Sam Harris Weighs in on Francis Collins

Monday’s edition of The New York Times features Sam Harris weighing in on the Francis Collins debate.

The issue: Collins is a brilliant scientist/geneticist recently appointed to head the National Institutes of Health. Collins is also an evangelical Christian. Should we be concerned?

Harris answers that last question with a definitive “Yes”:

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:

Slide 1: “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.”

Slide 2: “God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.”

Harris goes on for a few more slides…

Then we get to the point:

There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist. But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Harris isn’t suggesting Collins not accept the NIH position or that he never should have been appointed in the first place. He’s simply pointing out that Collins’ beliefs are troubling.

He’s right; they are.

I became an atheist over a decade ago, but it has taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that science and religion are simply not compatible. I wanted to believe they could be — I really did — but I’m now convinced that’s not possible. Either you accept what science reveals to us wholeheartedly or you don’t (because you think God can intervene and perform “miracles” that contradict science and whatnot). You can’t have it both ways.

Despite all this, I still think Collins is a good choice for the head of the NIH because I have faith he will not use his position to evangelize and he will do what is best for science to progress.

While we’re at it, I also think Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum make a strong point when they write that atheists who say that science and religion are incompatible hurt the cause for science. But it’s not because the atheists are wrong. Instead, it’s because it’s just too hard a pill for most people to swallow.

Religious people need to come to atheism on their own, in small steps. It’s not nearly as effective to have an atheist with a megaphone pointing out that science teaches us that just about everything you know about your god is wrong. That rubs them the wrong way, even though the atheists are right.

Collins isn’t helping atheists make that case. Nor should he be.

My hope is that while in the NIH position, Christians can learn to accept certain scientific truths (like evolution occurring over millions of years) and we see fewer battles over science in the courtroom.

Meanwhile, atheists need to continue raising questions, speaking out, pointing out contradictions inherent if you accept both science and religion, and reminding others that Collins’ beliefs (in both science and religion) cannot logically be compatible.

A lot of small steps are needed, but we need to start somewhere. Collins’ position may be one way to push the dialogue in our direction.

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  • Michael Kingsford Gray

    Were it not for the parochial numerical popularity of Francis Collins’ specific deranged delusion, in a sane society he would now be undergoing professional therapy, and restricted from accessing sharp objects.

    The guy is a totally infantile nutcase in at least one area of which I am aware.

    The concept of allowing a PROUD lunatic to run anything more than a warm bath is a travesty of reason.

    ____________
    P.S.: Your comment “Preview” system is quite the best that I have encountered.

  • EdWest

    There seems to be one thing that atheists and the hardline religious agree on: that people’s beliefs do not automatically deserve respect.

    While we’re busy calling bull on Collins for cramming God into every gap he can find, the biggest followers of the Almighty Gee-Whiz are probably criticizing all his other views. I guess the mistake is to assume that because he is criticized by both ends of the spectrum, he’s mainstream by default.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    atheists who say that science and religion are incompatible hurt the cause for science. But it’s not because the atheists are wrong. Instead, it’s because it’s just too hard a pill for most people to swallow.

    Tough. Science doesn’t tell us what we want to hear. Science tells us about reality. Insofar as religion conforms to reality there is no incompatibility and religion needs to shift to fit, never the other way round.

    The greater the difference between superstitious nonsense and fact, the more extreme it will seem to hold onto the superstition. I see no reason to sugar coat reality.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com efrique

    Hemant says:
    “…make a strong point when they write that atheists who say that science and religion are incompatible hurt the cause for science. But it’s not because the atheists are wrong. Instead, it’s because it’s just too hard a pill for most people to swallow.”

    Hang on, you’re saying that “atheists — telling the truth — hurts science”??!?

    If Mooney and Kirschenbaum had their way, we’d instead be telling comforting lies for science.

    No freaking way, Hemant. Science is about facts and facing up to hard reality. You can’t help science by telling smarmy fibs.

    Strong point? No.

    Yes, science has an image problem, but that problem is not solved by hiding from the truth.

  • Neal O

    I’m for atheists with megaphones screaming the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Unfortunately twisted facts, half truths, superstitious nonsense and benevolence (often with caveats) seem to me to be the redeeming features of our worlds otherwise morally bankrupt religious practitioners.

    Slide 1 had me gasping in disbelief. Don’t these religious guys understand that sky god(s) fit into the same category as tooth fairies and leprechauns as far as science goes?

    Let’s stop this sugar coated pill nonsense. God created the earth 13.7 billion years ago? Who is writing this bible? Can I have my turn and take a red pen to it please? Now how shall I start it? In the beginning man created god….

  • mikespeir

    I take Harris’ point. It’s not that believers like Collins and Kenneth Miller can’t do good science. They obviously do. It’s that they refuse to slam the door on irrational thinking. They haven’t staked down the tent such that camel can’t get his nose under. They cede the inch and are surprised when other believers demand the mile.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Collins should be required to sit through weekly sermons at a traditional fundamentalist Baptist church during his tenure at the NIH. Perhaps that would remind him of the “mile” most people take when you give them an “inch”.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    There’s a difference between doing good science and being in a policy position. That’s why Collins shouldn’t be near policy because I can’t see how his beliefs won’t get in the way.

    Harris is right when he says that the results of science are often counter-intuitive. Just think for how long people thought that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones (got to take account of air resistance though). Because evolution is driven by random events, many people wrongly think evolution is random. It’s a tough concept to get, especially when you have the much easier to grasp religious explanation “godditit” given to you from a young age.

    But should say like Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum that science and religion are not incompatible? They’re not incompatible in the sense that someone like Collins can do good science and be religious. They are however incompatible as methods of figuring out how the universe, and everything observable in it works. Religion has a track record of failure to figure things out that is as long as history itself, whereas through Science, we’re here today using the internet. Need I say more.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I have faith he will not use his position to evangelize

    … He’s done it before.

    From the Publishers Weekly review of The Language of God:

    Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who once headed the Human Genome Project, adapts his title from President Clinton’s remarks announcing completion of the first phase of the project in 2000: “Today we are learning the language in which God created life.” Collins explains that as a Christian believer, “the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.” This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins’s faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution. Following the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity was influential in Collins’s conversion from atheism, the book argues that belief in a transcendent, personal God-and even the possibility of an occasional miracle-can and should coexist with a scientific picture of the world that includes evolution. Addressing in turn fellow scientists and fellow believers, Collins insists that “science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced” and “God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible.” Collins’s credibility as a scientist and his sincerity as a believer make for an engaging combination, especially for those who, like him, resist being forced to choose between science and God.

  • ayer

    It appears you are confusing the concept of “naturalism” (which entails atheism) with “methodological naturalism”, “an epistemological view that is specifically concerned with practical methods for acquiring knowledge, irrespective of one’s metaphysical or religious views. It requires that hypotheses be explained and tested only by reference to natural causes and events” (see wikipedia).

    One can conduct science utilizing the epistemological view of methodological naturalism regardless of one’s beliefs as to the ontological reality of naturalism simpliciter. In fact, to argue otherwise, as Harris does, is to embrace not science but “scientism”, “the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences” (see wikipedia).

    “Scientism” involves a “faith” commitment to science as a philosophical presupposition that is no different from religion.

  • Tom

    It appears you are confusing the concept of “naturalism” (which entails atheism) with “methodological naturalism”, “an epistemological view that is specifically concerned with practical methods for acquiring knowledge, irrespective of one’s metaphysical or religious views. It requires that hypotheses be explained and tested only by reference to natural causes and events” (see wikipedia).

    One can conduct science utilizing the epistemological view of methodological naturalism regardless of one’s beliefs as to the ontological reality of naturalism simpliciter. In fact, to argue otherwise, as Harris does, is to embrace not science but “scientism”, “the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences” (see wikipedia).

    “Scientism” involves a “faith” commitment to science as a philosophical presupposition that is no different from religion.

    “I understand what you are saying, but it is too threatening to my current belief system.”

    This is what I imagine to be going through the minds of many people after reading your post ayer. Accepting that religious people are capable of scientific achievement at the highest levels in today’s world is a frightening idea for many atheists. Many people’s reasons for being atheist come from an emotional rejection of those who are religious because of the very fact they don’t understand science and reality. To have someone as brilliant as Francis Collins be religious as well confuses and scares many atheists.

  • Tom

    Hoverfrog: Tough. Science doesn’t tell us what we want to hear. Science tells us about reality. Insofar as religion conforms to reality there is no incompatibility and religion needs to shift to fit, never the other way round.

    The greater the difference between superstitious nonsense and fact, the more extreme it will seem to hold onto the superstition. I see no reason to sugar coat reality.

    Your expectations are too high. Why will simply telling people they are wrong on this issue change their minds? It doesn’t do much. Being persuasive, as Hemant suggests, acknowledges that we don’t understand why people are religious, but that we are willing to make immediate concessions for a gain further down the road. Why do you think Hemant goes out and tries to make friends with Christians? They have power over the way we live, we have very little power over them. Delivering “pills” in the form of diplomacy is a subtle way of persuading others to your side. It seems these subtleties are lost amongst those who are quick to reject friendship with “enemies”

  • Aj

    ayer,

    No it’s you that seems to be confusing methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Harris makes it clear that religious people like Collins can use methodological naturalism so your charge is completely baseless. What Harris, Hemant, and others are actually saying is that it’s incoherent to use methodological naturalism to gain knowledge occasionally, and to also use faith, unsupported belief, in others for absolutely no reason other than they want something to be true.

    Tom,

    You think that atheists aren’t well aware that the most insensible, illogical faithheads can also be brilliant scientists? There have been scientists like Isaac Newton who had really absurd beliefs. Collins is just one recent example of someone who can compartmentalize two modes of thought, one highly rational, the other as irrational as you can get.

  • ayer

    Aj,

    It is not incoherent to apply methodological naturalism to the sorts of questions which science is suited to answer, and to apply philosophical reasoning to questions inherently outside of science’s purview (e.g., why is there something rather than nothing? are there objective moral values? etc.). Your implication that only scientific reasoning qualifies as “rational” is a paradigmatic example of “scientism”.

  • Aj

    ayer,

    It is not incoherent to apply methodological naturalism to the sorts of questions which science is suited to answer…

    Did you read Sam Harris’s article? Do you think the problems he has with Francis Collin’s religious views are answers to questions which science is not suited to answer? Because it seems clear to me they are questions science is suited to answer. Not only that but religion is definitely not suited to answer those questions, or any questions.

    …and to apply philosophical reasoning to questions inherently outside of science’s purview (e.g., why is there something rather than nothing? are there objective moral values? etc.). Your implication that only scientific reasoning qualifies as “rational” is a paradigmatic example of “scientism”.

    Your failure is to assume they’re reasonable questions to begin with, and that there’s a rational approach to answering them. Your implication that religious faith qualifies as “rational” is irrationality.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    questions inherently outside of science’s purview (e.g., why is there something rather than nothing? are there objective moral values? etc.)

    I think it’s a bit unfounded to simply assert that these are inherently outside of science’s purview. How do you know this?

  • Kevin

    (e.g., why is there something rather than nothing? are there objective moral values? etc.).

    Bullshit. There are many such questions, but the ones that are off-limits to science are exactly the ones that no rational-minded person could give a flying leap about.

    What you show here is that if you assume a “supernatural” realm, which is defined as that which can’t be explored with natural means, then you can ask all sorts of questions about this supernatural realm that cannot be answered by science. You forgot a few: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin”, “How much gold can a leprchaun hide ‘under a rainbow’ [LIC Logic-in-content]”, “Do Jewish people go to Baptist heaven?”, etc., ad nauseum.

    I’ll look at your two examples a bit closer… first note, though, that when challenged to provide questions outside the scope of “science”, the two questions you gave are EXACTLY the response given by ALL “science-religion-kum-bye-ah-ists”. The reason is that they are the only two examples, of ALL POTENTIAL QUESTIONS, which your camp could come up with that don’t sound stupidly religious.

    “why is there something rather than nothing” This assumes there is no model of reality which naturally entails a macroscopically 4-dimensional universe similar to our own. I hate to pop your bubble, but scientists have been working to develop such a model for decades. On one front, they’ve been building massive machines to collide particals together at increasingly high energies, effectively tearing the fabric of our universe apart and catching ever more instructive glimpses of this underlying model of reality. On another, they’ve worked out the mathematics of sophisticated string theories, multi-universe interpretations of quantum mechanics, and theory-of-everything’s which combine QM and relativity in ways that require years of math and physics to grasp. Maybe we should call all of these mathemeticians, theoretical physicists, and other super-genius scientists (these are the men and women who ace their SAT’s in kindergarten and got headaches from their diffEQ profs for working too slow) and inform them that they’ve made a mistake, that it’s a ‘god question’ they’re trying to answer, so they can turn off their accelerators, walk away from their chalkboards, find a good church, and get their answers directly from Genesis.

    “Are there objective moral values?” assumes a supernatural medium exists for holding some singular list of “objective moral values” which is independent of Homo sapiens (or any other social bilogical species) and utterly beyond the scope of the natural exploration, ie. it can only be investigated using some sort of supernatural communication channel, also assumed to exist. Furthermore, this question is the quintessential prime example of a question whereby assuming a supernatural answer exists directly interferes with any exploration of the natural means by which human morality may have developed.

  • Tom

    Aj,

    If he were still alive, would you be happy with Isaac Newton in Collins’ place?

    Is Francis Collins smart enough to be a top scientist?

    Just some questions to get where you are coming from more.

  • Epistaxis

    Despite all this, I still think Collins is a good choice for the head of the NIH because I have faith he will not use his position to evangelize

    Faith indeed. Especially in the face of plenty of contrary evidence, right there in the article, that he did use his previous position to evangelize. A lot.

  • ayer

    Aj and MiketheInfidel

    The notion that there are certain questions inherently outside of science’s purview is the consensus view, see, e.g., John Barrow (Prof. of Physics at Cambridge University) in his book “Impossibility”: http://wheel.dcn.davis.ca.us/~sander/mensa/glbmail1.html

    Collins is in good company in this; it is Harris’ naive scientism and reductionism that is considered extremist.

    And Aj’s idea that reason cannot be applied to philosophical questions is…let’s just say “interesting.” It would eliminate the entire profession of analytical philosophy, including as practiced by prominent atheist philosophers of religion like Quentin Smith:

    http://www.qsmithwmu.com/

    and William Rowe:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0631222219

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The problem with religion which gains knowledge through “revelation” is that revelation is a personal subjective experience (if it actually exists at all). It all boils down to “He said, she said”. It can’t be validated in any way with another individual. Others can only accept it by yielding to authority. Methodological naturalism is a knowledge gaining process where two or more people can share in the knowledge without having to merely accept arguments on authority. Experiments can be duplicated and reasoning followed.

    I get crazy ideas all the time. Getting them is part of the creative process. Methodological naturalism is also an epistemological strategy to be able to prune away bad the ideas and leave the good ideas. If one subscribes to the notion of revelation, how is one able to separate true revelations or good ideas from bad ideas? Some religious people will answer “Reject non-scriptural ideas.” I submit that there are a lot of bad ideas in scripture precisely because people back then didn’t know how to separate bad ideas from good ideas. One can’t use scripture as your pruning mechanism.

    I would hope that Collins would recognize that ideas gained through “revelation” are nothing more than conjecture. Conjectures can’t be elevated to “theory” until there is supporting evidence.

  • Aj

    Tom,

    [a)]If he were still alive, would you be happy with Isaac Newton in Collins’ place?

    [b)]Is Francis Collins smart enough to be a top scientist?

    a) Director of the NIH? No. b) He is a top scientist.

    ayer,

    You don’t seem to be able to comprehend Harris’s article, Hemant’s blog post, or my comments, as you continue to misrepresent them. This is probably due to various false assumptions you have made about atheists that you are now projecting on us.

    The notion that there are certain questions inherently outside of science’s purview…

    Reread my post, I didn’t write that there are not questions outside of science’s purview.

    And Aj’s idea that reason cannot be applied to philosophical questions is…

    Reread my post, I didn’t say that reason cannot be applied to all philosophical questions.

  • ayer

    Aj,

    I’m glad we appear to be in agreement that:

    1) there are certain questions outside of science’s purview; and

    2) some of those questions are within the purview of analytical philosophy of religion (as practiced by both theists and atheists) using the tools of reason

    And Francis Collins (though it seems not Sam Harris) would be in complete agreement with us.

  • Shirakawasuna

    I think you underestimate the intellectual capacity of people in general when you agree with Sheril and Chris that atheists alleging the incompatibility (which you agree with) hurts science. Think of it in terms of the numbers: a relatively small number of people will be saying that in the near future, meaning this message with be part of a plurality of pro-science statements. Aside from the risk of alienating the religious, there’s also the value of changing the baseline of the discussion and challenging the views of younger people who are *not* alienated by those views but intrigued. I think individuals in general have proven to be quite adept at ignoring and refusing to internalize the messages scientists give them, when convenient, and obviously this message would sail right through like the others. It’s not like science never makes commentary on religious matters – religion has real-world (false) implications for the majority of the world’s population.

    I’d like to see something rigorous on this idea before it’s peddled further. While Hemant adequately qualifies the statement by saying ‘I think’, neither Chris nor Sheril made a ‘strong’ case for their point, only convenient rhetoric based on the simplistic notion that a contrary idea, especially one contrary to a deeply-held belief, is alienating and should therefore be avoided. If that was how it worked, you would not expect there to be social changes, religious changes, or an increasing number of atheists in America.

    You would also expect there to be a straightforward science acceptance rate which is declining over time (and no, the public’s opinions on scientists in general doesn’t count). As you can also see from Chris & Sheril’s commitment to their poorly-evidenced claim, it puts the emphasis in entirely the wrong area: the ideas which get and maintain opposition aren’t just opposed to beliefs and convenience, they’re opposed to entrenched social institutions and that’s where the propaganda comes from and the momentum is maintained. There will be no change without airing the disagreements and academic honesty (which is what scientists are expected to have).

    Rant concluded!

  • Aj

    ayer,

    …analytical philosophy of religion

    Analytical philosphy is practiced by religionists but it is not religious in nature.

    …though it seems not Sam Harris…

    You are wrong. Sam Harris is a graduate philospher who has a epistemological position that you disagree with, so you continue to misrepresent his position.

  • Jonathan

    “But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.”

    Isaac Newton
    Nicholas Copernicus
    Johannes Kepler
    Galileo
    Johannes Weyer
    Blaise Pascal
    Robert Boyle
    Gregor Mendel
    Louis Pastuer

    What do all of the above have in common? Deep religious beliefs. All who believed that God motivated their work in the sciences.

    Interesting argument by Harris.

  • ayer

    Aj: “Sam Harris is a graduate philospher”

    Actually, Harris only has a bachelor’s in philosophy; he is pursuing a PhD in neuroscience which he has apparently not finished yet; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Harris_(author)

  • ayer

    Kevin,

    The models of reality that physicists are developing do nothing to answer the question “why is there a reality there to model, instead of just nothing?” As Stephen Hawking recognized when he said:

    “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

    This is a philosophical question that science is neither designed nor equipped to answer.

    Regarding moral values, those atheist philosophers who believe the objectivity of moral values can be established without reference to the supernatural would argue with your curt dismissal of their life’s work, e.g, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong:
    http://www.amazon.com/Morality-Without-God-Philosophy-Action/dp/0195337638

  • Aj

    Jonathan,

    Three cheers for quoting out of context. Read the whole paragraph, and the two paragraphs that follow and then perhaps you’d understand Harris’s actual argument. In areas concerning Collins’s belief in God he lapses from from thinking like a scientist.

    Also, at least some of those examples make Harris’s point. There’s plenty of areas where those people had batshit beliefs that came about because religion made it difficult for them to think like scientists in those areas. Isaac Newton is a gold mine of lack of scientific thinking, including: alchemy, astronomy, myths, numerology, and prophecy.

    ayer,

    Which makes him a graduate, because he graduated with a degree. It also makes him a philosopher because that was the subject he studied.

  • Tom

    Aj: He is a top scientist.

    You believe he is a top scientist? That’s a flip-flop if I ever saw one. You seem to judge him to be a top scientist by someone else’s standards than your own, because you have made it clear he is not a top scientist in your view.

    Perhaps consider the question I propose about him being smart enough. Is being smart a requirement to being a scientist?

    Thanks for the new word ayer. I find a strong divide between those who practice science and scientism. Science demands action, observation. The -ism only demands thoughtfulness, actions of the mind. You could have no eyes, no ears, no tonge nor touch, nor nose and you could be a scientist. You could not be a scientist. It requires more than thought, it demands input.

    I defend this theist because he has proven to be a fantastic practicer of science. You know, I bet if he cared enough about God and religion, and spent enough time thinking about it, he would make his way to atheism. Many scientists do. But he is too busy mapping your and my genome, too busy in action and getting results.

  • Aj

    Tom,

    You believe he is a top scientist? That’s a flip-flop if I ever saw one. You seem to judge him to be a top scientist by someone else’s standards than your own, because you have made it clear he is not a top scientist in your view.

    Please quote me something I have written that can be interpreted as denying Collins is a top scientist in my view.

  • Tom

    Harris: “But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.”

    Just because you think like a scientist doesn’t make you one. No one lauds the great achievements of atheism, for good reason: it does nothing. We laud science because it has inherent value in action. Science and accomplishments will always be more valuable than philosophy. Collins might not be the best thinker, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s already one of the best doers.

    A Doist. Yea.

  • Tom

    In areas concerning Collins’s belief in God he lapses from from thinking like a scientist

    Wasn’t hard

    Oh, and all your posts are in support of Harris’ article.

    I interpret this position. You would be inconsistent with your statements if you believe Collins is a top scientist. Is he more of a top scientist than Richard Dawkins? Who’s at the tippy-top?

  • Jonathan

    AJ,
    I don’t think I missed the point at all. I actually read said paragraphs and also Harris’ review of the “The Language of God”. He accuses Collins of not being “scientific” when it comes to his view on God. A valid argument, to be sure. I think Collins is a lightweight when it comes to philosophy and theology. But, I don’t think that changes my view he is a first rate scientist.

    And, it’s obvious that Harris is playing a careful lanugage game as he praises Collins while coming to bury him. In order for Harris objections to be true, he would have to pull out one example where Collins’ allowed his belief in God to fudge his science. And in that case, Harris can’t produce one ounce of proof, in fact, he praises him for the opposite.

    It makes me wonder if Harris wants it both ways.

  • Aj

    Tom,

    Wasn’t hard

    Apparantly the task is beyond you. Perhaps it’s a semantic problem. What do you consider is the definition of “top scientist”. Mine would be achievements in a scientific field, in this case genetics.

    Jonathan,

    n order for Harris objections to be true, he would have to pull out one example where Collins’ allowed his belief in God to fudge his science.

    You’re the one playing language games. You’ve decided to compartmentalize “his science” so statements when he talks about God that Harris brought up as examples don’t count under your narrow definition. In his field, genetics, Collins so far as been a first class scientist and Harris even preemptively defended himself by stating so. Yet this isn’t enough for some, they have to deliberately misinterpret Harris because they have disagreements with other arguments but don’t have any counters to them.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    ayer:

    The notion that there are certain questions inherently outside of science’s purview is the consensus view

    And it’s a flat assertion, not something that can actually be shown to be true.

    The models of reality that physicists are developing do nothing to answer the question “why is there a reality there to model, instead of just nothing?” … This is a philosophical question that science is neither designed nor equipped to answer.

    It’s also entirely meaningless. It begins with the assumption that there SHOULD be nothing, so “something” rather than “nothing” is not to be expected. A universe where there is nothing is not a universe, let alone observable. We have no external referent by which we can base the claim that there SHOULD be nothing.

    Regarding moral values, those atheist philosophers who believe the objectivity of moral values can be established without reference to the supernatural would argue with your curt dismissal of their life’s work

    A standard of morality based on minimizing harm is not objective. It asserts that harm is inherently immoral. Even that is subjective.

  • Siamang

    I’m surprised you didn’t quote the slide that I find the most ridiculous and inflammatory.

    The one where collins argues that if morality is a product of evolution and not God-granted, then good and evil don’t exist.

    Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”

    Why is he using his position as a scientist to make such statements? There are a number of very qualified scientists looking into the evolutionary adaptation of ethics and morality.

    Why is he summarily concluding that these traits did not evolve? Upon what scientific basis does he draw this conclusion?

    Oh that’s right, none. He draws it based on religious views. If I had religious views and I used them to speak out of term about the work of the NIH, calling their whole line of work false because of what I learned at Sunday Services… I would be considered a poor scientist indeed.

    It is Collins speaking out of turn on the science of others and saying he has specific authority to dismiss their science, or declare it out of the bounds of scientific inquiry, because of his religious beliefs that is out of place…. not the fact that he *has* religious views. Remember, he delivered this lecture at Berkeley, not in a church.

    Also, his reasoning is crap. Whether moral law or social norms, or maternal love or even the concepts of fear, hunger or the feelings of hot or cold are “side effects of evolution”, that does not mean they aren’t real, meaningful or useful things to be aware of in the real world.

    Lots of things are side effects of evolution. That doesn’t mean they have no utility or meaning to us as humans. How could a scientist ever argue such a thing?

    The human eye is a “side effect of evolution.” That doesn’t mean that light and dark don’t exist, and that eyesight is just an illusion.

    I do wonder if, in a parallel universe without religion, the brilliant and eminent scientist Francis Collins could make such a fundamental logical mistake.

    Is it the religion that causes him commit this error?

  • Jonathan

    “You’re the one playing language games. You’ve decided to compartmentalize “his science” so statements when he talks about God that Harris brought up as examples don’t count under your narrow definition.”

    No, because as a Christian, I don’t have a problem with Collins believing in God at all. Nor do I think that it affects his work as a scientist, as Harris seems to be worried about. You can’t deny this is one of his cheif worries. He states quite clearly that he is worried that his belief in God will negativly affect his work at the NIH.

    “Yet this isn’t enough for some, they have to deliberately misinterpret Harris because they have disagreements with other arguments but don’t have any counters to them”

    You still aren’t proving to me that I misunderstood Harris. I certainly have disagreements with Harris on a great deal. But, here, I’m sticking to his statements about Collins in this article and other articles written about Collins. I consulted those articles to make sure that I was getting his point of view correctly.

  • Michael R

    I find it unlikely that anyone who is a self-professed Christian can ignore their religious beliefs in the commission of their job. Gawd wouldn’t approve one bit. In fact, from what I’ve read he’d be furious enough to kill something or demand a blood sacrifice, or both.

  • Aj

    Jonathan,

    Keep moving the goal posts. Collins will be the director of the NIH while his decisions hopefully will be based on science, although Harris and I doubt this in some cases, his work there as far as I’m aware could not be titled “scientist”.

    Your initial post made the argument that plenty of scientific greats have been deeply religious. Yet Harris’s point was not that they couldn’t be, it was that they are influenced into clearly not thinking like scientists. Your examples makes Harris’s point as many of them had similar views to Collins that were influenced by religion.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    The notion that the question “why is there something rather than nothing” is entirely meaningless is bizarre, and the very fact that we are debating it proves it is not “meaningless.” It is a question dealt with extensively by Leibniz ( http://tinyurl.com/n6n5ue ) and many others, and easily flows from the principle of Ockham’s razor.

    On the objectivity of morals, I agree with you and with Collins–on atheism morality is completely relative and subjective (not that this is a point in favor of atheism). But it sounds like you need to have a debate with Siamang above, who is offended that Collins would dare assert that on atheism the concepts of objective good and evil are illusory (!)

  • Jonathan

    “Keep moving the goal posts.”

    Not sure what you mean by this, so I’ll move on.

    “although Harris and I doubt this in some cases, his work there as far as I’m aware could not be titled “scientist”.”

    Fair point on the last part. Not fair on the first. You have no reason to doubt.

    ” Yet Harris’s point was not that they couldn’t be, it was that they are influenced into clearly not thinking like scientists.”

    And, the point I was making in my original post. I understood what he was trying to say, and I think he is wrong for thinking it. I don’t think that religion will prevent him from thinking like a scientist. In fact, my point in listing the people did, is that it helped them.

  • Aj

    Jonathan,

    You have no reason to doubt.

    Apart from the areas Collins think God is responsible for therefore according to his assumptions no scientific explanation is logically necessary.

    In fact, my point in listing the people did, is that it helped them.

    In the case of Isaac Newton with: alchemy, astronomy, myths, numerology, and prophecy?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    The notion that the question “why is there something rather than nothing” is entirely meaningless is bizarre, and the very fact that we are debating it proves it is not “meaningless.” It is a question dealt with extensively by Leibniz ( http://tinyurl.com/n6n5ue ) and many others, and easily flows from the principle of Ockham’s razor.

    No, it really doesn’t. “There is something” is much easier to explain than “There is something, but there should be nothing, so it’s confusing to think that there should be something.” Like I said, the entire question stems from the (unfounded) assumption that nothingness is the default state of existence. It is more parsimonious to assume that “something” is the default state of existence than to assume that “nothing” is the default state and that something that exists outside of existence turned the nothing into something.

    On the objectivity of morals, I agree with you and with Collins–on atheism morality is completely relative and subjective (not that this is a point in favor of atheism). But it sounds like you need to have a debate with Siamang above, who is offended that Collins would dare assert that on atheism the concepts of objective good and evil are illusory (!)

    ‘Relative and subjective’ is not what I said. I only said subjective. I don’t think morality is relative, only situational.

    And by what standard should we judge an objective morality to be better than a subjective morality? Why should an absolute standard be superior to one that adapts?

  • ayer

    MiketheInfidel,

    The Ockhamian bias in favor of simplicity does point to nothingness as the default state of affairs: nothingness is by definition simpler than our mind-bogglingly complex universe. Since the default position of nothingness does not prevail, the “something” cries out for an explanation, as Stephen Hawking recognized when he asked “Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?” He clearly does not consider it a “meaningless” question.

    It is fine for you to embrace the subjectivity of morals, as long as you are willing to confront the fact that you have no basis for asserting that your morality is in any way objectively superior to, say, Nazi morality–which is an absurd position to be in.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Nothingness is simpler? How can you assert that, when nothingness isn’t even a thing? A nonexistent existence isn’t even possible to describe. Of course it’s not simpler.

    Subjective morality is not absurd at all. Our cultures already have subjective moral standards. We just agree on what works best for us all.

  • ayer

    Your view would be news to the profession of analytical philosophy: ” “nothingness” has been treated as a serious subject worthy of research for a very long time. In philosophy, to avoid linguistic traps over the meaning of “nothing”, a phrase such as not-being is often employed to unambiguously make clear what is being discussed.” source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing

    And on your view of morality, Nazi morality cannot be judged as objectively inferior to any other morality since it “worked best” for them subjectively.

  • Jonathan

    “In the case of Isaac Newton with: alchemy, astronomy, myths, numerology, and prophecy?”

    No, I was refering to the belief that God created a universe that we could figure out through scientific inquiry.

    I’ll point out that nearly everyone in Newton’s time believe in the above in one form or another. We can’t commit historic anachorisms and expect that scientists had access to everything we have now. They did what we do, which is, go with the best information available to us at the this time.

  • Neon Genesis

    Even if we presume that there are questions that science can’t answer, what makes anyone think that religion can? Even if some non-science sources have some good answers to these questions about morality, why must it be Christianity? Why not Ayn Rand or Raelism or Scientology? Why do we need religion to figure out that it’s a good idea for society not to kill, rape, and steal from people? Since when is the questions about the origin of the universe not a scientific question? That’s news to the big bang theory. And I could easily turn around the same question about why there is something rather than nothing on Christians. Presuming God exists, why is there a god rather than no god? Answer that if you think religion can answer it. And what exactly is “scientism?” Anyone who doesn’t agree with ayer?

  • Siamang

    NG nails it.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    And on your view of morality, Nazi morality cannot be judged as objectively inferior to any other morality since it “worked best” for them subjectively.

    And the rest of civilized society worked together to destroy them for it. We judged them as inferior and acted accordingly.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    So if the Nazis had won and destroyed us, then their morality would be superior since they “judged us inferior and acted accordingly”–i.e., “might makes right.” Interesting.

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    Even if some non-science sources have some good answers to these questions about morality, why must it be Christianity?

    It doesn’t have to be Christianity; Christianity must make its case like any other explanation. The point is that for certain questions (“why is there something rather than nothing?” or “are there objective moral values?”) that explanation cannot be a scientific proof. We must make what philosophers call an “inference to the best explanation” using the tools of reason.

    Why do we need religion to figure out that it’s a good idea for society not to kill, rape, and steal from people

    Are you saying you believe that those things are objectively wrong? Then what is your basis on atheism for that assertion? Miketheinfidel certainly disagrees with you.

    Since when is the questions about the origin of the universe not a scientific question? That’s news to the big bang theory.

    The Big Bang theory describes how the universe came into existence; it says nothing about why it came into existence. The most that cosmologists can say is that it is not past eternal and thus had a beginning (as demonstrated by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin:

    http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v90/i15/e151301

    Since spacetime itself came into existence at the Big Bang, the cause must be spaceless and timeless–but it is beyond the reach of scientific observation.

    Presuming God exists, why is there a god rather than no god?

    If you presume God exists, then our questions about the origin of the universe are answered. I guess at that point we could have some interesting theological discussions about God, but this atheist website would be out of business.

    And what exactly is “scientism?” Anyone who doesn’t agree with ayer?

    No, the definition is the one I cited in my earlier post: “the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences.”

  • Aj

    Ockham’s Razor is meant to be used as a rule of thumb to favour different hypotheses in specific situations, when other respects are equal and when the hypothesis acceptibly answers a question. It’s only concerned with simplicity in the sense of number of assumptions, it’s not a presciption for reality.

    Philosophers have treated many, many subjects as worthy of research. That does not mean these actually were worthy of research. Much of philosophy has been dedicated to metaphysics, dualism, gods, and essentialism. That’s in general, specific examples of this “research” really demonstrate that just because philosophers have dedicated centuries to something does not mean it’s worth anything. Of course theists probably subscribe to that nonsense.

    Nothing is far more difficult a concept to just throw the word around and attach characteristics to it. How can nothing be simpler than anything else if nothing is not a state of existence? We have no experience of nothing, we don’t even know if it’s possible.

  • Neon Genesis

    It doesn’t have to be Christianity; Christianity must make its case like any other explanation. The point is that for certain questions (”why is there something rather than nothing?” or “are there objective moral values?”) that explanation cannot be a scientific proof. We must make what philosophers call an “inference to the best explanation” using the tools of reason.

    But you’re still not answering the question. Since you admit there is no one true way to answer these questions, why turn to religion for these answers?

    Are you saying you believe that those things are objectively wrong? Then what is your basis on atheism for that assertion? Miketheinfidel certainly disagrees with you.

    My thoughts on objective morality have nothing to do with my question and you’re trying to drag this off-topic. My question is why do we need religion to tell us how to be moral? As Christopher Hitchens would ask, name one positive moral value that a religious person can do that an atheist can’t do just as well without religion.

    The Big Bang theory describes how the universe came into existence; it says nothing about why it came into existence. The most that cosmologists can say is that it is not past eternal and thus had a beginning (as demonstrated by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin:

    Why must there be a divine purpose behind the universe? Asking why are we here is like asking why is the letter A the first letter in the alphabet. Because it is.

    Since spacetime itself came into existence at the Big Bang, the cause must be spaceless and timeless–but it is beyond the reach of scientific observation.

    If God is beyond science, isn’t that as good as saying God doesn’t exist?

    If you presume God exists, then our questions about the origin of the universe are answered. I guess at that point we could have some interesting theological discussions about God, but this atheist website would be out of business.

    Apparently you don’t understand the concept of a hypothetical question. My point is why does your question about why is there something rather than nothing apply to the universe but it doesn’t apply to your god and why are you avoiding answering my questions?

    No, the definition is the one I cited in my earlier post: “the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences.”

    Since when has Sam Harris advocated this view? Nowhere has Sam Harris argued that science is the only way to answer everything. He in fact advocates atheistic Buddhism in The End Of Faith as an alternative spirituality to supernatural religion and argues that we cannot live by reason alone. Unless you can demonstrate some evidence that Harris believes in “scientism”, then you should retract this false claim.

  • ayer

    Your sweeping dismissal of centuries of philosophical work by both theists and atheists reminds me of the sweeping dismissal of science by some religious fundamentalists. Both exhibit an unfortunate anti-intellectualism.

  • Neon Genesis

    Your sweeping dismissal of centuries of philosophical work by both theists and atheists reminds me of the sweeping dismissal of science by some religious fundamentalists. Both exhibit an unfortunate anti-intellectualism.

    I am not dismissing philosophy. What I am dismissing is superstition and magical thinking that has no evidence for existing. Unless you can demonstrate one instance where I dismissed all philosophy, then I think you should retract your false claim. You keep avoiding my question why do we need religious “philosophy” to answer these questions that science can’t? What makes religion any better of a candidate than say, Ayn Rand or Bertrand Russell (I’m not saying I advocate Ayn Rand, she was just the first example of non-religious philosophy that popped in my mind). And how am I anything like a fundamentalist Christian? Last I checked, I wasn’t trying to force my views on people through government laws nor am I claiming all religious people have no moral values nor am I denying religious people equal rights. But if I simply ask why do we need religion, this apparently makes me a fundamentalist even though you still have not answered this question.

  • Aj

    ayer,

    Your sweeping dismissal of centuries of philosophical work by both theists and atheists reminds me of the sweeping dismissal of science by some religious fundamentalists. Both exhibit an unfortunate anti-intellectualism.

    Chemists sweeping dismissal of alchemists, neuroscientists sweeping dismissal of dualism, and astronomers sweeping dismissal of astrology. Hume rejected metaphysics, and other philosphers following him, i was he like a religious fundamentalist? Many modern philosophers reject dualism are they like religious fundamentalists? All atheist philosophers reject gods are they all like religious fundamentalists?

  • ayer

    Aj,

    Dismissing the entire field and profession of philosophy of religion (as practiced by both theists and atheists) exhibits an anti-intellectualism reminiscent of fundamentalist dismissal of science as a path to knowledge.

    Here is a link to an atheist web site describing the legitimacy and relevance of philosophy of religion for both theists and atheists:

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=1292

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    I was referring to Aj’s dismissal of philosophy of religion, not to your post.

  • Siamang

    If you presume God exists, then our questions about the origin of the universe are answered.

    Only because your presumption itself is a presumed answer.

    Epic logic fail.

    I guess at that point we could have some interesting theological discussions about God, but this atheist website would be out of business.

    Why don’t you answer the question instead of ducking it: presuming God, why is there a god rather than no god?

    It’s the same question as “why is there a universe rather than no universe?”

    Well, except for the fact that we actually DO know there IS a universe.

    Who made everything? God.
    Who made God?

    Nobody, God just exists.

    Is almost the same as:

    Who made everything?

    Nobody, everything just exists.

    Almost the same. Except the first version posits an invisible magical man without a shred of evidence.

    Epic logic fail.

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    But you’re still not answering the question. Since you admit there is no one true way to answer these questions, why turn to religion for these answers?

    The point is that questions like “why does the universe exist?” and “are there objective moral values” cannot be answered scientifically. Thus, the fact that Collins seeks to answer them through non-scientific means has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    My thoughts on objective morality have nothing to do with my question and you’re trying to drag this off-topic. My question is why do we need religion to tell us how to be moral?

    The point is that science cannot answer the question “are there objective moral values?” So, again, the fact that Collins attempts to address this question through non-scientific means has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    Why must there be a divine purpose behind the universe? Asking why are we here is like asking why is the letter A the first letter in the alphabet. Because it is.

    Ok, so you are not interested in addressing why the universe exists instead of just nothing. The fact that Collins is interested in addressing that question has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    If God is beyond science, isn’t that as good as saying God doesn’t exist?

    Uh, no, because science is not the only way of seeking knowledge, and is ill-suited to questions that are inherently metaphysical. Your statement is an undiluted example of “scientism.”

    Apparently you don’t understand the concept of a hypothetical question. My point is why does your question about why is there something rather than nothing apply to the universe but it doesn’t apply to your god and why are you avoiding answering my questions?

    How is this question relevant to whether Collins (because of his desire to address inherently nonscientific questions such as “why does the universe exist instead of nothing?” or “are there objective moral values?”) is well-suited to be head of NIH? That issue is the subject of Harris’s article and Hemant’s original post.

    Since when has Sam Harris advocated this view? Nowhere has Sam Harris argued that science is the only way to answer everything. He in fact advocates atheistic Buddhism in The End Of Faith as an alternative spirituality to supernatural religion and argues that we cannot live by reason alone. Unless you can demonstrate some evidence that Harris believes in “scientism”, then you should retract this false claim.

    If you are correct that Harris believes in addressing such nonscientific spiritual questions outside of the scientific method, then he should have no problem with Collins as head of NIH, because that is exactly the position that Collins takes.

  • Neon Genesis

    The point is that questions like “why does the universe exist?” and “are there objective moral values” cannot be answered scientifically. Thus, the fact that Collins seeks to answer them through non-scientific means has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    It certainly does have bearings if Collins is going to claim it’s a proven fact that God created the universe 13 million years ago if you admit this is something that cannot be determined by facts. Did you bother to read the article?

    The point is that science cannot answer the question “are there objective moral values?” So, again, the fact that Collins attempts to address this question through non-scientific means has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    Again, if you admit it can’t be proven, then it does have bearings if Collins claims he has proven it as shown in the quotes in the original entry when you admit we can’t know it.

    Ok, so you are not interested in addressing why the universe exists instead of just nothing. The fact that Collins is interested in addressing that question has no bearing on his qualifications to be head of NIH.

    When did I say I have no interest in the question? For someone who claims to know the Truth about morality thanks to religion, you seem to love making a lot of dishonest claims about people that are not true. Maybe you should try actually caring about truth sometime.

    Uh, no, because science is not the only way of seeking knowledge, and is ill-suited to questions that are inherently metaphysical. Your statement is an undiluted example of “scientism.”

    So, what other ways are there of proving God’s existence? Please don’t tell us it’s faith.

    How is this question relevant to whether Collins (because of his desire to address inherently nonscientific questions such as “why does the universe exist instead of nothing?” or “are there objective moral values?”) is well-suited to be head of NIH? That issue is the subject of Harris’s article and Hemant’s original post.

    It is relevant because you’re saying religion and scientific facts are two different ways of knowing something and that neither one can say anything about each other while at the same time, making factual claims about religion.

    If you are correct that Harris believes in addressing such nonscientific spiritual questions outside of the scientific method, then he should have no problem with Collins as head of NIH, because that is exactly the position that Collins takes.

    Again, you are missing Harris’ point. The point is not that Collins is looking outside of science to find these answers but he’s pointing out Collin’s hypocrisy when he claims God created the universe 13 million years ago and that we can’t have morals without God like all those evil atheists but when pressed to prove it, he back peddles and says God is outside science and can’t be proven. Either God can be proven or he can’t but don’t make factual claims about the nature of the universe and morality in one breath but when asked to prove it, change your argument and say it can’t be proven.

  • Aj

    ayer,

    Dismissing the entire field and profession of philosophy of religion (as practiced by both theists and atheists) exhibits an anti-intellectualism reminiscent of fundamentalist dismissal of science as a path to knowledge.

    I am happy for you to call me an anti-intellectual given that you commit to fanciful nonsense. I am also happy to stand with David Hume (“Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”) and A.J. Ayer as anti-intellectuals (according to you). To claim that science is equivalent to the philosophy of the kind I mentioned is beyond ridiculous, for one is grounded in empirism while the other is fallible, testable or provable (Popper), or meaningless (Ayer).

    I am unhappy that you conflate my criticism to the “philosophy of religion” because as it just means philosophy applied to religion, legimate philosophical questions can and are asked of religion.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    So if the Nazis had won and destroyed us, then their morality would be superior since they “judged us inferior and acted accordingly”–i.e., “might makes right.” Interesting.

    As opposed to “God makes right because God is the biggest kid on the block.”

    Had the Nazis won, our ideas of morality wouldn’t even be relevant anymore.

    Allow me to repeat myself:

    The point is that for certain questions (”why is there something rather than nothing?” or “are there objective moral values?”) that explanation cannot be a scientific proof.

    This is just an assertion, not a known fact. You seem keen on confusing the two.

    Since spacetime itself came into existence at the Big Bang, the cause must be spaceless and timeless–but it is beyond the reach of scientific observation.

    Assertion, not fact.

    The entire concept of a TIMELESS CAUSE is logically incoherent! Cause and effect require time.

    Everything within the universe had a beginning. This does not support the assertion that the universe had a beginning. In fact, if TIME began with the universe, then the universe did NOT have a beginning.

  • ayer

    Aj,

    Your support of Hume and A.J. Ayer is very clarifying, as it would explain your apparent commitment to the “verifiability principle” as a theory of knowledge. Unfortunately, that theory has been shown to be self-refuting and thus has been overwhelmingly rejected even by atheist philosophers. See:

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Verificationism

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    Had the Nazis won, our ideas of morality wouldn’t even be relevant anymore.

    You make my point. This is one of the more disturbing implications of atheism. I’m glad I don’t have to defend it.

    Everything within the universe had a beginning. This does not support the assertion that the universe had a beginning. In fact, if TIME began with the universe, then the universe did NOT have a beginning.

    I’m sorry, but you are just wrong on the cosmological evidence here. Borde, Guth and Vilenkin (all atheists, I believe) have demonstrated that the universe cannot be past eternal and thus had a beginning:

    http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v90/i15/e151301

    See also Vilenkin’s recent book, “Many Worlds in One”, relevant excerpt here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=LAmJ3nLWGkcC&pg=PP1&dq=vilenkin+many+worlds&ei=zH5vSpbUE57CzQS0raTbDg

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    You make my point. This is one of the more disturbing implications of atheism. I’m glad I don’t have to defend it.

    No; rather, you have to defend the idea that a being is objectively moral because it made everything. And that it doesn’t have to follow its own standards.

    What’s really kind of pathetic is that you’re playing a “what if” game as if it actually relates to reality. It doesn’t. The Nazis didn’t win, and that’s because their approach to the world was untenable. I may as well say, “What if the Catholic church had come to dominate the entire world and slaughtered everyone who disagreed with them? I’d hate to be the one defending Catholic doctrine then.” It didn’t happen – it’s meaningless.

    I’m sorry, but you are just wrong on the cosmological evidence here. Borde, Guth and Vilenkin (all atheists, I believe) have demonstrated that the universe cannot be past eternal and thus had a beginning:…

    Good for them. That doesn’t make them right. Demonstrate away, but “time had a beginning X number of years ago, thus anything that was there ‘before’ it always existed” does not equal “the universe has an eternal past.”

    The universe had a beginning at an explicit point on our timeline. Its past is not infinite. And the universe has been here since the beginning of time (since time is a property of the universe) – that is, “always”. It is essentially, though not literally, eternal.

    I can dismiss the Valenkin book you just mentioned without even having to read beyond the prologue. It suggests that the universe is both infinite in size and in age. It’s a poor attempt at philosophy if it has to ignore facts about reality.

  • http://diaphanus.livejournal.com/ Ian Andreas Miller

    One can complain about scientism until the cows come home, but frankly, I think we should speak out just as loudly and at length about religionism — the view that religious philosophy has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, “religious,” “mythical,” “spiritual,” or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences.

    The point is that questions like “why does the universe exist?” and “are there objective moral values” cannot be answered scientifically.

    Well, of course “God-Shaped Hole” questions can’t be filled with scientific answers.

    The idea is this: We need a god in order to fill our god-shaped hole, and we know that we have a god-shaped hole because the problem is such that only a god can fill it.

    If you presume God exists, then our questions about the origin of the universe are answered.

    You have an answer to a question, but not a solution to a problem.

    If you presume 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, then our questions about the origin of the universe are answered.

    I guess at that point we could have some interesting theological discussions about God, but this atheist website would be out of business.

    I admire such humility in a theist.

  • Aj

    ayer,

    Your support of Hume and A.J. Ayer is very clarifying, as it would explain your apparent commitment to the “verifiability principle” as a theory of knowledge.

    They’re not my prophets or messiahs, I don’t have to subscribe to any principle that they subscribed to. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to attribute the principle to Hume. You should not claim that opposition to your irrational beliefs and pseudo-intellectual persuits are anti-intellectual, as these were genuine intellectuals. I also referred to Karl Popper, but you didn’t associate me with his alternative to the verification principle. You seem to project views on people without justification, you started with Harris, and moved on to the commenters here. Perhaps it’s best to read the opinions and positions of others instead of making some up for them.

  • ayer

    Aj,

    I see–you bristle at the word “anti-intellectual,” yet feel free to refer to my “irrational beliefs” and “pseudo-intellectual pursuits.” Physician, heal thyself.

  • ayer

    MiketheInfidel,

    What’s really kind of pathetic is that you’re playing a “what if” game as if it actually relates to reality. It doesn’t. The Nazis didn’t win, and that’s because their approach to the world was untenable.

    Ok, feel free to contemplate an example where the bad guys won–e.g., the Europeans wiping out the Native Americans, Mao slaughtering millions in China, etc.

    The universe had a beginning at an explicit point on our timeline. Its past is not infinite. And the universe has been here since the beginning of time (since time is a property of the universe) – that is, “always”. It is essentially, though not literally, eternal.

    Its past is not infinite, but it is eternal? That is well-nigh incoherent.

  • ayer

    Ian,

    Well, of course “God-Shaped Hole” questions can’t be filled with scientific answers.

    Since you agree that such questions don’t have scientific answers, then you should also agree that Collins’ desire to address those questions outside of science has no bearing on his suitability to be head of NIH.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Ok, feel free to contemplate an example where the bad guys won–e.g., the Europeans wiping out the Native Americans, Mao slaughtering millions in China, etc.

    Obviously those moral standards are continuing today, right? They definitely haven’t been superseded or anything. It’s not like mankind has moved forward and realized its mistakes, and come to a consensus that this sort of thing isn’t acceptable anymore.

    (Watch as he moves the goalposts and says that someone else is doing these things now, and therefore we never learned from our mistakes.)

    Its past is not infinite, but it is eternal? That is well-nigh incoherent.

    Only if you willfully believe that it is. Time began with the expansion of the universe. Time itself is as old as the universe. But it had a beginning. “Eternal” means “existing forever.” Outside the philosophical realm and in the realm of actual scientific reality, “existing forever” has a lower limit at the beginning of time.

    Something that existed forever existed since time began. But we know time DID begin, at a specific point. So something that existed forever had a beginning. But to say that something exists outside of time is entirely meaningless, and to attempt to assert that a “timeless” thing could cause anything is truly incoherent. Causality requires time.

    To assert, utterly without any rational basis, that there are things science will never be able to explain is to close your mind to the future. To assert, utterly without any rational basis, that anything science cannot answer can therefore be answered by faith or religion is simply absurd.

  • ayer

    MiketheInfidel,

    Obviously those moral standards are continuing today, right? They definitely haven’t been superseded or anything.

    I see now–whether slaughtering innocent people is immoral depends on the century in which it occurs.

    But we know time DID begin, at a specific point. So something that existed forever had a beginning.

    I see now–spacetime popped into existence out of nothing and caused by nothing

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I see now–whether slaughtering innocent people is immoral depends on the century in which it occurs.

    If you’ve got a better standard to offer, feel free. I’m getting a little sick of playing your games. You act as though a morality based on reason is inferior to a morality based on a being that is bigger and stronger than everyone else who decides that its own standards don’t apply to it. Come on. Stop being coy; tell us what you think morality is based on. Step up to the plate. You can’t win a debate by tossing hypotheticals at the opposition and thinking you win by default if they can’t answer. You keep offering these examples of things that happened in the past and were overcome by the better parts of humanity, as if I have to defend the things that failed. I don’t. You have to give us reason to believe that your moral standards are more objectively correct in their judgment of those past actions as immoral.

    I see now–spacetime popped into existence out of nothing and caused by nothing

    Who says it popped into existence? That’s assuming, as I said before, that nothingness was the default state. Unfounded assumption. And even if it DIDN’T, asserting that a god was the cause is completely baseless.

    I’m not the one proposing the existence of magic here.

  • J Myers

    AJ, Neon Genesis, Siamang, Mike, Ian: it appears you are confusing the concept of metaphysical theism with methodological theism. Allow me to explain:

    Methodological theism enables one to behave as though some god or other exists, whether or not one truly believes as much; this allows one to undertake such important activities as visiting atheist blogs and making inane comments that exhibit an ostentatious and rather ironic smugness, a comic obtuseness, transparently fallacious reasoning, and numerous indications that one is entirely unable to comprehend what others have written.

    Metaphysical theism permits for exactly the same behavior, with the added bonus that one gets to believe one’s philosophical dissidents will burn for all eternity.

    Of course, neither one says a fucking thing about reality, but that’s hardly the point.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Popping off little snide remarks does nothing to make me want to continue talking to you or to promote your position as more valid. If you’ve got a position at all, that is; you really haven’t even bothered to put it on the table.

    Much as creationism doesn’t automatically win if evolution fails, theistic objective morality doesn’t win if I can’t answer your questions. It’s a total false dichotomy.

  • Aj

    The first cause argument is self-refuting, if everything has a cause, then the first cause must have a cause. I guess God just “popped into existence” or was “caused by nothing”, because that’s the false dichotomy you have set up.

    “Magic man done it” is not an acceptable hypothesis to the origin of the universe. It answers nothing, throwing attributes at a problem doesn’t solve it. A something that can create the universe did it, that is eternal so does not need to be caused.

    Ockham’s Razor, if we have two hypotheses: a) “magic man done it and he doesn’t need a cause”, and b) it doesn’t need a cause. Then the first-cause universe has one less assumption. It doesn’t mean it’s right, both hypotheses are not acceptable to me, and more importantly are not connected to any observation or anything we know.

    I see now–spacetime popped into existence out of nothing and caused by nothing

    Where does this stupidity come from? No one has written that they think that in this thread. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before but perhaps you’d do better reading what people write in their comments instead of projecting positions onto them.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Also, “everything has a cause” is a play on words.

    Every thing does have a cause. But everything, the collective, the totality of all things – that cannot be assumed to have a cause. To include the universe in “every thing” is to call the universe a thing – that is, to include the set of all things as an item within itself.

    All apples grow on trees. A bag containing all apples does not grow on a tree. All things have a cause. The universe containing all things … cannot be said definitely to have a cause. A thing and “everything” are not comparable in that way.

    Where does this stupidity come from? No one has written that they think that in this thread.

    It’s simple – it comes from the assumption that God did it or nothing did it. The idea of a self-causing universe doesn’t even fall into his list of options, but if we’re talking about a universe that existed in some form before time began, cause and effect wouldn’t be happening in any sort of recognizable form; there would be no sequential, linear progression of events. Something could very well be self-causing.

  • Siamang

    Ayer is doing nothing but dancing.

    Hey folks, nail him to a question, and don’t engage anything else but that question. Unless you want to give up.

    I have.

  • Neon Genesis

    I see now–whether slaughtering innocent people is immoral depends on the century in which it occurs.

    You mean like how your god commanded King Saul to murder all the children of the Amalekites? I’d hate to be defending your religion. Oh, and if you think science has nothing to say about morality at all, you should listen to the latest episode of the Skepticality podcast: http://skepticality.libsyn.com/rss/

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    You mean like how your god commanded King Saul to murder all the children of the Amalekites?

    According to Miketheinfidel’s reasoning, since moral standards regarding the slaughter of innocents change from century to century, who are we to apply our modern moral standards to condemn that event in ancient history? But since you do condemn it, it seems you disagree with Miketheinfidel here. You two could perhaps have an interesting debate on the malleability over time of moral standards concerning genocide.

  • Neon Genesis

    According to Miketheinfidel’s reasoning, since moral standards regarding the slaughter of innocents change from century to century, who are we to apply our modern moral standards to condemn that event in ancient history? But since you do condemn it, it seems you disagree with Miketheinfidel here. You two could perhaps have an interesting debate on the malleability over time of moral standards concerning genocide.

    So how come you don’t stone gay people and people for eating lunch at Red Lobster’s anymore? It’s in the bible.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    According to Miketheinfidel’s reasoning, since moral standards regarding the slaughter of innocents change from century to century, who are we to apply our modern moral standards to condemn that event in ancient history? But since you do condemn it, it seems you disagree with Miketheinfidel here. You two could perhaps have an interesting debate on the malleability over time of moral standards concerning genocide.

    You’re a cute little cub scout, really. I’ve made it quite clear that we no longer find this thing acceptable because society as a whole has moved on and will use extreme force to suppress this kind of genocidal behavior.

    Who are we to apply our modern moral standards to condemn events in ancient history? The only people whose moral standards matter: those who exist now.

    Like I said before:

    ‘Relative and subjective’ is not what I said. I only said subjective. I don’t think morality is relative, only situational.

    The only thing that has changed is the situation. In our situation, we’ve largely grown past the idea that tribal superstitions justify brutal genocide. It was wrong then, too, but the situation wasn’t such that they thought this was true (or that they could be stopped).

    Don’t forget, though; we’re talking about a potentially nonexistent genocide. Many of the stories of the military conquests of the Israelites are myths, after all.

    I’d sure hate to have to defend the idea that

    1. God is a perfect, unchanging being, and
    2. It was okay for God to command genocide back then, but now it’s not.

    Talk about your moral relativism.

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    So how come you don’t stone gay people and people for eating lunch at Red Lobster’s anymore? It’s in the bible.

    And how are those biblical passages relevant to whether objective moral values exist as a philosophical matter? I’m sure there are some good fundamentalist websites where you could debate biblical exegesis; then you could move on to some Islamic websites to debate exegesis of the Koran and Hindu websites to debate exegesis of the Upanishads.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    ‘Relative and subjective’ is not what I said. I only said subjective. I don’t think morality is relative, only situational.

    The only thing that has changed is the situation. In our situation, we’ve largely grown past the idea that tribal superstitions justify brutal genocide. It was wrong then, too, but the situation wasn’t such that they thought this was true (or that they could be stopped).

    It appears you are confused as to the difference between “subjective” and “objective.” If you believe genocide was immoral in ancient history, immoral in the twentieth century, and immoral today, that would indicate you believe it is immoral objectively (i.e., regardless of the subjective opinion regarding the morality of genocide of any particular group–ancient Israelites, Nazis, etc.). Your moral ontology says that the immorality of genocide is an objective standard (and therefore that objective moral values exist). Why then do you say moral standards are subjective?

    You then note that today our knowledge regarding the immorality of genocide is superior to the knowledge of past generations, i.e., your moral epistemology is that, somehow, today we are better able to discover the truth that genocide is objectively immoral. But that is a separate question from the ontological objectivity of that moral standard against genocide.

  • Neon Genesis

    And how are those biblical passages relevant to whether objective moral values exist as a philosophical matter? I’m sure there are some good fundamentalist websites where you could debate biblical exegesis; then you could move on to some Islamic websites to debate exegesis of the Koran and Hindu websites to debate exegesis of the Upanishads.

    Why are you dodging my question? Can it be because if you actually answer any of my questions as you haven’t done in this whole discussion that you would know the answer to your question and you would you know you’re following moral relativism the same as everybody else does? What else do you call cherry picking the bible other than relativism?

  • Neon Genesis

    Does anyone else find it ironic that ayer claims to have the moral high ground because they believe in moral absolutes, not like those evil atheists that support Hitler, but has been nothing but arrogant, judgmental, and holier than thou in this entire discussion? Whether religion can answer any questions besides how many angels can balance on a pin, religion has obviously not helped ayer be a better person. I’m pretty sure Jesus taught something about plucking the shards out of your own eyes first. If there’s one thing ayer proves, it’s that whether they’re fundamentalist or liberal, Christians who claim to know the truth almost always end up being arrogant and judgemental.

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis,

    Your last comment is known as the fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem, one which is quite prevalent in the atheist comments on this blog.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    If you believe genocide was immoral in ancient history, immoral in the twentieth century, and immoral today, that would indicate you believe it is immoral objectively (i.e., regardless of the subjective opinion regarding the morality of genocide of any particular group–ancient Israelites, Nazis, etc.). Your moral ontology says that the immorality of genocide is an objective standard (and therefore that objective moral values exist). Why then do you say moral standards are subjective?

    You are absolutely, 100% wrong.

    By our subjective standards, it was immoral then. By theirs, it wasn’t. But their standards are gone. They are no longer relevant, as I have repeatedly said. They have been succeeded by standards that work better. The standards change, but their effect on society is an objective improvement.

    Your last comment is known as the fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem, one which is quite prevalent in the atheist comments on this blog.

    And yours is the Fallacy of Misusing Fallacies. He attacked your arguments, not you. Calling someone arrogant and judgmental (when they are in fact arrogant and judgmental) after meticulously deconstructing their arguments, is not an ad hominem. It would only be an ad hominem if he had never bothered to address anything you said and just attacked you.

    Let’s go back to the point you’re trying to cleverly dance away from, ayer (and don’t expect any response from me unless you address this point):

    I’d sure hate to have to defend the idea that

    1. God is a perfect, unchanging being, and
    2. It was okay for God to command genocide back then, but now it’s not.

    Talk about your moral relativism.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    By our subjective standards, it was immoral then. By theirs, it wasn’t. But their standards are gone. They are no longer relevant, as I have repeatedly said. They have been succeeded by standards that work better. The standards change, but their effect on society is an objective improvement.

    I’m afraid you are still confused about the meaning of “objective” and “subjective.” Here is an objective moral standard against genocide: “genocide is immoral everywhere and at all times, even if every single person who ever lived (including every single person alive today) subjectively believed it is morally acceptable. Those persons were and are objectively wrong.” Just as 2 + 2 would equal 4 even if every person who ever lived (including every single person alive today) believed that 2 + 2 = 5. Those persons would be objectively wrong.

    Thus, even if every person alive today believed genocide was morally acceptable, it would still be objectively immoral. Now that we have clarified that: do you believe genocide is objectively immoral?

    I’d sure hate to have to defend the idea that

    1. God is a perfect, unchanging being, and
    2. It was okay for God to command genocide back then, but now it’s not.

    Talk about your moral relativism.

    What makes you think I am defending that idea? I have certainly not asserted it in any of my comments. I thought the commenters on this blog were opposed to projecting beliefs onto others.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    Calling someone arrogant and judgmental (when they are in fact arrogant and judgmental) after meticulously deconstructing their arguments, is not an ad hominem.

    Just as many theists regard Christopher Hitchens as arrogant and judgmental (whereas atheists tend to regard him just as “confident” and “speaking the truth”). None of those reactions are relevant to the merit of his or my arguments.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    What makes you think I am defending that idea? I have certainly not asserted it in any of my comments. I thought the commenters on this blog were opposed to projecting beliefs onto others.

    Give us all a break, Mr. Poor Pathetic Persecuted Me. I’m done talking to you.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    I figured as much.

  • Neon Genesis

    Just as many theists regard Christopher Hitchens as arrogant and judgmental (whereas atheists tend to regard him just as “confident” and “speaking the truth”). None of those reactions are relevant to the merit of his or my arguments.

    First of all, it is relevant if you’re going to claim that God is the source of morality yet you don’t behave that much better than your fundamentalist brethren. Second of all, your comparison to Christopher Hitchens is invalid since Hitchens does not claim atheism is the source of morals and that we can only have morals if we’re atheists like you’re doing with theism.

  • ayer

    Neon Genesis:

    First of all, it is relevant if you’re going to claim that God is the source of morality yet you don’t behave that much better than your fundamentalist brethren. Second of all, your comparison to Christopher Hitchens is invalid since Hitchens does not claim atheism is the source of morals and that we can only have morals if we’re atheists like you’re doing with theism.

    Nothing prevents atheists from behaving morally. They simply have no ontological basis on which to regard their moral standards as objective, and no ontological basis upon which to regard their moral standards as superior to any other moral standards.

    Of course, the reverse is true of theists: they have a basis for the objectivity of moral values, but that does not mean they always adhere to those values.

    I find it ironic that you criticize my comments for being uncharitable, when the comments of atheists on this website are continuously dripping with ridicule, contempt, arrogance, etc. towards religious believers. Talk about a pot-kettle situation.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    ayer: You don’t win a debate by being a condescending ass and dodging your opponents’ points until you’ve frustrated them to the point of leaving. Exactly WHO were you trying to impress here?

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    The “points” I was “dodging” all had to do with a debate on passages from the Old Testament, which is irrelevant to the philosophical arguments. I understand that many people here are hung up on certain biblical passages (maybe because they come from a fundamentalist background), but I have no interest in debating the Bible, the Koran, or any other scriptures.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    You are attempting to argue that a godless viewpoint cannot have true morality. Your implicit claim is that a god-based viewpoint has true morality. Defend your claim.

  • ayer

    Miketheinfidel,

    Actually, your failure to address my last question on the objectivity of moral values leads me to rest my case, as my point has been made. I also agree with your previous post that this debate is getting tiresome. The atheists here appear to have many, many emotional objections to religion that make rational discourse close to impossible. A more appropriate moniker than atheists might be “anti-theists.” My sincere hope is that the participants on this board will be able to work through their anger issues.

  • J Myers

    Of course, the reverse is true of theists: they have a basis for the objectivity of moral values….

    ayer, your exposition of idiocy has been amusing, and yet I’m not satisfied. I want the full monty. Come on–give it to us! Tear away that fig leaf and show us your pathetic, shriveled little excuse for a solution to the Euthyphro dilemma.

    We’re just bursting with *yawn* anticipation.

  • Shirakawasuna

    How is obeying the creator objective morality? It’s just subjective morality with an agreement to obey what that guy over there says.

  • Neon Genesis

    Nothing prevents atheists from behaving morally. They simply have no ontological basis on which to regard their moral standards as objective, and no ontological basis upon which to regard their moral standards as superior to any other moral standards.

    Isn’t this the same thing as saying atheists have no morals?

    Of course, the reverse is true of theists: they have a basis for the objectivity of moral values, but that does not mean they always adhere to those values.

    This is just your roundabout way of trying to argue that without God, everything is permissible but I think the opposite is true, that with God, everything is permissible. If you’re a believer, all you have to do is cherry pick a bible verse that promotes hatred and violence and claim it comes from God to get people to support your violence as shown by history. You have yet to demonstrate why we should believe religion has the monopoly on morality.

    I find it ironic that you criticize my comments for being uncharitable, when the comments of atheists on this website are continuously dripping with ridicule, contempt, arrogance, etc. towards religious believers. Talk about a pot-kettle situation.

    Do you not understand the difference between mocking beliefs and mocking people? And I love that you lump all the atheists on this site for mocking believers but you’ve done nothing yet mock atheists since you’ve posted on this site. You know, no one makes you stay here if you hate it so much besides your apparent masochistic fetish desire to feel persecuted.

    I understand that many people here are hung up on certain biblical passages (maybe because they come from a fundamentalist background), but I have no interest in debating the Bible, the Koran, or any other scriptures.

    This makes no sense. First you say that only religion can answer these questions you say science can’t, but when we bring up bible verses that contradict your claims on religion’s monopoly on morality, you say you don’t want to debate religion. How do you debate the morale questions religion can supposedly answer without discussing religion? Are you just going to make up your own religion as you go along then?

    The atheists here appear to have many, many emotional objections to religion that make rational discourse close to impossible. A more appropriate moniker than atheists might be “anti-theists.” My sincere hope is that the participants on this board will be able to work through their anger issues.

    First of all, why is it wrong to have emotional objections to religion? That’s like saying it’s wrong to have emotional objections when Islamic terrorists blow up certain buildings. Second of all, it’s rich you accuse us of being emotional yet all you’ve been arguging so far have been emotional reasons for why we need religion. Of course we’re going to have emotional objections to religion when religion by its very nature is based solely around emotions. But just because we have emotional objections doesn’t mean that’s the only reason why we object to it and you’re using the same arguments fundamentalists do when you claim all atheists are just angry people who were hurt by “false” churches. I could just as easily claim that all Christians just believe in God because they’ve had bad experiences in life and believing in God is just their way of avoiding the real issues, but I won’t because I’m going to rise above such stereotyping.

  • Aj

    Just as “magic man did it” is not an explanation for the “origins” of the universe, “magic man says it” is no more justified standard of objective morals than the various different secular approaches to morality. It’s throwing attributes at a problem and atheists are perfectly capable of positing abstract concepts that contain moral content and give them arbitrary authority.

    To say that theists have an ontological basis for morality that is somehow above any atheistic objective standard is beyond stupid and ignorant. God is a proxy for people’s morals, not the source, and there is no justification for God as a moral source in the first place. It does not follow from the attributes given to this fictional entity “God”, apart from “he is the source of morals”, that this “God” is a source of morals. It’s no more than restating the question in the form of statement i.e. “Where do morals come from?” “Where morals do come from”.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    My sincere hope is that the participants on this board will be able to work through their anger issues.

    I don’t have anger issues when I’m not dealing with morons like you who refuse to defend their baseless claims and assert that they’ve won when I can’t refute them.

    I’m also skeptical of your claim that you’re sincere. You’re a self-righteous gasbag. Go martyr yourself to someone else, please.

  • http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com Mariano

    Fascinating that Harris would complain as he has admitted that he, himself, is becoming a scientist not in order to conduct unbiased research but in order to evidence his atheist presuppositions.

    http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2009/05/atheism-new-emergent-atheists-part-2-of.html

  • J Myers

    Mariano, anyone can see that what you claim does not follow from what Harris stated by simply reading the link that you yourself provided. Are you that incompetent, or that dishonest?

    Anyhow, I spent about 60 seconds skimming your blog, and I would like to offer my congratulations on your successful campaign to never be taken seriously by anyone who can read.