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Tilting at Windmills

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April 5, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

WHAT MORE?....Scientists have discovered yet another fossil that's a transitional form between one animal and another:

In addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils are widely seen by scientists as a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who hold a literal biblical view on the origins and development of life.

....One creationist Web site (emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/evid1.htm) declares that "there are no transitional forms," adding: "For example, not a single fossil with part fins part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind."

[Michael J. Novacek, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan] responded in an interview: "We've got Archaeopteryx, an early whale that lived on land and now this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod. What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"

I appreciate the sentiment, but I imagine that this latest discovery will have approximately zero effect. Sigh.

Kevin Drum 7:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (307)

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Comments

What we need is a fossil that shows the transition from Republican to human. That ought to do it.

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the creationist cretins will fall back on their standard "these fossils were invented by God to test our faith."

Hard to accept, but some people are just so flat dumb and/or crazy that there's no reaching them.

Posted by: Stefan on April 5, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

What we need is a fossil that shows the transition from Republican to human. That ought to do it.

Well, we have Sean Hannity, a fine example of the transition from man to ape. And Rush Limbaugh, a transitional form between man and slug....

Posted by: Stefan on April 5, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to accept, but some people are just so flat dumb and/or crazy that there's no reaching them.

Just wait until the sun burns out. Ha! Won't they be sorry then.

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

And Rush Limbaugh, a transitional form between man and slug....

You malign me, sir!

Posted by: A. Slug, Esq. on April 5, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Do you seriously think that may be there exists some piece of evidence that will change the creationists' minds?

Posted by: lib on April 5, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Creationists will either conveniently forget yet another transitional fossil find, or decide it's not transitional enough.

Do creationists not realize that "new" fossils are being discovered all the time, and that the fossil record (the evidence against their beliefs) will continue to grow for the forseeable future?

Posted by: Librul on April 5, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Could it beeeee....Satan?!?!?

Seriously, the true believers will go through astounding mental contortions to deny this or any other evidence. Stand by for screeds denouncing the find because the dating is wrong, or the fossil isn't clear enough, or it came from someplace that it could not have come from. For example, I'm sure some fundie will point out that the fossil was found in Antarctica--and everyone KNOWS that Antarctica is frozen. Thus, no fish could ever have lived there because there is no liquid water.

Posted by: Derelict on April 5, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Not untill the Bible is retranslated again and someone changes something simple like Gods to God.

Posted by: Right minded on April 5, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

the fossil was found in Antarctic

Maybe Santa put it there, to test our faith.

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

The paleontologist from the AMNH doesn't get it. To a creationist, a transitional fossil would have an appendage that looked like a foot on one side and like a fin on the other, or would have fins in front and feet in back, or something that would - in fact - be evidence against evolution. Archaeopteryx is well adapted for its environment and therefore not a transitional fossil. That is the depth of ignorance we are dealing with.

Posted by: Tom on April 5, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK
Do you seriously think that may be there exists some piece of evidence that will change the creationists' minds?

Well there are several types of creationists: there are the opportunists who use creationism as part of a system of control whodon't necessarily believe in it or care if its true, there are the committed true believers that believe it as a fundamental axiom and are unlikely to revise their views based on evidence, and there are the people influenced by both of the former two groups who honestly believe it is the position best supported by the evidence and whose belief can be changed, or at least challenged, by evidence.

Each new bit of evidence, particularly that is widely reported, probably effects some of the last group, particularly when it provokes responses that show up the other two groups as dishonest and/or crazy.

But the last group is probably not all that much in touch, and therefore hard to reach.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Santa put it there, to test our faith.

What are you talking about? Santa lives in the "other" North Pole.

Posted by: gq on April 5, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Why should we expect transitional fossils to bring people around when transitional living species have not sufficed?

Posted by: Boronx on April 5, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

well I'll be a walking-fish's uncle.

Posted by: apeman on April 5, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

On a related issue the Intelligent Design malignancy, it is argued, has reached into the bureacracy of the Canadian science establishment, as reported today:

A clash between McGill University and the key federal agency that funds social science research in the country is sparking a scholarly debate in Canada about the theory of evolution.

McGill University says the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council made a "factual error" when it denied Professor Brian Alters a $40,000 grant on the grounds that he'd failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is correct.

America, a culture exporter to the rest of the world!

Posted by: TangoMan on April 5, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

What we need is a fossil that shows the transition from Republican to human. That ought to do it.

We have John McCain who keeps changing from Republican to human and then back to Repub.

Posted by: natural cynic on April 5, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

If it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible, why isn't it okay to believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary? Sure, one might be a bigger "miracle" than the other, but we're talking about an omnipotent God here.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

What are you talking about? Santa lives in the "other" North Pole.

So? He can fly around the whole world in one night, man! Surely he can take a quick coffee break at the South Pole. Maybe that's where the naughty elves live...

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

If it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days,

It's "okay" to believe whatever the hell you want. Just don't call it science.

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

So young-earth creationism is okay, just as long as you don't call it science?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

So young-earth creationism is okay, just as long as you don't call it science?

Yes. It isn't any sillier than some other religious beliefs. Confusing faith with science, though, is a pretty big category error, and a nasty thing to do to an impressionable mind.

Posted by: fishbane on April 5, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

You can worship the holy purple turtle named edgar, who carries the universe around on his back - it makes no nevermind to me. It just isn't science.

Posted by: craigie on April 5, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK
If it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible, why isn't it okay to believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary?

I don't think anyone said it wasn't okay to believe the latter; OTOH, presenting creationism (whether in young-earth, as you lay our here, or other forms) as the best scientific explanation of reality is a different beast.

Fundamentally, the difference is that science isn't about (though some believe it is a way to access) "Truth", it is about pragmatic predictive value. The attacks one evolution are based on misrepresentation of, and designed to advance ignorance of (as illustrated by the wedge document), the methods of science as a pragmatic predictive tool because of the perception that its utility there threatens certain religious groups ability to convince people of the truth of their doctrine.

In the marketplace of ideas, religions offering
doctrines that conflict with the explanations that are empirically useful ought to be challenged by those conflicts (and some may defend them with claims of an anti-divine deceiver, that's okay) rather than get away with concealing the existence of the conflicts.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Satan planted false evidence that the world is very old to try and trick us. He is the King of Lies, you know.

Posted by: TheProphet on April 5, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Archaeopteryx, rom Wikopedia

"..from the Late Jurassic of Germany, is the earliest and most primitive known bird."
but

Artiodactlya is the theoretical common ancestor of whales, hippos, pigs, and Ted Kennedy.

Did someone mis quote, mis-spell, or am I blundering?

Posted by: Matt on April 5, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

"If it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible"

let's be fair. It is not impossible to rise from the dead after three days, but it is much easier to do it after only one day.

Posted by: Matt on April 5, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Fundamentally, the difference is that science isn't about (though some believe it is a way to access) "Truth","

Really? So science cannot tell us whether it's true that the world is round rather than flat, or made of rock rather than cheese?

I have a feeling most scientists would disagree with you.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

The common name of the ancient land whale:

Falwellosaraus

Posted by: Keith G on April 5, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK
Did someone mis quote, mis-spell, or am I blundering?

I think you are misunderstanding: Archaeopteryx is something like a transitional form to birds from (other) dinosaurs, which is why it is cited. Transitional forms and common ancestors are not the same thing.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

My great grandfather rose from the dead after three days, so it's scientifically possible. He didn't ascend into heaven afterwards, but lived brain damaged in a darkened room for some decades.

Posted by: Boronx on April 5, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

How come monkeys don't turn into men down at the zoo?

Posted by: Vanya on April 5, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe that's where the naughty elves live...

Craigie, no naughty elves, just some gay penguins. The two are easily confused, especially by citizens of Georgia.

Posted by: Keith G on April 5, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

"My great grandfather rose from the dead after three days"

I very seriously doubt that.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

How come monkeys don't turn into men down at the zoo?

It hasn't happened at the White House, either.

Posted by: Keith G on April 5, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK
Really? So science cannot tell us whether it's true that the world is round rather than flat, or made of rock rather than cheese?

I have a feeling most scientists would disagree with you.

Essentially, the disagreement relies on equivocation on what "truth" means; most people who would disagree, scientists or not, would fail to distinguish between "truth" and predictive utility (or, phrased another way, do not distingush between "X behaves as if it were Y" and "X is Y".) While the question of whether there is a fundamental difference between the best pragmatic predictive model and the truth is perhaps an interesting epistemological debate, as long as one presumes there is a distinction, what science explores is only one side of it.

In any case, non-scientific beliefs are particularly problematic and dangerous when they masquerade as science and are mistaken for claims about pragmatic predictive capacity, and the danger from creationism is not from belief in it per se, but from the anti-science perspective used by those who advance it as science, or as an alternative to science in science's role.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

"How come monkeys don't turn into men down at the zoo?"

Only ugly women visit the monkey cage.

Posted by: Matt on April 5, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

You can believe what you like, but he was pronounced dead by a doctor and lay on a marble slab for three days with no detectable breathing or heartbeat. If you read your gospels, you'll find out that the Roman guard was convinced that Jesus was dead, and furthermore, that his followers should take him down against the rules. Now you tell me whether that guard is more qualified to determine death of a man up on a cross than a doctor from the turn of the last century who had the body laid out in front of him.

Posted by: Boronx on April 5, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK
So a creationist and a tyrannosaurus walk into a coffee shop...

trex:[...something something]

Creationist: "How long did you say it was?"

trex[...something something]

Creationist:"I don't believe it. That's...impossible!"

trex: "I know it's hard to believe, just consider it a Jurassic Perk."

I'm still working on the middle bits. ;)

What? Oh, so you mammals think you're sooooo funny just because you're brains are proportionally so much larger. Well I'm here to tell ya, that ain't where it matters baby.

Posted by: trex on April 5, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

"the fossil was found in Antarctic"

The article says the skeletons were from the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.

Which would tend to support the idea that either Santa put them there, as stated above, or that they are the ancestors of the elves.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 5, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Yes. It isn't any sillier than some other religious beliefs. Confusing faith with science ..."

If faith is treated as a legitimate basis for belief, and people believe something strongly as a matter of faith, it's not really surprising that they would attack scientific evidence that undermines that belief.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Coming back again with some more athiestic loony-toon stuff.

I swear you are a glutton for punishment. How many times do I have to slap the sense into you?

There are no transitional fossils. Archaeopteryx was clearly a bird. Compare a bird fossil to an archae fossil, and you'd be hard pressed to tell one from the other.

There are just too many gaps in the fossil record. If anything, the fossil record points more to a catastrophic deluge than a slow, gradual process of evolution.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

Posted by: egbert on April 5, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK
If faith is treated as a legitimate basis for belief, and people believe something strongly as a matter of faith, it's not really surprising that they would attack scientific evidence that undermines that belief.

Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

egbert,

Thank you for demonstrating where creationism becomes problematic.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx: My great grandfather rose from the dead after three days.

Dinasaw: I very seriously doubt that.

Hey, if it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible, why isn't it okay to believe that Boronx's great-grandfather rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary? Sure, one might be a bigger "miracle" than the other, but we're talking about an omnipotent God here.

Posted by: Stefan on April 5, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Essentially, the disagreement relies on equivocation on what "truth" means;"

No, the disagreement relies on your bizarre claim that science doesn't tell us whether the earth is flat or round, or whether you'll fall to your death rather than float in the air if you jump off a cliff. Somehow, I doubt you really believe that.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the creationist cretins will fall back on their standard "these fossils were invented by God to test our faith."

I'm a prankster God! Ha ha! I slay Me!

Posted by: God on April 5, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief."

Why?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, if it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible, why isn't it okay to believe that Boronx's great-grandfather rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary?"

I don't think it's okay to believe either of them.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

if it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days,

I, myself, am the product of an immaculate conception. And I can walk on water.

Doubt that? Then prove me wrong, my friends. Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Stefan on April 5, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

"There are no transitional fossils. Archaeopteryx was clearly a bird."

No one who actually knows anything about Archaeopteryx and birds (and dinos) could possibly claim this. But then, you seem like someone that doesn't actually know anything about any of those things aside from "look! Teh wingz!"

Transitional fossils are those which have features that are otherwise unique to separate families. They are not necessarily ancestors of any modern life: they are branches from the part of the tree where two groups split off.

In the case of Archy, it has features otherwise unique to be both dinos and modern birds. Of course, there are many dinos that had feathers, so mostly what we are talking about are particular bone structures.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh great. Now we have another creature for the Scifi channel to use for its monster movie of the week.

I was kinda hoping once they ran out of the mythicals that would be it.

Posted by: Tripp on April 5, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

That's funny, but if you are lampooning Catholicism at least get your terms straight.

It wasn't Jesus who was the product of the immaculate conception.

Sheesh.

Posted by: Tripp on April 5, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief."

Science certainly provides a legitimate basis for believing that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead --- it would violate the laws and principles of biology and chemistry. Therefore, by your "arguably," faith should not be treated as a legitimate basis for the belief that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead.

Posted by: major on April 5, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Dinasaw, quoting Cmdicely, wrote:

"Fundamentally, the difference is that science isn't about (though some believe it is a way to access) "Truth","

to which Dinasaw replied:

"Really? So science cannot tell us whether it's true that the world is round rather than flat, or made of rock rather than cheese?

I have a feeling most scientists would disagree with you."


No, actually most scientists would heartily agree with Cmdicely on this.

The late Issac Asimov wrote about this a good deal, and I'm sorry I have no access to any of his books here. If I did, I could cite some of the specific essays. But in summary, Asimov often pointed out that the scientific method is NOT about "finding truth." Rather, it is about finding ERROR, in order to exclude it.

That's a little different than what Cmdicely said, but it's closely related. And, indeed, I do think Asimov also discussed predictive value as the ultimate purpose of the scientific method, although no specific quotes of his on this come to mind. Probably you'd find more theory along these lines in, say, Karl Popper's work.

Of course, scientists refer casually to "the search for truth" or "scientific truths" all the time. Quite natural to do so. But when the context is a bit more formal, you'll notice the word "truth" or "natural law" or anything similar quickly drops away (it's why they haven't appended the term "Law" to any scientific work -- for example, Einstein's theories -- for well over a century now, and maybe longer. The "laws" of thermodynamics is about it, and lots of scientists would cheerfully drop those usages too, were it possible).

I personally prefer Asimov's formulation -- about "identifying and excluding error" -- to Cmdicely's favored "predictive value." But they're both accurate descriptions of fundamental qualities of the scientific method.

Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 5, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

"No, actually most scientists would heartily agree with Cmdicely on this."

I'd love to see your evidence for this claim. I think the vast majority of scientists would consider it perfectly reasonable to say, for example, that science shows that the claim that the earth is flat is false.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Creationists dislike Archaeopteryx because it's clearly a mosaic of reptilian traits (teeth, tail) and avian traits (feathers, wings). Those with just enough knowledge to be dangerous, however, like to point out that Archaeopteryx flourished after the supposed split between birds and reptiles, hence it cannot be a transitional form between the two species. Wrong! Archaeopteryx is simply a representative of a branch that descended from whatever species also gave rise to modern birds and reptiles. Creationists always seem to think that evolution requires neat and tidy family trees of descent, but Stephen Jay Gould often pointed out that the tree of life is closer to a messy bush than a clean-limbed tree.

Posted by: Zeno on April 5, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, in Creationist-logic-land, every transitional fossil found actually WEAKENS the case for evolution. Don't believe me? Follow along:

Imagine a line of descent. We have have two fossils, A and Z, and we surmise that Z is descended from A.

"Ah!" say the creationists. "There's no fossils showing how you get from A to Z. Look at that gap! You call that a theory?"

"Well, fossils are (relatively speaking) rare" responds the scientist. "I bet we'll find more that more directly establish the line of descent between A and Z."

And lo! Paleontologists unearth a half-dozen new fossils. C and I and J and M and R and X. So now the line of descent looks like A -> C -> I -> J -> M -> R -> X -> Z, just as the theory of evolution and the scientist had predicted. A triumph for science and rationality!

Except that the creationist now points out that there are SEVEN gaps in the record instead of just ONE. The theory of evolution is collapsing from within, and those God-hating, brainwashed "scientists" can't even begin to bring themselves to acknowledge this. And we teach this in the schools??!? The creationist goes on to write a bunch of articles in the crank-chirstian press with titles like DARWIN'S THEORY IN CRISIS and NEW CHALLENGES TO EVOLUTION, and fields call and interviews from mainstream outlets looking to add "balance" to their science reporting.

You really can't win arguing with these people.

Posted by: FMguru on April 5, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the creationist cretins will fall back on their standard "these fossils were invented by God to test our faith."

I understood that the organized creationists (not the free-lance wingnut type) had pretty much abandoned this claim. Even they realized that a God that was perfectly good would not systematically lie to people. Now, the claim noted upstream that Satan made the fossils is more interesting, but also would seem to have deep theological problems. I mean, who created the world, anyway? It surely wasn't Satan, so if those fossils result from an initial creation a few thousand years ago, God made them, or nobody did. The more plausible case, of course, is that they are the scientific evidence of the development of the world over millions of years, perhaps after an initial divine impulse, but not necessarily evidencing such an impulse.

Posted by: David in NY on April 5, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, Keeling, whatever science does, it's a lot closer to anything deserving what most poeple understand "truth" to mean than anything else out there. The musings of Popper and others are complex metaphysics that basically don't boil down to anything particularly important for day to day operation. If you don't think empirical facts are facts, hey that's fine. Just don't pretend that you live your life that way.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Santa H. Claus! Don P, would you pick one new name and stick with it already?

Posted by: shortstop on April 5, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I appreciate the sentiment, but I imagine that this latest discovery will have approximately zero effect. Sigh."

Sorta like no amount of discoveries or scientific evidence would ever convince liberals that there are differences between the genders and races?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on April 5, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

If it's okay to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days, despite all the scientific evidence that such an event is impossible,

Dinasaw - These are the kind of stupid statements which give naturalism a bad name. Science can not prove whether something that claims to be a miracle is impossible. Please take some philosophy of science classes before promulgating more ignorance.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 5, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

"What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"

What you need is an audience that listens to reason. Creationists, by definition, put a faith in a literal interpretation of Genesis above reason; they're not going to be swayed by reasoned argument, even if an archaeopteryx is discovered nesting in an Arkansas swamp tomorrow.

Proponents of "intelligent design" do the same thing, but they're not willing to admit it.

Posted by: PC on April 5, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief."

Science can be used to study whether prayer works. So faith should not be treated as a legitimate basis for the belief that prayer works, right?

Posted by: e1 on April 5, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

"These are the kind of stupid statements which give naturalism a bad name. Science can not prove whether something that claims to be a miracle is impossible."

Terrific. So we'll just call young-earth creationism a "miracle," and, voila, it's immune to refutation through science.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

"What you need is an audience that listens to reason. Creationists, by definition, put a faith in a literal interpretation of Genesis above reason; they're not going to be swayed by reasoned argument, even if an archaeopteryx is discovered nesting in an Arkansas swamp tomorrow."

Liberals do that exact same thing when they subscribe to political correctness. Liberals are just as scientifically challenged as creationists, but libs are hypocrites to boot.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on April 5, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered at the literalist approach to Genesis, even from the perspective of a hard-core believer.

Jesus spent most of his ministry speaking in parables. Wouldn't Dad speak the same language?

(As much as I doubt we have many fundamentalists on this site, I thought I'd put it out there.)

Posted by: NC on April 5, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

That only means that there are now TWO missing links in the chain of evolution for every creationist. You didn't prove anything.

Posted by: joh on April 5, 2006 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

"I understood that the organized creationists (not the free-lance wingnut type) had pretty much abandoned this claim. Even they realized that a God that was perfectly good would not systematically lie to people."

How do you know that? If God can be perfectly good and still inflict, or allow, diseases and disasters that cause an immense amount of pain and suffering then surely he can also be perfectly good and lie to us to test our faith, or for some other reason that serves his higher purposes.

"Now, the claim noted upstream that Satan made the fossils is more interesting, but also would seem to have deep theological problems. I mean, who created the world, anyway? It surely wasn't Satan, so if those fossils result from an initial creation a few thousand years ago, God made them, or nobody did."

Huh? Maybe Satan planted them in the rock shortly after God created it.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

I do enjoy these posts because the proto-fascists are usually fairly quiet.

Posted by: SavageView on April 5, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

lib asks: Do you seriously think that may be there exists some piece of evidence that will change the creationists' minds?

How about a very loud-voiced Gd speaking from the heavens to all on earth simultaneously, saying:

Pay attention! Darwin was right.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on April 5, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

So much for prayer...

American Heart Journal
Volume 151, Issue 4 , April 2006, Pages 934-942

Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer

((much text))

...Conclusions

Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

Posted by: POK on April 5, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

> or am I blundering

Matt, I had the same problem for a moment but the scientist quoted was enumerating, as such:

"We've got:
(1)Archaeopteryx,
(2)an early whale that lived on land
and now
(3)this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod"

Freedom Fighter: it's not that we don't believe in differences (we're the guys who were getting laid all the time, believe me, we know the differences) we just are damn sure that the differences aren't what you misogynistic racists think they are.

And finally, a nod to the guy who pointed out that we got things walking and/or swimming around that show transitional features. We don't need no stinkin' fossils -- although they are sure way cool!!

Posted by: doesn't matter on April 5, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

At one point in my life, I decided I was going to read the Bible.

I thought it would be best if I just read it as if I believed it. I told myself that I was just going to read it, and pretend I actually believed that all of it happened literally.

I got up to about the book of Kings where it said that Pi=3.0.
But I really, really did enjoy Genesis. Good story. I really did like the story of Joseph. And there may be some historical factual parallels in Egypt's documented history. But there's a lot of it that I consider must have been just plain allegory or mythological.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on April 5, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

What we need is bloggers who say "in yer face, creationists!" Instead of "I imagine this will have zero effect" and such.

THAT'S what we need Kevin.

Posted by: reef the dog on April 5, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK
Sorta like no amount of discoveries or scientific evidence would ever convince liberals that there are differences between the genders and races?

That's right, Freedom Fighter. Every liberal believes as a matter of holy faith that penises and vaginas are exactly alike! We really can't tell the difference! How cleverly you catch us out! I suppose we could try to refute you by saying we actually believe people should not be discriminated against on the basis of sex or race, but you are undoubtedly are too smart to fall for that, you rascal!

Posted by: Zeno on April 5, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK
Sorta like no amount of discoveries or scientific evidence would ever convince liberals that there are differences between the genders and races?

That's right, Freedom Fighter. Every liberal believes as a matter of holy faith that penises and vaginas are exactly alike! We really can't tell the difference! How cleverly you catch us out! I suppose we could try to refute you by saying we actually believe people should not be discriminated against on the basis of sex or race, but you are undoubtedly too smart to fall for that, you rascal!

Posted by: Zeno on April 5, 2006 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter raises straw men.

There may be liberals who deny any differences between genders or races. The ones I know, however, don't deny the obvious -- that there are differences -- but also point out that the differences between groups are minor compared to the differences within groups. The whole point of harping on the differences between genders and races is to justify discrimination, but that dog won't hunt, because whatever the averages are, it's not hard to find a person from one group who's more like the average from annother group than a member of that second group is.

Furthermore, there are fundamental differences between mental traits and physical ones. There is some interesting evidence of different proportions of muscle type, with west Africans having high proportions of "fast-twitch" muscles that make them good sprinters, east Africans having high proportions of "slow-twitch" muscles that make them good distance runners, and caucasians having muscle types somewhere in the middle. 50 years ago, with few Africans having the material means to compete on the world stage, caucasians dominated running. But today it's west Africans and their descendents elsewhere who dominate the sprints, east Africans and their descendents who dominate marathons, and caucasians do better at middle distances than at either sprints or marathons.

But these physical differences (never mind the more obvious differences in average body size between men and women) aren't as interesting to people who want to discriminate as are mental differences, and here the problem is separating the undeniable genetic component from the pervasive influence of the social environment -- everything from family to schools to TV. It's clear enough that pretty much anyone with the right home setting and a good school can do well intellectually and end up better at logical argument than Freedom Fighter. It's revealing that he's more interested in insisting that some people are inherently dumb than looking for ways to bring out the native intelligence that is in most people -- hidden in too many cases.

Posted by: Karl on April 5, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm serious Kevin. What the hell is the point of having a progressive blog if you are going to give up the fight before it begins? YOU are the voice of the Monthly. YOU need to say "In yer face", and you need to say it loud. Not "Oh dear zero effect. Sigh.". Have you seen the "Shhhhhhh" Lieberman video? This post is about on that same level.

Get some balls, man. For the sake of our country and our party, get some balls. Lives are on the line here.

Posted by: reef the dog on April 5, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

How come monkeys don't turn into men down at the zoo?

They do when you aren't looking. You have to stay there all night to see.

I don't know where the heck people get the idea that there aren't transitional forms. They're all over the place. Every school child can clearly follow the evolution of the horse through several forms.

The term "transitional form" is often misused. Some people seem to think it would be some gross mutant, half one thing, half another. Transitional forms are only viewed as such through a long history of development. They are seen as "transitional" long after the fact. At the time they're alive, they're perfectly normal animals or plants. Of COURSE transitional forms are adapted to their environment or stable. Every life form has to survive for thousands to millions of years to leave a fossil record. Obviously, for that given environment, they were suited. When things changed, descendants suited by random selection to the new environment did better than their transitional ancestors.

Remember, "Whales Got Leg Bones!"

Posted by: tbrosz on April 5, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

"There are no transitional fossils. Archaeopteryx was clearly a bird. Compare a bird fossil to an archae fossil, and you'd be hard pressed to tell one from the other."

edgbert, on the other hand if you put Achaeopteryx next to a small dinosaur you would be hard pressed to tell one from the other (except for the feathers.) That is why it is called a transitional fossil.


Posted by: Ron Byers on April 5, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Also notice that Freedom Fighter doesn't bother arguing that creationism is right -- he doesn't dispute Kevin's point. All he's basically got is "Liberals are teh stupid." Sheesh.

Posted by: Karl on April 5, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I forgot. Plunge reminded me. There are a lot of dinosaurs whose fossils show signs of feathers.

For the record, Achaepteryx is not a transition between reptiles and birds, it might be a transition between dinosaurs and birds. As I understand it, the differences are relatively small. It could be that birds are dinosaurs, at least of a sort.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 5, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Plunge,

You don’t have the slightest friggin’ clue who Karl Popper was, do you? For that matter, do you even know of Isaac Asimov was? I'd say not given your completely ignorant comment. Popper was not involved in "metaphysics" or anything remotely close to that. He was a distinguished Professor of Logic (and later Methodology) at the London School of Economics. His students included Lakatos, Feyerabend, and – probably best known – financier George Soros. He is generally considered the greatest philosopher of the scientific method of the 20th century, as well as one of the most brilliants critics of all forms of “religious”-type thinking, most specifically Marxism and Fascism. Some scientists and philosophers of science do indeed disagree with his views, but that’s like saying that some of the physicists at MIT and Stanford disagree with Einstein. No one who knows squat about it disputes that Popper’s work stands at the pinnacle of 20th century thought in defining exactly how the scientific method operates, what we mean by it, and why it is the premier means of understanding the natural world around us.

Dinasaw and Plunge: did either of you actually READ what I wrote? Again, do you have the slightest goddamned idea of what you're talking about? Do either of you even know any scientists? (I started to put down all my own credentials here in that regard, but it made too long a digression. Leave it go that as a writer I used to occasionally work with Carl Sagan ... and he was but one of many scientists – folks intimately concerned with these issues – whom I’ve dealt with in my work).

Speaking of which: If neither Asimov (for example, in his book of essays, “The Relativity of Wrong”) nor Popper are your thing, try reading Carl Sagan's "A Demon-Haunted World." Practically the whole of that book is directly or indirectly dedicated to this very topic. Or check out "The Blind Clockmaker" by Richard Dawkins -- if memory serves, that stalwart defense of Darwinism against religious magical thinking covers a bit of this topic also. I'm absolutely positive that Richard Feynman hit it once or twice, too. A shame I have none of these close to hand right now save for Sagan’s book.

These scholars -- fervent advocates all for empiricism and the scientific method's primacy over religion -- took pains to avoid the glib use of the term "truth." In casual language, yes, you see the word a lot, even from good scientists. But Cmdicely's argument was that "truth" is not actually a good scientific term or concept. Dinesaw, you keep referring to flat v. round earth. An extraordinarily dumb example. Nevermind that the earth is spherical but not precisely round (it "bulges" at the equator), the issue here is WHAT DISTINGUISHES SCIENCE FROM RELIGION. That is what Cmdicely was talking about, apparently miles above your head.

In point of fact (and in stark contrast to the absolutes of religion), science invites you -- if you really think you can muster robust evidence to your cause -- to try to prove any damned thing you want, including that the earth is flat. Good luck, of course, 'cause you'll need it (as Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence).

Still, sometimes what seem to be clear "scientific truths" (to use your favored term) turn out to be wrong. That is, to cite one excellent example, precisely what ultimately happened with the "continental drift" theory. In 1950, or 1960, or even 1965, most geophysicists -- if they were as sloppy about using the word "truth" as you imply -- would have assured you that it's "settled truth" that modern geology had disproved any claptrap about continents drifting here and there (they could see no mechanism for it – see Sagan, “Demon-Haunted World,” pp. 302-303). The (usually great) Asimov, in his "Intelligent Man's Guide to Science," said something to the effect of, "Continental drift is a nice idea, which however has crashed upon the rocky shore of reality." There was only one problem with that: continental drift -- now incorporated into Plate Tectonics -- turned out to be apparently right, and the old torsional tectonic "truths" apparently wrong. Or, put in “casual” terms: plate tectonics is the truth, and torsional tectonics (land masses rise and fall, but don’t “drift”) was false. But, that’s a flippant use of those words: we just can’t absolutely be sure that someone won’t come along and eventually prove that much of what geologists think about plate tectonics is also false.

THAT is why this is no academic "metaphysical" argument. It is that very essence of science -- that even the most settled scientific question can at any time be re-opened, re-evaluated, and the existing paradigm perhaps completely tossed aside in favor of a new theory -- that distinguishes science from the dogmas of religion and "revealed truths." If you don't get this, you simply don't "get" science, however much you claim to approve of it over religion.

Twits!

Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 5, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it will have zero effect on the true believers, who will believe in someone or something in spite of all evidence to the contrary (see Bush, George W.). But it may make the general public a little less likely to elect born-again presidents and congressmen in the future and a little more skeptical about letting one minority group of religious extremists dominate our politics and our discourse. Godless knows it can't hurt.

Posted by: commie atheist on April 5, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hey! It's as much nurture as nature you cretin!

How about some recognition for those flagellate moms laboring day-in and day-out. Working to bring the kids up right, give them a chance at a better life, and help them take their rightful place among the higher phyla.

Of course you don't see it in the fossil record. They're illegals, you dolt. No documentation. No benefits. No trace.

As for those creationist creeps, if they want "transitional forms" they should try a Taco Bell. 30 minutes and they'll have more transitional forms than they can handle.

Posted by: has407 on April 5, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Roger Keeling,

So much bluster.

You're seriously claiming that most scientists would say that we just don't know whether the earth is flat or round, are you?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Leave it go that as a writer I used to occasionally work with Carl Sagan ... and he was but one of many scientists folks intimately concerned with these issues whom Ive dealt with in my work).

The earth is round. It's the truth. Deal.

Posted by: Carl Sagan's Ghost on April 5, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Dinesaw, you've SO badly missed Cmdicely's point. Troll-like, you've chomped your pearly-whites into one trivial thing and won't let go long enough to grasp the larger argument. Well, guess what lad: everyone here can plainly see you're fishing in waters way too deep for you.

(By the way, I know damned good and well you didn't even read my last posting. Your response came almost instantly ... not long enough for you to have even thought about it. Wanker!)


Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 5, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

I got your transitional form right here, buddy.
(Points to coccyx)
Seriously, why do we have the remnants of a tail and appendix if we didn't have ancestors that used them?

Posted by: doug r on April 5, 2006 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

" did either of you actually READ what I wrote? Again, do you have the slightest goddamned idea of what you're talking about"

Sorry, but I know exactly of what I speak. I read what you wrote: did you THINK about what you wrote? Or are YOU so certain of your views that you can just scream "YOU ARE ALL IGNORANT" and expect that to suffice as an argument?

I understand everything you are saying. The problem is, most of the conclusions still basically track better with people's everyday unstanding of "fact" than denying that it does (which gives people a VERY wrong impression of things). People understand that facts aren't ever 100% certain: you could always be wrong, and that's why you've just got to keep checking and rechecking. It's pretty much the basis of the liberal scientific method: no one is a final authority, and no one ever gets to declare "game over." The vast majority of people who talk and debate science already understand all that.

And, so, guess what: the causal usages of the words "truth" and "fact" seem to work just fine. The rubes already get it. In fact, I can't quite see what your point is other than screaming about your own genius-level understanding of the theory of science.

Who cares? Everyone already gets the non-trivial points of what you are saying and agrees with it without having to name drop or rant on and on about Karl Popper... it just that the rest of us aren't so pretentiously absurd about it.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Roger Keeling,

I too would like to see your evidence that most scientists would deny that it's true that the earth is round rather than flat. You made this claim. Substantiate it.

Posted by: major on April 5, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think Novacek and Gould are (was) misguided. A paleontologist actively trying to dispel creationist myths in popular media just looks like a paleontologist with an agenda. It probably has the net result of increasing creationist scepticism of science and making them think there is an actual debate to be had. Now creationists are waiting for the next fossil find which might swing things back in their favor. A male labyrinthodont missing a rib? Novacek would probably cast a fake one to put it on display -- damn atheist.

Posted by: B on April 5, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's difficult to take seriously arguments regarding race, gender, and heritability from a group so clearly invested in justifying their own racism and mysoginism.

Posted by: Nads on April 5, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

There is no proof for faith. If there were a way to prove their faith was wrong, it would not matter because faith is beyond proof or evidence.

In fact, if there were a way to prove it, then there would be no need for faith at all.

So, it does not matter what science discovers. Faith has nothing to do with evidence. Facts are the opposite of faith. And FAITH is key because none of what any religious person believes can be proved.

Posted by: lilybart on April 5, 2006 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

"For the record, Achaepteryx is not a transition between reptiles and birds, it might be a transition between dinosaurs and birds. As I understand it, the differences are relatively small. It could be that birds are dinosaurs, at least of a sort."

Cladistically, birds are dinosaurs (if that theory continues to hold up, and at this point it's pretty well and widely accepted) in the same way that humans are mammals. Birds are still a subgroup OF dinosaurs. Same way that humans are still apes, primates, eutherians, therians, amniotes, tetrapods, vertebrates (which is basically the lowest grouping that still contains all fish: ALL large land animals are subgroups of the vertebrate group, nested within a particular line of fish), eukaryotes, and so on. Evolutionis cladistically conservative: you don't leave your group, you descend as a modified form of what came before. Even the seeming exceptions, like snakes and dolphins not seeming like tetrapods anymore, give themselves away with vestigial features, atavisms, embryonic remnants, and the same basic tetrapod body-plan, even if they no longer have the distinguishing four limbs in the adult stage.

Note that dinos are not what people normally think of as "lizards": they have all sorts of key morphological differences that make them different and a distinct group from other reptiles.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

But today it's west Africans and their descendents elsewhere who dominate the sprints, east Africans and their descendents who dominate marathons, and caucasians do better at middle distances than at either sprints or marathons.

And them Asians is good at ping-pong.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 5, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

"So, it does not matter what science discovers. Faith has nothing to do with evidence. Facts are the opposite of faith. And FAITH is key because none of what any religious person believes can be proved."

Ah, were that only true. The problem is that, clearly, many creationists have modified or amended their views in the face of evidence that's become too overwhelmingly and simply demonstrated to seriously deny without any good evidence. The problem with evolution is that the evidence is often too complex to understand with a neat phrase or picture: you have spend lots of time understanding a bunch of different subjects in order to grok the larger picture. Most people aren't willing to put in that sort of time. THAT is the problem.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

And them Asians is good at ping-pong.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 5, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

And tests, along with the Jews.

Posted by: mcA on April 5, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no proof for faith. If there were a way to prove their faith was wrong, it would not matter because faith is beyond proof or evidence."

Depends entirely on what it is that they believe through faith. Faith that the earth is only 6,000 years old is obviously not "beyond proof or evidence."

"In fact, if there were a way to prove it, then there would be no need for faith at all."

Why do you "need" faith whether there's proof or not?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Dinasaw: You're seriously claiming that most scientists would say that we just don't know whether the earth is flat or round, are you?

Roger Keeling is right, and has explained himself in great detail (particularly about the loose vs. strict use of the word "truth" in science).

Don't act cocky about science if you don't understand the basics of it.

In essence it's real simple. To be scientific, a hypothesis must be falsifiable (possible to show it's false, if indeed it is false). You can't prove that it's true, you can only try real hard to show it's false. If enough people try hard enough for long enough to show it's false, but fail to show it's false, your hypothesis gets upgraded to a theory or principle.

Brownie points for predictive ability (under controlled conditions if possible) and explanations of underlying mechanisms.

That's it. "We ain't proved it wrong yet, so it's our current educated guess".

"Truth" and non-falsifiable hypotheses are left to philosophers and theologians.

Posted by: alex on April 5, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Re: The immaculate conception:

"The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stainthats what "immaculate" means: without stain."

I found this on some wev site by someone who seemed smarter than the lecherous nuns who taught me. But, I guess Mary had sex, well at least intercourse. We do not know if she gave oral, but if she did, it sure was graceful!

I admit I was wrong, and you can see that years of Catholic training have left me neurotically obsessed with deranged women. I keep looking for grace and they always run off with the deranged boyfriends. Now I get it.


Posted by: Matt on April 5, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

What I have never understood is how a group of people who believe the bible is the inerrant word of god, believe that a man/god was conceived without intercourse and subsequently rose from the dead, that a talking snake conned a woman who was made from the rib of a man who was himself made from mud to do the one thing that would get her banned from paradise... that this group of people is so fanatical when it comes to proof in other areas?

As far as I know there isn't any evidence that Jesus actually existed let alone an invisible all powerful god. This group of individuals which is so caught up in the frenzy of faith that allows them to believe that the entire earth was covered in water and that every species of animal today descends from stock that was saved on a wooden boat that by any stretch of the imagination could not have been large enough to house even a mere fraction of them, this group demands that they be able to SEE evolution in action in order to believe it?

The double standard displayed here is breathtaking.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 5, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Keeling, hopefuly despite my savaging your manhood, you get what I was saying: its great that there are books explaining in detail the scientific method and the way empiricism really defines understanding. But unless we are prepared to prepend all our statements with a paragraph distinguishing religious absolute truth from what we mean by scientific fact, by and large most of us get on just fine explaining things in the more intelligible way of describing things as being facts, proven, etc. That's because empiricism isn't just something airy, it's pretty much the basis for how most people reflexively live their life and deal with their everyday physical environment. You can touch a stove ten times, not get burned, and then get burned when it happens to be turned on. No one runs around claiming that it is absolute truth that they cannot trip over a rock, or that stoves can't be hot.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

No offence but Lungfish and fish that use fish to scrabble on the grounds have been around for a while. What's the big deal?

Besides scientists use the word Proto to declare 'vaguely looks like'.

Unless they can understand the natural selection purpose/process for these changes that mandates a fishy needing proto-wrists...you could argue that this is evidence of intelligent design....

e.g. God creates a niche eco-system that will result in his next day of Creation that leaves it for a while and starts working on Pluto or something...

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

"If enough people try hard enough for long enough to show it's false, but fail to show it's false, your hypothesis gets upgraded to a theory or principle."

Ug, no. Theories are not "upgrades" to hypotheses. They are bodies of explanations often involving an innumerable number of tested and testible hypotheses. Heck, even when something is definitively WRONG we still call it a theory (i.e. theory of orgone energy). And even when something is deductively proven, like number theory, it's still called a theory.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

alex:

"Roger Keeling is right,"

No, he's not right. The idea that most scientists would object to statements like "It's true that the earth is older than 6,000 years" is just utter nonsense. As plunge has explained at length, Keeling just engaging in an exercise in self-promotion to make a trivial metaphysical point that is utterly irrelevant to how we understand truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, in the real world, including how working scientists use those terms.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Upon his deathbed, David Hume was asked if he believed in an eternal soul. He is said to have replied:

"It is also possible that a knob of coal placed upon the fire will not burn".

Empiricism is how people live their life with regard to the material world of course, but we all apply an empiricial view of reality at differing levels (with different phenomena, and in differing situations) based upon faith, cultural factors, etc.

Is it empiricism to base lightning upon Zeus' thunderbolts? It does match the evidence at hand at that time, it seems.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

that this group of people is so fanatical when it comes to proof in other areas?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 5, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Fanatical when it comes to proof? Saved by Faith.

There are many Christians who view the Creation-myth aspects of the Bible as a metaphor.

And the bottom line of science is that they have no idea where the first life formed (in comets, in vast space alcohol clouds, in primorial soup)
and the mechanism for evolution for proto-lifeforms too simple to have DNA or DNA equivalents.

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I should note in addition that cladistics is the reason objections to observed evolution like "but it's still a cow!" or "But it's still a dog" are so goofy. Yes, no matter how much cows evolve, the descriptor "cow" will always describe a grouping of creatures, in the same way that "eukaryote" still describes human beings as a group. Every new species that will ultimately descend from canis familiaris will still fit into the definitions that set canis familiaris apart from all other species, in the same way that human beings are still tetrapods. You can just as easily look at the transition from the early tetrapods to elephants and scream "but it's still a tetrapod!" Well, uh, yeah. It is. That's how evolution works. Descent with modification.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

e.g. God creates a niche eco-system that will result in his next day of Creation that leaves it for a while and starts working on Pluto or something.

The 'next' day of creation? What, after Ragnarok?

You are willing to throw the entire Judeo-Christian theological view of a revelation operating within history out the window to tenuously 'explain' a few fossils?

With there be a 'next' Judgement day, as well? A 'next' Assumption? A 'next' Virgin Birth?

A 'next' Saviour?

Your Christianity is sounding a hell of a lot like 'The Matrix 3', McA.

You'll have to do better than that.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

At one point in my life, I decided I was going to read the Bible.

I thought it would be best if I just read it as if I believed it. I told myself that I was just going to read it, and pretend I actually believed that all of it happened literally.

I got up to about the book of Kings where it said that Pi=3.0.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on April 5, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Try just one of the Gospels first & Acts.
The Pi =3.0 has been covered. If I remember the wheel thickness is an issue and whether the diameter is the inner or outer diameter, and whether the perimeter is the inner or outer.

In fact, one person thinks that they got Pi right so far back, its evidence of the divine.


Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, one person thinks that they got Pi right so far back, its evidence of the divine.

And if people claim it's not 'proof' of the divine, you can always fall back on faith and claim no proof is necessary/possible, can't you.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

By the way. Have any of the atheist here explained why morality is necessary, when no one is looking?

I'm suprised at the number of deep thinkers who can happily ignore evolutionary theory when it talks about the game theory of cheating and retaliation....

You have to accept morality by faith. So why not God, especially if you've had the Holy Spirit in your life?

Beats the mass hallucination theory, especially when the hallucination has largely positive aspects on a personal front.

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

McA -- having a bit of familiarity with Novacek I think the big deal is that he is a self important ass who thinks his observations of mundane happeniings deserves to be heard by the masses.

Posted by: B on April 5, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Have any of the atheist here explained why morality is necessary, when no one is looking?"

What? Has anyone explained to you the basics of english grammar? I mean, my spelling and grammar are not perfect (though mostly its from typing too fast) but I at least can be understood. Your questions don't even make any sense.

"I'm suprised at the number of deep thinkers who can happily ignore evolutionary theory when it talks about the game theory of cheating and retaliation...."

Buh....? Eh? What?

"You have to accept morality by faith."

Uh, what? Why? Morality is a value, not a testible proposition with a truth value.

Posted by: plunge on April 5, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

By the way. Have any of the atheist here explained why morality is necessary, when no one is looking?

Simple. It's necessary to keep society functioning properly.

Most libertarians have already grappled with this in the earlty stages of their philosophical fixation - how to justify or inculcate worthwhile moral behaviour without an overarching authority.

Whether they can answer convincingly is not the point - we all agree that morality is a necessary aspect of living in social groups.

Next.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Beats the mass hallucination theory, especially when the hallucination has largely positive aspects on a personal front.

Ah, yes. Let's argue that the validity of propositions is largely based upon the utilitarian usefulness of their outcomes.

Isn't that called 'the ends justify the means'?

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

you can always fall back on faith and claim no proof is necessary/possible, can't you.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. But, again why do I need proof?

People accept the premise of a conscience on far less evidence than proof.

And if they don't. You end up believing in Hedonism or some kind of Genetic Superiority Complex trying to spread your genes as much as possible.

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

alex:

"Roger Keeling is right,"

No, he's not right. The idea that most scientists would object to statements like "It's true that the earth is older than 6,000 years" is just utter nonsense. As plunge has explained at length, Keeling just engaging in an exercise in self-promotion to make a trivial metaphysical point that is utterly irrelevant to how we understand truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, in the real world, including how working scientists use those terms.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Doug R:

Seriously, why do we have the remnants of a tail and appendix if we didn't have ancestors that used them?

Not to mention leftover fingers on your feet.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 5, 2006 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention leftover fingers on your feet.
Posted by: tbrosz

??? ... chop off your toes and try running ... then get back to me, stubby.

Posted by: Nads on April 5, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. But, again why do I need proof?

Well of course you don't. You basing everything on faith.

So why bother debating this with us?

People accept the premise of a conscience on far less evidence than proof.

Really? I would argue it's because they can empirically experience their own conscience.

The question is simply whether it's a socially conditioned means of regulating social behaviour, or simple human sympathy, as opposed to the Holy Spirit perched in our hearts.

Both the first two explanations do not require religious belief. The third does.

You don't need proof. Fine.

And if they don't. You end up believing in Hedonism or some kind of Genetic Superiority Complex trying to spread your genes as much as possible.

What? What? What exactly are you talking about?


Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Simple. It's necessary to keep society functioning properly."

But why is that a reason for me, as an individual, to behave morally in a particular situation? Let's suppose that most people in a society must share the moral value that murder is wrong for the society to be able to function. I may believe that and still find myself in a situation in which I would personally benefit from committing murder. So why shouldn't I?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

I always get to these things late. I think Roger Keeling has torn his hair out or is banging his head against the wall.

Plunge:
He wasn't the one to bring up Karl Popper of whom he is 100% correct. You started with some statement including "metaphysical" and "empirical" both of which have imprecise or varied definitions. In the same vain, "truth" and "fact" are not a very useful words in science. Put your brain to the test, skip Asimov or Sagan and read "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" then you might know something of which you speak.

By the way, some of you even seemed to miss the poimt Keeling made about the earth being near-SPHERICAL, not round. Sheesh!

As to freedom fighter:
Always ready to shit in the drinking water. Yeah, Africans as a group have long been better sprinters and now distance runners than whites as a general group. Doesn't mean some white guys can't jump (Dwight Stones?) or some Blacks are real slow and fat. Same with brain power (depending how its tested). Tell me there aren't any red, yellow, black, brown (green for all I care) geniuses. And, as proved here, not all whites even cut the median. I have no problem with scientists studying all aspects of genetic differences. The problems arise when ignorant bastards get hold of results and do their own non-scientific interpretation.

On that line we can add sexual orientation. All seems pretty natural to me. You?

Posted by: notthere on April 5, 2006 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Remember that the man who can shoulder the most risk will gain the deepest love and the supreme accomplishment;

Posted by: june on April 5, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

plunge: Theories are not "upgrades" to hypotheses. They are bodies of explanations often involving an innumerable number of tested and testible hypotheses.

You're usually right. Most theories are formed in large part from N empirically tested hypotheses. While you can have N=1, it's rare that it's used this way.

Odd though that you find it acceptable to use a loaded word like "truth" loosely, and yet are so picky about the word "theory".

Heck, even when something is definitively WRONG we still call it a theory

Yes, though typically it's qualified with the word "disproven" or some such.

And even when something is deductively proven, like number theory, it's still called a theory.

Yes, a mathematical theory as opposed to a scientific theory. The word "theory" has a number of meanings.

No one runs around claiming that it is absolute truth that they cannot trip over a rock, or that stoves can't be hot.

Perhaps because they've tripped over a rock or felt a hot stove. Those are pretty easy theories to disprove.

However, most folks have been around considerably less than a million years, and for that matter rarely travel close to the speed of light.

As such, they quite reasonably want more convincing arguments about what happens in such cases as are out of everyday experience. Hence it's more important to be clear about what you mean by "truth". If you're contradicting (even if only from a naive POV) cherished religious beliefs, you better explain what you mean by "truth" a few more times.

Posted by: alex on April 5, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Call you mother on the phone. If you can't, you may think of her in your heart;

Posted by: kit on April 5, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think we evolutionists should turn the tables on the theocrats -- there are lots of "gaps" in bibilical creation theory. Some believe the earth is young. Others don't. And so on. The contradictions could be fun.

Dinasaw -- I don't take responsibility for the fundamentalist theologians' conclusion that, since God is perfectly good, he wouldn't lie to us. That, as I understand it, is why the theoretical creationists have dropped this line of thought.

As for the Satan stuff, I just made that up. Anyway, is there a real, rock-making Satan anywhere in the Bible??

Posted by: David in NY on April 5, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Major,

Please go back and carefully re-read ALL of my postings above. If you can find, in any of them, where I suggested that the earth is flat ... well, hell, I'll owe you one giant-assed apology. But I can already assure you that I never did that.

In fact, I didn't even bring up that idiotic example. That was Dinesaw, and his alone. I never claimd such a thing, and you'll just have to excuse me if I chose not to rise to his troll-like baiting.

(But, in fact, I actually DID pretty much answer his question -- not directly, but effectively -- in my lengthy reply at 10:15 p.m. And in case you still don't get it: I put my bets on the round earth theory. Okay?)

All of this unpleasantness started in a defense of Cmdicely's perfectly reasonable point waaaay up toward the top of this thread. And, no Plunge, it is NOT about going through life qualifying every damned last thing you say. I would hate to have to calculate the number of times I've used "truth" in speech or written word, nor would I ever feel obliged to defend those usages generally. But THIS discussion -- from my point of view, anyhow -- was prompted by Dinesaw's thoroughly rude and remarkably obtuse response to Cmdicely. Cmdicely is a long-time poster here, a consistent voice of reason, a through-and-through liberal ... AND a stalwart advocate of the scientific method. He made a thoughtful comment, to which Dinesaw responded as though he were a troll. That pissed me off, and should have pissed off all the regulars here ... but instead of just calling him a troll and moving on, I thought I'd actually try to explain in better detail what Cmdicely meant. Silly me! It's just that because Dinesaw IS, seemingly, pro-science, I thought he deserved the courtesy of a more coherent response.

As for my "dropping names" (seems like somebody used that term above): well, yeah, I did. But I did so for a particular reason: I was questioned about my assertion that "most" scientists would, in fact, embrace Cmdicely's construction over Dinesaw's. No one to my knowledge has ever run a scientific survey on that. I had to fall back on a second order level of evidence: my own experience talking with scientists. That is anecdotal, hence inherently limited in value. But by establishing something like credentials, I at least make the best of it. Sorry if that seems like "name dropping," but my career is hardly a secret: I'm a direct mail consultant and copywriter, reasonably well known in my field, and among others I've written for The Planetary Society (Carl Sagan's group) since 1989 or so.

In short, YES, I think most scientists really DO avoid absolutist terms like the word "truth" in their formal speaking or writing ... and I base that on years of personally dealing with, and writing for, scientists. Including Sagan.

Now, can we give this dumb-assed digression of a discussion a rest?

Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 5, 2006 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Dinasaw: No, he's not right. The idea that most scientists would object to statements like "It's true that the earth is older than 6,000 years" is just utter nonsense.

As Roger pointed out, it would depend on how strictly they were speaking.

Keeling just ... [made] a trivial metaphysical point that is utterly irrelevant to how we understand truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, in the real world, including how working scientists use those terms.

Actually it's a epistemological point, not a metaphysical one (snarky but true).

More importantly, it's anything but a trivial point. It's key. Yeah, you don't need to get that fancy to convince people that stoves can be hot. But evolution is way outside of people's everyday experience, not to mention other reasons they may have for skepticism.

Posted by: alex on April 5, 2006 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

David in NY,

Of course a rock-making Satan is in the Bible. It's all a matter of "interpretation," you see. Or, at least, that's what non-fundamentalist Christians are always claiming.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Really? I would argue it's because they can empirically experience their own conscience.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

And most born-again Christians empirically experience the Holy Spirit.


---------------
The question is simply whether it's a socially conditioned means of regulating social behaviour, or simple human sympathy, as opposed to the Holy Spirit perched in our hearts.

Both the first two explanations do not require religious belief. The third does.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

If its socially conditioned, you know its social conditioning. Which means you know you can cheat when no witnesses or punishment exist. So, you have no reason to be moral in those situations.

If its human sympathy, you know its some evolutionary leftover to encourage human behaviour. Like how sex is fun whether or not you use birth control....
Meaning you can disregard it for sufficient payoff.

If evolution is all there is you aren't moderated by much.Hence Hedonism as the religion. Or spreading your genes far and wide (if you accept the goals of evolutions as your goals.

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

But why is that a reason for me, as an individual, to behave morally in a particular situation? Let's suppose that most people in a society must share the moral value that murder is wrong for the society to be able to function. I may believe that and still find myself in a situation in which I would personally benefit from committing murder. So why shouldn't I?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 5, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly. Evolution only rewards social characteristics by threat of punishment or exclusion.

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Roger Keeling: Now, can we give this dumb-assed digression of a discussion a rest?

Hell no. This is a lot more interesting than talking about evolution.

Posted by: alex on April 5, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Roger Keeling,

Give it a rest, for God's sake. It is true that the earth is round. I say it. Scientists say it. People say it.

Anal-retentive obsessives who think everyone should use the word "truth" like a boorish first-year philosophy major may not say it, but that's okay.

Posted by: Carl Sagan on April 6, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Dinasaw -- I don't take responsibility for the fundamentalist theologians' conclusion that, since God is perfectly good, he wouldn't lie to us. That, as I understand it, is why the theoretical creationists have dropped this line of thought.

As for the Satan stuff, I just made that up. Anyway, is there a real, rock-making Satan anywhere in the Bible??

Posted by: David in NY on April 5, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

That's a verse where it says that God's existance is evident but Satan has hidden it. Its not clear whether that literal or just in the evidence sense.

I always note that atheists, if they heard God speak would dismiss as a mass hallucination. So I doubt it would take that much to hide things.

Atheists aren't that smart:

1. They make up stuff about evolution rewarding social behaviour without retaliation

2. They ignore the science on the creation of life. Scientists can't even be sure proto-life formed on Earth or in Space on Comet....

3. And they ignore the amoral implications of 'evolution is all there is'.

4. They ignore the implications of the Big Bang which just happens to resemble the Creation myth of a tiny Semetic tribe whose God of Israel became the foundation of 3 out of 5 major human religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

5. Then they proceed to be rude to believers, when there own dogma says they have no reward or obligation to spread Atheism.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Plus all you know...God gave the proto-fish, proto-fins with proto-wrists and proto-knees
so it could proto-bow its proto-kness and proto-clasp his proto-hands in prayer.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

McA,

It would be a mistake to confuse my criticism of floopmeister's response to your question with assent to your own beliefs about morality.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

alex,

Just came across your postings. A big thank-you!

notthere,

A big thank-you to you, too. I started this discussion laughing, but -- yep -- at some point or another I began tearing out the hair.

Plunge,

An apology to you. The more of your postings I read, the more I realized you're a smart guy, and not just acting troll-like. And you do make a lot of good points. I don't agree with you on this, but you didn't deserve being called names.

Dinesaw,

You, however, do deserve to be called names. Twit!

McA,

Thank you, thank you, thank you. We needed an imbecile troll right about now for comparison -- as well as a few laughs -- and you came through.

-- Roger Keeling


Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 6, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't that called 'the ends justify the means'?

Posted by: floopmeister on April 5, 2006 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

We call it 'looking for fruit of the Holy spirit', but its a form of theological analysis supported by the Bible along with checking if a philosophy denies Christ.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

We needed an imbecile troll right about now for comparison -- as well as a few laughs -- and you came through.

-- Roger Keeling

Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 6, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

Can't handle the thoughts so you move to personal insults. Boring.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I have a theory. God gave the proto-fish, proto-wrists and proto-kness so he could clasp his fins in prayer.

Anyone know why evolution would give a survival advantage to a fish who could clap?

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I have a theory. God gave the proto-fish, proto-wrists and proto-kness so he could clasp his fins in prayer.

Anyone know why evolution would give a survival advantage to a fish who could clap?

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Dianesaw, I thought you were serious, but that trollish fillip you just used -- liberals say the Bible can be interpreted, so I can say that Satan made the fossils [even though, on the other hand, I deny that interpretation is proper when it suits me] -- is classic having your cake and eating it too. I actually think that it's head I win, tails you lose.

If you can't interpret, then Satan's got no role in earth-creation.

If you can, there's a well established theological position reconciling the Bible as metaphor with evolution. God's sense of time is clearly not ours (there's a biblical cite for this that I don't have at hand), and a day of creation doesn't have to be one of our days. Butyour "interpretation" isn't worthy of the name -- it's just ad hoc wankery of the cheap debater's sort.

Bye bye.

Posted by: David in NY on April 6, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

floopmeister:
If you don't spell it all out in words of 1 or 2 syllables, or expect the theocrats to make any jumps of inference or deduction, it won't work. Well, come to think of it, it just won't anyway!

Not something that I've read much about, but there are plenty of (scientific) studies both on human behavior and that of our cousins. The more we study chimps, the more we find how frighteningly (my choice of word) close we are to them; in affection to aggression, even murder. Social behavoir isn't limited to humans. Then, of course, we are just animals!

Maybe that is where McA should go to seek less theocratic reasons. I do notice that some of his comcerns seem to reflect the anti-social behavior of the administration more than the socially concerned libs. Doesn't seem like charity reaches beyond the narrow clan.

Oh well.

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

So, you have no reason to be moral in those situations.

Sure you would. When an individual appreciates and respects a moral code enough to inculcate it into their behavior, then simple self-respect is reason enough not to trespass it.

Further, your use of the term "reason" in this instance suggests that humans are merely rational beings. Not so. We are also creatures of affect, of feeling and passion. We may choose to act in moral ways simply because it has meaning for us, and not because it is necessarily rational. Our behavior may or may not be"irrational" depending on one's definition, but pervasive human attachments and emotions such as love are perhaps better put in a category titled "non-rational" to acknowledge their place as part of human nature.

So we may choose to follow a system of morality for any number of reasons. For instance, we may hold ourselves to a certain standard simply because that is what our parents want of us and we love and cherish our parents: because we desire to be seen as moral for any number of reasons; because we feel good when we are moral; because we feel it sets the right example and contributes to social harmony -- and on and on and on.

The fear of punishment is arguably the lowest, basest, and worst possible reason for following a given moral standard. It doesn't require maturity, development, empathy, discernment, or many other higher human qualities, and is suggestive of someone who has insufficient self-control. Respect and empathy for others are sufficient motivators to act responsibly and morally.

How these issues fit into a theory of evolution is a separate question, but it's fallacious to suggest that because one accepts the theory of evolution on an intellectual level then that necessitates a proscriptive morality of hedonism and spreading one's seed, any more than an acceptance of physics requires one to solve all their problems with brute force.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 6, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

"By the way. Have any of the atheist here explained why morality is necessary, when no one is looking?"

Evidence of cheating cannot be as successfully concealed as the identity of the cheater. Evidence of cheating reveals that compliance is failing and that failure to imitate the cheater puts the discoverer at a disadvantage. When enforsement is blocked by successful concealment, the greater the incedence of cheating the greater the necessity to emulate the cheaters (as they monopolize ever greater proportions of resources).
Eventually, the old system collapses as that particular method of cheating becomes a new standard of behavior with the result being a less co-operative society. Evidence of widespread successful cheating also inspires the search for other methods of undetectable cheating not only to regain lost competitive ground but also to recover resources lost to the earlier round of cheating.
Without successful enforcement, this positive feedback ultimately leads to sociatal breakdown and chaos.

Undetectable cheating includes things as small and simple as tossing a single cigarette butt out of a car window on a rainy night to things as big and complex as off-shore corporate tax shelters. Each in its way contributes to making the society the villain lives in less efficient and less pleasant to be a part of.

Undeniable slander is nearly as corrosive in that it causes the appearance of commonality of cheating and wastes enforsement resources on the innocent.

Clearly, McA, you've never really analyzed the import of the legacy of your namesake. Maybe you should change your name to NOT-Aristotle.

Posted by: joe on April 6, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

But why is that a reason for me, as an individual, to behave morally in a particular situation?

Why do I not murder people then, if I don't believe in the punishment/reward morality of the Judeo-Christian God?

Why is the world not full of atheist or agnostic murderers, then?

I base my morality upon simple humanism - if it is wrong for someone to mistreat me, then the inverse is true.

Gee - that sounds like 'Do Unto others...', doesn't it. Except this moral precept is present in most religions, as well as non-religious moralities like Buddhism, utilitarianism or even the goddamn Star Trek universe.

Let's suppose that most people in a society must share the moral value that murder is wrong for the society to be able to function. I may believe that and still find myself in a situation in which I would personally benefit from committing murder. So why shouldn't I?

Why would this reasoning be any different for a Christian? Could it be the threat of divine punishment?

Or is it from the Christian's love for his brother? Then why is this any different from basic humanism?

Why is the question of morality to be considered purely from a religious viewpoint? Is religion the only basis on which to make value judgements?

It's plainly not the case, friend.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Sorry, Dianesaw, I thought you were serious, but that trollish fillip you just used -- liberals say the Bible can be interpreted, so I can say that Satan made the fossils [even though, on the other hand, I deny that interpretation is proper when it suits me] -- is classic having your cake and eating it too."

Huh? I can say "Satan made the fossils" regardless of what the Bible says. The statement is just as well supported by evidence as "There is a God" or "Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior" or any other faith-based belief that is common amoung both "fundamentalist" and "non-fundamentalist" Christians.

The point about the Bible is that all Christians, including liberal ones, already take such liberties with the text of their sacred writings, engaging in the most torturous exercises in "interpretation" to try and make it mean what they want it to mean, that it can certainly be construed to support a claim that fossils are false evidence planted by Satan.

Remind me, what did Jesus say about divorce and remarriage, again?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

3. And they ignore the amoral implications of 'evolution is all there is'.

No, atheists (and many agnostics, I might add, including myself) deny there is any moral dimension to the question of evolution.

4. They ignore the implications of the Big Bang which just happens to resemble the Creation myth of a tiny Semetic tribe whose God of Israel became the foundation of 3 out of 5 major human religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

Yep, no agnostic or atheist has ever noticed the similarity (!). Mind you, we have noticed the way the life of Christ mythos is eerily similar to the myths of Thor, Mithras, Zoroaster and Osiris. The first once was crucified on the world tree, while the last three all had virgin births and were raised from the dead after being sacrifiiced for the good of others.

Still, you don't need to make relative comparisons to justify your faith, do you - so I'll refrain as well ;)

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

floopmeister,

"I base my morality upon simple humanism - if it is wrong for someone to mistreat me, then the inverse is true."

But that is itself a moral value. You justified your moral values by saying they are necessary for society to be able to function. But it is certainly not clear that for society to function you must never mistreat someone else, so your justification fails. There may be many situations in which you would benefit greatly from mistreating someone else without threatening social functioning.

"Why would this reasoning be any different for a Christian? Could it be the threat of divine punishment?"

It wouldn't be different for Christians, but Christians have other justifications for behaving morally, such as (as you say) the claim that God punishes immorality, or simply that God commands moral behavior and they believe they have a duty to obey him.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

"No, atheists (and many agnostics, I might add, including myself) deny there is any moral dimension to the question of evolution."

This atheist thinks you're seriously mistaken. I think our moral sense was most likely strongly shaped by evolutionary processes. This includes both our "good" moral tendencies (love, compassion, altruism, etc.) and our "bad" moral tendencies (violence, racism, xenophobia, etc.).

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

But that is itself a moral value. You justified your moral values by saying they are necessary for society to be able to function. But it is certainly not clear that for society to function you must never mistreat someone else, so your justification fails. There may be many situations in which you would benefit greatly from mistreating someone else without threatening social functioning.

And yet, the great majority of nonreligious people would choose not to, for moral reasons. So, if I agree with your valid point, on what basis are these people choosing to make moral judgements if not through religious belief?

It wouldn't be different for Christians, but Christians have other justifications for behaving morally, such as (as you say) the claim that God punishes immorality, or simply that God commands moral behavior and they believe they have a duty to obey him.

Exactly. This point was made in response to McA's argument that the consequence of a belief in evolution is that everything is reward and punishment. If Christian morality is simply based upon 'reward and punishment' there is little that is different. If it is based upon the call to love your brother as yourself, then it is hardly unique.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

I may believe that and still find myself in a situation in which I would personally benefit from committing murder. So why shouldn't I? - DinaSaw

Who says you shouldn't? Nobody's stopping you, but you have to be prepared for the consequences that may follow. If you feel the benefit of the murder will outweight the punishments (if you are caught that is) then there is no reason not to commit the murder. The act itself is trivial and without consequence unless you are punished by the society whose mores you have contravened. The term murder itself has moral overtones... all you are doing is taking a life whether it be for food, fear, or profit. The only thing that keeps society from falling apart is that the individuals participating in it making a conscious decision to adhere to the rules (mores) of that society.

If you don't believe me then try this test: grab a knife out of the kitchen drawer and go kill your neighbor... I'll wait.

Now what stopped you? Was it the hand of god restraining you or was it your conscience? I mean, you didn't actually kill your neighbor right?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 6, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

I was going to stop, but I can't resist.

McA:
Pretty broad brush on atheists.
1. Where does "retaliation" come into this. Oh yes! The wrath of the merciful god.
2. 3. Hardly deserve an answer. Forgetting atheists, scientists, who might be religious of not, do not ignore the science or make stuff up (most of the time). Theology on the other hand is a question of interpretation. McA please explain the multiplicity of interpretative levels in every major relligion.
4. They ignore the implications of the Big Bang which just happens to resemble the Creation myth of a tiny Semetic tribe whose God of Israel became the foundation of 3 out of 5 major human religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).
Oh, boy!
So we have a Big Band theory, a 20th century idea based on evidence so far gathered, but we also have a "tiny Semitic(?) tribe" who weren't around at the time of the Big Bang (obviously, I hope) but coiincidentally came up with a Creation Myth that "resembles" the theory. And the implications are what?
Good grief! And I wouldn't be suprised if plate tektonics isn't out there with some tribe either, and the Greeks invented atomic theory.
5. Most of the time atheists are over-polite in society, and take a lot of crap from religious types in day-to-day life just to maintain the peace. However, here, I think we can speak our minds. No?

All your points are meaningless except 4, which shows an astute ability to non-think.

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

And yet, the great majority of nonreligious people would choose not to, for moral reasons. So, if I agree with your valid point, on what basis are these people choosing to make moral judgements if not through religious belief?

OK, you offered an answer to this with your last post, before I'd posted this question. I can accept that an evolutionary basis for morality has some validity.

Personally, I see it as more of a social response, but then I'm a historian, rather than an evolutionary biologist !

;)

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent points, notthere, and I love the involuntary creation of a new theory of the universe:

So we have a Big Band theory...

;)

Good grief! And I wouldn't be suprised if plate tektonics isn't out there with some tribe either, and the Greeks invented atomic theory.

Bingo!

Democritus would be proud.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Considering how little biblical commandments are reflected in modern Christian morality, and how diverse are the moral codes of modern Christians,
an effort to ascribe morals to the word of God is another attempt to claim as supernatural a phenomena that is the result of natural evolution, in this case, of human culture.

Posted by: Boronx on April 6, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

you have to understand that when you fill a gap with a new fossil, you create two new gaps, so more data results in greater uncertainty.

Posted by: me on April 6, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

you have to understand that when you fill a gap with a new fossil, you create two new gaps, so more data results in greater uncertainty.

Zeno's "Achilles and the Tortoise" paradox as applied to evolutionary theory.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 6, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of comments:

Ayn Rand developed a consistent and workable theory of atheist morality. She wasn't the only one, either.

In my experience, anyone who spends a lot of time fogging up the ideas of "truth" and "reality" is trying to pull something over on you.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 6, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Whoops, that's actually the "Dichotomy" paradox.

For every length of distance travelled one must first travel halfway, and before one travels halfway one must travel a quarter of the way -- and so on to infinity, "logically" preventing one from ever traveling the initial distance or even gaining motion.

In this case the paradox is applied so that every fossil that fills a gap in the fossil record just creates another "halfway" to be crossed.

I wonder if those raising this objection realize they are simply restating a 2500 year logic puzzle?

Posted by: Windhorse on April 6, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

Windhorse,

"We may choose to act in moral ways simply because it has meaning for us, and not because it is necessarily rational"

If its irrational why do it?

"moral for any number of reasons; because we feel good when we are moral; because we feel it sets the right example and contributes to social harmony "

Contributing to social harmony doesn't help you if no one sees it.

And if evolution is all there is, the 'feel good' effects of being good are nothing but hormonal urges to encourage behaviour that helps the species as a whole.

Unfortunately, it doesn't say any individual who can cheat still wouldn't gain as an individual if the species as a while didn't punish him for his behaviour. And that's evolution - as a science

Besides if this good exists, and cheaters weren't just getting an advantage. Why is their evil in the world? And rewarded evil in history?

Done this again and again. Everyone retreats into denial. If you are strict atheist, you never have a rational reason for being good with no witnesses.

No rational reason survives the standard philosophical objections you use on God (Is this consistent with evolution? Why is their evil in the world if this is true?)


Posted by: Mca on April 6, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

Each in its way contributes to making the society the villain lives in less efficient and less pleasant to be a part of.

Posted by: joe on April 6, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

I have thought this true. All that says is undetectable cheating should be done if I think it doesn't affect me e.g. its OK to steal paper clips from work if I don't own shares or care about the company long term.

If you believe the world so efficiently punishes cheating, how do you explain obviously successful, morally grey characters?

Like Microsoft and anti-trust strategy. Grey area and proud of it!

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate the sentiment, but I imagine that this latest discovery will have approximately zero effect. Sigh.

On the contrary, this latest find will just add two more "missing links" to the vast number of such absent transitionals that are every day disproving the so-called theory (actually, religion) of Darwinism.

You can find a million, nay, a billion so-called "transitionals", and that just goes to show that we know less and less about all of the intermediates between all these new-found species. There's at least two new missing intermediates for every new species you brain-washed Darwinista find, and you can't deny that logic, nosiree....

;-)

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

2. 3. Hardly deserve an answer. Forgetting atheists, scientists, who might be religious of not, do not ignore the science or make stuff up (most of the time). Theology on the other hand is a question of interpretation. McA please explain the multiplicity of interpretative levels in every major relligion.

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

So you dodged on 2 and 3. Do scientists know if life started in space or on earth? They don't.
Yet many evolutionists insist they do. Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!

And on the distracting attack on religion. There are a multiplicity of religions. This is where the faith and prayer help guide you. We believe God exists and can talk to him.

-----------

Was it the hand of god restraining you or was it your conscience? I mean, you didn't actually kill your neighbor right?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 6, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

My God given conscience and police retaliation.

Now here's one for an Atheist. I'm in Oregon with a right to turn off my rich Uncle who'd give me an inheritance. Doctors say there's a remote chance of him waking up. What keep an Atheist from not murdering the person?

Nothing. And that's when atheists have nothing to hold them together.



Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

I forgot to add: Everything you find just fits your pre-conceived theory of Evilution. Now what kind of a test of a theory is that? How can it possibly be falsified?

;-)

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

So we have a Big Band theory, a 20th century idea based on evidence so far gathered, but we also have a "tiny Semitic(?) tribe" who weren't around at the time of the Big Bang (obviously, I hope) but coiincidentally came up with a Creation Myth that "resembles" the theory. And the implications are what?

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Funny coincidence along with the other coincidences that resulted in Moses being accepted as a Prophet by 3 major religions.

But if you call yourself an Atheist and go on attack all the time, you can keep your thoughts from going that way.

-----------------

Ayn Rand developed a consistent and workable theory of atheist morality. She wasn't the only one, either.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 6, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Which relies on assumptions no more outlandish than that of a God.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

I can accept that an evolutionary basis for morality has some validity.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ever hear about the Cuckoo? Evolution gave it a survival strategy based on placing its kiddies in
another birds nest and smashing the rival eggs.

Or the rabbit? Eats its own young if they look too scrawny to survive. Great protein and they don't have any dieases you don't have.

The idea issue is monogamy. Why in the world wouldn't an evolution-based morality reward polygamy and war-time rape of rival cultures? Its a historically proven strategy.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Remind me, what did Jesus say about divorce and remarriage, again?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

No remarriage if the person you divorced is a practising Christian. You have to reconcile.

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

If its irrational why do it?

Remember that the next time you gamble, or get drunk, or choose red socks instead of blue socks in the morning.

Contributing to social harmony doesn't help you if no one sees it.

This is morally equivalent to arguing that there is no rational reason to follow God's law if there wasn't God as a witrness - and with a Judgement coming.

Why follow God's law if you're not going to get punished?

Besides if this good exists, and cheaters weren't just getting an advantage. Why is their evil in the world? And rewarded evil in history?

Ask God. She's the one that allows it, isn't She? And this helps your argument how, exactly?

BTW, while you're at it, ask Her to explain the morality of 250,000 dead in the tsunami.

Done this again and again. Everyone retreats into denial. If you are strict atheist, you never have a rational reason for being good with no witnesses.

Of course you do. Your moral code does not allow you to. It just so happens your morality is not based upon a belief in God.

We're not really getting through to you, are we.

No rational reason survives the standard philosophical objections you use on God (Is this consistent with evolution? Why is their evil in the world if this is true?)

See 'Problem of Evil' and 'Tsunami' above.

On the contrary, this latest find will just add two more "missing links" to the vast number of such absent transitionals that are every day disproving the so-called theory (actually, religion) of Darwinism.

Cheap rhetoric, yessirree. Cheers.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

I forgot to add: Everything you find just fits your pre-conceived theory of Evilution. Now what kind of a test of a theory is that?

A pretty convincing one, I would think.

Cheers,

;)

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

Ask God. She's the one that allows it, isn't She? And this helps your argument how, exactly?

BTW, while you're at it, ask Her to explain the morality of 250,000 dead in the tsunami.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I can answer the God allowing evil bit.

-Its because he tends to allow human actions to affect the universe as part of the doctrine of free will.

-And knowing about life after death, he has a different perspective on pain/suffering in this world, especially if that pain/suffering has a lesson. He can always reward and punish in the afterlife to be fair.

How does atheism answer the existance of evil if a conscience/moral code is a species-wide and effective mechanism?

I note you are going on attack again instead of answering the question. Good way to avoid thinking about your life, if God is real, isn't it?


-------

Your moral code does not allow you to. It just so happens your morality is not based upon a belief in God.

We're not really getting through to you, are we.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Conscience, moral code, decency... you are just tossing up intangible words to dodge the issue.
What's the why of your moral code?

And if you think a moral code is a belief like my belief in God, how can you keep insisting atheism is reason-based or more in line with science?

Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

what stops the moral cripples that call themselves xtians from recanting all their sins on their deathbed and trying to slip into heaven?

nothing.

Posted by: Nads on April 6, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

How does atheism answer the existance of evil if a conscience/moral code is a species-wide and effective mechanism?

You're assuming that there is a 'species-wide' mechanism, which is of course nonsense.

Morality depends on historical and cultural considerations, as you yourself agreed when you were dodging my questions about the essential moral relativism of the biblical code on a previous thread. You remember - how certain biblical injunctions and prohibitions related to earlier periods of history and had no relevance for today?

Why would I bother trying to defend something or argue for something I don't think exists?

It's obvious that everything posting at this blog has displayed differing moral interpretations on a whole range of topics.

Some are religious, some are not.

Conscience, moral code, decency... you are just tossing up intangible words to dodge the issue.

Faith; Holy Spirit;

What's the why of your moral code?

The belief that human beings have value, in and of themselves.

What else do we need?

And if you think a moral code is a belief like my belief in God, how can you keep insisting atheism is reason-based or more in line with science?

Well, as you seem wilfully obtuse, let me remind you (for the nth time, I might add) I am not an atheist or defending atheism.

Plenty of people on this thread are, and they have their reasons for their own morality.

Ask them.

My view on morality (just like the Bible, funnily enough!) is that it is something that evolves over time depending on social conditions and cultural traditions.

Look at Confucius - the greatest value would appear to be obeying social conventions, parents, and established tradition. There's the tripartite basis of Confucian morality.

Humanism has never been a universal value over history - look at slavery or the Declaration of Human Rights.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

McA:
Please tell me where I lied.

If you read it, I didn't dodge anything although I didn't think it really needed a reply. It's too easy to overestimate the intelligence I'm dealing with.

a) I reject your premise of atheists. I'm sure they spread the range, but that would be a scientific study in itself to see how intelligence varies from the normal distibution, atheists to, say, self-professed fundamentalist Christians.
b) Scientists by nature are going to enquire. So if we haven't arrived at a decent theory yet, so what. 400 years ago the "church" didn't want anyone to think the earth wasn't the center of the universe. Interesting how (particularly) christian religion tends to make life centric to themselves and are continually being rolled back from this narrow outlook.
c) On 3, I was particularly remarking that a religion (one), lets take Christianity, has many different levels of interpretation, sects. You conveniently dodged this question.
d) On 4, Moses was accepted by one religion, Judaism, and, as in c) above, the same books have been coopted by 2 subsequent religions. Who is right among the now further ennumerated sects over the strictly Christian ones?

Or is yours the only true path? Since you can speak to god that should be a Yes or No answer.

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

Or is yours the only true path? Since you can speak to god that should be a Yes or No answer.

To paraphrase Xenophon:

If a McA could speak, they would definitely tell us that God looked like a McA

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

floopmeister:
think you've been doing pretty well. See McA won't answer your qs either. I thought maybe Windhorse gave the best exposition but it didn't make much headway. I'll give it a go.

Long, long before Christianity there were groups of people living together to make survival easier. Around them were other groups seeking the same ends. Where we have not disrupted them, we can still find this same structure (without Christianity) and they survive very nicely before we interfere. Typically, groups have to swap mates so that genetics stay strong. Somehow they find this naturally better than inbreeding. I don't believe god told them. They might fight and even kill but it is typically formalized in some way and/or with an arbitration method. Life goes on.

There are no wars of extinction, no genocide. All that comes with the invention of the city-state along with group-think religion. We've never looked back.

You can extrapolate this back to the dawn of man.

So I think there is a combination of instinct or built in genetic behavior. There is cultural broad behavior, and there is local or familiar behavior (could be called custom). Whether animals or humans, there is aberrant behavior which could be genetic, chemical or induced/learned. There is also a range of observance. Some groups or individuals are more or less cooperative, bullying, individualistic, etc.

Most of this can be seen in animal behavior too. Whether you have a "religion" or not, most people see a reason for cooperative behavior, an advantage.

My thesis is that Western society is on the wrong course, particularly in the US. We stress individualism and entitlement to act out. I can do anything I want, even if it is not for the best of society. Now, McA, don't think this leads to communism or fascism. I'm just saying that the natural form of society is group support and it is what most people seek, to belong in some way.

Religion is an ancillary, inposed on society, in the past, in a monolithic way for the sake of cohesion and manipulation. It interests me that fundamentalists (Christian or Taliban) seek to impose their views on everyone else.

How's that nutshell?

Posted by: notthere on April 6, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

Now here's one for an Atheist. I'm in Oregon with a right to turn off my rich Uncle who'd give me an inheritance. Doctors say there's a remote chance of him waking up. What keep an Atheist from not murdering the person?

Well there's...

Nothing. And that's when atheists have nothing to hold them together.

Hey McA, you asked the question, now let me answer!

Okay, by 'turn off my rich uncle' I assume you mean he is on life support and not hot for your boyish charms. Well, let's see...

My father who is 6'6", 250 lbs, in his late 60s, and in good health asked me in front of my mother and brother to make sure that he would never end up wasting away on life support. To be ready to pull the plug if the need ever arises, so I don't need your 'rich uncle' situation, I've got one of my own. Now my father did very well for himself while he was working, invested some money, has a beautiful two story passive solar home in the country, but rich? I don't know, what's the cut off these days? Would I "murder" him? Never! But if the need ever arises, and I hope that it never does, I will follow his wishes if it is the only option left.

What's to keep an atheist from "murdering" a person? No more than what is keeping anyone else from doing it, nothing but their own conscience. I love my family a great deal, more than I have ever been able to adequately express, and while it would tear me up to do it and I would live a lifetime with the regret I will do what my father has asked of me.

But it occurs to me - what does any of this have to do with transitional fossils?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 6, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't rely on the NYTimes for science reporting. (I wouldn't rely on the NYTimes for much of anything, for that matter.) The only reliable source for reporting on evolution vs creationism is http://www.talkorigins.org A number of "transitional fossils" have been found.

Posted by: raj on April 6, 2006 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Floopmeister:

[Arne]: I forgot to add: Everything you find just fits your pre-conceived theory of Evilution. Now what kind of a test of a theory is that?

A pretty convincing one, I would think.

But ... but ... but ... isn't that just "teaching to the test"? If you already know what the answer's gonna be, you're just setting yourself up for success. C'mon, every good theory has to be able to be shown to be wrong (you know, Popoff and falsiefiability or something like that), and if it's just too good for that, it can't be worthwhile science. Must be religion.

*/SNARK*

In all seriousness, the IDiots have made the absurd claim that evolution is such a theory; that no matter what is found, the "Evilutionists" find some way to fit the results into their grand schema, so that it fails Popper's big test.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

So McA needs an authoritarian god to keep him from committing murder and mayhem.

And every night, he asks how atheists derive a moral sense if not from a vengeful god.

And every night, people earnestly and eloquently respond to him.

How many more nights before y'all figure out he's not even listening to your answers?

Posted by: shortstop on April 6, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

The real problem is getting those atoms to hook up in just the right way to begin with. Literal creation of whole creatures (ie, some organisms not having mothers in effect) is just a red-herring lost cause.

Posted by: Gadfly on April 6, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

McA: species-wide moral codes exist because we evolved as social creatures living in groups. An evolutionary advantage accrued to the group that was most socially cohesive against both large, nasty predators and other groups of the same species. Hence, we evolved into humans with this "moral" code already part of our DNA. I just saw a recent study about "enforcer monkeys." These are members of the troop that act like cops to make sure the rest of the group follows the rules. The researchers would remove these members from the troop, and the social cohesiveness would break down.

Hence, no need for a deity of any sort to explain morality.

Also, a bit upthread there was a discussion about science and "truth." Science deals in facts, which are verifiable through experimentation. "Truth" can have a slightly different meaning. Something can be "true" without being factual. This is the basis of myth, which explains cultural "truths" that have little or no basis in fact. Like the story of Geo Washington & the cherry tree: not factual, but describes a "truth" about his character. The problem of reason vs revelation came about sometime after Thomas Aquinas, when western thinkers started blurring the distinction between "truth" and factual accuracy. This makes "truth" a bit fuzzy, but that's sort of the point. Each is useful in its own sphere, but we should remember the distinction.

Posted by: klaus on April 6, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate the sentiment, but I imagine that this latest discovery will have approximately zero effect. Sigh.

Sigh indeed Kevin. 186 bloomin' comments debating on a done deal. Evolution people - live with it.

Posted by: ckelly on April 6, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan:
"Of course, the creationist cretins will fall back on their standard "these fossils were invented by God to test our faith.""
Or placed there by satan to make us THINK evolution is real. LOL

Hard to accept, but some people are just so flat dumb and/or crazy that there's no reaching them.

One of the difficult things about religous conversation is that nobody realy KNOWS what the story is. Science is doing their best to answer theses q's but no matter how much evidence they find they still can't prove that God or A god didn't do it. Before you call people "dumb and/or crazy" remember, they might be right. *shrug* Not a sermon, Just a thought.

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK
Atheists aren't that smart:

1. They make up stuff about evolution rewarding social behaviour without retaliation

"Make up"? Er, no. Its verifiable. Further, its consistent

2. They ignore the science on the creation of life. Scientists can't even be sure proto-life formed on Earth or in Space on Comet....

So? Science doesn't alwasy provide neat, tidy answers, and the science of evolution doesn't depend on the science of origins, though the two are linked. There is plenty of evidence that a lot of the necessary things could have happened in what the early earth environment appears to have been, but very little means of testing where they actually did occur.

3. And they ignore the amoral implications of 'evolution is all there is'.

Science doesn't claim "evolution is all there is"; science claims that evolution is the empirically-justified explanation for the mechanism by which the diversity of species arose.

4. They ignore the implications of the Big Bang which just happens to resemble the Creation myth of a tiny Semetic tribe whose God of Israel became the foundation of 3 out of 5 major human religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

The Big Bang doesn't more than superficially resemble the Christian creation myth.

5. Then they proceed to be rude to believers, when there own dogma says they have no reward or obligation to spread Atheism.

Most atheists don't have any dogma, but plenty have beliefs that include the idea that there are rewards -- of the material, pragmatic kind -- for spreading atheism. Like, they get less pestering by theists when there are less of them.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

How many more nights before y'all figure out [McA]'s not even listening to your answers?

IIRC, when McA called himself "Researcher," he acknowledged that there were actually two people posting under that name. They take turns or something, or there's this weird Voldemort/Quirrill thing going on, or something. Anyway, I think that's why he'll be "McA" on one post and then "Mca" on another, and so on. Their nationality - Malaysian? - accounts for some of the bizarre spelling and grammar, but I think illiteracy covers the rest.

As for Dinasaw, people, shortstop has already pointed it out: he's Don P., under another new guise. Keep that in mind.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on April 6, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

notthere, thank you so very much for your concern for my dear brain.
"In the same vain, "truth" and "fact" are not a very useful words in science."

I agree. But they are prefectly useful and acceptable in causal discourse, which is what was under discussion. Most people's causal, everyday understanding of truth and fact doesn't deviate far from the scientific understanding.

As for all this snooty recommendation of Dawkins and Asimov and Popper, jebus, shut up you pretentious gits. I've read, and liked, them all.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Ayn Rand developed a consistent and workable theory of atheist morality."

I disagree. I don't think ANYONE, theist or atheist, has come up with a consistent or workable theory of morality, period. Rand was on to something with the idea that it has to have something to do with the values of the beings under consideration or else its simply incoherent, but I don't think she or anyone else has ever put forth an argument about why something is wrong that would compell a hypothetical being of pure reason (rather than some emotion) to agree.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

McA still flogging the morality horse?

I'm still waiting for a real answer on the Euthyphro dilemna ("don't know, don't care" is not an answer).

Is that which we recognize as morally good only good because God says it is? Or does God say it is good because it is good?

If the former is true than morality is arbitrary and you have to defend God's genocide orders in Exodus and Deuteronomy as morally good. And if it was a good thing then, why not now?

If the latter is true than moral goodness exists independantly of any god(s) and I can confidently assert that genocide has never been morally good; not then, and certainly not now.

So which is it, McA? You've been running from this question for some time now...

Posted by: A Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"In all seriousness, the IDiots have made the absurd claim that evolution is such a theory; that no matter what is found, the "Evilutionists" find some way to fit the results into their grand schema, so that it fails Popper's big test."

Which is so utterly absurd that it blows my mind every time I hear it. Evolution, far from being preconcieved, is INCREDIBLY fragile to some piece of new evidence that would throw its schema all out of whack. Take this recent find. All you'd need is for this newly discovered fossil to have a couple of traits from, say, a modern animal and suddenly common descent would be royally screwed. The tree of life pattern that all evidence conforms to is one very very specific pattern out of more than 10 to the 38th power, and that's ONLY considering the arrangement of the major taxa! Anything outside this pattern, and indeed there are almost infinately more ways for something to be outside the pattern than within it, would create serious problems for the theory.

On the other hand, ID is consistent with anything. No matter what state of the world we find, one can always imagine a way in which an ID could have decided to bring it about for some reason, in an unknown way.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

A Hermit:
"Is that which we recognize as morally good only good because God says it is? Or does God say it is good because it is good?"

IF there is no god then there is no higher authority to judge us. What we call good is just us projecting our collective concepts of morality.
IF there is a god then it's a good question if even he/she/it has an even higher authority to which to answer. Is God making the rules or is God following them? Unfortunately we can't answer it but it's an awesome Q.

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

As for Dinasaw, people, shortstop has already pointed it out: he's Don P., under another new guise. Keep that in mind.

I think the story is that after Charlie stole the Don P. handle, the old user of the Don P. handle started rotating through other handles (Atheist is the first I recall, now Dinasaw.)

Its all part of the Great Troll Shift.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

I love jokes on the Great Vowel Shift! I hardly ever hear any!

There was at least one other Don P handle between Atheist and Dinasaw, but I can't remember or care what it was. I can't think of what his reason for not just picking one might be, other than abject fear of Pale Rider, I guess.

Posted by: shortstop on April 6, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

plunge:

Evolution, far from being preconcieved, is INCREDIBLY fragile to some piece of new evidence that would throw its schema all out of whack. Take this recent find. All you'd need is for this newly discovered fossil to have a couple of traits from, say, a modern animal and suddenly common descent would be royally screwed. The tree of life pattern that all evidence conforms to is one very very specific pattern out of more than 10 to the 38th power, and that's ONLY considering the arrangement of the major taxa! Anything outside this pattern, and indeed there are almost infinately more ways for something to be outside the pattern than within it, would create serious problems for the theory.

Oh, but you see, whenever you find something like this, you just plunk it down in the place that fits your theory. Of course it doesn't have fully formed fingers; if it did, it would be somewhere else in the tree (and with so many "missing links", there's billyuns of places to choose from in making a superficially "close fit"). Besides, post hoc (or ad hoc) doesn't mean quicker hoc ... or sumptin' like that.

*/IDiotese*

Cheers,


Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz wrote: Ayn Rand developed a consistent and workable theory of atheist morality. She wasn't the only one, either.

For example, Aleister Crowley: "Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

"IF there is no god then there is no higher authority to judge us. What we call good is just us projecting our collective concepts of morality.
"IF there is a god then it's a good question if even he/she/it has an even higher authority to which to answer. Is God making the rules or is God following them? Unfortunately we can't answer it but it's an awesome Q."
Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 11:58 AM

Yeah Plato was good for those kind of questions (oops, was I name-dropping?)

It's a problem for those, like McA, who insist that morality is impossible without god(s). They have to either embrace arbitrariness or accept that moral reasoning does not require the intervention, or even the existence, of a deity.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Yeah Plato was good for those kind of questions (oops, was I name-dropping?)"

I think it's only name-dropping if it's done in the context of, "Well I was having baklava and tea with PLATO the other day and he said..."
So I think you're in the clear. *chuckling*

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"started rotating through other handles"

I was thinking about changing my name too. I'll do it openly though...If I decide to.

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, but you see, whenever you find something like this, you just plunk it down in the place that fits your theory. Of course it doesn't have fully formed fingers; if it did, it would be somewhere else in the tree (and with so many "missing links", there's billyuns of places to choose from in making a superficially "close fit"). Besides, post hoc (or ad hoc) doesn't mean quicker hoc ... or sumptin' like that."

This would be a good one if traits weren't grouped, fossils weren't limited both by dating and geography, and there still weren't many many more ways not to fit ANYWHERE as to fit somewhere.

But seriously though: the fact that we have to have someone PRETEND to be a creationist for sport is sort of sad. :)

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

One can almost imagine that creationists fund efforts to club seal pups to death. After all, seals have "part fins part feet"...

Posted by: Mark on April 6, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for trying to take the discussion in a separate direction, but based on the thoughtfulness of their posts - I am really interested in the response of people like Keeling and Dicely.

The real question for athiests to confront is not how morality could evolve, but how it matters. If the world is completely natural than this entire discussion is moot. Why should you try to change my mind if my "mind" is just the sum of my chemical state brought by a long chain of natural events.

If there is no soul, no independent mover assigned to what I call me, than even all this back and forth is just part of the flow of the events which are inevitable. Even after your best argument, I will only think what I am destined to think based on the advancement in time of the giant microscopic equation of state.

And please don't respond with any uninformed responses how I am mistakingly presenting a classical deterministic viewpoint when quantum mechanics and chaos theory allow for "probabalistic" intrusions into the flow of events. The intrusion of probability and chaos only means I can not reasonably trace my way backwards to the cause from the end. The totallly natural world is still a world without a why and only a what.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote a column about this three weeks ago after our freelance religion columnist at my newspaper group wrote calling people who accept the facts about evolution (NEVER use the word "believe" in talking about evolution), and we've gotten the most letters to the editor feedback since I've been here, I think.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 6, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK
The real question for athiests to confront is not how morality could evolve, but how it matters.

It matters because it manifestly influences actions.

If the world is completely natural than this entire discussion is moot. Why should you try to change my mind if my "mind" is just the sum of my chemical state brought by a long chain of natural events.

Because your mind controls your actions which affects the environment I live in which affects my mind which affects my sense of well-being.

Natural morality is, after all, accompanied by natural hypocrisy. While some "moral" action (particularly when seen by others) may be self-serving, people tend to often be a lot more keen on other people acting on their "moral values" than on implementing them themselves. And, of course, that's perfectly consistent with a naturalistic, "evolutionary" explanation of moral sense (whatever moral "reality" there may be.)

If there is no soul, no independent mover assigned to what I call me, than even all this back and forth is just part of the flow of the events which are inevitable. Even after your best argument, I will only think what I am destined to think based on the advancement in time of the giant microscopic equation of state.

Well, sure, you can look at it that way. But then, my trying to convince you is just as inevitable, so there is no reason to ask for an explanation of why I (morally or aesthetically) should do so. I simply must, and there is nothing more to be said about it.


And please don't respond with any uninformed responses how I am mistakingly presenting a classical deterministic viewpoint when quantum mechanics and chaos theory allow for "probabalistic" intrusions into the flow of events. The intrusion of probability and chaos only means I can not reasonably trace my way backwards to the cause from the end.

Well, no, chaos theory deals with why it is difficult to trace certain causal chains; QM actual, as I understand it, implies that somethings are, to some degree, uncaused. Those are two very different things.

The totallly natural world is still a world without a why and only a what.

Not any more so than any other world is. Any proposed "why?" is as much a "what?" as the explanations in the natural universe are. Most models of God, or a non-physical spirit in general, still takes a set of inputs and produces a set of outputs in the physical universe that is some function of those set of inputs combined, perhaps, with some entirely uncaused (random) factor. This is no different than any entity in the natural universe with quantum mechanics.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

But seriously though: the fact that we have to have someone PRETEND to be a creationist for sport is sort of sad. :)

Oh, you have me wrong, sir. I'm not pretending to be a creationist; I'm pretending to be an IDiot. The two are not at all the same thing, as one can clearly see if one looks at the latest frothings of the ID savants (please, no peeking at the earlier stuff, can't we just "move on" from that?)

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hansen, for your questions to have any meaning, you'd have to explain how souls, Jesuses, or what have you would have any more bearing on anything either. The implication is that atheists face a problem justifying morality that theists don't. but that's simply wrong. Theist-based claims to morality are all juts as flawed, often in exactly the same ways, as non-theist ones. We're all in the same boat.

I'd say, at bottom, why morality matters is a moot point. Pretty much all human beings outside of sociopaths already FEEL that it matters: they're already willing to stipulate without having to convince them of anything.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

lurker42:

IF there is a god then it's a good question if even he/she/it has an even higher authority to which to answer. Is God making the rules or is God following them? Unfortunately we can't answer it but it's an awesome Q.

Short answer: "Man made God in man's image."

Long ago, I asked fundies on Usenet groups to answer a question (admittedly a bit of fallacy of bifurcation, but you're free to opt out of the choices presented): "Are God's laws good because they're God's laws? Or are God's laws God's laws because they're good?" The second possibility echoes the question above about the "higher [or lower] authority".

I put a hypothetical out for these people: If God told you that everyone with a first name starting with "S" is evil incarnate and should be put to death, would you do so? Or would you say, "Waiddaminnit! That's insane! No God would ever ask such a thing." If the latter, then you still need to answer the hypothetical: Would you then abjure and denounce such a God? Regardless, any answer other than the first (that you would willingly kill on God's command, just on His say-so) shows that you don't believe in some absolute "morality". In which case, you have to ask next: "Well, which morality should I follow ... it's all so morally relativistic."

As for the folks that would willingly kill arbitrarily on just "Gawd's Word", they're the cause of a lot of the problems we're having right now, I'd say, and we'd all be better off with less of them around, rather than more. Not that I advocate killing them, mind you, but perhaps some "re-education camps" ... or massivew doses of phenothiazines.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, sure, you can look at it that way. But then, my trying to convince you is just as inevitable, so there is no reason to ask for an explanation of why I (morally or aesthetically) should do so. I simply must, and there is nothing more to be said about it.

But there is a reason to ask these questions if we want to theorize which understanding of the world is the "truth".

Everyone I have interacted with at least acts like things matter. Therefore, I conclude that even if people confess that they believe the world to be an inevitable train of events stemming from the the great unknowable non-cause, they act as if things really matter. They act as if a "why" exists.

I think this drive to assign a "why" is empirical evidence that the soul exists. In other words,I feel compelled to have a "why" but can not be sure what others feel. The evidence from even those who only accept a what is that they act as if they too are compelled to have a why.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Arne,

Pardon, but I don't think your hypothetical is very interesting. Its much like "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

It is not a question to gather information, but an inquiry disguised to make anyone foolish enough to take the bait look like a fool. Hardly any surprise that those foolhardy enough to fall into your trap responded with some degree of ignorance.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen,

Your posting above poses some very significant questions. I'm very glad that Cmdicely responded, because I will freely admit that I'm not well equipped to answer them.

I can tell a story, but it won't get you any closer to any coherent answer really. Years ago, a friend of mine became engaged to a funny and quite brilliant woman -- a working marine biologist. At one point or another, I mentioned that I'm an atheist. She was startled, and blurted out something to the effect of, "Well, then, you must think that, like, murder is okay."

I was flabbergasted. However imperfect the results, nonetheless I've always striven to live a "moral" and ethical life. For me, the centerpiece of that is the Golden Rule. It also involves empathy: even if it doesn't come naturally, it is a quality that (I believe) can be trained to some extent. I've never felt that believing in an all-powerful diety could possibly make any difference. Yet here was a kind and smart person, a scientist no less, who seemed to assume that if I'm an atheist, ipso facto, I'm amoral.

My short answer has always been, "Well, empathy is something we evolved because it's beneficial to the herd's long-term survival. And western ethics and morality, to a significant degree, start from the combination of empathy (an emotional state) and the Golden Rule (an intellectual construct)." Of course, that could perhaps be easily demolished by most competent philosophers.

I don't really think any of that amounts to a very satisfying reply to your inquiry. Alas, it's the best I can manage. Again, I think Cmdicely handles it a lot better. But thank you for challenging me with some serious ideas, graciously stated.

-- Roger Keeling

Posted by: Roger Keeling on April 6, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK
I'd say, at bottom, why morality matters is a moot point. Pretty much all human beings outside of sociopaths already FEEL that it matters: they're already willing to stipulate without having to convince them of anything.

Its not entirely a moot point; an agreement on the nature of morality provides a common starting point for resolving disputes on the proper content of a moral code. Most people agree that "morality matters", but even among that vast majority, there is quite a disagreement over what is "moral". So there is certainly a pragmatic purpose to discussion aimed at a common understanding of what morality fundamentally is.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

Pardon, but I don't think your hypothetical is very interesting....

I'm not interested in whether it interests you (that's somethign you'll have to take up with your own conscience). I'm interested in what your answer is.

... Its much like "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

Nope. Not at all. I have no problem answering, and I don't think you should either, regardless of which way you choose to answer ... IF you're principled in your beliefs and ethics.

It is not a question to gather information, but an inquiry disguised to make anyone foolish enough to take the bait look like a fool....

Not at all. See above. FYI, I'd tell the Ol' Goat to FOAD, but that's just me.

But I'm curious: Why do you think that no answer is possible?

Hardly any surprise that those foolhardy enough to fall into your trap responded with some degree of ignorance.

Actually, no fundie has ever responded (they've all seemingly taken your approach) ... strangely enough, seeing there should be no problem in answering either way. IF you truly think that the Word of God is absolute, you'd answer without hesitation, "Where's my .44 auto?" Anything else would be blasphemy, wouldn't it? But NP going on record here; this is just a hypothetical; a thought experiment, so no one's gonna hold you to it ... right?

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Roger -

My only challenge to you is that empirically, I have not heard of a large number of people who had lives both of us would consider immoral being changed by suddenly becoming athiests.

The number or testimonies of changed lives because of a spiritual encounter with God is well documented and as far as I know, not challenged.

This, of course must be balanced by the number of idiots - Jim Jones, certain Popes, ( no more examples given because I do not wish to offend someone by my choice of names )... who have used religion to cause great immorality.

I think that on the whole to take a particular religion here. Christianity is much more a force for good than for evil. Your opinion may be different, but again, I don't see the evidence for atheism causing people to transform from immoral to moral lives.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK
But there is a reason to ask these questions if we want to theorize which understanding of the world is the "truth".

Perhaps, though I don't think it really helps.

Everyone I have interacted with at least acts like things matter.

Which, really, has no probative value, since there are naturalistic explanations for the development and spread of such behaviors without reference to whether or not there is any underlying substance, and the actual underlying substance, though perhaps making the behavior "correct" in some metaphysical sense, doesn't explain the development and spread of the observed behaviors.

Therefore, I conclude that even if people confess that they believe the world to be an inevitable train of events stemming from the the great unknowable non-cause, they act as if things really matter. They act as if a "why" exists.

I think you make a serious error here. They act as if they believe a why exists; that is, they act as you would expect if they believed, on some level, in purpose. And perhaps that's the case. But there are naturalistic explanations for such behavior, whereas, again, the existence of actual transcendent purpose provides no basis for the expectation that people would act in accordance with it.

(And, of course, people don't act consistently with the same why, so even if an actual transcendent purpose did predict that people would generally behave in accordance with it, reality would fail to confirm that hypothesis.)

I think this drive to assign a "why" is empirical evidence that the soul exists. In other words,I feel compelled to have a "why" but can not be sure what others feel. The evidence from even those who only accept a what is that they act as if they too are compelled to have a why.

Even granting, arguendo, that you interpret the evidence correctly insofar as your intermediate conclusion that everyone feels compelled to "have a why", how is that "empirical evidence" for either the claim that there is, in fact, a "why", or that there is, in fact, a soul?

Now, look, I'm a Christian -- I believe in both a transcendent "why" and the soul. But I don't believe that there is, or even conceptually could be, empirical evidence of either.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Arne,

The problem is that there are interesting hypotheticals, and non-interesting ones. Non-interesting ones, like yours, force the non-intelligent person into a trap. Non-interesting ones, like yours, present a situation which is completely divorced from reality.

Not only is it like "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

Its kind of like " O.K. suppose Elanor Roosevelt could fly?"

The best answer to your question is that your hypothetical is in the end, not worth consideration.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, my hypothetical involves an (arguably) extreme situation, designed to pique the conscience and the humanity of perhaps some of even the most ardent believers. But the same fundamental question applies to all such moral strictures: Is there any philosophical and ethical consistency in demurring on the "big" question but letting the little ones, not quite so obvious, slide? But if you kind of agree to one of the less extreme injunctions of a Supreme Being, and others bother you just a tad and seem irrational (eating pork, e.g., or "no graven images") but you're willing to go along with them, then aren't you deciding which laws are "good laws" based on your own better judgement? The only consistent response to the premise that there is an "absolute law" is that this law is in fact absolute, no matter how horrific it is. If so, how do we know that God's good ... or does it simply not make a difference? It would really be a shame to have really been following Beelzebub all these many years.

"If there is a God, he's a malign thug." -- S.L. Clemens

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK
Christianity is much more a force for good than for evil. Your opinion may be different, but again, I don't see the evidence for atheism causing people to transform from immoral to moral lives.

Atheism itself is not a belief system parallel to Christianity; its an element of a belief system, just as theism is an element of Christianity.

Any belief system which has a moral code associated with it -- theistic, atheistic, or holding theism unknown, unknowable, or irrelevant -- will naturally influence the behavior of its adherents and converts. Anecdotally, I've heard plenty of "conversion stories" from exposure to and adoption of new beliefs that were not theistic.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

cmd

Why is not my feeling that I have a soul empirical evidence for the condition? I know my senses can be fooled. I can look at two equal lenght parallel lines one with an arrow attached and one with a outward fork attached


>--

and because of my mind think that one is acutally shorter. But for the most part my senses give me a pretty good description of reality. I am in no way suggesting it is proof. I do say it is evidence.

I do not think that God is provable, I do not think the soul is provable, but I do think we have enough evidence to make a good decision.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Do creationists not realize that "new" fossils are being discovered all the time, and that the fossil record (the evidence against their beliefs) will continue to grow for the forseeable future?

Well, unless the President declares paleontology a terrorist activity.

Posted by: mg56 on April 6, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

My only challenge to you is that empirically, I have not heard of a large number of people who had lives both of us would consider immoral being changed by suddenly becoming athiests.

That's because atheism has no Gawd to just up and forgive you if you'll just accept Jaaayyyzzzuuss as your saviour, because everyone's a sinner, and only this road ... not, you know, like reforming yourself, repenting and repaying those you trespassed, and actually going out and doing good deeds, that's hard work you know, and no fun ... will get you in good with Gawd.

Say, just Google "Atrios right wing family values" and see how some of the more righteous conduct themselves.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen (continuing to evade):

Its kind of like " O.K. suppose Elanor Roosevelt could fly?"

And then we could discuss the aerodynamical implications and the impact on FAA regulations.

As I said before: Your ethics and your philosophy should be able to give you a black-and-white answer to my hypothetical. And if it doesn't, what the h*** kind of ethics is it, anyway?

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen wrote: The real question for athiests to confront is not how morality could evolve, but how it matters.

Something "matters" only if it matters to someone.

There are no objective "values". The ability to value is the essence of subjectivity.

Nothing "has value" unless and until it is valued by someone or something capable of valuing, which is to say some entity with the capacity for subjective experience, in particular the capacity to experience "better" and "worse" states of being.

What matters to you? Or in other words, what do you value? Answer that question, then act accordingly.

That's the only real "morality" there is: act to realize value.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist:

Nothing "has value" unless and until it is valued by someone or something capable of valuing, which is to say some entity with the capacity for subjective experience, in particular the capacity to experience "better" and "worse" states of being.

Calling Jeremy Bentham ... calling Jeremy Bentham ....

At least he used to respond to questions once upon a time. Something to be said for that. ;-)

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK
Why is not my feeling that I have a soul empirical evidence for the condition?

Because its not an observation that corresponds to something that would be predicted to be false if the condition were not true. Heck, its hardly even an "observation" except of the fact of belief, and it involves none of the senses held, as the premise of empiricism, to have a link to external reality.

Your belief in the existence of the soul is no more "empirical evidence" for the existence of the soul than a child's belief in Santa Claus is evidence for the existence of Santa Claus.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't catch anyone responding to McA's demand for a "why" that motivates the conduct of atheists.
So far as I could tell, shortstop got closer than anyone else to a parsimonious response.

Why not?

Think about it for a while before you dismiss it as flippant. It's not simply turning the "why do you not murder others?" question on its head.

Posted by: kenga on April 6, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote: ... the premise of empiricism, to have a link to external reality.

The supposition of "external reality" is not a premise of empiricism.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

kenga wrote: I didn't catch anyone responding to McA's demand for a "why" that motivates the conduct of atheists.

To realize value.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it's only name-dropping if it's done in the context of, "Well I was having baklava and tea with PLATO the other day and he said..."
So I think you're in the clear. *chuckling*"

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 6, 2006 at 1:05 PM

Actually it was Ouzo and stuffed grape leaves, so that's OK then...;-)

Posted by: A Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

"My only challenge to you is that empirically, I have not heard of a large number of people who had lives both of us would consider immoral being changed by suddenly becoming athiests."
Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 3:01 PM

Well, personally, I feel I've become a much better person by shedding my faith; more open minded, more accepting of others, more tolerant, less judgemental, less conlicted by self doubt and hypocrisy.

But that's just me. I also know a few people who became insufferable, self roghtoues assholes after converting to some form of Christianity, so there are counter-examples for you too. Anecdotal, I know, but hey, it's kind of a subjective question anyway.

As for why things matter, well, human behaviour matters to us because we are human beings. Your question implies that morality only matters if there is some external actor for it to matter to, nut there's really no reason to assume so.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hansen, you haven't answered my question. You assert any number of things that, like "soul" are words without actual content. You claim they have something to do with justifying morality in a way inapplicable to atheists. But you've never stated what it is, and positing a "soul" (a concept you still haven't explained the relevance of) certainly isn't any closer than anything else.

I'll grant you any and all leeway: supernatural or natural. I don't ask that you justify any element you want: explain how theists are any better off explaining morality than atheists. You can't do it. The best you can do is handwave, introducing concepts you can't even define, that accomplish nothing with their incoherency.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, wear'd I leeve my spel chequer....?

Posted by: A Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Mr. Hansen seems to have taken a powder.... Maybe way too much thinkin' goin' on.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

plunge-

The problem is not with athiests, the problem is with a completely naturalist look at the world.

In a completely naturalist world there is no "me" who makes decisions it is only the effect of chemicals.

Please substitute the words "causal agent" for soul. The real problem is If there is no such a thing as "me" which has the ability to actually make decisions and has a causal effect on the world, I can't really be judged.

You can say that in this evolved completely naturalist world - there are bodies which obey rules which through natural selection seem optimized for promoting the success of the society, but you have no basis for judging those who don't follow the optimized rules. You can only cite that they are the beings destined for desturction because of non-optimal moral evolution.

Its like a post a few months ago from Kevin Drum where he wanted desperately to posit that torture was wrong - but his atheism didn't give him the moral authority that would allow him to posit this.

To me morality does not really exist if there are no causal agents. This is what I call souls.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I was in a meeting.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

"In a completely naturalist world there is no "me" who makes decisions it is only the effect of chemicals."

Merely being able to explain something does not mean that it is meaningless. I can explain all the parts of a car, that doesn't mean there is no "car" that can "drive."

"Please substitute the words "causal agent" for soul. The real problem is If there is no such a thing as "me" which has the ability to actually make decisions and has a causal effect on the world, I can't really be judged."

This problem exists just as much for a soul as with anything else. Merely making something supernatural doesn't help unravel the philosophical riddle at all. We're still left with the problem that to be judged, we must be responsible, but if we are responsible, then we must BE something causally related to our choices, in which case we don't determine them.

"but you have no basis for judging those who don't follow the optimized rules."

Why not? My judgements are VALUES, not objective facts. I can judge people as I darn well please according to the moral standards I hold.

"To me morality does not really exist if there are no causal agents. This is what I call souls."

But you're so far incapable of explaining what a "causal agent" is that's in some way relevant to morality. Merely adding some extra piece of inscrutible terminology doesn't actually explain anything.

Posted by: plunge on April 6, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen: In a completely naturalist world there is no "me" who makes decisions it is only the effect of chemicals [...] If there is no such a thing as "me" which has the ability to actually make decisions and has a causal effect on the world, I can't really be judged.

One of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha is that there is no self. Yet Buddha also taught ethical precepts for human behavior. The purpose of the Buddhist ethical precepts is to liberate sentient beings from suffering. There is no such thing as "judgement", no such thing as "sin" -- just actions which tend to create suffering, and actions which lead to liberation from suffering.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK
The problem is not with athiests, the problem is with a completely naturalist look at the world.

In a completely naturalist world there is no "me" who makes decisions it is only the effect of chemicals.

Sure there is a "you" just as there is a "rock" and a "Sun". Sure, all of those are made up of components just like everything else, and are products of underlying processes, and sure, the boundaries are fuzzy rather than blurry. But, at an appropriate level of analysis, they are useful ways of carving up the natural universe.

Please substitute the words "causal agent" for soul.

I'm not sure what you think that gets you.

The real problem is If there is no such a thing as "me" which has the ability to actually make decisions and has a causal effect on the world, I can't really be judged.

Sure, you can. Maybe you find it aesthetically displeasing to judge someone without them having one of these supernatural "causal agent" thingies, but an appeal to inconvenience of a proposition to your preferred aesthetic scheme -- i.e., one in which you feel happy judging and being judged -- is not an argument that the proposition is in fact false, it is an argument for why you'd like the proposition to be false.

Wanting their to be a soul, er, "causal agent", because it has consequences attractive to your personal aesthetics is nice, and all, but its hardly a convincing argument that such an agent exists.

You can say that in this evolved completely naturalist world - there are bodies which obey rules which through natural selection seem optimized for promoting the success of the society, but you have no basis for judging those who don't follow the optimized rules.

Which would explain why the truly wise in such a world be very much against judging others. (Of course, "optimized for promoting the success of society" is sloppy; societies aren't the replicating units at issue, though they are superficial product of various replicators [genes, memes].)

Its like a post a few months ago from Kevin Drum where he wanted desperately to posit that torture was wrong - but his atheism didn't give him the moral authority that would allow him to posit this.

Kevin Drum has trouble taking stands. It has little to do with atheism, per se, though his worldview certainly includes atheism. Many atheists have no problem with finding torture to be wrong without hesitation. Conversely, many theists share Drum's hesitation.

To me morality does not really exist if there are no causal agents.

So? Lots of things don't really fundamentally exist as independent "things", they are just convenient pragmatic abstractions that don't have clear boundaries when you examine things in other ways. It makes no practical difference in the material universe if morality "actually exists" in some kind of fundamental sense, or if it is purely a subjective contrivance, it can be applied just as easily with the same practical results.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote: Lots of things don't really fundamentally exist as independent "things", they are just convenient pragmatic abstractions that don't have clear boundaries when you examine things in other ways.

And of course, Buddha taught that nothing fundamentally exists as an independent "thing".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Many atheists have no problem with finding torture to be wrong without hesitation. Conversely, many theists share Drum's hesitation."

A recent poll found that a substantial majority of Americans, both seculars and religionists, believe that torture is sometimes justified.

Interestingly, Catholics approve of torture even more than protestants and seculars.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Which would explain why the truly wise in such a world be very much against judging others.

cmd-

I read your argument, but doesn't this statement given above destroy your argument. You say that in a world with no "causal agent" thingies the truly wise would be very much against judging others.

So here is a difference between the naturalist world and the religious world. In the naturalist world, according to your statement - true wisdom would be not judging.

In my version of the Christian world view we are called to make judgements about each others behavior, not to condemn each other, but to be able to help each other toward better behavior. Gal 6:1

I believe this ability to make judgements is a necessity for the survival of the society and where it this judgment is thrown out becuase it is not aesthetically pleasing, bad behavior causes much suffering.

This is no proof of the soul or morality, it is just a description of which I think leads to a better life. You have come up with a place where it seems to make a difference.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen,

Some outcomes are caused. The rest, if there are any others, are uncaused (they're "random," or they "just happen"). Neither kind of outcome seems to fit your notion of free will. But what other kind of outcome could there possibly be?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Don P posting as "Dinasaw" wrote: Some outcomes are caused. The rest, if there are any others, are uncaused (they're "random," or they "just happen"). Neither kind of outcome seems to fit your notion of free will. But what other kind of outcome could there possibly be?

Since everything you write is the product of blind, mechanical forces, why should anyone possibly care about it?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 6, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

floopmeister,

"And yet, the great majority of nonreligious people would choose not to, for moral reasons. So, if I agree with your valid point, on what basis are these people choosing to make moral judgements if not through religious belief?"

I don't know. I was asking you about your justification for your moral values. Your previous claim that they are justified by "social function" doesn't work, and I doubt you'd use it consistently anyway (if it were shown that, say, institutionalized slavery improved social function, would slavery then be moral, in your view?)

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief."

Why?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK
A recent poll found that a substantial majority of Americans, both seculars and religionists, believe that torture is sometimes justified.

Assuming you are referring to the Pew Poll, I'd like to see any evidence of this; every secondary report I've seen has only reported the following categories: Total, Catholics, White Protestant, White Evangelical, and Secular, and Pew's usual demographic breakdowns in their released data don't include all Protestants as a group (indeed, they usually break out "White Protestant" and "White Catholic" only, and those numbers frequently get reported as "Protestant" and "Catholic" numbers.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK
I read your argument, but doesn't this statement given above destroy your argument. You say that in a world with no "causal agent" thingies the truly wise would be very much against judging others.

No, it doesn't destroy my argument.

Wise people say that in religious contexts, too (e.g., Jesus.)


So here is a difference between the naturalist world and the religious world. In the naturalist world, according to your statement - true wisdom would be not judging.

In a Christian world, according to me (and most of the priests I've met, my RCIA group leaders, the Gospels, etc.), not judging others would also be true wisdom. So I don't see it as a different.

In my version of the Christian world view we are called to make judgements about each others behavior, not to condemn each other, but to be able to help each other toward better behavior. Gal 6:1

Evaluations of the desirability, appropriateness, morality, or aesthetic value of others behavior are distinct from judgements of others. When I said the truly wise would be against "judging others" I meant that they would be against "judging others".

Nothing about the naturalistic worldview precludes or makes unwise such evaluation of particular behaviors. Sure, in one sense the behavior is inevitable, but in the same sense, so is the evaluation. On another level of analysis, though, the evaluation itself is a behavior with pragmatically useful results.


I believe this ability to make judgements is a necessity for the survival of the society and where it this judgment is thrown out becuase it is not aesthetically pleasing, bad behavior causes much suffering.

Certainly, the ability to make evaluations of behaviors and respond based on them has pragmatic utility and, therefore, is neither unwise nor undesirable nor without justification in a purely mechanistic universe without "souls", "Gods", or "Flying spaghetti monsters".


This is no proof of the soul or morality, it is just a description of which I think leads to a better life. You have come up with a place where it seems to make a difference.

No, I haven't; "souls" or external, fundamentally "real" morality make no difference at all in this area.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

Maybe you don't find it "interesting", but I'd still like to know your answer to my question. For that matter, I'd be curious as to what some other theists here might think as well. Cmdicely?

It's actually a good question for atheists as well, seeing as they don't believe in a god (or gods). But if they were (just as hypothetically as you) faced with a god that they did not believe in, what would their response be?

As I've stated above: for myself, I'd tell the ol' goat to FOAD, even if I were convinced (by whatever means) he was a god. I've got my standards, you know, and there's certain things I just won't do. ;-)

So, John, now that I've "make [myself] foolish enough to take the bait [and] look like a fool," howzabout you? Or would some time to peruse the Bible first be of help....

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Assuming you are referring to the Pew Poll, I'd like to see any evidence of this; every secondary report I've seen has only reported the following categories: Total, Catholics, White Protestant, White Evangelical, and Secular,"

White Protestants plus Catholics comprise the overwhelming majority of religious adherents in America. Perhaps adding in the small number of remaining religionists (black Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) would significantly reduce the level of support for torture amoung religionists in total, but I doubt it.

In any case, white protestants support torture more than seculars, and Catholics support torture more than both white protestants and seculars.

Ah, those torture-loving Catholics. Maybe it's nostalgia for the Inquisition.

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,
"Evaluations of the desirability, appropriateness, morality, or aesthetic value of others behavior are distinct from judgements of others."

This claim is a favorite of religious bigots, an attempt to immunize themselves against the charge of bigotry by pretending that you can neatly distinguish the behavior from person. If they really believe that when they condemn, for example, the sexual relationships of gay people, as evil, immoral, satanic, disgusting, sinful, ungodly, etc., etc. they're not saying anything bad about gay people, the only ones they're fooling is themselves. Gay people know full well that an attack on their relationships is an attack on their identity, an attack on who they are as human beings. I suspect most of the people who claim that they "love the sinner but hate the sin" also know that they're attacking the person. They just lack the honesty to admit it.

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

cmicely,
"Now, look, I'm a Christian -- I believe in both a transcendent "why" and the soul. But I don't believe that there is, or even conceptually could be, empirical evidence of either."

If there cannot be empirical evidence of your soul, how can your soul influence your behavior? If it does influence your behavior, it can be studied, at least in principle, using the methods of science. And if your soul doesn't influence your behavior, how can God justly decide its fate on the basis of your behavior?

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Assuming you are referring to the Pew Poll, I'd like to see any evidence of this;

The evidence is right there. The poll found that support for torture amoung the subgroup "secular" is lower than support for torture amoung Americans overall. Therefore, support for torture amoung the subgroup "non-secular" (that is, religionists) must be higher than support for torture amoung both seculars and Americans overall.

Posted by: e1 on April 6, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

White Protestants plus Catholics comprise the overwhelming majority of religious adherents in America.

Irrelevant. The claim was that there was a specific relationship shown between the views of Catholics and Protestants.

I've asked for evidence that there is a poll showing that, since the usually cited Pew poll does not, according to every report I can find, report on Protestants as a whole, it reports the views of White Protestants. (While I can't find a demographic breakdown of the new poll on their website, the 2004 report from Pew covering the same issue breaks down only by White Catholic, White Protestant, and White Evangelical, which is typical of Pew, as the religious groups, and Pew is usually consistent in the breakdown they provide, so I am actually somewhat suspicious of the secondary sources characterizing the categories as "Catholics, White Protestants, and White Evangelicals", since it seems odd that Pew would change their usual reporting for only one of the categories.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

This claim is a favorite of religious bigots, an attempt to immunize themselves against the charge of bigotry by pretending that you can neatly distinguish the behavior from person.

So? Whether or not religious bigots lie when they claim to make the distinction, it remains a real distinction.

There is a difference between saying that a person engaged in a bad behavior and saying that they are a bad person.

The fact that some people say they recognize that distinction and then act inconsistently with it does not make the distinction invalid, it makes the people saying imperfect examplars of their stated values or just outright dishonest.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK
If there cannot be empirical evidence of your soul, how can your soul influence your behavior?

I don't recall asserting that the soul influences behavior.

If it does influence your behavior, it can be studied, at least in principle, using the methods of science.

I disagree that this is necessarily true; it is only true if the soul's "content" is either constant or a pure function of the physical universe, in which case the soul is indistinguishable from a process within the physical universe and would be a simple mechanistic natural process.

If the soul is non-constant and its changes cannot be predicted from the content of the physical universe, any influence it might have on behavior would be random from the point of view of empirical study, and the only evidence for it would be the failure to reduce all behavior to deterministic processes. Hence, it could be disproven only by a complete deterministic explanation of all behavior, which I suppose is at the limit of the conceptually possible (so I overstated the case).

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Irrelevant. The claim was that there was a specific relationship shown between the views of Catholics and Protestants."

No, that was not the claim. You didn't even read the text you quoted. Here is that text again:

"A recent poll found that a substantial majority of Americans, both seculars and religionists, believe that torture is sometimes justified."

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 6, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK
And if your soul doesn't influence your behavior, how can God justly decide its fate on the basis of your behavior?

I don't recall claiming that God decides the fate of the soul based on human behavior.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 6, 2006 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"So? Whether or not religious bigots lie when they claim to make the distinction, it remains a real distinction."

No, it is not a real distinction. An attack on gay relationships is an attack on gay people.

When the Catholic Church, for example, attacks all acts of gay sex, without exception, as an "intrinsic moral evil," when it attacks all gay parenting as "violence" against a child, it is most definitely attacking gay people.

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"I don't recall claiming that God decides the fate of the soul based on human behavior."

You claim to be a Christian. And more specifically, a Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches that all sorts of behaviors, from masturbation to abortion, imperil one's immortal soul.

If you don't believe that God decides the fate of your soul on the basis of your behavior, what do you believe he decides it on?

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"it is only true if the soul's "content" is either constant or a pure function of the physical universe,"

What is "if the soul's "content" is either constant or a pure function of the physical universe" supposed to mean? What do you mean by the soul's "content?" What do you mean by the soul's "content" being "constant?" What do you mean by "a pure function of the physical universe?"

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"If the soul is non-constant and its changes cannot be predicted from the content of the physical universe, any influence it might have on behavior would be random from the point of view of empirical study, "

If the soul influences behavior at all then the soul is subject to empirical study. If the influence were observed to be random, that would not mean it wasn't an empirical phenomenon, it would just mean that it was a random one. But you previously said: "I don't believe that there is, or even conceptually could be, empirical evidence of" a soul at all.

"and the only evidence for it would be the failure to reduce all behavior to deterministic processes. Hence, it could be disproven only by a complete deterministic explanation of all behavior, which I suppose is at the limit of the conceptually possible (so I overstated the case)."

You didn't "overstate your case." You're flatly contradicting your previous claim that empirical evidence for a soul is impossible. Make up your mind.

Posted by: major on April 6, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

The belief that human beings have value, in and of themselves.
....

Look at Confucius - the greatest value would appear to be obeying social conventions, parents, and established tradition. There's the tripartite basis of Confucian morality.

Humanism has never been a universal value over history - look at slavery or the Declaration of Human Rights.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 6, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying that religion can is justified without a leap of faith.

I'm just pointing out that atheists have to make up a belief to justify morality, in the absence of anyone watching. eg. humankind's essential evolving morality. In consensus morality. In evolution (in the face of science to show the opposite). Just cause it is.

But that argument does not explain evil in history e.g. the degeneration of Confucian society into Communism,etc.

It does not have a consistent mechanic to be 'good' no one is watching that is consistent with evolutionary science.

Where as the existance of an afterlife and a God who judges does. The 'evil' on this earth is just part of a very short physical life prior to your eternal life. Like how you tell little girls that braces will come off and they'll be happy they had them.

The other alternative is secular animists hedonism, 'do what thou wilt is the whole of the law' and to 'realise value'. Well, that's to realise value for yourself from your viewpoint.
Sure, that's not automatically selfish if you get a kick from charity, but for many people it will be.

So since they don't and I don't want to be an amoral person. Belief is worth investigating.

I note again, atheists have no answer to the question that defies the same analysis they apply to the existance of God. Just different buzzwords.
Any then they attack God to vent. That's not going
to help is it?

I am saved by faith. I know my beliefs are a belief. I have already chose to trust and wait for answers to some question. And I have the advantage of spiritual experiences as evidence thanks to God' Grace.

Where as you silly atheists, keep telling yourself you are all about reason...and yet you are so dependent on consience. Without testing on its ability to explain historical evil or its fit with evolutionary theory.

Reason or trying to justify an existing position?


Posted by: McA on April 6, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Here are some examples of what the Catholic Church says about homosexuality, gay people and gay parents, in its recent document on the subject:

Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.

First, note the repeated dehumanizing references to gay sexual relationships by the Catholic Church as "homosexual acts." Straight couples make love. Gay couples merely engage in "homosexual acts." Second, note the claim that gay sex is both "unnatural" and that gay love is counterfeit (not "genuine"). More dehumanization. The document continues:

Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts as a serious depravity...homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered... The homosexual inclination is however objectively disordered and homosexual practices are sins gravely contrary to chastity....

Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life....

Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children

So let's summarize: According to the Catholic Church, gay sexual relationships are "unnatural," "evil," "intrinsically disordered," "grave sins" and "not human." Gay love is not "genuine" and being gay is "objectively disordered." If a gay couple raises a child, they are doing "violence" to that child. And that's just some of the despicable things the Catholic Church says in just one of its documents.

And you're seriously claiming that this is not an attack on gay people, gay families, gay parents, are you?


Posted by: e1 on April 6, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

McA sez:

It does not have a consistent mechanic to be 'good' no one is watching that is consistent with evolutionary science.

Where as the existance of an afterlife and a God who judges does. The 'evil' on this earth is just part of a very short physical life prior to your eternal life. Like how you tell little girls that braces will come off and they'll be happy they had them.

The other alternative is secular animists hedonism, 'do what thou wilt is the whole of the law' and to 'realise value'. Well, that's to realise value for yourself from your viewpoint.

I think you mistake Aleister Crowley's religion (yes, another religion, not atheism): "Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law", for what SecularAnimist's views are. He was just offering a counterpoint to Rand's ethics, not espousing it himself. You do know who Aleister Crowley was, don't you?

But I'd note that you commit a big whopping fallacy of bifurcation here. Shame on you. Now apologise.

But I don't understand why you think that there's no reason (or even evolutionary benefit) in "doing the right thing" when no one is watching. Not a game theory fan, are you? Ever look into such things as "repetitive (or iterated) Prisoner's dilemma"? Doubt it. Bears on strategies even when concerned with only one's own self-interest. But modifications to the scenarios can shed light on whether player's knowledge of other's behaviour is essential to influencing the "correct" behaviour.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

When I said the truly wise would be against "judging others" I meant that they would be against "judging others"

cmdicely,

Thanks for the clarification. I am just very used to people abusing Matthew 7:1 to say we can't judge behavior. I should know by now you are not sloppy with your choice of words.

Certainly the theist should be the last one to take the place of God and "judge others".

A problem I see is that in with an atheistic, naturalistic point of view I think people are much more susceptible to the confusion between judgement of people and judgement of behavior. For example the complaint of "major" above.

I know theists are not immune to this confusion also, but a theist has the advantage of an absolute reference point. Of course this makes it absolutely important to have the correct reference point.

All of this does not make it any easier to posit a convincing argument for the soul. I must admit that your argument above,

Me:

Why is not my feeling that I have a soul empirical evidence for the condition?

You:

Because its not an observation that corresponds to something that would be predicted to be false if the condition were not true.

did throw me for quite a loop at first. But I don't quite agree. As human beings we seem to be trapped inside this anthropomorphic cage. We even have a tendency to describe animal behavior, scientific processes through the language of the exercise of will. Evolutionists routinely talk of evolution as if it has a "desire" to move to more complex organisms. I never take this as an argument against evolution because I understand their temptation to express tendencies in anthropomorphic tone.

But I am not quite convinced that this anthropomorphic cage is the only possible existence with a consciousness. I can't quite imagine one right now, but that does not mean they do not exist. Therefore the feeling that I have a certain type of soul, the type that sees itself as a causitive agent, and by the behavior of others, I determine that they also believe they are the type of soul that is a causitive agent. I posit that the evidence is tilted in favor of the genuine existence of the soul as a causitive agent.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 6, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Here is the National Catholic Reporter's article on the Pew torture poll. Presumably, the NCR is not likely to try and spin the poll to make Catholics look even worse than they already are.

Here are the findings:

Amoung all Catholics ("Total Catholics"), a whopping 21% believe torture of suspected terrorists is "often" justified. This is over twice the proportion of "Seculars" who believe that, and over half as much again as "White Evangelicals" who believe it.

A mere 26% of all Catholics believe torture is "never" justified. This is significantly lower than the equivalent number for White Evangelicals (31%), and much lower than the equivalent number for Seculars (41%).

Still, what do you expect from the members of a religion that says gay parents are doing "violence" to their children.

Posted by: e1 on April 6, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

McA:

I note again, atheists have no answer to the question that defies the same analysis they apply to the existance of God.

Neither do you. You just have the mistaken belief you do.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Neither do you. You just have the mistaken belief you do.

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, how do you know I'm wrong?

I'd say you just have a mistaken belief that forces you to invent a buzzword to justify the obvious.

There's right and wrong and something divine involved in that distinction.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Arguably, faith should only be treated as a legitimate basis for belief for certain categories of claims, which do not overlap those for which science provides a legitimate basis for belief."

Why?


Posted by: Dinasaw on April 7, 2006 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

But I'd note that you commit a big whopping fallacy of bifurcation here. Shame on you. Now apologise.

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if he disowns those views, cool. But he's maintained them fairly often. No fallacy of bifurcation here. Do you have the third option for me to knock down?

-----------------

Not a game theory fan, are you? Ever look into such things as "repetitive (or iterated) Prisoner's dilemma"? Doubt it. Bears on strategies even when concerned with only one's own self-interest. But modifications to the scenarios can shed light on whether player's knowledge of other's behaviour is essential to influencing the "correct" behaviour.

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 6, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I know game theory very well.

You'll find the game theory shows self-interest involves a 'reputation' effect based on retaliation against someone with a bad rep.

Prisoner's Dilemma is a situation that favors backstabbing. You need some kind of retaliation in future situations to prevent it.

You see, Atheists and their buzzwords.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

I know theists are not immune to this confusion also, but a theist has the advantage of an absolute reference point. Of course this makes it absolutely important to have the correct reference point.

How to pick, how to pick.... Gosh, there's thousands ... if not billions, if you grant that each person can and probably does pick see even the same religion slightly differently ... if not really an infinite number of potential religions (and gods) limited only by the vast imagination and creativity of the human mind....

Well, we could just throw darts at a dart board and let the guiding hand of God guide us home ... unless, maybe, Satan's there in the mix blowing puffs of air at inopportune times. Or we could just look at the "evidence" (such as there is, which ain't very much, unfortunately). Oh, I know: We could look at the competing candidates and decode which one really makes the most sense and acts most like a God-based (i.e., "good") religion. But waiddaminnit: If we do that, aren't we once again the arbiters of good and evil? ;-)

I do have another bone to pick with you (not to mention wanting an honest answer to my question above): Seems a lot of people confuse the ideas of precision and accuracy. I got fooled by the allure of precision many years ago when I was still a teenager, but I've gotten beyond that. Precision is a measure of how closely (and repeatably) a measurement process determines a value ()is it +/- 10%, +/- 1%, or maybe very precisely with a range of only +/- 1 part in a billion. Accuracy has to do with how close the measured value really comes to the actual value. While it's true that the two are usually correlated, it is true that you may have a measuring device that is quite precise, but wholly inaccurate, and you may have one that is quite accurate but not as precise as those that are more precise. One main way this can happen is if your calibration is wrong. If you tare a modern digital scale with a paper cup, but then go measuring your salad on a ceramic plate, you have very precise but wholly inaccurate numbers. If you'd used a balance scale with a proper tare, you might have gotten an answer which, though not precise, was actually quite a bit more accurate. Just seeing 7 digits of precision is no guarantee of accuracy; you may be off by a mile.

How does that apply here? Well, you seem to revere the precision of your "absolute reference" point. It's arbitrarily, infinitely precise. But if you have chosen the wrong measurement scheme, your precision will only ensure that you're precisely wrong. Sometimes, it's better to know you're in the ball park, even if you don't have the answer to each and every question. And sometimes, the best way to see if you're actually in the ball park is to take your eyes from the microscope, put your head up, look around, and see if the whole big picture makes sense ... for yourself. See what I mean? But, agreed, that doesn't have the simplicity of having someone read off a long string of "absolutes" to you so you don't have to bother to think, but you're still in possession of "all the answers"....

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen,

You still don't seem to have really thought about what you mean by free will. Free will is not causation, right? It's not "If A, then B." And it's not randomness, either, right? It's not like deciding what to do based on the toss of a coin. So what, exactly, is it? What other possibility is there besides an outcome that is caused ("If A, then B"), and an outcome that is uncaused (random)? How does an outcome that you "choose" using "free will" differ from both a caused outcome and an uncaused one? Don't you see the fundamental conceptual problem?

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 7, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK
McA 11:15 PM: I'm just pointing out that atheists have to make up a belief to justify morality...
Religion is nothing more than a belief system to justify morality, one that also invents a power of "evil" to justify incidents in history or daily life that seem contrary to the power of your concept of god. One could save a lot of religious theological hair splitting by assuming that god is evil. The humanist explanation of "evil" is the unfortunate desire for power innate in the human psychology.
The other alternative is secular animists hedonism, ...
You can find the religious counterpart of that in Antinomianism. It is a belief apparently held by many born-again Christians who have accepted Jesus as their savior and; since they are saved by faith, good deeds are unnecessary. I have never read anything by you that would show that you are an adherent of any faith except unbridled capitalism. Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK
Ayn Rand developed a consistent and workable theory of atheist morality. tbrosz at 1:58 AM
"Greed is good" and Social Darwinism are not morality and not, in the long term, workable. Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

If greed isn't good, at least in some situations, it would have been selected out of the population long ago. It is obvious that there are situations in which it benefits an organism to behave selfishly, at the expense of others, especially if no one else sees it. This applies to human organisms as well as other species. Ditto for our tendencies towards racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other traits that have come to be seen as undesirable in modern society.

Posted by: major on April 7, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

The (iterated) Prisoner's Dilemma is an illustration of how a tendency to cooperate in certain situations is a plausible evolutionary scenario. It doesn't support any general principle that "cooperation is better than competition" or "generosity works better than greed" or whatever. A cooperative strategy works best in the Prisoner's Dilemma only if the conditions are just right, if the cost/benefit ratio of cooperation vs. defection is just right, if your defections are visible to your opponent, and so on. Change the conditions, and a much more ruthless, punitive strategy might work better. But even the strategy that works best in the standard version of the game, "tit-for-tat," isn't exactly a model of altruism and selflessness. It ruthlessly punishes defectors and cooperates only with opponents who cooperate themselves. It's much more "an eye for an eye" than "turn the other cheek."

Posted by: Dinasaw on April 7, 2006 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

Arne,

Having taught Physics at UCLA, I am well aware of the difference between precision and accuracy. No lecture needed.

So how do I get into the right ballpark. Well for one thing I don't veer off into ideas which are brand new on the morality scene. Modern man is so arrogant to think that his greater technical understanding gives him better moral understanding. Truly some of the worst immoralities of all time have been some of the events of the 20th century.

Judaism is a religion where people have studied what is moral and what is not for hundreds of years. The prophets of the Old Testament and the proverbs speak to the ageless problems of personal morality. Granted these have to be updated sometimes, but I think a man can be greatly moral simply by reading the OT.

Now for pinpoint accuracy. Nothing I can interpret for myself can work. I am an imperfect man - I know my tendency to make shaky conclusions based on what I want the result to be.

Fortuneately I do not have to rely on my own judgement. God has already come down to earth to take care of this very thing. He was born of a virgin. He lived a perfect life. He died on a cross. He rose again. He promises if I believe in him - not only will he give me eternal life but he will be an inner presence helping me to make the correct moral decisions.

According to my experience, Jesus is just who he says he was.

Can I give you proof of this. No. But isn't it strange that almost 2000 years after his death and resurrection we are still talking about him.

Keith Green noted that in his searches for the absolute reference point, every spiritual leader pointed out how similar their teachings were to Jesus, He finally was convinced when he thought - and I paraphrase - "They all point to Jesus, but Jesus points only to himself". In my estimation "I am the way, the truth, the life...:" remains the most important statement about morality in the world.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 7, 2006 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we could just throw darts at a dart board and let the guiding hand of God guide us home ...

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, that's what people do on spiritual issues. They pray and let God guide them.

With a multiplicity of religions, I wouldn't pick one on sheer logic. I would check out the major ones though.

Here's a question for you. Have you tried at all or is atheism just an excuse?

And if you tried, what was the criteria you needed for him to convince you?

I found most atheists don't dare name a resonable postulate, because they are terrified that God is real.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

You can find the religious counterpart of that in Antinomianism. It is a belief apparently held by many born-again Christians who have accepted Jesus as their savior and; since they are saved by faith, good deeds are unnecessary.

Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Sure. But you can always just avoid those teachings. They are inconsistent with the Book of James(?).

Just as atheists like to diss God for cool points, but instinctively recognize amorality is wrong.

I'm just saying that a belief in a loving, righteous God is as rational as believing my sense of decency exists and should be followed.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Dinasaw:

The (iterated) Prisoner's Dilemma is an illustration of how a tendency to cooperate in certain situations is a plausible evolutionary scenario. It doesn't support any general principle that "cooperation is better than competition" or "generosity works better than greed" or whatever.

Your point? Did I ever say such a thing? Or for that matter, did Jesus or Ayn Rand (or whoever) say any similar type general statement (or the contrary)?

You seem to miss the point that in such situations (as well as situations such as symbiosis or communal behaviour) the definitions of "generosity", "greed", and such tend to lose their meanings. Depending on circumstances (and viewpoint), these words can mean the opposite of the immediate intuitive sense.

Parenthetically, I'd note just off-the-cuff that Crowley's "do as thou will" was hardly a blanket "get out of jail free card" for any arbitrary behaviour no matter how irrational (or even self-centred). Such would hardly be anything worthy of being considered an ethic. While I don't agree with him or his reasoning, it was not intended to be some meaningless and vacuous stricture.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

So how do I get into the right ballpark. Well for one thing I don't veer off into ideas which are brand new on the morality scene....

Why? I'd note that Christianity was "new" at one point too.

... Modern man is so arrogant to think that his greater technical understanding gives him better moral understanding. Truly some of the worst immoralities of all time have been some of the events of the 20th century.

Not sure I share your views here. The Bible itself is rife with tales of carnage, rape, and genocide. That is, if you believe that stuff.

Judaism is a religion where people have studied what is moral and what is not for hundreds of years....

"Hundreds"? ;-)

... The prophets of the Old Testament and the proverbs speak to the ageless problems of personal morality. Granted these have to be updated sometimes, but I think a man can be greatly moral simply by reading the OT.

Wow. Morality is always been something society has been thinking about? Colour me surprised....

Now for pinpoint accuracy. Nothing I can interpret for myself can work....

Oh, really. How about "meta-interpret"? How about "rely on someone else's interpretation"? How about "read a book about it"?

... I am an imperfect man - I know my tendency to make shaky conclusions based on what I want the result to be.

Therapy may help. ;-)

Fortuneately I do not have to rely on my own judgement. God has already come down to earth to take care of this very thing. He was born of a virgin. He lived a perfect life. He died on a cross. He rose again. He promises if I believe in him - not only will he give me eternal life but he will be an inner presence helping me to make the correct moral decisions.

That is, if you believe someone's "interpretation". Without question, I may add.

According to my experience, Jesus is just who he says he was.

You've "experienced" Jesus?

Perhaps therapy is not sufficient. There's drugs for that. ;-)

Seriously, don't you think you ought to look more closely at where you're getting all your information? Once you do, I'm sure you'll see that you've simply moved your own private doubts and uncertainty off on to other humans (who, logically, should be just as fallible as you). So how did that help matters?

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

"Jesus is just who he says he was."

Jesus was actually Horus (among others) before he was Jesus...religious myths are humanity's expression of their hopes and fears and moral reasoning, and therefore of great value, but I see no need to take them as literal, historical fact. In fact I think that's where religious thinking breaks down and becomes useless otr even dangerous. Dogmatic insistence on acceptance of the details of a particular version of the myth become more important than the message behind the myth (that we are all brothers and sisters, that it is better to love one another than to hate, etc.)

Any claim to an "absolute" moral reference point, especially a supernatural one external to actual human needs, is not very convincing, Mr. Hansen. The morale behaviour of the God described in the Bible is much too inconsistent to be useful as an absolute example.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 7, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

"Jesus was actually Horus"

Really. This is news to me as I have never heard of Horus.

I am curious though. Can you point me to a historical account of a contemporary of Horus who went to his death because he would not recant that Horus had died and risen again?

Posted by: John Hansen on April 7, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, don't you think you ought to look more closely at where you're getting all your information? Once you do, I'm sure you'll see that you've simply moved your own private doubts and uncertainty off on to other humans (who, logically, should be just as fallible as you). So how did that help matters?

Yes, but in my case this movement of my own private doubts, to other humans just as fallible as me has a stopping point in Jesus. In other words, there is a consistent train of people who spoke of Jesus and his death and resurrection right back to the very time of the event.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 7, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

McA wrote: The other alternative is secular animists hedonism, 'do what thou wilt is the whole of the law' and to 'realise value'. Well, that's to realise value for yourself from your viewpoint.

That's exactly right. And that's exactly what you do with your every volitional act, is to try to realize value -- whatever it is that you value.

Arne Langsetmo wrote: I think you mistake Aleister Crowley's religion (yes, another religion, not atheism): "Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law", for what SecularAnimist's views are. He was just offering a counterpoint to Rand's ethics, not espousing it himself.

When Aleister Crowley wrote "Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" he was adopting as his own motto a statement which (he claimed) originated with the Greco-Egytpion cult of Thelema. I don't espouse Crowley's religious or pseudo-religious belief system or mythological framework, or whatever you'd care to call it. Nor does my own "will" lead me to embrace the practices of dissipation and debauchery for which Crowley was infamous.

However, I do espouse "Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law" as a consistent and complete moral law. And it is truly a law, in the sense of a natural law like the "law of universal gravitation", not just an injunction or admonition. In fact, with regard to volitional actions, which are the subject matter of ethics and morality, you cannot act in any other way.

What "do as thou will shall be the whole of the law" means to me is: have the courage to act in accordance with your beliefs to realize whatever you value, and accept full responsibility for your actions.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 7, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

Yes, but in my case this movement of my own private doubts, to other humans just as fallible as me has a stopping point in Jesus. In other words, there is a consistent train of people who spoke of Jesus and his death and resurrection right back to the very time of the event.

Ever play "Telephone"? ;-)

Most of those people are/were just as clueless as you. And when you put that many fallible people between you and the source, there's enormous room for error and/or dishonesty.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist:

What "do as thou will shall be the whole of the law" means to me is: have the courage to act in accordance with your beliefs to realize whatever you value, and accept full responsibility for your actions.

Actually, Crowley seems to have had some similar notions (as I hinted, it wasn't a "get out of jail free card", but rather an imperative to individualised but nonetheless specific and at least somewhat constrained ethics). But then Crowley and you seem to have taken different paths from that point on. If I may be allowed to pun here, "The Devil's in the details...."

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

You've "experienced" Jesus?

Perhaps therapy is not sufficient. There's drugs for that. ;-)

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

Which is why atheists don't get sent messages, they'd end up on medication.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Such would hardly be anything worthy of being considered an ethic. While I don't agree with him or his reasoning, it was not intended to be some meaningless and vacuous stricture.

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Well, its all you have if you stick to what is consistent with historical evil and evolution.

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

What "do as thou will shall be the whole of the law" means to me is: have the courage to act in accordance with your beliefs to realize whatever you value, and accept full responsibility for your actions.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 7, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

And if you value cheating on your wife and know you won't get caught?

Posted by: mca on April 7, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

And when you put that many fallible people between you and the source, there's enormous room for error and/or dishonesty.

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Really. Kinda like relying on the human race to all have the same 'consience' so good is self-rewarding....

Even if there wasn't any distance, you'd make up room. Atheists. If god spoke to them from a pillar of fire, they'd be looking for natural gas deposits and theorizing "how these rocks make the flames sound like words..."

Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

McA:

Well, its all you have if you stick to what is consistent with historical evil and evolution.

The ol' fallacy of bifurcation gets trotted out once more. That old nag's flea-bitten and half dead, McA, and she never was much of a runner....

Really. Kinda like relying on the human race to all have the same 'consience' so good is self-rewarding....

Toss in a "straw man" too just for good measure? Keep it up, and maybe you can complete the cycle....

Even if there wasn't any distance, you'd make up room. Atheists. If god spoke to them from a pillar of fire, they'd be looking for natural gas deposits and theorizing "how these rocks make the flames sound like words..."

Try me and see. Conjure him up today ... if you can. But if he told me to go and commit genocide, I'd still tell the ol' goat to FOAD. I do have my standards (but if you read the OT as literal truth, seems someone else doesn't).

Say, McA, how's your wife feel about being kicked out of town once a month? Oh, you're not married .... guess I should have figgered.

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 7, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

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