On the stupidity of asking, “but where’s the evidence we need evidence for things?”


On Twitter:


There’s a longer answer I have to this that didn’t fit on Twitter, so here it is: it’s a mistake to think that if someone thinks maybe you should have some evidence for a particular thing you believe, they are therefore committed to a sweeping philosophical doctrine about needing evidence for absolutely everything.

Imagine I accused you of taking part in Satanic rituals that involved literally eating babies. “What?” you’d probably ask, “what evidence could you possible have for that absurd claim?”

Imagine I responded, “Ha! By demanding evidence, you’re committing yourself to the claim that we should have evidence for everything! But there’s no evidence we should have evidence for everything! I WIN I WIN I WIN!!!”

If I did that, you’d probably be wondering if I’d gone completely insane.

When I look at a question like, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” my approach is pretty simple. I don’t believe Joseph Smith’s claims about the book of Mormon, and I don’t see any better evidence for the claims of Christianity than the claims of Mormonism, so I don’t believe the claims of Christianity either.

I do not need any sweeping philosophical theory to do that.

This is really not that hard.

  • Rain

    The little yellow car seems confused. I wouldn’t want to accuse it of belaboring a strawman or anything like that, because it might run over my toes if I made it upset.

  • eric

    I view the situation a bit like the old story of the two guys running from the bear – for science’s conclusions to be justified, it doesn’t have to yield perfect information about reality (outrun the bear), it merely has do better than revelation.

    And if a religious person claims or implies that they don’t base their belief on evidence, one might point out that their holy book/leader isn’t made of ectoplasm. They are using observational evidence, too. Just not the same methodology for evaluating it.

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    I think it’s the simplicity of the atheist world view that upsets some of those people sometimes. It isn’t hard. At all. It’s the antithesis of hard. The fact of it implies that all the money, time, and effort they put into things they ought to know better than to worship is wasted, and who likes being shown their short time on earth has been, so far, wasted? Only natural they’d externalize their own rigidity. Their tenuous grasp upon their internal faith is rather like a cornered cat or dog raising its hackles, doing anything to look more convincing than it really is, anything to avoid being fully extinguished by their steadily drumming human reason. Nothing snaps minds out of a daze like identifying their own cognitive dissonance, nor in a more entertaining way.

    • Thorgasm

      No what upsets us is that atheism is a category error. That, and most of you are lying pieces of crap.

      • phantomreader42

        Is there anything more to your cult than projection, lies, and threats? Oh, yeah, the bit about raping children.

        • Thorgasm

          Why yes there is. The fact that you even ask this question is proof that you either have never seriously investigated Christianity, or are willfully ignorant.

  • Smeagol

    Well, I have to disagree. You are offering a very common sense answer to a very difficult philosophical questions, but you are oversimplifying things.

    There is evidence that we need evidence for things, and that is the very empirical claim that when you have ‘evidence’ for something, anything at all, that evidence seems to keep working when re-tested. The anti-science Christians are right in saying that one can be as dogmatic about science as about Christ (or whatever) and in groups like /r/atheism you have a whole lot of dogmatism about something that we aren’t really supposed to be dogmatic about. But all we have to do is notice that when we get scientific ‘evidence’ for something, we are able to predict things about the world, then we can say that in our EXPERIENCE evidence seems to beget sound theories.

    The Christian might then pull a skeptic on you, and say something like ‘oh but i find that my belief in christ let’s me predict bla bla bla’ but that is just plain wrong, as you’ll find that people aren’t healed by prayer &c.

    The skeptics have a good hold on the argument that we can’t be sure of any scientific theory, but if a Christian wants to use that argument, then they fall into the same pit as the skeptics do, but lose all of their knowledge of God.

    Anyhow, just wanted to put my two cents in, but I don’t think it is IS absurd to ask for evidence for evidence; i just don’t think it’s that hard to produce some!

    • JohnH2

      “people aren’t healed by prayer”

      Given that personal prayer is better then a placebo (which is all that can be said about the majority of medicines) and better then a placebo in every case tested then it seems that people are healed by saying prayers and that this is not just a placebo effect. If they are healed by other people saying a prayer is much less certain.

      Likewise with quite a lot of the rest of religion, there are real demonstrable effects that lead to a statistically healthier, happier, and wealthier life. I call these effects benefits, and until recently assumed that everyone would find this as benefits but apparently many people are so invested in atheism that they will not admit that such things are benefits.

      You may say that in a greater or lesser extent all of these benefits exist regardless of a particular religion and you may say that the benefits have nothing to do with God. The first is largely true (but not wholly) and seems irrelevant as God blesses right action over right belief. The second is a very odd claim and appears to be primarily an attempt to deny the evidence as being valid.

      • Rain

        Yep there’s always someone gullible or a huckster who comes along and says God does heal amputees when you say God doesn’t heal amputees. And God does bring people back from the dead if you say God doesn’t bring people back from the dead. And prayer does heal people if you say prayer doesn’t heal people. Oh yeah, and the non sequitur that prayer is proof of God. Not to mention the completely unwarranted leap to the conclusion that “God blesses right action over right belief.” We might as well just go ahead and twiddle our thumbs and then say “ergo Jesus”.

        *twiddles thumbs*–ergo Jesus.

        • JohnH2

          ” gullible or a huckster”

          ad hominem much? Which is amusing because you claim non sequitur on something I don’t even say or try to.

          “prayer is proof”

          No, prayer is proof that the person praying believes in what is being prayed for or wishes to appear to believe. The effects are the evidence, but not proof.

          I suggest you do your research on the effectiveness of first person prayer before continuing to suggest that there is no evidence in this regards. I am not referring to poorly understood rare healing events either, I am not aware of any studies as to prayer being a factor or not in such extreme and extremely rare cases.

          “unwarranted leap”

          Everyone that prays regardless of to what deity has. to a greater or lesser extent. the same benefits. Everyone that attends a religious service regardless of the religion has to a greater or lesser extent similar measurable benefits. There is quite a bit of variation in such things, because different faiths lead to different actions, but there are also quite a lot of similarities. That is the evidence side of things.

          If you are wanting to talk about the belief side of things then you will need to specify what religion you are referring to. The major group that denies that God approves more of correct action over correct belief also believe in Sola Scriptura meaning that statements by Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, and John valid counter arguments against that specific understanding.”

        • JohnH2

          ” gullible or a huckster”

          ad hominem much? Which is amusing because you claim non sequitur on something I don’t even say or try to.

          “prayer is proof”

          No, prayer is proof that the person praying believes in what is being prayed for or wishes to appear to believe. The effects are the evidence, but not proof.

          I suggest you do your research on the effectiveness of first person prayer before continuing to suggest that there is no evidence in this regards. I am not referring to poorly understood rare healing events either, I am not aware of any studies as to prayer being a factor or not in such extreme and extremely rare cases.

          “unwarranted leap”

          Everyone that prays regardless of to what deity has. to a greater or lesser extent. the same benefits. Everyone that attends a religious service regardless of the religion has to a greater or lesser extent similar measurable benefits. There is quite a bit of variation in such things, because different faiths lead to different actions, but there are also quite a lot of similarities. That is the evidence side of things.

          If you are wanting to talk about the belief side of things then you will need to specify what religion you are referring to. The major group that denies that God approves more of correct action over correct belief also believe in Sola Scriptura meaning that statements by Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, and John valid counter arguments against that specific understanding.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

        Well while you may claim that prayer works, however the evidence (despite your claims) is not really in your favor.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer#The_STEP_project

        Not only showed no effect, but actually showed that people who knew they were being prayed for fared worse.

        A few studies contract this of course, thought some seem to have methodological flaws and none produced really significant results, usually just enough beyond the P value to be considered statistically significant.

        It is also inaccurate to say that all we can say about the majority of medicines is that they preform better than a placebo. This is how we measure final effectiveness in many medical trials, but there is also solid chemistry behind the pharmacological effects of drugs, so we have a solid causative connection between the two.

        However, lets assume for the moment you were correct in your assessment, what do we conclude? I don’t need to argue with the data to point out that your conclusion is suspect, all you have is an effect, but we have no clear cause, indeed to conclude that the cause is supernatural in nature is necessarily outside the realm of science.

        You are free to conclude supernatural causes, but it cannot be called science in any meaningful sense. Of course investigating what the cause might be would be interesting if the effects are real, but without more data all we could say is there is an effect and we don’t know why.

        Thought to be sure, we actually know enough about human psychology to put forward several reasonable hypothesis about some of these effects, religion granting a ready made social group might easily explain higher levels of happiness for instance.

        Your claim that god blesses right action over right belief I find an odd one for several reasons. One, because it directly contradicts the theological position of most major religions, including most of traditional Christianity and Islam, and two because it implies that you somehow have direct access to god. That you somehow know things about his nature. I would think that someone with such direct access to him could posit a more substantial argument for his existence than “prayer is answered with slightly more consistency than a placebo” If this is really the strongest argument you can put forward for god’s existence then color me unconvinced.

        • JohnH2

          Reading comprehension is a good thing:

          “If they are healed by other people saying a prayer is much less certain.”,

          Meaning I was specifically talking about first person prayer and not third person prayer.

          For a wide range of drugs there actually isn’t a well known solid causative connection.

          You can not retreat to the supernatural is beyond the realm of science and at the same time say that you have no evidence for the supernatural, have disproved God, and etc. Those are quite the contradictory sentiments to hold. Of course, in my religion God is not outside of nature.

          ” Christianity and Islam”
          Catholicism is the largest portion of Christianity and the part that can be most termed to be traditional. It very much has the idea that right action is more important than right belief. In Islam the concept actually repeatedly appears in the Qur’an especailly in regards to the people of the Book. Confucianism is very much about right action, pretty much to the exclusion of having an idea of right belief. Hinduism likewise has key concepts that are about right action while having an extremely wide range of what is right belief. Buddhism eight fold middle path is likewise about right action. So exactly what major religion are you referring to?

          “unconvinced.”
          I do not believe it is possible to be convinced of God or have God proven; or at least not meaningful to do so.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            Whether you are talking about first person or third person prayer seems irrelevant, though if you know of a study that shows first person prayer to be more effective that placebo then by all means point it out to me, otherwise you are just making bald claims and expecting me to take your claim on faith…. and I won’t.

            You claim that there is no causative connection with many drugs…I’m not a doctor but this claim sounds like a load of nonsense. Can you actually name any of these drugs?

            OK you say You can not retreat to the supernatural is beyond the realm of science
            and at the same time say that you have no evidence for the supernatural,
            have disproved God, and etc. Those are quite the contradictory
            sentiments to hold.”

            Since I have not claimed to have disproved god’s existence with science then I don’t hold such a contradictory view, you clearly made assumptions about my position that are inaccurate. Supernatural is beyond nature by definition so examining a supernatural cause is beyond the realm of the scientific process. How exactly would you set up an experiment to prove a causative factor that was supernatural?

            Of course you ignore my main point that if you have direct access to god you should be able to come of with better evidence.

            You say
            “Of course, in my religion God is not outside of nature.”

            OK, what exactly is your religion? It feels like you are just making up your own version of god. In any case later on you say.

            “I do not believe it is possible to be convinced of God or have God proven; or at least not meaningful to do so.”

            Which is obviously contradictory, if god exists within nature then he can be demonstrated to exist and therefore it is possible to be convinced he exists based upon the evidence.

            Why would you try to make an argument that god exists and you have evidence while simultaneously claiming that it is impossible to demonstrate his existence?

            Why do theists so often seem to present an argument for God’s existence and then just retreat to solipsistic claims or ad hom attacks when the atheist doesn’t accept your reasoning?

          • JohnH2

            I expect you to take five minutes looking on Google because I am writing comments on a blog and not attempting to do a research paper on the subject, or even my own blog post. Or just check Wikipedia.

            “Can you actually name any of these drugs?”

            Wikipedia on Antidepressants “Like all anti-depressants their mechanism of action remains unknown” before listing pretty antidepressants.

            “what exactly is your religion?”

            I am a Mormon.

            “able to come of with better evidence.”

            Like what exactly?

            ” if god exists within nature then he can be demonstrated to exist”

            On what level though and to what end? Say you ask for evidence and I actually take the time to track it all down and lay it out to the best of my ability. If the I provided the evidence you ask for it is my experience that in all likelihood you will not accept it nor believe in God because of it, even if I give you exactly what you ask for and you admit such. If however you seek God and ask God on the subject and He responds then you will know.

            ” make an argument that god exists”

            I am really not making an argument that God exists, I am suggesting that there is in fact evidence that God. I do not think any amount of evidence would be enough to convince most people, or rather it might be enough to convince them that God exists but would not otherwise change their behaviour which seems worse to me than not knowing.

            “ad hom”

            The only one that has suffered such attacks here is me; I do not intentionally ever attempt such, I am sorry that me assuming that you believe there is no evidence for God and etc was offensive to you and makes you think I was trying to attack you in any way, but regardless it can not be termed an ‘ad hom’ attack.

            “solipsistic claims”

            I am not trying to retreat to solipsistic claims and I will never attempt to use reasoning to present a “proof” of God’s existence; I will bring up what I view as supporting evidence and will attempt to answer questions about the supporting evidence (when I have the time to do so) but do not expect, or think it is possible, that the evidence by itself will be enough to convince anyone of God’s existence. Maybe I am wrong on that subject but that is the way I understand what God has said on the subject.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            You quote mined the article on antidepressants, as just after that quote it went on to list a lot of known ways these drugs affect the body, just because we haven’t found the exact connection between the neurological and chemical effects these drugs have and depression doesn’t mean that these drugs are indistinguishable from a sugar pill. They list several plausible hypothesis for the effects, there just isn’t enough evidence to prove any of them yet, however studies are ongoing.

            Can you or anyone else produce a chart with as much detail on the effects of prayer as the “Antidepressant Receptor Affinity” chart in that very article? These two things are not equal by any measure.

            Besides as someone else already pointed out if you are measuring “self medicated” prayer then there is no way to properly blind the study and therefore no way to distinguish between a real effect and a placebo one.

            “I do not think any amount of evidence would be enough to convince most people”

            This is either an ad hom (suggesting people are too biased to admit you are right) or an admission that your evidence is not strong enough to convince reasonably unbiased people that your position is correct. Which is it? If it is the second then just admit your evidence is too weak and you take your position for faith based reasons.

            “I am sorry that me assuming that you believe there is no evidence for God and etc was offensive to you”

            I think making weird assertions that I have poor reading comprehension counts as an ad hom. I have not personally attacked you in this conversation and I cannot account for other people’s behavior so I’m not going to try.

            You claim to not be retreating to sophism but this:

            “but do not expect, or think it is possible, that the evidence by itself will be enough to convince anyone of God’s existence”

            seems like solipsism to me. Either evidence is convincing or it is not, if it is convincing then it should be enough to convince people, if the evidence is not convincing then why on earth would anyone believe in god?

          • JohnH2

            “Can you or anyone else produce a chart with as much detail on the effects of prayer as the “Antidepressant Receptor Affinity” chart in that very article?”

            I can not at the moment, can somebody? I have no idea.

            “your position for faith based reasons.”

            I take my position for reasons based on personal revelation from God; which is direct evidence but direct evidence which is not explicitly verifiable by third parties. I desire that everyone likewise take the steps necessary to know for themselves the truth. Convincing people via evidence is not getting people to take steps so that they can know the truth, it is merely convincing them without necessarily otherwise changing their behaviour. Even if they do change their behaviour based on being convinced it would always be possible that some other study comes out saying something completely different, like what regularly happens with eggs.

            ” Which is it?”

            What type of evidence would convince you and do you consider yourself to be reasonably unbiased?

            “poor reading comprehension”

            I was clearly and specifically talking about first person prayer, while you tangentially ignore what I said and moved to third person prayer, which I had already addressed.

            “would anyone believe in god?”

            People should believe in God because they know God for themselves instead of through third party sources. God is a being and not a thing. If evidence gets people to take the necessary steps to know God then that is good; if evidence convinces people but does not lead them to know God for themselves then that isn’t good.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            Personal revelation is not the same as evidence. We actually have good reason to doubt the reliability of personal revelation, namely it is often shown to be wrong. As far as I am concerned revelation is basically just faith. If your claims are not independently verifiable then they are not evidence in any meaningful sense.

            “Even if they do change their behaviour based on being convinced it would always be possible that some other study comes out saying something completely different, like what regularly happens with eggs.”

            Ahh the whole science is worthless because it changes sometimes. Unlike you, I think that a mind that can change is good, it is a good thing that we change our minds in favor of new evidence. If the evidence changes then I should change my mind, just as any rational person should. That is a strength not a weakness.

            “I was clearly and specifically talking about first person prayer, while you tangentially ignore what I said and moved to third person prayer, which I had already addressed.”

            It wasn’t clear at all, you in no way spelled out a clear distinction between 3rd party prayer and first party prayer. In fact you claimed and I quote:

            “Given that personal prayer is better then a placebo”

            If you assumed that the word “personal” would imply first person you were mistaken, it doesn’t.

            In fact the only possible way you could verify this is with third party prayer, since first party prayer would preclude having a control group, a person is going to know if he prayed for himself or not, thus measuring the difference between the placebo effect and any actual effect is impossible. I assumed ( a mistake on my part) that you knew enough about medical trials to recognize this.

            You also claimed that the “majority of medicine” has nothing behind it but a claim to be better than placebo which is clearly false, if you said some medicine I would agree, but to most people majority means more than half.

            If I’ve made any mistake here it was that I clearly overestimated your knowledge on this topic.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            The fact that you can say something like this.

            “Convincing people via evidence is not getting people to take steps so that they can know the truth”

            Is evidence that we will never be on the same page, not only is evidence a path to truth, the ONLY reliable path is evidence and reason.

            I have yet to see any other method for discovering how reality works that works with the kind of consistency that one gets by applying reason and observation the natural world.

            I can’t speak for everyone else, but if anyone wants to convince me of anything, including god’s existence he better bring evidence.

            Just telling me to wait for some mystical experience or telling me that god will reveal himself if I pray is useless because even if those things happened I wouldn’t accept them as evidence of god’s existence because I understand how easily the mind can be deceived.

            In any case I was a believer for close to a decade, I prayed those prayers when I was having doubts and nothing happened, which is part of the reason I’m no longer an believer.

          • JohnH2

            “placebo effect”

            The placebo effect measures the effectiveness of believing one is receiving medicine primarily on pain.

            It doesn’t effect blood pressure per a citation needed wikipedia article (so that could be wrong), which prayer has been demonstrated to do according to the American Society of Hypertension based off of the Jackson Heart Study, and referenced in Mr. Deity. I am having problems finding a good survey academic article on prayer, there are entire academic journals dedicated to religion and health and spirituality and health. So I can pull up individual articles like this http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20391859, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22641932, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10462170, really easily and there are quite a lot of such things, finding a good one that covers everything is appearing unlikely.

            “independently verifiable”

            So like, for an example, if a scripture said that a particular people would be driven out of a certain place, scattered all over the place, persecuted and killed in large numbers, and then after a long time gathered together again into the place they were originally scattered from and one could then verify that yes, the people were scattered, yes they were persecuted and killed, and then yes they were again gathered together again, that would count as something independently verifiable?

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            See I think the problem may be that you have an incomplete understanding of how placebo effects work.

            See one of the ways it works is through reporting error. I.E. either the person with the problem reports an improvement that doesn’t really exist or the scientists allow their bias (in favor or against) a treatment to bias their reporting of the treatment. This is why double blind is so important, they help to eliminate these reporting errors.

            This is one of the reasons you can’t compare the placebo effects gathered from a double blinded trial with the effects from a study that is not even single blinded, there is simply no way to account for the effect the reporting errors may have had on the second study.

            It’s interesting that the studies you refer too all deal with very nonspecific issues like depression or general life span. I’d be more inclined to believe in the power of prayer if it did things more substantial than curing a case of the nerves. It never seems to fair as well at curing a case of “my arm was cut off in a combine” or “I have third degree burns over 90% of my body”

            It is entirely reasonable for prayer to be more effective than a sugar pill in issues of depression while still being an example of placebo effect, in issues that are purely psychological the effect of the placebo is determined by how strongly the patient believes in treatment.

            Your last paragraph seems to transparently refer to the Jewish diaspora. Prophecy is kinda super unreliable. First of even if you had a real prophecy it would not really prove a god was involved, only that someone had access to knowledge through some means we are currently unaware of. God could be an explanation for this, but so could time travel or precognition.

            I don’t believe in those other things either to be sure, but if we did have a real prophecy we would need more investigation to determine the cause rather than just assume it was god.

            However, In the case of old testament prophecy much like any prophecy there is not much to go on. The “prophecy” is vague and most claims are riddled with conformation bias (I.E. Christians ignore all of the prophecies that didn’t “come true”)

            If the prophecy was more specific with particular dates for instance, if it said the nation of Israel would be restored by the united states in the year 1948 after man Jews were killed by a man named Hitler, I would be impressed, but just some vague claim that people will be persecuted and then gathered together again at some unnamed point in the future is not very impressive to me. It’s vague enough to be almost guaranteed to come true eventually.

            As another example, Jesus is asked in Matthew 24 how people will know he is returning and he answers by saying there will be wars and rumors of wars, and famines and earthquakes etc. Is this really a prophecy? When in the history of the world would this ever NOT be an accurate description of current affairs?

            In conclusion, I don’t trust prophecy in the bible any more than I trust Miss Cleo.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Cleo

          • JohnH2

            I found one on third person prayer that is interesting in that it involved primates, not humans, to try and avoid confounding effects such as other parties praying for the people but not recorded in the study.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17131981/

            This one is interesting because it lists positive, neutral, and the STEP study on intercessory prayer. It then criticizes by way of questions and comments the entire project of studying prayer.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802370/

            Life span doesn’t seem to be able to suffer from reporting error.

            “It’s vague enough to be almost guaranteed to come true eventually”

            Do you have other examples of 2000 year diasporas where the people in question retained their identity as a distinct people and were eventually returned to the land they were driven out of? If it so vague then you should be able to come up with multiple independent groups of people that have gone through such experiences, or even moderately similar experiences.

            So you pre-emptively have attempted to discredit all other prophecies and have pre-emptively called all prophecy that hasn’t yet happened as failed. You have also, in like manner, given rationalizations for all possible benefits of both prayer and religious observance. You demand that God essentially write His name in the sky or something similar as you have pre-emptively explained away any possiblity of an angel appearing to you, theophany, and all other responses down to the whispering of the Spirit. You expect me to believe you to be unbiased? Isn’t one of the biggest signs of being biased coming up with explanations for all possible responses?

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            Sure, life span does suffer from reporting error, but how exactly would you know if the longer life span is due to prayer or some secondary trait that happens to be more common to those who pray? It could be something as simple as those who pray are less likely to be smokers, or perhaps those who pray are more likely to attend church and some of those churches have programs to care for the elderly.

            This is some weird reach, we find this to be the case all the time in long term studies because it is nearly impossible to control for every conceivable variable. Do you know what other variables these studies controlled for if any?

            No, it’s not a sign of bias that a person attempts to look at all reasonable explanations and does not prefer one over another with out adequate evidence. It is the sign of something thinking scientifically, that one does not assume they are infallible or willingly believe whatever people tell them.

            You act as if accusing me of bias is somehow going to convince me to stop asking questions and thinking critically and instead just believe your explanations.

            I could just as easily point out that you are being gullible or engaging in wishful thinking by taking a piece of data and attaching to it the explanation that you want to be true rather than recognizing there are other equally good or better explanations.

            I mean, you want me to accept something like the “whispering of the spirit” but we know enough about neuroscience to understand just how easily the brain is fooled. Even if i heard god audibly speaking to me, would it be more likely that a god spoke to me audibly or that I was schizophrenic? Well we don’t know if god even exists, but we do know that schizophrenia is a thing. So which is really more likely?

            So tell me why I should accept your explanation, which seems to be based upon nothing more than wishful thinking and a poor understanding of statistics, over the scientific explanation that is based upon years of research and an honest attempt to understand reality as it is and not as we wish it to be?

          • JohnH2

            “reasonable explanations”
            It is a sign of bias when one excludes an explanation as being possibly reasonable and seeks out every possible alternative regardless of the complexity to explain it.

            “accusing me of bias”

            No, but I see no reason to continue providing more and more evidence when the end result will be same whether someone were to say they know by the whispering of the spirit or whether a detailed list of every prophecy and every benefit of religion were exhaustively detailed. You are taking every piece of data, and even pieces of data you don’t have, and attaching to it any other theoretically possible explanation, however bad (or in the case of Schizophrenia, idiotic), because the obvious one is one that you don’t want to be true. There aren’t “years of research” and you haven’t shown the slightest willingness to have an “honest attempt to understand reality as it is” but rather have clung to a particular belief at the expense of empirical data showing the benefits of prayer (both first and third person), of religious attendance, and historic fulfilled prophecy.

            Seriously, where are the other diasporas and simliar events which make the gathering of Israel “almost guaranteed to come true eventually”? Or was that just a faith based assertion on your part with no evidence to back it up?

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            Seriously you are accusing ME of bias and faith based explanations?

            You just declare by fiat that god is the “obvious one” but provide nothing but personal insults to back that up.

            You misrepresent my statements and and call me idiotic to hide behind the fact that you have no evidence for your interpretation of the data.

            You sir are a waste of my time.

          • JohnH2

            I called the explanation of schizophrenia for that of the spirit or seeing angels idiotic, not you, as I said to start out with, reading comprehension is a good thing.

          • JohnH2

            And I quote, as I did quote the first time you made the claim, from my original post: ” If they are healed by other people saying a prayer is much less certain.”

            “nothing behind”

            Again I quote:” all that can be said about the majority of medicines” in reference to being better than a placebo; which is true. To be an effective medicine it must be better than a placebo and the majority of medicines don’t cure people completely but provide an effect which is better than a placebo.

            “it is a good thing that we change our minds in favor of new evidence.”

            What were you saying about Ad Hom?

            So with every conflicting study in regards to eggs do you eat and then not eat eggs? You realize that despite whatever is said about eggs studies have shown that it is best to follow a set diet, as happens in many other countries, rather than chasing after every new study.

            “thus measuring the difference between the placebo effect and any actual effect is impossible.”

            So you chalk up all benefits to being placebo despite it being more effective then a sugar pill which is double blinded as medicine?

            Sorry but despite me asking twice, you have not yet answered my question to you being: “What type of evidence would convince you and do you consider yourself to be reasonably unbiased?” stated previously as “Like what exactly?”. What should I assume about the truthfulness of you changing based on evidence when you will not let me know what type of evidence you would find convincing?

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            “”it is a good thing that we change our minds in favor of new evidence.”
            What were you saying about Ad Hom?”

            How is this an ad hom? Do you understand what an ad hom is? You were the one who suggested that evidence is pointless because they will just get some other evidence later on.

            Have you actually read any of the studies done about eggs? I have, its true that chasing every new study would be foolish but not for the reasons you offer. Don’t just read a news article about the study, read the actual study and take the time to understand what it proves or doesn’t prove. (few people do this)

            “So you chalk up all benefits to being placebo despite it being more
            effective then a sugar pill which is double blinded as medicine?”

            Oh for the love….I just explained to you how it was impossible to double blind a study on first person prayer. Maybe you have the reading comprehension problem.

            You bring up the effectiveness of a placebo in totally unrelated studies as if we can reasonably assume that those number are applicable, this is simply not something we can actually assume. There may be a myriad of reasons that prayer might work better than a placebo in some other study that have nothing to do with anything even slightly supernatural.

            I have yet to see any of these numbers yet anyway, do you have a link to an actual study? Were the numbers astonishing or were they, as I suspect, barely statistically significant, and if there is a significant difference why does first person prayer work and third person does not? that would be an interesting study, on the surface it suggests that the effect is internal and not external like a god.

            I think of myself as generally unbiased but I don’t really expect you to believe that so I don’t see any reason in discussing it.

            I don’t see why I should have to give you a list of evidence that I would find convincing, if god exists I suspect he would know, but I will give you a couple of things that would help.

            First things need to be repeatable and/or independently verifiable at least in general. God speaking audibly to me alone, I’m probably hallucinating, speaking to everyone all at the same time and, well I might not be 100% convinced but it would be a significant start. It would be enough to convince me to start asking questions again.

            If you want a direct answer about what might convince me I don’t necessarily know, for the same reason I probably couldn’t tell you what piece of evidence would convince me of multiverse theory, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be convinced.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dylansama Dylan J. Walker

            Let me ask you a question that might better show the problem we are having here.

            What do you think the placebo effect is exactly?

      • Sven2547

        “Given that personal prayer is better then a placebo…”
        I’m gonna go ahead and tack a “citation needed” on this one. It is my understanding that prayer has never been shown to have any effect beyond a placebo. Same with these “real demonstrable effects” you refer to.

        • JohnH2

          I suggest that you check out Handbook of Religion and
          Health for a comprehensive review of the literature.

          • Sven2547

            I suggest you give me a source that I don’t have to pay $122 to read.

            Never, in the history of humankind, has the supernatural been proven to exist or have any effect on any thing ever. This would be a world-shaking paradigm-shattering revelation that would make front-page news worldwide…
            …if it were true. Instead, you’re telling me to drop $122 on your say-so. Pardon me for being a tad skeptical on the matter.

          • JohnH2

            Sorry, but you are wrong. The effectiveness of religion, spirituality, and personal prayer is very well known in the medical community. It is actually a debated topic as to whether family physicians should prescribe religion because the effects are so well known. Here is a paper from 2000 on that subject http://courses.washington.edu/bh518/Articles/ShouldPhysiciansPrescribe.pdf which says that doctors shouldn’t prescribe religion, despite giving references to studies showing the benefits of religion, which you are free to investigate further. The justification for not proscribing religion comes down to ethics and not what is necessarily best for treatment.

            Check Wikipedia on the book I referenced: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handbook_of_Religion_and_Health Where it says that the AMA recommends it.

          • Sven2547

            The AMA Journal review and critique also says that “the authors caution against any causal influence”, and that “not all of it has been designed to test specific hypotheses”.

            The Washington.edu link you provided says, in the paragraph titled “Is There Empirical Evidence of a Link between Religion and Health?” that “We believe the evidence is generally weak and unconvincing,since it is based on studies with serious methodologic flaws, conflicting findings, and data that lack clarity and specificity.”

            I am underwhelmed, and so is the scientific community.

            “Better than a placebo in every case tested”, is what you said. I’m holding you to that. Are you really suggesting that there are no studies where prayer equals or under-performs against a placebo?

          • JohnH2

            “Are you really suggesting that there are no studies where prayer equals or under-performs against a placebo?”

            For first person prayer I am not aware of any such studies, but I do not study medicine so I am most likely to be aware of studies favourable towards first person prayer rather than not.

          • Thorgasm

            It’s called the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it was and remains ‘paradigm- shattering revelation’ that makes ‘front-page news worldwide.’ Try following the evidence wherever it leads….

          • Sven2547

            Upon further research, the Handbook’s shoddy and unjustified conclusions have been harshly criticized in the scientific community.

      • Ray

        “this is not just a placebo effect.”

        Um. The usual point of a placebo is so that neither the patient nor the doctor knows, whether they are receiving the active ingredient or the placebo (double blind study.) How on earth you expect the patient to not know whether or not he is praying?

        without this, even if the study includes a placebo, it is not a SIMILARLY ADMINISTERED placebo, and the study is not a double blind study. Given that it’s pretty much impossible to create a “similarly administered placebo” to first person prayer, all your study would show is that the placebo effect exhibits a strength that is dependent on the way the placebo is administered. No surprise there. If people didn’t think that was true, there would be no point in double-blind studies.

    • hf

      Just to add confusion:

      There are possible minds in mind design space who have anti-Occamian and anti-Laplacian priors; they believe that simpler theories are less likely to be correct, and that the more often something happens, the less likely it is to happen again.

      And when you ask these strange beings why they keep using priors that never seem to work in real life… they reply, “Because it’s never worked for us before!”

      We can imagine deliberately malicious starting assumptions that would force a believer to draw false conclusions based on your evidence. For a possibly less confusing account, see You Only Need Faith in Two Things.

  • http://twitter.com/Teilhard_us Teilhard

    Good blogpost. Part of being human is the ability to think rationally and to ask the big questions of our existence, its origins and its meanings. These questions are ultimately beyond the reach of science (although science can certain help inform our answers and understanding of these questions). Reasonable people can come to different conclusions on these questions.

    Certainly most Christians and other theists look at the mathematical precision of the universe, the evolutionary arc that started with the Big Bang ~14 billion years ago, the universality of intangible (and uniquely human) characteristics such as love, appreciation for arts and music and a sense of justice and believe that these characteristics point to a Creative Mind behind it. Atheists can look at these same things and believe they are a product of random chance. It is in asking these questions by both theists and atheists that form the common basis for our humanity.

    http://teilhard.com/2013/05/02/embracing-doubt-to-grow-into-a-mature-faith-part-ii/

    Peace,

    W. Ockham

    • Ophis

      “…intangible (and uniquely human) characteristics…”

      I find this odd. Do you not believe that God has all of these characteristics, which would make them not uniquely human? Which of course leads to the question, if these characteristics in humans imply they have a creator, why don’t the same characteristics in God imply that He also has a creator?

    • swbarnes2

      “Good blogpost. Part of being human is the ability to think rationally
      and to ask the big questions of our existence, its origins and its
      meanings.

      Where is the evidence that your religion is giving correct answers to those questions?

      Just because I can ask a question doesn’t mean that it actually has a meaningful answer. If I ask “What color is the number 3?”, and my religion tells me that the number three is the color ‘smurg’, does that make it better than your religion, which has no answer to that question at all?

      If my religion teaches that the correct answer to that question helps the true believer answer questions like “are women really sapient and sentient like men are?” (And if 3 is ‘smurg’, the answer to the question is ‘no’) is that the kind of religious reasoning you want to see more of in the world?

  • http://twitter.com/Teilhard_us Teilhard

    Leiningen: I’m not sure if you are referring to me your someone else but I am a Christian so we agree that the creation of the Universe is not random chance.

    • phantomreader42

      Teilhard, like all creationists, you are willfully ignorant of what evolutionary theory actually states and predicts, and the evidence supporting it, despite this information being readily available. Like all creationists, you misrepresent science. Like all creationists, you have had it REPEATEDLY explained to you how your strawman of evolution is a dishonest misrepresentation. And, like all creationists, you keep on repeating the same misrepresentations, knowing them to be false, because admitting the truth would make your worthless delusions crumble to dust.

      Why can’t creationists ever bring themselves to tell the truth? Isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

      • http://twitter.com/Teilhard_us Teilhard

        phantomreader42: I am not sure what you are referring to. My moniker is taken from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a world-renown paleontologist who spent his life searching for fossils of early hominoids. His most well-known discovery were multiple skeletons of “Peking Man”, now classified as Homo Erectus in China in the late 1920s.

        Teilhard was inspired in his research on the origins of humanity by his religious beliefs. Teilhard was a Jesuit, Catholic priest who used evolutionary science to search for clues about the Creator.

        http://www.teilhard.com

        Peace,
        W. Ockham

        • phantomreader42

          So, you KNOW that your “random chance” dig is a misrepresentation, but you keep using it anyway. That’s called “lying”. Again, I ask, isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

          • Thorgasm

            It’s either random or its driven by a super intellect. There is no third option, contrary to you neck bearded bluster.
            On a purely materialistic world view, in order for nature to “select” a trait, the trait has to arise in the first instance by RANDOM mutation. If a fish never has the gift of randomly mutated fins that allow it to crawl out of the pond, nature cannot “select” that trait and eventually give rise to amphibians. If the fish is randomly given, say, a penis when it really needs leg-like fins, no advantage, no evolution.
            This is apart from the fact that an overwhelming majority of mutations are harmful, many of those that are not harmful are neutral, and many of those that are helpful just don’t pass along to the next generation because of recessive genes, or because the amphibi-fish might have simply starved to death upon crawling out of the ooze, before having a chance to mate. In short, the odds of ANY beneficial mutations occurring AND being passed down is astronimically small. So your position that this was the sole mechanism for turning amino acids into Hawkins is a tough one defend.
            Also the “selection” of what random mutations are helpful for survival depends largely upon what conditions RANDOMLY happpen to prevail in a particular time and place. If the Earth hadn’t cooled significantly about 65 million years ago, nature would still select giant lizards over small mamals. While you seem to think the “environment” is something like the Force in Star Wars, intelligently picking and chosing what survives for the purpose of creating more complicated forms, this ignores the randomness of near earth collisions, fluctuations in solar output, ocean currents, etc. Let’s say I’m the first of Darwin’s mutated fish that you have on your bumper. I finally hit the random mutation lottery and sprout feet, but I happen to sprout them at a time when the pond is full of water, rather than receeding. The feet only make me swim slower, and I am eaten. There is no reason to expect that this one in ten million occurrence will EVER happen at a time when it actually helps.
            Also, while the actions of predators/competitors could be characterized as some type of non-random process, the facts remains that these predators and competitors are also the result of random mutations, with randomly arising traits selected only by environmental factors that happen to be prevailing at the exact place and time the mutation happens.
            For these reasons, its impossible to describe natural selection as something other than random, without describing it as some type of transcendent, intelligent, creative force.

          • phantomreader42

            “Thorgasm”, like all creationists, you are willfully ignorant of what evolutionary theory actually states and predicts, and the evidence supporting it, despite this information being readily available. Like all creationists, you misrepresent science. Like all creationists, you have had it REPEATEDLY explained to you how your strawman of evolution is a dishonest misrepresentation. And, like all creationists, you keep on repeating the same misrepresentations, knowing them to be false, because admitting the truth would make your worthless delusions crumble to dust.

            Why can’t creationists ever bring themselves to tell the truth?
            Isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

          • Thorgasm

            All you did was simply paste your previous reply to Tielhard. Wouldn’t it save everyone a lot of time if you simply admitted that your entire worldview lies shattered at your feet? Yours is a petty, local, trivial, and earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

          • phantomreader42

            Why should I bother writing a new response to the same old warmed-over idiocy? You are full of shit and a self-important delusional liar to boot. Your idiotic strawmen couldn’t shatter a soap bubble, much less the worldview of anyone with a single functioning brain cell. Go fuck yourself, worthless whining troll.

          • Thorgasm

            So you have relieved yourself of the burden of explaining your position because…. How highly rational of you. Also your almost immediate resort to ad hominem attack speaks volumes about the intellectual merits of your position, as does Hallq’s failure to remove these attacks as he has done with the supposedly ‘substance-free insults’ of theists. I guess ‘substance free insults’ only warrant condemnation when they are made by theists?

          • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

            Thorgasm, you are lucky that I am a generous moderator, or else I would have banned you from this thread entirely by now. The only comments of yours I’ve disemvowelled were the ones consisting entirely of insults. Phantomreader42, on the other hand, actually had a point: ze really doesn’t have to write an original reply if hir previous one applies to you as well.

            I’m happy to let my comment threads be a place for creationists to demonstrate for the upteenth time that they do not know what they are talking about, but I agree with hir that you really should go fix that problem of yours before continuing to try to participate in conversations like this one.

  • phantomreader42

    Creationists don’t WANT to learn. They worship their own willful ignorance.

  • http://deusdiapente.blogspot.com/ JQuinton

    Easier (yet snarkier) response: If Christianity is self-refuting (we should reject moral relativism, yet the bible itself is morally relative [why do we no longer stone women who aren't virgins on their wedding day?]) shouldn’t Christians reject it?

    • Thorgasm

      No because it is still more coherent than anything you neck bearded pussies could propose about morality.

  • Thorgasm

    Because neck bearded asswipes like you constantly just say it without offering any support.

  • Thorgasm

    No Eric, you really are that big of a douche, otherwise you wouldn’t feel the need to address the point. But dogmatically denying your dogmaticism flows naturally from the fact that atheism is, when carried to its logical conclusion, incoherent:
    http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/higher-things/2011/nov/19/atheism-why-it-logically-incoherent
    http://www.catholicthinker.net/the-incoherence-of-atheism/
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/4-arguments-transcendence.htm
    http://www.reasonsforgod.org/the-best-reasons/the-argument-from-reason/

  • Thorgasm

    In my experience the atheistic/agnostic mantra of “there is no evidence” is typically premised upon an arbitrary and subjective definition of evidence. Because evidence is a legal term, and this discipline has written the most about the concept, it would make sense to consider the legal definition of evidence before declaring that there is none.
    “[E]vidence is defined as ‘all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved.’” Forshey v. Principi, 284 F.3d 1335, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2002). “[E]vidence includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact is established or disproved, and is further defined as any species of proof legally presented at trial through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury.” People v. Victors, 353 Ill. App. 3d 801, 811-812; 819 N.E.2d 311 (2004).
    Notice the use of the terms “any” and “all” in these definitions. A whole lot of things count as “evidence.” Testimony is included within the definition of evidence, although it is “not synonymous with evidence” because evidence “is a more comprehensive term.” People v. Victors, supra at 811-812. In other words, personal religious experiences, COUNT AS EVIDENCE as that term has been legally defined, something atheists find hard to accept. This also means that the Gospels, for example – as “records, documents” – fall within the definition of “evidence” as well. Atheists and skeptics may say that these are not reliable forms evidence, but to say there is NO evidence is simply false.
    Also, the philosophical evidence for God’s existence (First cause, argument from contingency, argument from reason, moral argument, apparent fine tuning) might not strictly meet the definition of evidence, but the philosophical evidence does – coupled with the existence of the universe and consciousness itself – give rise to a “presumption.” A “presumption” comes about when the “finding of a basic fact gives rise to existence of presumed fact, until [the] presumption is rebutted.” Wilner v. United States, 24 F.3d 1397, 1411 (Fed. Cir. 1994). “Although not evidence, a presumption can be a substitute for evidence if it is not rebutted.” Id. Most atheists will freely admit that they have no evidence disproving God – they usually fall back on the fact that it is not their burden. However, if there is a presumption of God’s existence (and at least 4 1/2 billion people would say there is), then atheists do in fact carry the burden of rebuttal.
    Most atheists/skeptics confuse “evidence” with “conclusive evidence,” sometimes termed “conclusive proof,” which is defined as “evidence so strong as to overbear any other evidence to the contrary.” Black’s Law Dictionary 636 (9th ed. 2009). It is also defined as “[e]vidence that so preponderates as to oblige a fact-finder to come to a certain conclusion.” Id. There may not be, in the atheists/skeptics view, evidence that “obliges” them to accept God’s existence. But this does not mean there is no evidence at all, only that he has not seen what he considers to be “conclusive evidence.” Also, note again the first part of Black’s definition – “evidence so strong as to overbear any other evidence to the contrary.” Atheists admittedly have no “evidence to the contrary,” so ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL(i.e., personal religious experience) becomes “conclusive proof” by courtroom standards.
    So in summary: why do you reject the evidence? Because you consider the idea of God absurd. Why is the idea of God absurd? Because of the lack of evidence. Your entire atheistic world view flows from this circular reasoning, which itself flows from a fundamentally flawed concept of what “evidence” is.

    • phantomreader42

      The testimony of the voices in your head does not count as evidence, no matter how much you want it to. Your cult has never been able to show that your imaginary friend is anything more than a figment of your diseased imagination, despite centuries of murdering people for disagreeing with your idiocy.

    • Ophis

      “In other words, personal religious experiences, COUNT AS EVIDENCE as that term has been legally defined…”

      I doubt that evidence of this kind would ever be accepted in court. If I claimed to be able to solve an unsolved murder because I had a dream or vision or strong feeling telling me who the killer was, would you expect it to result in a prosecution, even if there was no evidence to contradict me?

      “This also means that the Gospels, for example – as “records, documents” – fall within the definition of “evidence” as well.”

      This evidence would also be unlikely to hold up well in court. We have anonymous writers recording events they probably never saw, based on sources of unknown reliability, several decades after the events allegedly happened.

      You should also remember that many religions which contradict yours also have evidence of a similar quality (or lack of quality). I do not find the Christian evidence compelling for the same reason you and I do not find the evidence for Mormonism or Islam or classical Paganism convincing.

      ” A ‘presumption’ comes about when the ‘finding of a basic fact gives
      rise to existence of presumed fact, until [the] presumption is
      rebutted.’”

      The philosophical arguments have been rebutted, and I find the rebuttals convincing. I therefore have no reason to make this presumption. In fact I would make the opposite presumption, based on the improbability of something as complex as an intelligent mind existing without a simpler prior cause. That puts the burden of providing good evidence on the theist.

      • JohnH2

        Mormonism is a part of Christianity, it just is very different from the standard version.

        • Ophis

          Yes, but the beliefs specific to Mormonism and any evidence in their favour are not accepted by the majority of Christians, so I think it’s still a relevant example.

      • Thorgasm

        The fact that you remain unconvinced, from the confines of your solipsistic bubble of nihilism, does not mean the philosophical arguments ‘have been rebutted.’

        • Ophis

          You have not attempted to establish their validity here, so I have not attempted to disprove them. My point is that I do not find them as convincing as you evidently do so I have no reason to make the presumption you want me to make. The mere existence of Christian philosophical arguments does not mean that they are any good, so you can’t just name them and expect me to jump on board.

          • Thorgasm

            I guess that’s more of a comment on your dogmatic devotion to Godlessness, than it is on the strength of the philosophical arguments (which you misstate as being Christian arguments when in fact they simply point to A Creator – does incorrectly calling them ‘Christian’ somehow help you justify your irrational rejection of them?)

          • Ophis

            Firstly, I note that you have not expressed any disagreement with my earlier summary of the state of the evidence for Christianity and my comparison of it to legal evidence.

            “I guess that’s more of a comment on your dogmatic devotion to Godlessness, than it is on the strength of the philosophical arguments”

            Frankly I didn’t want to hijack a comment thread to engage in an unrelated detailed attack of five separate philosophical arguments, when those details were not necessary to explain my disagreement with what you said. Especially since you have simply named the arguments rather than attempting to justify them yourself.

            In short, every argument you named is a God-of-the-gaps style argument from ignorance, positing a god to fill in anything we don’t yet know (for example about the origins of the universe or of human morality). This is fundamentally no more sensible than the Greeks using Zeus to explain the mystery of thunder. The arguments provide no explanatory mechanisms and therefore do not add to our understanding. The necessity of a sentient being rather than an unknown non-sentient mechanism as an explanation is asserted, often without justification.

            The majority of philosophers agree with me in finding the philosophical arguments unconvincing, as Chris Hallquist has noted in past posts. That doesn’t make them right of course, but it makes it problematic to simply dismiss all disagreement as being dogmatic.

            “does incorrectly calling them ‘Christian’ somehow help you justify your irrational rejection of them?”

            I called them Christian because they are widely used by Christians and I am most familiar with them in their use by Christians. Call them theist arguments if you prefer, my rejection of them is not dependent on their relation to Christianity.

          • Steve Willy

            “The necessity of a sentient being rather than an unknown non-sentient mechanism as an explanation is asserted, often without justification.”
            And from whence did this non-sentient mechanism come? Another non-sentient mechanism? I think your alleged ‘majority of philosophers’ would agree that you cannot have an infinite chain of regresses. And that not a God of the gaps argument because that gap will always exist. But by asserting ‘God of the gaps,’ throwing in an obligatory reference to Zeus, and topping it off with some pseudo-intellectual blather, you have eloquently parodied the stereotypical Internet atheists stock argument.

          • Ophis

            “And from whence did this non-sentient mechanism come?”

            The same place your God came from. I’m not saying I know exactly what caused the universe, if it has a cause. I’m saying that if the universe does have a cause, the sentience of that cause is unestablished, and if it’s not sentient I’m not willing to call it God.

            “And that not a God of the gaps argument because that gap will always exist.”

            How does the gap’s supposed permanence stop it being a God of the gaps argument? The error is the same, you just get to keep on making the error for longer.

            ” throwing in an obligatory reference to Zeus,”
            That is because you are making the same mistakes as believers in Zeus, which is to try to fill a gap in our knowledge by asserting a god, and hoping that the gap can’t be investigated empirically in the future.

          • Steve Willy

            ‘The same place your God came from.’
            ‘My God’ is the unmoved mover, He is timeless and had no origin. This has been a part of Christian doctrine for centuries. I have a hard time believing you have not been told this before. The only rational explanation for the intentional ignorance betrayed by this response is that you are seeking to confuse the issues on purpose. Perhaps that is not your fault, since you are arguing from a position that is, at bottom, incoherent in the first place. Garbage in, garbage out. Regardless, You have either forfeited any right to further response, or have proven that any further response would be futile. At bottom, your is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

          • Ophis

            “‘My God’ is the unmoved mover, He is timeless and had no origin.”

            You have not explained why something timeless and without origin must necessarily be sentient. That is the problem I tried to explain in my previous response. The alleged properties of God which allow Him to create a universe while avoiding infinite regression have no obvious correlation with sentience.

          • Ophis

            “At bottom, your is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.”
            My philosophy is one of admitting what we do not know, rather than positing a being oddly like us to hide our ignorance. My philosophy is not the one that invented the concept of a “holy land” covering a small section of our local chunk of debris.

            Gen 1:14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night;
            and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” Mine is not the philosophy claiming that basically the entire universe, most of which is still unobservable to us, was created solely for the benefit of earthbound farmers and sailors.

            Mine is not the philosophy claiming the creator of this immense universe has ever been driven to murderous anger by the dietary, clothing, and sexual habits of one tribe representing a tiny proportion of one species.

            I recognise that humanity is not, in any sense, at the centre of the universe, while your philosophy makes humanity the reason for the universe’s existence and the primary concern of its human-like creator. How can you call my philosophy petty, trivial, localized and earth-bound?

    • Dorfl

      The legal definition of evidence has been chosen because it is appropriate for the kind of problems the legal system has to solve. The scientific definition, which is the one you want to use if you want to figure out what the external world is like, is fairly different. It’s also a bit fuzzier, but to get the basic idea I’d recommend studying Bayes’ theorem as a starting point.

      • Thorgasm

        The ‘kinds of problems the legal system has to solve’ are otherwise known as determining truth. So I think it’s pretty appropriate to this discussion. Saying only science’s definition of ‘evidence’ can count, to the extent science even attempts to define the term ( notably you do not offer such a definition), is the philosophical position of scientism. So you have already gone beyond science to establish science’s alleged monopoly on truth. And that is where your entire world view crashes down around your feet.

        • Dorfl

          “The ‘kinds of problems the legal system has to solve’ are otherwise known as determining truth.”

          Things would be a lot simpler if that were true. The legal system also has to convince onlookers that the defendant has been given a fair trial, and that the odds of an innocent being convicted are very low. This means that it has to treat evidence in a way that accepts the human brain’s fairly quirky view of what is or isn’t fair, it has to handle evidence in a way that’s simple enough for onlookers to verify and it has to overweight evidence in favour of the defendant.

          Also, if were true that the legal definition said that any amount of evidence is enough to be conclusive, if there is no opposing evidence, then I’d simply say that the legal definition is bad enough to be useless. It’s not possible to have a meaningful discussion about evidence without some concept of a null hypothesis – a starting assumption that a certain minimum of evidence is needed to overturn. Now, the legal system does have a null hypothesis – that the defendant is innocent – so it isn’t actually true that any evidence can be conclusive, even for the legal definition of evidence.

          “Saying only science’s definition of ‘evidence’ can count, to the extent science even attempts to define the term (notably you do not offer such a definition), is the philosophical position of scientism.”

          I think we should use those methods for finding out what the world is like that have tended to work, and avoid those that have tended to fail. ‘Science’ is the word we have made up to refer to a very large subset of those methods that work. So far, the methods included in science are the only ones that have been much use for answering questions that we can’t get direct sensory data about (unlike e.g. “is there any milk left in the fridge?”, “is that person very angry?”) but also aren’t purely mathematical. If preferring to use science for those kind of questions is any kind of philosophical position, then “making sandwiches out of bread is a good idea while making sandwiches out of rock is not” is a philosophical position.

          If I had to give a general scientific definition of evidence, I would say that evidence for/against an idea is “anything you can in principle insert into Bayes’ theorem that appreciably changes the probability of that idea being true”. Each particular scientific field then has some rules of thumb for which things actually do change probabilities appreciably and which don’t. For example, while the current hat fashion in principle must have some effect on the probability that the neutrino masses follow a normal rather than an inverted hierarchy, that effect is so microscopic that no particle physicist would waste time worrying about it. Hence, hat fashions are not considered viable evidence in the field of particle physics. Each field will also have some methods it uses to evaluate evidence that end up being more or less equivalent to using Bayes’ theorem, since actual Bayesian calculations are relatively rare in most fields.

          Note that with this generic definition of scientific evidence there is some evidence for Christianity – I agree with you on that point – but that evidence is very, very weak. Revelation and the Bible certainly make the truth of Christianity more probable than if those things hadn’t existed. Just like revelation and the Havamal make the truth of Asatro more probable than it would otherwise have been, and like revelation and the Koran make the truth of Islam more probable than it would otherwise have been, etcetera. All the currently available evidence does is to increase an enormously tiny probability by several orders of magnitude, into another enormously tiny probability.

          • Thorgasm

            But you’re starting from the premise that God’s existence is ‘an enormously tiny probability.’ You have no basis for that assumption, apart from perhaps a mindless adoption of Dawkins’ arguments. When Dawkins says that God’s existence is highly improbable, it’s really a meaningless statement because it presupposes that he can observe one stack of universes that are known to be created, compare them to a second stack of universes known to be the product of blind pitiless indifference, see how ours stacks up. In reality, the existence of something rather than nothing, the highly fine tuned universal constants needed for life to even occur, and the basic nature of human consciousness all make yours and Dawkins’ starting position (‘God is highly improbable’) irrational.
            As is your continued philosophical assertion about the primacy of science. You typed a lot about that but never really addressed the fact that your scientism is incoherent. Moreover, it is dangerous as evidenced by your assertion that the legal system as a whole would be ‘bad enough to be useless’ if it didn’t conform to your scientistic standards. How many other institutions would be ‘useless’ under your world view? Can you not see how this quickly leads to a scientocracy which nullifies everything we define as democracy on the grounds that such institutions are not ‘scientific’ enough? Or is that actually what you and your ilk strive for?

          • Dorfl

            “But you’re starting from the premise that God’s existence is ‘an enormously tiny probability.’”

            So far, I haven’t actually discussed non-specific Gods. I’ve said that
            the a priori probability of Christianity being true is very, very low.
            That’s because the large number of possible religions necessarily makes
            the probability of any particular one being true very low, before you
            start looking for evidence supporting it.

            “In reality, the existence of something rather than nothing [...]”

            This assumes that nothing is the default state. While that assumption is
            intuitively reasonable, it does not seem to match reality.

            “[...] the highly
            fine tuned universal constants needed for life to even occur [...]”

            I’ve studied cosmology. Whatever apologists claim, it isn’t clear that the universe actually is fine-tuned.

            [...] and the
            basic nature of human consciousness [...]”

            The basic nature of human consciousness remains an unsolved problem. You cannot currently use it to support any argument.

            “[...] all make yours and Dawkins’ starting position (‘God is highly
            improbable’) irrational. As is your continued philosophical assertion
            about the primacy of
            science. You typed a lot about that but never really addressed the fact
            that your scientism is incoherent.”

            It’s true that I didn’t take the time to point out that the strawman is, in fact, made out of straw.

            I haven’t made a ‘philosophical assertion about the primacy of science’.
            I’ve made the very simple claim that doing what tends to work is a good
            idea and doing what tends to fail is a bad one. I’ve also claimed that
            our word for “those methods of finding out things about the external
            world not directly accessible to our senses that have tended to work” is
            ‘science’. My argument is essentially a more general version of “Do you
            know what
            they call alternative medicine that actually works? Medicine”.

            “[...] your assertion that the legal system as a whole would be ‘bad enough to
            be useless’ if it didn’t conform to your scientistic standards.”

            I said that the legal definition of evidence would be bad enough to be
            useless if it allowed convictions based on any amount of evidence, no
            matter how small. I’m sure you can see for yourself why that is, without
            needing to bring any philosophy into it.

            If you don’t mind, I’ll ignore the last three sentences you wrote.
            Around that point, you stopped even pretending to be addressing anything that had actually been said.

          • Steve Willy

            “So far, I haven’t actually discussed non-specific Gods….”
            So you’ve arbitrarily changed the subject mid-stream and then declared yourself the ‘winner’?

            “This assumes that nothing is the default state. While that assumption is intuitively reasonable, it does not seem to match reality.”
            Uh, yeah it does. Thermodynamics and Big Bang cosmology strongly point to nothingness as a ‘default state,’ as does philosophy, unless you are in the camp that has declared philosophy dead and irrelevant due to the ‘ victory of scientism.’

            “I’ve studied cosmology.”
            This is a specious attempt at an argument from authority. Sadly for Neckbeardom, you have failed to establish how your alleged ‘study of cosmology’ would be authoritative or even rises above the high school level. Quote mining articles about cosmology for statements that support your presuppositions is not ‘studying cosmology.’

            “Whatever apologists claim, it isn’t clear that the universe actually is fine-tuned.”
            So you admittedly don’t even know what ‘apologists claim’? This really begs the question of whether you even care to engage the arguments. It also begs the question of how you can know these arguments are wrong before knowing what they are. What you are really saying is, ‘whatever the apologists say, I know they are wrong because I know a priori that God doesn’t exist.’ Not exactly following the evidence wherever it leads.

            “The basic nature of human consciousness remains an unsolved problem. You cannot currently use it to support any argument.”
            Says who? You’ve simply stated your opinion as a conclusion here. The mere existence of religious beliefs, however diverse they may be, across time and geography, says something about the basic nature of human consciousness that you really have to deal with. You seem to think that the diversity of religious beliefs across history and cultures makes it unlikely that any particular one is true. But there is another perspective: wherever people are, religion of some form follows ( and it arises independently, contrary to the popular necked bearded meme that one guy crawled out of the desert, made some stuff up, and tricked a billion people). To me this makes it more probable that at least one is true. There are over 200 active languages on the face of the earth. All purport to accurately convey thoughts between minds. Do you say that all must be false because they can’t all be right?

            “It’s true that I didn’t take the time to point out that the strawman is, in fact, made out of straw.”
            I take it this means you do not advocate scientism as a world view? Then good, we agree on something. However, everything else you’ve said suggests that you really do hold the view of scientism and either cannot recognize it, or refuse to acknowledge it because you know it’s irrational. Either way, this internal inconsistency renders your entire world view irredeemably incoherent.

            “I said the legal definition of evidence would be….”
            I suppose you’ve studied law in much the same manner that you’ve ‘studied cosmology.’ The reality is, if a single witness took the stand and said ‘I saw OJ kill Nicole,’ that is not only ‘evidence’ in the sense that you can base a prosecution on it and the jury gets to hear it (its not inadmissible as hearsay, etc.) but if believed, it is enough to convict. But when hundreds of witnesses say ‘I saw God,’ the atheist says ‘there is no evidence.’ There is evidence and they just don’t believe it. Why the reluctance to admitting that?

            “If you don’t mind, I’ll ignore….”
            Again, this demonstrates either an inability, or a willful refusal, to follow the implications of your world view to their inevitable conclusions. At bottom, your is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

          • Dorfl

            “So you’ve arbitrarily changed the subject mid-stream and then declared yourself the ‘winner’?”

            I’ve explicitly discussed Christianity from the start. You misread me as discussing come kind of generic god. I pointed out that that wasn’t actually what I said.

            “[...] as does philosophy, unless you are in the camp that has declared philosophy dead and irrelevant [...]”

            I think philosophy has a very low success rate at describing what the universe is actually like. This means philosophical arguments can be taken fairly lightly.

            “Thermodynamics and Big Bang cosmology strongly point to nothingness as a ‘default state’ [...]”

            How?

            “So you admittedly don’t even know what ‘apologists claim’?”

            I’ve heard different apologists use different versions of the fine-tuning argument. I don’t know which version you have heard. All of them rely on knowledge that we don’t actually have. Specifically, they make unfounded assumptions about the extent to which physical parameters could be different from what they are, and they make wild extrapolations about what fraction of the available phase space would give inhabitable universes based on very limited information.

            “You’ve simply stated your opinion as a conclusion here.”

            Find any neuroscientist, cognitive scientist, psychologist or psychiatrist you like, and ask them “Would you say that the basic nature of human consciousness is known?”

            “To me this makes it more probable that at least one is true.”

            More probable than it would otherwise have been, sure.

            “There are over 200 active languages on the face of the earth. All purport to accurately convey thoughts between minds. Do you say that all must be false because they can’t all be right?”

            If French and German were belief systems that made contradictory factual claims I would have said at most one of them could be right. But unlike religions, they aren’t.

            “I take it this means you do not advocate scientism as a world view?”

            I think we should use whichever methods have tended to be effective at generating knowledge, and avoid the ones that have consistently failed to do so. If you want to pretend that this is a ‘world view’ or an ‘-ism’, that’s up to you.

            “…but if believed, it is enough to convict.”

            Meaning that even without opposing evidence it isn’t enough to give ‘any’ evidence to get a conviction. It also has to be believable. I’m glad you agree with me on this point.

            “There is evidence and they just don’t believe it. Why the reluctance to admitting that?”

            I already have said that there is evidence, just not enough to be convincing.

  • MNb

    @Thorgasm: “the argument from reason rests upon the fundamental differences between physical things and immaterial mental states.”
    Mental states are material. Weitnauer is talking about “soul”, a concept for which there is exactly zero evidence and that doesn’t contribute anything to our knowledge and understanding. Moreover Weitnauer is not arguing against atheism but against materialism. Not all atheists are materialists. How dogmatic of you.

    “to claim that there is no Santa Claus is to claim that you know that there is no Santa Claus”
    False representation of what reductionism is.

    “this does not logically entail the conclusion that there are no immaterial phenomena.”
    That’s correct, but Kreeft forgets that’s he who has to show there are immaterial phenomena indeed – Occam, you know.

    “the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing.”
    So what? Knowledge still depends on human brains, thus is thoroughly materialistic. No brains, no knowledge as seems to apply to bacteria.
    And of course Kreeft is arguing against materialism too, not against atheism. How dogmatic of you, Thorgasm.
    Same for the catholic thinker. I hate white letters on a black background, so I’m not going to read that.

    “If his worldview were true, then the principle of non-contradiction – or any other rule of logic….”
    Has been addressed a zillion times already. The principle of non-contradiction only depends on the meaning of the words “and” and “not”. No supernatural entity needed. Just another god-argument that sucks.
    Great job, Thorgasm. Oh wait.

    “rules of logic are immaterial”
    So Kohlmayr doesn’t know the difference between atheists and materialists either. How dogmatic. Well, what else could I expect from someone who expresses his christian love with words like “bearded pussies” and “asswipes”?
    At least you recognize that your god-claim needs evidence, so CH didn’t write this article for you. Pity for you that your evidence doesn’t hold.

    @JohnH2: the only evidence I accept is the one that passes scientific scrutiny, because that’s the only way to guarantee objectivity. Nothing you bring up does; it’s all completely subjective. This is basically what Ophis is arguing.

    • JohnH2

      MNb,

      There are plenty of fields of knowledge that are not scientific, such as mathematics (or economics, or art, or music, or history, and so forth), but which you still use the knowledge of. I realize that this isn’t your point and doesn’t address what I said, but saying you only accept science is to worship science and ignore the vast array of fields of study which add to human knowledge but can not be said to be science as normally understood.

      Extending lifespan is not subjective but an objective measure. Cohort studies are not subjective in that manner, they very objectively say things like LDS live longer than any other studied group. The study on monkeys seems pretty objective to me, and even studies of first person prayer objectively demonstrate that first person prayer has an effect, if you want to argue about placebo or double blindness fine do that, but that is still an objective effect. The only subjective part of that is the interpretation of the cause of those effects and excluding God when those being studied claim it is God doesn’t seem very objective to me.

      I am quite interested in how the scattering and gathering of Israel is a subjective fact. Objectively there are many multiple places where that is predicted in the Bible, both Old and New testament. Objectively the jews have been saying “Next year in Jerusalem” for nearly 2000 years. Objectively the Jews retained their identity as a people in foreign lands, which is a very rare phenomena to do so even for a few generations. Objectively the jews were persecuted, if the words objective and persecuted are to have any meaning at all. Objectively there is now a state of Israel, which state retook Jerusalem in 1967. What is subjective there?

    • Thorgasm

      I fail to see how any of this rebuts anything. Although you’ve used a lot of words, it’s basically just a rant flowing from your tautological major premise that mental states must be material because all that is is material. Then you deny being a materialist and criticize me for assuming you are. But your entire argument/rant flows from rigidly materialistic presuppositions whether you care to acknowledge it or not.

  • Thorgasm

    My point is that the atheist does not have any particular definition of ‘evidence’ in mind at all when they make the ‘no evidence’ assertion. Their shifting, arbitrary, and subjective definition allows them to disingenuously maintain their ‘no evidence’ stance, at least superficially, when presented with things that otherwise satisfy the Anglo-American legal definition of evidence.

    • eric

      No, that wasn’t your point. Its clear from your very first sentence in your original post that you think atheists have a definition of evidence – you just think its arbitrary and subjective. Here is what you said: “In my experience the atheistic/agnostic mantra of “there is no evidence” is typically premised upon an arbitrary and subjective definition of evidence. Because evidence is a legal term…”

      What I am telling you is to stop dodging the question and answer it forthrightly: according to their definition of evidnece – regardless of whether you reject that definition or not – is there evidence for God? Because their definition is the one they care about, and you aren’t going to convince any scientist or empiricst that there is evdence for God by telling them they need to change their definition of evidence. Your counterargument is nonresponsive, to what they are asking. Its a Clintonesque “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” response.

      • Steve Willy

        On atheism there is no foundation upon which any word can have objective meaning, since there is no basis for objective truth. So without being privy to the solipsistic, nihilistic inner workings of a particular neckbeard’s mind, I cannot even begin to answer your assinely worded ‘question.’

  • MNb

    @JohnH2: you’re writing incoherent nonsense.
    The study of economics and of history are science. Both do check theories against empirical data; in the case of history the data are provided by archeology. Art is art and doesn’t provide knowledge (I wrote an essay about music when I graduated as a teacher). Math (I teach it) doesn’t provide knowledge in the strict meaning of the word either. Math is about building coherent and consistent logical systems. On its own it doesn’t claim to say anything about our world. Example: change one of Euclides’ axioms and you get an entirely different logical system, in which eg the Theorem of Pythagoras doesn’t work. In itself it cannot say which one is “true” and which one isn’t. As math is so often used by branches of science you might say math is a half-science. Or if you want to annoy mathematicians, like I used to do, that it’s just relevant as an application.

    “you only accept science is to worship science ”
    just like eating noodles is to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    “ignore the vast array of fields of study which add to human knowledge but can not be said to be science as normally understood.”
    Either these fields compare theories with empirical data, thus are science and thus add to human knowledge or they don’t and aren’t science. Remember that I’m Dutch and thus my philosophy of science is thoroughly continental. What you might qualifiy as “normally understood” might not be as normal in Europe as you may assume. Here you’ll have to debate on my terms. That’s why I begun to wrote that the study of economics and of history are science. So are psychology, sociology, politicology, musicology and linguistics, to name a few.

    “LDS live longer than any other studied group.”
    Congratulations. “Thus the LDS-god” is a non-sequitur, not testable thus not science (assuming it’s true, something I’m not very interested in). Note that I never contradicted that this is a statement that can be investigated with the scientific method. So this is irrelevant.

    “that is still an objective effect.”
    I wrote nothing about first person prayer and am not really interested in the subject. You already argued yourself that “thus god” is a non-sequitur, thanks.

    “excluding God when those being studied claim it is God doesn’t seem very objective to me”
    What seems to you or not seems to you is even less objective. Thus god remains a non-sequitur.

    “Objectively there are many multiple places where that is predicted in the Bible”
    Really, you should learn the meaning of objective and subjective first.

    “What is subjective there?”
    Thus god.

    • JohnH2

      “What you might qualifiy as “normally understood” might not be as normal in Europe as you may assume.”

      If you want to change the definition which we are working with then that is fine. However, that doesn’t render what I said subject to the previous definition as nonsense or make it incoherent. It is obviously coherent enough for you to be able to explain the difference in understanding of the terms.

      “you should learn the meaning of objective and subjective first.”

      Did you want a list of those places?

      “Thus god.”

      The existence of God is a theoretical explanation for those objective facts; other theories may explain those facts as well (as is always the case). Saying Schizophrenia and “almost guaranteed to come true eventually”” are not remotely close to being viable theories that explain the facts. Saying you are uninterested in the facts is also not an explanation for the facts,

  • MNb

    @Thorgams: “I fail to see”
    I didn’t expect you to succeed.

    “your tautological major premise that mental states must be material because all that is is material”
    This is incorrect and it’s irrelevant for the point I made.

    “Then you deny being a materialist ”
    Comprehensive reading is hard, isn’t it? I never have denied I am a materialist. My point is that your links do not back up what you write and do not even show what they claim to show, simply because not all atheists are materialists. I don’t expect you to see it now either, given your special liking for non-sequiturs. Or perhaps you are just another Lying Troll for Jesus, given your filthy language further above. Either way you’ve made it impossible for me to take you seriously.
    In case you’re IQ equals room temperature: you can’t refute atheism by attacking materialism because they are not the same. Now go write that down 100 times so that you will never forget. When you are finished have a nice day and goodbye.

    • Steve Willy

      Your attempted surrebuttal simply confirms that you are a neck bearded nihilist douche. Naturally I cannot attack the beliefs of someone who conveniently believes in nothing.

  • MNb

    @JohnH: “The existence of God is a theoretical explanation for those objective facts”
    It’s no better theoretical explanation than fairies tending the flowers in my backyard – it explains everything, thus nothing. In exactly the same way paganists can maintain that thunder and lightning are expressions of Zeus or Thor (how do you distinguish between them and your god btw?) being angry.

    “Saying you are uninterested in the facts is also not an explanation for the facts,”
    I didn’t claim that. I mentioned it to make clear that I won’t bother to find scientific explanations for the phenomena you mentioned and won’t even bother to check if they are true, even if some look doubtful to me. That’s all. It’s tiring how atheists like me always have to explain every little remark until the last detail. It shows the lack of empathy of believers like you – they don’t want to take the effort to try the understand the Other. It makes you look unsympathetic and thus adds one reason not to convert, afaIc.
    What I wrote is that thus god is an non-sequitur and is subjective. You have brought nothing up to contradict this. First you have to show that your god, being an immaterial being by definition, is a meaningful concept regarding material reality. Then you still have to show how your theory of god explains the facts you mentioned (assuming you have represented them correctly), how it explains those facts better than scientific theories, which by definition exclude god (note that I don’t write that science disproves god – I feel that I need to explicitely mention this because the lack of empathy I sensed above) and how we can test those explanations.
    Btw I didn’t change any definition. Excellent philosophers of science like eg Karl Popper came up with them. And yes, calling the study of economics and of history not science without providing any standard shows a very incoherent understanding of what science is. Still I’m glad that you are capable of accepting coherent definitions. It makes it easier to show that the existence of your god is not a scientific theory. It can’t be tested by experiment and/or observation nor does it make any testable prediction. Now you can escape by stating that the existence of your god is only a theoretical explanation and not a scientific theory. Then we are back were we started: I only accept the scientific method in the quest for knowledge.
    Conclusion: the only way to maintain your belief system is to keep science out of it. That’s fine, but it makes the facts you mentioned irrelevant for the god question.

    • JohnH2

      ” being an immaterial being by definition,”

      Wait, what? where did you get that? Where is your empathy and attempting to understand here? You are making an invalid assumption about my faiths belief in God which if you took the effort to try and understand the Other then you would realize how unsympathetic this makes you look.

      “it make any testable prediction”

      It does make testable predictions. such as prayer having benefits, religion making people better, happier, and healthier, and even revelations which are observable predictions.

      MNb, if you say that you only accept the “scientific method” then you have again reverted to the first definition of science which I was using and to which Economics is not a field of that science. You are not being consistent here, Science is either a body of knowledge which is studied using observations OR it is a field of study which follows the scientific method. In neither case though does what I mention become irrelevant as there are testable predictions based on the hypothesis.

      Also, if you hit reply it would help in knowing when you have responded to me.

  • MNb

    @JohnH: ignorance is obviously not the same as lack of empathy/deliberately misinterpreting someone’s words. This mistake only confirms the latter point concerning you. You’re definitely an unreliable debating partner.
    Still thanks for teaching me something. I didn’t know indeed that your personal version of god is material. So I stand corrected: the christian, jewish and muslim god is immaterial by definition. Yours is not which means that you’re not a christian nor a jew nor a muslim. That’s fine; neither am I, so we have at least something in common.
    Now could you please drag your material god to my lab so that I can investigate him? You see, I am very curious to measure what his mass, his size and his colour is. Or in quantummechanical terms, his spin, electric charge and mass/energy. Not possible? Then your god hypothesis still is meaningless as matter has all the properties.
    I did a little research and learned that your Holy Spirit is immaterial indeed. If it is supposed to interact with you still part of your belief system is meaningless. Of course you are to dishonest to address this problem yourself; you prefer to hope that my ignorance discontinue. Like I wrote, unreliable.

    As for your predictions: if the empirical data show that atheists are averagely as happy and healthy as Mormons and that prayer does not work, will you deconvert? No? Then your a pseudoscientist. At least we have seen that atheist me is more honest than religious you, so according to your logic that indicates there is no god indeed – omitting relevant information is also a lie.

    You’ re still rambling incoherently about the scientific method. At least I know the reason why now (thanks for that too): your adhering a false dilemma. Science does both things you describe. Theoretical physicists build consistent and coherent theories; experimental physicists test them. In exactly the same way there are theories of economy and economical data. It’s not that hard.
    Now let’s do some experiments with your god and formulate a scientific theory about him, preferably using the language called math.

    • MNb

      must be: you prefer to hope that my ignorance continues.

      • Steve Willy

        The problem with the stereotypical Dawkins-parroting basement dweller like MNb is that their very participation in the discussion – indeed, your existence itself – is incoherent and must be explained before any serious discussion can occur. As a precondition to any conversation, the neckbeard should first be compelled to first answer the following: 1. Why is the atheist even engaging in the debate/discussion? On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth; there is no immaterial aspect to consciousness and all mental states are material. Therefore, everyone who ever lived and ever will live could be wrong about a thing. By what standard would that ever be ascertained on atheism? Also if atheism is true, there is no objective meaning to existence and no objective standard by which the ‘rational’ world view of atheism is more desirable, morally or otherwise, to the ‘irrational’ beliefs of religion. Ridding the world of the scourge of religion, so that humanity can ‘progress’ or outgrow it, is not a legitimate response to this because on atheism, there is no reason to expect humanity to progress or grow. We are a historical accident that should fully expect to be destroyed by the next asteriod, pandemic, or fascist atheist with a nuke. In short, if atheism is correct, there is no benefit, either on an individual or societal level, to knowing this or to spreading such ‘knowledge.’
        2. Related to this, why is the atheist debater even alive to participate. If there is no heaven, no hell, no afterlife at all, only an incredibly window of blind pitiless indifference, then the agony of struggling to exist, seeing loved ones die, and then dying yourself can never be outweighed by any benefit to existing. As rude as it may sound the atheist should have a coherent explanation for why they chose to continue existing. Failure to adequately address these threshold questions should result in summary forfeiture of the debate, and/or dismissal from the discussion forum.

  • Scott

    the cartoon above is pretty unfair. Not many Christians, and certainly not many professional theologians, would ever respond in the way it makes things appear.

    When Christians claim “God exists” and atheists ask for evidence, I can honestly say I have never heard a single Christian respond “you can’t prove he doesn’t”. Instead, I’ve seen them offer the evidence which has convinced them. And given this, the cartoon above seems to illustrate to me the dishonesty which is rampant in the New Atheist movement.

    And if it’s necessary for you to craft false scenarios like this in order to make your arguments, doesn’t this speak to the credibility of your own claims? Why say things like this when it’s clear that, at best, only a small minority of people (untrained ones at that) would ever make such a claim?


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