Firebrands

I’ve been watching the “Four Horsemen” video, a two-hour conversation among four of today’s leading atheists: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. Right at the beginning, Dan Dennett brings up a point that’s also been on my mind. Speaking about his pre-publication editing of Breaking the Spell, in an effort not to offend religious readers:

“…it’s a no-win situation, it’s a mug’s game. The religions have contrived to make it impossible to disagree with them critically without being rude.”

“They play the ‘hurt feelings’ card at every opportunity and you’re faced with the choice of, well, am I going to be rude… or am I just going to button my lip?”

In the media, the “New Atheists” are regularly accused of being disrespectful, uncompromising, polarizing troublemakers who do not think twice about bashing long-held traditions or trampling on the delicate sensibilities of the religious. I cited some examples of this denunciation last year in “On Being Uncontroversial“, where I also noted:

…the denunciation of atheists has nothing to do with the language or tone of their criticism, and it especially has nothing to do with the accuracy of their criticism. On the contrary, atheists are called “shrill” and “hysterical” and “extremist” if they criticize religion in any way at all.

A religious reader unintentionally provided a perfect example of this, in the comments to my recent post “Little-Known Bible Verses VIII“. This post pointed out that, in flat contradiction to the Catholic church’s rule mandating priestly celibacy, the Bible not only allows but arguably mandates that clergy be married. A comment left in response carried the by-now-familiar whiff of outrage:

This [post] proves the old saying, “Scratch an atheist, uncover a fundamentalist”.

Evidently, pointing out that a religious sect is disobeying its own holy book is now sufficient to get one labeled an “atheist fundamentalist”. You couldn’t ask for a better demonstration that, as far as religious apologists are concerned, atheists should be seen and not heard. The defenders of orthodoxy, no matter what they claim, do not want us to be nicer; they simply want us to be silent.

As further evidence, consider this approving review from the conservative Weekly Standard, of André Comte-Sponville’s The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. The full review is behind a paywall, but the giveaway part is visible:

Most important, we discover that Comte-Sponville is not a cranky, cantankerous atheist. He was born into Christendom, and raised there; and though he eventually defected, he was never disinfected of its moral graces. He calls himself a “non-dogmatic atheist,” a “faithful atheist,” even a “Christian atheist.” Comte-Sponville might not believe in God, but he admires Him. An atheist he is; a heathen he is not.

As this review shows, what the religious apologists approve of is atheists who wish they were religious. That subservient, conciliatory posture is what they like to see, since it validates their presuppositions about the importance of theistic belief. By contrast, atheists who are proud and happy to be atheists, who have no need of superstition, and who are not afraid to say so – they will always be perceived as disrespectful and rude. We anger and offend many in the religious majority not because of any specific criticism or tone, but merely because we don’t wish we could share in their superstitions.

With that knowledge, let’s not worry too much about offending the believing masses. Those pundits and theologians who fret about how boisterous and uncivil we are, and who solemnly advise us that we should be more gentle and conciliatory if we want to succeed, in reality, are just playing a slightly more sophisticated version of the old Br’er Rabbit trick: “Don’t throw me into the briar patch!” They do not have our best interests in mind; they counsel us to tone down our message only as the first step of their desire to see us altogether silenced.

I’m not saying that anything goes. We should avoid ad hominem attacks because they are fallacious, even without considering their effect on people’s feelings. And we should not deliberately phrase our message with the intent of causing anger or offense. But since some anger and offense is inevitable, we also shouldn’t worry too much about sparing people’s feelings.

Let’s be atheist firebrands. We should boldly speak our minds at every opportunity, and never hold back out of fear of causing offense or a desire to be more popular. Let’s say what we believe and make our case with force and courage. History has taught us that, in battles of public opinion, conviction and passion often carry the day; fearful retreat and tepid compromise hardly ever do. Let’s ignore those who wish to silence us and let our voices be heard loud and clear. We will attract the kind of response we are hoping for.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Watching the HBO series on John Adams, he was faced with this exact dilemma in the Continental Congress. He was advised that by being too outspoken, he would alienate people who would otherwise be his allies. In the end, a proclamation was read from the king of England threatening them all with hanging if they did not comply. Only then did Adams’ quiet supporters offer their public support, with the famous line “we must all hang together, or we will no doubt all hang separately.”

    Sometimes I think it takes outrageous actions and threats of imminent loss of freedoms–at the behest of theists and would-be theocrats–to galvanize us into being the firebrands we should have been all along.

    I’m all for strategic silence when necessary. But there’s a time and a place for boldness, and for atheism, that time is now.

  • Jim Coufal

    Amen, brother!

    Jim

  • stillwaters

    I just went through something like this at another blog. Someone said that all the atheists they knew were militant atheists (e.g. Dawkins), and that if atheists were better able to discuss their philosophy without being confrontational, then more people would accept us. See the catch? “without being confrontational”. How can you disagree without being confrontational? That’s what disagreement is all about.

    You make an excellent point, Ebon. Believers will only agree with you if you agree not to disagree with them. How’s that for open inquiry?

    Religion is shielded with the idea that all their beliefs are sacred and off-limits to questioning. It’s just part of the make-up.

  • mikespeir

    1Pe 2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

    In context, Jesus is the “rock of offence.” By extrapolation, Christians are (being part of “Christ’s body”).

    Christians make a lot of hay out of their being an offense to the world, just by dint of their existence. This offense, they assume, is the evil in us reacting, on a spiritual level, to the righteousness in them.

    How, then, do they account for the fact that OUR–atheists’–very existence seems to be more of an offense to them than theirs is to us? We have a believable explanation for this. We remind them that reasonable people find no justification for their fundamental assumptions. There is no way they can see this as anything but a personal attack.

    Like I’ve said many times, we’re going to cause offense with even the gentlest voicing of our opinions. So be it. We just have to take care not to add to that with deliberate insult.

  • Christopher

    This isn’t going to be a problem for me as I’m the confrontational type – hell, I’m even confrontational amongst other non-believers (as those who read my posts no doubt already know).

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Atheists are not offensive enough. Not nearly. The predominant Christian sensibility is that a fair exchange between a Christian and an atheist looks like this:

    The Christian is allowed to proselytize and try to convert the atheist. The atheist must sit and patiently listen about how wonderful Jesus was and how rejecting any part of the Christian’s story will result in the atheist being tortured in hell for eternity. The atheist is told he must endure this banter because proselytizing is a unique Christian sensibility, thus religious tolerance implies that we must allow ourselves to be “worked on” for a conversion. To the atheist, this experience is about as charming as getting a blowjob from a street hooker on the basis that those are her sensibilities and we do not wish to offend her.

    The atheist is not allowed to mention anything. If, for example, the atheist says “well… I really don’t think that Christianity is the only religion which says that theirs is the only true God, so I really don’t see how this makes Christianity special…” this is seen as an attack on their religion. The atheist is allowed to say “oh, that’s nice” but nothing else, and then field questions about how long he thinks it will take for himself to accept Jesus Christ as his personal lord and savior.

    The atheist is hardly even allowed to correct the Christian about what it means to be an atheist. For example, pointing out that you do not “hate” their god and that Satanism is not a type of atheism, all of this earns the atheist the distinction of being a nitpicker concerned with largely unimportant details. And no matter how many times the atheist corrects the Christian, the continues to make the same exact claims as if he knew what atheism was better than the atheist.

    Further, for there to even be a dialog in the first place, the atheist must re-assure the Christian at every step of the way that he is NOT trying to convince the Christian to question his own beliefs. Because even though Christians pride themselves in saying that doubt makes them stronger, that doubt must never be introduced by an atheist. The only remotely acceptable attitude is for the atheist to say that he is continually “considering the facts” in order to decide whether or not to become a Christian after all. But absolutely no such concession is required from the Christian.

  • http://www.bellatorus.com Petrucio

    Indeed.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    I actually like this post, Ebon. You (collective you) are obnoxious, and it’s intentional…..or at least you don’t back off from proclaiming what you believe for fear someone will be offended. You are frank here.

    We (Jehovah’s Witnesses) have also been accused of being obnoxious….sometimes with justication, and we’ve defended any aggressive stance with reasoning exactly as yours.

    Nowadays anybody can take shots at religion. There is great strength in numbers, and many of your people have substantial resources as regards social standing and education. On the other hand, our own people were equally aggressive at “exposing” religion when NOBODY did it, at least not in any coherent way. For the most part, we did without the advantages I’ve attributed to you, at least at that time, (1930s and 40s) less so now. We were well known for the quite undignified and aggressive “Religion is a Snare and a Racket” processions and campaigns. All the rotten underbelly of manmade religions that we were speaking of then have since been picked up by most everybody, who imagine they are being courageous in pointing it out. I believe you know enough about Jehovah’s Witnesses to know that what I refer to is so.

    Yes, yes, I know…..you don’t like us anymore than them….perhaps you even like us less. Nonetheless, I was struck with the similarity of your remarks to what we were saying before you were born.

    We had one bruising discussion several months ago, Ebon, and I’ve looked here only sporadically since then. But I’ve built my most recent post out of that last exchange, and that exercise has sent me lurking here again for a time.

    Do you get “believers” here, or are you largely preaching to the choir…rallying the troops, etc?

  • http://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    “Preaching to the choir,” there’s another tiresome, thinly-veiled criticism that gets tossed at atheists who dare to speak up. First it implies the “scratch an atheist, find a fundie” sentiment; then it suggests we are wasting our time because our audience already agrees with us, so we’re not doing any hard work. But the atheist must never try to convert believers, for then he is “just as bad as a fundie”; nor should the atheist ever speak to like-minded fellows, for risk of being accused of “preaching to the choir.” Funny, though, no one ever accuses the faithful authors of literally countless religious books and tracts and essays and whatnot over centuries, of “preaching to the choir.”

    We’re supposed to listen to believers about how to make our proclamations of un-faith? Yeah, right. Pretty sneaky!

  • Wayne Essel

    Well, here I go again. I should learn to be quiet. However… you can dialog with Christians. They won’t all tell you that you’re full of s–t. I am one. I’m a bit left of center. Dawkins’ site, this site and friendlyAtheist are three sites I visit almost every lunch hour. I also visit ChristianityToday and BeliefNet. I like all of them. And I cringe a bit when I encounter condescending and angry discussions, on either side. I also understand that some anger is more than justified.

    The very nature of these discussions is that we are discussing an absolute. And when I take my position, I am taking also the position that the other side has a wrong position in absolute terms. In my case, even when I’m not sure that God exists, I take the position of Pascal’s wager. I’ll even admit that I hope or want God to exist. And I understand that my belief does not change the absolute truth. When I die, I either I find out that I’m right or I go poof. Sorry, by definition, you folks are taking the unprovable side of the argument (at time of death).

    You don’t need me to tell you that you have a right to be here! And we all need to be examining and evaluating our beliefs and making the world a better place for all of us. Some Christians do that. Christians, like all people, are better represented by a continuum of beliefs than an absolute choice. My sense is that you will have more meaningful conversations with the left or liberal side of the continuum than the right or fundamental side.

    Wayne

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Tomsheepandgoats, let me point out the main difference. Atheists don’t canvas neighborhoods, knocking on people’s doors and confronting them in their homes to tell them that they are wrong about everything they believe in and that they must listen to the atheist’s message. This is something JW’s and Christians all share in common, not atheists.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Wayne… couple of things you need to know. One, God isn’t unprovable or unfalsible- he is supposed to interact with reality, he is supposed to have certain attributes- you can use his supposed actions and show he isn’t doing them, hence he isn’t here or you can point out his attributes are internally inconsistant; either with themself or reality.

    Also, Pascal’s Wager is THE WORST argument. Argument from design is better. Why? Because Pascal’s wager isn’t even concerned with God’s existance!

    As for dealing with the “liberal” Christians… I believe it is actually worse than the fundamentalists. One thing I have noticed is that alot of the people who have converted were hard core believers. They have a definite God in mind when they speak of religion and they happen to be interested if their beliefs are true (they are delusional, but only in one way). Liberal believers shift the goal posts and speak in nonsense like “non-overlapping magnesia”. Fundamentalists tend to be more honest about their beliefs- they pick and choose, but not as much. Of course some of them are okay with all the genocide which makes some of them pretty creepy (see Vox Day)…

  • durandal_1707

    This is perhaps the anti-atheists’ strongest front of attack in this day and age. There’s simply a lot of passivity in people these days to the point where holding any strong opinion, even one based firmly in reason and fact, is frowned upon. It’s a sort of postmodernist malaise that I see a lot of in the younger generations – that nonconfrontationalism should be embraced – a naive belief that any kind of “rocking the boat” only needs to unnecessary strife. Thus we get news coverage that goes out of its way to make sure not to sound “biased”, and a new generation of voting age that is unaffected by most social and political issues because they’re afraid of alienating friends and have been indoctrinated with the idea that any kind of deviance from the middle is a sign of “extremism” or “being radical”.

    Religion holds many advantages here that gives it a rather unfair edge in the realm of public opinion. It’s an establishment, and as such many people will err to the “it worked for our fathers and mothers” fallacy. What’s funny is that slavery was “an establishment” as well, and I’m certain that many of the complaints being lobbed at atheists today for being “radical” and “controversial” were probably also hurled at abolitionists. That’s an analogy that’s sure to offend, but it’s poignant in showing that traditions, no matter how long they have existed, are not immune from being patently incorrect. Unfortunately to the common person these religious traditions have long been assimilated into their life and culture that it is perceived to be as the norm, and thus anyone merely questioning them or hinting at their absurdity is going to be branded as “extreme” or “radical”.

    Whatever. I’d rather be “radical” and “controversial” rather than being wrong.

  • Christopher

    BBK,

    “that Satanism is not a type of atheism,”

    Actually, there is some truth to that statement – The Leveyan branch of Satanism is Atheistic as it holds that there’s no “god” save for one’s own self.

    I know, off topic – just wanted to put that little correction out there…

  • ex machina

    The very nature of these discussions is that we are discussing an absolute. And when I take my position, I am taking also the position that the other side has a wrong position in absolute terms. In my case, even when I’m not sure that God exists, I take the position of Pascal’s wager. I’ll even admit that I hope or want God to exist. And I understand that my belief does not change the absolute truth. When I die, I either I find out that I’m right or I go poof. Sorry, by definition, you folks are taking the unprovable side of the argument (at time of death).

    Ahh, I see what you are saying: that if we do not continue on in any form after death, then there is no way for us to prove as such (because we would not be able to come back and tell anyone, because we’d cease to be!). But I don’t think that’s the only way one could “disprove” a god, or at least show that sufficient evidence is lacking. As such, I don’t think I’ve taken the “unprovable” side of the argument.

    You don’t need me to tell you that you have a right to be here!

    I probably don’t need to tell you at all, but, as you can see there are some people (influential and powerful people, no less) who don’t feel that way.

    And we all need to be examining and evaluating our beliefs and making the world a better place for all of us.

    Indeed.

  • Dzho

    LOL. uhhh…non-overlapping “magisteria”. One’s choice in laxatives should remain a personal matter, i think.

  • James B

    Partly I agree with this post, although it’s something for each individual to decide how confrontational they are comfortable being. My experience on the one-to-one level is that causing offence (whether justified or not) makes people less likely to take you seriously.

    If people made decisions about religion on the basis of reason and evidence alone, it might not be a problem. There would be no losing face to accept that new evidence has been made clear to them and changing their mind is a reasonable and mature way to respond. But the impression I get is that many of the things we believe (including things unrelated to religion), we believe for partly emotional reasons – “My family believe it”, “It’s a comforting thought”, “I don’t understand the world and this kind of helps.”, “I feel sure I was meant for something bigger”, etc.

    Perhaps I’m naive to think that I can convince a theist that I might be right, but I am still trying. I find when talking with individuals, causing offence shortens the conversation and makes you look like the villain to any third party. I know it isn’t fair or reasonable that theists should get offended when they interpret, “I don’t think god(s) exist(s).” as “You’re an idiot for believing that stuff.”, but I think we should take it into account if we want them to listen.

    That said, I agree strongly that we should challenge religious ideas whenever possible, rather than just saying, “Yeah well, each to their own”.

    Surely the most important thing to get into everyone’s heads is that it’s ok to challenge religious ideas and that disagreeing is not disrespectful.

    I think drawing parallels with criticism of political or scientific ideas might be useful. Perhaps asking if they would consider that voicing their disagreements with other religions would be disrespectful?

  • Steve Bowen

    If someone, in conversation with you, assumes a common belief in a god then I see nothing wrong in challenging that assumption. If they find your non-belief offensive that is entirely their problem. If someone preaches to you in the street or on your doorstep about their religion, be as offensive as you like. If someone finds your expression of non-belief in a relevant context offensive, again that is their problem. It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid giving unnecessary offense, however it is also everyone’s responsibility to not take unnecessary offense. I am a strong atheist and see my position as being political as well as theological/philosophical but I do not proselytise (unless seriously provoked). Also it is easy to forget here in Ebonland that a large majority of people couldn’t give a flying f**k one way or the other about god or the separation of church and state etc blah de blah. There is no worse audience than one that doesn’t care; for them both sides of the argument are a bore.

  • Entomologista

    I’ve been told that instead of saying “Christians think…” I should instead say “Fundamentalists think…” because not all Christians think what fundamentalist Christians think and it hurts the feelings of non-fundies to be lumped in with fundies.

  • Wayne Essel

    Samuel Skinner said:

    Samuel,

    Doesn’t that assume that one knows God’s attributes? I don’t believe that Christianity is a revealed religion or that the Bible is infallible. I do believe that what is written in various scriptures represents man’s best efforts at describing and ascribing God’s actions and attributes, though I believe that there are cultural artifacts and errors in all scriptures, including the Bible. So that being the case, I can only deduce God’s characteristics from observation and from assessing various scriptures, my first choice being the Bible. And I run the risk of anthropomorphism. Saying that God should act in such-and-such way says that I, the extension, know the Source intimately and am able to predict the Source’s actions. Pretty big task, if one asks me.

    I know this is “loosey-goosey”, but it is something I am compelled to do by my personality and makeup and would remain that way until something shook that set of beliefs.

    Beliefs seem to me to be just ideas with which we are enamored based upon past reliability in explaining the past and/or predicting the future. We can pick them up from all kinds of places and create replacements or modify them when we become aware that they no longer work so well. Some personalities, though, are more resistent to this kind of change than others (As in perceptive vs. judgemental in the Briggs-Meyers assessment). My sense is that both kinds of personalities exist in both the atheistic and theistic communities.

    Wayne

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Will E:

    No slam intended on “preaching to the choir.” Yes, it is trite, but apt for many different situations. Most religious sites, as you know, also “preach to the choir.” Ditto for most political sites. In fact, it is largely true of any internet site, and certainly blogs. I meant no offense, just wondered to what degree it is true here.

    Of course, I guess if I wasn’t so lazy, I could lurk a bit and find out. Very well. I will.

  • MS (Quixote)

    As a Christian, Nietzsche (yes, there are other atheist viewpoints than his) tells me, among other things, I am not only stupid, but weak. Yet, I own two of his books and visit them from time to time. Why? He says what he means and means what he says. Who in their right mind wouldn’t respect that?

    Could he be a bit softer in his delivery? Perhaps, but I consider another German, Luther, to be as much or more irascible when dealing with opponents. People are people…for every atheist of a certain temper there is certainly a theist counterpart.

    My experience on this site has been pleasant. The dialogue is respectful, yet challenging–as it should be.

    Regarding the post above, full steam ahead, I say. I can only think of two things to avoid, otherwise, be as forceful and “in your face” as you choose: calling people #@*&wits and deliberately mischaracterizing their arguments just to win a point. Thanks for letting me participate in your conversation from time to time and please do not interpret this post as a pandering or trolling…

  • Chris

    By contrast, atheists who are proud and happy to be atheists, who have no need of superstition, and who are not afraid to say so – they will always be perceived as disrespectful and rude.

    I believe the word you are looking for is “uppity”. How dare they think that they’re as good as us!

    The targets of bigotry change, but the pattern of bigotry itself remains the same. As long as the U.S. remains fat and happy, we won’t have to worry about pogroms and lynch mobs and Inquisitions. As soon as times turn sour, some internal enemy – some scapegoat – will be sought out and blamed.

    (Pardon my pessimism, I’m trapped in a cage with five billion apes with violent, factionalist instincts…)

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    What’s funny is that slavery was “an establishment” as well, and I’m certain that many of the complaints being lobbed at atheists today for being “radical” and “controversial” were probably also hurled at abolitionists.

    Oh, indeed they were:

    “I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

    —William Lloyd Garrison, inaugural editorial in the anti-slavery journal The Liberator, 1 January 1831

    This quote and others are from my post last year, “The Golden Mean“, which addresses the same trope you debunked in your comment, durandal_1707. Advocates of American independence, abolitionists, female suffragists, civil rights workers, the champions of secular public schools, those who wanted to legalize birth control – every single one of those movements, in its time, was ridiculed and demonized for being composed of dangerous, crazy radicals who wanted to overthrow the established order, not like the cautious, sober, respectable champions of orthodoxy. It’s always the first line of defense raised against movements which seek to improve the moral order of society for the better. And now that attack is being levelled against atheists. What lesson can we learn from that, if any?

  • Alex Weaver

    The “firebrand” analogy made me think of another one…theists who complain about atheists being “rude” in criticizing their beliefs are kind of like friends and family of mine who complain about being cold when the indoor temperature drifts below 75 F. O.o

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    BBK:

    “Tomsheepandgoats, let me point out the main difference. Atheists don’t canvas neighborhoods, knocking on people’s doors and confronting them in their homes”

    True enough, Jehovah’s Witnesses do knock on peoples’ doors and “confront” them in their homes. But that’s all they do. Their “weapons” are words only. They do not invoke political or legislative means so as to force others to live their way, prefering the more honest method of face to face communication. Nor do we attempt to change school curriculum to be sure our ideas are taught or are taught unchallenged.

    Should you say atheists invoke political means as a reaction to religionists who have long done the same, well…I would not disagree with that. But the fact is, we do not do it. Our means of “confronting” is less underhanded.

  • celsus2

    ** an atheist’s unapologetic apology **

    “Theology is a subject without an object.”

    Don’t forget big-4 monotheistic belief is not only optional; it’s really unfit for human consumption.

    There is no supernatural realm — there are not two worlds, the *spiritual* one superordinate to nature, eternity is a fiction, no god whatsoever exists.

    Xianity, like its murderous near eastern brother islam, its mysoginst father judaism, and its hate-filled grandfather zoroastrianism, arose late in recorded history and it has been decaying at an increasing rate since 1600 CE.

    Enough of this heresy born of Paul’s perverse twist on hellenistic judaism and overlaid with rites and symbols gleaned from the back alleys of slums in the eastern roman empire. Batman is more real than “Christ” ever was . . .

    Enough xian intellectual nihilism and perversion of sexuality and hatred of woman and self-righteous revenge seeking. (1Cor1 1:end)

    “God’s only excuse is that he does not exist.” — Stendahl

    What a relief!

    celsus2
    © 2008

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    tomsheepandgoats:

    Do you get “believers” here, or are you largely preaching to the choir…rallying the troops, etc?

    Well, you’re here, aren’t you?

    Not to be flippant, but I think the fact that you’re still commenting here is meaningful. And yes, I’ve had (and have) other religious visitors, even regular ones. Quixote, a little earlier in this thread, is another one. The ones who only want to preach don’t last long, one way or the other; but thoughtful religious people do show up from time to time, and I’ve even defended some of them on occasion.

    The way I see it, I’m not so much concerned with who I should be trying to reach and how I can reach them. I’ve never liked being a marketer. I’d rather just say what I have in mind, and let my writing find its own audience. Whoever’s interested can come by, peruse what I’ve said, and if they like what they see, stay around. I’m pretty darn happy with how that’s worked out so far.

    In my not-so-unbiased opinion, there’s a fantastic community of commenters on Daylight Atheism, better than the ones on some blogs that are larger than mine. If the comments just consisted of an endless stream of “I agree!”, frankly, I’d be bored. I’m not too thrilled when threads break down into flame wars, but in general, I find there’s a great diversity of opinion here, both from the atheist and theist sides of the fence. I’d rather see a good discussion rather than just an argument, and I think we do get that fairly often.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Tomsheepandgoats,

    But that’s all they do. Their “weapons” are words only. They do not invoke political or legislative means so as to force others to live their way, prefering the more honest method of face to face communication.

    The atheists ‘weapons’ also include words and…. well mainly words. Imagine the kind of response I would get if I came into your town, door to door, telling people about evolution (I happen to be an evolutionary psychologist myself, with interests in the biology aspect as well, since they overlap entirely).
    As for the forcing people to live our way, answer me two quick questions:
    1) What is “our way”?

    and

    Nor do we attempt to change school curriculum to be sure our ideas are taught or are taught unchallenged.

    2) Are you serious?
    Between groups attempting to get creationism taught in schools, or having to fight to make it legal to teach evolution at first, the religious people in this country have been trying to force their doctrine be taught, absolutely.
    As for the unchallenged idea, where do you get in it your mind that scientific theories are unchallenged? They are; vigorously as a matter of fact. But what you seem to be forgetting is that if you want to challenge a scientific theory, you need evidence. Religion offers no evidence. Read that last sentence again so it really sinks in; religion offers no evidence. No theories, no predictions, nothing. Prayer has even been shown to be non-effective by major double-blind studies. If you want to bring a challenge to science, by all means, by bringing a challenge of faith will get you laughed out.

    Here’s a thought for you; As a JW, there are many other religions in this world not yours; they all make the same claims as you do for the most part using the same principle of faith as a virtue. They all have their “miracle” stories, holy books, tradition, large groups of followers, and the like.
    I can assume you are a JW and ONLY a JW, so under what logic (evidence) do you reject the claims of all other superstitions in favor of your own?

  • stillwaters

    Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History

    ~ by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich ~

    Well-behaved Atheists seldom make history either.

  • lpetrich

    One could use the Xians’ favorite book as a precedent, noting Jesus Christ’s foam-at-the-mouth rhetoric about scribes and Pharisees, and his Temple temper tantrum and his cursing a certain fig tree just because it wasn’t in season for him.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Ebonmuse:

    I would agree that you have a blog of high caliber and can readily understand that you would take pleasure, even pride, in it. Your commenters, too, are of high quality.

  • 2-D Man

    And we all need to be examining and evaluating our beliefs and making the world a better place for all of us.

    Forgive me if I treat this statement with a high degree of suspicion, but I am very certain you don’t mean it. Do you mean to tell me that you’ve examined the Bible and determined that an entity is worthy of worship as it calls for blood from children, women, men, lambs, cattle, horses, and ever so many other things that it supposedly created?

    I have difficulty believing that you feel the need to examine and evaluate your beliefs, Wayne.

  • LindaJoy

    I have often thought that it would be great to do a national survey on God. People would be asked detailed questions on what they believe to be the attributes of God. I’d be willing to bet that the results would show as many portraits of God as there are imaginations. It would be very effective, I think, in getting theists to start to question the whole concept.

  • ex machina

    Doesn’t that assume that one knows God’s attributes? I don’t believe that Christianity is a revealed religion or that the Bible is infallible. I do believe that what is written in various scriptures represents man’s best efforts at describing and ascribing God’s actions and attributes, though I believe that there are cultural artifacts and errors in all scriptures, including the Bible. So that being the case, I can only deduce God’s characteristics from observation and from assessing various scriptures, my first choice being the Bible. And I run the risk of anthropomorphism. Saying that God should act in such-and-such way says that I, the extension, know the Source intimately and am able to predict the Source’s actions. Pretty big task, if one asks me.

    Yes it is, saying that God is internally inconsistent based on his definition would assume that you knew all things about said God. Pretty difficult, because God is usually described as transcendent and beyond comprehension. But here’s the problem: If a God is indecipherable or unknowable, can I really be faulted for not believing in that God? Or at least, one particular interpretation of a God? Also, if God is unknowable (in whole or in part) as you described, couldn’t it be unknowable in such a way that disbelief is perfectly justified? I suppose you could still “believe” provided your God remained indefinitely nebulous, but for most believers it seems that there belief propels them to specific behaviors that they understand to be spiritually beneficial. As soon as you’ve participated in those behaviors, you’ve defined at least that small part of your God. And once we have a definition, it is possible to show that it’s patently false or internally inconsistent. So, in short, I don’t have to know the whole picture to tell you that the small picture isn’t working out.

    You might be thinking: “But what about Science!!?? No scientist claims to know the whole entire truth, only the truth of the data they have collected so far. And you believe all those scientists, don’t you?” And you’d be partially right. The biggest difference is that when “science” find inconsistent data, they acknowledge it as such. It’s certainly possible that when a study finds inconsistent data that they come up with a new idea of how the world works to accommodate for it, some hypothesis that explains away what appears to be inconsistent data, but I’m not asked to accept that explanation without sufficient proof. That it might be true isn’t good enough, I’d have to accept all kind of craziness if I was willing to treat a hypothesis as if it was fact.

    For example, couldn’t it be that if you walked into a busy highway, cars would pass right through you rather than mangle you? Sure, we’ve got eidence to the contrary, but isn’t is possible that theres just something we don’t know about the power of the human body that prevents us from turning into some kind of gaseous sentience? Unless you know all that there is to ever know, you’ve got to admit it’s possible right? So would you then be willing to walk out into that traffic? Would you tell someone who refused to walk into that traffic based on what we just described as presumptuous or overconfident in their own intellect?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    You might be thinking: “But what about Science!!?? No scientist claims to know the whole entire truth, only the truth of the data they have collected so far. And you believe all those scientists, don’t you?” And you’d be partially right. The biggest difference is that when “science” find inconsistent data, they acknowledge it as such.

    Not to mention that even when scientists only have a small part of the picture, the conclusions are still subject to every conceivable test to make sure that they’re nevertheless consistent with the evidence that we do have. Scientific theory becomes better and more accurate as we know more facts about our world, while religious dogma becomes more and more distant from what we know is true.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    You might be thinking: “But what about Science!!?? No scientist claims to know the whole entire truth, only the truth of the data they have collected so far. And you believe all those scientists, don’t you?” And you’d be partially right. The biggest difference is that when “science” find inconsistent data, they acknowledge it as such.

    Not to mention that even when scientists only have a small part of the picture, the conclusions are still subject to every conceivable test to make sure that they’re consistent with the evidence that we do have. Scientific theory becomes better and more accurate as we know more facts about our world, while religious dogma becomes more and more distant from what we know is true.

  • Chet

    On the other hand, our own people were equally aggressive at “exposing” religion when NOBODY did it, at least not in any coherent way.

    Color me not impressed by your claim to be the very first religion to claim that you are right and everybody else is wrong.

    Sorry, but claiming that all the other religions are wrong is universal to religions. JW’s aren’t special, or particularly courageous, in that regard.

  • Chet

    Doesn’t that assume that one knows God’s attributes?

    I think it merely assumes that the one who is saying “God” has, in mind, some definition of that term.

    I mean, surely you must know sufficient attributes of God in order to refer to God, right? That’s not just three letters, that’s a word you’re using to refer to something. If you can refer to it, and use that reference to suggest existence, then you’ve supplied enough attributes to put your claim to the test, by definition.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    BBK:

    “Not to mention that even when scientists only have a small part of the picture, the conclusions are still subject to every conceivable test to make sure that they’re consistent with the evidence that we do have. Scientific theory becomes better and more accurate as we know more facts about our world”

    This is science at its ideal Would that it always operated that way.

    The reality is often quite different. More in keeping with Max Planck’s observation: “People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea.”

    Such as Ignatz Semmelweis, the surgeon who proposed simple handwashing before surgery, who positively demonstated it’s effectiveness, and yet who was laughed at his whole life by scientific colleages. His correct idea was too far ahead of its time, and would not be accepted until after his death. Such stories are not rare.

    Or take even the worldwide acceptance of Piltdown man, as another example: a crude fraud perpetuated by a museum assistant who wanted to embarrass his boss for not giving him a raise and more recognition. [one of several theories suggested, but the others are no more flattering] To his surprise, rather than being immediately detected (and his boss duly humiliated) the scientific community lapped up every word and held it as dogma for 40 years.

    I like science. It’s a fine tool for understanding things. But it’s tiresome to hear people carry on as if it has no limitations, or as if it unfailingly operates at its optimum. They certainly do not cut those who believe in God the same slack.

  • Jim Baerg

    Piltdown man, … the scientific community lapped up every word and held it as dogma for 40 years.

    According to what I’ve read about Piltdown man, it was initially accepted, but over the decades it just didn’t fit with everything else that was found & that was why a fraud was suspected. So ‘held it as dogma’ seems a bit inaccurate.

    As for Max Planck’s cynical observation – The history of the acceptance of continental drift/plate tectonics suggests that new data can be the crucial factor. Plate tectonics is one of the more recent theories to become well established & replace an earlier theory, Maybe an awareness of the history of science pushes scientists a bit closer to the ideal of following the data.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    To be more precise, Piltdown Man was always controversial. It was played up in the press more than it was actually accepted. By the time Piltdown Man came around, it already didn’t fit the other evidence that was available and many scientists were critical of the idea. Through further investigation, by scientists, it was confirmed to be a fraud. This is actually a good story for science from the standpoint that evolution was upheld and that it was the workings of science that policed itself and proved that science is not dogmatic.

  • lpetrich

    When the Piltdown “fossils” were first found, some paleontologists dismissed them as an accidental composite of a human cranium and an ape jawbone. And a composite it was — a composite created by some fakers.

    It was long controversial, because its brain-size-first implication did not fit in very well with the uprightness-first implication from the real fossils that were found, starting in the 1920′s.

  • Mark

    Wow evangelical atheists! I don’t know what the point of going “look I don’t believe you” is, but it seems that even atheism can’t do without it’s preachers. Also the touching faith you have in scientists is cute, in the words of Stephen Hawking “It’s kind of embarassing when you can’t explain where nine tenths of the universe is.”

    I don’t believe in anything, I’ve never found it neccesary, things don’t need to be believed in, they tend to exist anyway, and if there is some sort of existance beyond the here and now, YOU ARE GOING TO FIND OUT, you just have to be patient.

    The usual waiting period is three score years and ten.

    Mark

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Such as Ignatz Semmelweis, the surgeon who proposed simple handwashing before surgery, who positively demonstated it’s effectiveness, and yet who was laughed at his whole life by scientific colleages.

    This is a highly oversimplified account, to put it charitably. The reality of Semmelweis’ story is a lot more complicated than how Tom describes it here. Orac of Respectful Insolence fills in some of the details in a post from his old site.

    First of all, one of the reasons Semmelweis faced some skepticism is because the germ theory of disease had not been developed at the time of his work. He had no mechanism to explain the causal connection he proposed. Also, to be perfectly fair, he did act like a bit of a crank, sending angry personal letters denouncing prominent members of the medical establishment who didn’t believe him. But what’s probably the most important factor is, he didn’t publish the results of his studies! He didn’t show the scientific community much of the data he was using to back up his ideas. As Orac notes, “Semmelweis probably did hurt himself by refusing to publish his results for many years; his data was so compelling it remains puzzling why he did not do so”.

    Even despite Semmelweis’ frankly terrible efforts at promoting his theory, it is not true that it was universally rejected by his colleagues. He had defenders as well; if anything, their work on his behalf explains why his ideas began to gain acceptance. Later in life, he was even offered the position of chairman of obstetrics at Zurich, hardly the kind of honor you’d expect to be extended if he was as universally rejected as Tom implicitly claims.

    And yet, even if we accept everything Tom says as true, the fact remains that the scientific community did come around in the end. Individual scientists can be dogmatic and stubborn, yes. But science as a whole advances regardless – of that there can be no reasonable doubt. No religion has any similar method of self-correction built in.

    To his surprise, rather than being immediately detected (and his boss duly humiliated) the scientific community lapped up every word and held it as dogma for 40 years.

    I think others have shown that this, too, is at best a serious oversimplification and at worst a major distortion. Piltdown Man was recognized to be a discordant anomaly long before it was unmasked. As early as 1914, some scientists were suggesting that the skull and the jaw belonged to different creatures and had mistakenly been mixed together. The scientific community’s major error, as far as I can see, was that they didn’t consider the possibility of deliberate fraud as early as they should have.

  • Steve Bowen

    Mark

    Wow evangelical atheists! I don’t know what the point of going “look I don’t believe you” is, but it seems that even atheism can’t do without it’s preachers.

    I suspect you’re just a drive by commentor, but on the off chance you return for a reply: It’s not so much belief per se that atheists have an issue with, but the consequences of that belief being played out in politics and society in general. Atheists would prefer rational decisions based on observable evidence to faith based ones.

    Also the touching faith you have in scientists is cute, in the words of Stephen Hawking “It’s kind of embarassing when you can’t explain where nine tenths of the universe is.”

    But it does make a good job of explaining the 1/10th of the universe we do observe, and it takes a scientist to admit we don’t know the rest. Goddidit doesn’t help!

    if there is some sort of existance beyond the here and now, YOU ARE GOING TO FIND OUT, you just have to be patient.

    No arguement here, but if both you and I are wrong I hope you have thought through the consequences. Where “evangelical” atheists tend to offend is that they challenge the xians to live this life, not the “next” while they have the chance.

  • Chet

    They certainly do not cut those who believe in God the same slack.

    When you can demonstrate the same level of evidentiary committment, rigor, and verifiability of assertion that scientists do, then you can be cut the same slack.

    The simple truth is that even when science is not operating at its optimum, it’s still adding far, far more to truthful human knowledge than religion ever has.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    This is science at its ideal Would that it always operated that way.

    The reality is often quite different.

    Pot, say hello to kettle. Remember, you’re trying to defend religion here, not make it look even worse.

    As others have explained, you’re putting forth an example where a pile of bones was used to commit a fraud and this fraud was finally exposed after enough research had been done into the matter. How does this stray for how science ideally works?

    Would this compare favorably to frauds in the realm of religion, let’s say the Shroud of Turin, or the Josephus interpolations? This is not decades later, this is many hundreds of years later, and an ongoing stream of Christians still refuse to accept that these things are all frauds even after they had been debunked. Where is the ideal Truth of religion to be found? Why do they seem to embrace frauds committed against their own belief system?

    Let’s look at the washing of hands before surgery. Ebonmuse always surprises me with the unusual things that he knows about and he explained how the situation really played out, above. But let’s compare it to, oh, say, Christianity and Galileo. It took 500 years for the Catholic church to issue a formal apology for having destroyed a man’s life because that man stood on a mountain of evidence and it just happened to contradict theological dogma. We’re not talking about a small controversy that got settled as soon as more evidence got brought to light, we’re talking 500 years where the Catholic church failed to officially recognize that the earth revolves around the sun and that the scientific community is right and they were wrong. But there are still Christians who think the world is flat and science is evil. There are still theists who look at every petty dispute in science in order to console themselves that the absolute unquestioning faith of religion is a better way.

    Now, let me tell you where the vast majority of problems for science really come from. Religion. From the evolution-denial that is in vogue these days to the potential civilization-ending denial of global warming, it always takes two things to reach such levels of folly: a religious mind and an unhealthy disrespect of science.

    Wantonly ignoring facts still remains the defining characteristic of religion, not science. So why do theists wonder, still, why we atheists don’t treat their faith more charitably? On the one hand, the theist denies the facts and evidence and refuse to purge their religion of all manner of claims that have been thoroughly debunked by science. They expect that the atheist will treat them gently, with deference, carefully guiding the conversation as to avoid all reference to any fact so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities of the theist. But then they turn around and want the atheist to consider accepting the theistic Truth, even though it is riddled with fallacies, lies, and ever so easily offended by the facts. In fact, if the atheist fails to treat the theist’s Truth as if it didn’t even have the slightest amount of ignorance in it, that is already considered rude and obnoxious. And this is what they think is a fair discourse.

  • Mark

    Steve Bowen,

    A drive by commentator! I like that! I can’t honestly disagree with anything you’ve said, but just to be a pain in the rear:

    Expecting people to do without their faith is not a rational response for an athiest, yes it would be nice if people were sensible, the evidence suggests they are not, whether religious or otherwise. Wasn’t there an attempt to get pi made equal to three so the children didn’t find the maths too difficult? I think that without religion people would just find something else to fight about, at least as things are, you can predict behaviors, one of the benefits i find.

    The unfortunate thing about average intelligence, is that 50% are below it.

    Science doesn’t do a good job of explaining the 1/10th we do observe, rather than being a self supporting whole, science is divided into many specialities, which often ignore or contradict each other even in basic premise. Within it’s boundaries science is pretty untouchable, but things get very hairy on the fringes, and we’re about due for a complete overhaul of theory, too many tattered edges in the current ones.

    Consider chemistry, it’s an evidence based science, there isn’t a whole theory of chemistry, it’s just what we’ve found what works and cobbled together a few rules that work in limited situations.

    If there is a god, then it’s probably going to be pretty annoyed with me, but I would rather burn for eternity in a lake of fire than worship a being thats so petty as to torture it’s toys. Which also begs the question, which religion? If I’m picking one not to believe in then I’ll pick bhuddishm(sp) that way I’ll get another chance!

    You’re just a bit too rational and have obviously thought these things through, I was looking for more wild ass idiots to shoot down, hence my appreciation for your description of me.

    http://www.haloscan.com/comments/halturner/TuneUpLexingtonSuperintendent/?a=42342

    The above is a truly awful site of religious and race hatred, and bad english, It’s quite fun, but a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. If you do want to try and introduce a thought or two to the morons who post there, they are sure not to appreciate it.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Science doesn’t do a good job of explaining the 1/10th we do observe, rather than being a self supporting whole, science is divided into many specialities, which often ignore or contradict each other even in basic premise.

    As Christopher Hitchens says, claims that are asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

    Consider chemistry, it’s an evidence based science, there isn’t a whole theory of chemistry, it’s just what we’ve found what works and cobbled together a few rules that work in limited situations.

    Yes, and? What do you suppose the alternative is – that we should be able to derive a complete understanding of how the world works by starting from first principles? Foolishness; that’s just the expectation that there should be magical oracles. Every science proceeds by experimentation. Imperfect as that may be, it’s far superior to every other method that has ever been tried. There is simply no other way to understand the world.

  • Mark

    Ebonmuse

    You miss the point,

    To use an old saw, aerodynamics states a bumblebee can’t fly, bumblebees differ. I am well aware of vortex/edge interaction research which is attempting to explain this, but it’s not strictly relevant, there are many other examples: catalysts, superconductivity, even the thermodynamics question posed by Maxwell over 100 years ago (his ‘demon’) which still hasn’t been answered completely.

    And “every science proceeds by experimentation” Maths? brute force soulutions are considered in-elegant and only work on finitely bound problems. Try calculating pi. It’s also proved that not all can be proved. There are classes of problems that have no solutions, to state it more accurately.

    Also consider, many great discoveries are accidental, and though I broadly agree with you, I don’t think faith in science is any better than any other kind. Science is just an accumulation of things which work. Some of which are derived from broader therories, some of which stand alone.

    There are a great many holes, some of which are covered by the blind faith of the scientists themselves. The Newtonian universe collapsed when Einstien produced his theories, much to the disgust and anger of his contempories, he himself refused to accept quantum theory as true, causing a wide split in science. Now we have two completely incompatable theories of the sub-atomic, quantum and wave, that both produce valid results and exclude each other.

    While I’m not suggesting an “oracle” or any other mystical solution, blind faith that science is right is also an error. I also find your assertion that there is “no other way” rather limited, how do you know?

    I trust this clarifies my meaning and provides evidence you can’t dismiss as blithly.

  • 2-D Man

    Mark,

    The unfortunate thing about average intelligence, is that 50% are below it.

    This may seem a bit nitpicky, but I think it’s important to note that you have described the median, not the mean.

    …things get very hairy on the fringes [of science], and we’re about due for a complete overhaul of theory, too many tattered edges in the current ones.

    I don’t think you understand what an overhaul of a theory is. When Einstein proposed relativity, we learned that Newton’s laws were wrong, but they remained immeasurably close to reality under conditions where things travel less than 0.1% the speed of light. (The fastest that humans have ever gone, to the best of my knowlege is about 42 km/s, light goes at about 300,000.) Even in my quantum mechanics class, we check things against Newtonian mechanics, and they mostly make sense. An overhaul to a theory is not wiping everything we know away and starting from scratch, as Ebonmuse mentioned, but rather a slow, arduous process of observation and minor modifications to the existing theory. It’s a lot like evolution, appropriately enough.

    I had written this before you answered Ebonmuse, and I see that I gave you too much credit.

    Einstein proposed relativity and went to his grave denying QM. Catalysts are easily explained by modern chemistry. My friends in chemical engineering take entire courses on catalysm. And Maxwell’s demon has been debunked. And superconductivity, while still a bit of mystery, will not suddenly make all of this knowlege obsolete.

    To clarify what Ebon said, “There is no other way.” There is no other way that has been found. Rationalists generally don’t believe in things that have yet to be found.

  • LindaJoy

    I am bothered by the effort to attach the word “faith” to any process of science or scientific thinking. Science postulates or anticipates potential results based upon past evidences and rational thinking. I had a woman ask me once when I worked at the Fermilab accelerator/detector facility as a docent if scientists “believed” in the Big Bang. I had to explain the meaning of scientific theory (it’s not just a good guess) and how science postulates (using math) what will fill in the holes in the theory. Then they go and look for the evidence. If the evidence matches what was postulated or anticipated to fill in the information gap, then the original theory is strengthened. So far, scientists can say that the Big Bang theory is a solid one, but always subject to modification based on new evidence. Religion doesn’t work that way at all. “Belief” (as in religious belief) and “faith” just don’t play a part in the scientific process.

  • Mark

    2D man

    While I take your point on trite comments, I didn’t define anything, it could be mean or median, depending, it was an essentially useless statement.

    I would be interested in a mathematical debunk of Maxwell’s demon, as I haven’t found one, and MIT’s website thinks it’s still interesting.

    Yes, Newtons physics still work today, as far as our perceptions go, and I would class this as the last major overhaul of theory. Though his work on alchemy was rather less well recieved and isn’t taught today.

    Catalyst chemistry is well known and I have studied it myself, I don’t think there has been an adquate explanation of the method by which this happens, beyond the obvious assumption that there must be electron sharing going on. Though I admit my studies were quite a while ago, I can’t find any evidence this has changed.

    I have no argument about Einstein, I think I said he never accepted QM. I don’t intend to travel at a significant percentage of lightspeed, but we are all travelling at about 40km/s, attached to the planet, and your figures, which I assume to be for earth-lunar transfer, as you are well over low orbital velocity, and are correct only relative to earth, (I’ve ignored all the other motions).

    Yes, I know we build on theories, but if you look at the historical record, every so often we completely trash whole sections of them, this is what I was refering to. You are confusing refinement with error.

    Last, While I don’t know of any other methods for extending our knowledge base, I don’t close my eyes to to the possibility that they may exist.

    If you accept something as impossible you limit yourself, most of our knowledge is based upon accepted truisms or assumptions, they just define our current level of understanding/ignorance, they may not be correct, even c.

  • Mark

    Lindajoy,

    Can you honestly say there are not academics you know that arn’t attatched to their own theories? I accept ‘faith’ in this context is probably incorrect, perhaps overconfidence or another word would do.

    Unfortunatly, scientist are humans too and are just as fallible as the rest of us.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Just a nit, but it’s a bit heavy handed to say that Newton’s laws are wrong or were shown to be wrong. Before relativity, there were known problems with Newton’s laws, but those laws are not wrong for the phenomena that they explain. Those laws work well enough for us to get to the moon and back. Yes, they are limited, but it’s not really true that they are “wrong”.

  • Mark

    OMGF

    Was using hypebole, I accept that Newtons laws are a good meterstick to ‘normal’ conditions, ie, those that pertain on the suface of our planet and generally in our solar system. However they are only a description of conditions, not a comprehensive theory. The difficulty came when previous physicists, who believed everything could be explained in mechanistic,newtonian way, were confronted by Einstein who said it couldn’t.

    And yes, they probably apply most other places in the universe too, I just don’t know and have no way of finding out, and can think of a few places where they don’t

  • Chet

    Consider chemistry, it’s an evidence based science, there isn’t a whole theory of chemistry

    There are, in fact, a number of theories of chemistry, all based on the atomic theory of matter. VSEPR, or valence shell electron pair repulsion theory, is one common chemical theory taught at the high school level. Valence bonding theory and molecular orbital theory are other models in use in research.

    Contrary to your assertion, chemistry hasn’t been about “cobbling together rules” and just mixing shit in test tubes with no idea what’s going to happen for about 50 years, now. These days chemical research is guided and predicted by our understanding of the physical interactions of atoms.

    I’m all for presenting a rigorous defense of religion, but such a defense should not rest on falsehoods about science.

  • Steve Bowen

    Hi Mark, glad you drove by again:) stick around it’s fun in here!
    Thing is, your debut comment was a cynical appraisal of “evangelical” atheists, so consider this: Imagine you are living in a theistic society which, by your own admission, must be operatiing on a “belief” system to which you do not subscribe. Your children are educated in that belief, the laws you must abide by are informed by that belief and the wars you fight in are in defense of that belief (our god’s better than your god). What do you stand for? My choice would be for rational, evidence based government, free of superstition and false assumptions. So O.K even if we admit that the scientific process is fallible (or probably more accurately, corruptable, at least in the short term) we have yet to find, since the enlightenment, a more reliable way of interpreting the truths we observe that we can find consensus on.
    If you think my imaginary society is too fantastic, from my U.K perspective the middle east is there already and the U.S is heading that way! Atheism is a corner worth fighting and political secularism even more so.
    If you haven’t already, take some time to read Ebonmuse’s essays. I would be amazed if you didn’t find them extremely insightful and thought provoking even if you you don’t agree with them entirely.

  • Mark

    Chet,

    Yes yes, Lymer, palmer, passion, bracket, and fund. I am aware.

    I know there are general theories of chemistry, I wasn’t saying there are none, and most of these theories are crossovers from physics, but they are not unified anymore than physics is, and most of the current knowledge base accumulated over the years was done the old fashioned way. Now it’s possible to get some time on a supercomputer, whip up some heavy QM and come up with a rough numerical solution Hamiltonian to a reaction without ever going near the chemicals involved.

    It is always going to be possible to pick holes in short plithy statements, I’m not about to bang down a dissertation in a short post and I apologise for the resultant lack of clarity. I do reserve the right to make sweeping generalisations, and correct them later when people are picky.

    And I’m not a religious apologist.

  • Chet

    there are many other examples: catalysts, superconductivity, even the thermodynamics question posed by Maxwell over 100 years ago (his ‘demon’) which still hasn’t been answered completely.

    Is this a list of things science doesn’t understand, or a list of things you don’t understand? I’ve known a lot of people – religious believers, natch – who get the two mixed up.

    And “every science proceeds by experimentation” Maths?

    Not a science, as it doesn’t proceed from the scientific method (but, rather, from the deductive method.)

  • Mark

    Steve,

    Unfortunately, as I said in my first reply, I do mostly agree with you, and your analysis of the middle east and America.

    The problem is, the beliefs are not subject to rational argument, “God did it”, is the be all and end all, and if it doesn’t cover it then you are lying because you are a tool of satan(swap in relevant diety/anti-deity)

    Even without religion, the number and quantity of stupid things that people believe, is in direct proportion to the things they want to happen. 15% of people expect to win the lottery as a retirement plan, according to a survey conducted by Axa. This is more than any other ‘religion’. There are a lot of other things that are communal fantasies simply because people choose to believe rather than think, it’s easier. This isn’t limited to the ignorant, consider the collapse of the sub-prime market, a fairly predictable outcome, the result of a lot of people lying to themselves and each other.

    While I applaud your efforts, I think they are doomed, because of people. Any solution has to take this into account. I would suggest any slightly more rational religion, that took some account of facts, would be an improvement.

    In response to your question on my stance, I’m selling my house, moving onto a boat and becoming self sufficient. I do not like the way things are going.

    Ebon’s comments in reply were quite short, so I didn’t get a feel for his style or prose, but I’ll certainly check them out.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    To use an old saw, aerodynamics states a bumblebee can’t fly, bumblebees differ.

    This is completely wrong. No one ever seriously believed that the laws of aerodynamics prohibited insect flight; that is an urban legend. The issue is that, if you do calculations assuming that bees fly in the same way as a fixed-wing aircraft, then you get the wrong answer. But bees do not fly in the same way as fixed-wing aircraft. At the scale of a bee, the air is a far more viscous medium, and each wingbeat produces a vortex that plays an important role in producing lift. Some computer simulations from 2000 show that insect flight is well within the laws of aerodynamics.

    even the thermodynamics question posed by Maxwell over 100 years ago (his ‘demon’) which still hasn’t been answered completely.

    It’s generally agreed that Maxwell’s demon was shown to be in compliance with the laws of thermodynamics by Leo Szilard in 1929. The demon needs to expend energy to determine the temperature of incoming gas molecules.

    And “every science proceeds by experimentation” Maths?

    Mathematics is not a branch of science.

    I don’t think faith in science is any better than any other kind. Science is just an accumulation of things which work.

    Yes, it is, which is why science is a superior way of knowing. Science produces discoveries which work. Other methods don’t.

    I also find your assertion that there is “no other way” rather limited, how do you know?

    Because millennia of recorded history have yet to produce any workable alternative. Every alternate method of knowing ever proposed has turned out to be a failure, while science, for all its faults, has produced enormous success in a relatively short span of human history. I think we’re justified in inductively concluding that, if there was another method, we would know about it by now; just as the repeated failure of explorers to find living unicorns should give us confidence that no such creatures exist. If you think there’s another method that everyone has overlooked, feel free to explain what it is.

  • Mark

    Chet,

    Both, I understand far less than those researching this stuff, but as far as I can tell they are pretty confused as well, no doubt I’ll need new examples eventually.

    Maths not a science? Hmm, could be more of an art I suppose, but reminds me of an old joke:-

    chemist, physicist, and a mathematician on a train, in scotland, they look out of the window and see a black sheep in a field.

    Chemist says, “look, all sheep in scotland are black!”

    Physicist says, “No, in scotland there is one field with at least one black sheep.”

    Mathematician says, “NO, in scotland there is at least one field, which contains at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black!”

  • Mark

    Ebonmuse,
    your points in order,

    I said it wasn’t relevant, and mentioned same research

    Exchange a filter for the demon,and you can still make a stab at it, though I admit i’m barking up trees on this one.

    Was not critising science but ‘faith’ in science, which doesn’t require any.

    And while i don’t know of any other method, I am expecting as our understanding grows towards a unified field theory, that some areas of knowledge may become
    available on a ‘fill in the blanks’ sort of basis, this is also an intuitive assumption.

  • Steve Bowen

    Mark

    While I applaud your efforts, I think they are doomed, because of people. Any solution has to take this into account. I would suggest any slightly more rational religion, that took some account of facts, would be an improvement.

    Fine, but to get vaguely back on topic, if all it takes to change a few minds and maybe get a small percentage of people to question the basis on which which they approach the world is to speak out and offend a few religious sensibilities then I’m all for it. I’m not so pessimistic as to believe that the inherent ignorance of the masses cannot be overcome eventually, even if it seems frustratingly slow in coming.

  • Mark

    Ebonmuse,

    ANy of your essays available?

  • Chet

    Both, I understand far less than those researching this stuff, but as far as I can tell they are pretty confused as well

    How would you know, exactly?

    Maths not a science?

    No, it’s not; as I explained, science follows from the scientific method, which is empirical and inductive; mathematics is the study of what can be proven in the specific from general, assumed axioms. It’s deductive.

    I don’t mean to disparage mathematics, of course; it simply shouldn’t be considered a science.

  • Chet

    I know there are general theories of chemistry, I wasn’t saying there are none

    Well then I guess I’m curious why you said there were none:

    there isn’t a whole theory of chemistry

    You know? I can only infer your meaning from your words as you type them.

    most of the current knowledge base accumulated over the years was done the old fashioned way.

    Sure – the “old-fashioned way” being the scientific method – hypothesis formation, testing, revision, and communication. I mean even Lavoisier was working from the scientific method.

    The problem here is that you’re trying to portray chemistry as alchemy; as grey-beards pouring flasks into alembics with no idea of what is going to happen or why. That’s simply not the case. While I understand that the discoveries of chemistry might be mysterious to you – and make no mistake, I’m at best a dilettante myself – it’s fairly ridiculous to try to characterize the status of an entire scientific field at the same time that you don’t seem to know much about it.

    It’s not “faith in science.” It’s just the understanding that scientists went to school for a fairly long time and they weren’t just sitting on their hands – that’s how long it takes to get caught up to where various scientific fields are right now. And it’s hard to understand how you could dismiss the idea that science gets results in a way other things don’t at the same time that you’re reading these words on a computer. What, you think the Catholic church prayed the internet into existence?

    The power of science to comprehend the world is manifest. The evidence has affected our lives in every way. It’s not faith to have some confidence in the ability of the scientific community to solve some of the as-yet unanswered questions – it’s just a matter of looking at their track record. Unlike anything else, science eventually gets it right. Religion simply enshrines the error.

  • lpetrich

    Mark: Science doesn’t do a good job of explaining the 1/10th we do observe, rather than being a self supporting whole, science is divided into many specialities, which often ignore or contradict each other even in basic premise.

    However, he does not explain where he got his number from, he does not explain what those contradictions are, and he seems to misunderstand the nature of a lot of scientific theories.

    Consider what Einstein did. He showed that Newtonian mechanics is an APPROXIMATION, and he showed how much it can be expected to be in error — for velocities v, about (v/c)^2.

    As to chemistry, there is a big field of computational quantum chemistry, and one often ends up having to use various approximations along the way, because complete ab initio calculations, from first principles, require an enormous amount of number-crunching.

  • Mark

    Chet,

    In much the same way that quantum physics and wave mechanics can produce accurate results without refering to each other, there are theories in chemistry which do the same. eg. Atomic and molecular structure, Cage effect, Mixed potential theory, Molecular orbit theory, and VSEPR theory. They each look at molecules in different ways to obtain different results due to different reqirements, some theories overlap, some do not.

    Avogadro’s constant is an experimentaly derived figure, not a mathematical one, this is an example of what I’m refering to when I say “the old fashioned way”. I don’t think chemistry has been done as you describe for a couple of hundred years.

    I’m not denigrating the scientific method, I accept it works, and religion, as a tool for discovery is useless.

    You’re missing the point, I’m not arguing that science is better than religion(it is), I’m arguing that science itself is subject to doubt, this is why things are tested so often and are open to peer review, who can forget the cold fusion furore? I just know you’re going to point out that research in this is still ongoing, and there are reports of success, but unless someone has proved a correlation between the luminescent bursts and neutron emmission it’s still unproven.

    Einstein, in a fairly bastardised quote says “Don’t trust my results, work them out for yourself,” or however eminent the source, trust your own judgement.

    As for how I know, there are certain fields I do keep current in, and I keep up with as much general science as I can, though much as I would wish it otherwise, this is often no more than reading New scientist or Scientific american. The confusion of researchers is something they will admit themselves, there’s no point in conducting experiments where the outcomes are totally known, unless you’re teaching.

    You seem to be putting me in the position of rejecting science, I’m not, I’m saying blind faith in anything is in error.

    Finally, science does get things right more often than not and at an ever increasing pace, however when things do go wrong, they can do it spectacularly, and more often than not this is due to the human component and not the science, but blind faith in it. Scientists, if they are any good, and there are a lot of button counters out there, never stop learning and questioning, even their own basic assumptions.

  • Mark

    ipetrich,

    I agree with you, I got my figure of 1/10 from an interview of Stephen Hawking on,of all things, a daytime show called “Richard and Judy” broadcast in the uk last year. He says (as quoted above so below) “It’s kind of embarassing when you can’t explain where nine tenths of the universe is.”

    another quote from the interview:

    R “Is there a god?”

    SH “No, it is almost certainly wishful thinking.”

    R “Damn, I was kind of hoping for a yes there.”

    As this was obviously a pop culture show, I don’t hold Prof Hawkins to his figures, and they are an approximation between the observable universe and what the theories state should be there.

    see above for your other points

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Mark,

    Was using hypebole, I accept that Newtons laws are a good meterstick to ‘normal’ conditions…

    I said it was a nit pick, and it wasn’t solely aimed at you. I just want the record cleared and accurate about what actually happened.

    The difficulty came when previous physicists, who believed everything could be explained in mechanistic,newtonian way, were confronted by Einstein who said it couldn’t.

    Again, this is simply not accurate. It was well known that there were problems with Newton’s formulations, for example the Perihelion of Mercury. It’s not like Einstein showed everyone an error in Newton’s laws that no one knew about. They all knew about it, Einstein simply came up with an answer to the question of why.

    …I’m arguing that science itself is subject to doubt, this is why things are tested so often and are open to peer review…

    And, this is a great strength of science!

    Finally, science does get things right more often than not and at an ever increasing pace, however when things do go wrong, they can do it spectacularly, and more often than not this is due to the human component and not the science, but blind faith in it.

    I highly doubt that you think the failures in science are due to blind faith in science itself. Scientists adhere to certain theories beyond their expiration date, it’s true, but there’s usually a reason for it, especially in this day and age. That reason is that our theories are based on observation and fact, not blind faith.

    Finally, your main argument seems to be that we don’t really know that much, and I would agree with that. Your nit, however, seems to be that we don’t really know that much about what we do know, which I disagree with. The confusions that you are talking about are at the boundaries of our knowledge. These are areas where you have to press on for years learning about all the things we do already know to a point where you can get to some real controversy. This isn’t something to criticize or lament. We have much more of a grasp on things than you seem to think and althought it very well may be a small portion of the total available knowledge, it’s not peanuts. And, no, this isn’t faith in science, it’s a frank admission of the level of our knowledge and the depth of that knowledge in specific areas.

  • Steve Bowen

    Mark

    Ebon’s essays can all be found here. Enjoy!

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    The religious man criticizing scientific man for not knowing everything is like a homeless man criticizing a homeowner for painting his house in the wrong color. It doesn’t change who gets left out in the rain that night no matter how much the homeless guy rants about it. How is it that someone who knows less feels that he can criticize someone who knows more for not knowing enough?

    Mark, this isn’t some esoteric discussion discussion about the philosophy of science. This is about the endless stream of children who die because their parents decided to pray instead of seeking medical treatments. This is about presidents who rationalize in their minds that they don’t need valid reasons to go to war because they think that their god told them to go on a crusade. How can you sit there in the comfort of your home and make claims that science is just equal to every form of irrational belief, while religion is no worse than the rest? Look at the world around you sometime, Mark.

  • Chet

    In much the same way that quantum physics and wave mechanics can produce accurate results without refering to each other, there are theories in chemistry which do the same. eg. Atomic and molecular structure, Cage effect, Mixed potential theory, Molecular orbit theory, and VSEPR theory. They each look at molecules in different ways to obtain different results due to different reqirements, some theories overlap, some do not.

    So? Why should we be surprised, or find it significant, when reality turns out to be so complex that different models approximate it with different degrees of accuracy in different situations?

    And the truth of the matter is that, for most reactions, you can use MOT, or VSEPR, or any of the others and get the same results. Some are a little easier on the calculations, or on the brain, and so some are preferred in some situations. And some models handle various corner cases better than others.

    I don’t find that this phenomenon diminishes my confidence in the scientific method at all. Indeed, that accurate results can be derived in spite of these incongruities is a potent testament to the power of science to actually find things out, and by juxtaposition, the complete impotence of all other putative knowledge systems to do the same.

    I’m not denigrating the scientific method, I accept it works, and religion, as a tool for discovery is useless.

    Religion as a tool for anything is useless. When my wife’s grandfather died last year, at the age of 96, of course we were immediately mobbed by the religious, who told us that he was in a better place, that he was with God, that the peace of Jesus could ease our suffering, and all that other nonsense. And while my wife and I are atheists, her family is not, so as a result I was surprised to see just how little solace they found in their faith. I could see they were simply going through the motions of accepting these well-wishings, but it was apparent that they had no power to salve grief.

    What got them through was the same thing that gets atheists through – the love and support of the people close to us. After all of religion’s defenders describing the phenomenon of faith as something, at the very least, that could offer succor in times of need, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that religion had no efficacy in that area, either. It’s not just no good for discovery. It’s no good for anything.

    I’m arguing that science itself is subject to doubt, this is why things are tested so often and are open to peer review, who can forget the cold fusion furore?

    The furor that was immediately discovered the first time other scientists had a chance to observe the research? Mark, Piltdown Man and cold fusion – and Korea’s human cloning debacle – are examples of the success of the scientific method, not its failure. Science exposes failure. Religion enshrines failure – because they don’t have any way to tell the difference.

    You seem to be putting me in the position of rejecting science, I’m not, I’m saying blind faith in anything is in error.

    Then I don’t understand who you think you’re disagreeing with. The scientific method, above all, demands skepticism, not faith. I doubt you’ll find any defenders of blind faith here except those who come to offer apologia for religion – not Ebonmuse and not myself.

    Who do you think is promoting faith of any kind, here?

  • LindaJoy

    Mark- I have seen it time and time again. Religionists try to insert those words “faith” and “belief” into conversations on science in order to twist the argument and blur the lines. While your demonstration of intellect on scientific issues is interesting, your continued insertion of these words into the conversation dismantles all of it for me and reveals a not so hidden agenda.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Chet:
    I was surprised to see just how little solace they found in their faith

    The “shortest scripure” say simply: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) This at the death of a loved one, who, if we accept the passage as history (don’t tell me you don’t….I understand that), Jesus subsequently resurrected.

    I wouldn’t read too much into your interpretation of how much solace a person’s faith provides. Though, having said that, all faiths are different. Those particular “comforts” would not be said at a funeral of one of our faith. I do agree the sayings you relate not especially comforting. We would have related different ones.

  • Chet

    I wouldn’t read too much into your interpretation of how much solace a person’s faith provides.

    All I can report are my own observations. Religion had no effect on grief as I observed it, contrary to what its defenders try to tell me.

    If you claim contradictory experience, then let me ask you – are you sure? Are you completely certain that it was the religion you found solace in, or the people of your church community?

    I learned a lot during the death of my grandfather-in-law. What I saw were humans behaving the most humanely, and it was a far more meaningful experience – for all its ephemerality – than any supposedly “transcendent” religious phenomenon.

  • lpetrich

    Mark: In much the same way that quantum physics and wave mechanics can produce accurate results without refering to each other,
    That’s news to me, and I’m very familiar with quantum mechanics.

    there are theories in chemistry which do the same. eg. Atomic and molecular structure, Cage effect, Mixed potential theory, Molecular orbit theory, and VSEPR theory. They each look at molecules in different ways to obtain different results due to different reqirements, some theories overlap, some do not.
    That’s NOT the failure of science that you seem to think it is. These are all approximations with domains of validity limited in various ways, just like Newtonian mechanics.

    I agree with you, I got my figure of 1/10 from an interview of Stephen Hawking on,of all things, a daytime show called “Richard and Judy” broadcast in the uk last year. He says (as quoted above so below) “It’s kind of embarassing when you can’t explain where nine tenths of the universe is.”
    I don’t know what he was talking about — 9/10 of the Universe’s mass?

    He’s likely referring to “dark matter” and “dark energy”, which have weak nongravitational interactions, if any, with ordinary matter. That is why they are only known from gravitational effects, which do not give much by way of details about them.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Chet:

    We must be careful for fear we deviate from the blog theme and Ebon kicks us both out.

    Are you completely certain that it was the religion you found solace in, or the people of your church community?

    Of course the people made a difference. Moreover, when comforting another over the death of a loved one, your best move is to be supportive and empathetic. If a survivor has faith in a higher power, he hardly needs you to reteach it. If not, it’s a little late to instill it.

    In general, religion presents death as a friend, something in harmony with God’s purpose. This requires some preacher to “sell” it to the survivor as something all for the best, though it goes against every instinct. Thus, the young child dies because God is picking flowers, he has to have the best, and so he swiped them from your garden, disregarding that you only had one or two who meant all the world to you. I can’t imagine how that message can bring people comfort. It mystifies me. Perhaps it has its defenders. I’m not one of them.

    On the other hand, my people present death as an enemy, out of harmony with God’s purpose, not what he intended, the results of a dismal experiment in human self-rule, which he has laid out convincing steps to remedy. We think the Bible supports our position, and not the other one.

    Obviously, I would not expect you to accept this position as your own. But you may appreciate that the second approach could make possible a spiritual comfort at death of a loved one. I’m at a lost to see how the first approach can.

  • OMGF

    On the other hand, my people present death as an enemy, out of harmony with God’s purpose, not what he intended, the results of a dismal experiment in human self-rule, which he has laid out convincing steps to remedy. We think the Bible supports our position, and not the other one.

    Really? Are JWs immortal?

  • Chet

    Moreover, when comforting another over the death of a loved one, your best move is to be supportive and empathetic.

    I agree, obviously. That’s why religion is such a sham. The power that can ease pain isn’t divine providence; it’s mortal humanity. It’s about people acting like people. God has nothing to do with it.

    I have never had a more spiritual experience. Not because I was close to the divine – but because I was close to the human.

  • goyo

    On the other hand, my people present death as an enemy, out of harmony with God’s purpose, not what he intended, the results of a dismal experiment in human self-rule, which he has laid out convincing steps to remedy. We think the Bible supports our position, and not the other one.

    Interesting you should say that god made a mistake.
    How does it feel to belong to an organization that will disfellowship you if you don’t quite follow lock-step every jot and tittle of your comic book theology?

  • Valhar2000

    Lindajoy wrote:

    [...]While your demonstration of intellect on scientific issues is interesting[...]

    If you use the word “interesting” in a euphemistic sense, then I agree with you. I found his denunciations of science to be appallingly ignorant (which would not be so bad, but for his arrogant resolve in making them). That is an example of what Ed Brayton calls virulent ignorance (although Tom Sheepandgoats’ talk about Piltdown man is similar).

    I mean, the bumblebee thing? Really? And “quantum and wave particle”? Does that phrase even mean anything?

  • LindaJoy

    ValHar2000- I am not a scientist by training, but I worked at a high energy particle physics facility and taught the basics to school groups. I also took the training sessions and regularly met with and listened to some of the most famous American physicists. And, I edited two books on the universe and the Large Hadron Collider. So, while I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I have absorbed enough information to be able to see through some of Mark’s “garbage” as I would call it. I recently had a conversation with a religionists who tried to throw the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics at me as proof that evolution theory is full of holes. This comes from pseudoscientists like William Dembski. Anyway, I showed him how the 2nd Law completely allows for evolution and he had to do a quick step around it. This stuff happens all the time. It is a new tact for religionists- to use science to debunk science in favor of “God Did It”. It’s really frustrating. Mark would get blown away if he tried to run this stuff past any of the scientists I knew.

  • Mark

    Nice to see some spirit,

    Maths is not a science, but it is the basis for all of them.

    I DO NOT BELEIVE IN GOD!

    My original argument was:-

    You cannot expect people who are not educated to replace their belief in a diety with belief in science. If they do they are wrong, and it seems some of your members advocate this.

    People believe all sorts of crap, it’s not going to change, and they are going to base their reasoning on their belief regardless of fact.

    The scientific examples I chose were irrelevant, and could have been any, you seem rather fixated on this. It’s quite cute how you try.

    Religion is an observable fact, try looking at it some time.

    There is a genuine difference between quantum theory and wave mechanics.

    “Faith” is just a word, it can mean trust, reliability, or “I’m not going to think anymore, because the person who said it is a nut.”

    Thats your choice.

  • OMGF

    Mark,

    You cannot expect people who are not educated to replace their belief in a diety with belief in science. If they do they are wrong, and it seems some of your members advocate this.

    No one is advocating this.

    The scientific examples I chose were irrelevant, and could have been any, you seem rather fixated on this. It’s quite cute how you try.

    Are you trying to be condescending here? When your examples are disputed you resort to that?

    Religion is an observable fact, try looking at it some time.

    That religion exists is an observable fact. No one is disputing this.

  • Chet

    You cannot expect people who are not educated to replace their belief in a diety with belief in science.

    It’s by education, in fact, that we expect to convince them to do just that. Education in the power and usefulness of skepticism. Education in state-of-the-art science.

    “Faith” is just a word, it can mean trust

    Faith is different than trust. Trust is when you feel it’s ok to rely on something or someone who has never let you down before. Faith is when you feel it’s ok to rely on something or someone in spite of them letting you down, over and over again.


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