the term, no.

          Was something more notable about this period of folly compared to any other …

          Our apparent inability to learn from it, combined with the incredible amount of self-congratulation we engage in, may just be unique. Sustained hypocrisy is perhaps the best way to destroy humans’ ability to believe that ideals may be approached.

          do we observe the bible obviously reining in earlier, supposedly-less-secular cultures from comparable silliness/​blindness/​what-have-you?

          Things are contested enough that I know of no such “obviously”. Then again, “why Rome fell” is plenty contested, so I’m not sure what the value of that is. I do have dreams of building software that provides a platform for “competitive storytelling” about such matters, where e.g. you can see which facts two sides agree on, disagree on, or where one includes and the other omits.

          Sin as a distinct concept – let alone a necessary precursor to the formulation of a moral code – surely does require subtlety to survive extended scrutiny.

          This is indeed its own big topic; I am content with my “N.B.” for now.

        • Otto

          Welcome to the Luke shit show. I give you a A for effort and an A for content as well as patience.

        • adam
        • Phil Rimmer

          This is a just terrible model of what happened. Involvement in science and technology simply grew at at an exponential rate from the moment warfare and trade and KIngs started to invest in it. As I quoted John Gribbin, scientists roughly increased an order of magnitude per century as they demonstrated their return on investment..

          Robert Hooke was the technologist who invented long distance travel as a service, working for years and through a huge number of trials to perfect damped suspension for coaches that didn’t make people sick. The mail service and inter-county commerce added to national wealth considerably. Harrison invented numerous technologies for the robust sea-going chronometer, including bi-metal temperature compensating mechanisms, perfecting global navigation and the British dominance of the seas and trade. Believe me I can go on. Savery, Newcomen, Darby…to say nothing of the scientists….

          That source is quite dreadful, Luke

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          …and it is flawed even if Luke’s description were accurate. It’s a terrible analogy either way.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          This is a just terrible model of what happened.

          I’m open to that being possible, but I’m inclined to trust a historian with a degree over the short little refutation you’ve provided.

          Involvement in science and technology simply grew at at an exponential rate from the moment warfare and trade and KIngs started to invest in it. As I quoted John Gribbin, scientists roughly increased an order of magnitude per century as they demonstrated their return on investment..

          You still have to account for why this didn’t happen earlier. It’s very easy to see the value of science now; hindsight is 20/20.

          That source is quite dreadful, Luke

          Do you have better sources, preferably peer-reviewed? I’ve long been meaning to dive more intensely into this, as I’m quite interested in the actual preconditions of science (in contrast to dogma on the topic).

        • Phil Rimmer

          Essentially there is no reason for it starting in England earlier than it did, having no culture of empirical science or technical innovation to build on.(I believe these two are related.) It needed to be introduced from outside.

          Islamic culture was the source we now realise.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scientific_method#Emergence_of_inductive_experimental_method

          It is to be noted that Roger Bacon had little time for his contemporaries but rated, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd very highly. The experimental inductive / mode was gifted to him.

          From this single seed it takes a while for a supportive culture to grow and in a poor backwater at the edge of the world being behind the curve is a fairly natural state. Then a stunning blow, the Black Death dramatically knocks the stuffing out of the sorry place. Poverty and mere survival cast a long shadow.

          Indeed, the slow rebuilding of wealth and some decent trade gets its first real push when psycho-bully Henry VIII falls out with Rome and effectively most of Europe and prodigious defences are needed. Ships and clever Castle defences on the south coast. Cue prodigious manufacturing for war, and the need for all the skills to support it. Elizabeth I builds on this, transforming the status of the country into the owner of the high seas and a rather piratical acquisition of others wealth. Soon enough we can cue Bacon II and the exponential growth of technologists. The seventeenth century, almost immediately after Bacon II explodes into inventive growth.

          http://theinventors.org/library/inventors/bl1600s.htm

          (Actually quite a parsimonious list.)

          (Europe started earlier than England, (Italy, Spain) had its own wars of course, but being far more small principalities ultimately didn’t have the ability to try so extensively and persistently, with the benefit of very high internal resources and island defenses.)

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          This is a helpful start, but I’m trying to figure out how to check it against historians. After all, surely you know it is easy to spin a compelling tale with carefully selected details. And I just want to learn more about this stuff, because lots of claims get thrown around in this area by theists and atheists alike. So, have you consulted any peer-reviewed material such that you could share a mini-bibliography?

        • Phil Rimmer

          You might start with the books mentioned so far, the references for that most recent wiki piece. But I still know of no single best reference for all this that is up to date on the understanding of the Eastern influences.

          It is to be noted the above is a parochial account, (I have neglected Europe and particularly Italy.) But England and Britain are a particular motor for this stuff as evidenced by their lead in the Industrial Revolution (the which I claim also the result of an indulgent attitude to children, at least in the merchant classes) and the advancement of the Scientific Method via the Royal Society (peer review etc.)

          Sadly my time is not unlimited. And you’ll have to seek out your own most satisfactory material. Good luck.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Scanning my bookshelf for publications that have informed my view, apart from those mentioned-

          The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Lisa Jardine
          Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel
          The Fellowship, John Gribbin
          Seeing Further, Bill Bryson, (mostly editor)
          The Golden Age (Europe 1598 to1715.),Maurice Ashley
          A Polite and Commercial People, (England 1727 to 1783), Langford.
          The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes
          The Lunar Men, Jenny Uglow
          Samuel Pepys, The Unequaled Self, Claire Tomalin

          Many biographies of Newton, Boyle, Humphry Davy and others from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whose details I can’t check being tediously in the attic

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Thanks. What’s needed next is something like Randall Munroe’s Movie Narrative Charts (XKCD).

        • Phil Rimmer

          Luke

          Jim Al Khalili has recently put out a documentary about Islamic Science

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gnqck/episodes/guide

          He had two further points to make. Why the comparative failure of Islamic Science. Why the emergence of European Science.

          Guttenberg’s revolution failed with Arabic because it was too complex to set. Its books of science and philosophy were not broadcast as cost effectively.

          Silver from the Americas flooded into Stuart England and funded science.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Thanks. I’d like to review one thing. My point in posting that excerpt—to which you responded with “This is a just terrible model of what happened.”—was that we sometimes have to place trust in some way of living which will only bear substantial benefits after several generations. I would say this is a very specific form of “faith”, which does not only expect benefits in the afterlife. Is it your contention that we humans simply never need to exercise such trust/​faith? Or perhaps, that such trust/​faith is never needed for scientific inquiry?

          The idea I am getting from you is that something awfully close to pure pragmatism, if not pure pragmatism itself, is all we need to do arbitrarily much science. My objection to such a position is that pure pragmatism is entirely dependent upon current human desires. It is my observation that human desires can be arbitrarily pathetic—including the desires of elites in the most scientifically advanced and socially advanced parts of the world. We can mix in some impossible ideals (that is, ideals which we not on a trajectory to approach arbitrarily closely); I suspect those [secular!] ideals function similarly to how Karl Marx described religion functioning. It is not clear to me that mere pragmatism is a viable route out of such a mess.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Nice question. I have an essay’s worth on this because it mirrors my life as an inventor. I’ll add a precis of it here a little later when I get time.

          Part of the answer is the answer to why alchemy and astrology came first.

          I’ll uptick your question to alert you when done.

        • Tommy

          Who gives a flying rats ass what Francis Bacon says? Your appeals to authorities are irrelevant.

        • Joe

          That’s all he has. Often it’s an appeal to false authority.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          If we wish to repeat his foresight, we may want to understand how he figured out what he did and how it got put into action. On the other hand, if you think that we moderns are no longer worshiping idols (see IEP: Francis Bacon § The Idols), then perhaps no such repetition is necessary. Plenty in Bacon’s time didn’t see a need for modern science.

        • Tommy

          Again. Who cares? Get your own blog so you can start your own discussions.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          But I would deprive you of an opportunity to make those snarky comments you so love making!

        • oracle

          You couldn’t really fault someone for thinking that you either didn’t read your cited source or that you assume no one else will bother reading it. I’ll take the charitable view that it’s another intentional ambiguity gone awry. It’s the sort of thing that makes you look dishonest, no matter your intentions.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What on earth are you talking about?

        • oracle

          “worshipping idols (see [text that specifically refutes the idea of Bacon’s idols having any religious meaning])”

        • adam

          Typical Lukism Rabbit Hole….

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Why do I need “idols” to have whatever it is you mean by “religious meaning”?

        • oracle

          That is an excellent question! Let’s ask the guy who wrote “no longer worshipping idols” what he meant.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Why? You seem to have already decided upon the answer, such that a scathing criticism applied. Are you admitting that you may have jumped to conclusions, incorrectly? Or are you really just asking me to dance to your bullets?

        • oracle

          Sure, I’ll admit that “intentional ambiguity gone awry” might have been a faulty interpretation. The alternative seemed to be rank dishonesty, but if there’s another reasonable way to interpret your comment, feel free to clarify.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Ummm, the point of the parenthetical was to reduce ambiguity by giving an example:

          LB: On the other hand, if you think that we moderns are no longer worshiping idols (see IEP: Francis Bacon § The Idols), then perhaps no such repetition is necessary.

          In other words: “if you think that we moderns are no longer doing the class of things that Francis Bacon accused his contemporaries of doing”.

        • oracle

          Do you honestly not see the difference between the original phrase and your clarification?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I see my parenthetical as obviously communicating something along the lines of my clarification. If you have problems with this kind of comprehension, perhaps you should not respond to me. So far, I find that plenty of people understand just fine. Maybe they aren’t out to find the worse possible interpretation of the other guy’s words. Maybe something else is going on.

        • oracle

          But that’s the point. The link obviously communicates something along the lines of your clarification, and had you written it that way in the original there would be no need for “scathing criticism”.

          As far as “worst possible interpretation”, you are the one taking up an adversarial position in an atheist forum, a position where hostile interpretation is to be expected. My interpretation was that you were being sloppy in a way that would likely be mistaken for dishonesty by an adversarial reader.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          No, you just want to paint the theist as dishonest. You found an opportunity and you took it. Guarding against hostile interpretations is like making a foolproof device: you just get a better fool. Or empty politician-speak.

        • oracle

          Help me out then. How could I have delivered substantially equivalent criticism without “painting”?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You could have objected to my use of the word “worshipping”, arguing that it doesn’t fit what one finds in the IEP Francis Bacon article. After all, isn’t “worshipping” something that only “religious” people do? My immediate response would be that “idols” are seemingly things that only apply to “religious” people, and yet Bacon did not use them that way. So why require that “worshipping” be restricted when “idols” is not? Without taking the Francis Bacon into account, it is obviously weird to accuse atheists of “worshipping idols”. So that parenthetical was absolutely required for my comment to make any sense, except to those already aware of Francis Bacon’s bit on idols.

        • oracle

          You’re right, I should have insisted that worship was the problematic word when you dropped it and focused on idols. But you have correctly identified the problem regardless. I don’t think “idol” buys you “worship” as easily as you suggest here. The text you cited clarifies that Bacon’s idols have a precedent in classical philosophy. What does it mean to worship a Baconian idol?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Let’s first grab a definition:

          OED: worship

          1 Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
              ‘the Maya built jungle pyramids to worship their gods’
          1.1 Take part in a religious ceremony.
              ‘the family worshipped at Trinity Church’
          1.2 Feel great admiration or devotion for.
              ‘she adores her sons and they worship her’

          Right off the bat, we have a non-religious definition in 1.2. Why did I choose a word with heavy religious overtones? Because the connotation of intense devotion and reticence to question is precisely what I wished to capture. If the idea is offensive to you that you might be intensely devoted to anything/​anyone, then that’s a sure sign that I have committed the taboo act of transgressing what/​who you hold sacred. I agree with Wayne C. Booth’s observation that “A good general rule is: scratch a skeptic and find a dogmatist.” (Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, 56)

          What I suspect is going on is that you have demonized religion, assigning the bulk of human-caused evil to it. This would certainly explain a horror at the suggestion that you could possibly be guilty of “worshiping idols”. Of course, because horror is irrelevant in rational discussion, you had to transmute it; “dishonest” sufficed.

          So, what’s an example of worshiping a Baconian idol? Logical positivism is a good example. The appearances (“sense-data”)—to some particular group of humans within some particular cultural context—are deified. I cannot provide an exhaustive list because humans are too inventive.

        • oracle

          It’s amazing how much baggage can get packed into two words. So now we have “worship” in the transfered sense and “idol” from the Greeks, but you’d like to retain the religious meanings of those words as well (or maybe I should be anticipating an argument that “sacred” and “deified” are only being used in the transfered sense as well).

          I’m not convinced that logical positivism fits Bacon’s model, but with a few mental twists I can at least imagine that it’s something like the sophistry type of the Idol of the Theater. Even then it’s an odd example. “We moderns” suggests that you have something to say about contemporary culture rather than about modernist philosophy.

          Bacon himself actually provided an example of worshipping idols in his list, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention it, since he called it “the worst of all things” (aphorism 65, Novum Organon) and it’s certainly still a common error today.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It’s amazing how much baggage can get packed into two words.

          It’s amazing that you think you’ve transcended the “baggage” of religion.

          I’m not convinced that logical positivism fits Bacon’s model …

          Sure, humans are constantly finding new ways to be dumb. The point here is that idols are false understandings which stymie further progress in understanding reality.

          “We moderns” suggests that you have something to say about contemporary culture rather than about modernist philosophy.

          You asked for an example; it was easier to pick one which is now widely acknowledged as a false understanding, than one many still cling to.

        • oracle

          I didn’t actually ask for an example, but of course a good example would have answered my question: “What does it mean to worship a Baconian idol?” I’ve already explained why logical positivism is a disappointing example.

          Correct me if I’m mistaken, but it seems that you are trying to support the idea that “everyone worship something” by connecting it to Bacon’s idols, and the gist of your argument is “idols, therefore worship”. Another translation of idolum (from εἴδωλον) is phantom, which is used in Kitchin’s translation. “Phantoms, therefore worship” starts to sound like nonsense.

          Even if you water down the definition of worship to simple adoration, it isn’t obvious how that would apply to the Idols of the Tribe, the Idols of the Cave, or the Idols of the Marketplace. Only the Idols of the Theater are compatible with the idea of worship, and for the sophistical and empirical types it doesn’t appear to me to be a very useful idea. Bacon himself applied religious language (calling it the “Deification of Error”) to the superstitious type which he defined as “corruption of Philosophy from Superstition and admixture of Theology”, which does have considerable relevance today. But I suppose it doesn’t serve your purposes to use that particular example.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I didn’t actually ask for an example, but of course a good example would have answered my question: “What does it mean to worship a Baconian idol?” I’ve already explained why logical positivism is a disappointing example.

          I stand corrected; I don’t see how I would have satisfactorily answered your question without an example. I can provide two contentious, current examples. First, consider the term ‘religion’. In my experience, what many noisy atheists mean by the term reduces to “ideas and practices I don’t like”. Second, there is a refusal to deal robustly with human nature; it is all too often seen as a taboo subject. One of the sad results is that “poverty” is defined as merely “lacking things”.

          Correct me if I’m mistaken, but it seems that you are trying to support the idea that “everyone worship something” by connecting it to Bacon’s idols, and the gist of your argument is “idols, therefore worship”. Another translation of idolum (from εἴδωλον) is phantom, which is used in Kitchin’s translation. “Phantoms, therefore worship” starts to sound like nonsense.

          I am not sure everyone worships something; worship to me indicates a kind of constant devotion which scientists certainly have, but not all humans necessarily have. But perhaps we can put aside those people who don’t seem to have anything like “constant devotion”.

          I see nothing nonsensical with castigating those who attribute substantial reality to mere phantoms. That’s one way idol-worshipers are criticized in the OT. It’s not clear how different those idols are from Epicurus’; what I do know is that many Christians use “idol” in a shallow way, which doesn’t help us understand what’s really going on.

          Even if you water down the definition of worship to simple adoration, it isn’t obvious how that would apply to the Idols of the Tribe, the Idols of the Cave, or the Idols of the Marketplace.

          Adoration is only one way to attribute worth and place trust. One of the key functions of Bacon’s idols is to convince people that various behaviors and understandings are good for them. What should I do and believe to have a good life? I can either grab hold of pleasing phantoms or hard reality.

          Bacon himself applied religious language (calling it the “Deification of Error”) to the superstitious type which he defined as “corruption of Philosophy from Superstition and admixture of Theology”, which does have considerable relevance today. But I suppose it doesn’t serve your purposes to use that particular example.

          I have plenty of criticisms for religious folks (not least, Christians), but that wasn’t my particular focus.

        • oracle

          Before we come back to your examples, I am curious to know what you make of Bacon’s advice for avoiding superstitious Idols of the Theater. I understand that it’s not your particular focus, but maybe it falls in line with one of your many criticisms of religious folks. Personally, I don’t think atheists are immune to the “corruption of Philosophy from Superstition and admixture of Theology” either.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Bacon suggested focus be moved from first and final causes to natural philosophy—to science. We must be disciplined and avoid the path of least resistance. He was right to focus on increased understanding of “causes intermediate”, but that seems to have gone to the extreme with the dominance of instrumental rationality. Now, the path of least resistance is more efficiency, more power over nature. Balance is required, but I can’t fault Bacon for not realizing it.

          If I am drawn by anything in Bacon aside from his focus on discipline and empirical inquiry, it is the following:

          But by far the greatest obstacle to the progress of science and to the undertaking of new tasks and provinces therein is found in this — that men despair and think things impossible. For wise and serious men are wont in these matters to be altogether distrustful, considering with themselves the obscurity of nature, the shortness of life, the deceitfulness of the senses, the weakness of the judgment, the difficulty of experiment, and the like; and so supposing that in the revolution of time and of the ages of the world the sciences have their ebbs and flows; that at one season they grow and flourish, at another wither and decay, yet in such sort that when they have reached a certain point and condition they can advance no further. If therefore anyone believes or promises more, they think this comes of an ungoverned and unripened mind, and that such attempts have prosperous beginnings, become difficult as they go on, and end in confusion. (The New Organon, Book I § XCII)

          Now, “can advance no further” applies to the realm of final causes, not intermediate causes. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man epitomizes this: political liberalism and consumerism are to be the final social/​cultural configuration of humankind. Superstition can only ultimately be defeated by wanting more. All the discipline in the world and all the experimenting in the world will not suffice if our desires do not grow (and grow non-cancerously).

          Applied to Christianity in particular, I would harshly criticize the mixture of infinitely high standards with resignation to mediocrity on this side of heaven. The difficulty of pursuing truth is not worth it if mediocrity is all that is really expected/​desired.

        • oracle

          I have to admit you caught me off guard here. I expected you to deflect and equivocate regarding Bacon’s advice, but I never thought you’d misidentify the advice itself:

          Very meet it is therefore that we be sober-minded, and give to faith that only which is faith’s.

          What about Platonism is so important to your worldview that you jump to defend it instead?

          The quote you bring up is quite compelling, but the connection you draw to final causes is unclear. You might have an interesting thesis here, if you’d do more than hint at it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I expected you to deflect and equivocate regarding Bacon’s advice, but I never thought you’d misidentify the advice itself:

          Very meet it is therefore that we be sober-minded, and give to faith that only which is faith’s.

          I think it’s fair to say I covered the key aspects of sober-mindedness. I don’t know what “give to faith that only which is faith’s” means; it seems to be the kind of thing that could mean just what you want it to mean. I did pick out a phrase from earlier in that aphorism, “causes intermediate”; perhaps you missed it? That bit seems much more meaningful than the allusion to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

          What about Platonism is so important to your worldview that you jump to defend it instead?

          What are you describing as “Platonism” in what I said?

          The quote you bring up is quite compelling, but the connection you draw to final causes is unclear. You might have an interesting thesis here, if you’d do more than hint at it.

          Are you aware of what instrumental rationality is? That’s all you have without final causes.

        • oracle

          No, I didn’t miss “causes intermediate”. Bacon is describing how Plato’s influence corrupts the philosophies of his contemporaries. That’s why I understood your call for balance as a defense of Platonism.

          The final line isn’t two independent clauses; Bacon equates being sober-minded with “giving to faith” those things that belong to the magisterium of faith, if you will. The man who tries to bend science to his faith ends with “fantastical philosophy” and “heretical faith”.

          I’ll repeat myself, you might have an interesting thesis, but you haven’t done more than hint at its edges. How does the quote relate to your demand for final causes?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The man who tries to bend science to his faith ends with “fantastical philosophy” and “heretical faith”.

          Oh, I understand the rhetorical effect of such words. What I am much less certain about is whether their referents, when rigorously analyzed, end up having helping one combat all superstitions, vs. raising one up against all the rest and rendering it immune from criticism. Francis Bacon could take more for granted in his time than an open-eyed individual can today; there was enough commonly presupposed among intellectuals in his time to ignore the nature of those common presuppositions.

          No, I didn’t miss “causes intermediate”. Bacon is describing how Plato’s influence corrupts the philosophies of his contemporaries. That’s why I understood your call for balance as a defense of Platonism.

          Why would Plato care about “causes intermediate”? Aristotle did, but why would Plato? If your point is merely that I find some of Plato compelling, I’ll immediately plead guilty. I find aspects of his Ideas invaluable for achieving the movement expressed in my Bacon excerpt.

          o: The quote you bring up is quite compelling, but the connection you draw to final causes is unclear. You might have an interesting thesis here, if you’d do more than hint at it.

          LB: Are you aware of what instrumental rationality is? That’s all you have without final causes.

          o: I’ll repeat myself, you might have an interesting thesis, but you haven’t done more than hint at its edges. How does the quote relate to your demand for final causes?

          You may consider my question (now underlined) to also be repeated. To fulfill your request, we first need to have some sort of common understanding about what instrumental rationality is.

        • oracle

          Why would Plato care about “causes intermediate”?

          In case you’ve forgotten, here are the lines from aphorism 65 that you reference with “causes intermediate”:

          Of this kind we have among the Greeks a striking example in Pythagoras, though he united with it a coarser and more cumbrous superstition; another in Plato and his school, more dangerous and subtle. It shows itself likewise in parts of other philosophies, in the introduction of abstract forms and final causes and first causes, with the omission in most cases of causes intermediate, and the like.

          Bacon is describing the influence of Plato (by way of Aristotle) on the philosophies of his contemporaries, who omit “causes intermediate”. He gives the scholastic tradition criticism under the sophistical type of Idol of the Theater, but identifies the “forms and final causes and first causes” with Plato’s influence here, even if we would sooner think of Aristotle.

          When I’m working on problems in game theory, instrumental rationality keeps the mathematics clean, but it doesn’t work without a utility function. If I want a model with good explanatory power for real agent systems, I look for empirical knowledge of the utility, which can be derived by applying instrumental rationality in reverse to observed behavior. At which point, I have a model that is certainly more than instrumental rationality in one sense and nothing more than instrumental rationality in another sense. You can imagine my reaction to a statement like “That’s all you have without final causes.”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          In case you’ve forgotten, here are the lines from aphorism 65 that you reference with “causes intermediate”:

          How on earth does it make sense for me to have forgotten? Recall what I said:

          LB: He was right to focus on increased understanding of “causes intermediate”, but that seems to have gone to the extreme with the dominance of instrumental rationality.

          My call for “Balance” would be anathema to Bacon’s Plato.

          When I’m working on problems in game theory, instrumental rationality keeps the mathematics clean, but it doesn’t work without a utility function.

          Ah, so do you believe that utility functions are a good way to model how humans and society deal with matters of value? It would be a very neat solution to the seemingly intractable problems the world currently faces.

          You can imagine my reaction to a statement like “That’s all you have without final causes.”

          Not yet; there are too many free variables, too many possible ambiguities.

        • oracle

          My call for “Balance” would be anathema to Luke’s Bacon’s Plato.

          I’m content to leave this particular part of the conversation in the dustbin of failed mutual intelligibility.

          Ah, so do you believe that utility functions are a good way to model how humans and society deal with matters of value?

          Utility functions are a useful formalism in game theory to model the relationship between matters of value and rational behavior, and happen to be a very neat solution to the subset of problems for which they are well-suited. I find your assertion that empirical science ultimately reduces to instrumental rationality absurd. Game theory is applied instrumental rationality, and even within the field there are subtleties (such as empirically motivated utility functions) that resist such a reduction.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB′: My call for “Balance” would be anathema to Luke’s Bacon’s Plato.

          o: I’m content to leave this particular part of the conversation in the dustbin of failed mutual intelligibility.

          Too bad; you got me all interested in what you think the difference is between “Luke’s Plato” and “Bacon’s Plato”.

          Utility functions are a useful formalism in game theory to model the relationship between matters of value and rational behavior, and happen to be a very neat solution to the subset of problems for which they are well-suited.

          The context of this sub-discussion is “Bacon’s advice for avoiding superstitious Idols of the Theater”. Do you think your “subset of problems” has substantial overlap with Bacon’s Idols of the Theater? Or might it cover at most 10%?

        • oracle

          Do I think game theory has an application in avoiding superstitious Idols of the Theater? Don’t be ridiculous. I brought it up to answer your question about my familiarity with instrumental rationality. If you’re not satisfied with my answer, you’re welcome to provide a definition of your own to make sure we have a “common understanding”. You could even connect that definition to Bacon and Fukuyama and “worshipping idols”. I took the bait, but if you don’t set the hook, I’m just going to swim away.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          One thing at a time. Are you aware of how instrumental rationality is blind to values and ends, how it must take them as givens and not peer into them?

        • oracle

          Yes.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Good. Now, did Bacon suggest that we refuse to merely take things as givens, that instead we ought to peer into them?

        • oracle

          Keep going.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It seems to me that a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality is a culture in thrall to Baconian idols. I would say that the extent to which people prize the value-free nature of instrumentality (to the exclusion of rational treatment of value) is the extent to which they worship it. I can see some quibbles over implicit vs. explicit prizing, hence my use of the passive “in thrall to”. However, I’m not so sure it is all that passive; I suspect devotion is merely shown in different ways than in times where atheism was less prominent. For example, the shopping mall could be the new temple.

        • oracle

          a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality

          That would be a strange culture. Do you have a particular culture in mind, or should I just use my imagination?

          is a culture in thrall to Baconian idols

          Which idols? How does this culture’s philosophy invite Bacon’s criticism? You’ve hopped right over the substance of your argument again.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          That would be a strange culture.

          Reality is stranger than fiction:

              This volume brings together a range of scholars who address different aspects of [Rational Choice Theory]. It has been spurred by a sense of the increasing influence of RCT upon explanations about society in a range of academic disciplines, and growth in its proclaimed relevance to local, national and global policy-making. RCT has underpinned the neoliberal reforms of the public sector in much of the Western industrialized world. With these reforms have come the rollback of the traditional social welfare state and withdrawal of its services. (Rational Choice Theory: Resisting Colonisation, 1)

          Now, the next two paragraphs note that altruistic acts (a vague category which is all that RCT can really define on its own terms) increasingly take place in the “grey sector”—it’s not like we’ve gone completely crazy. But according to these scholars, RCT has attained traction not just in the academy, but all levels of policy-making. Do you think this is not enough to use the phrase “a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality”?

          Which idols? How does this culture’s philosophy invite Bacon’s criticism? You’ve hopped right over the substance of your argument again.

          One thing at a time. You had so many objections that if I don’t deal thoroughly with them one at a time, I’ll end up playing Whac-A-Mole. Let us recall what you wrote earlier:

          o: Another translation of idolum (from εἴδωλον) is phantom, which is used in Kitchin’s translation. “Phantoms, therefore worship” starts to sound like nonsense.

          Do you think it is so unreasonable to connect these idolum to how values are treated by rational choice theory?

        • oracle

          Do you think this is not enough to use the phrase “a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality”

          The problem isn’t whether the phrase could apply to some culture (the culture of neoliberal economists and policy makers? the American culture benefitting from the Washington Consensus? the many cultures involved in global capitalism?). It’s that “it seems to be the kind of thing that could mean just what you want it to mean”, and the guessing game gets old.

          Do you think it is so unreasonable to connect these idolum to how values are treated by rational choice theory?

          It’s difficult to comment on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of a connection that you have yet to make. Bacon gave four categories of Idols and identified examples and subtypes. I could also call something a Baconian idol without any reference to the substance of Bacon’s criticism. The cake is a lie, and “we moderns” are guilty of blowing out the candles (see Novum Organum). A convincing argument supported by a serious source text, right?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It’s that “it seems to be the kind of thing that could mean just what you want it to mean”, and the guessing game gets old.

          Do you really think that “values we must not peer beyond” qualifies as “could mean just what [I] want it to mean”? I find this rather hard to believe, given that rational choice theory formalizes that idea. If you’re having a hard time seeing where rational choice theory has infiltrated and attained significant power over human behavior (thus meriting the term “worship” or at least “in thrall to”), we could work more on that. I’m having a very hard time understanding the flexibility you see in the words I’ve used.

          It’s difficult to comment on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of a connection that you have yet to make. Bacon gave four categories of Idols and identified examples and subtypes.

          As I said, “One thing at a time.” You had an objection at a point before we get to Bacon’s four categories of Idols. So we should be able to deal with it apart from Bacon’s four categories of Idols. Unless you think his four categories completely exhausts the meaning of idolum which he drew upon?

        • oracle

          If you’re having a hard time seeing where rational choice theory has infiltrated and attained significant power over human behavior (thus meriting the term “worship” or at least “in thrall to”), we could work more on that.

          That is exactly the substance missing from “a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality”. You might as well have said “a culture in thrall to addition”. The words individually have clear meaning, but the phrase is nonsense without further clarification. There’s certainly nothing in that phrase that would suggest neoliberalism as its target, and even with that clue you haven’t said which culture.
          To the second point, the four categories certainly don’t exhaust the broader meaning of idolum, but they are Bacon’s doctrine of the idols. If you’re only drawing connections to the broader concept, why bring up Bacon at all?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: If you’re having a hard time seeing where rational choice theory has infiltrated and attained significant power over human behavior (thus meriting the term “worship” or at least “in thrall to”), we could work more on that.

          o: That is exactly the substance missing from “a culture in thrall to instrumental rationality”. You might as well have said “a culture in thrall to addition”. The words individually have clear meaning, but the phrase is nonsense without further clarification. There’s certainly nothing in that phrase that would suggest neoliberalism as its target, and even with that clue you haven’t said which culture.

          You don’t connect neoliberalism to instrumental rationality? “Neoliberliasm” today is strongly connected to laissez-faire economics, which is antithetical to any sort of strongly held common good. Instead, individual actors independently interact with each other. What is rewarded is the accumulation of wealth and the accumulation of wealth is a value-free affair these days. The game is played purely instrumentally. You’ve heard of high-frequency trading, right? Values are unwanted (aside from efficiency).

          You claim I haven’t said “which culture”; did you miss my excerpt from Rational Choice Theory: Resisting Colonisation? See: “much of the Western industrialized world”.

          To the second point, the four categories certainly don’t exhaust the broader meaning of idolum, but they are Bacon’s doctrine of the idols. If you’re only drawing connections to the broader concept, why bring up Bacon at all?

          “One thing at a time.”; I’m returning to the following:

          o: Another translation of idolum (from εἴδωλον) is phantom, which is used in Kitchin’s translation. “Phantoms, therefore worship” starts to sound like nonsense.

          If you would like to retract the last sentence there, be my guest.

        • oracle

          Bacon provides a pertinent example when he criticizes Gilbert, who

          …after he had employed himself most laboriously in the study and observation of the loadstone, proceeded at once to construct an entire system in accordance with his favorite subject. (Nov. Org.I § 54)

          Notice he doesn’t accuse Gilbert of falling for the pernicious error of magnetism; he accuses him of having an unwarranted personal preference for using magnetism to explain phenomena (Idol of the Cave) and of constructing a philosophical system based on that preference (empiricist Idol of the Theater).
          A similar criticism could certainly be made of those who use rational choice theory to justify neoliberalism. And it could be made of someone who treats instrumental rationality as the root of evil in neoliberalism (or in the larger culture).
          I stand by my earlier point, that “worshiping idols (see IEP: Francis Bacon § The Idols)” gives the appearance of dishonesty by conflating definitions of the word “idol”. Bacon’s idola are misrepresentations that hinder intellectual progress, not objects of worship. You suggest that the biblical meaning of idol isn’t so different:

          I see nothing nonsensical with castigating those who attribute substantial reality to mere phantoms. That’s one way idol-worshipers are criticized in the OT. It’s not clear how different those idols are from Epicurus’; what I do know is that many Christians use “idol” in a shallow way, which doesn’t help us understand what’s really going on.

          I think this misses the point. All idol worship might be construed as “attributing substantial reality to mere phantoms”, as all pets might be construed as members of the family. I’ve admitted that Bacon’s superstitious Idols of the Theater do support the idea of “we moderns … worshiping idols” as there’s no shortage of thinkers who mix “things human and divine” (Nov. Org.I § 65).
          So then am I being unfair by asking you defend your examples of Baconian idols by making reference to Bacon’s actual categories of error? I am the one who noted that Bacon’s idolum draws from the classical notion of εἴδωλον, so I am the one who opened the door to any apparition or representation (εἴδωλον) being a Baconian idol. Except that’s arguing the converse again. I argue that all Baconian idols should be understood as εἴδωλους, not that all εἴδωλοι can be understood as Baconian idols.

          If I were to argue that a particular εἴδωλον is a Baconian idol, the first step to doing so would be to identify its placement in Bacon’s categories or its analogue among Bacon’s examples (the cake is a lie and by virtue of its moistness should be considered an Idol of the Marketplace). If I felt that it defied categorization and analogy, but that it was still in the spirit of things Baconian, then I might argue for the extension of Bacon’s doctrine with a new category of idol (the cake is a lie and an Idol of the Oven which Bacon would have identified as a category of idol if he had the chance to play Portal). If my arguments for that εἴδωλον were reasonable, then I could make the claim that this particular εἴδωλος warrants serious consideration by the methodological naturalist on the basis of Bacon’s criticism (the cake is absurd and only warrants serious consideration by someone who wants his argument to rise above its level of absurdity).

          As nice as it is to tie things back to my original objection, I’m disappointed that you have yet to explain the connection between “the greatest obstacle to the progress of science” and instrumental rationality with respect to final causes and the ultimate “social/cultural configuration of mankind”.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You made a comment starting with “Bacon provides a pertinent example when he criticizes Gilbert” which was deleted about three hours after making it; was this intentional on your part?

          In crafting my response, I realized that I had never intended instrumental rationality to be a Baconian idol. Here’s the key bit of discussion:

          o: Before we come back to your examples [of Baconian idols], I am curious to know what you make of Bacon’s advice for avoiding superstitious Idols of the Theater.

          LB: He was right to focus on increased understanding of “causes intermediate”, but that seems to have gone to the extreme with the dominance of instrumental rationality.

          The form of my objection is that in attempting to avoid the particular εἴδωλοι he identified, Bacon falls prey to another εἴδωλον. Only by engaging in special pleading can Bacon avoid self-defeat (running away from one idol only to fall prey to another). I make no claim that instrumental rationality itself is an example of Bacon’s particular εἴδωλοι; if I have done so or implied it, I need to back up and reassess. I’m not all that concerned to perfectly match Bacon’s particular εἴδωλοι (I think identifying the natural kind is much more important), as I don’t think he exhaustively characterized the problem. Instead, he picked major problems in his time—instrumental rationality wasn’t one of them.

          Going to the beginning of the discussion, if I discover that enough people interpret “«term» (see X)” as “X exhaustively defines «term»”, I will switch to “«term» (e.g. X)”. And of course we still have to deal with “worship”/​“in thrall to”—unless that deleted comment is you deciding to exit the discussion.

        • oracle

          Disqus tells me it’s restoring the missing comment.

          Going to the beginning of the discussion, if I discover that enough people interpret “«term» (see X)” as “X exhaustively defines «term»”, I will switch to “«term» (e.g. X)”.

          Rather than worry too much about the difference between “see” and “e.g.”, I would point out that my question “what does it mean to worship a Baconian idol?” is natural to ask of “worshipping idols (see Bacon)”, but that if you had said something like “that we moderns no longer have idols” the citation wouldn’t be problematic at all.

          The form of my objection is…

          The form seems reasonable enough, if I understand you correctly. You intend to show that when Bacon criticizes those who introduce “abstract forms and final causes and first causes” that his argument introduces those very things and is therefore self-defeating. And you suggest that one way to understand his error is to understand something about the role of instrumental rationality in the world today. And, I hope, you intend to use the quote on “the greatest obstacle to the progress of science” in making this argument. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say on the matter.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          … but that if you had said something like “that we moderns no longer have idols” …

          After going through all the trouble I have, why would I up and say such a thing? Now, I could be convinced that εἴδωλον just doesn’t have the scope I think it does, but that would involve you dealing with εἴδωλον apart from Bacon’s particular εἴδωλοι, and you have been resistant to doing so.

          You intend to show that when Bacon criticizes those who introduce “abstract forms and final causes and first causes” that his argument introduces those very things and is therefore self-defeating.

          No, not at all. In trying to avoid final causes and first causes, Bacon falls prey to instrumental rationality, which treats values as εἴδωλοι—one must not peer into them.

          And you suggest that one way to understand his error is to understand something about the role of instrumental rationality in the world today.

          Yes. Humans have a tendency to react to one extreme by shifting to the other extreme. But in the beginning, it is mostly a reaction away from an extreme, and many don’t see that left unchecked, it will eventually go to the other extreme. Or perhaps they think that before it gets too close to another extreme, something will be done. Anyhow, I think that the increasing dominance of instrumental rationality today is that other extreme, to the over-focus on final and first causes which Bacon criticized.

          And, I hope, you intend to use the quote on “the greatest obstacle to the progress of science” in making this argument. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say on the matter.

          Instrumental rationality has pretty much one value: efficiency. But “more efficiency” is an exceedingly narrow way to focus the imagination. It presupposes that current ends are the best ends. Indeed, it obscures current ends and makes it hard to talk about them. If it is hard to talk about them, it is hard to talk about alternatives. Imagination is thereby channeled into a sliver of reality.

        • oracle

          After going through all the trouble I have…

          Don’t worry; it was only a hypothetical that you might have chosen words that are supported by the article you referenced, which says

          Incidentally, he uses the word “idol” – from the Greek eidolon (“image” or “phantom”) – not in the sense of a false god or heathen deity but rather in the sense employed in Epicurean physics

          or the primarysource it describes, which contrasts

          the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine (§ 23)

          , (or do you suggest that “the ideas of the divine” are the correct objects of one’s worship?). Your own clarification,

          In other words: “if you think that we moderns are no longer doing the class of things that Francis Bacon accused his contemporaries of doing”.

          is closer to “have” than it is “worship”. We could dive into the definitions of idol, idolum, and εἴδωλον, and how the ecclesiastical use of idolum relates to its other meanings. But you’ve already insisted that worship as “great admiration or devotion” is compatible with the notion of idol as “phantom” and ignored how the “religious overtones” of worship interact with idol (or idolum or εἴδωλον) when one combines the terms. You’ve clearly embraced the dissonance or ambiguity of “worshiping idols (see Bacon)” as a means of goading the non-religious, but as I said from the beginning, it comes across as dishonesty.

          Humans have a tendency to react to one extreme by shifting to the other extreme.

          This notion of extremes is a curious one, since Bacon emphasizes that it is the subtlety of superstitious Idols of the Theater that makes them dangerous. We might now contrast the state of natural philosophy in the 17th century and science in the 21st century as extreme positions of the pendulum, but isn’t that exactly the sort of cyclical fatalism that Bacon maligns in your quote?

          Are you aware of what instrumental rationality is? That’s all you have without final causes.

          In trying to avoid final causes and first causes, Bacon falls prey to instrumental rationality, which treats values as εἴδωλοι

          Superstition can only ultimately be defeated by wanting more.

          I understand that you think a philosophy without first and final causes would be incapable of dealing with questions of value. I understand that you think a philosophy without first and final causes must therefore be a philosophy of instrumental rationality. I understand that you think first and final causes are thus necessary, and that their negligence leads to the despair of the Last Man. What I don’t see is any reason why I should consider this line of thought—which I had to arrange myself, so you’ll have to correct my errors—as anything more than superstitious finger wagging.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Just FYI, your comment starting “Don’t worry; it was only a hypothetical”, has also failed to show up in Disqus. This mirrors your previous comment, starting “Bacon provides a pertinent example”, which disappeared < 3 hours after I successfully loaded it. You said something about looking into it, but it still doesn’t load.

        • oracle

          Someone is having fun flagging my comments as spam.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Have you pinged @BobSeidensticker:disqus about this?

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          This subject was broached and addressed when you were discussing your wife’s work a few weeks ago. There is nothing particularly remarkable about seeing small gains and thinking giant leaps will eventually emerge, particularly when that initial progress is concordant with new learning about the behavior of the universe.

          I must confess to find it surprising that you would continue to use an analogy that has been proven to be misplaced. Hopefully this is just an error on your part.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          There is nothing particularly remarkable about seeing small gains and thinking giant leaps will eventually emerge, particularly when that initial progress is concordant with new learning about the behavior of the universe.

          Oh give me a break, learning how the planets go was not obviously connectable to curing disease at the time. You’re using hindsight, which is 20/20. I would have to brush up on this, but I believe that one of the objections to evolution in Darwin’s time was to whether little gains really could build up to such magnificent results. We are now very used to such thinking, but we are children of modern science, not its progenitors.

          Then you have the fact that your belief model is more accurately stated as “belief in Entity X leads to results Y which in turn is evidence not just that belief is beneficial, but that Entity X actually exists.” The discrepancy here is obvious.

          I was attempting to match the title of the OP: “Christian Magic Doesn’t Work if You Don’t Believe It”. I also wanted to allow for belief in fictions to result in tangible results while they remain [collectively believed] fictions (e.g. paper money). Your “more accurately stated as” does not permit that.

          Nor does your rephrasing necessarily help, because it could be the case that there is some law of reality that if you engage in prayer-like action and have a particular conception in mind (so allowing “God” to go by multiple names), the conjoined request you make is more likely to come true. It is not at all clear that such a phenomenon would point to the existence of God, any more than particles obeying F = ma indicate that the equation is an actual causal power.

          I must confess to finding it surprising that you would continue to use an analogy that has been proven to be misplaced.

          Sorry, exactly what has been “proven to be misplaced” exactly where?

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          My comment sufficiently addresses your last question. If you don’t see it, I’d suggest reading it again.

          I was attempting to match the title of the OP: “Christian Magic Doesn’t Work if You Don’t Believe It”.

          I know, and your equivocation is made clear in subsequent replies.

          It is not at all clear that such a phenomenon would point to the existence of God, any more than particles obeying F = ma indicate that the equation is an actual causal power.

          Well, we know F = ma has no causal power seeing as it is descriptive not prescriptive.

          The rest of this comment is pointotless gibberish. If even “successful” belief doesn’t indicate god, what point are you trying to make by repeatedly bringing it up? Especially since the data on this subject is so one sided and contradictory to your hypothesis?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The rest of this comment is pointless gibberish.

          Then apparently you and I have nothing further to talk about. Not everyone here finds what I write to be “pointless gibberish”; I will discuss with them.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          It isn’t pointless gibberish because you wrote it, it’s because the statement is devoid of substance.

          You appear to be acknowledging that a belief can have positive effects despite having no substantive backing. This is not breaking any new ground, it is essentially the placebo effect.

          You could respond by saying that your hypothesis is a particular belief would have measurable advantages over placebos…. but then we run into the second leg of the problem. These test have been done, and there is no support for the efficacy of intercessory prayer.

          So, either your hypothesis is indistiguishable from a well known phenomenon with far better evidential backing, or it has largely been falsified already.

          Like I said, no substance.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Absolutely. Even if you grant the belief aspect, Luke is conflating wholly separate groups. Bob is discussing supposedly extant entities that belief is necessary to experience, Luke responded with those whose value and even existence is dependant on communal belief.

        If Luke is saying god is in the latter bundle, I doubt he’ll get much disagreement here. ☺

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: The idea that X only works if you believe in X is curious; in addition to religion, it applies to money, to civil rights, and to professional sports. One can of course stoke belief in falsehood and then kinda-sorta reify it as a collective delusion (stock market bubbles come to mind), but one can also stoke belief in truth and then reify it in awesome ways—see Francis Bacon’s prophecies of what science could do, prophecies which took 200 years to come true. Had enough people not believed in that particular X, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

          JAA: Bob is discussing supposedly extant entities that belief is necessary to experience, Luke responded with those whose value and even existence is dependant on communal belief.

          Really? It rather seems like I distinguished between the two:

          (A) “One can of course stoke belief in falsehood and then kinda-sorta reify it as a collective delusion (stock market bubbles come to mind)”

          (B) “but one can also stoke belief in truth and then reify it in awesome ways”

          I would thank you to stop grossly misrepresenting what I have said. You do open up the possibility that when you say “The rest of this comment is pointless gibberish.”, you really mean that your reading comprehension is gibberish.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          If you understand the distinction between the two, then you also understand why there was no value in offering your examples in the first place.

          Oddly, despite your claims otherwise, statements like, “reify it as collective delusion” indicates that you still don’t seem to grasp the difference.

          Take money, for instance. Currency has no value until and unless those using it agree to a common valuation. There is no delusion in this process, just agreement. By contrast, god’s existence and power is completely removed from what we believe, all belief does is give us access to what was already there. You make a category error by equating – or even comparing in the manner you have – the two.

          FWIW, “pointless gibberish” was not the personal attack you seem to have taken it as, it was just a comment about that particular sequence of text. For reasons I’ve elaborated on in the thread above, that evaluation is still apt. If you choose to make your argument in a cogent manner, I’d be happy to continue the conversation.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          If you understand the distinction between the two, then you also understand why there was no value in offering your examples in the first place.

          On the contrary, I think there ought to be reasoned discussion about how to figure out whether God fits better in (A) or (B). How do we properly tell?

          Oddly, despite your claims otherwise, statements like, “reify it as collective delusion”, indicates that you still don’t seem to grasp the difference.

          Good grief man, I was alluding to Feuerbach. The ambiguity is intentional; unless there are reasonable ways to say that God exists and it is not just belief in God which is causally efficacious, the conclusion has been presupposed. In saying what you go on to say, you merely betray that you’ve already decided the matter in your head—you’re not open to rational discussion about how you might be wrong.

          FWIW, “pointless gibberish” was not the personal attack you seem to have taken it as, it was just a comment about that particular sequence of text.

          I don’t care; you’ve demonstrated incompetence in reading what I actually wrote, and can either take responsibility for it or pretend it away. I’m not going to part of that collective delusion.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          On the contrary, I think there ought to be reasoned discussion about how to figure out whether God fits better in (A) or (B). How do we properly tell?

          Does god exist independent of human belief? If yes, then he’s in A, if no, he’s bucket B. The question isn’t difficult at all.

          Furthermore, if he is in bucket B, then you are conceding god has no existence aside from whatever humans agree to. This isn’t a position that would garner much dispute from atheists.

          I don’t care; you’ve demonstrated incompetence in reading what I actually wrote, and can either take responsibility for it or pretend it away. I’m not going to part of that collective delusion.

          You seem like an interesting guy, Luke. I’m sorry you can’t see what is plainly obvious, but I hope we might be able to have more productive conversations in future posts.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          JAA: If you understand the distinction between the two, then you also understand why there was no value in offering your examples in the first place.

          LB: On the contrary, I think there ought to be reasoned discussion about how to figure out whether God fits better in (A) or (B). How do we properly tell?

          JAA: Does god exist independent of human belief? If yes, then he’s in A, if no, he’s bucket B. The question isn’t difficult at all.

          You’ve said precisely nothing about “how to figure out”. The truth of the matter is not merely defined.

          Furthermore, if he is in bucket B, then you are conceding god has no existence aside from whatever humans agree to. This isn’t a position that would garner much dispute from atheists.

          The OT is quite aware of “gods” being worshiped which are not gods. Why would every person today who claims to worship God be correct? If you take a look at Creating God in your own image (PNAS article), you’ll see that many people seem to match Feuerbach’s understanding of religion quite well. The Bible is not at all surprised by this. But there were outliers to that study. So we have to be very careful to not fall into fallacious “some ⇒ all” reasoning. How do we diligently go about this? One method I discourage is treating prayer as magic, as a way to get us more of what we want. The Bible notes that what humans want tends to be pathetic and/or unjust. I find this to be an accurate generalization.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          The “how” is inherent in the manner by which each is defined so, yes, my comment addresses that. Forgive my repetition, but your question indicates that the distinction still eludes you.

          Now, you could be asking how to tell the difference between a bucket A god and a bucket B god, in which case the question would be more interesting. Of course, you’ve still made numerous category and communication errors to get to this point, but if you want to pick up from there, I’m game.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yes, I mean to ask how we can tell the difference between an A-God and a B-God. You’re welcome to indicate how what I have previously said could not be charitably interpreted to deal with precisely that matter. Vague claims of error and undefended claims of obviousness are thoroughly unhelpful, except perhaps to your ego.

        • adam

          “I mean to ask how we can tell the difference between an A-God and a B-God.”

          BOTH are IMAGINARY.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b85c139d187be51d3fe0c0c77bcc2e185955505da1a61a389655083966df2057.jpg

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Vague claims of error and undefended claims of obviousness

          When things have been made explicit, they cannot be “vague” or “undefended” by definition. Critiques of your comments are not personal attacks, unfortunately you are having trouble straddling that line.

          The primary distinction that has eluded you about A gods and B gods is that things in the A bucket are intentional. Those items are like a secret handshake; you create it knowing there is no inherent power, just consensus utility. Likewise, an A god would be wholly understood fiction from the outset and it wouldn’t stray very far from there. The examples you used in your post make this abundantly clear.

          This awareness of non-reality is why your A god/B god contrast is flawed right from the get-go. The actual distinction would be more aptly described as “true B god” and “false B god”, which is a completely different conversation than your comments-to-date have led toward. False B gods would have never been A gods in the first place. If you think I’m mistaken, give me an example of a bucket A item that was shown to have objective existence.

          Let’s use money to make this point completely obvious. Would you ever ask which currency was the true currency? Or whether a dollar existed before we conceived of it? Or whether a dollar has an objective value regardless of what humans thought about it?* These aren’t questions we ask because we know that dollars have no independent existence and the value is only that which each party agrees to.

          Even in this more focused conversation, the examples you provided are still flawed. I await your belligerent response about my lousy reading comprehension and fragile ego.

          * Note that this question is not the same as, “are there objective reasons to think the valuation is in/correct?” What a dollar should be worth doesn’t imply objective value in the same sense that a real god would have objective power regardless of what humans believed about it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You’re welcome to continue the most interesting part of the conversation, that is:

          JAA: Now, you could be asking how to tell the difference between a bucket A god and a bucket B god, in which case the question would be more interesting.

          LB: Yes, I mean to ask how we can tell the difference between an A-God and a B-God.

          I don’t really care whether you say it’s between A and B or false-B and true-B. To-date, you seem as interested in exploring the empirical differences between the former pair as the latter: nada.

          The primary distinction that has eluded you about A gods and B gods is that things in the A bucket are intentional. Those items are like a secret handshake; you create it knowing there is no inherent power, just consensus utility. Likewise, an A god would be wholly understood fiction from the outset and it wouldn’t stray very far from there. The examples you used in your post make this abundantly clear.

          I have no reason to believe that (i) in all cases A-Gods are “intentional”; (ii) in all cases all believers in A-Gods know that ‘God’ is but a Feuerbachian ‘God’.

          This awareness of non-reality

          This is precisely the thing that is lacking in pretty much any era before the modern era, for the vast majority of persons. Which drives us back to the questions I have been asking, which you seem to want to avoid.

          The actual distinction would be more aptly described as “true B god” and “false B god”, which is a completely different conversation than your comments-to-date have led toward.

          Where the conversation leads in your head is only relevant to the extent that my words rationally prefer such a path—vs. your own interests preferring such a path. Which is why I invited you to demonstrate “how what I have previously said could not be charitably interpreted to deal with precisely that matter”.

          Let’s use money to make this point completely obvious. Would you ever ask which currency was the true currency?

          Folks arguing for a gold standard would probably find that a very intelligible question. Folks who saw their pensions go up in smoke in the 2008 recession might have some valid complaints in this domain, given that they forewent full compensation on a regular basis in order to accrue something of value in the longterm. But generally, people agree that the value of a US$20 bill is only in people’s heads. The very question is whether this is all that God is, in everyone’s head.

          It seems that you’re simply thrown off by the fact that I gave an example very nicely paralleling atheist’s understanding of God: as powerful as money while as fictional as money. Fortunately, this isn’t the only example I provided. It’s almost as if I presented a spread of options on purpose. Now, if I made a category mistake, you’re welcome to point it out—rationally.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’m genuinely perplexed at how off base this response is. For instance:

          Folks arguing for a gold standard [currency] would probably find that a very intelligible question.

          No, that question is which currency is optimal, not which currency has an existence independent of human valuation. The latter is necessary for your examples to be relevant and quite clearly was what “true” meant in my comment above.

          I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m starting to think the problem here is less a lack of understanding and more dishonesty on your part. I hope I’m wrong, but right now it seems to be the best explanation for a puzzling response that goes out of its way to ignore and misrepresent very basic concepts in order to maintain your equivocation.

          EDIT: in the off chance that your lack of comprehension is sincere, let me ask three questions.

          1) Is there an objective secret handshake that gains entry even when it hasn’t been previously agreed to? Or an objective currency that will be recognized by all merchants regardless of prior recognition?

          2) Is there an objective god who can perform actions even when people don’t have a god belief?

          3) How do you define an A-god?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You start surmising that I am being dishonest when you ignore the crux of my comment:

          LB: But generally, people agree that the value of a US$20 bill is only in people’s heads. The very question is whether this is all that God is, in everyone’s head.

          We can talk about the difference between some sort of gold standard and money creation ’till the cows come home. What’ll be interesting is whether you actually address that matter head-on, or continue beating around the bush.

          1) Is there an objective secret handshake that gains entry even when it hasn’t been previously agreed to? Or an objective currency that will be recognized by all merchants regardless of prior recognition?

          My guess is that gold has been recognized without any prior synchronization. It doesn’t tarnish, is highly malleable, is pleasant to look at, and is scarce. But I really meant to refer to paper money in my original comment, as an example of something that exists only in people’s minds. The question then naturally follows: is that all God is?

          2) Is there an objective god who can perform actions even when people don’t have a god belief?

          I can’t answer the question until we establish how humans would (i) observe the effects of those actions and (ii) identify them as most likely coming from God instead of some other source(s). I suspect that you have no reasonable conditions for (ii); I suspect you have “won” the discussion from presupposition.

          3) How do you define an A-god?

          An entity which only exists in people’s minds and is considered god-like by them. I would leave open whether they know it is an A-god or B-god.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          The crux is not ignored, your equivocation has been addressed from the start.

          That god may be false (and, hence, only a mental construct) does not mean the comparison is apt. God is a hypothesis about external reality to explain certain events, money is an intentionally artificial concept invented to facilitate trade.

          If god is part of this grouping, that means he was originally imaginary, has always been imaginary and, most importantly, was never meant to not be imaginary.

          Even I would disagree with that, but if you want to trivialize god in that manner, so be it.

          A better example for mental only “false” god is epicycles. Both are hypotheses that became less plausible as data accumulated, and each lost parsimony due to excessive retrofitting.

          I have no further interest in this conversation, so please enjoy the last word.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The crux is not ignored …

          Yep, you ignored it. You refused to explain how we would distinguish between an A-god and B-god, as well as between a true-B-god and a false-B-god. Instead, you obsessed about my money analogy, conveniently ignoring that “civil rights” doesn’t fall prey to your criticism. And now you’re running away:

          I have no further interest in this conversation, so please enjoy the last word.

        • adam

          “but I hope we might be able to have more productive conversations in future posts.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/67552f8a03afca953b25efc500ec8ac6d3a4f4e66ecf9a6df711dca561d2376f.jpg

          Welcome to the Luke Show.
          Where unproductive ‘conversations’ reign supreme.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’m just now getting the picture. ☺

        • adam

          Luke is a troll.

          He seems to have more depth than he really does.
          But he will lie and deceive like the apologetic he is.
          And when that isnt effective he just dances around spouting inanities.

          What I have found most interesting is that many, MANY of his links dont support the point he claims to make, and many counter act the point he claims to make, yet he just lies about it and tries to shift the focus back to you, or some obscure arena as a diversion.

          Part Gish Gallop, part apologetic nonsense, part liar and deceiver.

          But have fun while your are being trolled.

        • MR

          Don’t forget playing the victim. He love, love, loves that.

        • adam
        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          It’s really too bad because some of the topics he introduces are intriguing if they could be discussed more honestly.

        • adam

          It is very sad.

          However, feel free to delve into some of the topics he introduces.
          Most are just a Gish Gallop diversions, most of the others are simple God of the Gaps.

          But he could be interesting to converse with, if he werent SO dishonest.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/681785c573e0e941d7e81f66dd2e305bc7671f7e9b41f0b84b263f098be05d79.jpg

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “But he could be interesting to converse with, if he werent SO dishonest.”

          He’s just showing us Christian honesty 😉

        • adam

          He’s just showing us Christian honesty 😉

          Exactly!

      • adam

        ” fail to produce is any result outside that consent delusion.”

        FTFY

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/935d75f940e738300a15533100e0ea38ca6d37230ba7c945c80e8240b837ee36.jpg

  • Daffodil

    It’s interesting that Master Ryurkerin was willing to spar with a non-student. Seems he fooled himself as well as his students!

    • Tommy

      He got high on his own supply.

      • Jim Jones

        “I get high with a little help from my friends”.

        “I get high with a little help from my friends”.

    • Joe

      See my reply to Epicurus (probably not the real Epicurus) above.

      He was either delusional (and was not willing/able to break the delusion) or he had too much to lose to back out.

      Pride and fame are sometimes more of a motivation than money. He no doubt built his entire life and identity around these ideas.

      This is a really good metaphor for religion.

      • epicurus

        hopefully over the next while I can find out ( although I doubt if it’s possible to really find out ) if he really believed it or was just hoping that somehow he could pull it off because of pride and fame as you suggest.

        • Joe

          Will we ever know? Barring an admission (which rarely ever occurs (there’s the fact of criminal liability for one), we can’t know what others are thinking.

          Somebody once speculated that many apologists/top ranking clergy may be atheists, or at least agnostic. I find that quite plausible actually, but obviously the barriers to admitting that publicly are simply too great. We may never know, we can only speculate.

        • Greg G.

          The Clergy Project has found many preachers who no longer have the faith but are not qualified for other occupations to support their families.

        • Joe

          True, I was thinking higher than that. Maybe even the Pope or William Lane Craig, for example.

          After all, we see statements and behavior that ranges from hypocritical, through to outright lying or even criminal behavior (on the part of the Catholic church).

          True, they most likely believe. Belief is not an indicator of truth, after all, but can you imagine the consequences of such an individual ‘coming out’ as an atheist?

        • epicurus

          I often think it applies to John Shelby Spong. He would be giving up a lot of prestige and position if he walked away from Christianity. Yet to read his work, one comes away (or at least I do) wondering why anyone would bother with Christianity.

        • Joe

          In a way I’m glad he doesn’t, because his arguments are a good temper to the more brazen claims of apologists.

          I agree atheism wouldn’t make much practical difference in his overall outlook.

          Plus, we wouldn’t be able to chuckle at his name if he walked away. There’s something childishly amusing about the name ‘Spong’.

        • Erp

          Well there is Richard Holloway, former head of the Scottish Episcopal church, who wrote a book “Godless Morality: Keeping religion out of Ethics”.

        • epicurus

          Dis he actually leave Christianity or just his particular church?

        • Erp

          He hasn’t actually left his particular church as far as I know; perhaps waiting to see if they kick him out. However the Scottish Episcopal Church is not, for instance, the Ugandan Anglican church (which stripped a retired bishop of his pension when he was seen as supportive of gays). I suspect he is more interested in how we treat each other than whether there is a god or not.

      • MR

        Even though I’m skeptical of the martyr claims behind the “Who would die for a lie?” arguments (legend is far more likely), it’s not such a huge step between that and “Who would risk public exposure and humiliation before millions for a lie?” It’s not difficult to imagine boxing yourself into a corner after a lifetime of fraud or even self delusion. Which also reminds me of Foucault’s Pendulum in which the protagonists’ innocent “game” put them on a path of destruction because of the gullibility of others. FP is also a great metaphor for religion.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Eco is brilliant at using religious characters/dynamics to remind us of semiotic concerns (e.g. ‘the map is not the territory’).

      • TheNuszAbides

        (probably not the real Epicurus)

        The Wandering Greek?

  • Bob Jase

    I have to wonder how Master Ryukerin got started – did he just run into a bunch of folks who spent years jerking his chain for laughs? How else did he not just get the stuffing beaten out of him?

    • epicurus

      That is indeed odd. He would have had to get his belts and ranking from higher level teachers or sensei, so surely he must know how to actually fight, so how did he get to the point where he thought his “air karate” worked.

      • adam

        “so how did he get to the point where he thought his “air karate” worked.”

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ea95a34e624184717f67ddf6dcc3f8d7bee648d7fdf98bc6dc87c7b14de46d30.jpg

      • Joe

        how did he get to the point where he thought his “air karate” worked.

        Several possible things happened:

        He already believed it.
        He half believed and had those beliefs reinforced by his students, who themselves were credulous or easily manipulated.
        He never believed but got too caught up in the lie to back out.

        The “who would die for a lie” trope trotted out by Christians is one of the more easily debunked apologetics.

        • Greg G.

          Who would get punched in the nose for a lie?

        • Joe

          Richard Spencer must have been speaking the truth!

      • Carol Lynn

        Are you *sure* he had a legitimate belt and ranking? He could have just shown up and said he had them and conned his students from the start that way.

        • Joe

          Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
          Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
          Daniel: [laughs] No, I meant…
          Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants.
          [laughs; then, seriously]
          Miyagi: Daniel-san…
          [taps his head]
          Miyagi: Karate here.
          [taps his heart]
          Miyagi: Karate here.
          [points to his belt]
          Miyagi: Karate never here. Understand?

          The Karate Kid (1984)

        • DoorknobHead

          That’s what she said…

        • epicurus

          Well that’s true, I just assumed, but you’re right, he could be a guy who just faked his credentials and over time became convinced he had real skills, enough to challenge all comers.

      • eric

        If he’s old, he could easily have been a legitimate MAist decades ago, and then just let the real skills slip as he got deluded by his own woo.

        Unlike Joe I don’t think he is a knowing conman. The fact that he put up his own prize money speaks to his sincerity, however naive it was. My guess is the morphing from actual MAist to woo guy took years or decades and lots of confirmation bias. IOW he probably tried lots of crazy stuff on his students that didn’t work before he found a student and a move on which it did. Psychosomatics + more confirmation bias continued the trend; I knew of a case where multiple people collapsed because they thought there was a chemical in the air, when in fact the initial person who collapsed had just had an epileptic seizure. All the other collapses were ‘in their minds’ so to speak. The human mind can do weird things to the body.

        • Joe

          Unlike Joe I don’t think he is a knowing conman

          I was just hypothesizing, I left my actual judgement of the table. We won’t know if he was a deliberate conman or not.

          It’s probably more likely he was indoctrinated by a long line of ‘masters’.

          The fact that he put up his own prize money speaks to his sincerity

          Not necessarily.

      • Kev Green

        One thing we don’t know is whether he came up with this idea himself. He could very well come from a long line of ‘masters’ doing the same stunt.

        • epicurus

          Yes, interesting.

    • Joe

      1. Find a few gullible students. Manipulate them into believing you.
      2. Others will follow along with the group, it’s a well-known social phenomenon.
      3. Reinforce these beliefs continually, quickly deal with any dissent.
      (4. Possibly end up believing yourself due to constant reinforcement)

      • Greg G.

        (4. Possibly end up believing yourself due to constant reinforcement)

        You get a black belt in brainwashing when you can do it to yourself.

        • Joe

          We know this happens. Look at the ‘diva effect’ (obviously anecdotal, but well documented) that happens to celebrities (and Presidents *cough*) when they’re only surrounded by positive reinforcement.

          People forget The Emperor’s New Clothes was satire, not pure fiction.

        • Greg G.

          Those at the lower end of the Dunning-Kruger spectrum may be good at it.

  • Rick Zajac

    CBC did an expose of Benny Hinn several years ago and of course all the “healings” dealt with internal or emotional/psychiatric problems that couldn’t be proven. Any of the faithful with obvious physical ailments were never picked to come up to the stage to be “healed”. I wonder why that is? Of course now, Mr. Hinn is finally in trouble with the IRS (took long enough) and hopefully this scam artist/huckster will finally end up where he belongs.

    • adam
    • Joe

      hopefully this scam artist/huckster will finally end up where he belongs.

      Even if he does, which is unlikely, It will have no effect on the majority of his followers. History has taught us that.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Good point. Their conclusion can’t be wrong; must simply be that this guy is a fraud, not the entire worldview.

        • Max Doubt

          “Their conclusion can’t be wrong; must simply be that this guy is a fraud, not the entire worldview.”

          And maybe the guy is really for real but was just being a fraud that one and only time when he got busted. How do you know he’s not for real? Huh? You don’t know, do ya? Yep, you don’t. That’s what I thought.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Damn you and your invulnerable Christian logic.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          No, they’ll just claim that it’s a setup by the evil secular gub’mint, and that Benny Hinn isn’t a fraud at all.

  • RichardSRussell

    I still recall a video I saw of some televangelist putting his hand on Paul Kurtz’s forehead, shouting “heal”, and pushing, expecting Kurtz to fall over backwards like the 3-4 people before him had done. Kurtz just stood there and looked at him, so he tried again. Same result. The fraudster moved on to the next person, who quickly accommodated him.

    It’s like a little playlet, where everybody intrinsically understands what her or his role is and wants to give a good performance.

    • carbonUnit

      Making like a dog in response would have been amusing…

  • carbonUnit

    Reminds me of this:
    Tantrik tries to kill Sanal Edamaruku in live TV program with his “magical powers”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpwCuv_izn4

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    I like the analogy. This one worked.

  • Jim Jones

    People go along to get along.

  • Duane Locsin

    crack cocaine dealers are best to sell their products then to consume it, because it ends up screwing them over as well.

  • Duane Locsin

    a rule when it comes to a con.

    fool others, but don’t fool yourself.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Let me live ‘neath your spell.
    Do do that voodoo that you do so well !

  • Otto

    I wonder what excuses the Master used after the fight, I bet they sound eerily familiar.

  • sandy

    Here’s the beauty of being brainwashed. Brainwashed people do not believe that are brainwashed. This is why it is so hard to change someone’s mind, especially the religious mind. They have been indoctrinated or brainwashed since their childhood. No changing their minds as they can’t see they are wrong in believing a ridiculous belief. So, if you can’t tell if you are brainwashed…are you?

    • Phil Rimmer

      If you are less brainwashed generally you have more choices available to you. If making choices is very easy and you are not very high IQ, chances are you are somewhat brainwashed and have less authorial ownership of your actions…and someone in power or in business is making money out of you.

    • TheNuszAbides

      The glory which is built upon [a] lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. … How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again!

      –Mark Twain

      http://www.snopes.com/did-mark-twain-say-its-easier-to-fool-people-than-to-convince-them-that-they-have-been-fooled/

  • RichardSRussell

    OK, now the insistent video ad is crashing my browser. And more frequently to boot. Really, Patheos needs to do something about this. It’s getting completely out of hand.

    • Len

      See? Empty force really does work!

    • Sonyaj

      Adblock Plus, Disconnect, uBlock and Ghostery all work really well to keep all the Pathos pop-ups, trackers, etc (and stupid clickbait links) from causing this problem on my desktop computer (Apple). For example, ABP blocked 16, Disconnect blocked 71, UB blocked 53 and Ghostery 21. I use them with Chrome – totally worth it!

      • Greg G.

        I tried a 7 day test on Adblock yesterday on Chrome and it kept ads from loading because Patheos refused to load the page because it detected the ad blocker.

        I saw it in an ad on Patheos, now I’m getting larger Adblock ads more frequently.

        • Sonyaj

          That’s unfortunate…and I feel that the word “irony” would be somehow appropriate in this situation.
          I’m not sure why I don’t have that problem. I do notice all the ads and clickbait garbage when I’m using my iPad, though; the blocker apps don’t integrate with Safari. Have you tried any of the others? It’s sort of absurd that I have so many, but they do work!

        • Greg G.

          Actually the plugin is called Ad Blocker. That is the first one I have used. I’m using Windows 7 with Chrome. At work I use Chrome usually on Windows 7 but the network blocks video files so it isn’t as bad.

          The Chrome tab on my home computer keeps crashing. I can refresh and almost always recover an unposted reply but any new replies are not there after the refresh.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Patheos refused to load the page because it detected the ad blocker

          i’ve never had that degree of trouble, only an occasional plea to make a site exception because they’re not earning off of blocked ads.
          i make myself feel better about it by (a) buying Bob’s books and (b) intending to some day become a chip-in-patron of one or few other bloggers.

        • Greg G.

          I have put up with the ads for years because they pay for the interactions here. But they are getting to be too much when they begin to bother the reader. I don’t like the noisy ones, I don’t like the ones that steal the page focus, and I especially loathe those (or the cumulative effect of them) that crash the browser tab.

        • MR

          I can’t even use the site on my phone other than to read the main article. It’s easier to use Disqus, but sometimes clicking on responses take me to Patheos instead and it’s useless.

        • Greg G.

          When I click on a link in an email on my phone, sometimes it goes to the version for hand-helds depending on how long it has been since I last used it. It doesn’t automatically go to comments when there is a hash tag in the URL. I scroll to the bottom of the page to the link for the main page and it goes to the reply I am looking for. It stays on that version for the whole session. I have to expand the screen so the major column fills it for each one but that is easy. A day later and I have to do it again. I wish I could just make a setting to do it that way always.

        • Michael Neville

          I use Adblock Plus with Mozilla Firefox. Patheos doesn’t object.

  • X32WaysToDie

    I can’t think of a better representation of most of my conversations with Christians who use emotional and biblical “evidence” over intellectual evidence than these videos. Seriously, it’s spot on.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Great!

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    This is one of those things like what James Randi used to test. I mean, the simple test it to blindfold the kids (you probably have to have some controls for sounds of the motion and stuff, too). If the kids can’t see him do it, are they knocked over? The advantage of using the kids is that he can’t blame his failure (which is inevitable) on lack of belief.

  • Brad Feaker

    Good ole Benny Hinn…

    https://youtu.be/a54iqEr1flQ

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Someone has got to have been hurt in all that falling-down bullshit.

  • Rheingold

    I wonder if stage hypnotism works the same way. A few years ago, while on a trip to Vegas, I got “hypnotized” by Anthony Cools. Despite the whole show of dimming the lights and putting all the participants in a “trance” at the beginning, I didn’t feel any different during the show. But I still did all the outrageous stuff I was directed to anyway, purely out of peer pressure. That is, I felt obligated to give the audience what they wanted.

    • Greg G.

      Your eyelids are getting heavy. When I snap my fingers, you will send me a $1000. Never mind. I forgot how to snap my fingers.

  • http://anncar.com blogcom

    The bottom line is people cannot speak with any authority on this topic if they’ve never experienced the supernatural-oh they can offer an opinion but for what its worth that’s all it is- an opinion.
    They speak about something they know nothing about which is just stoopid.
    And I’m not referring to the antics of tele-evangelicals or whatever Americans call them.

    • Joe

      The bottom line is people cannot speak with any authority on this topic if they’ve never experienced the supernatural

      How do you determine if somebody has experienced the supernatural? What if the claims enter into the natural world, such as faith healing, or the martial arts ‘master’ mentioned above?

      • http://anncar.com blogcom

        Some people are healed through faith and prayer so it can be called supernatural especially when healing through medicine is ruled out.

        • Joe

          Who? Name one verified case of ‘healing through prayer’.

        • Odd Jørgensen

          Why do you even bother? Once the claim of woo enter the conversation its over by default. Anything beyond a hearty “bugger off!” is a waste of time.

        • adam

          “Who? Name one verified case of ‘healing through prayer’.”

        • Greg G.

          Some are healed by medicine but the person and family will insist it was the faith and prayer. Some insist they will be healed by faith and prayer but you don’t hear about the failure because dead men tell no tales. Then there is the phenomenon of spontaneous remission where the body heals itself. There is no noticeable difference in the number of theses cases that are dependent on a particular religion or no religion.

          Then there is the Templeton study that tried to show the efficacy of intercessory prayer. Patients were randomly put into three groups: one was prayed for an told they were being prayed for, one group was prayed for but not informed, and one group was not prayed for nor informed. The doctors who evaluated the patient outcomes were not aware of the group to which the patient had been assigned. The group that was told they were being prayed for fared the worst of the three groups. The researchers thought that gave them a false sense of security that made some of them be less responsible with their after care.

        • Max Doubt

          “Some people are healed through faith and prayer…”

          Now you’re just talkin’ out your ass.

          “… so it can be called supernatural especially when healing through medicine is ruled out.”

          Provide examples of healing where medical science was involved, the healing occurred, and medical science and all other possibilities of healing without supernatural intervention were ruled out. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Re-read my reply a couple sentences up.

        • epeeist

          Some people are healed through faith and prayer

          Nope.

          1. Some people say they are ill in some way

          2. Some of these people get better

          3. They infer it was because of “faith and prayer”.

          You need to demonstrate that these people were ill in the first place and then show a causal warrant for the claim that they got better because of “faith and prayer”.

        • adam

          “Some people are healed through faith and prayer so it can be called supernatural ”

          Nope

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9a60efd9b2e5b345a7dcab3ed20ccb910d1aacb7660ebf646a90e93c5236893c.jpg

        • Max Doubt

          “Some people are healed through faith and prayer…”

          When you make bold assertions like that and people ask you to objectively demonstrate that it’s true, is it a mere coincidence that you run like a coward and never address those claims? Could it be that even you know you’re full of shit? Everyone else seems to know it.

    • MR

      I’ve experienced the supernatural. I’ve had the Holy Spirit fill my being, felt the joy of Christ, spoken in tongues, prophesied, witnessed miracles…, even saw a ghost once. People can be made to believe almost anything, even about themselves. What I experienced felt real. That doesn’t mean it was. That’s why objective evidence is so important.

      • http://anncar.com blogcom

        So you saying your experiences weren’t objective and that you somehow imagined all of it.
        Surely if you can’t trust your own observations you can’t trust anything.

        • MR

          Not imagined. I recognize that I was influenced by the people around me. I trusted the people around me to interpret things correctly. If you’re told by people you know and trust that invisible evil spirits live in the dark forest and you get chills every time you walk by the dark forest, how much influence do you suppose those people had on your experience? Are there really invisible evil spirits to fear or just wolves? Different cultures have different supernatural beliefs. Those experiences are no less real to them than the experiences of other people with supernatural beliefs that they do not believe in. If someone else’s supernatural experience isn’t really a supernatural experience, yet they really believe it is, how certain can one be that one’s own supernatural experience is really a supernatural experience, and not just natural experiences misinterpreted? What method do you use to determine beyond a doubt that your supernatural experience is 100% genuine supernatural?

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Ahh…so you trusted other people to interpret for you- never a good idea.

        • Greg G.

          You trusted your own interpretations of an emotional experience and decided they were supernatural. That’s down right foolish.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Why are you so sure emotion had anything to do with it.

        • Greg G.

          When people are emotional, they often aren’t thinking that they are emotional. Afterward, when they reflect on it in a more objective state, it becomes apparent that it was emotions.

        • adam

          “Why are you so sure emotion had anything to do with it.”

          The ‘feeling’ you experienced.

          http://www.near-death.com/experiences/triggers/extreme-gravity.html

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          what feeling? maybe you can tell me.

        • adam

          Which one.

          The feeling of Oneness?
          The feeling of Love?
          The feeling of Universal Knowledge?

          Which one?

        • MR

          Not a good idea when they are likely to automatically jump to a supernatural conclusion. Nor is it good idea to trust yourself. What method would you use to determine a supernatural experience?

        • adam

          “Ahh…so you trusted other people to interpret for you- never a good idea.”

          It is often times the VERY BEST idea.

          You are not the first to have an unusual experience.
          What kind of experience do you have studying unusual experiences.

        • Joe

          I was about to say that.

          That’s why psychiatric hospitals require a reference from a qualified professional nowadays. Ideally a panel of doctors.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I’ll just be tearing the story of Joseph and the pharoah, the Ethiopian Eunuch, etc out of all of the Bibles I can, then?

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          How does someone confuse a natural experience with a supernatural
          one when the rules are different?
          For example one or all of the four forces in physics would have to be overridden so there should be no confusion.

        • Greg G.

          How does one tell an unusual natural experience from a supernatural one. Waking dreams are when a person thinks they are awake but are actually dreaming. Sometimes the person knows they are in bed but may feel paralyzed. Sometimes it’s a regular dream. Sometimes it is about an intruder. Sometimes it might be space aliens doing tests or abducting the person through the walls to a space ship, then returning them to their bed. Sometimes it is ghosts or monsters. Sometimes it’s Jesus, or angels or a deceased loved one.

          Shortly after a friend went to bed, he heard a crash and felt his house shake. He immediately called 911 to report a car had crashed into his living room. When he walked to the living room, nothing had happened. He couldn’t understand how it happened. The cops said they get calls like that a lot. We were having a conversation when dreams came up and I mentioned waking dreams and he realized that is what he had had.

          Another friend said he saw angels coming into his room through a hole in the wall when he was six. He refused to believe that waking dreams were a natural, common experience because he wanted to believe he had a supernatural experience.

        • MR

          No, not necessarily, or even generally. Many people experience the supernatural as an inner feeling. “Allah spoke to me. I felt the ghost’s presence in the room,” etc. Those can easily be natural experiences that one confuses for supernatural. On top of that, people often misinterpret natural occurrences as supernatural. My ghost for example, turned out to be an earthquake that had happened hundreds of miles away. Physics seemed to be overridden, but I only believed it to be. I see that Greg has provided several examples. Just because something unusual happens is no guarantee that what one has experienced was the supernatural. In the case of religion, when everyone around you influences your thinking, you can be even more susceptible to error. Again, think of supernatural occurrences in other religions that you don’t believe in. Think of all the people who imagine they’ve been abducted by aliens. If a person can believe that, they can believe they’ve experienced the supernatural. Trusting the individual, or even the individual trusting themselves, is not a good measure. What method do you use to determine that whether what you’ve experienced is the supernatural or not?

        • Max Doubt

          “How does someone confuse a natural experience with a supernatural one when the rules are different?”

          The rules are the same. If you can’t objectively distinguish between what you think is a supernatural experience and any other figment of your imagination, a figment of your imagination is what reasonable people will call it.

          “For example one or all of the four forces in physics would have to be overridden so there should be no confusion.”

          There are no rules of physics that apply to what you imagine.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          If an entity physically moved you by what seemed to be a magnetic force to what natural law would you attribute it.

        • Max Doubt

          “If an entity physically moved you by what seemed to be a magnetic force to what natural law would you attribute it.”

          If the stream of water coming out your bathroom faucet slowly worked itself into the shape of a pretzel, to which natural law would you attribute that?

          See? Making up silly hypothetical situations is easy for those of us who have even moderately active imaginations.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          A silly predictable response

        • adam
        • Max Doubt

          “A silly predictable response”

          You offered a hypothetical sensation of being moved by a magnetic force because, ya know, it sounds so mystically supernatural. Funny thing is, natural explanations abound. From the top you have medical conditions like dizzy spells, loss of balance, a stroke, intermittent optic nerve and/or inner ear condition, etc. Then there’s intoxication caused by intentional or accidental ingestion of alcohol, drugs, poisons, and even organic agents like bacteria or viruses. Earthquakes could easily generate that sort of sensation, as could a light/shadow harmonic or stroboscopic visual motion effect. Easy. See how I didn’t even have to appeal to any alleged violations of the laws of physics as we know ’em?

          So what about that stream of water from your bathroom faucet tying itself into a figure eight knot on its way to the basin? That was even cooler than your magnetic force thing, wasn’t it? More creative, a more interesting narrative, and any connection to the known laws of physics would surely be much more elusive. But I played along and came up with some perfectly mundane explanations for your mystical experience, so how about you let us know what natural law might be the cause of that water knotting trick?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Blogcom said, “A silly predictable response”, because he didn’t want to admit that using human written language to create a fiction is a perfectly acceptable rational explanation that can also be a consistent explanation for his own claims. The cognitive dissonance is delicious!

        • Max Doubt

          “The cognitive dissonance is delicious!”

          Yep. It’s too bad these sorts of believers have to protect themselves from the dissonance by being dishonest. That’s at least as much a reason as any why I don’t have any patience for their antics. When they come into an adult conversation and fling lies all over the place like a chimp flings poo at the zoo, they pretty much relinquish any right to ask to be treated with civility.

        • TheNuszAbides

          oh, if only you had actually predicted it.

        • Greg G.

          Describe the situation, please.

        • adam
        • Michael Neville

          The electromagnetic force is a real thing and well understood by physicists, chemists and electrical engineers.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Perhaps the entity could recount doing this and repeat the action under controled conditions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What are your supernatural beliefs, and why should we adopt them?

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          I’m Christian and I came to this belief rather late in life-around middle age-after some dramatic supernatural experiences.
          This set me on the path to discover more as I’d a lot of theology to catch up- I was something of a deist before.
          I experienced a Christianity typified in the New Testament’s Book of Acts and that cemented it for me.

        • Greg G.

          I experienced a Christianity typified in the New Testament’s Book of Acts and that cemented it for me.

          Somebody dropped dead for not contributing enough to the collection plate, a la Acts 5:1-11? Paul’s magic handkerchiefs, a la Acts 19:12?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for the background.

          Do you want to make an argument for Christianity? Tell us why we should adopt your worldview?

        • TheNuszAbides

          with a name like “blogcom” you’d think there might be a link to a detailed (or at least hyped-up) testimony online. never seen them put forth more detail than that three-liner, though.

        • adam

          “How does someone confuse a natural experience with a supernatural one when the rules are different?”

          Desire, fear, power, profit and others

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/878b8e07d2b942087c85ac234890ad18b3e8f811594bc275918c5d05cbe88467.jpg

        • Joe

          Surely if you can’t trust your own observations you can’t trust anything.

          Your own observations are among the things you should trust the least.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Don’t agree- never discount first hand experience- also to be objective about something you have to be able to observe.
          Isn’t that a principle of science.

        • Joe

          No, you need repeated observations confirmed by outside parties. That’s how science works.

          Would you discount first hand experience if you thought you were Napoleon?

        • MR

          I met a guy once who thought he might be God because he had been thinking about rain and lo and behold it had rained. According to blogcom, a person who hasn’t experienced the supernatural isn’t qualified to make an opinion on whether or not what he experienced is real.

        • adam

          “Would you discount first hand experience if you thought you were Napoleon?”

          I met someone who believed that he was Napoleon, he was in the psych ward of the hospital I worked at.

          Two Jesuses (Jesi) as well.
          Nice people who actually believed they were Jesus Christ.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Being in the psych ward explains why Jesus isn’t in church. Being in two places at once shows he is omnipresent!

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9CS7j5I6aOc

        • Michael Neville

          The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. –Richard Feynman

        • Greg G.

          MR tried to tell you that he had first hand experience of what he thought was the real deal supernatural experience but when he looked at it objectively, he realized it was not actually supernatural.

          It’s not that the experiences aren’t real, they just not supernatural. It’s real emotions. Religions survive by exploiting emotional experiences.

        • MR

          never discount first hand experience

          For ordinary experiences, it’s generally a good rule, though not always. For extraordinary experiences, not so good. Eyewitness accounts for natural events are notoriously iffy.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          I’m sure people go over details of any extraordinary event trying to measure it against the normal in search of explanations.

        • MR

          That’s been my experience in my lifetime, except, perhaps, in the case of the very gullible. Is that not your experience? What method would you use?

        • adam
        • Sonyaj

          Yes, and for lots of us, it means assigning (or assuming) a scientific explanation for something that is an “unusual event”, at least in my personal experience: that’s what 2 friends and I did on a backpacking in the Grand Canyon (where there is no light pollution) several years ago when we witnessed what we assumed was a star appearing to jumping back and forth in the night sky. All 3 of us saw the exact same thing, something we’d never seen before, so it clearly wasn’t our “imagination” run amok.

          It was one of the more unusual/bizarre things I’ve ever seen with my own eyes, to be sure. We kind of obsessed over what the object was and/or what could be the cause of its unnatural movement for the rest of the trip (definitely not a satellite or the ISS; I’ve seen those before). A GIS after getting home indicated that it was likely due to distortion from air currents, like a mirage. After all, there’s a lot of air and empty space between us and the source that was untold number of light-years away.

        • Max Doubt

          “Don’t agree- never discount first hand experience-…”

          I discount any claim of experience if the claimant can’t objectively differentiate the alleged experience from any other figment of their imagination.

          “… also to be objective about something you have to be able to observe. Isn’t that a principle of science.”

          One principle of science is, if you claim something is part of reality but you can’t objectively demonstrate that it is, your claim may be rejected out of hand. So far nobody that claimed a supernatural power, being, event, or phenomenon has been able to demonstrate that it actually is part of reality.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          But people can vividly recall and describe their experiences and know its out of the ordinary just by comparing it against what is ordinary.

        • Max Doubt

          “But people can vividly recall and describe their experiences and know its out of the ordinary just by comparing it against what is ordinary.”

          First, being outside the ordinary has nothing whatsoever to do with being supernatural, your glaringly obvious, dishonest, and failed attempt at equivocation notwithstanding. Second, you’re talking nonsense. Without regard to the vividity of your alleged experience, if you can’t objectively demonstrate that what you claim to experience actually occurred, your claim may be the result of a lie, an error in your perception, mental illness, or any of many other possibilities. Reasonable people will dismiss your claim given the plausibility – in fact, the commonness – of lying, mental illness, etc.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          In reply to you first sentence- yes it does- that’s why we distinguish between the ordinary and extraordinary- even though its an explanation you don’t like. . .

        • Max Doubt

          “In reply to you first sentence- yes it does- that’s why we distinguish between the ordinary and extraordinary- even though its an explanation you don’t like. . .”

          Out of the ordinary, uncommon, unusual, rare, and unlikely shit happens all the time. All. The. Time. Never in the history of humanity has any such occurrence been objectively demonstrated to be the result of supernatural activity. Your desperation is getting the better of you and making you look foolish.

        • Greg G.

          How do they eliminate the possibility of a waking dream? Or any dream?

          When I was a kid, I was feeling sad but didn’t know why. Then a kid rode by on his bicycle and it surprised me because I had remembered hearing he was killed by a car and I had seen that bike mangled. Then I realized it had been a dream.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Definitely not a dream

        • adam

          You have no way of knowing

        • Greg G.

          That’s what people say about waking dreams. It usually seems like it is not a dream as the person thinks they are wide awake.

        • epeeist

          But people can vividly recall and describe their experiences and know its out of the ordinary

          Eben Alexander had a near death experience, he inferred that consciousness is independent of the brain and that there is a transition after death. The two things are different.

        • adam

          I have had MANY mystical experiences.

          They were certainly out of MY ordinary, but they were ordinary in the context of brain/chemistry and neurology.

        • Otto

          A UFO is out of the ordinary. The problem is people equate the out of the ordinary UFO to aliens….when by definition a UFO is unidentified.

          The same issue applies to other out of the ordinary experiences, people define them as being something specific when they are not justified to do so.

        • Joe

          People can vividly recall memories of events that never happened.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Human memory and first-hand experience can put innocent people in jail for crimes no one commited. Evidence that all people can observe and test can set them free.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/28/two-more-ritual-satanic-abusers-are-freed-after-21-years-due-to-the-collapse-of-the-states-rickety-case/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ?? You can’t trust your own observations! That’s the point. Optical illusions, mental illness, biases, and so on make this clear.

          That’s why science is effective–it allows us to pool our experiences and insights in a way such that errors are gradually eliminated.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          ok- eliminating mental illness, biases et al.
          People mistakenly think one can emote or hallucinate themselves into some sort of state that conjures up a vision or visitation etc.
          It sounds cliché but what if someone can say it was just a normal day and I wasn’t prepared for what was to happen next.

        • Greg G.

          Do you think it is impossible to dream something like that? If one does it during a waking dream, it seems much different than a regular dream. That’s why people report being abducted by aliens, seeing angels, seeing dead relatives, intruders, and car crashes in their living rooms.

        • Joe

          ok- eliminating mental illness, biases et al.

          How do you do that?

        • TheNuszAbides

          blogcom leaves the homework to … anybody else.

        • MR

          So, this morning I had an experience that I think illustrates how our biases influence how we view things. My cat recently went missing. It’s been about a week, the longest he’s ever disappeared. Those of you who have animals know how attached we become and how distressing this is the more time that passes. Anyway, this morning he trot, trot, trotted up to his food dish and started eating like nothing had happened. I was so overjoyed that I jolted myself awake. I thought, “Oh, Whiskers [not is real name] is here!” And, then I realized, no, no, it was just a dream. A vivid dream, it seemed very real, but a dream nonetheless.

          Now, here’s the thing, two things can now happen: Whiskers shows up or he doesn’t show up. A rational me understands that my concern for the cat resulted in an emotionally charged dream that has nothing to do with whether the cat actually turns up or not. A supernatural-believing me might have some hope that this was a sign that the cat is okay and will come home soon. Should the cat turn up, I’d be telling everyone how I had this dream and the cat turned up and wasn’t that weird, and we’d all be in awe…. Wow! But, if the cat doesn’t turn up, eventually I’d forget I even had the dream and it would mean nothing.

          Now imagine rational me and supernatural me reacting to an extraordinary event. Was that bright light floating across the lawn an angel or ball lightning? Was the towel that swayed by itself a ghost or an earthquake? Was the electromagnetic pulse I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit or a muscle spasm? Rational me is going to look for a natural cause. Supernatural me is going to assume a supernatural cause and once I start telling people that, I’m committed. How many times in my life has something I believed to be an extraordinary event turned out to be something quite mundane? How many times has someone told you some supernatural account, and you think to yourself, “Yeah, right…. That happened to me once and it turned out to be gas.”

        • Greg G.

          I hope the dream turns out to be prophetic, anyway.

        • MR

          Me, too, Greg. :S

        • Michael Neville

          I once had a cat show up after eight days. She was really glad to come home and was really upset that we took her to the vet where she stayed overnight.

        • Joe

          Sorry to hear about your cat, I have two and hate to think how I’d feel if either went missing.

          I agree how some things seem to be supernatural, I’ve had extremely vivid dreams about deceased family members (and pets), long after they’ve passed. It would be easy to interpret this as a ‘message from beyond the grave’, when in reality it appears to be just a dream.

        • Joe

          Hi MR. This post has been bumped by another wacko supernaturalist it seems, and I stumbled on this post again.

          Did Whiskers ever return?

        • MR

          Thanks for asking, Joe. No, sadly Whiskers never came home. :( I still find myself looking out the window for him before I catch myself. It’s been a sad household.

        • Joe

          Again, you have my sympathy.

        • MR

          Much thanks. Next time you have a drink, have a silent toast to his memory if you think of it. “To Whiskers…, we never even knew ya.” Who knows, maybe at least there’s a kitty heaven and he’ll hear.

        • adam

          “People mistakenly think one can emote or hallucinate themselves into
          some sort of state that conjures up a vision or visitation etc.”

          Absolutely.
          Virtually on demand.

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=ayahuasca+drug&t=ffnt&ia=web

          “It sounds cliché but what if someone can say it was just a normal day and I wasn’t prepared for what was to happen next.”

          Probably just a mild seizure.

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=epilepsy+hallucinations&t=ffnt&ia=web

        • Joe

          I wonder if he’s ever been to a magic show? That will really blow his mind.

        • Max Doubt

          “I wonder if he’s ever been to a magic show? That will really blow his mind.”

          I remember hanging around my dad’s workshop when I was maybe seven or eight years old. Sometimes he’d be building various magic tricks. As I learned woodworking I was also learning the mechanics of the tricks. I knew how some of these things worked before I even knew what the effect should look like. Unconventional direction for learning magic, yes, but possibly some of the most influential experiences in the development of my critical thinking skills. I’ve been various levels of professional magician myself for nearly 50 years. Once you’ve been backstage, so to speak, sitting in the audience can never be the same again.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          With the goal of having an open mind about religion, I’ve had the opposite experience. I’ve been to lots of Christian apologetics conferences, including a 2-week one (John Warwick Montgomery). I’ve been backstage, seeing the good stuff reserved for the pros. There’s no there there.

          This was neither disappointing nor surprising, but I’ve at least eliminated the attack that I haven’t given apologetics a chance.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Sounds a bit like the difference between listening to music before and after learning how songs are written/produced. I still get some of the same wonder, but much of my attention is now occupied by the space in the arrangement, or how well the EQ of the instruments blend, etc.

        • lambchowder

          but only occasionally fully. That only happens in ideal conditions, and supernatural tampering has a lot of room to fuck with overconfident scientists.

        • http://jdeveland.com/ JD Eveland

          Wikipedia has a listing of over 135 distinct “cognitive biases” that cause personal processing of observational data to be critically flawed in definite ways. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases) Unless you apply some critical thinking to your observations, no – you can’t trust them unequivocally. Human cognition is based on a little sensory input and a great deal of brain post-processing of these data, construction of the external world, and generalization from prior postulates.

      • Anat

        Richard Dawkins mentioned that while in school he had visions of angels. Those stopped when he stopped believing.

        • Joe

          Angels are nothing if not pragmatic.

    • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

      LOL. So, by that standard, no one can be a psychiatrist unless they’ve been insane and no one can write about ancient history unless they lived in ancient times.

      And since the supernatural isn’t even real, no one has ever experienced it. The only people who have experienced the supernatural are delusional people, drug addicts and the mentally ill. And you think those are the only people who can talk with any authority on the subject? Talk about the lunatics running the asylum!

      • http://anncar.com blogcom

        That’s your limited opinion.

        • Joe

          That’s his experience. You can’t have an opinion on that until you’ve experienced the supernatural not being real.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Literal LOL. We’ll done.

      • lambchowder

        Nice ‘intellectual’ (and thus unemotional, I guess? yeah rrrrright.) opinion.

    • Max Doubt

      “The bottom line is people cannot speak with any authority on this topic if they’ve never experienced the supernatural-oh they can offer an opinion but for what its worth that’s all it is- an opinion.”

      The real bottom line is this: If you can’t objectively distinguish between what you think is a supernatural being, event, occurrence, phenomenon, etc., and any other figment of your imagination, you’d be lying to claim the supernatural stuff is something other than imaginary.

      “They speak about something they know nothing about which is just stoopid.”

      If you or anyone else can’t objectively differentiate between a figment of your imagination and something allegedly supernatural, it fits exactly the definition of a figment of your imagination, and there’s no reason for reasonable people to consider it anything else. This is something I know a lot about.

      “And I’m not referring to the antics of tele-evangelicals or whatever Americans call them.”

      I’m not either. I’m referring to claims of ESP and psi and clairvoyance and reincarnation and ghosts and spirits and gods and dowsing and… Yes, everything that falls under the heading of supernatural. Everything that you imagine as real, but which can’t be objectively demonstrated to be something other than imaginary, is by definition imaginary.

      • lambchowder

        No, things that aren’t demonstrable in empirical settings are theoretical or hypothetical. Things that aren’t objective are subjective. The very act of creating art demonstrates imagination. Perhaps if you were to buy a dictionary ( a philosophy textbook, preferably full of thought experiments and other nontangibles ) and put down the podcast, you wouldn’t be so muddled and confused.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Guy says that he was taken by aliens to their planet and then returned to earth. You’re not entitled to have an opinion about that since you’ve never had that experience?

      • http://anncar.com blogcom

        Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but only those who’ve experienced it can speak about it from knowledge others don’t have.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which doesn’t respond to my comment. You have opinions about lots of things that you haven’t experienced.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Agreed- one can have intellectual knowledge about something but in this area you need experiential knowledge because it falls outside our understanding.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Then be consistent. Make clear to us that you would have no opinion in response to the person who said he’d been taken to the home planet of aliens.

        • MR

          I wonder if blogcom were on trial for witchcraft in Salem whether he might not find a voice to speak out about the claims others have of supernatural experience. Many observers in that trial no doubt felt they shouldn’t speak out. “Well, they could be lying or delusional, but since we can’t know if they’re experiences are real, we have no choice but to hang them!”

          Blogcom no doubt wishes we were silent as we watch Christians championing and implementing laws and policies based on a supernatural belief they have no way of proving.

          “This buzz feels so real. Hush, hush, Bob, you’re ruining it for me!”

        • adam

          “”This buzz feels so real. Hush, hush, Bob, you’re ruining it for me!””

          After having dozens of mystical experiences, I can fully understand this ‘feeling’.
          No matter how false it is.

        • MR

          Right? There are plenty of us who have been on that side of the fence to know what’s going on. And, I’m sure many if not most of us have seen Christians caution other Christians when they get a little too zealous. “Is that dream you had really a sign from God telling you to sell everything and start a mission in Zimbabwe? Let’s not be too hasty now….”

        • Argus

          Does Blogcom float in water?

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          An opinion is one thing- would I have a way of knowing one way or the other- no.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You said, “They speak about something they know nothing about which is just stoopid.”

          In response to the guy with the alien spaceship claim, you could offer your opinion and be stoopid, or you could say nothing about it, since you hadn’t had the experience.

          If your position makes sense, your dancing around the issue certainly doesn’t make that seem likely.

        • adam

          “but in this area you need experiential knowledge because it falls outside our understanding.”

          Not if you study the science.
          It makes perfect sense when you explore the brain, neurology and chemistry.

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=dmt&t=ffnt&ia=web

        • lambchowder

          That offers you seemingly plausible explanations that for various design reasons may well be there to mask everything else,as you’d expect. The only relevant science is sacred, ala exorcism. Science only deals with the natural from where the natural can affect it.

        • adam
        • Otto

          Knowledge can be demonstrated, and if it can’t be demonstrated it rises to nothing more than a claim.

        • adam

          I have had dozens of mystical experiences.

          I have also studied the science of the these experiences .

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      Given that we have no “supernatural” claiming to have had experiences with humans, it definitely can’t be the case that humans claiming to have had experiences with the “supernatual” are making unsubstantiated claims to get stuff out of gullible people. Naw’, couldn’t be… could it?

      • lambchowder

        “We?” You mean “I”. Of course you haven’t, you never tried.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          ‘We’ as in: “We have TV shows playing all over the world.” There isn’t anything that can have or “have never” tried in that example either. TV shows playing is just a reality, and the “supernatural” making claims about itself continues to be non-existent. Nothing anyone can do about that X-P

    • Jason K.

      Many people have experiences they don’t understand. Some of those people will ascribe supernatural causes to those experiences whether that’s truly the case or not. So, no, simply having an experience is not enough to qualify one’s opinion as superior to another’s. You have to support you experience with evidence. Because if the supernatural did not exist, we would still expect mistaken people to claim to have supernatural experiences. Personal conviction alone is not sufficient.

      The bottom line is people cannot speak with any authority on this topic even if they think they have experienced the supernatural.

      • lambchowder

        Actually, they can speak with complete authority if they have. That it doesn’t meet irrelevant demands of evidence is meaningless. You can’t harness the supernatural in natural media for what should be obvious reasons, whether that sounds convenient or not.

        • Joe

          What is the supernatural?

        • adam

          magic

          n.

          The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.

        • Jason K.

          Actually, they can speak with complete authority if they have.

          And how would anyone, including the person who had the experience, determine it was supernatural in origin?

          That it doesn’t meet irrelevant demands of evidence is meaningless.

          The need for evidence is not irrelevant, it’s essential to determining what happened. There have been thousands of cases where people who claimed to have a supernatural experience were later proven to be either mistaken or lying, so we know false positives are a real problem. If there is no valid evidence for legitimate supernatural phenomena, then reasonable people must not assume it’s existence. There are better, competing explanations for the various reports of the supernatural. People are easily mistaken. That’s just a fact.

          You can’t harness the supernatural in natural media for what should be obvious reasons, whether that sounds convenient or not.

          It’s not inconvenient for me, but then again I’m not trying to convince anyone the supernatural is real. It’s certainly a problem for anyone who believes. They are the ones in the position of needing to provide compelling evidence for such an extraordinary claim.

        • adam

          “Actually, they can speak with complete authority if they have.”

          And they can act with complete authority if they have:

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/576b5354eb99d2993f45ae1c298d7ea1beb6be63a081a92e69a99632f9b856b3.jpg

    • Argus

      I’m not an expert on goats but I am 99.9999% a goat cannot live in the vaccum of space.