Atheist Memes We Need To Throw In the Trash

Atheist Memes We Need To Throw In the Trash March 6, 2018

Memes are the lowest form of argument. Sometimes, however, they’re the medium of our discourse, so the bite-sized bits of our thinking that they represent should at least be in the ball park. I’m going to look at three memes that I think misrepresent freethought and critical thinking.

A Thought Experiment With No Thought

“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

― Penn Jillette, God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales

Penn Jillette is a great magician, but even he can’t make an agenda disappear. Saying science is better than religion isn’t saying much, but let’s not make science seem like something it’s not.

If the human race, for whatever reason, had to do it all over again, would science be created the same way? This sounds like another case where science fans think evidence magically gives rise to the methodology and institution of science. The facts of Nature are what science deals with, according to this simplistic view, facts are eternal and immutable, and so science would recreate the exact same picture we have of nature. Isn’t magical thinking adorable?

The development of modern scientific inquiry took place in a certain historical and cultural context. I keep saying that it’s not like we discovered the scientific method like mountaineers discovered snow-capped mountains in equatorial Africa. Just like the art or language of that era, science is a creation of its time.

Science was developed by men in a very male-centric culture. Europe at the time was developing colonial empires. Thus, science had to reflect the influence of a mindset where domination and control were all-important. The obsessions with making measurements and relevant distinctions derived from a political and economic context where quantification, division and the establishment of borders were crucial to society. Technology had developed to a point where men could make observations of celestial bodies or microorganisms that weren’t detectable by the human eye, so the entire concept of observation itself needed to be revised. A civilization interested in racial and gender hierarchies naturally created such orders and hierarchies in elements, living things and even among scientific disciplines. And a society whose foundation was authority had a vested interest in creating a mode of empirical research that was unquestionable.

Who’s to say that science would develop in the exact same way if a more egalitarian society had to recreate it? Humans impose their cultural and personal biases on all their activities, science included. If people had a less rigid, conformist outlook, and our civilization were geared less toward power and private property, maybe science would be conducted differently enough that we’d have a less mechanistic and control-oriented view of our universe as a result.

The Facts About Facts

“Atheism is a conclusion, not a belief.”

“Atheism: It’s what happens when intellectually honest people look at the facts.”  – Steve Briggs

Come on. Belief or lack thereof is more a function of personality, or the bonds you formed (or didn’t) with the faith community in which you grew up. Some people are more comfortable with the prospect of making a Type I error rather than a Type II error. The idea that the foundation of our worldview is nothing more than data processing, and everyone would come to the same correct conclusion if they really thought about it, is something that panders to our self-image as rational decision-makers but isn’t accurate. There are plenty of emotional needs in play when we talk about religious belief as well as the lack thereof, and we’ve all just learned to rationalize beliefs we didn’t arrive at through rational means.

I’m not sure what facts Steve Briggs is talking about, but the way we approach facts is by how well they fit into what we already believe. Sure, in the context of a jury trial or a scientific experiment, facts should be pretty persuasive. But in terms of the way we interpret and make meaning of our experience of the world, I don’t think mere data points are going to have the same effect.

Exploiting the Suffering of the Innocent

“17,000 kids die from starvation every day. Where is God?”

There’s so much wrong with this meme I don’t know where to start. Let’s begin by admitting that, on the spectrum of sophistication for arguments, bad-things-happen-therefore-God-doesn’t-exist is on the crude end. I honestly couldn’t care less about theological discussions, but if you’re going to talk about religion and suffering, then you’re obliged to recognize that the matter has been addressed more than a few times by theologians.

Take religious people to task for their credulity, bigotry and hypocrisy all you want. But at least acknowledge that religious people don’t deny that children suffer. They don’t claim that their suffering is a good thing. And if they say it’s “part of God’s plan” or whatever, the fact that they engage in charity work makes it clear that they don’t think The Big G wants them to think it’s no big deal.

Furthermore, for those of us who don’t think God exists anyway, shouldn’t an image of starving children make us feel bad about our helplessness to create and maintain stable societies that can feed everybody? Shouldn’t the caption read, “Where are YOU?”

Which brings me to my final point, that using this kind of image to bait religious folks doesn’t display any of the compassion we’re accusing God of lacking. What kind of people are we if we exploit the suffering of the innocent for anti-religion yuks in the digital sandbox?

We’re supposed to be the reasonable ones, right? So let’s be reasonable.


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  • On the first one, it’s somewhat of a simplification of an idea. Perhaps a more honest statement, given your point about the contingencies that went into incentivizing the development of science in our realized history, is that if the scenario existed where all scientific and religious knowledge were somehow destroyed, if science or a similar empirical methodology were to be recreated–which is not guaranteed–that resulting science would discover relationships and patterns in nature identical in every respect to the ones described by the science we have today. Religions certainly can’t make that claim, and it is a reasonable distinction to maintain between them. It’s a bit of a meme shortcut to just make the assumption, for the sake of argument, that if humans had to start over they likely would try to understand their environment for mostly pragmatic ends, but I don’t think it’s a crazy one. Science almost started several times in several different cultures before it happened to take in the one that shepherded it most of the way to the modern world. There is nothing particularly special about that culture which caused that result, and it is not hard to imagine any of the others having done so for want of a nail or other more narrow contingency.

    On the second one, you’re right.

    ——————–

    They don’t claim that their suffering is a good thing.

    Yeah, most don’t, but some certainly do. More importantly, many of those eminent theologians you somewhat breezily refer to as having addressed the issue of innocent suffering do so precisely by reconceptualizing the valuation of suffering as a good thing, either functionally (suffering is a mechanism used to bring about a larger good in God’s plan) or mystically (suffering has moral or metaphysical benefits inaccessible by any other means).

    That third meme may be crass. It may even be exploitative if used without care. But it’s also true, and brutally so. It is down to personal scruples and moral sense to determine for oneself (if a person chooses to engage persuasively on topics of religion and atheism at all) whether the approach has more benefit or drawback in the end; I would imagine that determination in part depends upon which audience is being addressed; some comfortable or isolated audiences–contra your description of religious people as predominantly morally awake–perhaps could use a reminder that simply because their corner of the world is comfortable, all corners aren’t all so cozy and suffering of great and terrible extent and concomitant tragic needlessness occurs with depressing frequency, with the evil cherry on top being the distribution of said suffering being mostly insensitive to any understanding of moral deserving or justice.

  • Dave Bowles

    Jillette’s point is that science reveals reality. Religion does not. It’s a perfectly good argument. No reason to abandon it.

  • Dave Bowles

    Mother Theresa certainly felt suffering was an important part of her religion.

  • Great to see you again.

    It’s hard to be sure what Penn means, considering how general his statement is. Certainly humanity would develop reliable ways of generating useful knowledge about natural phenomena, just like they’d develop ways to communicate with each other. But in the same way they wouldn’t necessarily have the same word for “mountain” as we do, they probably wouldn’t have the exact same symbolic language to conceptualize complex phenomena.

    And come to think of it, if we’re going to be general, the likelihood of religion developing in some way is just as good, isn’t it? Sure, the names & details would differ, but myths, ritual, priestly authority, superstition, dietary laws, and other ingroup/outgroup markers are bound to crop up again. We atheists are always saying what a brilliant scam it was in the first place, so it’s not so weird to think people would come up with it again.

    Like I said, I have no interest in theology. But I’ve at least read the Book of Job, which resolves the whole question of suffering by merely saying that we’re being presumptuous for even asking. If that’s not a good enough explanation for us, that’s probably why we’re not religious.

    I never said religious people are “predominantly morally awake,” just that they don’t seem to think starving children are any less of a disgrace than we do. If they do charity work as an act of self-aggrandizement, well, at least they’re doing it for some reason. If that’s hypocritical, well, so is using images of suffering children as a digital flip of the bird.

  • Science reveals reality? How do you know that unless you have independent knowledge of how reality is and can gauge how accurately it’s represented by scientific inquiry?

    Come now. Science provides useful knowledge about natural phenomena. The idea that it “corresponds to reality” is like the Model T of the philosophy of science.

  • Dave Bowles

    Independent groups of people consistently end up revealing the same understanding of reality. Stop twisting yourself in knots to cling to tour supernatural nonsense.

  • What “supernatural nonsense”? I’m just pointing out that science can only be said to produce useful knowledge. If you have some magic way of showing how accurately science represents reality, let’s have it.

  • Dave Bowles

    That useful knowledge is either a direct or sometimes indirect understanding of reality. Are you saying you don’t believe in God?

  • I don’t believe in God. And like I said, no philosopher of science thinks science just describes reality. What scientific inquiry does is produce information that’s useful in the social, inferential, argumentative practice of scientists.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “And come to think of it, if we’re going to be general, the likelihood of
    religion developing in some way is just as good, isn’t it? Sure, the
    names & details would differ, but myths, ritual, priestly authority,
    superstition, dietary laws, and other ingroup/outgroup markers are
    bound to crop up again.”

    Supernatural tales are a part of hunter-gatherer societies.
    Actual religions come into existence when hunter-gatherer societies grow and develop into civilizations.
    The functions of religions include education, entertainment, communication, the enforcement of laws, rules and authority, the fostering of philosophy and discourse, and other functions.

    Superstition is usually a big part of religions.
    Western civilization is outgrowing superstition as a credible way to control the minds and the behavior of its citizens.

    This, trend of course, worries or outrages some religionists.

  • rationalobservations?

    Science reflects and enhances our understanding of reality and adjusts itself to new data and the observations and measurements made by ever better technological instruments. And:
    Talking of memes…

    https://i2.wp.com/www.skeptical-science.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Creationist-Debate.jpg?ssl=1

  • rationalobservations?

    The publication of Theresa’s private letters shortly after her death revealed that she was a non-believer in the existence of (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (the Roman god-man)”Jesus” for the last decades of her life.

    “Her letters and diaries present a completely different picture of the nun and Nobel peace prize winner from her public image as a woman confident of her faith.”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-teresa-letters/letters-reveal-mother-teresas-doubt-about-faith-idUSN2435506020070824

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1561247/Mother-Teresas-40-year-faith-crisis.html

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/1414752/Mother-Teresas-diary-reveals-her-crisis-of-faith.html

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/aug/24/wasmotherteresaanatheist

    Without great intellect or much fact based education – she appeared to come to the same conclusion as the rest of us that form the non-religious third largest and fastest growing human cohort today.

  • Dave Bowles

    “Philosopher of science”. There’s your problem. Science doesn’t need to be interpreted though that sort of lens.

  • In fact, science can only be conceptualized through that sort of lens. As Daniel Dennett says, “There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.”

    The idea that science “reveals reality” is something we teach to kids. High school students doing experiments with pulleys don’t have to understand the problems with the correspondence theory of truth. But adults should at least acknowledge that things like science, truth and reality are a lot more complicated than that.

  • Dave Bowles

    When I ignite hydrogen in the presence of oxygen what happens?

    Will the same thing always happen?

    Why?

    What role does philosophy play in the above discussion?

  • Those goalposts moved really quick! Your original claim was that Science reveals reality.

    There’s a lot of philosophy in that discussion.

    Even in the lab, there are plenty of valid but unacknowledged assumptions that form the background for empirical research. Our ideas about cause and effect, observation, and distinctions between subject-object or scheme-content, didn’t just fall from the sky. They’re part of the philosophical substrate of scientific inquiry.

  • Dave Bowles

    The goalposts didn’t move at all. I simply drilled down to a concrete example of my point.

    You respond with metaphics questioning the validity of verifiable observation.

    Metaphysics: “Abstract theory with no basis in reality.”
    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/metaphysics

    You’re a hack and I’m not wasting any more time with you.

  • I didn’t “question the validity of verifiable observation” at all, I explicitly said that assumptions like that are valid although unacknowledged. I’m sorry your reading comprehension is so poor.

    Adios, amigo.

  • Rick Starr

    Off to a bad start. If everything was wiped out and recreated, E=mc2 would still be true (and eventually discovered), F=mA would be exactly the same, and the laws of conservation of momentum wouldn’t change. By contrast nobody would ever hear of Jesus or Mohammed. (There would be other names and other strange rituals, like Ra or Baa or Thor, but they would be completely different from what people believe today.)

  • If everything was wiped out and recreated, E=mc2 would still be true (and eventually discovered), F=mA would be exactly the same, and the laws of conservation of momentum wouldn’t change.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the universe itself would be completely different. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t develop modes of studying natural phenomena that are just as useful as the ones we have today. But there’s no way of knowing whether modern physics would get put together again with the same exact equations even. The development of modern physics was helped along by the way mathematicians conceptualized the calculus, and the existence of energy conservation principles that had previously been formulated because of innovations in steam engine and turbine technology. There’s no real way to be sure that this timeline would play out in the exact same way. Consequently, there’s no way to conclude with any confidence that the only useful way to describe and study mass-energy equivalency is the one that scientists like Planck and Einstein formulated.

  • Dave Andrews
  • pasapdub@gmail.com

    Can we PLEASE not bite at one another? All this politically-correct criticism of fellow non-theists is unproductive.

  • Derek Mathias

    The starvation meme isn’t directly about concluding that atheism is right…it’s about concluding that IF the God of the Bible exists, he is evil. It serves as a very effective path to atheism, since once you have Christians questioning the morality of their own god, atheism often follows. I’ve made several dozen videos to this end, and I have dozens of comments from former Christians who were influenced by the “God is evil” argument. If you’re interested, you can start at the beginning with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT8WATQ6vWY. Or, if you’d prefer just a single summary of all the arguments for why the God of the Bible is evil, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcHYsieoQK8. Enjoy.

  • OV
  • Robert Baden

    Define real scientific paper. There was a lot of rubbish published about race in the past. Sometimes science takes a long time to correct itself..

  • Robert Baden

    If science had to be redeveloped would we still get scientific racism at some point?

  • towercam

    It was just too difficult to number the three thoughts, huh? Too hard for you to make the article easier for us.
    Next time you write an article and mention the NUMBER of things you’re going to present, NUMBER THEM.
    Sheesh!

  • VaulDogWarrior

    This Shem guy is according to his own bio “Anti-Science”. I got this same type of insane thinking when I read “Introducing Science” in the Icon series. Usually a series I like, but with some bogies. That was one of them. Existentialism, Post-Modernism and Feminism gone wild.

  • JSloan

    It is pretty clear that Shem does not know much at all about the scientific process. The systematic methods used to gain knowledge about the universe are collectively called science. If there was an ‘independent’ and systematic method for acquiring knowledge about the natural world, it would fall under the definition of science.

  • JSloan

    The scientific methodology we use today has evolved over centuries through a process of selection. The ‘fitness’ of a methodology was determined by how well it produced models that accurately aligned with observations and which generated predictions that were verified. Another driving factor is that the methodology made sense.
    Now whether this evolution of the scientific method occurred in a society dominated by white European upper-class men during the colonial period, or among women in Indonesia during the dark ages, or among egalitarian nurturing hermaphroditic beings on another planet, I believe that the methodology developed by these differing groups would converge on something similar, because the selective criteria are the same.

    Perhaps Shem’s point is that the direction and priorities of scientific research would be different among these different societies. Indeed, since research has until recently been dominated by men, much of technology has been geared toward such priorities as armaments and defense. However, Shem seems to be unaware that there is a vast area of scientific activity called basic research. I would argue that the amount of effort spent and knowledge gained in the areas of basic research is far greater than in applied research. I would also argue that the pursuit of basic research would be the same regardless of the type of society in which it is conducted.

    And who are these people who have a rigid, conformist outlook who have a mechanistic and control-oriented view of the universe? During my time in scientific research, I met very few colleges that fit that description. Again, Shem seems not to know what he is talking about.

  • Art Weissman

    F=ma. E=ir. are excellent descriptions of how the universe works. I bet the scientists on other planets have similar equations. On Earth, scientists in Japan, Australia, Tahiti, and Antarctica, we all use the same formulae. Why? IT’S HOW THE UNIVERSE WORKS.

  • The “anti-science” handle was sort of an inside joke: anti-science refers to the philosophical idea that science doesn’t provide objective knowledge because it’s conducted by historically and culturally situated agents. Thus, we have to abstract a third-person scientific narrative out of intersubjective observations.

    What have I said about science that you object to? I’ve never said anything here or on Disqus that constitutes science denial. I don’t dispute any mainstream scientific theory: Big Bang, species evolution, the efficacy of vaccines, anthropogenic global warming, you name it.

  • I’m not saying that the way the universe works would be completely different if science had to be developed all over again, and I don’t think that was Penn’s point either. I certainly believe we would invent useful ways to study the universe if science didn’t exist per se. But the symbolic language we use to represent natural phenomena doesn’t just derive from the way the universe works, it’s a function of how we conceptualize these phenomena and our place in relation to them; the aims of inquiry, both political and economic; and how a cumulative set of inquiry projects builds upon the work of previous researchers. There’s a whole lot of historical contingency in those factors, and we can’t say with any certainty that the outcome would produce the exact same set of formulae.

  • This channel isn’t for God-is-God-ain’t debates, as stated in The Shem Commandments. There’s no God, let’s move on.

    My point was that, if you conduct a poll of believers and nonbelievers, I predict you’d find the same overwhelming percentage of believers as nonbelievers who think Starving children is a bad thing. This meme is nothing more than a crass exercise in shit-flinging that exploits the suffering of the innocent for cheap laughs.

  • Feel free to join the discussion, but I discourage meme-only posts. Particularly in a thread that’s talking about how lame memes are.

  • I think it’s a good thing to have to recognize what’s wrong not only with what other people think, but with what we think. That’s what skepticism is all about. If I’m being complacent about the things I believe, I can’t object when someone points it out.

  • Do non-stamp collectors argue that stamp collecting is immoral and delusional and should be eradicated for the good of humankind?

  • David Cromie

    If science actually works in explaining the cosmos (and it has made a very job of it so far), then whether mankind were totally wiped out would not change that basic fact. On the other hand, would the current supposed ‘gods’ survive such an upheaval, or would they fail in an ab initio scientific age of discovery?

  • David Cromie

    Sometimes a meme gets to the nitty-gritty of the problem, whether you like them or not. At the very least they are food for thought.

  • rationalobservations?

    There has been a lot of garbage written by ignorant journalists about scientific papers they did not understand and a lot of rubbish written about science by ignorant individuals and dishonest creationists.

    Scientific papers are those that are submitted and published by mainstream scientific journals for peer review by accredited mainstream leaders in all the disciplines of contemporary science.
    Some of those peer reviewed papers have gone on to form foundation of keystones of science like evolution and cosmology etc, others have formed the basis of modification of Scientific Laws and Scientific Theories. No modern Scientific Theory has ever been overturned.

    As one example and in the case of evolution sciences: Pick up any issue of a peer-reviewed biological journal, and you will find articles that support and extend evolutionary studies or that embrace evolution as a fundamental concept.

    Conversely, serious scientific publications disputing evolution are all but nonexistent. In the mid-1990s George W. Gilchrist, then at the University of Washington, surveyed thousands of journals in the primary literature, seeking articles on intelligent design or creation science. Among those hundreds of thousands of scientific reports, he found none. Surveys done independently by Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University and Lawrence M. Krauss, now at Arizona State University, were similarly fruitless.

    Creationists retort that a closed-minded scientific community rejects their evidence. Yet according to the editors of Nature, Science and other leading journals, few anti-evolution manuscripts are even submitted. Some anti-evolution authors have published papers in serious journals. Those papers, however, rarely attack evolution directly or advance creationist arguments; at best, they identify certain evolutionary problems as unsolved and difficult (which no one disputes). In short, creationists are not giving the scientific world good reason to take them seriously.

    Evolutionary biologists passionately debate diverse topics: how speciation happens, the rates of evolutionary change, the ancestral relationships of birds and dinosaurs, whether Neandertals were a species apart from modern humans, and much more. These disputes are like those found in all other branches of science. Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and a guiding principle is nonetheless universal in biology.

    Unfortunately, dishonest creationists have shown a willingness to take scientists’ comments out of context to exaggerate and distort the disagreements.

    Can you give examples of mainstream science that was peer reviewed and universally accepted but that was overturned or radically “corrected” subsequently as you appear to claim?

    The random hypotheses of individuals that never formed part of mainstream science obviously come and go outside of the core of universally accepted Scientific Theories and Scientific Laws.

  • rationalobservations?

    Can you present an example of “scientific racism”?
    Racism has used a distorted interpretation of science to justify itself just as religionists have used a direct interpretation of their un-holy books to attempt to justify racism.
    Can you name a mainstream scientist who presented a scientific case for racism that was peer reviewed and incorporated into any one of the disciplines of science as a Scientific Law or Theory?
    If so please name the scientific journal in which the racism paper was published and date of publication and the peer review scientists that ratified racism?

    You appear to be confusing the pseudoscientific with actual mainstream pure science?

  • rationalobservations?

    Many memes encapsulate simple and obvious truth better than long and involved explanations can achieve.

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SLVOq77YxcI/WdD49ptS1SI/AAAAAAAAlOs/FqEnF3E72zoc4HIK4i_jqfQAVYLOGvclACJoC/w1435-h1221/20171001_101457.png

  • Martin Thomas

    If I have faith that I can succeed, I will be far more likely to actually succeed, so faith can make something true.

    I think that when religions make objective claims about reality they are nearly always wrong. When they make claims about subjective experience, they are sometimes right.

  • rationalobservations?

    Atheism is a religion in the same way that total baldness is a hairstyle.
    Do the totally bald argue that being hirsute is amoral, immoral and delusional?
    The answer is that stamp collectors and the totally bald do not seek to impose philately or baldness upon the rest of us and stamp collecting or baldness does not inspire evil anti-humanitarian acts.

    https://i.pinimg.com/564x/f5/93/a5/f593a50ea21d0385a341fc0b1888ae46.jpg

  • rationalobservations?

    Your faith in yourself may be a positive trait but unless your capabilities match or exceed those required for success: –
    Having faith that something is true does not make it true.
    Having faith does not make it probably true.
    Having faith has no bearing upon truth (or outcome) whatsoever.

  • OV

    oops!

  • John F

    Really pathetic writing. I hope this is the lowest you go here.
    You should fire the writer and editor of this tripe.

  • OV

    A Theist, are you?

  • OV
  • Martin Thomas

    When I was young I was told – wrongly – that I was tone deaf. Along with countless others, I grew up unable to sing and I found it hard to appreciate music. When I discovered that this belief was nonsense, it undid some of the damage. My belief had a big effect on me.

    Apart from a mass of anecdotal evidence, there is plenty of research showing that children who are told that they are stupid are adversely affected. Belief has a great effect.

  • rationalobservations?

    I am not sure what your own (or other people’s) adverse indoctrination or brainwashing has to do with faith in the existence of magic or belief in undetected and undetectable supernatural entities?

    Thanks for agreeing that:-
    Your having faith in what you were told did not make it true.
    Having faith in what you were told did not make it probably true.
    Having faith in what you were told had no bearing upon truth whatsoever.

    Also a child having faith in being told (s)he was stupid did not make that true, or probably true and in fact had no bearing upon the truth whatsoever.

    Are you sure you are attempting (and failing) to argue against my propositions?

  • Martin Thomas

    Belief in scientific – or unscientific – theories cannot make them true. However, my belief that I was tone deaf meant that I was effectively tone deaf, although there was no actual damage to my ears or nerves from the ear. And people who believe they are stupid can actually become stupid.

    I think some irrational religious beliefs results from confusion about this.

    But the claim that belief never has an effect on anything an irrational reaction to this.

  • I’ve got a blog, you’ve got an opinion.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    I prefer to compare religion to smoking, and atheists are non-smokers. We actually do put a lot of effort into pointing out how smoking is bad for people and they should stop. And we are right to do so. Same thing goes for religion. It’s dangerous, it’s expensive, it is mentally and physically unhealthy for everyone involved, especially children exposed against their will. The people who push such dangerous product spend Millions every year on advertising campaigns to silence their critics. Very powerful metaphor.

  • I’d put my scientific literacy right up there with that of anyone else here. Please read the Comments Policy and consider yourself warned.

  • That’s an interesting analogy, but it’s sort of dealing yourself a winning hand, isn’t it? You compare religion to something harmful, then berate people for engaging in behavior you’ve decided is harmful.

    Whenever there are instances of oppression or discrimination that people justify using religion, I guess I just assume that the oppression and discrimination are the bad things, not the justification for it. Do we just want people to have rational, evidence-based reasons for oppressing and discriminating against others?

  • Mitch_Haelan

    Yes. Because if they have rational, evidence-based reasons for oppressing and discriminating against others, then they can be reasoned out of those. Civil discourse can change reasonable minds.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    And, for the record, pointing out the negative effects of religion on society is not metaphorical. Religion actually does have all of those effects. The only place metaphor comes in is when you draw parallels between it and other harmful activities.

  • What I meant is that the stated justification for the behavior is pretty much irrelevant: if we consider oppression and discrimination immoral, it doesn’t matter what someone’s Good Excuse is. A whole lot of folks who consider themselves critical thinkers have learned to rationalize beliefs they didn’t arrive at rationally, just so they can make it sound like their beliefs derive from parsimony and skepticism rather than personal bias.

    Present company excepted, of course.

  • David Cromie

    You are not comparing like with like – self belief is not the same as religious belief. Someone weighing 20 stones will never become a cat burglar, no matter how firmly he believes he can (unless he is willing to diet down to about 7 stones, and have surgery to remove all the surplus, dangling folds of, flesh, and then spend many hours in the gym to build the necessary muscles).

  • Mitch_Haelan

    No no, go ahead and include me. I’m sure if I look hard enough at myself I could find some belief that’s weighed a little more heavily by bias than by reason. I’m not perfect. The thing is, if you can break a person’s excuse and expose why it is not reasonable or argue them out of it, there are more likely to abandon it and the behavior it supports then if you were simply trying to argue them out of any emotional position.

  • Sure, I agree with you. But for instance, you define religion by the negative effects it has on society. You could do the same with science and claim that all it’s good for is creating high-tech weapons for the powerful. Either way, you’re creating the criteria that will lead to what you want to conclude.

    I’m just trying to point out that people are really good at rationalizing beliefs they didn’t initially arrive at through the application of objectivity and reason.

  • Kitsune Inari

    But we can say with certainty that the outcome would learn the same facts. The symbols would vary, but the observations would remain the same whether learned in our past history, today after a complete cultural wipe-out, or thirteen thousand trillion years in the future by the Daleks in a different galactic supercluster at the other end of the universe.
    And that’s what the point is: that the things we would learn would be the same because they are true.

  • I think we have slightly different approaches to what “true” means when we’re talking about scientific discovery. Science is about a lot more than data points. In the shifting contexts of theories, facts are arranged, interpreted and emphasized in very different ways. As Thomas Kuhn pointed out, the current paradigm always makes it seem like scientific discovery has just been a linear progression to the way we currently conceptualize phenomena. But the point is that in the competitive, cumulative process of scientific inquiry, it turns out there’s no one correct-and-complete way to interpret the universe.

    I’m not trying to denigrate science at all. I’m just saying it’s a social practice that aims to generate useful information, and there’s a lot of historical contingency in the way our picture of the universe developed. We have no way of knowing what that picture would look like if we had to do it all over again.

  • Derek Mathias

    Ah, sorry if I violated your list of commandments, but I wasn’t even aware it existed. But my point isn’t to argue that God exists, but that IF he existed he would be evil. And the point of THAT argument isn’t to convince anyone that a fictional character is evil so much as to convince believers that he’s not worth worshiping…which is one important path to atheism.

    And I don’t see that starving children meme as something played for laughs…but as a damn serious question that Christians must reconcile with their claim of a benevolent God.

  • pasapdub@gmail.com

    Fine…but read down and see the insults.

  • The only insults I see, aside from pot-shots at all the fundies who aren’t here, are ones aimed at me for having the gall to subject almighty Science to the same skepticism we apply to any other belief system or institution in our society.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    The problem with your objection is that science has had many notable and easily documented positive effects on The Human Condition and the world around us. Medicine, communication, technology, the list is extensive. Religion, on the other hand, has never had a positive effect on The Human Condition or the planet Earth. Ever. In all of history. It has just never happened. All religions have enormous detrimental effects, with only the barest minimal of positives easily overshadowed by the negatives, especially since those supposed positives were usually just engineered as masks to cover up the negatives, or as bait to lure in new victims. Again, the comparison to the tobacco industry is obvious.

  • Well, once again, you’re just dealing yourself a winning hand: if we judge religion by the standards we use to judge science, then religion suffers by the comparison. But that’s like saying carpentry is better than astronomy because astronomy doesn’t build houses.

    You and I might have no need for religion, but there are plenty of people who need it for comfort, community, tradition, and to make meaning out of an often bleak reality. If we judge science by those standards, how does it do? Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, has praying ever vaporized tens of thousands of people in a matter of seconds?

  • Mitch_Haelan

    Has staring into a microscope ever led hundreds of thousands of people to take up arms and march across half a continents to murder people that they had never met and had nothing in common with?

    Regarding the issue of religion giving Comfort to people. Smoking can give Comfort to people too. But it gives Comfort to people immediately at the expense of crippling them in the long-term and making their lives miserable. Any cost-benefit analysis on smoking or religion quickly reveals that the cost far outweigh the benefits.

    As for giving comfort and helping people make sense of there otherwise Bleak lives, science can be an invaluable tool. The study of Neurology and psychology, for instance (despite psychology being one of these so-called soft Sciences) can help people overcome depression. Anthropology can teach people how to form their own social groups and communities. Behavioral psychology, and it’s much more rigid cousin cognitive neurology trying to teach people how to interact with each other.

    So in the end, your objection fails because science is better at doing what you claim religion does then religion could ever possibly be. At this point arguing for the validity of religion is like arguing for the validity of cheap Mexican black tar heroin as a pain reliever for an ingrown toenail. Sure, it could serve that purpose at the expense of literally everything else in a person’s life. But why would you bother when Tylenol is a buck-fifty down at the corner store?

  • Regarding the issue of religion giving Comfort to people. Smoking can give Comfort to people too. But it gives Comfort to people immediately at the expense of crippling them in the long-term and making their lives miserable. Any cost-benefit analysis on smoking or religion quickly reveals that the cost far outweigh the benefits.

    Again, it’s not like you’re open to correction on this matter. You’re just arranging the premises so they lead you to the conclusion you want, and ignoring anything that disconfirms your belief. For someone who considers himself so objective, you don’t seem bothered that you’re just indulging your biases.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    Do you have any kind of evidence or statistics that disconfirm my assertions? I am open to being proved wrong. It just hasn’t happened yet. Not on this subject at least.

  • Dude. It’s not like you provided hard data to back up your rhetoric. You compared religion to smoking, and then concluded that religion is bad because of the comparison you made.

    I’m not interested in “arguing for the validity of religion” anyway. I just wanted to point out that no one is as objective as he or she claims to be.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    Slightly incorrect. I concluded religion was bad a long time ago. A few years after that, I realized that smoking was extremely unhealthy. About a decade after that I finally realized that the ways in which each is bad and unhealthy are very similar to each other. Let’s compare the two, shall we? Go ahead and but in if you disagree with any of them.

    If we take smoking as an overall category , there are thousands of sub-categories but we can get into to pin down exactly what kind of smoker person is. And if we take religion as a broad category, there are a great many specific categories that we could refine an individual down into. Marlboro, camel, Newport, Virginia Slim, Catholic, Episcopalian, Islamic, extra-long 100, Baptist, menthol, unfiltered, Fundamentalist.

    The corporations responsible for pushing these specific products on to the market spend millions of dollars every year trying to silence their critics.

    Both religion and smoking have been directly linked to severe Health complications and long-term systemic damage within the human body.
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/religion-and-poverty-working-paper.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiUxbmskt7ZAhWr1IMKHcHuBvcQFjABegQIBhAB&usg=AOvVaw3FbzbGYALVqXXl7q1bmly4

    Both have been shown to be highly addictive to the point where even when a user has been clearly shown the negative health benefits or suffered negative effects of their addiction, they refused to give it up. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addicted-brains/201505/religion-and-addiction-void-fillers

    Both try to Market themselves to kids to get them addicted as early as possible.

    Both use ad campaigns that promise community and popularity. https://goo.gl/images/pyxNvx

    Both are extremely popular amongst criminals. https://www.statista.com/statistics/234653/religious-affiliation-of-us-prisoners/

    Both are extremely popular amongst the poor and people whose money is better spent on savings for emergencies or bettering their living conditions. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/religion-and-poverty-working-paper.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiUxbmskt7ZAhWr1IMKHcHuBvcQFjABegQIBhAB&usg=AOvVaw3FbzbGYALVqXXl7q1bmly4

    Both serve as gateways to further addictive or irrational Behavior.

    The parallels are obvious when you line them up next to each other.

  • I didn’t mean to make it sound like I wanted you to provide “evidence” supporting your biases. I always say that “evidence” means whatever supports what I believe, not what you believe. I’ve run across plenty of creationists and 9/11 truthers with a library of links to regurgitate at the drop of a hat. What you’re demonstrating here isn’t the strength of your argument or your objectivity, it’s how long you’ve been looking for and assembling data that supports what you believe rather than challenging it.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    I have had it challenge quite a bit. The challenges always fail. Would you like to challenge it? Or do you want to keep dodging?

    And if you will recall, I pointed out that I am hardly objective. I have biases just like everyone else. This one particular bias just happens to be supported by reality.

  • Except that your third word should be “to”. (Unless you actually are trying to say that the point is to be included [Too, or as well as] with an observation of simplicity?)
    GRAMMAR TIME: To, Too, Two, Tutu
    http://www.virtualfarm.com/grammar-time-to-too-two-tutu/

  • There’s no point disputing what Penn says about religion: the best it could hope if it had to do it all over again is to create different nonsense. But what we’d expect to see in the case of science is different explanations. No one doubts that we’d come up with similarly useful methods of studying natural phenomena; it’s hard to imagine that with the amount of historical contingency in the development of science, each and every one of the philosophical and methodological precursors that had to be in place to create our scientific picture of the world would take place in exactly the same order and create the exact same set of models that we have today.

  • As any of our fellow atheists can tell you, even The Big G himself said in Isaiah 45 that “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Fundies might think that their God is benevolent, but it’s not like they think that the fact that bad things happen is a deal breaker when it comes to believing in God. It’s not like religious folks haven’t long speculated on the question of evil; all the Book of Job said about the question is that we’re being presumptuous for even asking. That’s supposed to be the last word on the matter, whether we heathens like it or not.

  • Well, I pointed out where you’re being conveniently selective, creating double standards, and rhetorically rigging the game to ensure the outcome you want. And all I got in response was the pleasant breeze produced by your handwaving.

  • David Cromie

    The mathematical symbolism might be different, but the science would be the same, irrespective of the language invented to express it. In other words, if all traces of humanity, along with all traces of their scientific endeavours, were wiped from the face of the earth, the universal laws of nature would not be lost with them, or changed by one iota. The earth would still rotate in its path around the sun, until the Second Law of Thermodynamics put an end to everything, however long that might take.

    By the way, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ does not propose a linear progression in scientific discovery.

  • David Cromie

    Don’t you see that you are making a mountain out of a molehill?

  • How am I doing that, pray tell? Are lazy thinking and logical fallacies okay when they’re in the service of ideas we support?

  • The mathematical symbolism might be different, but the science would be the same, irrespective of the language invented to express it.

    And you know this how?

    In other words, if all traces of humanity, along with all traces of their scientific endeavours, were wiped from the face of the earth, the universal laws of nature would not be lost with them, or changed by one iota. The earth would still rotate in its path around the sun, until the Second Law of Thermodynamics put an end to everything, however long that might take.

    I never said reality itself would be completely different, I said the way science describes it would undoubtedly be different.

    The whole idea that what we know today is the absolute truth, and has been revealed to us through being tested in the crucible of science, is too religious for my liking. If you believe science is a self-correcting inductive process, then it’s meaningless to say anything we know through science is “true” except in a completely provisional way. We don’t get “more real” science as we go along, we get science that’s more useful to us in terms of our mindsets, our tools and technology, and our motives for conducting inquiry in the first place.

    By the way, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ does not propose a linear progression in scientific discovery.

    Um, I never said it does. What I said is that the cheerleaders for the current paradigm, according to Kuhn, always make it seem like there’s been a direct and progressive line leading from our ignorance in the Big Bad Past to the light of certainty emanating from the currently accepted model. Kuhn’s work describes the social practice of science and how expert debate over theories has defined the current scientific picture we have of the world. If it were as easy as facts —-> theory —-> truth, why would there be any expert debate at all?

  • Mitch_Haelan

    What double standard? You’ve changed topics and moved your goalposts quite enough. My point stands, and my metaphor remains both valid and accurate. Can you dispute *any* of the stated similarities between religion and smoking?

  • I told you already: you’re just focusing on the negative effects of religion and denying there are any positives. If you did that about science, no one would consider it a balanced critique; just because you’re applying it to something nobody here cares about, doesn’t make the double standard disappear.

    You’re also judging religion by the standards we use to judge science. As I already told you, that’s like saying carpentry is better than astronomy because astronomy doesn’t build houses. Do you not understand why this is fallacious?

    And all those links you posted don’t in fact support your claims. For instance, you say, Both religion and smoking have been directly linked to severe Health complications and long-term systemic damage within the human body. However, the study you linked described research into the health disparities between various religious groups due to their different customs and dietary laws. When you’re making dramatic claims that aren’t supported by the sources you’re citing as validation for the claim, I consider this crackpottery.

    Let’s face it, you’re just a 9/11 truther who’s fixated on religion rather than Building 7. And we all know there’s no talking to a truther.

  • tophilacticus

    So science is absolutely objective, and scientists’ vision is not constrained by their culture? A simple look at the demographics, especially racial, shows it is not the utopia you claim it to be (or what I wish it was). There are scientists who have clung on to the ‘The Bell Curve’ like it is a great work of science, when it is more modern Social Darwinism than anything else. That is not a historical example that we could easily dismiss as the absurdity of the past. This is the absurdity of now.

  • Mitch_Haelan

    And I pointed out that even if you judge science by the standards you judge religion, science still wins. Also, I challenge you to provide one positive benefit of religion. anything at all. Even in regards to the things religion claims to do and you think it is supposed to do, religion is actually absolutely terrible at doing its damn job.

    And I know you didn’t read any of the studies I linked, because you just misrepresented the study. Unless I got the link wrong, which I doubt. That link had nothing to do with Customs or Diet. It was a study on how religious experiences cause atrophy to a certain very important part of the brain. If you are not going to look at the evidence presented to you, you are intellectually dishonest and this conversation is done. I can overlook your idiotic ad hominem attack of comparing me to a truther, I am well acquainted and relatively inured to being insulted. I cannot abide dishonesty.

  • David Cromie

    “I never said reality itself would be completely different, I said the way science describes it would undoubtedly be different”. What gives you that idea?

    What do you mean by the ‘social practice of science’?

    The man on the Clapham omnibus utilises the products of science as he goes about his business in the modern world, without worrying about how the application of science behind his gadgets actually produced those gadgets.

  • It was a study on how religious experiences cause atrophy to a certain very important part of the brain. If you are not going to look at the evidence presented to you, you are intellectually dishonest and this conversation is done.

    Your link was to a study titled “Review of the relationship between religion and poverty.”

    I guess we know who’s intellectually dishonest here. Bye.

  • What you said had no bearing whatsoever on the questions I asked you. How exactly do you know that science would be exactly the same? I gave you several valid-sounding reasons to doubt that the historical precedents and political context of modern science would have happened in exactly the same order, causing science to develop again exactly the same way.

    Look, science doesn’t just watch as the universe’s data points magically reveal, arrange, and interpret themselves into comprehensible theories. Researchers work to build models that can withstand the political, dialogic process of scientific argumentation, and this takes place in a specific historical, intellectual, and economic context. The very idea that everything we know about the universe would be the exact same, if all these factors had to happen again in exactly the same order, stretches the bounds of credulity.

  • David Cromie

    Science is science no matter the person following the scientific method. Or is there some other way you can point to that scientific enquiry can be conducted?

  • Science is science no matter the person following the scientific method. Or is there some other way you can point to that scientific enquiry can be conducted?

    Are you being deliberately obtuse, David?

    I already said that, yes, there’s every reason to believe that if science had to be developed again, humanity would likely invent useful ways to study natural phenomena. Call them “science” if you want. But the idea that following the scientific method inexorably leads to the same models and theories is nowhere near certain. The likelihood that the exact same picture of the universe would be produced by the exact same models, produced in the exact same order, isn’t great. I’ve explained over and over why I think this way. Please make an effort to at least acknowledge what I’m saying here, whether you agree with it or not.

  • I hate to overthink these memes (can’t you tell?), but I’m wondering if I missed something in the Penn Jillette quote. Is he suggesting that all scientific knowledge is wiped out but everybody remembers what science was like? Or is the implication that we’re essentially turning back time and humanity has to develop scientific inquiry all over again from scratch?

  • Derek Mathias

    “Fundies might think that their God is benevolent, but it’s not like they think that the fact that bad things happen is a deal breaker when it comes to believing in God.”

    That’s true…which is why I took a different approach in my Case For An Evil God series. Here’s a line from the summary video: “When asked for examples of evil, almost everyone—including nearly all Christians—will list such behaviors as murder and genocide, torture, animal and human sacrifice, slavery, rape, cannibalism, child and animal abuse, theft, incest, betrayal and lying. Christians naturally associate those evil acts with Satan…but the Bible itself shows that it’s actually God who is guilty of condoning, ordering and even committing the very behaviors we ourselves use to identify evil. ”

    Fundies like to blame humanity for evil, so the twist here is to use the list of behaviors the fundies themselves use to identify evil persons to show that God commits all of them in the Bible. It makes it much harder for them to argue that God is good when I can show them that he fits their OWN definition of evil.

  • tophilacticus

    What do you see as the philosophical guidelines underling science? They are there, and they are an, not the sole, approach to observing, understanding, and communicating these thoughts.

  • tophilacticus

    It is pretty remarkable the arrogance in this thread. I don’t think it is intentional, perhaps human. It makes me wonder if previous generations had such thoughts about where they were. The sentiment that we have reached, or at least are approaching some pinnacle of knowledge of absolute reality – a perspective of reality, like E=mc^2, that would be shared by sentient beings that evolved completely independent is foolhardy – and speaks to how little is taught about the fundamental philosophy of science, even Western civilization is taught.

    If we, instead of being humans, were a species of Drosophila, we would,perhaps have a completely different perspective – probably seeing adhesion as a prominent property, whereas gravity would be something much more abstract, having doubters as common as we have those denying evolution and deep time.

  • Martin Thomas

    “self belief is not the same as religious belief” I accept that, however some people claim that belief or faith can never have any effect on anything, which I dispute.

    You say “Someone weighing 20 stones will never become a cat burglar”, but then you go on to explain how, if they were strongly motivated, they could do it. I think that many people could do a lot more than they think they can do.

  • Martin Thomas

    I don’t think Penn Jillette is saying that science would be created in exactly the same way, merely that it would be recreated. In the next paragraph he says:

    Without hype, Lot’s salt-heap ho would never be thought of again. Without science, Earth still goes round the sun, and someday someone would find a way to discover that again. Science is so important because it’s a way to find truth, but the truth doesn’t depend on it.

    Penn Jillette book on Google Books

    I would say that it is not certain that science would arise again, just very likely. And I would expect some bits of religion to arise as well; similar meditation techniques would be discovered. However, any prescientific theories arising from such practises would probably not be similar to anything we have now.

  • Martin Thomas

    What I said is that the cheerleaders for the current paradigm, according
    to Kuhn, always make it seem like there’s been a direct and progressive
    line leading from our ignorance in the Big Bad Past to the light of
    certainty emanating from the currently accepted model.

    It is a while since I read Kuhn, but I don’t think he quite said that. He said that accounts of the history of science are often written with the understanding of the current paradigm, which distorts what actually happened. For example, a modern book about chemical elements might explain how Joseph Priestley discovered the element oxygen in 1774. However, Joseph Priestley, would have rejected this account, because he rejected the idea of elements.

    However, not every account does that. Accounts of the history of maths often explain in detail why the understanding of what an axiom is changed drastically in the early 19th century. Physics books often explain how the greatly advent of relativity and quantum mechanics change our understanding of physics.

  • David Cromie

    I am not sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying that there could be some other form of scientific enquiry, and if so, it might produce a model of the universe, different from the one accepted now (might it include ‘gods’ and other supernatural entities?)?

  • rationalobservations?

    You write: “Belief in scientific – or unscientific – theories cannot make them true.”
    You appear to misunderstand the true meaning of a Scientific Theory when you associate that very specific term with a “non scientific theory” which is a non scientist’s inaccurate term for an hypothesis, guess or hunch.

    There are few Scientific Theories since each one was examined, tested and challenged by the best scientists of any generation before being accepted as a Scientific Theory that becomes the foundation and cornerstone of current and future science from that time onward.
    Scientific Theories (like gravity and evolution) require no “belief” or “faith” since they are so comprehensively confirmed by a mountain of evidence and experimentation that only those totally ignorant of the evidence deny them. No modern Scientific Theory has ever been disproved and any modification only adds to the authority of the theory.

    The mere hypothesis of the existence of magic and any of the millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men has no supporting evidence and is dismissed today by the third largest and fastest growing human cohort who reject religion and the myths and legends upon which those religions were founded.

    Your personal indoctrinated beliefs have no relevance to the discussion and you once again appear to agree.
    Your having faith in what you were told did not make it true.
    Having faith in what you were told did not make it probably true.
    Having faith in what you were told had no bearing upon truth whatsoever.
    Also a child having faith in being told (s)he was “tone deaf” or “stupid” did not make that true, or probably true and in fact had no bearing upon the truth whatsoever.

    Indoctrinated belief in the existence of magic and any/all of the millions of undetectable and undetected gods, goddesses and god-men/messiahs does not make the existence of these hypothetical entities true, or probably true, and has no bearing upon the truth whatsoever.

    When boiled down – the explanation of individual’s belief in magic and super-spooks can be summarised thus:
    “I believe only because I have been indoctrinated with faith and have faith exclusively because I have been brainwashed with belief.”

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SLVOq77YxcI/WdD49ptS1SI/AAAAAAAAlOs/FqEnF3E72zoc4HIK4i_jqfQAVYLOGvclACJoC/w1435-h1221/20171001_101457.png

  • David Cromie

    When science was known as Natural Philosophy, then the philosophy of science was an important ingredient in the development of scientific method, but what exactly are philosophy’s greatest theoretical contributions today (there may be some in the fields of pure maths and physics, but I am not up to date with the latest philosophy of science navel gazing)?

  • That makes sense. If we consider any formalized method of trial-and-error “science,” it’s almost certain that such loosely-defined methods would be discovered to be of use to humans.

    But Penn’s idea that Science is so important because it’s a way to find truth, but the truth doesn’t depend on it still bugs me. This idealistic notion that the truth about the universe is just sitting out there waiting for us to discover it, and we get incrementally closer to it through testing hypotheses, is sort of naïve. If we know anything through a couple of centuries of scientific inquiry, it’s that the way the universe seems depends on the methods we use to study it.

  • I see your point, but it looks like we’ve got the believers in a double-bind here. If they say they approve of the slavery and genocide in the Bible, we accuse them of barbarism; if they say they don’t approve, we accuse them of hypocrisy.

    Personally, I much prefer that they rationalize these things as “Old Testament God” and make it clear they don’t condone slavery or genocide. If that’s condoning a double standard, well, I guess that doesn’t bother me as much as the alternative.

  • tophilacticus

    So then I take it, you see the scientific method, even in it’s modern form, as being without an underlying philosophy? It is ironic as the philosophy of science is often employed in separating scientific claims from metaphysical claims of creationists and the recent reincarnation as intelligent design. Science, especially modern, is a philosophy, whether the word is included or not, and, even in it’s current state, relies heavily upon reductionism and determinism.

    The problem with “science is science,” using the term to define itself, is it is not direct and clear. It communicates nothing of the the scientific method’s power and limitations. It also attempts to separate something from which it is in separable – that it is a human endeavor.

  • I agree. I’ve always said it strikes me as quasi-religious to declare that we have a Truth that’s fundamental and eternal, it couldn’t be any other way, and anyone who questions it deserves abuse and derision.

    It’s certainly not what you’d expect from people who call themselves skeptics and freethinkers.

  • tophilacticus

    I wonder if treating science as distinct and above is due in part to the act of questioning things, especially a deity, in a society with a significant outspoken religious segment. It is to the point in the US, at least, where actual Puritanism is palpable. As science has grown into a place of authority, any act appearing to undermine science’s place, would seem to empower the religious.

    It is kind of funny your Anti-Science page was named such. I thought the posts were much more pro-science than anything, and anti-science meant exposing anti-science as they seemed much more in line with the “open science” movement today. Many people seem stuck in the belief of “sound science,” which is more of an ideological masquerade than anything.

  • tophilacticus

    There has been a lot of garbage written by ignorant journalists about scientific papers they did not understand and a lot of rubbish written about science by ignorant individuals and dishonest creationists.

    I am not 100% clear, are you suggesting only journalists produced garbage that was ignorant? It looks like you provided much feedback in your reply to comment, which I take that must have been edited as it is very short for such a response.

    Palaeoanthropology has deep roots in racism, especially within the past 100 years or so. The fabricated Piltdown Man was largely embraced by English scientists, and controversial to rejected by American and European scientists. This is nationalism, which has influenced science. Though Piltdown Man was controversal (and later rejected as a hoax), it set up a situation where authentic fossil hominins from Africa as Australopithecus africanus, especially the Taung Child, were ignored for decades. Anthropologists in the 19th Century held Asia as the cradle of encephalization, linked to intelligence, with only rumors of fossil hominins. I have not even gone into genetics in the US, which has a history of linking race, intelligence, and genes through eugenics. This has continued to the recent and present with outspoken proponents of science like Dawkins, Harris, and Pinker defending the The Bell Curve as good science, when it is regurgitated Social Darwinism in its attempts to link genes, IQ, race, and socioeconomic status.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Our picture of the universe isn’t getting more real or more true, it’s just getting more useful to us according to the way we define the aims of inquiry.-Shem

    I define the truth as “Those stories that best explain the available evidence”.
    Under that definition, our picture of the universe continues to get more true.

    Our science is not purely a form of politics.
    For example, if the periodic table of elements is created in many places throughout our universe by intelligent species, each time that it is created, it will look very similar to the one that humans have.

    There isn’t truth floating around the universe just waiting to be discovered, truths are invented by intelligent beings.
    But there are physical characteristics of matter and energy out there, floating around just waiting to be examined and understood.
    That commonality of matter and energy will make any alien version of science substantially understandable to any other version of science, including the science of our home planet.

  • Derek Mathias

    I agree they’re in a double-bind…but it’s not our fault that their religion puts them in this position. I do hear the “that’s the OT God” claim…but they also believe that’s the same God, and they also claim he is unchanging…which is particularly weird because the Bible says God repented. Well, consistency thy name is not fundie. 😉

  • Chuck Johnson

    “Science is science no matter the person following the scientific method.”

    Not true.
    Science is an imperfect pursuit of knowledge. It is created by human beings. Variations occur.

    The universe itself is a perfect representation of itself. – – – It is what it is.

    Because of these two opposing forces, science will tend towards perfection (because the universe itself provides the insights and the knowledge) and science will always remain imperfect (because the human scientists are less-than-perfect-investigators).

    So scientific understanding continues to get better, but perfection is not the goal. Improvement and advancement are the sensible goals.

  • Chuck Johnson

    ” . . . would converge on something similar, . . . ”

    Yes, that’s what I would expect.
    Convergence over time, not a replication of what other scientific societies would have created.
    Variations in the evolution of science would exist.

  • Martin Thomas

    That may one use the term Scientific Theory (in capitals even!) but it is not the only usage.
    Wikipedia: ‘A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested’
    If you Google ‘steady state theory’ you will find millions of hits, including dictionary entries and encyclopedia articles. People have not stopped calling it a theory even though almost all cosmologists regard it as disproven.

    I find it odd that you reject the possibility of a belief causing something. A belief is something physical and it has an effect on behaviour. Google ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ and you will find many examples of beliefs that change people’s behaviour so the belief becomes true.

    This does not happen in physics; but it does in psychology.

  • rationalobservations?

    You appear to be unfamiliar with the concept of logically fallacy in general and the logical fallacy of Reductio ad Absurdum and the Straw Man Argument in particular when you write what you appear to imagine is a rhetorical question: “So science is absolutely objective, and scientists’ vision is not constrained by their culture?” and “A simple look at the demographics, especially racial, shows it is not the utopia you claim it to be (or what I wish it was).

    My question had no assertions similar to these failed Straw men of your own invention and your obfuscation and resort to straw man logical fallacy indicates your own obsessive agenda while offering nothing that responds to my observations or answers my questions. All you do is make it very obvious that you have no evidence supported answers.

    Here’s another question for you to try and dodge:
    Who are these accredited and mainstream scientists who have “clung to the findings” of the “The Bell Curve” for the nefarious motives you appear to imply – and which accredited and mainstream specialists in the same scientific discipline as Charles Murray have presented similar rigorous statistical data and analysis that casts doubt upon the veracity of the book you condemn but cannot contradict? What consensus of accredited and mainstream scientists consider “The Bell Curve” to be a “great work of science” and can you name the scientists who form that consensus? “The Bell Curve” is/was a symptom of America and an insight into the problems of America. A recent survey found that America is the 5th most ignorant country among 164 different nation’s populations examined. Those data are also subject to question – but the growing gap between other “developed” nations and America appears to be more than coincidental?

    Having possibly confounded you with these further questions – I must also confront you with your failed attempt to divert attention from the fact that you cannot justify your slanderous question: “If science had to be redeveloped would we still get scientific racism at some point?”

    There are racists and have always been racists. There have been non-scientists who have perverted and misused science as an excuse for prejudice, persecution and mass murder. That is not the fault of science that individuals distort, misunderstand and misuse power in the name of pseudoscience. Science in the past 150 years or so has formed the ever more rapidly expanding sum total of all human knowledge. You fail in your attempt to tarnish science just because a few who have shown genius have also demonstrated the sort of lunacy the religious maniac and avowed believer in alchemy and fairies (Ref Sir Isaac Newton) and many, many non-scientists have misinterpreted and lied about the actual findings, observations and discoveries of science.

    The places in which you live and work, the things you wear and use and everything you eat is the product of a discipline of science.

    The short-lived late 19th /early 20th century hypotheses of “Social Darwinism” was widely discredited at the time and is even more widely discredited today.

    Outside of the more backward and underdeveloped USA – education, freedom, equality and peaceful secular democracy thrives and it is worth noting that the top ten most peaceful and egalitarian nation are also the least religious nations so it may be that your misplaced accusations against science would be better directed against the far more toxic, prejudicial and discriminatory realms of religion?

    Now – I hope that you may pause and read through my latest entries noting any line that ends in a questions mark (?) and actually attempt to answer those questions through evidence and in detail…

  • rationalobservations?

    You confirm that many folk confuse the scientific meaning of a Theory and the general public’s concept of a theory being entirely similar to a hypothesis, hunch or guess.

    You also appear to confuse any hypothesis of any individual scientist with the few and rare actual Scientific Theories described within your entry.
    The steady state hypothesis is the “theory” of a scientist, not a Scientific Theory like gravity (Isaac Newton) or evolution (Charles Darwin) or Information theory (Claude Shannon, 1948), Plate tectonics: (Alfred Wegener & J. Tuzo Wilson), Special relativity (Albert Einstein), Quantum theory (Max Planck, Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, Paul Dirac) and Heliocentrism: (Copernicus).

    The word “theory” is bandied around with reckless abandon but, in the context of science, is understood by few and also confused by many.

    “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.”

    I hope this moderate complexity is not too much for you to understand, Martin?

  • rationalobservations?

    A definition of faith:
    “belief without evidence, true understanding, perception, or discrimination.”

    You correctly observe that individuals can break the hold of indoctrination and brainwashing however. That is confirmed by the fact that the third largest and fastest growing human cohort have broken the hold of religious indoctrination and brainwashing – as demonstrated by the fact that religious faith is in accelerating decline within each recent human generation.

    You appear to be working through your confusion and that is a positive move, Martin.

    Best wishes and good luck to you and yours.

  • rationalobservations?

    You once again appear to be unfamiliar with the concept of logically fallacy in general and the logical fallacy of Reductio ad Absurdum and the Straw Man Argument in particular when you write what you may appear to imagine is a rhetorical question:“I am not 100% clear, are you suggesting only journalists produced garbage that was ignorant?”
    Your absolutism is simplistic and appears to be immature and naive with regard to the subtleties that you overlook or of which you are perhaps merely ignorant.

    Many folk produce garbage some mainstream and much respected minds of any generation are capable of presenting garbage as was the case with Isaac Newton whpo made many great discoveries and explained many natural phenomena while also being a loony alchemist, believer in ghosts and fairies and sufferer from religious mania as one example among many.

    The core of the sum total of all human knowledge and the few and rare accredited and accepted Scientific Laws and Scientific Theories are not sullied by the delusions of some scientists or the garbage written about real science by pseudo scientific morons. The wild nonsense, fantasies and lies aboy science written by creationists today is another example.

    I don’t know why you are recycling some of the garbage here.
    The “Piltdown Man” hoax was recognised very early on and the fake artifact was shelved for some decades before anyone could be bothered to confirm it as the hoax many British scientists and palaeontologists already believed it to be. It appears to have been only accepted widely as a “missing link” by the Amwerican public, someof whom today still make claims about “missing links” that actually aren’t “missing” at all.

    The sidetracks that science meanders through on it’s way to evidence supported theories does not detract from science but confirms it as the evolution of evidence and observations to arrive at the theories and laws that are the corner stones of modern science today.

    Individual hoaxes and individual’s mistakes have not influenced or detracted from any modern discipline or theory or law of modern science. There was never a Scientific Theory based exclusively upon the “Piltdown man” or “The Bell Curve”. Such irrelevant side issues and minor distractions have never overturned a single modern Scientific Theory.

    I agree wholehearted with you in the matter of any application of shameful racism, but the scientific method connected with the bell curve is something that you have failed to contradict or dismiss.

    I know of no nation or regime that applies eugenics today based upon the data within any scientific study. Do You?

  • Martin Thomas

    I understand perfectly. Many interesting words have more than one meaning.

    My claim that “Belief in scientific – or unscientific – theories cannot make them true.” is still valid.

    Belief in Scientific Theories cannot make them true.
    Belief in unscientific theories cannot make them true.

  • David Cromie

    ‘Reductio ad Absurdum’ has its uses when showing that a claim, when taken to its logical conclusion, is patently absurd.

  • David Cromie

    What point are you trying to make, by stating a truism? When speaking scientifically, then the words used usually only have only one, technical, meaning.

  • Martin Thomas

    I was making a contrast with situations in which belief can make something true. If someone believes ‘I can succeed’, they will probably succeed; if they believe “I will fail”, they will probably fail.

    In retrospect, I could have explained what I meant more clearly.

  • Not for nothing, but Sam Harris has interviewed Charles Murray on his podcast and dismisses the debunkers of The Bell Curve as wrong-headed liberals motivated by a “politically correct moral panic” rather than objective assessment of the evidence. The problems with Murray’s work are many, yet it’s very popular with even science-minded folks here in the atheist blogosphere. May I ask your opinion of Murray’s thesis?

    Scientific racism is real, and it’s no good handwaving it away as science being “perverted and misused.” If we have no problem attacking religion for the way people use it to justify discrimination and prejudice, then let’s not engage in a double-standard. Science needs to answer for this.

  • Martin Thomas

    A definition of faith:
    “belief without evidence, true understanding, perception, or discrimination.”

    That is certainly how what many religious believers seem to mean by ‘faith’.

    I see that I have used the words ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ interchangeably, which was probably a mistake. Actually , neither word captures very well the sense I meant; someone who has an idea that affects their experience, like someone who declares “I am going to win”, not because they think that this is a true proposition, but because they are determined to win.

  • David Cromie

    That can happen in some circumstances, but making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is never a viable proposition.

  • tophilacticus

    If I have an agenda it is that science be presented transparently, that it is a product of people and societies, past and present.

    Which observations were you hoping I would address? The only one in your post was “Racism has used a distorted interpretation of science to justify itself just as religionists have used a direct interpretation of their un-holy books to attempt to justify racism.” Was this the observation?

    I do agree with it that racism has used a distorted interpretation of science (and religion. I believe we are in agreement with the latter, so I see no purpose in continuing a binary discussion on religion vs. science. Science can stand on it’s own, and if your claim is science has produced many beneficial things, I agree with that two. However science is a double-edged sword).

    I also state racism is within science. If my reply seemed absurd, it is because you assert that racism is not in science, as if science, or scientific knowledge exists in some other reality independent of the lens of people and culture who conduct it. You gave precious few details of what the above quote meant in your original reply so perhaps my interpretation was incorrect.

    It appears you believe racism would be introduced into science through manipulation of data, lying, or misinterpretation, some fraudulent process. I disagree, it is within the methodology and is systemic in science. It is in the lens of scientists who do the work. IQ testing, rendering intelligence to a number, is one example.

    I did give an example, The Bell Curve, so it is not like I dodged your questions. Beyond what Shem replied to your comments, the work has several red flags. It was funded by the Pioneer Fund, a non-profit group aimed at “racial betterment” modeled after the Nazi Lebensborn program. Though this does not discredit the work, it certainly does raise questions about any “nefarious” motives behind the work. Similarly the weak conclusions in the book are [scientifically] irresponsible. Throwing out data that make connections between genetics, IQ, race, and socio-economic status – even if correct and accurate – is like making an explosive and giving it to politicians, many of them religious, and saying “Here you go. Do with it what you will.” That is the double edged sword of science.

  • tophilacticus

    The point of “Piltdown Man” was to illustrate how scientific knowledge, and scientists, can be sidetracked by non-science, fraudulent or otherwise. Do you not wonder what sidetracks us today that the future will look upon us with the same disdain we look back on that? Yes, science is an accumulation of knowledge. Do you see that knowledge as independent of the scientists who made it, independent of the culture and beliefs that forged the methodology? The misconception of modern science is exactly this. It is the marketing of science and scientists as an authority that are objective (meaning without bias), emotionless, and an inhuman endeavor. You mistake me, I am very much pro-science. I see it as a powerful tool. I however, am not keen on it being wielded like a sword of absolutism that criticism of it, is seen as sacrilege, or dismissed through the binary lens of “it is better than religion.”

  • tophilacticus

    I know of no nation or regime that applies eugenics today based upon the data within any scientific study. Do You?

    Prison sterilization in the US is one example of modern day eugenics. Prenatal screening is also a form of eugenics. Based on our conversation, no doubt the application of science will be separated from “real science.” Regardless it is a consequence of science.

  • My point was that I prefer they admit that genocide and slavery aren’t permissible. I know you’re all about heads-I-win-tails-you-lose in these slapfights with the faithful, but having them admit that is a good thing, isn’t it?

  • Brian Curtis

    But remember, everyone: it’s important not to be snarky or insulting.

  • Thanks for your thought-provoking contribution.

  • Brian Curtis

    Just confirming that your rules continue to apply to everyone else but you. Have a great day!

  • Once again, you’ve given us a lot to think about with your penetrating comments. Your grasp of the topics here is always impressive and original.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    “17,000 kids die from starvation every day. Where is God?”

    SP: Let’s begin by admitting that, on the spectrum of sophistication for arguments, bad-things-happen-therefore-God-doesn’t-exist is on the crude end.

    GW: That is false! It is among the best of all arguments against the existence of God.

    SP: I honestly couldn’t care less about theological discussions, but if you’re going to talk about religion and suffering, then you’re obliged to recognize that the matter has been addressed more than a few times by theologians.

    GW: Yes, addressed extremely poorly.

    SP: And if they say it’s “part of God’s plan” or whatever, the fact that they engage in charity work makes it clear that they don’t think The Big G wants them to think it’s no big deal.

    GW: The point of the meme is not to show that religious people don’t care about suffering children. The point is to show that God does not exist.

    SP: Furthermore, for those of us who don’t think God exists anyway, shouldn’t an image of starving children make us feel bad about our helplessness to create and maintain stable societies that can feed everybody?

    GW: Oh come on now, Shem, the meme is not distributed for the benefit of atheists. It is distributed to shake up theists into thinking about their irrational thinking.

    SP: Which brings me to my final point, that using this kind of image to bait religious folks doesn’t display any of the compassion we’re accusing God of lacking.

    GW: You are making a false assumption here. We’re not accusing God of lacking compassion. We’re claiming God does not exist! There is no lack of compassion in this meme. The photo might not only shock religious people into a re-examination of their irrational beliefs, it might also stimulate empathy in both theists and atheists.

  • If science were completely wiped out, I think that we’d probably be able to figure out newtonian mechanics again (doesn’t require instruments that are too advanced),
    but things like metalurgy would be more difficult to recover, because all those easily used ores that would have enabled early metallurgy in our civilization would
    be mostly depleted- same thing for organic chemistry lacking readily available petrochemicals (which would also mean that we’d know a lot less about plastics).

    We probably would not recognise whatever replaces general relativity or the standard model of particle physics, assuming that we would still be able to build particle accelerators or neutrino observatories. We’d probably have great difficulty redeveloping semiconductors and understanding solid state physics given the lack of materials, We’d probably be stuck at vacuum tubes even if we redeveloped electronics.

  • Derek Mathias

    Well, I’m not really all about putting them in a double-bind; I’m just not above pointing it out to them. 🙂 But yes, whatever works in getting them to realize that the Bible isn’t accurate and thus they need to seek more than just scripture to guide their lives is a damn good thing.

  • I’m just wondering why this is such an iron-clad syllogism:

    Major Premise: If God exists, no bad things would ever happen, ever.
    Minor Premise: Bad things happen frequently.
    Conclusion: God does not exist.

    Maybe you know a lot more about the aims and methods of The Big G than I, but I’m pretty sure he said in Isaiah 45 that “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” So where do you get the support for the major premise?

    Furthermore, I think we should be a lot more compassionate than to use pictures of starving children as ammo in Internet slapfights with fundies. This isn’t about religion or truth, it’s about common decency.

  • You’re right, simple machines are almost self-evidently useful. As anyone who’s ever read The Way Things Work knows, the wedge is the basis of everything from the screwdriver to the zipper.

  • rationalobservations?

    Thank you for reminding me of just how backward and barbaric the USA can be and remains today. Many of us who have been born and raised in educated, free, civilised secular democracies often forget that in some states of America paedophilia is legalised in the form of child marriage and equal marriage is still violently opposed while the constitution is considered to demand that every lunatic, punk kid and homicidal maniac must be free to own an assault rifle – among so much other barbarity.

    I understand that enforced sterilisation ended in the USA in the 1970s. Please present evidence to the contrary.

    I am not sure what you reference with regard to prenatal screening since that is an option and free choice of parents as is any consequential decisions they make based upon prenatal screening. I know of no modern free, secular and democracy based nation that imposes prenatal screening or that imposes any actions upon parents subject to the findings of prenatal screening. Please also present any evidence you know of that contradicts this.

    In the mean time, and subject to any actual evidence you can provide – Your bunkum appears to remain debunked.

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SLVOq77YxcI/WdD49ptS1SI/AAAAAAAAlOs/FqEnF3E72zoc4HIK4i_jqfQAVYLOGvclACJoC/w1435-h1221/20171001_101457.png
    http://images.f169bbs.com/content/2015-10/according-to-the-bible-satan-and-god-yahweh-together-tag-team-on-humans-25529.jpg

  • rationalobservations?
  • rationalobservations?

    The point is not any question of if individual scientists were duped by the “Piltdown man” hoax, but that that hoax is but a tiny and minor anecdote within the advances of science in general. It is calculated that the sum total of all scientific knowledge has advance by more since 1950 than the whole sum total of scientific knowledge up to that point.

    The science of the study of 4,000,000,000 years of biological evolution on Earth was not impaired by one hoax that was recognised by many scientists at the time.
    The fact of evolution and the fundamental sciences that contribute to knowledge of evolution and those other scientific disciplines that draw upon knowledge of evolution were not diverted or undermined by one childish prank within the vast mountain of real evidence, observation and experimentation that confirms past, current and ongoing evolution.

    You would need to list these “current misconceptions” that you appear to claim blight modern science. So far you have not.

    There are thousands of religions in conflict with each other and millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men/messiahs. All are unsupported by a single shred of logic and/or evidence. The fastest growing and third largest human cohort have abandoned (or never bought into) the garbage of religion while science continues to expand and be of benefit to mankind with every new discovery and observation.

    Science is not in competition with religion. Education and common sense contradicts the confused and ridiculous myths, legends and lies (and the anti-humanitarian garbage and childish superstition) that is all that comprises any religion.

    https://freethoughtnaija.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/graveyard-of-the-gods.jpg

  • rationalobservations?

    You write: “If I have an agenda it is that science be presented transparently, that it is a product of people and societies, past and present.”
    That “agenda” and wish appears to be fulfilled since the self correcting mechanisms of the “scientific method” and peer review of any “new” science is transparent and the mistakes of long dead scientists have been discovered and remedied on an ongoing basis.

    One hoax (Piltdown man) did not divert or disrupt the advance of the science or fact of evolution.
    One little known book (The Bell Curve) has not influenced diverted or disrupted the science of Anthropology or the civilised progress toward equality and against discrimination, prejudice and applied racism across the educated, free, secular and democratic developed world.

    I am glad that you appear to agree that science is not in competition with religion. Education and common sense contradicts the confused and ridiculous myths, legends and lies (and the anti-humanitarian garbage and childish superstition) that is all that comprises any religion.
    The top ten most peaceful and happy nations are also the most “godless” and least religious nations according to the annually published “Global Peace Index”. That has little to do with the cutting edge of any modern advanced scientific discipline and everything to do with improved education and better communication among each recent new generation of our very recently evolved species of ape.

    The exponential advance of science and technology and the rapid and accelerating decline in religion have brought far greater good than ill to mankind.
    Your egocentric and USA centred world view are not typical of the wider, western educated, free, secular democracies the USA has yet to catch up to.

  • rationalobservations?
  • rationalobservations?

    I wonder in what way you imagine that “Science needs to answer” for anything?

    The sum total of all scientific knowledge has nothing “answer for” since the self correcting mechanisms of the “scientific method” and peer review of any “new” science is transparent and the minor diversions and outright mistakes of living and long dead scientists have been discovered and are remedied or ignored on an ongoing basis.

    One hoax (Piltdown man) did not divert or disrupt the advance of the science or fact of evolution.
    One little known book (“The Bell Curve”) has not influenced diverted or disrupted the mainstream science of Anthropology or the civilised progress toward equality and against discrimination, prejudice and applied racism across the educated, free, secular and democratic developed world.

    Religious racism, prejudice and persecution is real and it’s no good attempting to make a scapegoat of “science” in an attempt to excuse or justify the harm done in the name of religion.

    Science is not in competition with religion. Education and common sense contradicts the confused and ridiculous myths, legends and lies (and the anti-humanitarian garbage and childish superstition) that is all that comprises any religion.

    The top ten most peaceful and happy nations are also the most “godless” and least religious nations according to the annually published “Global Peace Index” and the third largest and fastest growing human cohort are the non-religious.
    That fact has little to do with the cutting edge of any modern advanced scientific discipline and everything to do with improved education and better communication among each recent new generation of our very recently evolved species of ape.

    The exponential advance of science and technology and the rapid and accelerating decline in religion have brought far greater good than ill to mankind.
    The egocentric and USA centred world view expressed by some in this forum are not typical of the wider, western educated, free, secular democracies the USA has yet to catch up to in so many ways.

    https://freethoughtnaija.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/graveyard-of-the-gods.jpg

  • rationalobservations?

    That appears to be one of the few things in which we disagree David.
    Revealing the nonsense within a thing is hampered by the “thin end of the wedge” non-argument concerning a supposed absurd conclusion to that thing.
    When the then young Winston Churchill argued against votes for women on the grounds that it would lead to monkeys and horses voting next – he was demonstrating the nature of failed and nonsensical Reductio ad Absurdum.

    Universal suffrage did not lead to monkeys and horses voting.
    One hoax (Piltdown man) did not divert or disrupt the advance of the science or fact of evolution.
    One little known book (“The Bell Curve”) has not influenced diverted or disrupted the mainstream science of Anthropology or the civilised progress toward equality and against discrimination, prejudice and applied racism across the educated, free, secular and democratic developed world.

    Religious racism, prejudice and persecution is real and it’s no good those who attempt to make a scapegoat of “science” in an attempt to excuse or justify the harm done in the name of religion.

    Science is not in competition with religion. Education and common sense contradicts the confused and ridiculous myths, legends and lies (and the anti-humanitarian garbage and childish superstition) that is all that comprises any religion.

    The top ten most peaceful and happy nations are also the most “godless” and least religious nations according to the annually published “Global Peace Index” and the third largest and fastest growing human cohort are the non-religious.
    That fact has little to do with the cutting edge of any modern advanced scientific discipline and everything to do with improved education and better communication among each recent new generation of our very recently evolved species of ape.

    The exponential advance of science and technology and the rapid and accelerating decline in religion have brought far greater good than ill to mankind.
    The egocentric and USA centred world view expressed by some in this forum are not typical of the wider, western educated, free, secular democracies the USA has yet to catch up to in so many ways.

    There is a reason why logical fallacy is called logical fallacy, old friend.

  • rationalobservations?

    There is no “belief” required for Scientific Theories to be accepted. They are accepted and utilised as a cornerstone and basis for science so long as they remain viable and useful. As additional evidence becomes known, the details of any Scientific Theory are modified and no modern/current Scientific Law or Theory has ever been overturned.

    Belief in unscientific hypotheses is irrational and unsupported and unless there is viable and empirical evidence supporting those hypotheses – they can be dismissed as mere fantasy.

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SLVOq77YxcI/WdD49ptS1SI/AAAAAAAAlOs/FqEnF3E72zoc4HIK4i_jqfQAVYLOGvclACJoC/w1435-h1221/20171001_101457.png

  • rationalobservations?

    An individual scientist’s hypothesis (general public’s idea of a “theory”) is not a Scientific Theory.

    I do not deny that belief can cause many things. It causes many people to waste time and money upon many diverse and very different politico-corporate businesses of self serving religion – as just one example. Having belief in something does not make it true however.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    Shem the Penman is apparently not impressed with that quote.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    SP1: I’m just wondering why this is such an iron-clad syllogism:
    Major Premise: If God exists, no bad things would ever happen, ever.
    Minor Premise: Bad things happen frequently.
    Conclusion: God does not exist.

    GW1: Let’s not generalize so much, but just stick to the syllogism from the meme:
    1. If God did exist, then there wouldn’t be millions of starving children in the world, similar to those depicted in the photo.
    2. But there are millions of starving children in the world, similar to those depicted in the photo.
    3. Therefore, God does not exist.
    The premises are true, the logic is correct, and thus the conclusion is true. If you think not, then present and defend your objection.

    SP1: Maybe you know a lot more about the aims and methods of The Big G than I, but I’m pretty sure he said in Isaiah 45 that “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” So where do you get the support for the major premise?

    GW1: Yes, I think I do know a lot more about the aims and methods of the hypothetical God. I get the support for the major premise from the definition of “God” accepted by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims and reflected in most of the relevant verses of the Bible. The verse you picked out is an outlier among the verses relevant to God’s moral character, goodness, or loving nature. God is conceived as a perfectly moral being.

    SP1: Furthermore, I think we should be a lot more compassionate than to use pictures of starving children as ammo in Internet slapfights with fundies. This isn’t about religion or truth, it’s about common decency.

    GW1: You are assuming that presenting such pictures is indecent, and I disagree with you. Do you believe that presenting the argument (see above) without the pictures would also be indecent? If so, why?

  • The subject here isn’t religion, and no one’s trying “to excuse or justify the harm done in the name of religion.” So your anti-religion fulminations are neither here nor there.

    However, we’re talking about justifying the harm done in the name of science. The problem is that the idea of totally objective, self-correcting science bringing us ever closer to the truth is magical thinking. As often as science corrects bias and mistakes, it much more often encodes and perpetuates bias because of the way people like you idealize the social activity of science and discourage paying critical attention to it.

    Piltdown man was a good example of the way scientists approach evidence through the lens of the way they already understand the world. There’s no such thing as theory-free observations or data. So the eminent scientists in Britain decided that the hoax skull validated their pre-existing theory of human origins, and paleontologists like Raymond Dart who were digging up skull after skull in Africa were ignored for decades.

    To characterize this as a triumph of “self-correcting science” is to look at the history and social practice of science through rose colored glasses.

  • If God did exist, then there wouldn’t be millions of starving children in the world, similar to those depicted in the photo.

    I see no reason whatsoever to accept this as given. The burden is on you to show me that suffering is something completely irreconcilable with the existence of The Big G. If Isaiah is a little too obscure, how about that Book of Job? The upshot of that wasn’t that the question of suffering has a legitimate and rational answer, just that we’re being presumptuous for even asking. If that’s not good enough for you and me, that’s probably why we’re atheists.

    It seems like we’re the ones who have the problem with suffering, not believers.

  • rationalobservations?

    Shem appears to be a god-botherer masquerading as an agnostic or atheist.
    His thinly veiled act as a “Devils advocate” has always given the impression of his being a god’s advocate?
    Give Shem his due however – he rarely (if ever?) bans those who argue with him from his blog.

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SLVOq77YxcI/WdD49ptS1SI/AAAAAAAAlOs/FqEnF3E72zoc4HIK4i_jqfQAVYLOGvclACJoC/w1435-h1221/20171001_101457.png

  • Shem appears to be a god-botherer masquerading as an agnostic or atheist.

    Nope. It seems you can’t fathom the idea of someone being nonreligious but expecting his fellow atheists to be less credulous and narrow-minded than the religious people they revile.

    You’re right, I don’t ban people just for disagreeing with me. But I do ban them for personal insults, refusing to play nice, and spamming the board with stupid memes. Consider this a warning.

  • rationalobservations?

    Please specify the harm that has been done to humanity in the name of science.
    Your claims appear to be unsupported by any evidence.

    “Piltdown man was a good example of the way scientists approach evidence through the lens of the way they already understand the world.”
    The hoax of the “Piltdown man” did not alter the science and body of evidence that supports the fact of 4,000,000,000 years of biological evolution.
    Any diversion of any individual is incidental to the ongoing research and long established fundamental facts.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    GW1: If God did exist, then there wouldn’t be millions of starving children in the world, similar to those depicted in the photo.

    SP1: I see no reason whatsoever to accept this as given.

    GW1: I will give you some reasons to accept this as true.
    1a. God is the hypothetical eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly moral person or intelligent agent who created the universe and sometimes intervenes in our world. This is the god believed in by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
    1b. A creator of the universe would be a creator of starving children in the world.
    1c. An all-powerful and perfectly moral person would never create starving children in the world.
    Now just connect the dots.

    SP1: The burden is on you to show me that suffering is something completely irreconcilable with the existence of The Big G.

    GW1: No, I do not have that burden since that claim is not in the argument.

    SP1: If Isaiah is a little too obscure, how about that Book of Job?

    GW1: The Isaiah verse you cited is not obscure, but it is not representative.

    SP1: The upshot of that wasn’t that the question of suffering has a legitimate and rational answer, just that we’re being presumptuous for even asking. If that’s not good enough for you and me, that’s probably why we’re atheists.

    GW1: We aren’t being presumptuous for asking. Rational human beings will ask. The book of Job doesn’t help. If God did exist, he would not have allowed Satan to torture Job and thus Job would not have had all those serious problems. If Job really existed (probably not) and had all those serious problems (probably not), then God does not exist.

    SP1: It seems like we’re the ones who have the problem with suffering, not believers.

    GW1: Believers have the problem of believing that God exists because they are not “connecting the dots,” i.e. thinking rationally about starving children and other similar kinds of suffering.

  • I think any fair-minded person should admit that scientific progress has not always been a benefit to humankind. The development of atomic weapons led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians at the end of WWII. Technological advancement in weaponry and death camp apparatus was what enabled the deaths of so many during WWI as a whole. The burning of fossil fuels in engines has contributed to climate change that currently threatens the future of human life on Earth. Let’s not make it sound like science and technology don’t have a downside.

    And don’t move the goalposts on the Piltdown discussion, either. It merely illustrates that the idea that scientific practice is “self-correcting,” or that it involves completely objective assessment of data points, is a myth.

  • An all-powerful and perfectly moral person would never create starving children in the world.

    Well, you obviously know much more about the thought processes and aims of all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving beings than this atheist. I don’t presume to be the expert in the big game of Let’s Pretend that constitutes all the religion slapfights online, and I have no qualms about admitting it.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    GW1: An all-powerful and perfectly moral person would never create starving children in the world.

    SP2: Well, you obviously know much more about the thought processes and aims of all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving beings than this atheist.

    GW2: Yes, I think you are correct about this. But you would have the same knowledge (or belief) if you’d just think carefully about what it means to be all-powerful and perfectly moral at the same time. Let’s try this question: If you were in charge of the whole sheebang, would you create starving children?

    SP2: I don’t presume to be the expert in the big game of Let’s Pretend that constitutes all the religion slapfights online, and I have no qualms about admitting it.

    GW2: Yes, I agree that you are not an expert in this area, but you could increase your expertise by devoting more time to thinking about what it would mean to be all-powerful and perfectly moral at the same time.

  • I agree that you are not an expert in this area, but you could increase your expertise by devoting more time to thinking about what it would mean to be all-powerful and perfectly moral at the same time.

    But the point is that you need to tell me why suffering itself precludes the existence of The Big G, when all the available evidence suggests that it does no such thing. Religious people affirm the existence of suffering (and even take part in charity work like the rest of us), but nonetheless profess religious belief. The Bible contains verses where the god of these religious people both admits that he creates evil and calls them presumptuous for asking why he would allow suffering. The Bible is full of bad things happening, none of which is meant to imply that God’s existence is in any question whatsoever. Once again, because Gary says so is neither here nor there.

    What I’m trying to get through to people is that exploiting the suffering of children just to needle your online foes is a really callous thing to do. We should all be ashamed of the fact that children suffer in a world where we sit around having debates about stupid things like religion.

  • David Cromie

    What is ‘stupid’ about the memes you seem to find irksome? Anyway, who cares what you think of memes. Are there not more important things going on in the world to get upset about?

  • I think “meme” says it all for me. They’re the lowest form of argumentation, like bumper stickers for the com-box. If you find them edifying or educational, that says a lot about you.

  • David Cromie

    ‘God is Love’, but never shows it in the real world. What stops you from recognising christer hypocrisy and utter BS when you see it? Why do I get the impression that you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, i.e. an undercover christer?

  • I already told R-man that I take offense to the insinuation that I’m hiding my fundie beliefs for whatever reason. I suggest you take it back. If you can’t fathom why a nonreligious person would object to anyone, even other atheists, being credulous and narrow-minded, that’s not my problem.

  • David Cromie

    Perhaps you should be asking yourself, why cannot I fathom out why I come across just like a fundie?

    You have not shown that atheists tend to be credulous, merely claimed it to be so.

  • No, I asked you to retract your insinuation that I’m some sort of stealth fundie. It was Gary who started the God-is-God-ain’t BS.

    My point is and has always been that exploiting the suffering of starving children for yuks is reprehensible. It ain’t about religion, it’s about common decency.

  • tophilacticus

    Prisons in California are reported to have sterilized 150 women from 200 to 2010. In 2014, they passed legislation banning it. As recent as 2017, Tennessee courts offered inmates the option of sterilization to reduce prison sentences. Prenatal screening, as I understand it, is meant to find known genetic diseases This can be viewed as a benefit, to which I do not necessarily disagree. I did not claim it is required, at least in the US. I am however making the claim that a line has been crossed, that if not toed here and pushed (in the Puritanical States), it will be elsewhere.

    Define free? Does the (mis)use of science outside of what you would call “free” not count for some reason? This seems to be, again, heading towards a binary religion vs. science argument, that is pointless, where the belief is that knowledge does not become widespread. Again, if your argument is religion is dangerous, then I am not clear why you waste your time, as I am with you. What I am saying is it is foolhardy to hand over research that can be weaponized by the power hungry, be it religious or other ideologue. Contrary to how many have claimed (as I have) “that’s not science,” scientific knowledge does not exist in a vacuum.

  • tophilacticus

    Piltdown was much more murky then you present. It was controversial from the time of discovery until the hoax was fully revealed. It was accepted by some as it fit in with the 19th early 20th preconceived notions that humans didn’t have enlarged brains until apes left Africa. It especially fit in with British nationalism of the time. No doubt this was exposed. How is any non-religious knowledge not built on through time? It is clear you are viewing the “Piltdown Man” example through the crystal clear 20/20 vision of hindsight, as is the linear view of scientific knowledge.

    What I am much more intrigued by now as a scientist is the widespread perspective held of supposed objectivity, meaning without bias, within present scientific knowledge. For the bulk of the human endeavor of questioning and understanding their surroundings, we view them as ignorant fools. I am taking a stance that is very difficult to defend, even articulate with clear examples without benefit of hindsight of present knowledge. I do see that with new discoveries comes more questions, sometimes fundamental, and even if we somehow answer them all with modern science – the answers are only within the narrow perspective of determinism and reductionism.

  • tophilacticus

    Your idealism is cute. Peer review is hardly transparent, and hardly without bias. I thought that before I submitted manuscripts, had the option to suggest reviewers, and read appearance/rejection comments and was published. I thought that before I reviewed others manuscripts, where I could be anonymous while the authors are knowns (clear territory for personal judgment, beyond scientific ). I thought that before my colleagues were rejected and could not publish because of personal vendettas. This is not solely a US issue as this has also been the case with colleagues internationally submitting manuscripts in journals from the “western educated, free, secular democracies” in Europe and England. Personal vendettas appear to be a particular global issue. Following up your view of me as egocentric with a great slogan for a political campaign amuses me.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    GW2: I agree that you are not an expert in this area, but you could increase your expertise by devoting more time to thinking about what it would mean to be all-powerful and perfectly moral at the same time.

    SP3: But the point is that you need to tell me why suffering itself precludes the existence of The Big G, when all the available evidence suggests that it does no such thing.

    GW3: You keep saying this, but that is not the case, i.e. I don’t have that burden. The mistake you are making here is to equate any suffering at all to the starvation of millions of children. Suffering is not one thing. It varies in type, severity, duration, and frequency.

    SP3: Religious people affirm the existence of suffering (and even take part in charity work like the rest of us), but nonetheless profess religious belief.

    GW3: Yes, it is hard for them to deny that millions of children are starving, and when they still affirm the existence of God, they are just mistaken. Because you are an atheist, you obviously see some errors in their thinking, but you are not seeing the error I am identifying here.

    SP3: The Bible contains verses where the god of these religious people both admits that he creates evil and calls them presumptuous for asking why he would allow suffering. The Bible is full of bad things happening, none of which is meant to imply that God’s existence is in any question whatsoever.

    GW3: You should not trust those verses. They conflict with other verses. And when the god of these verses “calls them [the people or Job] presumptuous,” this is a fictitious character speaking. The authors of that verse and others like it are not describing “God.”

    SP3: Once again, because Gary says so is neither here nor there.

    GW3: I am not making an argument from my authority. I am making an argument from reason.

    SP3: What I’m trying to get through to people is that exploiting the suffering of children just to needle your online foes is a really callous thing to do.

    GW3: I disagree. You may view it as exploitation, but I view it as powerful influence for change. By your view, it would be wrong for the students from Parkland to lobby politicians by pointing to their dead and wounded classmates. But this is not only morally right, it is effective.

    SP3: We should all be ashamed of the fact that children suffer in a world where we sit around having debates about stupid things like religion.

    GW3: Religious people should be ashamed of the fact that they still believe in God in a world where there are millions of starving children in it. Yes, religion is a “stupid thing,” but people (the majority) still believe in it and then they do stupid things because they believe in it. That is why we must have debates.

    GW3: Your call for the retirement of the third meme is not reasonable.

  • rationalobservations?

    Your narrow and simplistic personality obsessed view is not cute.
    Of course petty personalities and professional jealousies exist. Often the minor minds snipe at greater thinkers than they will ever be. Such is life and that is observable within exchanges in these comment columns. The truth lasts long after petty individuals are forgotten and your apparent denial that the modern Scientific Laws and Scientific Theories have outlasted all pettiness of the sort you describe and demonstrate appears to say more about you than about the abstract and rapidly progressing disciplines of science itself.

    The religious powers drove a red hot spike through the tongue of Giordano Bruno before they slowly and agonisingly burned him to death for his “blasphemy” that the Earth was not stationary at the centre of the Universe but rotated around the sun. A generation later Galileo Galilei was threatened with the instruments of torture that had been developed in order to defend religious lies and intensify and prolong agony for as long as possible in order to make him recant the same truth. As Galileo himself was heard to mutter after agreeing to lie about biblical lies – “And yet it (the Earth) moves”. For all the petty jealousies and dishonesty you report and demonstrate – the Earth moves on and the 13,820,000,000 universe continues to reveal its truths to the best minds of each new generation.

    Thank you for demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.
    A true tour de force.

    Next..?

  • rationalobservations?

    You are correct when you write: Piltdown man “was controversial from the time of discovery until the hoax was fully revealed.”
    Far from damning science – you confirm its self regulating nature.
    The Earth is not flat and stationary at the centre of the universe.
    None of the undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men have any credibility.
    Mankind is not the pinnacle of past, current and ongoing evolution.

    Your obsessions have been well exposed.

    Thank you again for demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.
    A true tour de force.

  • rationalobservations?

    In addition to the barbarity you list – in Kentucky paedophilia is legalised in the form of child “marriage” and every lunatic and homicidal maniac must by law be able to obtain an assault rifle with which to slaughter his fellow citizens. Many who know the USA will be aware of how ignorant and barbaric that nation remains.

    Here’s the thing:
    We are NOT discussing the barbarity of the USA but the the affairs and progress within the more developed and less barbaric western world within which religion is all but moribund.

    Otherwise;- you once again present your simplistic tendency to overstate the obvious when you write: “…scientific knowledge does not exist in a vacuum.”
    Wow! How long did it take you to work that out?

    Thank you for this ongoing demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress, human nature and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.
    A true tour de force!

    Keep it up. Others may be enjoying this if they have not got bored and moved onto other threads by now.

  • rationalobservations?

    Of course scientific progress continues to be work in progress and many benefits of advancement have had a down side.

    The utilisation of the A-bomb cost millions of Japanese lives but terminated that war saving millions of other lives.
    Zyklon was developed as a pesticide and used to assist in the greater production of food before perverted humans used Zyklon-B to massacre 6 million of their fellow humans during the 10th christian crusade of the 3rd Reich and the second christian enacted holocaust.
    You would rapidly die if the trucks that deliver the produce you buy to sustain your life ceased to function or exist.

    No one is asserting that there is no down side to science. Only that the fact that scientific errors and hoaxes are discovered sooner or later and the abstract of science continues to progress at an accelerating rate – as any of us who fail to keep up with all the new advances across all the multiple fields and sub-fields across the vast range of disciplines of science know only too well.

    The contrast between science and religion appears to be that religion has no beneficial outcomes for humanity while science has produced everything used by humanity.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

  • rationalobservations?

    Warning considered, Shem.
    Best wishes and fond regards to you and yours.

  • Oh, don’t act butthurt. You’re the one who accused me of being a stealth fundie, and didn’t bother to retract the claim or apologize, so your sad-face act is a little disingenuous.

  • The contrast between science and religion

    But nobody here is pushing religion. Saying that science is better than religion isn’t saying much of anything at all. If science can’t speak for itself, that’s a problem.

  • David Cromie

    How do I ‘retract’ the impression your posts give? As i said, you should be asking yourself ‘Why it is that my posts give others the wrong impression about me’?

  • Fine, David, you win. Take a 24-hour breather from this blog and see if your impression of me gets any closer to what the rest of us call reality.

  • tophilacticus

    “Your narrow and simplistic personality obsessed view….”

    For one so quick to pat yourself on the back and elevate your view above others, it is clear you do not see the own hypocrisy of your assertion. For one, your perspective is constrained by a hierarchical framework. “Minor minds” and “greater thinkers” is a very simplistic way to view people, being that they are often not mutually exclusive. “…Your apparent denial that the modern Scientific Laws and Scientific Theories have outlasted all pettiness of the sort you describe…” This is a straw man – I never once claimed such, but it appears to be the basis for what you think I believe. I can see why you are so quick to condescend if that truly is what you believe.

    Again, not clear what the point is of your obsession with the oppressive thought regime of religion. Once again it is the crutch of the excluded middle. It does make me wonder why you capitalized ‘Scientific Laws’ and ‘Scientific Theories.’ Is that reverence?

  • tophilacticus

    I said: “It is clear you are viewing the “Piltdown Man” example through the crystal clear 20/20 vision of hindsight, as is the linear view of scientific knowledge.”

    Based on your reply, once again, looking back through the lens of now, it appears you are not reading much of what I wrote, you have fully constructed a perspective of me that is completely preconceived and will not change, and/or not actually having a discussion with me but mistakenly posting comments for someone else? Perhaps you have me mistaken for some religious zealot?

  • tophilacticus

    Ah so we are only discussing “progress within the more developed and less barbaric western world within which religion is all but moribund?” I thought you were in agreement with me when I said “…scientific knowledge does not exist in a vacuum.”

    So science does or doesn’t exist in a vacuum? Your discussion has become quite contradictory and fully condescending. I am not sure I have seen nationalism before in an argument supposedly “for” science.

  • rationalobservations?

    Thank you for further demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.

    Another true tour de force.

    Next..?

  • rationalobservations?

    Thank you for again demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.
    A true tour de force.
    Denial is not rebuttal.

    Next..?

  • rationalobservations?

    Science needs no one to argue for it.
    Thank you for further demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect, your own narrow view of scientific progress and so many assorted logical fallacies throughout our exchange.
    A repeated tour de force.

    Next..?

  • tophilacticus

    Argument ad nauseum. How dull.

  • tophilacticus

    Yet you argue for a facade of what science truly is, and seem incapable of regurgitating things others have said better. Like a meme. Copying and pasting is truly lazy.

  • tophilacticus

    From one incapable of going beyond the strawman and binary, and critical self-analysis, your arrogance is unwarranted. As is anymore of my time interacting with you.

  • rationalobservations?

    Argument??
    When did you enter into any logic or evidence supported argument?

  • rationalobservations?

    And yet another of your straw men burns…

  • rationalobservations?

    Oh!
    The irony…
    By all means cut and run however. You have nothing to contribute.
    Please do feel free to get back to me if you ever have anything interesting and evidence based to contribute….

    Next..?

  • tophilacticus

    Apply a little critical thought to the behavior of the outspoken pop-atheist, and watch the masses utilize the argumentative structure of the most dogmatic creationist. I had my suspicions before from viewing these discussions from afar, but participating in this thread has been very illuminating Shem. Rather disheartening too.

  • Well, take a break then. The science bros will still be here when you get back.

  • Dave Andrews

    Sorry my mistake. Will try “to” do better. Thanks

  • Luther Dorn (deplorable)

    As a Christian let me post a note of respect for the true Free Thinking represented in this article. I may disagree with the religious beliefs of this author but the logic is admirable.

  • David Cromie

    Damned with faint praise?

  • Luther Dorn (deplorable)

    It is geniune praise. Simply disagreeing with someone should not be taken as a personal attack.

  • David Cromie

    If you say so.

  • You’re a real class act, aren’t you, David?

  • Luther Dorn (deplorable)

    Why would you believe otherwise? Are you projecting an inability of yourself to respect opposing views on me?

  • Mike Stevens

    You are merely confirming what Penn was saying about science.
    It is self correcting… it strives to approximate the “truth” and comes closer and closer to that goal.
    Mistakes are constantly identified and corrected. At any time point the interpretation of scientific findings or dogma will be influenced by the social climate of the time, but in the end the truth always finds a way out.

  • This is mere folklore, turning science into a cartoon character who “strives” and “seeks” and “finds.” You’ve just taken traits that you consider positive ―open-mindedness, objectivity, curiosity― and applied it to the complex social activity of scientific endeavor.

    The history of science is typified as much by major upheavals and revolutions in thought as incremental improvement, as much by encoding and validating bias as by correcting it. The goal of inquiry is to produce socially useful information; whether there’s any ultimate, objective, unchanging Truth to discover is beside the point.

  • David Cromie

    Yes!

  • Then skip the personal attacks.

  • tophilacticus

    What does correct or corrected mean without the assumed position that what we know today is true or objective, the latter I mean as without bias as it is most frequently employed. The term self-correcting means without external influence, which by the phrase “the interpretation of scientific findings or dogma will be influenced by the social climate of the time” in your reply counters that. Unless of course you mean interpretation (and any assumptions within) is not an integral part of science.

  • David Cromie

    You obviously have no idea that there is a big difference between pure science and applied science.

  • David Cromie

    Tu quoque!

  • Well, which one was Mike talking about when he was rhapsodizing about how “it strives to approximate the “truth” and comes closer and closer to that goal”?

    Is pure science or applied science the magic kind?

  • David Cromie

    Are you serious?

    I leave ‘magic’ to religious shamans, and grifters.

  • That still doesn’t answer the question about pure and applied science. Which type was I supposed to assume Mike was talking about in his haiku about science striving for truth?

    As usual, you’re making absolutely no sense here.

  • David Cromie

    If you cannot work that out for yourself, then you know nothing of the field of science.

  • David, if you have a point to make here beyond accusing me of ignorance, I suggest you present it.

    Also, take a gander at my posting policy in case you’re not sure why I’m losing patience with your scattershot insults.

  • Priya Lynn

    “I honestly couldn’t care less about
    theological discussions, but if you’re going to talk about religion and
    suffering, then you’re obliged to recognize that the matter has been
    addressed more than a few times by theologians.”

    Lol, yes its been addressed and addressed very unconvincingly.

  • Well, I wouldn’t expect it to be convincing to nonbelievers, and ―¡qué sorpresa!―it isn’t, at least to this nonbeliever. But if we’re assuming that the existence of suffering is prima facie evidence of a godless universe, then we’re just concocting standards of justification that lead to the conclusion we prefer.

  • bob

    Science would still be true, and eventually people would rediscover scientific facts, yes. However, Penn’s statement is ridiculous. It is a false equivalence. There are typically two parts to religious text: Principles, and stories/history. If you wiped out all Religions, yes, those Histories would never return. Just like how burning every history book would erase history. HOWEVER, assuming Religion(s) are true and accurately depict humanity, God, and the world, then YES, those principles WOULD return as people observed them over time. Penn also presupposes that he is correct and the God doesn’t exist. You can’t presuppose that your side is correct in a though experiment intended to disprove your opponent, that’s circular reasoning! If God IS real, then he could once again influence people to recreate religion just as it was before.

  • Freydis

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrelevant_conclusion

    Science doesn’t “prove reality ;” neither does religion. Science has following criteria:

    It makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics).
    It is well-supported by many independent strands of evidence, rather than a single foundation.
    It is consistent with preexisting experimental results and at least as accurate in its predictions as are any preexisting theories.
    These qualities are certainly true of such established theories as special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, the modern evolutionary synthesis, etc.

  • I think you missed my point here. I’m not disputing that science works or that it’s better at being science than religion. All I was trying to say is that science was developed at a specific point in human history; there was a lot of philosophical, political and cultural infrastructure that had to be in place before the scientific worldview could develop the way it did. There’s no reason to assume that if there were different cultural circumstances, or if the methodological precedents didn’t happen in the exact same order, that science as we know it today―and the world-picture we have as a result―would be the same.