Absence of Evidence / Evidence of Absence

I started this off as a reply to a post in another thread, but it ran on a little and I wanted to see if anybody can pull my thinking on it to pieces.

Rain said:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

I see this sentiment expressed a lot, even amongst sceptics, and I wholeheartedly disagree.

To create an example: There is no evidence that a bulldozer has been recently parked in my garden. There is also no evidence that a bulldozer hasn’t been parked in my garden. So how am I to determine which is true? There’s no evidence either way, so let’s look at what the absence of evidence tells me:

1) The ground is soft yet there are no tread marks;
2) The gate is not wide enough to permit a vehicle and the wall is intact with no evidence of demolition and rebuilding;
3) The only place where a crane could fit to lift a bulldozer into my garden is on the street in front of my house, but nobody has seen or heard a crane;
4) Nobody has seen or heard a helicopter carrying a bulldozer, and there is no evident destruction from a helicopter’s down draft, such as loss of roof tiles;
5) I and my wife look out at the garden whenever we’re in the kitchen or the study, and neither of us has ever seen a bulldozer.

Conclusion? There has not been a bulldozer parked in my garden. Now, this is a good example because at face value it’s an extraordinary thing to ask me to believe – Somebody parked a bulldozer in my garden, but there’s no evidence of it now, and I didn’t notice it when it was there. However, there are real-world mechanisms that could make it possible; it’s just incredibly improbable. Occam’s Razor was designed to trim debates like this down to size very easily – Which is more likely: That there wasn’t a bulldozer, or that somebody sleeping-gassed my whole neighbourhood for however long it took to park, leave, unpark and remove all physical traces of, a bulldozer in my garden?

I said earlier that the prima facie extraordinary nature of this example makes it a good one – Because, when you think about it, it’s a good deal less extraordinary than claiming an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being created the entire universe and that (insert whichever religion) just happens to know everything he/she/it thinks about everything. In fact, insert pretty much any extraordinary claim that relies on faith here. There is no evidence that supports those claims, and that is strong evidence that those claims are false.

So have at it UFers. Is my thinking sound?

  • Fergus Gallagher
  • Greg G

    Absence of evidence where there should be evidence is evidence of absence. Absence of evidence is consistent with evidence of absence.

  • Cobalt

    The problem with your example is that you show evidence of absence. You show that there is evidence that a bulldozer has not been parked recently in your garden.
    Absence of Evidence would be trying to show that there has never been a bulldozer in the spot that was your garden at anytime during the past. Bulldozers are used sometimes in landscaping, so there might have been a bulldozer parked on that spot when your house was built. There is no evidence that such a thing did or didn’t happen; thus the Absence of Evidence.
    Remember, evidence that it was not there is Evidence of Absence, not Absence of Evidence.

    • FO

      That’s because God is a moving target.
      If you pray and nothing happens, that should be evidence of absence, but then people change the purpose of the prayer to a more abstract “to commune with God”.

    • http://www.brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      I agree. There’s a lot more nuance, especially when we’re talking about events of the past.

      Custador’s logic works for his specific example, but it doesn’t for Cobalt’s. And I think Cobalt’s gets at the types of things we’d want to get at more than Custador’s.

  • Bart Mitchell

    Your thinking is sound, for general common sense purposes.

    The problem is that common sense is overrated. It might be useful when crossing the street, or figuring out if you need an umbrella today, but it fails miserably when trying to figure out larger problems. Common sense would tell you that we live on a flat plane, and that the sun is a small hot ball that moves around us. Common sense would tell you that the moon has its own light. Common sense wouldn’t have ever figured out that tiny animals that can’t be seen by the human eye are responsible for disease.

    The claim demands that we must dig deeper into bigger claims. Just because you can’t feel the motion of the Earth, doesn’t mean it isn’t moving. Today, with the benefit of the hard work of the astronomers, we know how we can demonstrate the motion of our planet, but before that knowledge was common place, a skeptic could easily assert that there was a lack of evidence showing that the Earth moves through the celestial, and no way of disproving that the celestial doesn’t orbit the Earth.

    The claim is true, if your’e talking about things in the absolute. Trying to figure out if there are bulldozers in your garden hardly requires a professional philosopher, and if you ended up hiring one for researching that problem, you would first have to decide what happened to all the fairies that lived at the bottom of it.

    • Alan

      Absence of evidence is evidence of absence – not dispositive proof of it. It was perfectly rational to conclude the celestial revolves around the earth until the evidence against it piled up.

  • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

    I think this all depends on your definition of ‘evidence’. For one thing, a lot of people mistakenly conflate evidence with proof, or at least with compelling evidence, when it can merely be the slightest hint toward a particular position. Also, your example shows what to me would count as copious evidence, not an absence of it. The lack of treadmarks in soft ground is evidence. The gate being intact is evidence. The witnesses who attest there was no helicopter or crane amount to evidence. If somebody is accused of murder, somebody who saw them elsewhere at the time can give testimony which would be taken as evidence they did not do it, or the prosecution can argue that there were no witnesses to the crime who identified the defendant.. That’s not a lack of evidence that they committed the murder, that’s evidence they did not. Evidence doesn’t just have to be material or a positive assertion, it can be untouched material or negative assertions which make the allegation less likely.

    In brief, I’d say that in many cases absence of evidence is actually evidence of absence, in the literal sense. Not having the footprint of the alleged object in a place where a footprint would make sense if the object had actually been there is, in itself, a form of evidence.

  • Rich

    What is the link between absence of evidence that a bulldozer has been in your garden and and that of an omnipotent creator of the universe?
    An omnipotent creator could easily create minds which are limited so as not to be able to know either way, by rational thought processes, whether such a creator exists.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      Then that creator is a complete douchebag if he decides to make up arbitrary rules for us to follow, like who we’re allowed to have sex with or get married to, and unlike some lying liars I’m not putting marriage in scare quotes. He’s particularly evil if he deliberately cripples our minds so we can’t figure out if he exists but creates a place of eternal torture for us to go to if we guess wrong.

    • Custador

      Which raises the question of motive: For an intelligent entity to do something like that, there would necessarily need to be a reason behind it. What possible motive could God have for hiding? Why would God give us the ability to think critically, then punish us for using it?

      • John C

        ‘What possible motive could God have for hiding’?

        ‘that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us’. [Acts 17:27]

        ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in hidden places, so that you may know that I am the LORD who summons you by name’. [Is 45:3]

        • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

          Frankly, it’s the men of god groping me that I’m a bit more worried about. In seriousness, though, your random babble quotes contribute nothing to the discussion, as usual. Try to use your brain, you’re a human being, not a parrot.

        • kessy_athena

          Hmmm, so what you’re saying is that this entire universe was created for the sole purpose of Yahweh playing hide and seek with humans? I wonder how high you have to count to take 14 billion years before you can shout, “Ready or not, here I come!”

          • Rich

            14 billion years, where do you get that from?

            • kessy_athena

              The age of the universe. :P

            • Michael

              He is assuming God created the universe at or around the Big Bang, and rounded off to two significant figures. The commonly accepted “age of the universe” (i.e. time since the Big Bang) is 13.75 ± 0.11 billion years.

            • Rich

              There is no way that you could date the universe anywhere near accurately at 13.75 million years.
              And people just accept it as being true. :0)

            • Rich

              ….let alone billion!!

            • Sunny Day

              Rich you are using one of the most powerful devices for communicating information. You should try to use it more. http://bit.ly/12YMTR8

            • Yoav

              There is no way that you could date the universe…

              A: Thousands of physicists, basing their opinion on centuries of accumulated research and evidence collected by observing the real world that have been checked and double checked again and again, claim you can calculate the age of the universe with resonable accuracy to ≈13.57 billion years.
              B: Rich, based on a specific interpertation of a magic book and an opinion pulled out of his rectum, claim you can’t determine the age of the universe.
              A or B, I know which one I go with.

            • kessy_athena

              Rich, I am not going to get into the evidence for the age of the universe. It’s quite overwhelming, and you could find that out for yourself in a matter of seconds with the help of Google or Wikipedia. Clearly, you have decided that you are going to believe otherwise simply because you want to, regardless of what reality actually is. No evidence or argument about the facts of any kind will change that – you have effectively put yourself beyond the realm of rational discourse. You are, of course, welcome to believe what you like, but you cannot expect anyone else to take you seriously. Unless you’re willing to discuss why you want to believe what you do, we really have nothing to talk about.

            • Rich

              Fair enough, thousands of physicists have calculated to the best of their ability, on the basis of information available to them, a proposed age for the universe, but for anyone to accept this as fact is preposterous – it really is.

            • kessy_athena

              By your implied definition, there is no such thing as a fact. The only means humans have to learn about anything in the universe is through our senses and observation, and those are of course eminently fallible. We can never know anything with absolute certainty – there’s no guarantee that this universe even exists in any objective sense, and isn’t simply a dream. The best we can do is make the best guess we can based on the available information. And in that sense, the age of the universe is about as much of a fact as anything is.

            • FO

              Rich, are you saying that physicists are in a big conspiracy?

              Unlike religion, science asks only for your eyes.
              Take a book of physics and learn how the age of the Universe is calculated.
              You don’t need to trust a physicist for this: in theory you could repeat all experiments by yourself.

              The fact that much of what you will find in that book has actual, day-to-day applications should give you some confidence on the reliability of that stuff.

              For example: isotopes dating techniques depend on the same principles as fire alarms.
              Do you trust your fire alarms?

            • Sunny Day

              Rich translated: “Learning is hard.”

            • Custador

              Not so much. Rich translated: “Learning would force me to confront things that I believe to be true which are actually false”.

              It’s easy to demonstrate the age of the universe. Really. You can learn how to do it yourself very easily, but you won’t. You’ll believe your fairy tale, and say that those of us who can actually prove what they believe, are the deluded ones. I pity you Rich, I really do.

            • Rich

              kessy_athena says we can never know anything with absolute certainty. FO says a physics book will tell you. Custador says its easy to demonstrate the age of the universe.
              The suggested age of the universe of 13.75 billion years is just an estimate, based on assumptions.
              It’s not a conspiracy amongst physicists, but it seems circular reasoning has taken hold.

            • Custador

              You really are unwilling to learn, aren’t you?

            • FO

              No Rich, I told you that through a physics book you can learn how to calculate it yourself, you can learn why it is a reliable estimate and how to prove by yourself that it is a valid estimate.
              This is why I wrote “learn from a book” rather than “read from wikipedia”.

              A physics book is no Bible, you are NOT required to take every word as Truth: the ideas in a physics book can be tested and demonstrated by anyone, often without specialized equipment.

          • Sue Blue

            Hahaha – perfect! Great response. I’ve been asking fervid believers this very question for years, but I like the succint way you put it.

            • kessy_athena

              Thank you, feel free to steal the line. ;)

          • Michael

            Well, we have found a star (HE 1523-0901) which is 13.2 billion years old, so the universe must be at least that old. More significantly, we have found microwaves permeating the whole universe (so far as we can tell), which are old indeed. Precisely dating them does rely on some strong assumptions (albeit assumptions we are justified in making). Without these, the error is larger, and it is possible (though highly unlikely) that the universe is as old as 14 or 15 billion years. The dating of old stars is also subject to some error, so if you want to be extremely conservative, you might say the current age of the universe is between 13 and 15 billion years (defined as time elapsed since the Big Bang as measured by the reference frame of the CMBR).

          • John C

            Actually, we are the ones in hiding, ever since ‘biting’ into the ‘apple of independence’ [believing, ingesting the lie] He is veiled to ‘these’ eyes, in our darkened reality, in our world [Eph 4:18]. But all that’s required in order to ‘find’ Him is to agree with Him, what He says about who we are, where we’ve come from, etc, and this is the meaning of the word ‘repent’ [Metanoia in the Greek, essentially means to 'change the way you think, be renewed'] since His reality [kingdom] is ‘at hand’. It’s an ‘eye-opening’ journey, and its beautiful. He bids us to ‘follow Me’ all the way back home to our Origin’all ‘Father-land’ which is a place in His great heart, wherein we were all ‘conceived’ and went out from, yet through Christ we are re-you-Knighted in Him [1 Cor 6:17], One’s again. :)

            Happy New Yea UF, I love [still] love you!

            • kessy_athena

              So, all we have to do to be readmitted to Yahweh’s presence (which is ever so wonderful, since Yahweh says so) is to give up our free will and surrender our ability to think for ourselves. Sorry, but any god that would ask such a thing is not benevolent, is not trustworthy, and does not deserve to be followed. Remember that “worship” and “worthy” come from the same root.

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              Why am I not surprised that your violent, immature, cruel and despotic god wants everybody to live in a Fatherland?

      • cowalker

        The attribution of a “motive” to an omnipotent entity outside of material space and time is hard to justify. Similarly, it seems absurd to me to attribute human emotions such as love, grief, disappointment, jealousy, joy, or anger to this proposed entity. Yet these traits are essential to the Christian concept of God. The idea of salvation makes no sense without them. It seems transparently clear to me that humankind’s “God” is just a great big human, because how else could we conceptualize the non-material abstraction we can hypothesize as the ground of the physical universe?

        Now, if we apply human standards to God, what would we think of human parents who refused to represent themselves openly and equally to all the children in their family, who allowed many of their children to perish young from deprivation, who presented different rules to each child through other children, and then inflicted the harshest punishment for disobedience? I suspect that Child Care Services would have little patience with mutterings of “treasures of darkness” and “hidden riches.”

    • Custador

      Also: You just retreated into the equivalent argument of my whole neighbourhood getting sleeping gassed so a bulldozer could be installed then removed from my garden, and a team of landscapers could come and remove all evidence of it. Occam’s Razor, try to wield it.

  • http://lotsoftinyrobots.blogspot.com Collin

    The simplest way of putting it is Absence of Evidence IS Evidence of Absence if you would expect there to be evidence.

    In your example, given the presence of a bulldozer in your garage, you would expect to see tracks, damage to the garage, all the evidences you mentioned. Since you see none of these evidences, that is good reason to think the bulldozer absent.

    But the key here is that you must EXPECT there to be specific evidences given the bulldozer. If you did not look at the soft ground, or check for damage, or ask around to see if anyone had a crane, then you would truly have an absence of evidence that would not be evidence of absence.

    In your example, there exists counter-evidence to the bulldozer (unmarked ground, pristine garage, lack of eyewitness testimony where you would expect there to be some).

    On a side note, this sort of analysis doesn’t work as well with Russel’s Teapot. You wouldn’t expect to see the teapot in the sky so looking up and spotting nothing is not significant evidence against the teapot. For the teapot, we simply have to say we have no evidence for its existence and given the unlikelihood of the teapot a priori we can safely withhold belief.

    • Custador

      But if one of my neighbours knocked on my door wearing a cheap suit and a vacant grin, and asked me if I had heard the good news about the bulldozer in my garden, I certainly WOULD look for that evidence.

  • http://thehappyscientist.com Robert Krampf

    You picked the wrong example for this one. The lack of bulldozer tracks and the other examples you gave ARE evidence that no bulldozer was parked there, just as the absence of a visible fracture on an x-ray is evidence that your bone is not broken. There is still the possibility that the bone has a small fracture, but an image that did not show jagged, displaced pieces of bone would be evidence that your bone was not seriously broken. On the other hand, since the symptoms of a cold do not show up on an x-ray, an x-ray that lacks any evidence of a cold does not mean you don’t have a cold.

    A much better example would be to use a paved parking lot and a car for your example. The car might have been there, but there is no evidence one way or another. The fact that the car is not there now, and that there is no evidence of it being there does not mean that the car has not been there when no one was looking.

    • Sunny Day

      Your better example only works if you think god is playing hide and go seek. This is not what Christians are claiming.

      • KDubya

        I disagree. His example is much better than the bulldozer one, and doesn’t mention god or children’s’ games. While I do understand the point of the post was to try to discredit the phrase’s use as an argument regarding the… never mind, this example is better.

      • FO

        Some actually are.

    • Custador

      I think that’s exactly why it was the right example to use; Anything that exerts a force on anything else in the universe has a measurable effect by definition. If God leaves no tracks, it can only be because He has no influence over our universe – He’s either not relevant to us (the bulldozer was never in the garden) or he simply doesn’t exist (there is no bulldozer).

  • jose

    On the other hands, field scientists won’t stop finding new transitional fossils, filling gaps. That evidence was absent before they found it… how do we apply your idea to this?

    • Custador

      That evidence was not absent before, it was right there – We just hadn’t found it yet.

      • John C

        Exactly

      • kessy_athena

        We’re talking about evaluating an idea at a particular point in time, so the evidence that is relevant is the evidence that is present at that time. Evidence that could be discovered but has not or evidence that will be discovered in the future don’t count – they are not present at the time and therefore are absent just as much as evidence that simply doesn’t exist.

        I would suggest that when you are arguing about religion you shouldn’t try to disprove claims that are fundamentally speculative in nature, but rather you should concentrate on the relevance of the claim. For example, it is entirely possible that the universe was created by an intelligent being. So what? Why would that matter to anyone other then cosmologists investigating the origin of the universe? The only thing the existence of a creator tells you is that that being was capable of creating a universe. Our universe could just as well be sitting in a bottle on the desk of some alien grad student working on their dissertation. The question of the creation of the universe simply isn’t relevant to the question of religion.

      • jose

        ¬_¬ Gimme a break.

        I guess God exists then. The evidence for God is right there, just not found yet, right? Same for the bulldozer in the OP.

        • Custador

          Wrong. The Bible makes very specific claims for the things your God supposedly did; much like the bulldozer, if those claims were true, they’d have left tracks. Plus, in the case of Creationism in particular (and many other Biblical claims) there is a LOT of evidence against.

          • jose

            “there is a LOT of evidence against.”

            which will be easily and nicely explained away by the magnificent evidence that will be found someday, probably, maybe. No?

            If absence of evidence is evidence of absence, then why bother gathering evidence at all? You just need to go “Oh well, I see no evidence around: That means it doesn’t exist, case closed.” Darwin said in 1859 humans evolved in Africa. He had no fossils to back this up, only his theory of common descent. Darwin didn’t say “the absence of intermediate forms means such forms didn’t exist”. Instead, he took the opposite approach, saying that even if evidence is currently absent, light will be thrown into the issue by further discoveries. It took half a century to start collecting this evidence, and it was found because researchers didn’t share your opinion: they thought absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence (otherwise why bother organizing the trip at all?)

            Let me take a step further in this: those fossils were found. But in the hypothetical case that no human fossils at all had been preserved, if we had literally no transitional human fossils, would that be evidence that our evolution didn’t happen? Of course not. Therefore absence of evidence doesn’t allow you to draw conclusions.

            • Yoav

              Whether absence of evidence can be considered as evidence of absence is a case by case issue. For example, we don’t have any evidence for life outside the earth however since the universe is fukcing huge and we have only starting to study it it is not really surprising we haven’t found any even if there are billions of advanced civilizations out there, therefore the lack of evidence shouldn’t be considered evidence that earth is the only place where life exist. Custador’s bulldozer is a completely different case, everything we know about the universe tells us that if a bulldozer was parked on his lawn it will leave all kind of evidence, such as tracks in the grounds, it is therefore completely justified to consider the lack of any evidence as pretty strong evidence that there wasn’t a bulldozer parked there.

            • FO

              LOL, you ARE a Creationist…

              Darwin started from the fossil record to build up his hypothesis.
              It took a lot of time for Evolution Theory to be adopted.
              Since then, many things have changed, and we have evidence for Evolution that does not depend on the fossil record (from molecular biology, taxonomy, comparative anatomy, geographical distribution).

              No need for “evidence yet to be found” crap (yes, I strongly disagree with Custy on this).

            • Yoav

              Actually the fossil record played a very minor role in Darwin’s work, especially since there hardly was any at the time, in the Origin of Species Darwin even included a whole chapter explaining why the lack of fossils isn’t a good argument against his theory.

            • FO

              @Yoav: I disagree.
              We have evidence that life can emerge on at least a planet.
              It is not unreasonable to think that life could emerge on other planets.
              In fact, we could assume just as well that life emerges in ALL Earth-like planet.

            • FO

              @Yoav: the problem is that Creationists assume we treat The Origin the way they treat the Bible, this is why they continue to cite Darwin.
              We now know so much more than Darwin did… Modern evolutionary theory is not what Darwin had initially built.

            • Yoav

              It is not unreasonable to think that life could emerge on other planets.

              This is exactly the point I was making as to why the absence of evidence for life outside the earth can’t be taken as evidence for the absence of life outside the earth.

              @Yoav: the problem is that Creationists assume we treat The Origin the way they treat the Bible, this is why they continue to cite Darwin.
              We now know so much more than Darwin did… Modern evolutionary theory is not what Darwin had initially built.

              This is true, my point was with this one sentence of your previous post:
              “Darwin started from the fossil record to build up his hypothesis.”

            • kessy_athena

              @FO:

              “We have evidence that life can emerge on at least a planet.
              It is not unreasonable to think that life could emerge on other planets.
              In fact, we could assume just as well that life emerges in ALL Earth-like planet.”
              ——-
              But it’s just that – an assumption. We don’t know with much certainty at all what conditions are actually required for the emergence of life. Some things that we think are necessary may have alternatives in other environments, some things that haven’t even occurred to us as being relevant might be essential. That’s the problem with working with a sample size of one. And we’re only just starting to get an idea of what sorts of planets are out there just in terms of bulk properties – mass, diameter, orbit. So it’s entirely possible that there is something about Earth that makes it uniquely suitable for life. By a quirk of mathematics, if the universe is infinite, it’s even conceivable that life could be impossible in this universe, period. Multiplying zero by infinity can have any value, so in an infinite universe even things with a probability of zero can happen.

              Bottom line is we just don’t know, so this is a true case of absence of evidence. No conclusion can be reached.

            • Troutbane

              This side thread reminds me of something. My wife totally believes in ghosts (and God) but totally doesn’t believe in aliens. I told her, that I believe more in aliens then ghosts because I can speculate through what I know about the life and ecological sciences about the possibility of ex-terrestial life, but I have nothing for which to base a belief in ghosts other then grainy videos of douchebags running around abandoned hospitals at night.

            • FO

              @Yoav: agreed, I have some reading to do on that. =)

              @Kessy: Depends what information we have available.
              If Earth is the only planet we know, the assumption is that life will arise on ANY planet.
              When we learn that the planets of the Solar System are inhospitable, we will review that estimate down.
              As our knowledge increases, our estimate improves.
              The current knowledge is that there seems to be plenty of Earth-like planets, and therefore our best current estimate is that life (intelligent or not) should be relatively abundant.

            • kessy_athena

              @Troutbane: It sounds to me like you’re basing your opinion on how well those things fit into your pre-existing ideas of how the universe is. We all do that to some extent, but I think it’s something we need to be careful about, it can easily lead us down blind alleys. After all, the universe is under no obligation to make sense to us, and has a habit of doing as it pleases. I’d also point out that how well something fits into what you already know can be really subjective. Things that seem really outlandish at first blush may turn out to be entirely sensible with more investigation.

              @FO: I’m not seriously arguing that life is rare in the universe, I’m just saying that I think we should take the idea that life is common with very low confidence. Just the fact that our ideas on how common life is have gone through multiple drastic swings back and forth should say that what seems quite likely today could well turn out to be completely wrong tomorrow.

            • Troutbane

              @Kessy:
              No, I’m basing my ideas on things I have observed or studied, not on my preconceived notion. When new evidence comes along, I will change my opinion. For example, I have no qualms and would rather enjoy going to a psychic party. I have read up on both cold and hot readings but would approach what they say with an open mind. I understand enough math to know the difference between random chance and significance. If they could demonstrate they have skills beyond random chance, I might reanalyze my thoughts on psychics.
              There are lifeforms on this world that live in the most extreme environments that I don’t see why it is impossible to assume there might be lifeforms out there in all manner of shape and type in all manner of environments.
              There is no proof or evidence of a soul and no proof or evidence of ghosts. Nothing repeatable, its all been anecdotes. As this topic points out, no evidence.

            • kessy_athena

              @Troutbane: Then it sounds like I made some wrong assumptions about what you were saying. Sorry, my bad.

    • FO

      Assuming that the past populations weren’t an evolutionary dead end, every fossil is “transitional”: there is a continuum between past populations and modern population.
      Palaeontology is being continually updated as new evidence is uncovered.

      I do not understand what you imply the fossils are evidence for.
      If it’s evolution, it doesn’t need fossil evidence.

  • http://blog.noctua.org.uk/ Paul Wright
  • Theory_of_I

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    Perhaps if the terms are modified:

    Absence of evidence IS evidence of 100% unreliability.

    100% unreliability in this case means any given claim that has irrefutably failed to produce any evidence of it’s validity 100% of the time and is thereby shown to be 100% false.

    In all of recorded history, the claim that the supernatural is factual, or that anything exists in the imagined supernatural, has never produced one speck of evidence of it’s validity…and is therefor 100% unreliable.

    Note that this argument addresses the extant claim, not the imagined supernatural.

    Reasonable people base their decisions in life, both large and small, on the validity and reliability of the available information about the claims, assertions and assurances being made to them on a daily basis. A consensus of opinion among reasonable people will indicate that it would be foolhardy, indeed stupid and/or delusional, to accept as valid such claims when they are known to be absolutely unverified and 100% unreliable.

    Such 100% unreliable, unverified claims are the stock in trade of the industry if religion. Those who make the claims are charlatans. Those who believe the claims are, by default, fools.

    • FO

      That’s a good way to put it in lay terms.

  • Bob Jase

    Yup, you’re right.

    All sorts of bells & whistles & what-ifs can be supposed for the situation you described such as the bulldozer being invisible & intangible but there’s no evidence for that either.

  • Chris Campbell

    I like a sort of corollary statement that I think Christopher Hitchens was the first one to make – “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
    If you are making an extraordinary claim, I’m simply not interested in discussing it with you further unless you have some solid evidence for it, and “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is simply not going to cut it.
    It’s just like apologists who say to atheists “You can’t prove a negative.” Not you can’t, but they’re trying to prove a positive, which you CAN do, and they’re doing a pretty poor job of it so far.
    It comes down to this – the religious are the ones making the claims; if you don’t have some serious, real evidence, I’ve got better things to do with my time.

  • Jason
  • Michael

    I agree with most people here suggesting that in your particular case, there is indeed evidence of absence, and that evidence is not the absence of evidence per se, but rather negative results to experiments, which results are themselves evidence.

    When we want to evaluate a hypothesis, first we must attempt to assign prior probabilities based on what we already know. Then, we perform experiments (such as looking at the shape of the ground) which provide evidence for the hypothesis or the null hypothesis, or else are inconclusive. The experiments in your example were certainly not inconclusive. In fact, they strongly supported the null hypothesis. This should be assigned a posterior probability, which is weighed against the prior probability using Bayes’ theorem. If the tests had been inconclusive (e.g., you were unable to test if the ground had track marks because you don’t know what bulldozer tracks look like), then that would be an absence of evidence, and of course that couldn’t qualify as evidence of anything.

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” makes sense if you mean that an utter lack of information in general cannot be evidence of anything, which is of course true.

    The way this is commonly argued in religion, the types of tests we perform cannot be expected to find evidence of God whether or not he exists, and thus they do not give meaningful results. If this is true, then we cannot use those experiments to justify any sort of belief. But if we are to believe that God leaves no evidence, then we must use Occam’s Razor to achieve the most parsimonious conclusion: that God does not exist at all. Technically the theists are right—this is not actual evidence God is nonexistent. But like Carl Sagan’s dragon, if he does not impact the world at all, in what sense can we even really say he exists? Or even if for some reason we can say that, how can we ever know it is true? We are being asked to believe things for no reason at all (i.e. on “faith”), which is a ridiculous request.

    • kessy_athena

      If god (or anything else) truly leaves no evidence at all, then we simply wouldn’t know about them at all. Humans are creatures of the universe, and the only way we gain information about anything at all is by interactions with the universe. So, for us to know about god, that god must have interacted with the universe in some way at some time. And that interaction must operate by some mechanism that can at least potentially be examined and studied. Therefore, if there is any entity which leaves no evidence at all and is therefore fundamentally beyond the realm of science, then logically any knowledge we have about such an entity must be entirely fictitious, since there is no possible way for us to gain any information about it.

    • Custador

      If God leaves no evidence of having interfered with the universe, everything we know about physics says that means he cannot have ever interfered with the universe; that being the case, he either doesn’t exist or is totally irrelevant.

      • Michael

        Yes, this is what I am saying. I would make an even stronger statement that something with no impact on anything outside itself does not exist. The universe is closed with respect to it. And being “outside the universe” is in my mind no different from being “outside reality” (i.e. not real).

        But most people believe in an interventionist God that does affect the universe, but only when we’re not looking. This God technically would exist, but we probably could never discover it. Either way, we have no reason to believe in it, because we have no evidence. This is the “sneaky God” hypothesis, which is still a shitty hypothesis because it is not falsifiable.

        • FO

          It could very well be a sneaky God.
          But at the same time they could not know anything about Him, since He conceals Himself.
          How can they prove, for example, that it is NOT God who causes all wars and all natural disasters?

        • kessy_athena

          I would suggest that what we ordinarily think of as existence is a series of interactions between different things. I think, therefore I am; thinking is a complex interaction among your neurons. To see something, it has to interact with light that then has to interact with your eye. And so on, and so on. I’m inclined to think that it’s the interactions that have existence, not the things interacting. That would imply that the idea of a thing that exists between interactions is just a theoretical construct, a mathematical artifact to express conservation laws.

          • FO

            Once you get beyond classical mechanics, particles are nothing more but points of interaction, hooks for the four basic interactions (gravity, electromagnetism, weak force, strong force).

            But the interaction itself is also a mathematical construct, because beyond a certain limit, we can describe nature only in a completely abstract way.

            • Michael

              Yeah, in quantum mechanics, particles are just mathematical objects. You can, for instance, take the square root of a particle.

              But that’s just because we use math to describe reality. It doesn’t necessarily imply reality is itself fundamentally mathematical.

            • kessy_athena

              I would say that the universe appears to be mathematical in nature simply because mathematics was created to describe the universe. On one level, you can think of mathematics as simply being a set of rules for manipulating certain kinds of symbols. Some of those rules are somewhat arbitrary, for example, the fact that addition is commutative but subtraction is not. Those rules are the way they are because they have to be in order to get the right answer, that is, the answer that corresponds with what happens in the real universe. If you were making a sort of mathematics as an intellectual exercise in pure logic, you could set those rules to be whatever you wanted. So I think it’s not that reality is mathematical in nature, but that mathematics is realistic in nature.

            • Michael

              It is not arbitrary that addition commutes but not subtraction. Subtraction is the functional inverse of addition and also addition of the additive inverse. This property is much more fundamental than commutativity.

              I actually recommend you look up some of the foundations of mathematics. The integers are pretty much defined as simply as any useful infinite set of numbers could be.

            • kessy_athena

              LOL I admit I haven’t looked that deeply into the theory of subtraction. I’ve been working on multivariable calculus, so I’m a bit mathed out. But that’s slightly beside the point. If you don’t require mathematics to correspond to reality, it becomes a purely logical construct, and like all logic you can make it say anything you want if you mess with the assumptions.

            • UrsaMinor

              Math doesn’t necessarily have correspond to reality. I was once given a problem on a calculus exam that involved figuring the minimum amount of fencing required to contain a certain area of land. There were two minima to the function- one answer was X feet of fencing, and the other was -X feet of fencing. I wrote down the latter, as -X was less than X. Mathematically, a perfectly logical and valid answer.

              But you still can’t go to the hardware store and buy -100 feet of fencing at $10/foot and expect them to pay you $1000 to take it away.

            • Michael

              If you don’t require mathematics to correspond to reality, it becomes a purely logical construct, and like all logic you can make it say anything you want if you mess with the assumptions.

              Math is already “a purely logical construct.” That’s what makes it a formal science. Some pure math is so abstract and unfamiliar that it seems unlikely it will ever yield results relevant to real-world problems. But it is still mathematically valid.

              The integers we know are not the only possible ones. The p-adic integers, for instance, have completely different arithmetic, and those are much closer to our familiar sets than some topologies and categories you can get into in the most general courses. Of course, we tend to focus on useful ones (e.g. manifolds), but we don’t have to. They all exist and are true, given the definitions used.

  • Nox

    Depends on the subject. Is it one which admits to the existence of evidence? Is it something there probably would be evidence for if it existed?

    If it is something that there likely would not be evidence of then it is true absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    As an example, let’s take the concept of life on other planets. To keep the principle applicable, let’s keep it vague and not specify which planet or what kind of life.

    The premise is this. Life of some kind exists on some planet besides Earth.

    The positive claim has no real evidence going for it. We have not observed life on other planets. We have not observed solid evidence for life on other planets. So no evidence.

    Still a case could be made. A very good case could be made, but it would be limited to being an entirely inductive argument (maybe something like the Drake Equation). We have observed life. Life on other planets would be a natural occurence very similar to something we have observed (a precedent which even vague gods do not gain any shelter from).

    Assuming life on Earth arose through natural processes which were the result of the same underlying materials and forces that seem to apply in the rest of the Universe, and taking into account the sheer size of the Universe, and the number of habitable planets that probably exist, and thus the number of opportunities for those processes to result in life, it is not at all unlikely that life of some kind does exist on some other planet.

    Does anyone here disagree with that (keeping in mind that I’m not saying life does exist on other planets, I’m saying the current lack of evidence tells us absolutely nothing about whether it does)? I’ve seen others express similar opinions in the forums. So I’ll assume we’re all on the same page so far. Now let’s try something more specific.

    The new premise is this. There are small ferret-like mammals on the third planet orbiting Tau Seti.

    Suddenly, by introducing these specifics “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence” becomes less convincing. We are still in the situation of not being able to actually confirm whether the entity in question does or does not exist. But in this absence of evidence you might well ask how I know what form life has taken on this unobserved planet.

    Even though it is unobserved, and thus there is not evidence against it, the premise can still be called into question if it has no basis. If there is no reason at all to think there is a teapot orbiting Saturn, and no way we know of that it could have got there, then why the f*ck should we think it is there?

    There is such a thing as provisional certainty. Some things which can not be fully proved are so likely as to be justifiably treated as true. Some things which can not be fully disproved are so unlikely as to not warrant any significant place in our calculations. We do not need to map every inch of space and verify that no being exists anywhere who could be called a god, before we can reasonably determine that god is an unreasonable concept. Different gods do call for different levels of certainty. Some have much worse problems than a lack of empirical evidence.

    The AoE argument has some validity when defending the general concept of aliens or the general concept of god (or a specific but sufficiently ethereal concept of god) or any other unobserved but not inherently unlikely things which we should not reasonably expect to have evidence for (defending the possibility of their existence, not defending their existence).

    The reason it fails to defend the christian god is because that god’s existence is bundled up with other claims which if true there would be ample evidence for.

    On a side note, this phrase (not original to him) entered the popular consciousness due to it’s use by Donald Rumsfeld. The thing he used it to defend the existence of was Iraq’s WMDs. Those turned out not to exist.

  • http://skepticalskepticism.blogspot.com Joel

    Absence of evidence means that no conclusion can be drawn. It is not evidence for absence. To prove that the bulldozer is not there, you have to show the evidence for air in the place of the bulldozer. Evidence for other objects in the place of the bulldozer is evidence for the absence of the bulldozer. Absence of evidence for both an object in place of the bulldozer and the bulldozer itself leads to agnostic abulldozism.

    • FO

      Are you agnostic towards fairies?

  • Paul

    Both Michael and JohnMWhite touched on this, but I’m going to give it ago anyways due to a different perspective.

    I think this is a question about the type of proof you are trying to construct. If all we have are direct proofs, then we can not make any positive existence claim until we have a proof that shows that claim to be true with no loose ends. Showing the statement is false can only be done in this way by finding a counterexample.

    This is often completely useless unless you stumble upon that one example or it just happens to be trivial for you to see. What’s done instead would be an indirect proof (showing all of these cases and only these case account for the answer, and all but one is not true) or a proof by contradiction (Assuming the opposite of the answer and deriving a contradiction from that assumption). I cannot show that a bulldozer was not in your backyard whilst you weren’t looking, but I can assume their was and prove to you such an assumption leads to a contradiction. You must proof that the observational evidence that you lack must be present under the assumption of a bulldozer. Depending on how technical you want to get about the rigor of your proof (i.e. at what point do the lemmas you need for your proof to hold become theorems you can just quote), I’d say that having no tread marks, a an intact gate that cannot allow a bulldozer through, and no tile damage to your roofing would constitute sufficient contradictions to prove that a bulldozer could not have been in your garden.

    I’ve heard professors say that proofs by contradiction are a bit overused (one professor at my university remarked that once they teach this method, it’s the only method ever used). But I don’t think I ever really hear it explicitly talked about when the issue of god comes up. The only proof I am aware of is that if god exists, and this isn’t the god of the philosophers or the deists, then whenever it interacted with the universe its arm should come away absolutely drenched in physics. We have all of these amazingly strong and precise constructs that build up our picture of the universe. An arm drenched in physics would leave some very noticeable signs denoting violations of constructs we have already tested to be true. It seems as though this is a sufficient proof, at least when you apply it to deities thought up since they have some rather exact properties.

  • Joe White

    I mentioned this in a different thread, but its worth repeating: Isnt it illogical to ask for natural evidence of the supernatural?

    • FO

      The supernatural is, by definition, “beyond natural”.
      There are two ways of seeing this:
      1) it does not interact with the natural, so it does not exists in any practical way.
      2) it is not subject to any rules or any description, it is not repeatable and therefore unpredictable and *entirely* unknowable, making meaningless any statement about supernatural entities.

      So yes, it is illogical, but probably not in the way proponents see it.
      Feel free to propose a better definition.

    • UrsaMinor

      “Natural evidence” is “stuff that occurs in the observable universe”, so no, it’s not illogical to ask for such evidence for anything claimed to interact with said universe.

      Suppose, for a moment, that the supernatural exists, and that it does not interact with the observable universe in any way. We would then have absolutely no reason to suspect that there was any such thing, no way to detect it if it did, and no justification for claiming that it might exist. The existence of things that are unobservable by any natural means is indeterminable, and probably not even a coherent concept.

      • Joe White

        Evidence requires more than interaction, doesnt it? When we ask for ‘evidence’ arent we implying that it must be ‘scientific’ (i.e. observable, repeatable, etc) If something supernatural interacts with the natural world, but its interaction and/or effect cannot be repeated or verified by a second or third observer (experiencer), does that mean it did not happen? I dont think so.

        Lots of things in the natural world cannot be verified scientifically, in fact most events of daily life cannot be verified scientifically. Can you ‘prove’ to me what you were thinking 15 minutes ago? No. It cannot be verified by a second or third party. It left no direct physical evidence. Your testimony that ‘I thought about XYZ’ would not be considered scientifically valid proof.

        Can you prove that you love your mother? Again, no. It is unobservable, unverifiable.

        You cannot even prove scientifically what you ate for lunch on your 10th birthday. Does that mean you didnt have lunch that day? Doubtful.

        • UrsaMinor

          Actually, thoughts and emotional processes are in theory (and already to a degree in practice) observable and objectively recordable; as far as anyone has been able to demonstrate, they rely on electrochemical processes in the brain and body that result in measurable changes in a physical system, and we’ve made great strides recently in being able to interpret the specifics. To claim that such things can’t ever be demonstrated scientifically would require proving that almost everything that we know about neurophysiology and biochemistry is wrong.

          • Joe White

            People with ‘no detectable’ brain activity have come back to life. So I dont think we are as advanced as you might want to think. However, the content of your thoughts is not discernible, even with the best technology.

            We could hook up your brain, and tell you to think of “your Mom”. Your brain shows activity associated with warm feelings of joy. Is that because you love her, or because you anticipate a large inheritance at her impending death? You cant scientifically prove that its because you love her.

            God, by definition, is supernatural. It’s illogical to ask for natural evidence of the supernatural, especially when you cant even produce verifiable evidence of most of the events of human history.

            Where’s the scientific evidence that proves your great great great grandfather reached the age of 40? Sure the family legend says he made it to the ripe old age of 90, but where’s the ‘scientifically’ verifiable evidence?

            And we’re still waiting for evidence of that lunch.

            Lets be honest about science and evidence, shall we? Science is great when we understand its limits. But when we try to make science potentially omniscient, we do ourselves and science a great wrong.

            There are many different kinds of evidence, of which scientific evidence is one. There’s historical evidence, circumstantial evidence, legal evidence and so forth. Absence of one kind of evidence doesnt means absence of any evidence at all.

            When we are discussing the presence or absence of evidence, the failure to specify will inevitably lead to poor reasoning and poorly drawn conclusions.

            • Yoav

              Specificity is important, for example it is important which god are you trying to claim we can’t find evidence for? The bible for example is unreliable as a source but once you define which god you talk about then evidence can be considered for and against, for example if catholic jesus is the real god then the pope should have a higher success rate for his prayers then islamic clerics or a rabbi, we could run a test and find out that post magic spell the cookie is indeed turned into human flash and so on, the same can be done for other version of god.

            • Theory_of_I

              >”God, by definition, is supernatural. It’s illogical to ask for natural evidence of the supernatural, especially when you cant even produce verifiable evidence of most of the events of human history.”

              No, what is illogical is your flights of fancy because you can’t even show a speck of respectable logical thought as to the factual existence of a supernatural, let alone any kind of evidence of that whatsoever.

              Yes, science is limited to the observable, definable and testable, but it makes good use of all of those functions and continues to expand and refine them — you have nothing but pretended, contrived nonsense which depends for it’s very survival as a concept on the utter absence of those same functions.

              You have nothing of use to anybody to show for all your negativity and your imaginary god.

            • Michael

              People with ‘no detectable’ brain activity have come back to life.

              Not in the way you are claiming. During anaesthesia for instance, it is possible for the brain’s activity to temporarily fall below levels the EEG in the room is able to read, but that doesn’t mean the activity is totally undetectable.

              However, the content of your thoughts is not discernible, even with the best technology.

              Who told you that? We can already determine lots of things about the content of your thoughts, including creating live video of your mental imagery, detecting lies, distinguishing pathological mental states, accurately reading imagined limb movement, and much more. I don’t know if we can pick out individual words from the Broca’s area yet, but it won’t be long. The brain is not a black box anymore.

              You cant scientifically prove that [. . .] you love [you're mother].

              In fact we can. Love is a complex but fairly well-understood emotion. We can easily distinguish love from joy not just by fMRI but also by chemical means to some extent.

              It’s illogical to ask for natural evidence of the supernatural

              If it is illogical to ask for evidence, then it is even more illogical to believe the claim. Whether or not it is possible to gather evidence, it is dishonest to say you “believe” something without justification. What you are effectively saying here is that nobody should ever believe in anything supernatural now or in the future.

              Lets be honest about science and evidence, shall we?

              Nobody claimed we knew everything; that’s not the point. Read my “sneaky god hypothesis” above. Technically it is possible that such a sneaky god exists, but to go so far as to believe in it without even a hope of evidence is preposterous. There are infinitely many statements we cannot prove are false but still do not believe.

              There are many different kinds of evidence, of which scientific evidence is one. There’s historical evidence, circumstantial evidence, legal evidence and so forth.

              There is a reason “scientific history” is now preferred by nearly all scholars: because the bare fact that somebody said something is not enough to believe it true. But there are scientific means of discerning historical facts, and these are trusted over scripture and legend. “Circumstantial evidence” is merely any evidence that demands an external assumption to support a hypothesis. In the case of forensics, this is nearly always scientific evidence of a sort. “Legal evidence” is just any evidence presented in court. In fact, I would contend that all trustworthy evidence is scientific in nature.

              @Yoav: When the Pope has spoken ex cathedra, it has conveniently never been on a point on which he could be proven wrong. Generally it was just against some abstract theological heresy.

            • Jabster

              @Theory of I

              I think the problem is a bit different from that. It’s not that it’s illogical to say the supernatural can’t be tested by natural means it’s that it’s not applied consistently. The natural world ties in with your supernatural beliefs then that supports them. If it doesn’t then it doesn’t matter as you can’t test supernatural beliefs.

              Of course when it comes to other supernatural beliefs, particularly religious, all of a sudden this way of thinking is no longer valid.

              It’s really a win-win situation as it doesn’t matter what ‘evidence’ is put forward – it is either discarded or used dependent on whether it supports the already held belief.

            • Theory_of_I

              Jabster-

              You are right of course as viewed from Joe White’s perspective. It probably wasn’t clear that I was challenging him to explain how he knows that a factual supernatural of any kind exists, any place but in his head, that is.

        • FO

          > If something supernatural interacts with the natural world, but its interaction and/or effect
          > cannot be repeated or verified by a second or third observer (experiencer), does that
          > mean it did not happen?
          No, but it means that you cannot know anything about this entity because (by the very way you describe it) it follows no pattern whatsoever.
          The proponent of the supernatural instead, insist that these supernatural entities follow very specific rules (for example they get angry when you do X and are happy when you do Y).

          In short, how can you be sure that God cares for us?

  • blotonthelandscape

    I prefer not to say that absence of evidence constitutes evidence in and of itself. Whilst AoE is consistent with EoA, relying on it is a formal fallacy called the fallacy of induction. It is necessary but not sufficient.

    Even in your example, you give ample evidence; you incorrectly call this list your “absence of evidence”, which is just silly. It’s simply indirect evidence that the alternative hypothesis has a low probability of being true; too low to reasonably accept. In other words, AoE for a bulldozer is simply “the current state of affairs”, but the EoA is a set of subsidiary observations against which positive evidence of existence must be martialled.

    Presence, on the other hand, is equivalent (both sufficient and necessary to establish) to existence.

  • Joe White

    Yoav wrote:

    “The bible for example is unreliable as a source …. if catholic jesus is the real god then the pope should have a higher success rate for his prayers”

    If you want to do you own test of the Bible’s reliability on the subject of prayer for instance, it’s quite simple:

    1. Find out exactly what the Bible says regarding under what conditions God will answer prayer
    2. Make certain you meet those conditions
    3. Pray

    It think you’ll find the Bible is quite reliable when you’re done.

    • FO

      Most Christians can’t agree on 1. already.
      You’d think that after 2000 years they would have finally found it by sheer trial and error.

      • Joe White

        I didnt ask anyone to agree with this particular Christian group or that one.

        My answer was simply to pray based on the Biblical criteria.

        • Yoav

          My answer was simply to pray based on the Biblical criteria.

          As defined by your particular christian group of choice.

          • Joe White

            sorry, no. I made no such stipulation. Can we be honest about that?

            • Yoav

              Honesty is awesome, you should try it some time. How are these magic biblical criteria defined if not based on whatever your version of christianity pulled out of their arses.

            • Kodie

              Hey, while you’re not being honest, also try being more vague! Pray to god make Joe White more vague!

        • Jabster

          lol … hold the front page we have the one true Christian posting at UF.

          Arrogance is such a distasteful characteristic don’t you think?

          • Joe White

            one, eh? am I that rare? lol

            • Nzo

              No. Every one of you is ‘The One True Christian™’. Each of you has a different idea of who/what your god thinks, and he just so happens to agree with your predispositions.

        • Sunny Day

          You know there’s more than one Bible, right?

          • kessy_athena

            Actually, “bible” is simply a misspelling of “biblia,” the common Latin word for “book.” So when you call something “The bible” you’re just calling it “the book” in very bad Latin. So in a sense, every library in the world is full of bibles.

            • Sunny Day

              Pfft whatever.

        • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

          Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
          Matthew 17:20 “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

          So, if I ask, it will be given to me, and if I have faith and pray for a mountain to move, it will move. Let’s go ahead and try this now…

    • Troutbane

      @Joe:
      Actually, Ive tested this out with a true believer. He prayed for my arm to break within one year in order to save my soul as I told him I would accept that as proof that his beliefs had validity. Its been four years now and both my arms are fine.
      Religion tested, failed the test.
      Also, several people here are former evangelicals who prayed properly and alot. I leave their de-conversion as proof of their results.

      • Mogg

        Yup. I’d be one of them.

      • blotonthelandscape

        I used to pray every time an ambulance rushed past. It was like a gut reaction, and the compulsion was still with me a year after I stopped believing.

        Re. prayer, one of my last prayers as a believer was a request for God to reveal himself to me; I have a hernia which created a rather obvious “dent” in my ribcage. My prayer was that God would fix it. I asked that he did it in an unambiguous way, as if I ended up in car accident and had to have my ribcage mended by doctors, I could not sincerely attribute it to him.

        Suffice it to say that nothing has changed.

        I recommend a watch of this classic of the genre :
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf5q6VFn17o&list=PLA0C3C1D163BE880A&index=4

        P.S. his whole series is fantastic, and I strongly recommend a run-through.

      • Joe White

        thats a great example Troutbane , of a prayer that is not in line with what the Bible says about prayer.

        Theres no guarantee that God will answer an unbiblical prayer.

        • Yoav

          How about telling us what prayer you think would work then?
          The mechanics of prayer are not really the point here, different religions, and even different factions inside one religion, make mutually exclusive factual claims about the god you claim we can’t know anything about, how would you determine which, if any of them, is the correct one?

          • Joe White

            Depends on what you mean by ‘the mechanics of prayer’. If it violates the Biblical requirements, then yes it would be very much the point. But since you’ve not gotten into specifics, theres nowhere to go with it from here.

            • Kodie

              God only answers prayers for things that would have happened anyway so that’s pretty convenient. He could hang a “gone fishin’” sign and nobody would notice the difference.

            • Jabster

              Oh I see … we’re doing the prayer does work you just have to do it right but I’m not going to tell you what right is.

              It’s so nice to see that you’re really ‘debating’ your position in such an honest way.

        • Troutbane

          What is a “biblical prayer” then? Please show documented evidence of a prayer that actually worked and without prayer, it would not have worked.

          BTW, its this crock of bullshit that evangelicals pull that makes me want to scream. Good stuff happened, its cause you prayed or God wanted it to happen. Bad stuff happened, its cause you didnt pray enough or God didnt want it to happen. Essentially, there will NEVER be a situation that you can show where with prayer one thing will happen, but without prayer another thing will happen. You will always be right in your own mind. Its the warm fundie blanket of proof without proof that the religious like to shroud themselves in to make them all fuzzy inside.

          Also, if God had the moment to save my soul by breaking my arm, I would gladly accept it and turn my life to “Him”. Since he did not given a great opporunity to not only return me to grace but to strengthen the faith of another of his sheep, your God is an asshole. Why worship a being who would send a being to eternal suffering because He chose not to manifest Himself despite doing it ALL over the Old Testament? This also runs completely counter to EVERY miracle ever claimed. Its the man behind the curtain trick, and its bullshit and a shame that adults still believe in it.

          • FO

            ‘Cause Might Makes Right.

          • Joe White

            Troutbane wrote:

            “Essentially, there will NEVER be a situation that you can show where with prayer one thing will happen, but without prayer another thing will happen”

            yeah because we cant hit a reset button and have a do-over of yesterdays events. So that’s your big hangup?

            • Michael

              But that’s exactly the sort of evidence one would expect. If I want to know if a drug can cure an illness, I can take two groups of people with the illness, give one group the drug (as per its labeling) and the other a convincing placebo, and see if the test group fared better than the control group. If not, then the drug (at least in that dosage) is not effective at treating that illness.

              Similarly, to test if a prayer cures an illness, I should be able to take two groups of people with that illness, give one group prayers (as per Biblical instructions), and give the other group convincing fake prayers (maybe to the wrong god or something), and see if the test group fares better than the control. If not, then the prayer (at least those particular prayers in that particular way) is not effective at treating that illness.

              Of course, we don’t just limit this type of controlled experiment to medicine; we could perform such experiments for anything prayers are supposed to accomplish. And many similar studies have already been performed, but none have shown any success. In cases where subjects knew they were receiving prayers (i.e. non-blind studies), they actually fared slightly worse, perhaps due to performance anxiety.

              So what we are all asking for is some test that can demonstrate that prayer works. You insist that it does but fail to provide any real evidence. If God is reliable, then he should be testable. If not, then we have no reason to believe.

        • trj

          I may be wrong, but AFAIK the Bible doesn’t place any strictures on what you can pray for.

          And then there’s this:

          I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. – Matt 17:20

          Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. – Mark 11:24

          Of course, you will now go on to tell us these Bible verses don’t mean what they literally say.

          • Joe White

            of course they do mean what they say. But those arent the only verses in the Bible about prayer. So basically cherry picking what you want to hear about prayer wont work.

            • Troutbane

              So…the Bible is imperfect and contradictory. Well, I coulda told you that.

            • trj

              So “whatever you want” is correct but at the same time contradicted by other Bible verses. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

  • kessy_athena

    It seems to me that a lot of the sound and fury over this is because we very often come to a question wanting an answer (often a particular answer) for reasons other then simple curiosity. Regardless of whether that’s a Christian looking for confirmation of god or a rationalist looking for a universe that’s neat, orderly, logical, and predictable, that’s a really bad thing to do if you have any interest at all in learning about what the universe is actually like. It leads to sloppy logic and bad reasoning.

    The problem is that we all have a tendency to get emotionally invested in our beliefs. We want to be right, we want to win arguments, we want to show that the other guy is wrong. That’s just a part of being human, I suppose. But I think that’s a part of our instincts that are not serving us well in this day and age. Being morally right and being factually right are two entirely different things. Being factually right about something really doesn’t make you a better person. And ultimately, we’re all wrong about everything, since all human knowledge is inherently symbolic in nature, and therefore will always represent an imperfect picture of reality. Everything we think we know will, at some point, turn out to be incorrect or incomplete in some way.

    What I try to do is to separate my emotional needs from factual questions. Facts are slippery things, with a mind of their own. They’re not something to build your sense of self worth on. Emotional needs have to be met emotionally, and your self is something you have to find within yourself. I think that relying on belief systems for your sense of self is misguided at best. I don’t believe that you’ll ever really be at peace that way – I know I wasn’t. And that path inevitably leads to pointless conflicts and suffering.

    • Elemenope

      The problem is that we all have a tendency to get emotionally invested in our beliefs. We want to be right, we want to win arguments, we want to show that the other guy is wrong. That’s just a part of being human, I suppose.

      I think this slightly undersells the problem. Sure, it is human nature to want to be right, but the sheer ferocity of those defenses points to something more primal or fundamental. I’d hazard that, much more than being attached to being right, humans define their very selves and their opinion of their proper position in the order of the world by what they believe, and so to attack beliefs is to (from the person’s point of view) attack the person holding them. We are emotionally invested in our beliefs precisely because our beliefs give us things to care about, and how, and why.

      • kessy_athena

        You’re right, I did undersell it. I do *try* to limit how much I ramble on and keep things concise. Yes, you’re all allowed to shudder at what my writing would look like if I didn’t. ;) I agree with you almost completely, Nope. The one issue I have is that the way you put it makes it sound to me as if people defining their selves in terms of their beliefs is something intrinsic to human nature. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant or if that’s just me reading into it. But I think this is a learned behavior, not something instinctual. And if it’s learned, it can be unlearned. I feel that that sort of emotional investment should be made in the people around us, not in abstract ideas.

    • Theory_of_I

      I agree that it is difficult to avoid the emotional component in discussions that should be restricted to the factual exchange of information and ideas, however, I think when you say:
      “Being morally right and being factually right are two entirely different things. Being factually right about something really doesn’t make you a better person.”
      I think you are ignoring those exchanges where both “rights” are dynamically interposed.
      If it can be said that many, if not most, rational people desire that human conflict be reduced in scope and scale wherever possible. And that, in an effort to discover ways to effect that reduction, understanding as much as possible of the causes of human strife can be advanced through education and knowledge. And if it can further be said that myth and superstition are contributing factors and/or the direct cause of such conflict and pose major obstacles to potential solutions, then, arguably, they must be refuted and dispelled before progress can be achieved.

      If so, then I think there is an inevitable emotional confrontation born of the frustration that results from the denial and dismissal of rational and factual arguments by those who stubbornly choose to retain their mythical world view despite the fact they would benefit from being able to live in a saner, more rational world.
      As we see here so often, if nothing is gained in emotional contests, neither is anything lost because the thoroughly inculcated remain so.

      The belief that the human condition can be made better is essentially altruistic. Such kinds of altruism are not composed entirely of selfish motives — ie. the personal need to win, but rather of a desire to contribute to the betterment of humanity — and it’s hard to see how “…ultimately, we’re all wrong about everything” is a reasonable description.

      • kessy_athena

        I meant that being morally right and being factually right aren’t the same thing – you can be morally right and factually wrong, and vice versa. I didn’t mean that the two can never be connected. It’s certainly true that having factually correct information is helpful in making the morally right choice. So my original statement was probably a bit hyperbolic.

        I would argue that it’s not really a question of what you believe, but how you believe it that makes some beliefs destructive. Myth and superstition are not inherently bad or dangerous, for example, I’m reasonably sure that no one ever started a war over whether Athena’s father was Zeus, Pallas, or Triton. And making a habit of not walking under ladders is probably a good idea when you get down to it. It’s when you start believing that you’re Right and everyone else is Wrong, and that makes you better then everyone else that belief becomes dangerous. It’s the emotional investment in a belief, not the belief itself, that leads to severe conflicts. *Everyone* thinks that their beliefs are rational and it’s the other person’s beliefs that are unreasonable. Everyone’s ideas make sense in their own minds, and are consistent with their view of how the world is. And it’s very easy for everyone to not realize that you’re holding onto a belief out of emotional investment rather then a strictly factual evaluation of the evidence.

        I’m not entirely sure why you think the idea that ultimately we’re all wrong about everything is unreasonable. It gets back to the basic nature of what knowledge is. Knowledge, ideas, beliefs – they’re all mental constructs that exist in our minds. We use them to represent the world around us, but the relationship is always symbolic in nature. No symbol can ever perfectly represent a thing unless it actually is that thing. Just as no matter how realistic and skillful a painting is, it’s still just a painting, no matter how detailed and well researched an idea is, it’s still just an idea. There will *always* be some aspect of the reality that doesn’t match the idea exactly, or some aspect that isn’t represented by the idea. There’s always more to reality then we see, no matter how closely we look.

        • Theory_of_I

          The substitution, re-definition, re-direction and or dilution of intended concepts doesn’t really add much value to the discussion, and can be a bit frustrating, ya know?

          • kessy_athena

            I’m just trying to point out an aspect of the concept that some people may not have considered. Truth values aren’t ever actually 0 or 1, they’re an open set between 0 and 1. It may not make much difference most of the time, but sometimes it is important. And my opinion is that a lot of the bad stuff that comes from various beliefs is rooted in missing that distinction.

        • Sunny Day

          Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
          Of a morning
          When deciding whether to leave
          Her apartment by the front door
          Or a window on her second floor.

          Storm – Tim Minchin

  • Joe White

    Michael wrote:

    “Not in the way you are claiming.”

    yeah, in the way that I’m claiming

    I could post several recent stories where people have woke up in the morgue, or on the table being prepped to be an organ donor.

    • Custador

      Go on then. Post SEVERAL stories in which people who had EKG tests, or at least had been properly tested for brain activity, and declared brain-stem dead, subsequently “woke up” in the morgue or during prep for organ harvest. I’m calling your bluff. Back that bullshit up.

      • Michael

        Well, as I understand it, it is occasionally possible to have complete asystole (EKG flatline) and still recover (as a result of CPR, I assume). Wikipedia puts the out-of-hospital survival rate at “less than 2 percent,” which is terrible but still probably nonzero.

        You can’t survive long without a heartbeat though, and similarly you can’t survive long without neo-cortical activity.

        • Custador

          Sorry, I meant EEG, not EKG. You’re right though – You can sometimes recover a patient in asystole, depending on the type and cause of the arrest. Respiratory arrest secondary to hypothermia, for example.

      • Joe White
        • Michael

          These articles are simply using inaccurate descriptions.

          The first (about Velma Thomas) makes no sense, and is really sketchy. It was first reported on by ABC News, then picked up by nobody other than the Telegraph and the Daily Mail (both in the U.K., interestingly). Such a miraculous, unprecedented story should have been widely reported if it were factual. It says that the heart was beating for most of the 17 hours, but the doctors failed to detect any brain activity, which is impossible. Furthermore, it says that her body temperature was lowered “in a bid to stimulate the brain,” when in fact this is done to slow the progression of brain damage by actually reducing its oxygen consumption (and would thus be part of the reason an EEG would not detect activity). It says that the woman had been declared clinically “brain dead,” despite the fact that if she had been declared dead they would have stopped treating her. There are all kinds of holes here, the biggest of which is that there isn’t even a published case report.

          The second story (about Karen Arbogast) is even more blatantly mistaken, as it declares that she was brain-dead but breathing. This is like saying she was mute but could quote Shakespeare. What it presumably meant was that she was believed to have anencephaly, or no “higher” brain function. But she clearly must have had a functioning brain to some extent, and certainly could not have had a dead (i.e. necrotic) brain, as it later recovered (temporarily). But what makes this one particularly hilarious is that the recovery was apparently only brief, as there is no follow-up stating that she in fact survived. I guess the surgery failed.

          The third story describes a kid waking up from a coma. You cannot be in a coma without brain activity, any more than you can be in a coma without heart activity. This is patent nonsense.

          The Google Books link is from the Weekly World News. I am guessing (hoping) you were just trolling with this one.

          In the fifth story, they either never performed an EEG or never reported on it. They performed a PET scan which due to some flaw could not detect the blood flowing into the cranium. But as they later discovered, the brain was not necrotic, so evidently the cells had been getting oxygen somehow.

          The one thing that should strike you is the unbelievably low quality of reporting in all these stories. If you could find one case study, one detailed description, or even so much as one widely-reported story that actually shows a patient recovering from a blank EEG, then and only then can you support the claim that this is possible. Showing substantially less than that and saying “close enough” is not convincing.

          • Joe White

            “(The first) says that the heart was beating for most of the 17 hours”

            It says no such thing.

            “(the second) declares that she was brain-dead but breathing”

            Again, no it doesnt.

            “The third story describes a kid waking up from a coma”

            Well, at least you read this one partially correct, although you see to have ignored that this was after the 5th doctor determined he was alive. 4 doctors had declared him brain dead.

            “The Google Books link is from the Weekly World News.”

            No idea who that is, but we’ll agree to toss this one. (Not that you’ve given an open minded read to anything else however.)

            “(In the fifth story) They performed a PET scan which due to some flaw”

            Funny how you demand evidence only so you can reject it as ‘flawed’ if you dont understand how it could happen.

            Lots of other stories could be shown, however I didnt post any that didnt SPECIFICALLY say there was no brain activity, but its likely that in some of the cases that this was so. It includes stories of several patients waking up in the morgue, or as they are prepped for organ donation, or at their funeral.

            Again, since you apparently dont have Google, you might have to have someone help you find them. But it wont be me, since you’ve shown an unwillingness to correctly characterize several of the stories I’ve posted. Blatant misquotes and mischaracterizations are not an indicator of a discussion in good faith. Have a nice day, I’m going to work.

            • Custador

              Are you going to address my points now?

            • Kodie

              I’m sure if we google it up, someone somewhere would declare Joe White a genius too but that doesn’t speak to the credibility of the source. “Back that bullshit up” doesn’t mean find some rag that gets its facts wrong. Support your claim with medical journals, not sensationalistic local miracles that some reporter jazzed up to sell papers.

            • trj

              *ahem*

              “(The first) says that the heart was beating for most of the 17 hours”

              It says no such thing.

              Reading the article:

              medics managed to establish a faint pulse after eight minutes of CPR. But at hospital, her heart stopped twice more and she was placed on life support.

              Obviously, being on life support, her heart was beating.

              “(the second) declares that she was brain-dead but breathing”

              Again, no it doesnt.

              From the article:

              Arbogast was unconscious but breathing and taken to Kennewick General Hospital

              I’m not sure what point you’re actually trying to make with your examples, but perhaps you should be more careful with your own reading before accusing others of misreading and using “blatant misquotes and mischaracterizations”. Also, the tabloid press is hardly foremost in accurate or unbiased reporting. So in addition you might want to apply some source criticism.

        • Custador

          Well, let’s examine these shall we:

          1) “A shocked Dr. Eggleston told the paper the chances of surviving three such long periods without a heart rate were less than 10 percent. ‘It’s a miracle. The odds were certainly against her’”. A one in ten chance is a miracle? Really? Shenanigans, frankly. The clue is right there in the article though: The hospital induced hypothermia, which not only massively increases the length of time that tissue can go without oxygenated blood without harm coming to it – It also slows the heartbeat down so much that it goes undetected, and it induces a coma state similar to anaesthesia. This wasn’t a miracle, it was human error. The doctor’s frantic hand-waving about how “IT’S A MIRACLE!” is a pretty good distraction technique to stop himself from getting disciplined, but only in a country full of credulous theistic idiots.

          2) “As shocked family members drove to Seattle from Hermiston and Umatilla, Oregon, doctors removed a blood clot from Karen’s brain and cut into her skull to relieve pressure, said relatives.” Again, the clue is right there in the story. Raised intracranial pressure AND a clot in the brain? Either one could have stopped brain activity in a large area of the patient’s brain on its own; both at once? Yeah, that’s not a mystery. Both issues must have at least partially resolved themselves in order for her to suddenly start showing brain activity. In this case I can’t help wondering if they even did an EEG; I doubt it, though. This is either a case of equipment limiting a diagnosis, or (more likely) human error again.

          3) Dude, I haven’t even got to TRY with this one! It’s right there in the headline: “Doctors found signs of life only after his father begged them to recheck him” – A more senior doctor came and did the job his junior should have done properly in the first place – Human error.

          4) The Weekly World News? Seriously? You want me to address a feel-good miracle story from a supermarket tabloid? You do know that their writing can best be described as works of artistic fiction?

          5) Lolwut?! “doctors performed a PET scan of his brain and informed his parents, along with other family members who had gathered to keep vigil at the hospital, that there was no blood flowing to Zack’s brain”. I’m no radiologist, but I’m pretty certain that’s not what a PET scan does/tells you. My biology is okay though; I know what the blood-brain barrier is, and I know how raised intracranial pressure effects blood flow to the brain. This case is also human error; they should have used an EEG and/or an fMRI (in very simple terms, EEG detects electrical activity in the brain, and fMRI detects blood flow). Human. Error.

          I’m hampered by the journalistic reporting you’ve chosen with these stories. Newspapers want sensationalism that sells copy; they don’t want facts. If you can find me official reports or investigations into incidents like this, then I’ll take them much more seriously, and I’ll look at them in more depth. But what you’ve posted here is just bullshit.

          • Joe White

            “human error, human error, human error”

            really?

            tell us EXACTLY what errors these qualified physicians who were there made (since you werent there)

            the physicians said ‘no brain activity’ and you apparently KNOW that there was, so how do you know? did you have an invisible doctor on site taking an EEG on a separate machine? yours worked correctly theirs didnt?

            • onotagain

              You are claiming it was supernatural. You provide the evidence. Questioning your claims is simply the honest approach.

              The fact is that your story of the supernatural has massive holes in it and you obviously don’t understand that. Defend your beliefs honestly or don’t defend them at all.

            • Kodie

              THE REPORTER said the doctor said. And you believe this without merit? You are credulous and that’s not a compliment.

            • Michael

              No doctor was quoted as saying there was “no brain activity.” The news articles did say this, perhaps because the reporters didn’t know the difference between “no higher brain function” and “brain death.” A brain dead patient by definition cannot recover and cannot even be alive. Even patients in persistent vegetative states are not brain dead.
              It is true that many of these are attributable to human error, but that is not Custador’s fault. He gives very good justifications for his judgments. In the first article, as we both explained, hypothermia was induced, which can explain the apparent suspension of brain activity without requiring a miracle. In the second article, there is nothing suggesting the patient even had an EEG, let alone a total loss of detectable brain function. The article’s use of “brain dead” is blatantly wrong, as the patient was breathing and later recovered fully. It isn’t even necessarily a case of doctor error so much as journalist error. In the third article, human error is not just inferred, it is outright stated: when the doctors rechecked, they found there was indeed brain function. Tests can be mistaken, and that was evidently the case here. If you make two measurements and the second is different from the first, one must have been in error. I can’t comment too much on the fifth article, because it is probably possible to measure blood flow with some type of PET scan (or head CT scan, which may have also been performed), but when doctors make a statement like “no blood was flowing to the brain,” then realize that in fact blood is flowing to (well, “around” I suppose) the brain, once again, they must have been in error.

              It may sound unlikely that all these articles were merely mistakes, but consider that you only sought out those types of articles. Is it so unlikely that in all the cases like this, a few would give strange results due to human error? It would be unlikely if there weren’t. But so far you have given no evidence that any of these were actual miracles, and it seems the doctors didn’t think so either, as none bothered to publish case reports.

  • http://rgrydns2.blogspot.ca Richard Greydanus

    This article (‘Where’s the Evidence?) over on Philosophy Now offers a mediating perspective: http://philosophynow.org/issues/78/Wheres_The_Evidence.

    The question I wish to ask is this: How can the New Atheists employ evidentialist principles to argue that religious belief is irrational if they are unwilling to apply those same principles to atheism? If the New Atheists’ atheism is not evidence-based, as Hitchens implies in the above quotation, doesn’t evidentialism entail that atheism is itself irrational or epistemically unjustified? The answer is ‘Yes’; at least if evidentialism is interpreted in the standard way. So it appears that the New Atheists need some fix for evidentialism – a kind of ‘theoretical plug-in’ – which legitimizes their atheism in the absence of evidence.

    • http://rgrydns2.blogspot.ca Richard Greydanus

      He even treats the proposal The Absence of Evidence is the Evidence of Absence in section 5.

    • Troutbane

      The problem with this article is it is a purely theistic argument with no basis on any particular religion. I think you will find most atheists here would conclude that they would accept belief in a divine being if shown enough proof. Philosophy cannot logic something that does not exist in to existence nor can it logic away something that does exist. However, these arguments the author makes, while interesting, miss the point on more than one occasion: semantics, misunderstandings of limitations of scientific knowledge, and point 3 is just a shitty argument.
      Seriously, point 3 is shit on a biscuit covered in shit sauce because it completely ignores several thousands of years of scientific discovery and tries to lawyer itself into being correct. Argument fail.
      And the argument under 5 I totally reject:
      “that is because there is weak evidence for a divine reality ”
      Because I could argue with the exact same points that there could also be hidden parasites in our brains controlling our actions or that we are in the Matrix.
      The author missed some crucial points.
      Hey Richard, good try. Good luck defending your thesis.

      • http://rgrydns2.blogspot.ca Richard Greydanus

        I suppose it comes down to what sort of proof you are going to allow for…

        A classical position account for the existence of God would God to be the reason for why their is something rather than nothing. So if something exists, like a computer, a chair, a room, a world, and so on, God exists, because God is existence itself. The Book of Genesis calls God Creator; the Upanishads says the Self is in all things and all things are in the self. The sort of evidence offered here is argumentative and dialectical: if I, the inquirer, am not the origin or cause of all things, something Other is. And that, to paraphrase Aquinas, we call “God”.

        If, however, you take the observable world as it is, and don’t question its existence, but concern yourself with the functions and operations of its parts, I don’t think you will ever get around to what classical thinkers named God. You may discredit a host of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse, and other polytheistic deities, you may throw into question a personal God, but not the abstract monotheist God.

        So I am not sure about your claim about number 3. That said, I am inclined to agree with you on number 5.

        • Custador

          That “classical position” is complete crap. It fails at every step – No logic, no evidence, no valid philosophy, no authority. Honestly, you’d need to be mentally deficient to accept it.

        • Troutbane

          Part 3 starts by saying that we do not have a set of rules to follow in order to evaluate WHO has burden of proof. This is a shit argument because it is basically saying that the ruleset burden falls onto the atheists to meet. But why does this same argument not fall onto the theistic side? They might claim that they have God as the setter of the rules of arbitration, but I could just as well say that Mr. Crumplepants, the talking mouse who lives in my cupboard, should be the judge. The concept of burden of proof is NOT ill understood; if you make a claim, you must back up that claim.
          The claim “However, positive statements can often be translated reasonably faithfully into negative statements” is true on its face, but understand that the burden of proof lies on the side that CAN prove the case one way or the other. A Null God argument is unprovable. A God argument IS provable. It is not which side HAS to prove their case, it’s which side CAN. And, he misses the point entirely as I said that there are things that have been proven (by science). So claiming there are no atoms is a rehashed argument since atoms have already been proven to exist.
          He then tries to state that this is a popularity contest of arguments, which is crap. Reality is reality. Theories on the nature of reality may or may not be popular, but it doesn’t make them untrue or true in either situation. It is the provability and testability of theories that makes them approach closer to explaining the nature of reality. Religions are INCAPABLE of this and in fact tend to get bent out of shape and torturey when tested so.
          The statement “it does not follow from that fact that atheists can rationally believe without evidence that there is no God or other divine reality” I agree with, but as I said above, if the case can be proven for a divine being, most rational atheists would agree to it. This runs along with his point 1 which I think is a strawman semantical argument about what defines an atheist. Are there “anti-God” atheists? Sure, maybe, but I think that most that post here fall into the “no-proof” atheism category and thus are more akin to “anti-religious” atheism rather than a general anti-theistic world view. I cannot, however, speak for certainty for any others here, but that is my viewpoint. As I have said in other posts, I actually have a tangible pantheistic belief, but it does not allow for belief in the supernatural due to my Zen Buddhism experience.
          So, as I said, shit on a biscuit with shit sauce.

  • Joe White

    Yoav wrote:

    “How are these magic biblical criteria defined”

    How are constitutional powers of the government defined? by reading the text of the constitution, one would assume

    • Custador

      Yeah, and having judges argue endlessly over how to interpret it, the same way priests argue endlessly how to interpret the Bible.

      • Joe White

        yeah so obviously the Constitution is useless, since it must be interpreted, right?

        no practical use at all…….just like every other written document on earth

        • Yoav

          You’re clearly thicker then a brick sandwich. The need for interpretation doesn’t make a document useless, the difference is that no one deny that the court interpret the constitution and that the way they do changes with time while religious people like you interpret the bible (or whatever other magic book they like best) but claim that they follow the text literally. Another thing is that the constitution get amended when it become clear that the time have changed while religious thinking is stuck in the pre-scientific, authoritarian, racist, misogynistic culture that produced books like the bible or the koran.

          • Joe White

            Yoav wrote:

            “religious people like you interpret the bible (or whatever other magic book they like best) but claim that they follow the text literally”

            Every Christian that I know believes that SOME parts of the Bible are literal, SOME parts are symbolic, SOME parts are parables, SOME parts are allegory, and so on.

            And you believe that too.

            I promise you that I could show you parts of the Bible that you would agree “yes, I think that the author meant this to be taken literally” and I could show you other parts that you would agree “yes, this is definitely a parable, not intended to be understood as literal history” and so forth……..

            So what is you point Yoav?

            • Yoav

              And I’m sure that like any other theist we’ve seen here which bits are literal and which are not will happen to conveniently fit with what you happen to think the bible really mean. Also, if you want us to consider the bible a reliable source the important bit is not whether the authors (yes many authors over centuries) meant for specific bits to be taken literally but whether these bits are factually accurate.

          • Joe White

            oh and btw Yoav, I used a literary device called ‘sarcasm’ when I wrote:

            “yeah so obviously the Constitution is useless, since it must be interpreted, right?

            no practical use at all…….just like every other written document on earth”

            but you appear to have taken my post literally, because you responded:

            “You’re clearly thicker then a brick sandwich. The need for interpretation doesn’t make a document useless….”

            Why is it that you apparently missed the non-literal usage in my post?

            • Kodie

              The difference is we know who wrote the Constitution and why. The bible is just a book. Interpreting it is a fascinating hobby but inconsequential.

        • onotagain

          You have had many opportunities to provide a clear description of what kinds of prayers are acceptable. You haven’t. If an honest person had that information at hand and truly believed that they could provide some kind of proof of the effectiveness of prayer, that person would provide that description of what prayers are… uh.. kosher.

          You have failed to do what an honest person would do.

          • Joe White

            nonsense, onotagain.

            I’ve told you exactly where to find clear information on prayer.

            And I havent insisted that I must be your intermediary, your interpreter, your priest. I havent elevated myself or made you dependent on me. You can go straight to the Source.

            • Custador

              A source which, BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION, requires interpretation to draw the correct conclusion. It’s funny to me that you won’t just spell out the criteria for a proper prayer and your Biblical justification (chapter and verse) for them. Why don’t you just admit that you can’t, Joe? Seriously, why not just admit that you were talking shit and you’re wrong? You’ll feel better for it.

            • onotagain

              Joe, you have refused to make it clear just what the rules are. The truth is that you know that if you made any firm claim about prayer it would be quickly destroyed and the only recourse you have is to be as vague and noncommital as possible. Anyone who truly and deeply believed that he could inform people of the proper way to get prayers answered would hand out that information freely and openly. Instead you use the typical approach of all the other Liars for Jesus.

              I’ll make it so simple that even you can understand it: if you had what you claim you have you would share it in order to bring people closer to God. You have not, so you don’t have it. All you do is lie.

        • Custador

          You really are stupid. You argued that all one has to do to learn how to pray “properly” is read the Bible. You then used the Constitution as an example of another book which must be obeyed to the letter. All I did was point out that, for both documents, interpretations vary.

          • Joe White

            Custador,

            Yoav asked a ridiculous question ” How are biblical criteria defined?” and I answered ” how are constitutional powers defined?”

            Rather than give a grammar lesson, and explain that the adjective ‘biblical’ modified the noun ‘criteria’ and gave the answer to the question he was asking , I used sarcasm. I probably should have known better with this humorless crowd.

            The Biblical criteria for prayer are defined — in the Bible. ta da

            yes, as you stated, the Bible must be interpreted

            and my response to you was basically, “so what? any written document on earth necessitates some interpretation. ”

            Its easy to interpret much of what we read each day because we are immediately familiar with the context, the language itself and its idioms, the culture in which it is based and so forth. And so we subconsciously process this information and dont really spend a lot of time laboring to interpret. We interpret on the fly, with ease, usually without realizing that we have done so.

            However, the more elaborate a document is (a business contract, a novel, a 2700 page law coming out of Congress) the more we have to put conscious effort into interpretation to make sure we understand the document AS IT WAS INTENDED BY ITS AUTHOR.

            Ancient documents require some extra effort, it’s true. But its not like the Bible is the only document on earth that requires interpretation in order to understand the intent of the author.

            • Kodie

              So you don’t know or you can’t say? You certainly have a lot to say when someone’s doing it against your interpretation and therefore won’t get good results though!

              You cannot MAKE THAT CLAIM without backing it up. You are and have been functionally useless to this discussion. If some others have found the bible says you can pray this way and you say they’re doin’ it wrong, you have to elaborate and be specific, or shut your piehole. You got nothin’.

            • Yoav

              I’ll try to avoid long words so you won’t get confused.
              How can you tell that the way you interpret the bible is the one true way™ and all the millions of other ways in which christians (let’s ignore for now, for the sake of simplicity, the ways in which jews and muslims interpret the bible) have, and still do, interpret the bible are wrong.
              Hint: because I say so doesn’t count as evidence.

  • Joe White

    Michael wrote:

    “There is a reason “scientific history” is now preferred by nearly all scholars: because the bare fact that somebody said something is not enough to believe it true. But there are scientific means of discerning historical facts, and these are trusted over scripture and legend. “Circumstantial evidence” is merely any evidence that demands an external assumption to support a hypothesis. In the case of forensics, this is nearly always scientific evidence of a sort. “Legal evidence” is just any evidence presented in court. In fact, I would contend that all trustworthy evidence is scientific in nature.”

    I didnt want this to get lost in the dust.

    Our courts accept eyewitness testimony all the time. And its not the same as ‘scientific evidence’

    But its enough to put a man behind bars for life or put him in the electric chair.

    • Troutbane

      Annnnnd there have been more than one occasion where this later turned out to be in error or the witness lied. Eye witness testimony is inherently flawed, ask any DA. Its the hard evidence that helps them seal a case, hard scientific testable evidence. They may convict based on eye witness testimony only, but you are damned for sure going to see the witnesses checked, verified, and requestioned later in the appeals process.

      • Joe White

        you bet eyewitnesses lie. but ‘scientists’ never do.

        data is never fudged.

        financial grants are never a motivation to craft a hypothesis that emphasizes this and ignores that

        professional pride and prestige, and the race for a position and a legacy never figure into the completely objective pursuit of truth by these disspassionate, Spock-like logical beings

        • Troutbane

          Except for the peer review process. Science is structured in such a way that if one scientist blatantly lies or fudges data, you can bet for sure some other scientist will find out and will advance their career even more by discrediting a previously held theory.

          • Joe White

            its much easier to publish a paper that ‘goes with the flow’ and doesnt make too many waves.

            Its easier to get grants and a promotion when everybody in your field is willing to say ‘yeah he’s brilliant because he thinks just as I do.”

            so the peer pressure to crank out politically correct ‘research’ is quite strong

            • Kodie

              Knowing that you can’t just publish stuff without it being scrutinized by people who don’t give a shit about your reputation has got to be pretty pervasive, because that’s actually what happens.

            • Troutbane

              I would like to point out that I have personally published a paper in a scientific journal. It a pain in the ass. They will critique the shit out of your paper and make you do edits and revisions and explain over and over again why your interpretation of the data is correct or consistent. It aint easy by a long shot.

            • Kodie

              Joe White is ignoring that this is even part of the thread so he can continue to talk about how newspapers have more scrutiny and therefore more credibility than scientific papers. You know, because people read the news to know what’s going on, it has to be true and accurate or else it would never make it to print except when the newspaper writes the story ahead of time and accidentally go to press, oh well, that happens sometimes, it doesn’t mean brain-dead people don’t get revived.

            • Troutbane

              Yeah, Im pretty much ignoring most of what he said since he seems to keep avoiding answering the questions he knows he is wrong about or dealing with points that refute his own statements. I think he knows he made very bad logical points, but is trying to save face at this point, but doesn’t realize he just keeps looking dumber and dumber.

            • Kodie

              Well now he won’t even own what he did say.

        • Kodie

          I take it you’ve never applied for a grant? You just think it’s some nifty way a scientist gets some money to fuck off and turn out anything he or she wants to be true.

          In Christianity-land, that may be true.

    • Bill

      “Our courts accept eyewitness testimony all the time. And its not the same as ‘scientific evidence’”

      Yes the courts do accept eyewitness testimony. But the rules of evidence exist to make sure that the testimony is reliable. If you would like to apply the rules of evidence to the case for religion, I would be happy to have that debate.

      Let’s start with application of the rule against heresay.

      If you are arguing that the case for god would stand up in our judicial system, I suspect you may not be happy with the verdict.

  • Joe White

    Kodie said:

    “THE REPORTER said the doctor said.”

    oh ok, give us your conspiracy theory how the reporter just made the whole story up and his editor decided to publish an obvious falsehood.

    The part about ‘no brain activity’ isnt just some incidental detail. It IS the story. Without it, theres no reason to publish this story.

    So tell us how it got there as the reporter and the editor colloborated to deceive us all.

    • Troutbane

      In my line of work (municipal planning) I see reporters publish stories that are just plain wrong all the time. The overall story may be there, but they will gloss over points and emphasize where there is no emphasis to create a “better” story.

      • Joe White

        my point is, if the patient wasnt dead, there IS no story, so the entire thing is a fabrication. That seems to be what is implied by Kodie’s post, whether Kodie realizes it or not.

        • Kodie

          So?

    • Kodie

      Your sources are a pile of manure. If that really happened, it would be published in a medical journal by the doctor him or herself. It would be the pride of their career, a magnificent worldwide occasion. You found it buried in a rag archived on the internet. You obviously believe everything you read, no matter where it came from and have no method of discerning credibility from the sources you cite. It’s not a conspiracy to print a falsehood in the paper, it’s just that you think, based on nothing, that newspapers only print the facts and nothing but the facts. No, buddy, they exist to sell eyeballs to advertisers.

      • Joe White

        yeah and the doctor and the hospital simply allowed themselves to be lied about. The patient wasnt dead, it was just the stupid doctor who THOUGHT the patient was dead and was stupid enough to let the paper give the whole town the impression that he and his hospital staff declare people dead when they arent.

        sure

        • Kodie

          You’re not skeptical enough of your source, and you’re not medically knowledgeable, and it fits in with your belief in miracles. You are using the same type of excuses for the paper that you are for the bible, i.e. they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t absolutely true! It’s called confirmation bias.

          • Joe White

            put yourself in the newspaper editors shoes for a moment.

            Do you really think he’s going to paint a picture for his city of a hospital and its staff that give people up for dead when they really arent, since he knows he will immediately be in heap big doo doo if the story has no basis in fact?

            If the doctor will not stand by the statement as quoted in the story, the story falls apart.

            You said “The REPORTER said the doctor said”

            Seriously, are you as a reporter going to publish something that you KNOW you cant stand by? Will your editor allow you to?

            If the patient wasnt dead, there’s no story. Thats a lot more than “jazzing up the story” as you say. That’s creating the story. You do understand that, dont you?

            • Kodie

              Yes, I understand that, and I understand that you’re gullible as well.

            • Kodie

              On the one hand, you assert that scientists can and very often do apply for and receive grant money to perform specifically outlined experiments and publish the results under no scrutiny or responsibility for the truth or worry that someone will find them a fraud, but newspaper editors are beholden to a higher standard of truth because the people will read it and believe it?

              You really have your head so far up your ass.

    • Custador

      Let’s examine one of the sources you picked for credibility in science and medicine reporting, shall we? Since I’m English, I think I’ll pick the Dail Mail.

      The following is a small list of some of the many, many, many things that the Daily Mail has reported (often on the front page, with banner headlines) as directly causing cancer:

      1) Facebook
      2) Wine
      3) The common cold
      4) Underarm deodorant
      5) Chips
      6) Oral sex
      7) Vitamin E
      8) Sausages and burgers
      9) Soup
      10) Hair dye
      11) Mouthwash
      12) Sun cream
      13) Pringles
      14) X-rays (technically true, but a miniscule probability)
      15) Talcum powder
      16) Moisturiser
      17) Mobile ‘phones
      18) Meat
      19) Tooth whitener
      20) Chocolate.

      “In October 2011, the Daily Mail printed an article that claimed ‘Just ONE cannabis joint can bring on schizophrenia as well as damaging memory.’ This led to Dorothy Bishop, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University, awarding the Daily Mail the ‘Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation,’ for what he called ‘the worst misrepresentation of a scientific article in a national newspaper’.”

      “One of the Daily Mail’s star columnists, Christopher Booker… mak[es] repeated claims that white asbestos is ‘chemically identical to talcum powder’ and the threat from it is so ‘vanishingly small’ that a study by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive had concluded that the danger was ‘insignificant’ and with ‘arguably zero’ risk of lung cancer… the UK’s Health and Safety Executive does not agree with Booker and has described his claims regarding asbestos as ‘substantially misleading.’.”

      Undoubtedly the finest ever moment of total duplicity in the Daily Mail’s history, though, was one that I actually spotted and started circulating myself. I probably wasn’t the only one who did, but there was a ten minute window when THIS happened on their website:

      “Amanda Knox found guilty – the Mail decided to release the wrong pre-written story regarding the appeal of accused murderer Amanda Knox. Highlights include reactions from prosecutors who said they were delighted, a description of how she collapsed in a chair sobbing and would be placed on suicide watch. (Knox was actually declared not guilty at the actual appeal, in case you missed the punchline.)”

      Did you get that last one? They TOTALLY INVENTED THE STORY, replete with plausible sounding “facts”, and EVEN INCLUDED REACTION QUOTES FROM THE PROSECUTORS, and they REPORTED THEIR FICTION AS FACT. Here are some examples:

      “As Knox realised the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.

      A few feet away Meredith’s mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.

      Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that ‘justice has been done’ although they said on a ‘human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail’”.
      “Following the verdict Knox and [Raphael] Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.

      Both will be put on a suicide watch for the next few days as psychological assessments are made on each of them but this is usual practice for long term prisoners.”

      That was a high-profile case, watched by millions of people around the world – And you’re saying they wouldn’t make up a feel-good miracle story about a complete unknown?

      • Joe White

        Custador,

        Newspapers have to be ready on a moments notice, and yes they probably pre-wrote stories for BOTH possible outcomes, and accidentally posted the wrong one for a few minutes until the error was realized.

        Imagine though, the press making up a story about Amanda Knox who was arrested and tried for murder, when no such arrest or trial occurred. Then they quote the local District Prosecutor and well known lawyers.

        Do you think they would manufacture and publish that story? Wouldnt they be in trouble with the prosecutor? Wouldnt they be sued by Amanda Knox?

        See, if the patient wasnt dead, there IS no story. Got it?

        • Kodie

          You are making excuses for errors in the newspaper but I thought the newspaper is incapable of printing errors!

        • Custador

          You’ve just admitted that newspapers lie and report complete fiction. The rest of your post is handwaving bullshit to distract from the fact that YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG, and that you are such a child that you can’t just fucking admit it. You are getting fucking OWNED in this thread, left right and centre, and yet you haven’t budged a fucking inch. You’re a closed-minded, ignorant, stupid prick. Fuck off.

          • Joe White

            wow you used the word ‘fuck’. What powerful logic!! Well you must be right then. That should be obvious to anyone.

            • Elemenope

              What an odd complaint.

            • Kodie

              It’s like you don’t understand English, so we had to translate it to French for you.

            • UrsaMinor

              That would be “Va te faire foutre”. Or “Allez-vous faire foutre”, if one is attempting a modicum of politeness, but usually this approach just comes off as blatant sarcasm.

            • Kodie

              I meant “French” as in “Pardon my fucking French”.

        • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

          You’re making excuses for outright lying. I think your bible has something to say about that. Newspapers’ need to be ready to print a story doesn’t give them the right to make up reactions and quotes and plan to report them whether they occur or not. You are being so obtuse it is entertaining, but I do worry for your child-like mind and how long it will take for it to come to pieces as you are constantly confronted with reality.

          • Joe White

            I didnt say the newspaper were right for making up quotes.

            I simply made the point that they didnt manufacture a story out of whole cloth about a trial of a girl named Amanda Knox. The story really did happen. The paper tried to anticipate the outcome and accidentally published the wrong copy. Too bad for them.

            But the Knox example is one I didnt bring up to begin with, and is really not all that important to what we were talking about.

            The point is that the patients in these other stories were declared dead by their doctor, due to no detectable brain activity. Then at some point later, hours in some cases, they were found to have detectable brain activity. That’s the point. The newspapers in these instances are highly unlikely to have simply manufactured these tales out of whole cloth, for the reasons I stated.

            • Mogg

              As repeatedly pointed out, “declared dead” may have been human error on the part of medical staff, and/or a reporter summing up “no observable higher brain function” or some other such statement incorrectly. I work in the medical field, and I can categorically state that every single time I’ve been involved in a project that has been reported on in mass media the reporter has misinterpreted something, summed a complex point up to the point of incoherence, left out a vital detail, or plain got things wrong. Mostly it hasn’t been important enough to either seek a correction or sue for misrepresentation, but science and medicine reporters are not necessarily qualified in science themselves and are usually writing to a deadline, a word limit, in an attention-grabbing style and for an assumed audience average reading age of about 11. They write to sell newspapers and therefore advertising, not for accuracy. Mass media is not a good source for accurate scientific or medical reporting.

              In addition, you seem to think that hospitals or doctors can prevent a story from being published if it is inaccurate. That’s not how reporting works. Any misrepresentation which one of these facilities or staff mentioned in the articles you linked which was considered serious enough to pursue would have been dealt with only after the fact, by requesting the newspapers correct or retract – probably in a tiny box on page 57 a week later – or by suing, a process which can take years. Hard to find on a google search. In all likelihood, the expense would.have been too great, and once again the medical establishment has to take a hit due to sloppy or sensationalist writing in the media.

              So, if you have any examples from more credible sources, by all means provide them. These are not credible for many, many reasons.

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              They wrote both versions of the story before the verdict was in and before any reactions took place. They guessed what happened. They made it up. Then their plan was to post whichever included the correct verdict (which they failed at because they are so notoriously sloppy) coupled with all their creative writing about how people reacted and what people said and did in the courtroom. This is not ‘anticipating the outcome’, it’s pre-writing entire stories full of made-up details just to publish something, anything about a story first. It’s bad journalism and it’s outright falsifying reports, whether or not it relates to a real trial that is occurring.

              The point that you continue to inartfully dodge is that this source you cite is completely unreliable because they are well known for making things up and Custador provided a significant example. You didn’t say the newspaper was right for making up quotes? Then why do you insist on trying to excuse and explain away their making up quotes?

  • Joe White

    Kodie wrote:

    “inconsequential”

    ok, so it wont matter to you what conclusions one might draw from the Bible or what consequences it might have

    • Kodie

      They don’t and shouldn’t have bearing on anyone but the believer. The bible has zero standing as a government document – it’s your own fable. You want to do the dances just right, that’s your little hobby.

  • Joe White

    Yoav wrote:

    ” like any other theist we’ve seen here which bits are literal and which are not will happen to conveniently fit with what you happen to think the bible really mean”

    You also have decided what you think the Bible means based on which parts you thought were literal and which parts you thought were not.

    So how are you different in method from ‘any other theist we’ve seen here’ ? You arent.

    • Kodie

      Not believing it has anything to do with a deity makes that rather a lot easier to defend than your little habit of doing whatever you want as long as you can find in the bible some way of excusing it.

      I personally don’t take any of the bible literally. Atheists in general do not and only appear to when speaking to dummies about their dumbness. Here it says in the bible what Joe White does and he sincerely believes it, and here is another passage you appear to have overlooked, dumb ass. Be consistent.

      It’s not that we pick and choose what you should do, it’s that we know better all the parts you find objectionable and listen to the excuses you make why you don’t have to take those parts literally or why we’re the ones misunderstanding it.

      • Michael

        I wouldn’t go quite that far. Sections of the Bible clearly are intended literally. Some of these are even factual to an extent, such as the existence and execution of John the Baptist. But the majority of it is not like that.

        • Kodie

          Historical veracity of some parts of the bible still has no bearing on whether a deity is in communication with you and has preferences which parts of the bible you take literally and which parts figuratively and which parts you wave away as only pertaining to characters spoken to in the bible or the Jews or to women or to donkeys or whatever. If parts of the bible are historically informative and accurate, that is not what I would consider literally true biblically. It can be written in the bible and historically true, but that doesn’t make it biblically literally true.

          • Kodie

            My take on the bible is that it’s part historical, part mythical – and these parts can be analyzed apart as a scholar can match up such and such was in Rome or whatever, vs. 900 year old men and giants and angels what have you. The rest of it consists of:

            a) the kind of bullshit some bullshitter would say
            b) a little actual good sense to follow
            c) magical stories
            d) stuff that used to make sense but doesn’t now
            e) excuses to assault and destroy some city or culture you don’t like
            f) poetry
            g) A young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.
            h) complete superstitious horseshit
            i) the kind of small-world guestimated scientific assessments a shepherd might make while looking out at the stars waiting for his sheep
            j) Holy crap, pigs have the same kind of hooves as the devil, and Schkemion died eating one!
            k) one man’s personal disgust over homosexuals taken too seriously
            l) oh yeah, an occasional tie-in with historical events that can be verified in other records!

            • Custador

              Damn Kodie! You kicked some ass yesterday :D

          • Joe White

            Kodie wrote:

            “If parts of the bible are historically informative and accurate, that is not what I would consider literally true biblically.”

            LOL

            ‘Just because its accurate doesnt mean its true….’

            ok Kodie whatever

            • Kodie

              You also suck at reading. Ok, lol Joe White. Was Spiderman real because New York City is real?

    • Yoav

      I treat the bible like I would any other work of fiction which mean it can mean something different to anyone that read it and none of these meaning should be used to make important decisions regarding the real world.

      • Joe White

        Yoav, you simply start with presuppositions which foreordain your conclusion. The same thing you dont like about Christians.

        • Kodie

          Nope. The bible, if you read it, doesn’t make any fucking sense. If you try to make it make sense, then you are ignorant; you believe what it says because you start with the premise that it’s to be believed. If you read it with no such bias, the natural conclusion is “holy fuck, what kind of moron actually believes all this shit!!!!”

          • Joe White

            we both read the Bible with a bias.

            Admit it. Dont pretend that you are objective and others arent.

            your presuppositions determine your conclusion, Kodie.

            • Kodie

              There is nothing to admit. Besides you say you read it with a bias? Yes, you read it with a bias that it’s true. Accusing me of also having a bias does not help you win the argument.

            • Bill

              Joe

              Here’s the problem. I read tha bible many times with a bias toward belief. I wanted to believe so damn bad it hurt. I wanted the bible to contain answers about life, and purpose and eternity. But the Bible’s lack of clarity, lack of factual support, and description of a mean god made it the very source of my deconversion despite my fervent desire to believe.

              You’re making the faulty assumption that the people here came to the Bible with a preconceived atheist view. For many of us that’s just not true.

              So I will ask you – as others have in good faith – please tell us what YOUR reading of biblical prayer is. Tell us why you think the Bible is a reliable guide book for YOUR life. Please don’t just say “it’s in the Bible you can look it up.” Because trust us, we’ve looked and we don’t see it.

  • Joe White

    Custador wrote:

    “It’s funny to me that you won’t just spell out the criteria for a proper prayer”

    I did.

    I said “Read the Bible’s teaching on prayer. Make sure you are in conformance with it’s requirements. Then pray.”

    I dont know how to make it any simpler for you. I’ve got young children who understand it.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      People have already quoted what the bible says about prayer. You have simply ignored it or told them “not that part, the other parts” without ever referring to what they might be. You are a worm wriggling on a hook, and you make yourself out to be intellectually dishonest by not actually stating what requirements you’re trying to explain, just constantly insulting others and insisting they somehow figure out what it is you’re talking about. Stop dodging and tell us where to find these requirements that it seems are the right ones (because we already looked in the bible and magically found the wrong ones every time), otherwise we’ll assume your position regarding prayer is deliberately shifting to avoid any real test.

    • Kodie

      So what you are saying is that god doesn’t answer prayers.

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        Which is the opposite of what god says.

        • Kodie

          Everything is the opposite of what god says.

          • Custador

            Dammit… It’s only out of respect for you guys that I haven’t taken your annoying chew-toy away yet >:(

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              I’m not a fan of banning people just because they’re obtuse and incapable of learning or expressing themselves, but I have to admit I’ve been tempted to suggest it with this guy. Of course, all that achieves is he gets to trumpet his persecuted Christian bona fides and proclaim atheists can’t handle discussion. I don’t really care if he’s irritating or if our arguing with him irritates you, I’d rather hammer him until he gives up or grows up and not let such a willful idiot walk away thinking he’s won and he’s justified in doing the usual things people like him tend to do, which boils down to hurting women, homosexuals, ethnic minorities and children.

            • Custador

              Fair points, well presented.

    • Sunny Day

      Children are easily mollified with pat answers or “because I said so” or even nonsensical answers. If dealing with adults is too challenging for you, perhaps you should go back to kindergarten.

    • Custador

      You ALSO admitted that WHAT THE BIBLE TELLS YOU TO DO IS OPEN TO INTERPRETATION. We have asked you, repeatedly, many, many times to TELL US WHAT YOUR INTERPRETATION IS OF THE PASSAGES THAT TELL YOU HOW TO PRAY.

      You KNOW this is what we’re asking you for, but you are SO dishonest, you are SUCH a pathological liar, that you’ll just shrug it off like it’s asked and answered when you know it’s no such damned thing.

      • Joe White

        You cant be satisfied either way Custador.

        If I interpret and explain Bible passages for you, you’ll say “yes and I suppose that people can ONLY follow YOUR interpretation to get it right, eh?”

        If I dont interpret and explain Bible passages for you, you say “why wont you interpret the passages for us?”

        Thus you attempt to stake out for yourself an unfalsifiable position where your bias is always proved correct (at least in your own mind).

        But doing nothing proves nothing.

        You want to test and gather evidence and satisfy yourself as to whether the Bible is true?

        I’ve told you how.

        1. Find out exactly what the Bible says about under what conditions God answers prayer.

        2. Make very sure you meet all those conditions.

        3. Pray.

        I dare you Custador.

        I dont need to interpret the Bible for you. And you dont need me as your interpreter, your priest, your go-between.

        God Himself interprets the Bible for anyone who seeks it.

        You dont have to answer to me, but you have to answer to yourself why you are afraid to test and why you reject the opportunity to have the evidence you have been demanding.

        • Kodie

          You are daring people to pray vaguely and get some kind of vague response that’s not really there?

          So I don’t mind categorizing you as delusional right now. You talk of wacky things like everyone else can hear the voices you hear in your head. Ya gotta be more explicit sir! You can’t just make up a bullshit pie and expect everyone to eat it.

          • Joe White

            Kodie wrote:

            “You are daring people to pray vaguely”

            If that’s what the Bible says, then the answer would be yes. Did you find that in the Bible, or did you make it up?

            • Kodie

              No, the bible says you can pray specifically and it will come true. Anything you want.

        • Michael

          1. Find out exactly what the Bible says about under what conditions God answers prayer.

          We already did. Jesus (aka “God”) stated that we can move mountains with a little bit of faith. So we found out exactly what the Bible said. But that wasn’t good enough for you.

          Instead of giving vague ways we can find the answer, why don’t you GIVE US the answer directly? What exactly, according to your preferred style of interpretation, does the Bible say about prayer?

          I dont need to interpret the Bible for you.

          Except anything less than your own interpretation won’t satisfy you. Whenever we try without your help, you tell us we got it wrong. You are refusing to help, then criticizing our attempts.

          You dont have to answer to me, but you have to answer to yourself why you are afraid to test and why you reject the opportunity to have the evidence you have been demanding.

          As I said, there have been tests in the past, and well controlled ones at that. They have given negative results. So we aren’t afraid, just perplexed at your insistence that everything that doesn’t give the result you expect must have been done wrong.

          • Joe White

            You want to cherry pick one or two parts of a small passage out of a 1000+ page document, and then tell me you’ve got exactly what the Bible teaches on prayer. Right……..

            If you were being paid to produce this type of research, do you think you’d still be employed?

            I didnt say your interpretation is right or wrong, but that your task is incomplete.

            • Kodie

              And who the fuck are you anyway? Some turd on the internet who is known very much to be a liar.

            • Michael

              You don’t seem to understand that I have read the entire Bible. Cover to cover. I just have a radically different perspective on what it says than you do.

              I don’t know how many times I need to ask this: If my interpretation of the Bible is wrong, than what is right? More specifically, what test could I perform that is better than the ones that already were? If you cannot give a single specific example, then all your rhetoric is useless.

        • Custador

          Joe, you’re a moron, you’re a liar, and you’re not worth debating. I’m sure at the surface you think you’re being terribly clever… But deep down, you know as well as the rest of us that you’re full of crap. MANY of the people here (myself included) have read more than one version of the Bible, cover to cover. Many of the people here who have done that have attempted to pray the way they think the Bible says they should pray. And all of them are now atheists, even those who were evangelical Christians at the time. And if you inject a No True Scotsman fallacy in response to this, I swear to Blog…

          • Joe White

            Custador,

            When people cant (or arent willing) to answer what someone has actually said, they reach for the ad homs.

            Those usually fall in a few well known categories:

            1. You are stupid
            2. You are crazy
            3. You are lying
            4. You are evil
            5. Basic name calling

            Most of these have been demonstrated in the past few days here by people who would probably describe themselves as tolerant, openminded, etc. It’s too bad. But to the best of my ability, I wont return the comments.

            If you value evidence, I’ve given you a method to gather it.

            “reading the Bible cover to cover” wasnt part of what I suggested, although it might be helpful in fulfilling Step 1. But in and of itself , it does not fulfil step 1.

            Did you fulfil step 2? You havent said so, so I must assume at this point no.

            I applaud your previous attempts, and I’ll never tell you that you can attempt this without encountering some failures. You may retrace your steps at times and then you can determine where you might have missed fulfilling one of the steps. But I also know it brings success.

            No, I’m not clever, and not trying to be. I didnt write the Bible and can take no credit for it. As I said earlier, I have no need to ‘be the one’ to interpret for everyone ‘what the Bible really says’ and receive glory or credit for doing so. And you dont need me as interpreter, priest or guide. God Himself interprets and guides. So pick up your Bible.

            • Custador

              If you don’t stop this pathetic, thinly veiled attempt at evangelising through the tired old technique of “if only they’d read the Bible and try to understand, they’d surely believe”, I’m going to start getting very annoyed at you. Most of us have read the Bible. A lot of us understand it perfectly well. It’s a deeply flawed, hugely internally inconsistent story book.

            • Michael

              So your position now is that we understood the Bible and prayed for our sins, but we didn’t pray according to how the Bible had just taught us?

              You have a hopelessly misguided view of the world. Maybe one day you will understand that many have come before you trying far harder than you ever will to “find God” and instead found nothing but a mirror (or an echo chamber, in the case of prayer).

              I know now that no matter what we say, you will have some patronizing ad hoc explanation for why our particular method failed, and that you will never tell us a better way, because if you did, you might be proven wrong.

            • Kodie

              Joe White – you haven’t actually said anything. You say we’re not reading the bible and we should just read the bible, so this gets you out of saying what you really mean, to which we have responded to you in an accurate way – you are lying, you are vague, you are gullible. You have demonstrated that you are exactly those things, so it’s not ad hominem, sorry, to respond to what you have said with remarks that are relevant to your remarks.

              What I’d like to know is who gave you the idea that you are doing everything you can to get some point across? You haven’t made an effort to say anything, to respond reasonably, honestly, specifically about anything. You accuse us of making stuff up, while you are referring to the bible – a book that’s made up. Unless you have some argument to support that it’s true, “just read it” is not a supporting argument. So furthermore, you are stupid or you are playing stupid – you either don’t know what pieces of the discussion you’re supposed to provide for this to get anywhere, or you know that if you do say it, we do have the arguments to oppose every fallacious unsupportable argument you can think of, so you are being slippery about it on purpose, which adds to the remarks that you are one piece of shit.

              So anyway, all you’ve said is “read the bible and interpret it for yourself” and fallacious accusations that we’re afraid of the “truth” which you have not stated, or that you have some source that tells you science is a conspiracy which you have not supported, and that newspapers are legitimate sources of fact always because they would not be able to lie in the same way that scientists can lie to people who actually can interpret whether or not it’s bullshit. You seem to believe that newspapers, archived rags you dug up as “sources” are more credible than scientific papers, because it’s all about the grant money and kissing ass.

              Next, you are going to tell me you never said that and I’m making that up. How are we supposed to respond to what you said if you claim you never said it – where do you think this is supposed to go? Your responses to EVERYTHING we’ve said is to ignore what we’ve said and repeat yourself about reading the bible and shitting on science.

              In conclusion – You ARE a douchebag.

              That isn’t ad hominem – you have demonstrated such and that is the only logical conclusion of this whole discussion.

        • Bill

          “1. Find out exactly what the Bible says about under what conditions God answers prayer.

          2. Make very sure you meet all those conditions.

          3. Pray.”

          I tried this. It didn’t work.

          Obviously you think it has worked for you. Can you please help me out and tell me what the conditions are so that I can have salvation too?

  • Joe White

    Michael wrote:

    “Similarly, to test if a prayer cures an illness, I should be able to take two groups of people with that illness, give one group prayers (as per Biblical instructions), and give the other group convincing fake prayers (maybe to the wrong god or something), and see if the test group fares better than the control. ”

    If the Bible taught that prayer was simply “the correct sequence of words strung together” then you would be right.

    The question is, is that what the Bible teaches prayer is?

    • Michael

      The question is, is that what the Bible teaches prayer is?

      Seems to be. If you interpret the Bible literally, then yeah, pretty much.

      But obviously you disagree. Why don’t you stop being such a shithead and just tell us what you think the Bible says.

  • Joe White

    Yoav wrote:

    “How can you tell that the way you interpret the bible is the one true way”

    where did I say that I was always right about the Bible? or anything else?

    • Yoav

      So basically the bible mean whatever you want it to, that’s convenient. You didn’t provide anything resembling a rational argument anywhere on this thread but now you’re one trick pony show is even losing it’s entertainment value.

      • Joe White

        Yoav wrote:

        “So basically the bible mean whatever you want it to, that’s convenient.”

        Instead of pretending to respond to something I didnt say, why dont you honestly respond to what I actually did say?

        • Kodie

          What you actually did say was meaningless and evasive and dishonest, so that’s what we’ve been responding to. Now you.

        • Yoav

          I’m bored.

      • Jabster

        “You didn’t provide anything resembling a rational argument anywhere on this thread …”

        Agree

        “… but now your one trick pony show …”

        Agree

        “… is even losing it’s entertainment value.”

        No, no, no … if you want a good example of how dishonest, even to themselves, someone will be to defend their beliefs then this is a master class. You know he’s never going to say what he believes is the correct way to pray to god as firstly this enables people to disagree with his interpretation and secondly it means it can be tested.

        If you never really say anything then you can never really be wrong …

        • Kodie

          There is a point where it gets repetitive.

          • Custador

            Can I ban him yet?

            • Kodie

              I was hoping to see what his brilliant answer to my last post would be like.

            • Custador

              You think he’ll actually give you an answer?!

            • Kodie

              Not a very good one, but yeah.

            • Yoav

              While I don’t think he did anything that will justify dropping the hammer on him I also think that this one have been exceeded it’s usefulness as a chewtoy so unless he miraculously morph into a reasonable adult I’m just not going to bother with him any more.

  • Joe White

    Kodie wrote:

    “Yes, you read it with a bias that it’s true.”

    Yes, and I’m honest about my bias.

    Can you be honest about yours?

    • Kodie

      Did your shovel break?

      • Sunny Day

        After the bog standard dishonest theist hits rock bottom and breaks their shovel, they begin to secrete an acidic slime to continue their travel to the very lowest depths.

  • Joe White

    Michael wrote:

    “what test could I perform that is better than the ones that already were?”

    I outlined the test for you. It’s simple. But it takes more effort than you’ve demonstrated.

    “If my interpretation of the Bible is wrong, than what is right?”

    God’s interpretation of it is right, even if mine or yours isnt always. But I can pretty much guarantee that cherry picking the Bible on almost any subject wont get you very far.

    So far your demonstration of ‘your interpretation’ hasnt amounted to much. You claim to have read the whole Bible and that may be so. But it is a long and complex document and your actual grasp of its contents appears to be very slight indeed.

    Regurgitating the partial contents of a verse or two doesnt really meet the standard that I set in step 1. Again I’m not saying that any part of your ‘interpretation’ is or isnt correct, but its far from complete.

    Once you’ve have done some more work on Step 1, you can move to Step 2 and begin it as you are continuing to work on the rest of Step 1.

    Its like I asked you how to drive and you said “push the gas pedal, right?” Well maybe there’s a time for that. But you could flood the carburetor if you’ve done nothing else but push the gas. And there’s quite a bit more to it besides.

    • Michael

      Ah, so your retort is that I did not understand the Bible as well as I thought I did.

      Have you considered that perhaps you do not understand the Bible as well as you think you do?

      Could you please explain what your interpretation of prayer is in the first place, so we can have an actual discussion?

      Let me be absolutely clear. I have asked you in EVERY SINGLE POST how YOU personally interpret the Bible with respect to prayer. You have repeatedly refused to do so, instead insisting that if I just read “better” or “more carefully,” then surely I will happen upon the “correct” interpretation one of these days, as apparently nearly every Christian denomination has failed to do.

      So this is my last request: Make an actual, meaningful, falsifiable statement, or get the fuck out.

      • Joe White

        Michael wrote:

        “so your retort is that I did not understand the Bible as well as I thought I did.”

        If your previously offered partial quote of a couple of verses is the sum total of your understanding of the Bible teaching on prayer, yes I guess you could say you probably dont understand it as well as you think you do.

        “Have you considered that perhaps you do not understand the Bible as well as you think you do?”

        I’m well aware of my shortcomings in that area, and I’ve made no claim to always be right. I gave MY view, clearly labeled as such. God is the only interpreter of scripture who is always right. No man holds that position. Scripture doesnt teach human infallibility, in doctrinal matters or in anything else.

        “as apparently nearly every Christian denomination has failed to do”

        I hope you’re not implying I’ve said anything like this, but its not clear whether you are attributing it to me, or whether this is your view.

        • JK

          OK then people should not read the bible, because their interpretation of it only can be flawed. Stop printing bibles not to confuse people and thus having them not living the way “god” wants them to.
          Oh and no man should become priest or join a church anymore, because they don’t get it anyways.

    • Bill

      Joe

      When I was a Christian I understood one of the founding principles of the religion to be a duty by believers to help non-believers come to the Christian god. A number of us here have made it clear that we have read the Bible, honestly tried to pray in a biblical way, and found it lacking. It seems that you think you have the right biblical interpretation of prayer. If you share that with us and we try it with success, that will bring us to god.

      Isn’t bringing us to god part of your holy obligation as one of the saved? Why won’t you share salvation with us?

  • Joe White

    Kodie wrote:

    “so he can continue to talk about how newspapers have more scrutiny and therefore more credibility than scientific papers.”

    Can you point out where I made such a statement, or did you simply make it up?

  • Joe White

    Troutbane wrote:

    “I would like to point out that I have personally published a paper in a scientific journal.”

    Congrats. And I mean it sincerely.

    I’m sure its everything that you say it is.

    My only point regarding it, is that it seems by definition to be a system of peer pressure to go along with the crowd. There’s some good and some bad to that, and I think we can all honestly recognize that.

    • Kodie

      You just said it again! After you just got through telling me I was imagining things!

    • Kodie

      My favorite theme of this part of the thread is where Joe White insists again and again that we just “admit” what he’s saying is true. Where are you getting your information Joe White? Who told you and why should we listen to you? You’re a liar and a troll with false information you haven’t backed up yet again. All you keep saying is it’s obvious that we should all listen to you and/or the bible.

      WHY?

      You have not said WHY. You have shoveled a lot of horseshit, but you haven’t answered that one basic question. Who are you and why are you the authority to come straighten us out about everything from scientific papers to newspapers to miracles to prayer. You have yet to give us one reason to listen to you in the first place, regardless of every false and incoherent thing you assert – you have to back it up. You haven’t done anything of the sort so far.

      • Theory_of_I

        Kodie-
        It couldn’t be simpler (minded) – All you need to do is read the bible every spare minute, 24/7 as intently (rabidly) as you possibly can for however long it takes until every last vestige of logic and reason is scrubbed out of your mind, to be completely replaced with visions, revelations, epiphanies, and jolts of unbounded imagination. Once your cognitive paralysis is complete, and your grey matter has deteriorated sufficiently to produce the onset of uncontrollable brain farts, you will have acquired nearly co-equal pigheaded status with (shudder) Joe White. Whatever are you waiting for? Your own personal enchantment in delusionland awaits!

      • Joe White

        Kodie wrote:

        “Who are you ”

        It doesnt matter who I am. If I were the Pope or Billy Graham or whatever it wouldnt matter, you would probably still twist and misrepresent what I’ve said, so what difference does it make?

        • Kodie

          Who twisted and misrepresented you? Or did you just make that up?

          • Joe White

            Who? That would be you. Anyone can see by the links you posted that what you claimed I said wasnt there.

            • Kodie

              Anyone? Or did you just make that up?

  • Joe White

    Bill wrote:

    “It seems that you think you have the right biblical interpretation of prayer.”

    No, I havent said that. When I get to heaven, I am sure God isnt going to say to me “you know what Joe White? You are the only one who got it all right! Nice job, buddy!”

    What I’ve said is there are a few things that I know WONT work, like cherry picking one passage and demanding that God agree with me or else.

    But I’m not claiming that I always get my prayers answered in the way I would wish. What I find is that the seeking is an integral part of it, and having a set of regurgitated verses handed to you wont get you very far. So I cant do step 1 for anyone else.

    Going along with that is that I dont depend on what this or that minister says or doesnt say. I can learn from a lot of people, but I’m not dependent on any of them. I probably learn more on my own anyway. God is the interpreter of the scripture that He wrote.

    “please tell us what YOUR reading of biblical prayer is. ”

    I have. I’ve told you what I do. I cant speak for anyone else. What I do is seek to find out what God wants me to do, how He wants me to pray, and make sure I’m fulfilling any conditions necessary. The human heart has quite a capacity for self deception, and we like to give ourselves credit for good intentions. I have to be brutally honest with myself about whether I’m doing step 2 or not.

    When I fail, I backtrack to find out if I’ve somehow missed what God wants me to pray, or if I’m not in conformance with the conditions He has set. And I can tell you that if I am not willing to meet God’s conditions, there’s no Biblical passage I know of that tells me that God is going to answer anything. Maybe someone else can point one out, but I know of none.

    • Michael

      So let me get this clear. To ensure you are praying properly you:
      1. Try any method that you believe will lead you to God’s will.
      2. Pray.
      3. If the prayer didn’t work, try another method. Continue until it works.

      Do you not see how this is guaranteed to get a result eventually if you pray for probable enough events?

      What we are looking for is not a “guess and check” approach, but one specific method which one can demonstrate actually works. If there is no such method, then you have given no useful information at all.

      • Joe White

        Michael,

        Your 3 steps dont match mine.

        If you want to say “let me get this clear” and then quote what I actually said, then you would be correct.

        • Kodie

          No one can read your mind, Joe White. Do you really have no idea why nobody takes you seriously? I prayed to god you’d be more vague and it came true! Without even reading the bible at all, can you believe it!

        • Mogg

          So how, then, do you answer people like me, Bill, Nox and a bunch of other people here who all found that this did not work? You haven’t actually given a response to that yet. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it took many years of sincere attempts before I gave up and concluded there was nobody there answering prayers. In other words, it was not a desire to leave the faith that caused me to do so, it was the fact that the faith was futile.

          • Joe White

            I touched on that in my response to Bill. I hope you read it.

            I dont always get my prayers answered the way I want. But I have gotten prayers answered. Many, many times.

            God doesnt ‘owe’ me an answer. God doesnt owe me anything.

            If I dont get an answer, I try to make sure that I’ve done what I can and should. I’m not God, and I don’t run the world. I’m not gonna tell God that I’m smarter and I know what He should have done.

            Sometimes answers do come, much later than I want or expected.

            But if you think faith is futile because you didnt ‘get’ something, you’ve got a different idea of faith than what I’ve seen in the Bible.

            Answers to prayer are icing on the cake. They are nice, but if God never answered me I remember that He was never required to do so on my terms.

            • Kodie

              Where have we been:

              When we are discussing the presence or absence of evidence, the failure to specify will inevitably lead to poor reasoning and poorly drawn conclusions.

              ———-

              If you want to do you own test of the Bible’s reliability on the subject of prayer for instance, it’s quite simple:

              1. Find out exactly what the Bible says regarding under what conditions God will answer prayer
              2. Make certain you meet those conditions
              3. Pray

              It think you’ll find the Bible is quite reliable when you’re done.

              ————-

              thats a great example Troutbane , of a prayer that is not in line with what the Bible says about prayer.

              Theres no guarantee that God will answer an unbiblical prayer.

              —————

              I’ve told you exactly where to find clear information on prayer.

              …………

              Answers to prayer are icing on the cake. They are nice, but if God never answered me I remember that He was never required to do so on my terms.

              Prayer has no effect, is what you’re saying. It has coincidental or predictable, i.e. NO effect.

            • Mogg

              Ah. So apparently we were all doing it wrong, then. In over two decades, somehow I never got it right despite extensive and thorough biblical study and iterations ad nauseum of the ‘go back and reassess’ method.

              Somehow I find my conclusion fits the evidence better than yours.

    • Bill

      “…if I’m not in conformance with the conditions”

      Please tell us what the conditions are. For something like the 5th time now. Recognizing that you acknowledge you don’t always get it right, tell us to the best of your ability based on your experiences what the conditions are that make prayer successful.

      I will tell you, you seem to be describing a perfect scenario for confirmation bias.

      “I believe in prayer – - If I pray and get what I want, then I prayed properly. – - If I pray and don’t get what I want, then it’s on me not god.”

    • Michael

      I repeated what you said in my own words. But since you are so fucking narcissistic, I will repeat your own words instead to make my point:

      1. What I do is seek to find out what God wants me to do, how He wants me to pray,
      2. and make sure I’m fulfilling any conditions necessary.
      3. When I fail, I backtrack to find out if I’ve somehow missed what God wants me to pray, or if I’m not in conformance with the conditions He has set.

      So you first try to find out what God wants, then pray according to that, and if it didn’t work, figure out what you did wrong and try again. Exactly. As. I. Said.

  • Joe White

    Custador wrote:

    “stop this pathetic, thinly veiled attempt at evangelising ”

    LOL

    its ok for you to try to persuade others to adopt your view, but not for others to do so, eh? ok Custador. do as you say and not as you do?

    • Kodie

      You were given ample opportunity to argue your position and you chose not to.

      • Joe White

        yes, I chose to post my own words instead of what you wanted me to say. I know. It didnt matter, you still were able to at least pretend that I had said what you wanted to hear.

        You wanted to say that I had claimed newspapers were more accurate than scientific journals, in fact here is your quote:
        “so he can continue to talk about how newspapers have more scrutiny and therefore more credibility than scientific papers.”

        But you were never able to find such a statement of comparison from me, were you? no

        You wanted to say that I claimed newspapers always told the truth, in fact here is your quote:
        “here is where you explain why you know the newspaper never ever lies for any reason”

        But again, no such absolutist statement came from me, did it? no

        So, you settled for basic name calling and trash talk. wow, weren’t we impressed!

        Well, Kodie what can I tell you? Nothing, I guess. It appears that you know it all.

        And then I read you and your friend discussing whether I am worthy to remain on this thread. That has got to be one of the most ironic exchanges ever. My sides hurt from laughing, seriously.

        • Kodie

          Just admit it, Joe White. You want to get banned.

          • Joe White

            It doesnt matter to me Kodie.

            They can ban me, if they want, for violating the ‘no evangelising’ policy that nobody else here follows. (I wasnt even aware there was such a convoluted thing on a blog of all places.)

            I mean seriously if you’re going to tell people “dont try to persuade anyone to adopt your view”, shouldnt you follow the policy yourself and post about trivial things like the weather.

            Dont get into disagreements and try to get someone else to see it your way and then come down on someone else for doing the same. c’mon

            • Kodie

              You’ve been a bad guest. I can picture you knowing where the line is and going right up as close to it as possible. But you’re evasive, accusatory, and you make many claims without backing them up with evidence. “Read the bible, it’ll tell you” is evangelizing. It’s not a valid argument. You’ve accused scientists of toeing the party line, and you’ve granted newspaper editors absolute infallible integrity. With nothing to back up either of those claims. Then you say you never said that. Then how have I misunderstood you Joe? Why is it everyone else’s fault that what you say isn’t what you meant or how it is understood by people who know how to read?

              You accused people of making up things that you said which we can quote you. You accused people of having a bias against the bible with no reason to say that. You accuse people of just wanting you to say what we want to say – you’ve said nothing that we want you to say! You tell people they prayed wrong, and they didn’t read as much of the bible as you, or read it as seriously as you do. It’s all coming straight out of your ass, when I ask you “how do you know that”? You say to me, it doesn’t matter, I would “twist and misrepresent” you anyway. Blame blame blame everyone that you don’t know how to support your arguments.

              “Read the bible, it will tell you” is not an argument. You actually have to explain to us how that works for you but not anyone else here without assuming it’s just because they only read a little bit of it or the wrong part of it or interpreted it wrong. If you think you’re here to have a civil discourse, that would require you to:

              1) Civility would require you to stop being evasive and vague
              2) Discourse would require you actually say something relevant to back up your claims.

              You have done neither. That’s why people think you’re useless piece of shit worth getting rid of. It’s not because you’re a Christian, it’s because you are an annoying person and don’t see that it’s you who needs to step it up.

    • Mogg

      You can do so as much as you like on your own blog, but on a blog by and for atheists with a no evangelising policy, yeah – it’d be polite for you not to do so. Custador is the author of this piece and one of the major contributors on this site, so yes, he really does get to set the rules.

      • Joe White

        I have no problem with that really, Mogg. I just find it ironic that a ‘freethinker’ would consider banning someone he disagrees with.

        Now if I had come on here and started using all kinds of foul language , I can understand why my posts would be considered disrespectful and unwelcome. Civil discourse where people can disagree is what folks expect on a blog like this, right?

        • Kodie

          Were you being civil? Or did you make that up?

          DISCOURSE! From you? Now I know you’re making that up.

        • Custador

          Hmhh. There’s that Christian persecution complex I’ve been waiting to see. I’m considering banning you fro trolling and evangelism, both of which are against our site rules, and either one of which I could have banned you for already. Allowing freedom of speach and disagreeing with the concept of censorship does not mean that we are obliged to provide you a platform or allow you to speak in a place that belongs to us.

        • Nzo

          I have no problem with that really, Mogg. I just find it ironic that a ‘freethinker’ would consider banning someone he disagrees with.

          It’s no different than a music enthusiast pulling the needle off a skipping, or fantastically stupid/awful record.

          Do explain though, if you can, why you think it’s so ironic.

          Now if I had come on here and started using all kinds of foul language

          Ahem… F*CK your aversion to foul language. Your carebear christard websites might censor words like F*CK, SH*T, P*SS, C*NT, they eviscerate science, make fallacious arguments, make false claims, and are the internet’s version of supermarket tabloids. The people on this site value things like content, logic, and actually addressing, and responding to, other posts.

          I can understand why my posts would be considered disrespectful and unwelcome. Civil discourse where people can disagree is what folks expect on a blog like this, right?

          You’ll be considered disrespectful and unwelcome when you show that you do not respect anyone here, do not respect their posts, do not respond to their points – then evade them, or otherwise act like every other christian troll that rolls in here.

          • Nzo

            Note about the above post -

            Words bleeped to avoid spam protection from kicking in.

            Custy, will my posts get stopped, or need to be approved if I let ‘em slide, or is it still on lockdown with that?

            • Custador

              As far as I’m aware, the filter ignores profanity. If you’re online now, please feel free to try, and I’ll tell you. The filter completely ignores me anyway, so I can’t test it myself.

    • Custador

      Nobody’s trying to persuade you to do anything. You CHOSE to come to a place where atheists talk. If you think that you might hear some truths that will upset you, you’re free to leave.

      • Joe White

        I’ve talked with many atheists over many years. Nothing you say upsets me, Custador. I do think its humorous that you have to protect your fragile atheism by having a ‘no evangelizing’ policy.

        I mean, really. Evangelism is persuasion, and this thread and most others on this blog have a good amount of persuasion going on.

        If your ban on persuasion is based on content (i.e. no persuasion from a theistic POV), where do you deserve the label of a ‘freethinker’?

        No wonder you freaked out when I said ‘step 1 is find out what the Bible says about prayer’. Your fear is almost palpable.

        I’ll just say that if I had a Christian blog, I would never ban an atheist for attempting to persuade Christians that there is no God. He would be welcome as long as he wished to be there and could explain, expound and extol his view as often as he wished.

        I’ll check back in a few days or a week and you can post in big red letters the result of your one party vote, Custador. I wish you well.

        • Kodie

          Joe – Evangelizing is “read the bible it works” – which is basically all you’ve said amounts to.

          Having a discussion with a Christian who argues his or her viewpoint is different and you haven’t done that so far. You’re under some illusion that you have, but you’re mistaken.

          It’s not because you’re a Christian, it’s because you fail to say anything of substance indicating you actually want to have a productive discussion, which we’re all fine with and doesn’t get banned. But of course you play the victim. You’re such a victim! Poor Joe White! He can’t try to convince anyone he’s right!

          • Joe White

            I have little interest in ‘arguing a viewpoint’ Kodie. I simply gave a method to gather evidence, to some folks who claim that they respect and value evidence. But it doesnt appear that all of them do. No, I’m not a victim and I dont worry about whether I’ll be banned or not.

            • Kodie

              You didn’t give any evidence or any method of gathering evidence, and you’re deluded if you think you have. Topic’s burnt out, so bye.

        • Kodie

          Custador’s “fear” is almost palpable? Where are you getting “fear”? Is that the only possibility available to you when someone doesn’t care what you have to say? There are other options that you don’t seem to recognize or read about when explained thoroughly to you.

          Own what you’ve said, recognize your limitations, admit you’re a troll – any or all of these things. Nobody fears the good news. You just don’t have it in you to talk about it clearly. It must be there’s nothing clear TO say about it. It’s all about dodging questions and accusing your opposition of fearing the insubstantiality of what you have said! Until you get banned and go report to your people how you won, that we’re too afraid to listen to you.

          Yeah, nobody wants to hear what the inside of your colon looks like anymore.

        • Custador

          Actually Joe, the fragile thing is your faith. My atheism only needs you to prove God, and I will abandon it. I have no problem admitting that. You’ll still be a giant turn monkey, either way.

          • Bill

            “My atheism only needs you to prove God…”

            This.

            Just tell me the conditions that you claim have made prayer work for you in the past so I can test them out. If they work I will go back to church this Sunday.

            • Joe White

              I dont know of any place that God promised to answer your prayers by your deadline, Bill.

            • Sunny Day

              Joe, you seem to be confusing yourself with god.
              It’s understandable, most christians project what they themselves want and see as god’s wishes.

          • Joe White

            Custador, so we come round in a circle, with you demanding ‘proof’ of God. It all depends what you mean by ‘proof’, right? If you mean natural evidence of the supernatural, that is (as I mentioned quite early) not really a logical request. But I gave you a method by which you may gather evidence. You can go on, using what you consider clever jibes and name calling, it doesnt add to your argument any, in fact it illustrates the emptiness of your position.

            • Custador

              I’m getting very sick of you trolling, Joe.

        • Kodie

          Ah but it’s not the bible’s fault for being up for personal interpretation, and it’s not god’s fault for doing whatever the hell he wants. If only the readers weren’t so biased, it would be clear if you just read the bible. If you have a bias against it, Joe isn’t here to tell you how it works or what it means, just to keep believing that it’s your bias and fear that keeps you from getting it.

          How this accusatory approach is expected to transform anyone’s bias is another thing we could all talk about. Joe White, how does it feel to serve no purpose at all? You’re not serving god, you’re serving yourself. You haven’t made one thing clear, and you haven’t made one point in favor of even evangelizing your faith or your point of view. You stand for nothing. Please don’t cry again that we’re not responding to what you have actually said. You can play the innocent, persecuted honestly-looking-for-civil-discourse about your faith in an atheistic forum – but your premises start with:

          The bible is true
          You have to interpret the bible for yourself
          If you get bad results it means you’re not reading all of it or a certain part of it
          Or maybe not correctly
          And atheists are fearful of this.
          And atheists are biased against it.

          Of that? Well no, there is no bias to admit to. Just because you believe it does not logically conclude that everyone else is merely biased. It could very well mean you believe a lot of horseshit. You haven’t said anything more clearly than that because you don’t want to get called on it. You don’t own what you have actually said. The “right” answer is to read it and come to your own conclusions and if you conclude that it’s a pile of manure, well obviously it’s because we’re biased! How do you figure that it isn’t you who is gullible? What SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS DO YOU PUT FORTH about any of that? None. NOT ONE.

          It “works” for you but you won’t say how, you just have to read the bible, as many of us have, and if it doesn’t work, then we’re wrong and/or biased and have to try with an “open mind”. That’s not a sufficient reason. You have not given sufficient reason to convince anyone of anything, and if you want to blame your failure on our biases against you, you’re also really arrogant. Put that on the list. Because “fear” is a lie you believe, not the first lie either.

  • Joe White

    Kodie wrote:

    “Prayer has no effect, is what you’re saying. It has coincidental or predictable, i.e. NO effect.”

    The first sentence is incorrect. The second is unintelligible. Help me out here. Timmy stuck in the well?

    • Custador

      Okay, seriously guys, Joe White is just trolling now. Straw poll please. I’ll come back later and see what you all think: Banhammer, yay or nay. Joe, you don’t get to vote.

      • UrsaMinor

        I say let it ride. Joe’s chief offense is the dodge-and-weave (i.e., acts of omission rather than commission), and he’s taken a lot more verbal abuse than he’s dished out. The entire thread has been amusing in a slow-motion-train-wreck sort of way.

        • Troutbane

          Yeah, this was fun at first, now its just kind of like arguing with a two year old.

          • Troutbane

            Oopd, I dont mean ban him, just everyone quit talking to him as he has nothing to say.

    • Nzo

      It has coincidental or predictable, i.e. NO effect.

      The second is unintelligible

      “unintelligible”
      Definition: Impossible to understand

      Seriously? Impossible? You couldn’t take 2 minutes to google all the big words you don’t understand?

      How the f*ck do you know how to use the internet, but can’t google a definition?

    • Kodie

      If you keep saying prayer doesn’t work, that’s what I’m going to think is true.

      • Joe White

        I said that you or I could fail or succeed at getting a prayer answered. How does that say “prayer doesnt work” , Kodie? c’mon really. You just want to hear only what you want to hear? Why waste your time to respond to what I didnt say? Go ahead and respond to what I actually did say.

        • Kodie

          But that is meaningless and superfluous.

        • Kodie

          Everyone has responded to everything you actually did say, and you don’t own it. Do you blame everyone else for your communication problems?

        • blotonthelandscape

          Re. the first sentence, you’re giving it an uncharitable interpretation. It’s clear she meant that what you’re saying, when properly considered, amounts to saying that prayer doesn’t really work.

          Re. the second, she is clarifying the first. If prayer works (or doesn’t work) for everyone, then we can’t really say it’s working. The arguments you’ve put forward are variations on the “Yes/No/Wait” heuristic, which enables the person praying to say their prayer was answered regardless of the outcome. If prayer really works this way, then the result with prayer is indistinguishable from the result without prayer.

          “Coincidental” refers to the fact that prayer only appears to be answered, but is in fact simply the desired event following a prayer (i.e. there is no causal link).

          “Predictable” simply refers to the fact that random events behave in certain ways (I agree that this was the wrong word to use, but only given your level of argumentation, which shows a clear inability to intuitively infer meaning from context), and in this context that refers to the fact that if you prayed a certain number of times and prayer had NO effect, we would still expect a certain proportion of the events you prayed for to actually occur randomly, and with enough data we could hypothetically predict it.

          Hope that’s more “intelligible” for you. Realise that most people here have neither the patience nor the inclination to explain these things to you. If you have any more questions on this, start with wikipedia.

          • Kodie

            I see now how “predictable” was not a clear word choice. Obviously, it could mean that we can pray for something and predict the outcome is what you had prayed for – I predict candy will fall from the sky so I prayed for it and that’s not what happened.

            I meant it the other way around – praying for a predictable outcome, like getting a phone call from someone you had a good date with, or rain, or that your plane doesn’t crash into the side of a mountain. If you would think me a prophet for calling the predictable outcome of any of those type of events beforehand, then I want credit for being a prophet. So the category is praying for likely things to happen the way they predictably and statistically would, despite there always being a chance, they won’t call, it isn’t going to rain, and sometimes planes crash. What word would you use to distinguish it from a more psychic meaning of prediction?

      • Kodie

        Sorry, that must have been unintelligible to you Joe White! Let me rephrase.

        You insist that prayer does work, but you explain that prayer does not work.

        Leveled with an accusation that I’M the one who is unintelligible, to you, reader Joe White, I say: 8934379. HHHHHHHHH, butter @*@*@*)))!!!

        I’m sure that’s as clear as anything you’ve written.

  • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

    Joe White, we’re still waiting on your response to the various people who have quoted what the bible says about prayer. Are you ever going to get around to that? Or should we start praying for an answer?

    • Yoav

      Maybe if you pray in a Joe white approved manner you will get an intelligible reply, now that will be a fukcing miracle.

  • Joe White

    Kodie wrote:

    “You didn’t give …..any method of gathering evidence”

    I wrote:

    “If you want to do you own test of the Bible’s reliability on the subject of prayer for instance, it’s quite simple:

    1. Find out exactly what the Bible says regarding under what conditions God will answer prayer
    2. Make certain you meet those conditions
    3. Pray

    Yes, this is a method of gathering evidence.

    Is it ‘scientific evidence’? No, because its not repeatable in the sense that you can duplicate the same circumstances and do it over and over. Each situation has too many variables to be considered identical. And for the record, evidence doesnt have to be ‘scientific’ to be relevant or convincing. As discussed before, most events of human history have left us no ‘scientific’ evidence, but that doesnt mean those events didnt occur.

    • Sunny Day

      Awwww poor fundie doesn’t understand how the reply button works.

      • Jabster

        He also doesn’t understand that not posting for a time doesn’t mean that his older posts magically disappear and more importantly people forget what a deceitful little twat* he was last time.

        *Which seems to be another common trait amongst fundies.

    • Kodie

      That’s not a method for gathering evidence. You seem to be really confused.

    • Kodie

      You’ve assured us that “god” doesn’t have to and might not answer prayers even if we follow your “methods” and you agree this is not scientific, and that just because he doesn’t answer them doesn’t mean he’s not there. So there’s no evidence that he’s there and we can’t do your experiment and expect any positive results.

      Do I have that right? God doesn’t exist except as you imagine he does, which doesn’t prove you’re not deluded. You have chosen one outcome of many, that is “a superior being who does whatever the fuck he wants doesn’t actually answer prayers at any time if he doesn’t want to” which is the same as random fucking chance. Random chance? Yes, random chance. Nobody is on the other end of the line. You’re crack.


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