Maybe It’s a Good Thing So Many Christians Preach Creationism…

Last night, I had the chance to introduce and watch Richard Dawkins speak to a crowd at Northwestern University (with Jerry Coyne as his on-stage interviewer). I was expecting to hear Dawkins say a lot of things I’d heard before, but there were two particular ideas that I had to jot down because I’d never heard them put so elegantly.

Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins speak at Northwestern University (Image via thedrtae on Instagram)

The first came during a discussion over whether science and religion really had to be in a perpetual fight against each other.

Dawkins said (and I’m paraphrasing):

I kind of like, in a paradoxical way, that some people are brought up to believe that evolution is the enemy of religion.

Because it’s easy to prove that evolution is true.

In a sense, he’s suggesting, people like Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and evangelical pastors everywhere are doing us a favor when they espouse Creationism. By tying that false belief to their faith, they’re tossing us a softball. If we can convince Christians that evolution has merit, their whole belief structure might collapse. (This could also work if we convince them that being gay isn’t a choice or that abortion can be a morally sound decision or that any of the other lies they hear in church have no basis in reality.)

I also appreciated what Dawkins said about the threat of Hell. I didn’t catch the entire thing, but I found a version of it online where it’s jokingly referred to as “Dawkins’ Law of Conservation of Terror”:

“Threats expand to fill the vacuum of their implausibility.”

The more implausible the threat, the more terrifying it has to be in compensation. A plausible threat, such as a teacher’s threat of punitive detention, doesn’t have to be very terrifying in order to be effective, because the child knows that it will probably be carried out. A very implausible threat is unlikely to be believed, so it has to be made very terrifying in order to have any hope of persuading the child. Now think about the most terrifying threat you have ever met, namely the threat of hell. What does that suggest to you about its plausibility?

There’s a reason Hell Houses pop up around Halloween. They’re supposed to go great lengths to frighten you into believing in Hell. If they didn’t make it that scary, you’d never take it seriously. The problem is that some people actually buy into the myth.



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Beth

    I kind of want to go to a Hell house this year. The bad acting would be worth it.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Screw the hell houses. In Eastern Maine most people go to Fright Night at the Fort. They get thousands of people every year with ease and they will scare the shit out of you. My daughter one year was chased by a guy with a real chain saw, of course the chain is removed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryaJF3aPqro

  • Lando

    I can really relate to your ‘softball’ comment. I think my own slow deconversion started because of the Christian argument that ‘unless you believe everything [our particular brand of] Christianity teaches, or you may as well say Jesus was the biggest con man in history.’
    Young earth creationism was one of the cracks, and I think the biggest was the idea of prayer. Once I could realize that the whole system was set up so god won in any situation, it was tough to keep the house of cards upright. Because if you pray in every circumstance, then A)if everything works out, god. B)if everything goes to shit, but you survive and learn a lesson; ANY lesson, god. C)If you die, but the earth keeps spinning, and someone somewhere learns a lesson, god.

    So please, Mr. Hamm, don’t budge from your quest to tie YEC and Christianity together, and make sure you call out anyone who dares to question your interpretation of scripture. You’re really doing us a favor.

  • Dan

    If you haven’t seen the “Conspiracy Road Trip” shows they are great. This one is about creationism. One of the creationists has to finally admit evolution has a lot of evidence and it upsets her terribly because it upends her entire world view. There are a lot of other gem moments too in this show.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oju_lpqa6Ug

    • islandbrewer

      I’ve seen clips of that. Despite the host bugging me a bit, I thought it was great. Jerry Coyne also came off looking really calm and reasonable. The sputtering creationist made me laugh.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Don’t all people of the three major monotheistic faiths start off as creationists? We’re not teaching evolution in elementary schools and I highly doubt that parents trying to indoctrinate their children into their cults are teaching them evolution and in church and bible school, nobody is teaching Genesis to children with the disclaimer that it’s not historically true. At one point, most of us here probably believed in a literal Garden of Eden and what reason did we have not to?

    For me, evolution via NS is certainly a nail in the coffin for those belief systems but pretty much all religious people who accept the science for evolution were creationists prior to that. The large majority of them simply became moderate Christians…their holy book ripe for the picking.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      No? I was always aware that Adam and Eve was just a story. It was presented to me as just-a-story even when I was very little- I may not have known anything about evolution when I was five, but I didn’t think God literally created everything either, because no one taught me that.

      It’s very dependent on your sect of the Abrahamic religion whether one was ever a creationist, even as a child.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Fair enough but I’m almost certain that you’re in a large minority.

        • KMR

          I think it depends on her age. I really do think based on nothing but my own observations that strict fundamentalism is lessening it’s strangle hold on Christianity at least here. More and more religious people are raising their children with the understanding that metaphors exist in the Bible and including the Creation story as one of them.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Perhaps. I never understood that either. If you’re teaching the Genesis creation story as a metaphor…what’s the metaphor? That we’re fallen, unworthy sinners who are just lucky that God let’s us be here? Wouldn’t you need to have even a shred of empirical evidence for that in order for it to work as a metaphor?

            • KMR

              Nope. Just a belief that there is a God and then you work the creation story around that and the theory of evolution.

              • Art_Vandelay

                It’s remarkably uncreative.

                • KMR

                  Never thought about it as being uncreative. I just find it curious and wonder how they’ll keep their belief in a God if science ever comes up with a theory on the origin of life.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  God did it that way?

                • KMR

                  Now that would be uncreative ;)

                • Pseudonym

                  Well, about 90 years ago, Rudolf Bultmann adopted the position that the only historical fact required of Christianity is that Jesus was crucified. And that particular historical fact is not seriously in doubt among mainstream secular historians of the Ancient Near East.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Well, I grew up Jewish. Creationism just hasn’t had nearly so strong a hold on that religion.

          The Adam and Eve story was presented as a story about growing up. You start as a toddler- amoral, innocent of right and wrong, not knowing anything. You even run around naked :).

          Then you grow up. You learn things, and they cannot be unlearned. Ignorance is bliss, but once lost, it’s lost forever (Adam and Eve driven from the garden, fiery sword angel keeping them out), and knowledge is power. Adam and Eve grew up, learned right from wrong, learned things, learned how to be human. Being an adult can suck sometimes, but it’s what needs to happen for us to be, well, fully realized people.

          As for God creating everything, well- it’s an old story from when people didn’t know better. God might’ve set the gears in motion (clockwork deity idea), but clearly the 6-day story isn’t compatible with what we know now, so the 6-day story is not what happened.

          Only Christians needs Adam and Eve to be literal for their religion to work. Jews don’t have any ideas like original sin or the fall, so it’s not crucial to the religion to believe it actually happened.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Fair point. I guess I was only thinking in terms of Christianity.

          • KMR

            You only need Adam and Eve to be literal if you believe in substitutionary atonement. Not all sects of Christianity do.

          • sara

            That’s almost exactly how I thought of the Adam and Eve story. They started out as children, protected by their god from the burden of understanding good and evil. As they grew they pushed boundaries, as growing children should. Once they ate the fruit and took on the burden of knowledge, their father knew they were grown up and ready to leave their father’s house and begin their own adult lives. It’s how it’s supposed to work, not a big, sinful tragedy. But people who view the Bible as history can never get excited about any conversation that treats it as a collection of stories.

        • Pseudonym

          “Large minority” is technically accurate, but a bit misleading. The majority position is, by sheer force of numbers, that of the Catholic Church, which teaches that it’s a story, but not just a story.

          Personally, my experience is similar to Feminerd, but I was brought up in the neo-orthodox-to-liberal end of the Christian spectrum. “Large minority”, to be sure, but it was (and still is) the third largest denomination in Australia.

    • Martin Tucker

      Raised Roman Catholic; officially the RC’s have no problem with evolution – they just believe it’s guided by God.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Which means that they do in fact have a problem with the scientific theory of evolution. Plus, it’s not like in catechism class, they’re telling the children that Genesis is a fabrication and then explaining how we really came to be. Only when a Catholic learns of evolution outside of the Catholic church will they then concede that it’s a metaphor.

        • Pseudonym

          Plus, it’s not like in catechism class, they’re telling the children that Genesis is a fabrication and then explaining how we really came to be.

          No, they don’t, and for a good reason: The Catholic Church believes that science and religion are not in conflict if each sticks to their own magisterium.

          That must go both ways. They cannot tell science to butt out of their business if they also don’t butt out of science’s business. They can’t teach biology in catechism class, as long as they don’t teach anything that (in their minds) doesn’t contradict biology.

          I’m not defending this position, mind you, but it makes sense to me. Most mainstream Christian denominations don’t “teach” evolution as such, but take the position that you should go ask a scientist.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Okay, so if the RCC teaches nothing about evolution and concedes that Genesis is not true, where do RC’s get the idea that evolution is guided by God as opposed to the completely natural, unguided process that they learn about in science class? Also…how are these things not in conflict with each other? It’s not exactly an insignificant distinction.

            • Pseudonym

              Never having been a Catholic, I can only guess at this, but I suspect that the Catholic response is that “guided evolution” may only apply to humans and, moreover, it’s not opposed to science (or, indeed, under the magisterium of science) because it’s not empirically falsifiable.

              I repeat that I am not defending this position.

              • Art_Vandelay

                Don’t worry…I’m not under the impression that you’re defending it. I’m aware of the mental calisthenics they go through but they’re just wrong or they’re lying. Once you make a truth claim about the natural world over something that is unfalsifiable, you’re opposing science.

    • Mogg

      No. I was raised as a fairly fundie Christian from the age of five, didn’t come across the idea of Young Earth Creationism/no evolution until I was well into my teens, and didn’t know anyone who seriously believed it until I was 18-19. I think most of the people I grew up around subscribed to a version of each “day” of creation being a period of time of undetermined length, in which evolution occured, and somewhere along the way pre-humans arrived at a stage of development where God gave them souls or selected a special pair or group, or something. How that was supposed to work was a little unclear in my mind.

  • baal

    I’d agree with the first point but the number of creationists stacked on school boards is a little too much of a good thing.

    • Grant

      They lose as long as they don’t get to monopolize the discussion, and they know that, so that is exactly what they are trying to do. Monopolize the discussion so children and adults only see the world in a strictly biblical framework.

      This is one reason they push vouchers for parochial schools, pack school boards and text book review committees with creationists, and endorse the home school movement. They know that creationism loses when stacked up against science.

  • joey_in_NC

    Newflash. Not all Christians are “Young Earth Creationists”. In fact, YEC are in the minority when Christianity is viewed globally.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Newsflash: You don’t have a freaking point. No, really, what were you trying to say that was relevant to anything in this post?

      • joey_in_NC

        This…

        If we can convince Christians that evolution has merit, their whole belief structure might collapse.

        There are still hundreds of millions of Christians, especially Roman Catholics and Easter Orthodox (whom I wouldn’t label as “moderate Christians”), who think that “evolution has merit” and yet still are believers.

        • CultOfReason

          Those theists who say they believe in “evolution, but that it is guided by a god, don’t really understand how evolution via Natural Selection works. By it’s very nature, Natural Selection means “guiding” by an intelligent force is NOT required.

          • joey_in_NC

            By it’s very nature, Natural Selection means “guiding” by an intelligent force is NOT required.

            Alright…so by it’s very nature, Natural Selection means that it is impossible for intelligence to even exist at all. Human “intelligence” is simply a specific abstraction of fundamentally random (no design or purpose) events. In other words, there really are no such fundamental phenomena as intelligence and reason. The so called “intelligence” and “reason” that you think you used to be an atheist are merely natural forces doing their thangs. The exact same natural forces that has made me a theist. No intelligent forces required.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Jesus probably doesn’t love desperate prevarication.

            • CultOfReason

              Alright…so by it’s very nature, Natural Selection means that it is impossible for intelligence to even exist at all. Human “intelligence” is simply a specific abstraction of fundamentally random (no design or purpose) events. In other words, there really are no such fundamental phenomena as intelligence and reason. The so called “intelligence” and “reason” that you think you used to be an atheist are merely natural forces doing their thangs. The exact same natural forces that has made me a theist. No intelligent forces required.

              Wrong. Again, you prove my point that theists don’t really understand how Evolution through Natural Selection really works. You have a misconception of what natural selection is if you think it is strictly the product of randomness. Genetic variations may be random, but the natural selection process acts on that variation in a very non-random way. Genetic variants that aid survival and reproduction are much more likely to become common than variants that don’t. This is not randomness. Natural selection is the antithesis to randomness.

              With regards to intelligence and reason, you seem to draw an incorrect conclusion that they cannot arise from evolution through natural selection. The mind, like the body, is a product of evolution. Nothing precludes it from arising through the natural selection process.

              There are many scientific books and websites that make this abundantly clear. I encourage you to study it further.

              • joey_in_NC

                You have a misconception of what natural selection is if you think it is strictly the product of randomness.

                No, I don’t have any misconception of natural selection. When I say “random”, I mean no design or purpose (I even put those words in parenthesis to avoid this confusion you’re having).

                Natural selection is the antithesis to randomness.

                Again, by “randomness” I meant that there is no purpose or design to it. Given this definition, then natural selection is random. In other words, there is no almighty, intelligent being purposely selecting things through his own design. There is no purpose or design when selection occurs. That is what I meant by random.

                With regards to intelligence and reason, you seem to draw an incorrect conclusion that they cannot arise from evolution through natural selection.

                I didn’t come upon that conclusion. My conclusion is that if natural selection and evolution are random (no design and purpose), then so must be intelligence and reason since they emerge from natural selection and evolution. Otherwise, you’re committing a logical fallacy by thinking that non-randomness (supposedly intelligence and reason) can arise from randomness (the universe). Therefore, true intelligence and reason actually don’t exist the way we generally think of them. They’re simply arbitrary abstractions of natural (random) forces.

                • CultOfReason

                  Sorry, but you don’t get to make up your own definition of “randomness” in order to suit your presuppositionist argument. Before hitting the science books, I suggest hitting the dictionary first.

                  EDIT: From wiki – Randomness means different things in various fields. Commonly, it means lack of pattern or predictability in events.

                  Natural selection DOES NOT lack pattern or predictability.

                • joey_in_NC

                  Lol. Did you happen to look at the very next sentence of that same wiki article

                  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “random” as “Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.”

                  …I suggest hitting the dictionary first.

                  Does the Oxford English Dictionary count?

                  I understand the word can mean different things. That’s why I explicitly clarified what I meant it to mean.

                  If you still object, fine. That doesn’t change my argument one bit. Simply replace “no design or purpose” whether I said “random”, and the argument would be completely equivalent.

                • CultOfReason

                  It’s the scientific definition you should concern yourself with, since we are talking about a scientific topic (Evolution, Natural Selection).

                  Your definition includes “…not sent or guided in a particular direction;” This is not the case with natural selection which does favor a particular direction – that which is beneficial for reproduction and survival.

                  Your argument only makes sense with your original definition of randomness, which does not apply in the case of natural selection, therefore, your argument fails.

                • sara

                  Actually, you are using your own definition of an existing word, pretending to use the word in this new way, then loading it with all the baggage of the real definition.

            • Spuddie

              There are still hundreds of millions of Christians, especially Roman Catholics and Easter Orthodox (whom I wouldn’t label as “moderate Christians”), who think that “evolution has merit” and yet still are believers.

              But you are just not one of them as evidenced by your post.

        • baal

          The ID movement avoids sounding YEC while still pushing creationism in the schools and pushing hard on identity as a christian requiring belief in creationism. Given that, blowing creationism out of the water will destabilize the entire religion of anyone who was successfully pushed on the identity point. That pool is much larger than just YECs.

        • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

          It just goes to show there are lots of people out there who don’t even buy their own religion, but make up their own rationalizations and cling to it anyways.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          here are still hundreds of millions of Christians, especially Roman
          Catholics and Easter Orthodox (whom I wouldn’t label as “moderate
          Christians”), who think that “evolution has merit” and yet still are
          believers.

          Fireman: Get outta da way! We are coming through wit da hose to put out this fire!
          joey_in_NC: Don’t bother. There are hundreds of other fires burning in the world right now that you can’t do anything about, so it’s useless to put this one out.

        • Deus Otiosus

          I hate to resort to copy pasta, but I’m at work and don’t have time to type out my own version of this basic theme:
          “Darwin’s theory tells us that because new species only emerge extremely gradually, there really is no “first” prototype or model of any species at all—no “first” dog or “first” giraffe and certainly no “first” homosapiens created instantaneously. The transition from predecessor hominid species was almost imperceptible. So, if there was no “first” human, there was clearly no original couple through whom the contagion of “sin” could be transmitted to the entire human race. The history of our species does not contain a “fall” into sin from a mythical, pristine sinless paradise that never existed. If there is no original ancestor who transmitted hereditary sin to the whole species, then there is no Fall, no need for redemption, and Jesus’ death as a sacrifice efficacious for the salvation of humanity is pointless.”
          -Mike Aus (preacher-turned-atheist)

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It’s weird how you insist on telling us things we already know. Why don’t you understand the idea of a generalization with an implied understanding of exceptions.

      It’s likewise weird that you find yourself having to try and change the subject to other countries in an attempt to obfuscate goings-on in the United States.

      • joey_in_NC

        It’s likewise weird that you find yourself having to try and change the subject to other countries in an attempt to obfuscate goings-on in the United States.

        Oh, so the entire science vs. religion thing that Hehmant and Dawkins are complaining about is only relevant in America. That’s good to know.

    • Xuuths

      Do you have any evidence to support that claim? I think you may be mistaken.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Oh, look, another NALT.

      If this post doesn’t describe you, then don’t get defensive about it. We know that there are millions of people in the US alone who are YECs, and while we know that not nearly all Christians are, it’s a substantial minority of the American Christian population. Substantial enough to vote Creationists into Congress, where they sit on science committees. Substantial enough to flood textbook review panels and school boards, where they push their pseudoscience and try to get real science out of the classroom. Substantial enough, in other words, to be well worth talking about.

    • ShoeUnited

      46% Americans Believe In Creationism According To Latest Gallup Poll

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/americans-believe-in-creationism_n_1571127.html

      That isn’t a fringe sect. That, I would have to say, is statistically more significant than Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (other catholics) combined. I’d say that’d be damn near half the fucking country.

      • the moother

        I think more than that think that Satan exists… it’s generous to say only half of Murcans are morons

    • Spuddie

      Yet so few of those Christians come forward to rebuke their deluded YEC brethren on such destructive and deceptive practices. Where is your opposition to such stupidity inducing beliefs?

    • sara

      Christians who are not YEC should be just as offended as anyone else that this minority is having undue influence over their children’s education.

  • Alonzo Fyfe

    I would like to caution against the use of the word “lie” as you used it above.

    A “lie” represents a malicious intent to deceive. It describes something that the speaker knows to be false, but asserts to be true for reasons of personal benefit.

    To sell a painting that I believe to be authentic – that happens to be a fraud – is a morally different act from selling a painting that I know to be a faud by persuading others that it is authentic.

    Accusing innocent people of wrongdoing – of malicious deception, in this case – is not admirable. And the fact that it is not an obviously false accusation of intentional wrongdoing (which immediately throws others on the defensive) may also make it counter-productive.

    It would still have been consistent with your main point to have said, “(This could also work if we convince them that being gay isn’t a choice or that abortion can be a morally sound decision or that any of the other fictions they hear in church have no basis in reality.)

    • Gus

      You mean “lies we hear in church”? But they are lies. Someone, somewhere, made them up with an intent to deceive. The fact that the person repeating them believes they are true does not change the fact that they are lies. It’s not an accusation of wrongdoing, it’s an accurate description of the lies. For example, if I honestly believe Fox News and I say that Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was close to acquiring a nuclear weapon when we invaded Iraq, I’m repeating a lie. I don’t know I am. I’m perfectly innocent of actively lying, but nevertheless, the statement is a lie.

      • baal

        I don’t fully agree iwth fyfe but ‘lie’ does contain the element of intent to deceive. Bullshit is when you lie and are working to have someone else rely on your lies. Fraud is getting a direct benefit for yourself as a result of your lies or bullshit. Mere misstatement of fact is just an error.

        I would count willful disregard of factuality as a type of lying, however.

        • skeptical_inquirer

          I think that it’s one thing for someone who hasn’t been taught or confronted with the truth ever as not lying (like a child or someone who is socially isolated & undereducated) but it strains credibility when someone has been, over and over, presented with a great deal of evidence that totally eviscerates their position.

          There is something called lying to oneself.

      • brianmacker

        “Someone, somewhere, made them up with an intent to deceive.”

        You don’t know that. For example, the story of Adam and Eve might have begun as a parable about growing up, as the Jews believe. It is likely there was no intention on the part of the original Jews to deceive. It’s not their fault that someone later took it literally (and that doesn’t have to involve deception either).

        “The fact that the person repeating them believes they are true does not change the fact that they are lies.”

        Would you like that standard to apply to yourself?

        Do you know what a lie of omission is? That’s where you leave out information to give the wrong impression. Your example of Fox News does exactly that, with you playing the role of deceiver.

        This is the actual argument made (at the time as I remember it), from Wiki, ” In the later half of 2002, Central Intelligence Agency reports requested by the Administration contained assertions that Saddam Hussein was intent on reconstituting nuclear weapons programs, had not properly accounted for Iraqi biological weapons and chemical weapons material in violation of UN sanctions, and that some Iraqi missiles had a range greater than allowed by the UN sanctions”

        On WMD the problem was that we had lost visibility, and were still technically at war with him. In simplifying you are creating a straw man, which is a form of deception. Now it may be that someone in favor of the Iraq war might mistakenly repeat this as “Saddam has WMD” but that may be due to a misreading, misunderstanding, etc. It doesn’t have to rest on a deception.

        The arguments made against the Iraq War at the time were in fact based on deceptions too, because Democrat politicians were saber rattling against Saddam right up to (and during) the Bush presidency. Kinda hard to argue against something you’d argued for, dealing with Saddam harshly. It looked like quibbling over the means at that point, to any rational person. There were plenty of good reasons for not invading Iraq, but Bush was using all the same reasons Democrats had used to start their wars like Vietnam. Heck, Obama is still using them with his desire to bomb Syria.

        Also, likely that you are fully aware that most news organizations at the time were repeating Bush’s original claims because I doubt you watch Fox News regularly (neither do I). Given that, the fact that you focused on them is also deceptive. You are attempting to paint them in a bad light in comparison to other news organizations? Truth is, that most national news organizations are crap. Just look at many recent incidents of them getting things wrong on everything from A to Zimmerman.

        You have to show that the original source was lying in order to claim the validity of calling something a lie when believed but repeated. You haven’t done that and your example fails also.

        Do they teach lies in church? Yes, because I was lied to there by those in charge. Specifically, they made claims to knowledge for which they had no reasonable basis, and plenty of evidence that it was not true. Often they lied by giving deceptive answers, or ones that avoided the question while appearing to be affirmative. I know for a fact they teach lies in public school, and at colleges and universities too. I’ve been lied to there also, by those in charge.

    • Conspirator

      I agree with you that using the word “liar” for someone who does not know they are wrong is harsh, as they don’t have an intent to deceive. But what do you consider the likes of Ken Ham or Banana-man who have repeatedly been told that the arguments they are making are false and easily proven wrong, but refuse to listen or consider the evidence at all and continue spouting their nonsense?

      Please note that I’m not saying you’re necessarily defending those type of people, I’m just curious where you draw the line.

      • Pseudonym

        I’m not Alonzo Fyfe, but personally, I would call that “wilful ignorance”.

        I would also call it “heresy”, but that’s another issue.

    • the moother

      I believe my neighbour is a pedophile axe-murderer In reality, he is not.

      Therefore I believe in a lie. Ergo, your point is moot.

      Also, the word “lie” is right there in “believe”… there is no reason to “believe” anything… you either understand something or you don’t… if it is necessary that you believe in it, it’s obviously a lie.

      • Conuly

        You believe a falsehood, but not all falsehoods are lies.

      • Jesus Smith

        I totally agree with you. At the heart of “believe” there’s a lie.

        Evidence is truth that justifies, verifies or demonstrates an hypothesis or a conclusion. Truth is fact that has been verified. Fact is verifiable information about reality or actuality.

        This means that persons of integrity can base their lives on knowledge and values and work to be free of beliefs.

        There is no reason for someone who has reached the age of reason to falsely represent unverified propositions as truth.
        If those propositions have been verified there’s no reason for belief.

      • brianmacker

        What if you believe that because you mixed him up with his twin brother who is actually a pedophile axe-murderer.

        A lie entails a conscious deception and not every untruth is a lie.

        Despite all that, lies are most certainly taught in church, problem is that that is sadly true of most institutions.

    • Spuddie

      Creationism is a lie with the malicious intent to deceive. Its an attempt to browbeat people into accepting Fundamentalist Christianity through phony arguments and dishonest rhetorical practices. It is all about lying about a position in public to further personal ends.

      Even malice is unnecessary to be lying. Just willingness to make a factually untrue statement with full knowledge of its falsity. You are over qualifying the term. By doing so, you are dishonestly trying to denude the term and make light of constant deceptive and false statements made by others. To make lying less painful by coming up with excuses for it. A little white lie about lying. =)

    • Jesus Smith

      The “intent test” for lying is a non-starter. We can’t reliably judge intentions, but in the legal fashion we can say, did you know the difference between right and wrong and did you have the ability to do right.

      If we follow your policy of judging intent we reward “cognitive dissonance” (lying to oneself). If someone can persuade themselves of the truth of something in the absence of evidence they can say that they have “faith” and are not lying (Tony Blair and the Iraq war come to mind), but we were (virtually all) taught as children that the false representation of baseless propositions as truth is not a virtue, it is lying. It’s still lying even if we call it faith.

      It is right therefore, to point out that they themselves regard such behaviour as lying and where they claim that they don’t regard it as lying, we should vigorously assert that their behaviour is indeed lying, just as they likely agree that it is in other circumstances.

      • brianmacker

        Baloney. By your own standard we can’t “reliably judge” if someone “knows the difference between right and wrong”, or whether they had the “ability to do right”, because we can’t read minds. That is what you require, right?

        You are also have things backward. We don’t establish intent to judge that something is a lie. We don’t require mind reading. We instead define lying as making a false statement that the person knows is true. The intent is inherent in the act, and the effect can either be morally blameworthy or praiseworthy. It is perfectly fine to lie in certain circumstances, if not a moral requirement.

        Evidence can quite reliably prove someone a liar. If I were to testify on the stand that I witnessed a president being shot dead by his great great great great great grandfather last year then you can be damn sure that was a lie. Obviously, me not being crazy, that is a lie.

        The intent that makes it a lie is the intent to utter a statement known to be false, as a truth. Deception does not have to be inherent in the lie. Sometimes one lies to be sarcastic, or to make a point.

        BTW, Obama is a Muslim.

        Was that a lie, or not? In context the answer is obvious, as was the intent, which was to utter a falsehood.

        • Jesus Smith

          Hogwash. We can indeed reliably judge if someone knows the difference between right and wrong. It’s a test of knowledge, not of intent. We test knowledge every day and so do the courts. The rest of your post agrees with mine.

          Whether someone lies for a good reason or a wicked one is in this context irrelevant to the status of the behavior.

          I don’t need to know if you’re a deranged superstitionist, a mendacious politician or a savior of Jews to test if you’re lying, I only need to know if you understand that making baseless assertions or misrepresentations is known as lying. Were you taught this or do you understand it? And are you capable of telling the truth?

          • brianmacker

            Well you are just plain wrong yet I cannot prove that you know you are wrong, nor can you prove that I know I am wrong. There is no reliable way to judge what I know or you know about the situation. Especially since people can and to lie. You just fell on your own sword.

  • CultOfReason

    I kind of like, in a paradoxical way, that some people are brought up to believe that evolution is the enemy of religion.

    Because it’s easy to prove that evolution is true.

    I fully agree with this sentiment. It’s easy to dispute creationism with the facts, thus creating a crack in the foundation of peoples’ beliefs (assuming they are honest to themselves about their doubts and are truly interested in seeking correct answers, not the ones that simply make them feel better.)

    There are theists, however, that are on to this. I’ve noticed that the more “sophisticated” theologians or philosophical theists use more subtle arguments that consist more of complex logical fallacies or just downright platitudes that can’t easily be refuted by scientific facts alone, but only by additionally complex philosophical arguments or logical counter-arguments. Obfuscation is religion’s best friend at this point.

    • gimpi1

      My favorite of these platitudes is “I believe in the Rock of Ages, rather than the ages of rocks.” to explain young-earth creationism.

      It sounds great, a wonderful sound-byte, but has no merit at all. You believe your chosen dogma over the factual C-14 dating? You disbelieve not only the geologic record, but the physics that backs up the dating process? And you think that’s a good thing?

      It just shows how powerful a good advertising-slogan can be.

      • Rip Van Winkle

        Creationists use C-14 dating limitations to discredit ALL geological dating systems. I don’t think they are mentally capable of being rational about science or their literacy of it. After all, they have their ‘science disproves evolution’ website to try and claim that a science they clearly don’t understand can be used to debunk another science that they clearly know nothing about.

        • David Kopp

          They’re just enough smarter than their audience to be accepted as “experts”, and put themselves in a false equivalence relationship with real scientists.

          That’s why we need real science and critical thinking education in this country.

        • Spuddie

          But those arguments usually fall away after the first couple of rounds once you start bringing up the lack of accreditation of its proponents and how they are usually lying through their teeth on such things.

          Subsequently, they usually then start moving the goalposts and talk about supernatural vs. naturalism junk. When they finally get exhausted they admit their belief is entirely based on faith. By that time they have already admitted all their prior arguments were bullcrap. (They won’t claim its an admission, but it is).

          • Methos69

            Since Carbon-14 dating isn’t used to date rocks it would seem that neither side of the debate truly understands radiometric dating.

            Carbon-14 dating is only used to date things that were once alive. To date rocks, you would potassium-argon, uranium-lead, Rubidium-strontium, or some other decay process. It would depend on the composition of the rock in question and the suspected age of the rock.

        • gimpi1

          Yee! I hadn’t seen some of the more off-the-wall arguments. I googled “science disproves evolution” and got a headache. And a laugh.

    • wtfwjtd

      Obfuscation has always been religion’s best friend,and one of the most useful tools in keeping the faithful in line. It’s mainly that, the harder religion is pressed, the more obvious(and shrill) the obfuscation becomes.

    • Pseudonym

      There are theists, however, that are on to this.

      Most Christians do not adhere to a form of religion which is flatly opposed to the mainstream scientific consensus of the day, and moreover, most Christians never have.

      This was true before Constantine, it was true in the Middle Ages, it was true in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, it was true in the Scientific Revolution, and it’s still true today.

      The loud opposition to mainstream scientific consensus is a very recent phenomenon, and is still very much a minority position. It’s pretty much confined to one country in the developed world (admittedly, cashed-up influence-mongers in that country are trying to spread it to the less-developed world), and it’s largely limited to certain geographic areas in that country.

      Political evangelicalism only arose in the US in the late 1970s, which in historical terms may as well have been yesterday. The attempt to spread creationism was not a cause of the end of that strand of religion. Rather, it was a symptom of the fact that it was already dying.

      • Methos69

        Creationism isn’t new. The way it is being pushed is. Sir Issac Newton was a creationist. When he reached the limit of his knowledge, he used God to fill in the blanks. Neil deGrasseTyson explained this at the Beyond Belief event in 2006. you can see it on youtube. Search for “Neil Tyson presentation about intelligent design”.

  • gimpi1

    I understand your fellow Atheist blogger on Patheos, Libby Anne, was pulled away from a very reactionary form of Christianity while in college, principally due to coming to understand the basics of evolution, and learning that she had been taught lies about what evolution was. If people are open to learning, facts can be very powerful.

  • the moother

    Hemant introducing two doyens of rational thought? Mr. Metha is going places… Or, he’s already there.

  • Neil Carter

    My daughters have been taught by their church culture to reject evolution, and I’m personally torn about how hard to push this issue for this very reason. On the one hand, I want to let the church have their way and sit back and watch my girls potentially reject the whole thing in a few years, becoming suspicious of fundamentalism as a whole. On the other hand, I also want to encourage a love of science and critical thinking skills, and I hate to let these years pass without asserting my own perspective. It’s a dilemma.

    • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

      My opinion, tell your daughters there are many different systems of belief and they are free to choose for themselves, then tell them yours. What you have to say will probably carry more weight than their pastor’s, especially if it makes more sense.

      • Art_Vandelay

        I wouldn’t even do that. Why as a parent are you in any way obligated to teach your kid’s science in a way that it has as much of a chance as being true as the fairy tales they learn in church? Putting the idea into kids’ heads that science is a belief system is dangerous in my opinion. Science is just a way we come to understand the natural world through observation.

        • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

          I never said to equate them. They certainly aren’t.

    • tsig

      Would you let your child eat poison so they would learn how bad it is?

      • Neil Carter

        That escalated quickly.

        • Jason Hinchliffe

          Let’s take that down a notch slightly and rephrase the question to what everyone is actually thinking: They’re your daughters, why would you even consider not having a say in the matter?

    • David Kopp

      You need to teach the critical thinking skills, though. The church is making an active move at brainwashing… it’s no accident that they start early, that they have Sunday schools and such. Church is the opposite of critical thinking. Gotta nip that in the bud, IMO. Rejecting evolution is what ignorant people do, and you can’t be silently accepting of it and still be promoting critical thinking.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I’m guessing you do not have exclusive control over your daughters’ upbringing, and the whole fundy church thing is someone else’s influence. Unfortunate.

    • Makoto

      Why would you stunt their growth in science and related fields for potentially several years, putting them behind their peers?

      Evolution (and its related proofs) has everything to do with everything in the physical sciences, and trying to “unlearn” something later (especially something backed up by religious upbringing, where to question it is to be unfaithful) is incredibly difficult.

    • sara

      I don’t know what your custody situation is like. If I were in fear of having my time with my kids reduced, I would not specifically push anything that might make their other parent want to cut off my influence. Encouraging questioning and a genuine interest in scientific inquiry will give them a head start on recognizing models that make no sense.

    • brianmacker

      You are lying to your children, by omission. When the topic comes up just tell them you believe the church is wrong on this subject. They rightfully expect the truth from you. Your current strategy will result in it dawning on them that you are a liar just about the same time they realize that the church has things wrong.

      There really is no “dilemma”. I haven’t covered half the ground I could on this issue. Why waste time letting “these years pass”?

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    I’ve always said, if you’re going to bullshit someone, make it a doozy. The more incredible the story, the less likely people are to think you actually made that crap up.

  • James_Jarvis

    Oddly, there are no rich mega-church preachers who went to hell because they did not feed the poor or cloth the naked while they lived lives of luxury. I guess the fundies skipped over that part of the Bible.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Over at the Richard Dawkins site, I have asked the question about who in the chain of our ancestors through Evolution was the first to have an “afterlife”? A sub-question would be who among those first went to Hell, and was it a big surprise?

  • Bdole

    That Law is already a mathematical reality for gamblers called “expected payout.” If my odds of winning the lottery are less than getting hit by lightning*, then the prize had better be huge or else I have no rational reason to play even $1. That’s why, despite the fact that for most people the difference between $20M and $300M, is negligible in terms of improving their lifestyle, they still flock to 7-11 to get tickets when the payout is greater. They may not realize it, but they are responding, in part, to the greater expected payout. And the hype, of course.

    *twice…on the same day.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Talk about blasphemy. Those hell-houses dare to besmirch the hallowed event that is halloween. If I wanted to be preached at I would go to church.

  • Sample1

    RE: Hell Houses: Faith is a cognitive sickness. -Peter Boghossian

  • C Peterson

    Because it’s easy to prove that evolution is true.

    Actually, it’s very difficult. Impossible even. A good skeptic and critical thinker would say that it is easy to demonstrate the superiority of evolution over any other explanations for the current state of life on Earth (and certainly over any religious explanations). It always bothers me when people who should know better start tossing around words like “prove” a little too casually.

    • Whit Johnstone

      You’re right in theory but for all practical purposes one can say “evolution is true” without any real caveat.

      • C Peterson

        I don’t really have a problem with statements of likely fact: evolution is true, there are no gods, etc. But using “proof” incorrectly just adds to the confusion people already have about how science and reasoning work. It is important to be careful to use that word carefully and with precision.

        • keddaw

          Prove beyond a reasonable doubt?

          • C Peterson

            That’s a legal concept. Using science or similar types of reasoning, we only weigh evidence and demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt.

            “Prove beyond reasonable doubt” strikes me as a construction akin to “a little bit pregnant”.

            • Methos69

              Proving that something is true isn’t the same as constructing a proof.

              A proof is a finite series of formulas, beginning with the premises of an argument and ending with its conclusion, in which each line is either a premise or derived from the premises according to established rules of inference and equivalence. Constructing a proof for an argument definitively establishes that the argument is valid. Failure to construct a proof, however, establishes nothing. One’s
              inability to construct a proof may be caused by the non-validity of the argument in question, but it may be caused by a lack of skill and insight.

              Proving that a concept is true can be accomplished by a preponderance of evidence, testing, making predictions and using reason. That life changes over time IS a fact. We can see it. That the Earth is considerably older than 6 -10 thousands years old is a fact. We can demonstrate it.

              You’re argument is valid only in that science doesn’t make absolute claims. To be purely scientific one would say, “The sum of all currently available evidence is that this is the best current explanation (for whatever one is referring to).” To criticize the wording as a means to refute any of the facts talked about in this thread is disingenuous.

              Especially since I don’t believe that you think the age of the earth is 6000 years or that evolution doesn’t happen.

              • C Peterson

                I understand the difference between a mathematical (or other symbolic) proof and the concept of “proof” in science. In the latter case, there is no such thing, except in the negative. Theories can be disproven, but never proven. The interpretation of evidence can be supported by evidence, but not proven.

                No amount of evidence, testing, verified predictions, or reasoning can ever prove a concept to be true.

                That life appears to change over time certainly appears to be true. But that’s simply an observation, not something that is provable in the general case. That the Earth appears to be much older than 6000 years certainly appears to be true, but that isn’t provable, either. In fact, you can’t prove that it didn’t come into existence one second ago. All you can do is hold up the evidence and make a reasonable assertion based on that evidence. New observations in the future could require a different interpretation.

                Wording is important. “Proof” has some very precise meanings, and Dawkins’s use is wrong. And I’m pretty sure that he’d agree with that assertion (he was, after all, stating something during an interview, where it is easy to use different words than we would in writing).

                • DaneIlario

                  So you are a solipsist. I’m definitely calling bullshit on your claim to be a physicist and an astronomer; if you were, you’d know that evolutionary science has engaged in testable, verifiable, reproducible experiments to demonstrate that evolution is true just as geological science has done to establish the age of the Earth.

                  Your entire mantra is ‘it’s all just observation’. NO credible scientist would think so. Your solipsism is entirely transparent now.

                  What I’m not sure of is if you are just trolling or have some strange metaphysical or religious agenda. It doesn’t matter, though since you’ve already exposed yourself as being one or the other.

                • C Peterson

                  I am not a solipsist. I am an astronomer. I have not suggested that evolutionary science (or geological science) hasn’t engaged in testable, verifiable, reproducible experiments. All I’m saying is that none of these experiments has proven a single theory true, they have only added weight to support the best theories.

                  I’m not trolling. I am making what I think is a reasonable case that in an environment where creationists and others use pseudoscientific arguments to support their claims, it is especially important for real scientists to be very careful in their own arguments to use scientific language precisely.

                • DaneIlario

                  You ARE trolling and you ARE a solipsist. You keep insisting that everything that science does is merely observation, from observations themselves to actual experiments, and they do nothing to prove a scientific theory…which is exactly what a solipsist would state.

                  You don’t pursue scientific theories that are false. You don’t take consistent results from experimentation and tests and just label them “observations”. You are no scientist of any kind as no scientist would regurgitate the nonsense you’re spewing.

                  :

                • C Peterson

                  You ARE trolling and you ARE a solipsist.

                  There are none so foolish as those who refuse to learn. Educate yourself about science before you make a bigger fool of yourself. People like you do those of us arguing against creationists no favors at all.

                • DaneIlario

                  My only act of foolishness has been in feeding a troll like yourself. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.

        • DaneIlario

          Proof is defined as sufficient evidence that a proposition be held as true. If you doubt there is sufficient evidence to state that evolution is true then I would posit that you don’t understand evolutionary science very well.

          • C Peterson

            I’ve been a professional scientist for a long time, and I’ve never encountered that definition of proof.

            I certainly never said that I didn’t think the weight of evidence supporting evolution is insufficient to treat the concept as true. What I said is that I don’t believe it is possible to prove that the observation of evolution can be said to actually represent what we think of as evolution. And to suggest that such a thing can be proven is very dangerous.

            • DaneIlario

              Professional scientist in what discipline? What I’ve given is pretty much the text book definition of “proof”.

              If the observation remains consistent and the testing of that observation remains consistent and the data remains consistent, it’s proof. By your rationale, NO scientific theory has any “proof” because we don’t know that what we’re observing is what we think it is. That’s solipsism of the worst sort.

              • C Peterson

                I’m a physicist and professional astronomer.

                I’ve never seen a textbook that defines proof as you do. It is not sufficient to consider something proven simply because of consistent observations. The history of science is littered with ideas that stood up to testing for a long time, but which were later found wrong.

                Proof is an absolute.

    • brianmacker

      Evolution, and the Theory of Natural Selection are two very different things. Evolution is a fact that is pretty easy to prove true to the reasonable person. Since Dawkin’s in his writings is very careful to distinguish the two I am doubtful he is confusing the issue.

      It’s quite easy to show the earth isn’t 6000 years old also.

      • C Peterson

        Evolution isn’t a fact. It’s an observation, and like any observation, it could have multiple interpretations. There is nothing that can be proven. Pretty obviously, one interpretation stands way out in front of all the others, but still, that isn’t the same as proof. As for the age of the Earth, I can’t think of any way to prove it isn’t 6000 years old, or to prove it isn’t 10 seconds old. I can provide some pretty compelling evidence, but that is all.

        Dawkins is very definitely misusing the term “proof” in the above quote. I understand he’s utilizing a sort of colloquialism, but I think that’s a bad idea. Every time we suggest that proof is possible, we actually add ammunition for the crackpots. Little in rational analysis is more important than the idea of weighing different evidence.

        • DaneIlario

          So, in other words, you think there is no proof for anything because “proof” has to be observed and there’s no way to know for certain that you are interpreting what you observe correctly.

          The thing you forget is that science is built on consistent observation and the interpretation of the data that results. When it comes to evolution, the observed process and resultant data has always been consistent. The process known as evolution is an existent FACT. Evolutionary science is continuing to unravel all the mechanics of that fact, but that evolution occurs is itself a fact.

          And really? You can’t think of any way to prove that the Earth isn’t 6000 years old? You can’t do this despite the fact that every bit geological data processed over the last century consistently establishes the Earth is billions of years old?

          Science just doesn’t observe…it tests, experiments and records data. When the data continues to be consistent over a long period of time, the argument “it’s just an observation, you can’t know that it’s right” holds no value.

          • C Peterson

            No, I can’t think of a way to prove the age of the Earth. I’d be most interested if you could provide such a proof, however. You haven’t offered anything above that could be called a proof.

            • DaneIlario

              http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

              http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dalrymple/scientific_age_earth.html

              http://library.thinkquest.org/19012/earthage.htm

              http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm

              I guess all that evidence relating to plate tectonics, astronomical phenomenon and radiometric dating have no value as ‘proof’ because it’s all “just observation”, right?

              • C Peterson

                I’m still looking for anything that qualifies as proof. There is certainly nothing in your references. Those only supply evidence. I would consider the evidence overwhelming and convincing, but that’s all.

                We can prove any idea wrong by a simple counterexample. I don’t think it is possible to prove one right, however.

                • T.Ruth

                  Either you are a very sad troll or completely ignorant.

                  Have you honestly never heard of carbon radioactive dating?

                  Go look that up then come back and apologise for being unreasonable.

                • C Peterson

                  That provides nothing but evidence. You are sorely uneducated in science if you believe that carbon dating provides anything that could constitute proof.

                  All scientific theories of any quality are structured such that they can be proven wrong. None are constructed such that they can be proven correct, because that concept is largely meaningless.

                • DaneIlario

                  A theory cannot be called a theory within scientific parameters unless it’s been proven true. Evidence IS proof. The problem is that you are attempting to insert the layman’s idea that proof equates to truth. In science, it doesn’t. Your proof either substantiates your theory or it doesn’t.

                  In science, every theory credible theory has been proven to be true because the evidence-which included observation, testability, rationally objective data and falsifiability-makes it so. Science KNOWS that evolution is true. No reputable scientist disputes this; rather, what is still not perfectly understood are the mechanics of evolution.

                  You can’t prove a theory wrong with a single counterexample unless that counterexample is sustainable in the face of contrary evidence and the scientific method. If that wasn’t true, secular scientists would declare Creationist science equal.

                • C Peterson

                  A theory cannot be called a theory within scientific parameters unless it’s been proven true.

                  That is entirely false. Based on this and your other comments, it is clear you completely misunderstand what a scientific theory is. I would recommend you start by reading the Wikipedia entry on scientific theory. It is quite well written.

                • DaneIlario

                  Why send me to the Wikipedia when it all does strengthen my definition, not weaken it?

                • C Peterson

                  Do you see the word “proof” anywhere in that article? It talks only of accumulating supporting evidence, and of disproving theories.

                • DaneIlario

                  And of course, accumulated aren’t proofs, right? They are simply observations.

                  Enough of your trolling.

                • brianmacker

                  There are different definitions of prove. I use the one that means to test well. I’m not talking about a mathematical proof, silly. There is established geological evidence that proves organisms have become progressively more complex with time. For a while we had no idea why this was. Did god create simple organisms first? It was evidence, fact, that one could prove by going out into the field and seeing how the strata were laid down. The Theory of Natural Selection is the scientific theory that explains those facts.

                  Get over it. You are wrong, period.

                • Methos69

                  He’s arguing over the actual word ‘proof’. I find this to be a red herring. Since one thing that a scientific theory has to be is falsifiable, then technically he is correct. A theory is considered correct (not proven) via accumulation of data (observation, experimentation, etc.). But it only takes one confirmed data point to cast doubt on the theory.

                  In this light, The Theory of Evolution is considered correct, but not proven. ALL of the evidence seen to this point supports it and there is nothing that refutes it. BUT, there is the possibility that there might be new evidence discovered later that might. Since there is that possibility, he is saying we can’t use the word prove or proof.

                  I don’t see this as the problem he does, since neither side in the actual debate uses that meaning of proof in their arguments. If it doesn’t accurately apply to the support of evolution, it certainly doesn’t apply to creationism.

                • brianmacker

                  There is no such thing as “The Theory of Evolution”. There is The Theory of Natural Selection” which is an explanation of the fact of evolution. So no he is not technically correct.

                • Methos69

                  Natural selection is one mechanism that drives evolution. Other mechanisms include genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking, mutation and gene flow. The Theory of Evolution, as presented by Darwin, is an actual scientific theory. Yes, evolution is a fact; change over time is real.

  • viaten

    I think in addition to the implausibility of Hell compensated by its hyped up terror, there is also the slim possibility of a God compensated by his being all powerful and so being able to make it all so. That’s just about enough to make many people think, “I’d better not take any chances.” and a few others to think, “I could take advantage of those people.”

  • NUMatriculate1986

    It’s hard to believe that after 25 years, NU has refused to invest in new chairs! LOL

    Sincerely,
    A woman who married her sweetheart from NU – who was the first person she met there upon matriculating, and the best person she has ever dated for the past 25 years, is almost through her PhD at another institution, and loves him more than ever… and has sat upon those very, very uncomfy chairs many times. Yikes.

    • brianmacker

      Shouldn’t you be praising the past administration at NU for investing in such well made chairs?

  • Martin The Mess

    That conservation of terror argument is very similar to some of my thinking about the history of law enforcement. These days, we’ve got fingerprints, ballistics analysis. DNA testing, fiber analysis, the whole CSI kit of tools to investigate crimes with, in addition to centuries of experience in asking questions and interviewing suspects. Back in the day, unless someone saw a crime take place, it was essentially impossible to prove who did it. So you got confessions tortured out of people, trial by combat, trial by drowning, trial by fire, consulting oracles, and so forth. And on the rare occasion that you actually caught the guilty party, even the mildest of crimes tended to get brutally and often fatally punished. They had to hang pickpockets because the vast majority of crimes went unsolved and unpunished. If punishment was to have any sort of deterrent effect, the few who did get caught had to be punished very severely indeed. Now that we’ve got a much better clearance rate on catching criminals, we don’t need to draw and quarter people in the town square for the message to get across. Studies show that certainty of punishment is a much better deterrent than severity of punishment.

    If God exists, and wants to punish sinners and/or unbelievers, you’d think someone omniscient would have a pretty good conviction rate. Even more than Santa Claus, he knows who’s been naughty, and who’s been nice. So he shouldn’t need eternal torments as a way to discourage or punish sinners. A firm scolding or a few eons in a mildly unpleasant purgatory would be plenty. If the torments of hell are so horrific and so permanent, they must be pretty darn uncertain for them to be used as a deterrent to sin. And pretty ineffective, given that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”, as the New Testament says. Thus disbelief in Hell must be pretty darn universal, to judge by observed behavior.

  • Eda Gregr

    I don’t understand the Law of Conservation of Terror. Could somebody explain that to me a bit more detailed?

    Will more people belief me if I thread them with exploding the moon and consequently a shower deadly meteors then, when I just paint it red?
    The thing is that a teacher can thread the children with more terrifying punishments, but the effect on the motivation will not be bigger. So there is not really a need of it.
    On the other side if a crime is very unlikely to be solved, then the punishment
    is harder to scare the villains, but in the case of the teacher and god, there
    is no question, if you get caught.
    So why should I belief more in a terrible hell then in a boring one, which is beside an exciting heaven?
    I just don’t get the thing with the plausibility.

    • Lagerbaer

      Imagine the proposed punishment wouldn’t be hell but rather that you get only a silver harp to sing god’s praise whereas the believers get a golden one. You’d be more inclined to say “well, that’s a chance I’m willing to take”.

      • Eda Gregr

        You’re arguing with Pascals’s wager and as i understood it, it’s not about that. The plausibility doesn’t change in the wager, just your motivation to obey.
        Here it is if you tell bullshit people will belef you more if it is terrifying.

        Take a look at my question with the moon:
        Will more people belief me if I thread them with exploding the moon and consequently a shower deadly meteors then, when I just paint it red?

        The problem is that the logic for god isn’t the same as for humans, so you can’t really prove an earthy theory with heavenly examples.

    • brianmacker

      Many people are stupidly swayed by Pascal’s wager. Just look at all the people pushing for stupid measures to combat climate change on the basis of “better safe than sorry”. All based on the flimsily of evidence. Funny that they completely ignore the fact that next to no one (if anyone) dies or has ever died from from climate change. The entire time the climate has been changing the number of deaths attributable to weather has dropped. Hundreds of millions on the other hand have died from do-gooder political schemes to make the world a better place, like those exercised in the name of Marxism, Socialism, Islam, and Christianity.

      I’m quite confident that we’d have billions of deaths if we went off fossil fuels. The carrying capacity of the earth is much smaller than 6 billion people without some form of energy. On the other hand, if we doubled CO2 that might have the benefit of stopping the next ice age, among other good things like making plants grow faster.

      • Spuddie

        This reminds me of dialogue from the sadly missed, defunct show Reaper.

        The Devil gives a little spiel why he is a big fan of environmentalism and is big on fighting global warming. His reasoning being that people who perish in catastrophic environmental conditions would be innocent and he would not be able to collect their souls.

        • brianmacker

          Really, so I’m collecting souls? Is that your intepretation? Exactly how does that go? It is quite clear that I am concerned for people, and I have no bias, or conflict of interest that would prove otherwise. Do you think I’m an alien out to destroy humanity?

          • Spuddie

            Are you illiterate? I was describing a TV show which chimed in on global warming and theological consequences.

            I take global warming denial with the same level of credibility as I do for anyone who is making claims which contradict the overwhelming majority of the professional scientific community which deals with the subject. =)

            • brianmacker

              Think a little about the message inherent in your first comment. You aren’t really that obtuse, are you? “This” can clearly be a reference to my comment, in which case I’d be playing the role of the devil. Your second comment

              Who cares what you think is credible. Sounds like you suck Al Gore’s cock. I’m done with you.

              • Spuddie

                Or it could just be a description of the nexus between religion, public issues and pop culture. You know what they say about cigars. (Or probably not, you don’t strike me as one with much awareness of various things)

                You sound like an idiot. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.


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