Which theology should we respect?

Wasting time on the Net, I found the following description of Xenu on Wikipedia.  This is, of course, part of the theology of Scientology.

The story of Xenu is covered in OT III, part of Scientology’s secret “Advanced Technology” doctrines taught only to advanced members who have undergone many expensive hours of auditing and reached the state of Clear. It is described in more detail in the accompanying confidential “Assists” lecture of October 3, 1968 and is dramatized in Revolt in the Stars (a screenplay written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1977).

Hubbard wrote that seventy-five million years ago, Xenu was the ruler of a Galactic Confederacy which consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets including Earth, which was then known as “Teegeeack”.The planets were overpopulated, with an average population of 178 billion. The Galactic Confederacy’s civilization was comparable to our own, with aliens “walking around in clothes which looked very remarkably like the clothes they wear this very minute” and using cars, trains and boats looking exactly the same as those “circa 1950, 1960″ on Earth.

Xenu was about to be deposed from power, so he devised a plot to eliminate the excess population from his dominions. With the assistance of psychiatrists, he summoned billions of his citizens together under the pretense of income tax inspections, then paralyzed them and froze them in a mixture of alcohol and glycol to capture their souls. The kidnapped populace was loaded into spacecraft for transport to the site of extermination, the planet of Teegeeack (Earth). The appearance of these spacecraft would later be subconsciously expressed in the design of the Douglas DC-8, the only difference being: “the DC8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn’t.” When they had reached Teegeeack/Earth, the paralyzed citizens were unloaded around the bases of volcanoes across the planet. Hydrogen bombs were then lowered into the volcanoes and detonated simultaneously. Only a few aliens’ physical bodies survived. Hubbard described the scene in his film script, Revolt in the Stars:

Simultaneously, the planted charges erupted. Atomic blasts ballooned from the craters of Loa, Vesuvius, Shasta, Washington, Fujiyama, Etna, and many, many others. Arching higher and higher, up and outwards, towering clouds mushroomed, shot through with flashes of flame, waste and fission. Great winds raced tumultuously across the face of Earth, spreading tales of destruction…

L. Ron Hubbard, Revolt in the Stars

The now-disembodied victims’ souls, which Hubbard called thetans, were blown into the air by the blast. They were captured by Xenu’s forces using an “electronic ribbon” (“which also was a type of standing wave”) and sucked into “vacuum zones” around the world. The hundreds of billions of captured thetans were taken to a type of cinema, where they were forced to watch a “three-D, super colossal motion picture” for thirty-six days. This implanted what Hubbard termed “various misleading data”‘ (collectively termed the R6 implant) into the memories of the hapless thetans, “which has to do with God, the Devil, space opera, et cetera”. This included all world religions, with Hubbard specifically attributing Roman Catholicism and the image of the Crucifixion to the influence of Xenu. The two “implant stations” cited by Hubbard were said to have been located on Hawaii and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

In addition to implanting new beliefs in the thetans, the images deprived them of their sense of personal identity. When the thetans left the projection areas, they started to cluster together in groups of a few thousand, having lost the ability to differentiate between each other. Each cluster of thetans gathered into one of the few remaining bodies that survived the explosion. These became what are known as body thetans, which are said to be still clinging to and adversely affecting everyone except those Scientologists who have performed the necessary steps to remove them.

A government faction known as the Loyal Officers finally overthrew Xenu and his renegades, and locked him away in “an electronic mountain trap” from which he still has not escaped. Although the location of Xenu is sometimes said to be the Pyrenees on Earth, this is actually the location Hubbard gave elsewhere for an ancient “Martian report station”. Teegeeack/Earth was subsequently abandoned by the Galactic Confederacy and remains a pariah “prison planet” to this day, although it has suffered repeatedly from incursions by alien “Invader Forces” since that time.]

In 1988, the cost of learning these secrets from the Church of Scientology was £3,830, or US$6,500. This is additional to the cost of the prior courses which are necessary to be eligible for OT III, which could be well over one hundred thousand dollars. Belief in Xenu and body thetans is a requirement for a Scientologist to progress further along the Bridge to Total Freedom.

I’ll take this as a fairly accurate description of part of the theology of that faith.  For the life of me, I can’t see how this differs materially — at least in terms of its truth — from the mythology of any other religion.   Could somebody please enlighten me?  And am I supposed to respect this view?  Do you?  If you respect  the theologies of Catholicism, Judaism, or Islam more, or give their adherents more credibility than you do Scientologists, why?


93 Comments

  1. Posted June 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    “For the life of me, I can’t see how this differs materially — at least in terms of its truth — from the mythology of any other religion.”

    Tsk. It’s younger. Older=truer. Duh!

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Tsk. It’s younger. Older=truer. Duh!

      Excellent. The Carvaka school of atheism dates back 3000 years.

    • ronmurp
      Posted July 9, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Not according to Islam. Islam came after Christianity – it is the latest and most correct revelation. Obviously anything that came later than Islam doesn’t count.

  2. Wes
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Whether a theology must be “respected” or not has nothing to do with how plausible it is. The theologies we are expected to “respect” are the ones that have the most power, money, and followers. So Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism all demand respect. Scientology, John Frum, New Age, and Jehovah’s Witness can be mocked without retribution. Mormonism is on the cusp.

    “Respect” for theologies really boils down to affirming the status quo and keeping certain dominant groups (e.g. the Catholic church) in their dominant position, while suppressing minority religions.

  3. Joshua Slocum
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Oh, come on Jerry, just give up and Respect ‘Em All (TM).

  4. Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I still recall a moment from my childhood, when my father was talking about Mormonism and Scientology. He was a religion and math major in college, so he always had an interest in these things.

    My comment after the survey of these religions was “Aren’t they both the same level of silliness?”.

    Years later, this philosophy still holds true for me. Its all just damn silly.

  5. Sili
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Meh. Xena >> Xenu.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Xena is more worthy of worship.

  6. Karel de Pauw
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh. – Robert Heinlein

    One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent. – H.L. Mencken

  7. Loc
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait until Nature writes an editorial declaring Scientology and Science to be completely compatible – that will only take about another million converts to Scientology before they have enough consumer power to demand one.

    Come on Jerry, don’t you know that they are both ways of seeking ‘knowledge’ of ‘deep’ questions.

  8. Abbie
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    It seems kind of unfair- pointing to the most ridiculous belief system out there, and guilt-by-associating all other religions.

    But it raises a critical point, which is: how can you objectively differentiate ridiculous belief systems from “normal” religions? It’s clearly impossible, because religion is an anything-goes affair. Any belief is justifiable- no matter how silly, or evil. Rationality can’t penetrate once that label, “belief”, is applied.

    So how can anyone condemn Scientology for being silly, or Islam for being misogynistic? All faiths have their devout believers; who are we to tell them they are wrong? But they are quite the embarrassment to the mainstream theists, so they need a way to differentiate themselves. This is usually some appeal to consequences.

    Atheists don’t have this problem… we can just say they’re all equally false and therefore equally undeserving of respect, even if some are worse than others by other metrics.

    • MadScientist
      Posted June 28, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      “The most ridiculous belief system out there”? Really, I don’t see how this is any more ridiculous than other cult claims. Each cult has its own bias though. Why, just the other day I was reading a post by a pentecostal type – he was defending “religion” while poo-pooing the “false religions” (not any religion without his god, but any religion which was not his specific cult).

      • Abbie
        Posted June 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        I meant “most ridiculous”, as perceived by the average person, accustomed to Christianity. Of course, objectively, they’re all pretty much the same level of ridiculous. That was my point.

        Scientology may be a mite more ridiculous than mainline xianity, but that’s only because it’s very recent, and Hubbard’s crazy words haven’t been re-interpreted and retconned to form a more palatable theology.

      • Don
        Posted June 29, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        What’s “normal”?

  9. Posted June 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I give the others more credibility because the tenets of Scientology were created by a fiction writer, while the others were created by… Uh… Ummm…

    Never mind.

  10. NewEnglandBob
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    oy gevalt! Its not even grade B science fiction.

    L. Ron Hubbard is a schmendrick.

  11. Kitty'sBitch
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Sounds reasonable to me…then again…I was raised southern baptist. Y’know, the town elders from Footloose. That kind of thing.
    My family is only a half-step from snake handlers.

  12. MadScientist
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I propose that any existing theology is as worthless as any other existing theology. A corolary that I would propose is that any future theology will be just as worthless.

    That post was painful; L.Ron, from beyond the grave, once again demonstrates his quite pathetic lack of imagination. What’s really scary is that people actually believe in his crap.

    Certainly the existence of a very wealthy religious institution based on whacky claims by a worse-than-third-rate self-proclaimed science fiction writer would be enough proof that there is no sky fairy? Or does that work the other way around: there must be a sky fairy for that sort of nonsense to be successful? Unfortunately it’s not the only successful cult; the megaliths of the televangelists seem to be an ever-growing reminder that there is no limit to stupidity.

  13. articulett
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s fair to note that science cannot give any more support for Scientology than it can for any other religions. When it comes to specious claims and appeals to the supernatural, all religion is the same “magisteria” as Scientology.

  14. Michael Gray
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Whist Scientology is clearly bat-shit crazy, I find it less crazy than, say, Christianity.
    It has far fewer supernatural elements for a start.

    • Notorious P.A.T.
      Posted June 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Has anyone ever launched a crusade or an inquisition in the name of Scientology? So now which one is more ridiculous?

      • Posted June 29, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

        Give it time.
        It has set an impressive pace on the persecution front, considering the antiquity of the competing kookeries.

        Besides; genocide does not equal risibility.
        To suggest such is to either mistake my plain meaning, or render the term ‘ridiculous’ open to ridicule. ;)

      • MadScientist
        Posted June 29, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        Why, yes. I forget the details, but a journalist was harassed, threatened, sued, libeled, slandered – and it didn’t look like there was much hope for her until the Scientologists were caught stealing government documents and the FBI uncovered all sorts of juicy information about their organized campaign to intimidate, bankrupt, and even kill people. The intimidation, harassment, slander, and suing still goes on around the globe. The Germans still consider the scientologists as a cult, but they still have a lot of trouble with them. The French are now fighting to have the scientologists declared a cult – let’s see how that plays out.

        Their own members are treated very badly – perhaps you can say the Inquisition is against their own. Their behavior towards the rest of the world is more like mafioso (hidden) rather than the Inquisition (out for everyone to see – but with spies and rats everywhere). The scientologists have even used dirty tactics to hold our own government to ransom and obtain their tax status as a religious organization; it seems the scientologists had more money for lawyers than the IRS had.

  15. Posted June 28, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit to ironic amusement when Catholics, Evangelicals and other Christian groups mock things like Mormonism, J. Witness and Scientology.

    “Oh, those cults are just ridiculous!”

    Yeah… ya think?

  16. Posted June 28, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    As far as I’m concerned, all theologies are entirely self-contained delusions. They do not depend on, nor allow for that matter, external evidence or corroboration.

    That’s why I think it is a major strategic mistake to engage in any theological arguments. It just makes them think we take it seriously. And most of them have had thousands of years to think of rationalizations for the crazy bits.

    Show me evidence for any supernatural phenomenon at all, then we can talk about it.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    What’s the heritability of Scientology? If your family’s of the Jewish persuasion, you’re officially in the club after a bit of Bar Mitzvah effort, and so forth. But what if your old man bought into the OT III club. Is it gonna cost you another 100G’s to get there yourself?

    Or from another angle, are there any statistics on generational recidivism? I’d guess that the likelihood of sticking with being Muslim, if you’re raised that way is probably probably close to 100%, and then the number begins to decay as you go thru Catholic, Baptist etc. How does Scientology stack up in that competition?

    • articulett
      Posted June 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      I think Muslims stay Muslims because there is a strong incentive to stay Muslim. Mainly: Death to infidels (and apostates).

      For most religions it’s just strong social shunning and hell.

      There’s bad Karma for the Eastern sects.

      Scientology has “fair game”, the fact that you owe them tons of money for their “lessons”, and a lien on future lives.

      …Welcome to the Hotel California… you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave…

  18. articulett
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I know that most religions don’t like their beliefs compared to Scientology, but it would behoove them to tell us why their supernatural beliefs should be treated differently if they are going to demand that we “accomodate” their beliefs without also “accomodating” Scientology.

    As a teacher, I’d like to know exactly what and how I should be accomodating. Actually I’d just like to teach science without having to worry about who might question their indoctrination.

    I’d like believers to be as private and undemanding with their unsupported beliefs as they want Scientologists to be.

    • Joel
      Posted July 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Clearly because their mythos is true.

  19. Anonymous
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    I suppose I have more respect for the Christians I know (or know about) that don’t literally believe that their texts come directly from God. These people often ignore certain parts of their holy books because they go against their conscience. They stick to Christianity because they are very emotionally attached to it, even though they have ‘big questions.’ Sure these people pick and choose which Bible verses to interpret literally, but I see them as being more true to what they know is right than religious people who are willing to go against their conscience just because their holy book says so. These people have decided to be religious, but when I talk to them they are interested in atheism and respect my beliefs because they can tell that I’ve thought things through. The kind of Christians that I respect less try to convert me and consider it their personal missioin to save me.

    Your post still got me thinking though, about whether I still am to lenient when it comes to Christianity. When you actually summarize the things Christians believe, it sounds pretty crazy.

    I do have a problem pointing that out though. If I try to show how Christianity in general makes sense, my Christian friends find some little detail they don’t agree with, and accuse me of misrepresenting their religion. So my main points don’t stick. Anyone else have that problem?

    Truth be told, the more I read your blog (and Pharyngula and Common Sense Atheism…etc.) the more I want to speak out and show how ridiculous Christianity and Islam really are. However, I’m still very scared to speak out freely. I could lose my job if the people at my work found out that I was an atheist …etc.

    • Michael Gray
      Posted June 29, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink

      I have no respect whatsoever for these theo-wimps to which you allude.

      Without the very effective cover they provide and ENCOURAGE, the crazies would be seen just as that: mentally ill.
      But with said cover, they have nauseating sin-dicated (sic) national TV shows to spread toxic memes through fraud, fly ‘planes into buildings, rape kiddies with impunity, amongst other countless atrocities.
      (And they can steal my taxes with officially sanctioned permission.)

      No, I’m having none of this rubbish that they “are not doing anything bad”.

      • Anonymous
        Posted June 30, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        You know, that’s a really good point. I’m not sure how to treat my ‘theo-wimp’ friends, but you made a good point and got me thinking …

    • MadScientist
      Posted June 29, 2009 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      One way is to bear the pain and learn a lot about a religion so you can trash it in an amusing fashion. With catholics there is the core dogma and then there are the strange beliefs peculiar to churches in different parts of the world.

      The Socratic method though is to simply keep asking questions as a kid would; some skill is needed to keep the other person from running away screaming “how old are you – 2?” But act genuinely interested and keep probing. It does help to have a lot of background information though (such as memorizing the bible) because you can bring up related contradictory things and really get people annoyed.

      It’s an art though which takes a long time to refine. Don’t lose too many friends trying it out on people.

      • Michael Gray
        Posted June 29, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        Good advice, and a method which I practice most times when confronted with superstition.

        If I lose friends over this activity, then that is almost always the better for me…

    • Posted June 29, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      “Pick-and-choose” theology makes, if anything, even less sense to me than fundamentalism—it is preferable and usually vastly less evil, because it is adulterated by humanistic values, but it is even less coherent.

      Think about it: The one source of Christianity is ultimately a claim of “revelation”, as communicated via hearsay and literature. This “revelation” is either completely reliable, or not completely reliable.

      Fundamentalists believe the former, which is silly, but coherent.

      Liberal Christians assume the latter—it’s not all true—and proceed to decide what’s true or not based on what appeals to them! It’s a reality based on personal preference. Furthermore, they believe in many strange and supernatural things based solely on a source that they admit to be unreliable.

      • Michael Gray
        Posted June 29, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Yep.
        Salad-bar theists pick & choose based on their own innate morality, not that of their particular holy book, making their claims as to the heavenly source of their morality at best erroneous.

        And none of them offer to give me back my taxes that their church automatically gets given.

      • Joel
        Posted July 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Fundamentalist Christians don’t believe it’s all true either. Otherwise they would be forbidden to wear mixed fiber clothing or eat shell fish. They also see (somehow) that you can’t drink wine or dance even though Jesus did drink wine and King David danced through the streets in his underwear. And lets not forget that there are two (2!) creation stories that don’t agree with each other in Genesis.

        The Catholics believe that Mary died a virgin even though the bible clearly states that Jesus had brothers. Seems like there’s picking and choosing all over.

        They pick and choose as much as Liberal Christians, if not more so.

  20. santitafarella
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne:

    I’m an agnostic who (from my previous posts here) obviously has some intellectual respect for the religious philosophical tradition, and so it’s not a hard question that you’ve asked.

    I think that you should take seriously those theological discussions and theological thinkers that secular academic intellectuals and philosophers continue to take seriously. You should take seriously, for example, these five: Gabriel Marcel, Spinoza, Thomas A., Alvin Plantinga, and Reinhold Niebuhr. This is not because you might arrive at their identical conclusions about things, but because they might offer interesting and novel ways of thinking about issues of interest to atheists.

    I’d like to challenge you, Professor Coyne, to read just one short theological/philosophical essay by Reinhold Niebuhr and then to comment on it here at your blog. It is the lead essay in an anthology of his writings that you can get at Amazon. The book is titled “The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr.” The essay is titled, “Optimism, Pessimism, and Religious Faith.” Whether you agree or disagree with Niebuhr’s conclusions in that essay, I’d nevertheless be curious to discover whether you find the way that he talks about the transcendent and atheism in that essay valuable or interesting.

    Will you get the book, read that essay, and comment at your blog on it? I promise that I’m not leading you into a thicket of difficulty, or anything time consuming. The essay is only about 13 pages.

    Here’s a link to the book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Reinhold-Niebuhr-Selected-Addresses/dp/0300040016/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246292652&sr=8-2

    —Santi

    • Posted June 29, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Santi – Your challenge seems, on the surface, reasonable. Yet it would be far more reasonable if you were to go ahead and spell out what Professor Coyne (or anyone else) would learn by taking it up.

      Why so coy? Why are you just pointing in the general direction of some books you like and insisting that others read them, instead of giving an idea of what the books will offer?

      The point of Coyne’s broach of Scientology’s batshit-insane theology is that all theology is similarly batshit-insane. It doesn’t contribute. It adds nothing. There is nothing to respect. It is bullshit (supernatural bugaboos exist) on stilts (rattlings on the nature of the supernatural bugaboos).

      Pointing to additional instances of bullshit on stilts doesn’t help matters.

      Bottom line it for us, give us a thumbnail sketch: what sort of useful insight will we gather in this 13-page essay? Will it differ in quality from the offering of theology already provided in the post we’re commenting on? How so?

      Give a reason to bother, and who knows, maybe someone will. As it stands, you’ve just pointed in a direction and said “X is good” over there.

      What is X? What’s good about it?

      -Dale

    • Michael Gray
      Posted June 29, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Theology is the study of something that just does not exist.

      The parallel to ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is exact.
      Why would anyone want to read an analysis of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  21. Posted June 29, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    “I think that you should take seriously those theological discussions and theological thinkers that secular academic intellectuals and philosophers continue to take seriously. You should take seriously, for example, these five: Gabriel Marcel, Spinoza, Thomas A., Alvin Plantinga, and Reinhold Niebuhr.”

    I’ll forgive you asking any scientist to take Plantinga seriously. Why is seriousness an important metric to go by? What professional wouldn’t take his own work seriously? That’s not how your decide a truth claim. High priests of the Cargo Cult, just because their philosophy hasn’t been published in a book you can find on Amazon, aren’t any less serious about worshiping wooden crates.

  22. Posted June 30, 2009 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Why is it that there are never theological debates between theologians of different religions? How about a single round table discussion between christian, muslim, buddhist and hindu theologians about the burning questions of our day.
    The only sort of agreement they have about discussing each others theology is to avoid doing so at all costs.

    • articulett
      Posted June 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Good idea… maybe they can come to an agreement about “other ways of knowing”… and maybe even agree as to what this “other way of knowing” has taught us humans. Should they agree on this, then there may be something to discuss in science.

      Until that time, I’d prefer they all hang out together in the “supernatural” magisteria with the other wackaloons.

  23. Kevin
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    It’s so easy for you skeptics to ridicule the Emperor’s ribbons, fobs and buttons but I notice that you avoid discussion of the deeper aspects of imperial couture.

    Rienhold Niebuhr wrote several (unpublished) essays extolling the profound meaning to be found in the cut and colour of his silks.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      Is this a beard for Santi? I wouldn’t doubt it. His last post about the theologian Niebuhr was totally ignored (as it should be).

      “imperial couture” must be referring to Star Wars.

  24. santitafarella
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Dale:

    If you put the qualifier “IF” upon a theological discussion, any atheist or agnostic can follow the logic of an intellectual theological discussion and perhaps find something of real value in the reflection. For example, IF there is a God, does it make sense to speak of God in analogical terms (Thomas Aquinas’s position) or in more empiricist terms (Don Scotus’s position). It actually matters a great deal to atheists how that question is answered, and one does not have to believe in God to enter into the philosophical reflection, or its importance with regard to whether faith is a live option in the 21st century.

    Also, one needn’t talk about the ridiculous arcana of a particular religious tradition to do theology. In this sense, I think that Coyne is attacking a straw man. The kinds of theology that interest contemporary philosophers and intellectuals in general, have to do with focused topics thought about in light of the thesis that God exists. Examples: What is meant by “God”? How can we think about suffering if God exists? What would be the attributes of God, if God existed? If God were to relate to the world, how would God do so? What does it mean to read the New Testament after the Holocaust? What is the relationship of language to ontology? What are the consequences to free will and determinism if God were to exist? Needless to say, intellectual theology runs up against the exact same impasses that traditional philosophy runs up against, and by talking about the issues in “God terms” it often leads to interesting insights. Obviously, intellectual theology, like any other human language (Freudian psychology, Hegelian dialectic, postmodern discourse, Zen Buddhism etc.), may be helpful in thinking about particular issues.

    I really think that taking the “Coyne positivist knife” to theology is like taking a positivist knife to poetry. It’s a category mistake. Theology (at least intellectual theology) is a very sophisticated thought experiment that atheists can play also (and often do).I’m an agnostic, and think that Niebuhr (for example) talks about human existence in ways that are interesting (that’s why I suggested one of his essays as a primer). All I’m saying is treat theology like you would any other language—as a kind of poetry—and then you won’t get so screwed up over it. It’s a way of thinking about the world from the ontological vantage “If God exists, then what would be the implications for . . .”

    Ultimately (in my view) theology is about reflecting on the consequences of what it means if we say that there are two worlds, not one. Thinking that through is an interesting question, even if there are not two worlds.

    The inverse for atheists is reflecting on what it means to live in one world, not two. The atheist “atheologians” would then be people like Camus and Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and Rorty. They tried to think through the consequences of living in a godless and contingent universe (just as people like Niebuhr and Marcuse and Aquinas have tried to think their way through the consequences of living in two worlds—this one and one that might transcend or “ground” this one).

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 2, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      IF you string a lot of words together with irrational suppositions, you still can not make a rational statement – this is what Santi always does.

      Your premises, as usual, Santi are complete nonsense.

      You put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig – that is exactly what Santi is trying to do with religion.

      There are few here who want to read your word salad, and fewer feel it is even worth responding to your verbal spew.

      • articulett
        Posted July 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        I know… I like to exchange invisible entities to understand the absurdity: Example from santi:

        “If you put the qualifier “IF” upon a theological discussion, any atheist or agnostic can follow the logic of an intellectual theological discussion and perhaps find something of real value in the reflection. For example, IF there is a devil, does it make sense to speak of the Devil in analogical terms (Thomas Aquinas’s position) or in more empiricist terms (Don Scotus’s position). It actually matters a great deal to atheists how that question is answered, and one does not have to believe in devils to enter into the philosophical reflection…”

        This is a fabulous technique employed by Sam Harris… and it shows how crazy all religious spin is at it’s core. So many words… so little said.

        (I hope my formatting works)

    • articulett
      Posted July 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Try plugging in “devil” for god and see just how convoluted and ridiculous you sound. And yet, devils and gods are cut from the same cloth (the imaginary cloth of the proverbial emperor, I suspect).

      Your argument doesn’t justify the god inclusion any more than it justifies showing deference to belief in demons. Really. It may sound nice and sane to you, but you guys all sound like you want some brands of superstition treated differently than others… and yet, you give us no good reason why.

      Jerry Coyne’s arguments are valid for all invisible entities including gods and all supernatural claims. That’s a consistency that the accomodationists don’t have–and it makes your side seem hypocritical. I suspect this comes from your (collective) attempts at trying to convince yourself that god belief is more valid, respectable or beneficial than demon belief (or other types of magical thinking). There is, of course, no evidence for this assumption. Faith is NOT a method of knowledge–not in science, and probably not anywhere else. Some of us find it smarmy to be asked to pretend that it is. We think this causes more problems for rational thinking then it ameliorates.

    • Posted July 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Santi says: “If you put the qualifier “IF” upon a theological discussion, any atheist or agnostic can follow the logic of an intellectual theological discussion and perhaps find something of real value in the reflection.”

      Sure, why not? Thought experiments have their uses: are-we-brains-in-a-vat is a famous case. Those are neat and often fruitful. I agree.

      The thing is, no one out in the world beyond thought experiments is basing life or death decisions on an insistence that we are, in fact, brains in a vat (or, in another version, living in The Matrix).

      If there were large numbers of people using that thought experiment as a basis for getting through life, we’d want to be considerably more careful in our approach to it. We’d maybe want to move on to other thought experiments.

      To carry the analogy a little further, I suspect these people would be insistent that it is a vat — not a jar, not a cup, not a porcelain bathtub — and they’d label such preferences “theology.” And they’d demand respect for that theology.

      My position would be the same — namely, fine, as thought experiments, it’s fun and maybe interesting to work through the implications. But “respect”? No, I don’t “respect” the notion that we are actually brains in vats, and I certainly don’t “respect” the notion that they are brains in *vats* to the exclusion of brains in other brain-worthy vessels. I’d call bullshit. I’d say what might be a nice thought experiment has been taken way, way too far.

      Certainly I’d say that if people were proving themselves willing to kill and die for the idea.

      So I say with theology.

      And as far as theology goes, I see no reason why the claims of Classical Greco-Roman myth or the claims of Pastafarianism can’t serve equally well as the grounds of thought experiments. And yet as we look around, we see little intellectual work being done in those areas, few endowed chairs, little to no scholarship, and certainly no killing or dying over them.

      People are flying planes into buildings and stoning people to death for thought crimes over what you’re calling thought experiments. They’re not functioning as thought experiments in the world. There is no “IF” qualifier.

  25. santitafarella
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Articulett:

    Your devil analogy is a fair one, but I’m surprised that it leads you to the conclusion that it is, therefore, ridiculous to engage in reflection on the consequences of that belief (should it be true).

    Reflecting on the existence of a devil (as a thought experiment), and drawing out its implications, is interesting, and can lead us to deeper reflections on complex issues. Rene Descartre, for example, asked us to posit what it would be like (for our experience of consciousness) to imagine an evil demon creating the world, and drew some interesting conclusions from the reflection.

    You seem to have this narrow and incurious view of rationality, that it must begin and end with strict empiricism. This is an old argument, first promoted by Locke, but if you know your history of philosophy, it was deconstructed and made deeply problematic by both Hume and Kant.

    Perhaps you should read both of these philosophers, and think about their arguments, before concluding that pre-Kantian (and therefore naive) notions of empiricism are the final say with regard to knowledge.

    I’m not saying that Hume and Kant are right against Locke; I’m only saying that it is far more complicated (and interesting) than your dismissiveness suggests.

    If you offer an interpretive frame for seeing the world, that interpretive frame possesses metaphysical and epistemic premises that you cannot simply ignore. You have to set interpretive frames upon the world to get going intellectually. No one has seen atoms, but we draw inferences about the existence of atoms, and what their existence means, for us. Nobody has seen the multiverse, but we do thought experiments and look for evidentiary clues about how our world might look IF we inhabit a multiverse. Nobody has seen dimensions beyond our three, but we posit them and ask whether multiple unseen dimensions make better sense of the whole than relying strictly upon our sense impressions. The truth is, afterall, the whole. And we’re in the system that we are trying to describe. We have to posit frames and ask whether those frames account for things well or poorly. That means that we have to think about things via thought experiments, and think through the consequences of positing things like “God” or “atheism” as true. Neither starting premise is any more “irrational” than the other precisely because we are in the system that we are trying to describe. We may judge that one is more probable than the other, and we can use things like “Occam’s razor” to argue about which is the simplest explanation for what we actually observe, but as human beings we can’t do much better than this.

    I do think, for example, that “God” is a simplified hypothetical model for thinking about what it would mean to live in more than one world. It’s not an obfuscating idea because it accords with Occam’s razor in pairing down certain theistic premises and then seeing if they can be sustained under scrutiny.

    But you suggest, for example, that naturalism, atheism, and materialism are default positions, devoid of metaphysical and epistemic premises themselves, and from which all reasoning must justify itself against. But nature does not speak, we speak. You do not get to pretend that atheism’s premises are the default “natural” beginnings for thought, and that all positions (save atheism) must justify themselves as “true” in advance of theorizing.

    Atheists, like everybody else, inhabit the system that they are trying to explain. That means that atheism is a positive hypothesis that must justify its metaphysical and epistemic premises (or at minimum acknowledge them and make them explicit) and lay out the consequences of atheism as a total world view. It is not just “a denial of gods.” It is a hypothesis that matter precedes mind and that matter emerges from: (1) nothing of its own accord or (2) has always existed. These are premises invisible to scrutiny (as invisible as God). In other words, atheism possesses its own forms of question begging. And if atheism is not honest about itself, and its consequences and nature, it simply becomes a form of hubris and naivety, and a dialogue stopper (rather than a starter).

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 3, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Once again, Santi obfuscates and fabricates.

      Atoms HAVE been seen. Religious dogma has no basis in reality and no evidence.

      People do not take the multiverse as fact, but as hypotheses. There are mathematical reasons for proposing them, as opposed to religious fantasies which have no evidence whatsoever.

      Nobody has seen dimensions beyond our three, but, again, there is mathematical evidence for proposing it as contrast to religious fantasies and dogma and nonsense.

      Santi, if you want to speculate on the fantasies of gods, go to a science fiction web site. Pure fiction based on fantasy dogma and lies do not belong here.

      Once again, Santi’s arguments are specious and falacious.

  26. santitafarella
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I’m happy to let others decide whether my arguments are fallacious.

    Might I ask you what you imagine the metaphysical and epistemic premises underlying atheism are, and what justifications there are for them?

    And do you believe that Kant and Hume are irrelevent to this discussion?

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Kant:

      “The grand questions of speculative metaphysics cannot be answered by the human mind, but the sciences are firmly grounded in laws of the mind”.

      He dealt with empiricism vs rationalism. Metaphysics requires little respect.

      Hume:

      “Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are anything but sick men’s dreams”

      “Doubt, uncertainty, suspense of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject.”

      Are they relevant? Yes, because both of them had little respect for religion, which is Jerry’s original question.

      The premises underlying atheism is not relevant to Jerry’s topic and what I imagine them to be is even less relevant.

  27. articulett
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t indulge in mind games about “ghosts” of any kind. If there are invisible undetectable entities that science has no access to, then it would be ridiculous to conclude that some other mortal has accessed information about these entities via some magical/subjective means and that I can learn about this (these) entities by engaging in conversations with such a person. I’ve been there, done that, and grew up.

    Until someone can distinguish the immeasurable undetectable entities they believe in from a delusion of such entities, then I shall treat all such speculation as a delusion… exactly the same way a believer treats those who believe in “Thetans” or Santa or fairies or demons or imaginary friends! After all, I can’t tell the difference between such entities, which means that I don’t think anyone else can either! As far as I’m concerned, believing in such things is the same as belief in “magic”. It might be fun and fill a person with wonder and mystical WAFF– but, ultimately, it’s gobbledy-gook. It’s as meaningless as the gobbledy-gook the believer doesn’t subscribe too. It’s as woo-ish as the magical-thinking the religionist feels proud to have outgrown. It makes people feel like they “know” something when they, in fact, are spinning an elaborate lie in their heads trying desperately to mesh it with the facts.

    And they start sounding like you (Santi) when the facts don’t add up… they become addicted to their beliefs and afraid to let them go. They force the rest of us to walk on eggshells so as not to trample their delusion.

    You cannot indulge some brands of magical thinking without enabling and elevating the status of all such thinking and “revealed truths”. Plus believers NEED to denigrate science and NEED to believe in “other ways of knowing” in order to keep spinning these lies to themselves. This is true whether we’re talking Scientology or watered down Christianity. If a little faith is good, then that makes a lot of faith better, right? And it makes those without faith the “bad guys”. And how does one prove one has faith except to do something they’d never do unless they had such? Think about that! What wouldn’t you do if you truly believed that your ETERNITY depended on it? Drive a plane into a building? Pray hard over a child rather than get medicine. Kill your kids as Andrea Yates did to ensure they’d get their “happily ever after” before becoming the age of “hell eligibility”?

    I think many scientists who give lip service to a belief in god do so because they are “afraid” not to. When they were children, they were told (as was I) that there’s an invisible guy in the sky who wants nothing more than for you to believe in him… and he’ll make sure you live happily ever after so long as you believe. He loves you so much that he had his kid (who was him) killed for you. And all you have to do is believe. (But if you don’t believe, you might suffer ETERNALLY…so HAVE FAITH!)

    I think this has resulted in a slew of grown-ups afraid to use the tools of science to examine these beliefs. I think this is dangerous for humankind, and I want no part of this continual manipulative lie. I don’t think it’s good, wholesome, healthy, or necessary. I think it makes people needy, scared, garbled, childish, primitive, credulous, easy to manipulate, and very manipulable. Moreover, they have an emotional interest in finding something to revile in the non believer, because they need to believe that their faith makes them better people.

    Believers spend so much mental energy keeping their beliefs alive and so much mental energy finding reasons to dislike those who threaten their delusion. And even when they let go of belief, they still are soldiers in this silly battle where faith is seen as something good–something worth protecting. But faith is just credulity that people have come to feel special for “believing in”. They feel like they are in on “divine truths” and become afraid to realize that it’s just an emotional high–like drugs. There’s no “truth” there. Instead there’s a mental blockage that shields out all knowledge that could be a threat to “the faith”.

    Plus, the more you talk to people about what exactly they believe, the less you understand. The truth is, most people don’t really know what they believe. I think they are just afraid NOT to believe… afraid that maybe that there may have been some truth in that early indoctrination… afraid that they might be punished forever if they examine what they believe too closely and (gasp) come to doubt.

    They put the rest of us in a position of supporting a lie we never asked to be a part of or risk waking the sleeping knee-jerk faith defending giant and all the semantic bile that comes with it. The non-believer is forced to be in the closet, when it would be much better if all believers were as private with their beliefs as they’d like believers in conflicting faiths to be. The bible even says to pray in the closet! Besides, if something is true, it’s true whether people believe it’s true or not, and you can trust that time will allow humans to accumulate the necessary evidence. (Also, being the omnipotent entity that a god is purported to be, I think he is capable of fighting his own battles and revealing himself as need be.)

    Until there’s evidence that consciousness can exist out of the body in some manner, I consider all such conversations fantasy talk, and I feel sorry for those who have come to think they represent reality. A lie that makes you feel good is still just a lie. I think these conversations end up being a masturbatory way for people to keep their preferred delusions alive in their mind. As a believer, I’d feel like I won a point in my mind game if I got the last word or withstood skeptical inquiry–as though you can “win” or “lose” the truth. Now, I want to be a candle in the darkness, not the foundation on which people erect their castles of sand.

    With science you can build real castles. With faith, only imaginary ones. There is nothing religion can offer that can’t be better achieved by more intellectually honest (secular) means. And all magical thinking has the potential for danger.

    My heroes are those who fight the “faith in faith” meme, and I am disgusted by those who denigrate them in order to elevate their own self-importance in their mind. All “woo” play this mental game with those who are skeptical of their “woo”. They make the truth tellers into bad guys so they can keep believing their woo is true.

    Religious belief is just another woo unless or until some evidence shows otherwise. What the accomodationists are really asking for is that we treat some “woo” special for (insert nebulous reasons) or else they will call us mean and “harmful to the cause”. The sick thing is, that educated people would recognize this readily if it was Amway or Scientology or some other woo, but religion has enjoyed a respected status for so long that people have learned to shield their brain from the mere suggestion that there’s nothing there that makes religious belief different then those other manipulative memes. They’ve become unwilling victims desperate to hold on to their mind virus and scared mightily of trying to do without it. I want to innoculate people so they are not vulnerable to such manipulation. Catering to religion does not meet these aims.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Bravo, articulett; well said.

      • articulett
        Posted July 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        (blush) Thanks.

        I’ve been a secret fan of yours for some time.

        (Also I meant “manipulative” not “manipulable” in the seemingly redundant section of my heartfelt rant.)

  28. santitafarella
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Articulett:

    You feel that any discussion of theology has far more drawbacks than advantages, and that it is really an either/or proposition. You’re either for science or against it. And agnostic accomodationists like myself are trucking with the “enemy” by giving them intellectual cover.

    I, by contrast, really think that there is a place for nuance here. Not everybody has the patience for it. I understand that. I can only say that I’ve learned a good deal (intellectually) from reading and thinking about the religious intellectual/theological tradition. I’m an agnostic today precisely because I’ve used the writings of both intellectual atheists and theists as a foil for thought. And people like Hume and Kant used religion as a foil for thought too, as I’m advocating that other secularists (like them) might do. I think that there are a lot of dead ends in theology, but I also think that even those dead ends have stimulative intellectual value. I think of theology v. atheism as a kind of chess game where lots of moves have been tried by both sides (historically), and there’s interest there (for me) in how those moves have played out. In terms of intellectual theology, it is simply not true that anything goes. There are moves that are logically possible within an honest theology, and there are moves that are not. And perhaps in the 21st century you think that empiricism and positivism have cornered theism, and that theism is basically in checkmate. I won’t deny that theism is in a weaker position than materialism in many respects, and may be in retreat. But that doesn’t mean I think that the game is over and there is nothing left to do in this “game.” Perhaps I’m a bit of a Hegelian who believes that one arrives at greater truth by ongoing antithesis, thesis, and synthesis.

    And really, this website (and Dawkins’s and PZ Myers’ websites) are testimony to the fact that religion can be a foil for thought and energy. I’m suggesting, however, that biologists who use easy targets (like scientology) to “checkmate” religion in general are missing an opportunity to grapple with better chess players (like Niebuhr and Thomas Aquinas and Kant).

    Whatever New England Bob might think Kant and Hume are saying, for example, it is nevertheless undeniable that Kant saved religion’s ass by laying down a powerful intellectual justification for dividing the world into two realms, and Hume rendered pure empiricism highly problematic.

    I’m just appealing to your sense of fairness here, and suggesting that you might not approach the chess game of atheism v. theology with dogmatic impatience. One thing that we need to do is listen to one another, and respond to each others’ best arguments, not the weakest ones. There’s still things to talk about here.

    I wonder, for example, whether you’ll be reading the Niebuhr essay I suggested earlier, and if not, why not.

    Lastly, you said: “Until there’s evidence that consciousness can exist out of the body in some manner, I consider all such conversations fantasy talk, and I feel sorry for those who have come to think they represent reality.”

    Ironically, here’s a link to an atheist neuroscientist who thinks precisely this:
    http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/you-are-more-than-neurons-firing-in-your-head/

    If this neuroscientist is right, then there is a curious ontological connection between the brain and the environment that invokes consciousness. That’s pretty trippy and raises the question, Why does matter and the universe have such a freaky property in the first place?

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 5:33 am | Permalink

      Santi even admits that his stance is nonsense, religion is in retreat but he goes on anyway.

      Santi, still does not get it, we are skeptical and will accept any evidence. Our minds are not closed but we will not waste time on fantasies and pure fabrications without evidence.

      Santi supplies a links to an “atheist neuroscientist” but it is a link to his own web site!

      Once again, nearly everything Santi says has been successfully countered here by several people but Santi just says the same things over and over again with more flowery verbiage.

  29. articulett
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s not that I don’t think there’s room for nuance, but I don’t understand how or why a scientist would open the door for some kinds of superstitions and not the others. By what criteria are you allowing god belief, but not demon belief? I think that was the whole point of this post by Jerry, wasn’t it. It had nothing to do with the possible benefits of “what if” conversations and the other tangential topics you bring up. This is not the forum for such speculation, is it?

    What you are avoiding is that the accomodationists are really just asking us to accomodate some brands of magical thinking… to treat it differently than we’d treat, say, demon possession or Scientology’s “engrams”. We understand why it’s harmful to pretend like science is perfectly compatible with these beliefs because it suggests that science “endorses” such beliefs. Science can’t prove that demons and engrams don’t exist (just like gods) and people exhibit a lot of behavior we can’t explain. But, I think everyone here knows that “demons” are a wrong answer that get in the way of the right answer.

    This is true of gods, as well. To us it sounds as if you want us to pretend that god belief is more “scientific” than these superstitious beliefs. God belief feels like knowledge to the believer, but science can’t honestly pretend it’s any more rational than conflicting beliefs or other superstitions. It’s dishonest to suggest that it is. If there is no empirical data for a claim, it may as well be imaginary as far as scientific discussions are concerned.

    I’m all for philosophy and “what if” ponderings, but I don’t like it mixed with my science. If there is no such thing as magical clothing, then I don’t want my scientist spokespeople giving lip service to such beliefs. I want people I can trust giving me my facts without the god spin. I’m a grown up.

    It used to make me feel like I wasn’t “getting it” when I had so many questions about this fuzzy god/soul talk. But, the truth is, there is nothing to get. Despite eons of such beliefs, there isn’t an iota of evidence to even suggest that any form of consciousness can exist without a brain. Why pretend it’s possible much less what this undetectable form of consciousness might be like or might want of us?

    When faith doesn’t work, people feel that their lack of faith is to blame. When science doesn’t work you go back to the last place where it did and correct any errors.

    If there are no gods or souls or demons or fairies, then it’s wrong to enable such delusions. We know humans have been manipulated by these sorts of belief for eons.

    Don’t try to shame us into participating in the lie by pretending that we are saying something we are not saying nor chiding us for our tone. If you have a case for some magical being, lay the evidence on the table; otherwise expect that rational people will treat your manipulations regarding belief in such beings the same way you’d treat manipulation regarding belief in engrams.

    (Say, you seem a little uptight… maybe you need a good Scientology clearing and a free personality test… I think you have excess Thetans and engrams causing blockages and a reactive mind…)

    That’s how you sound to me. How in the world do you imagine you are saying anything more coherent or valid than that? I don’t see it. You may only be fooling yourself.

  30. articulett
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    And what your bias confirming neurologists think doesn’t matter to me. If he’s onto something important, the evidence will accumulate and become available for everyone.

    Scientists spend millions collecting star dust, do you really think they’d ignore any valid evidence regarding souls or gods… I think they be honing the evidence like crazy like we have with DNA–for their own reasons as well as the joy of finding things out. It’s not that I wouldn’t like this stuff to be true; it’s just that my evidence bar is set fairly high to avoid the sort of wishful thinking trap I’ve been caught in in the past. I don’t want to fool myself, and I sure don’t want to be a part of fooling anyone else with my desire to believe that I’m “in on” some mystical secret.

  31. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Articulett:

    You said: “If there is no empirical data for a claim, it may as well be imaginary as far as scientific discussions are concerned.”

    I certainly agree with you. Science cannot speak to the issues that concern us with regard to ultimate things. It’s not a tool for doing that. You have stated the accomodationist position perfectly.

    What you’ve said is precisely why, epistemically, it is tricky for the atheist to claim more rationality than a theist, or to claim that science is an ally of atheism and the enemy of theism.

    In other words, there are no more empirical pieces of data for the minimal atheist starting assumptions than there are for the minimal theist starting assumptions. The reason is that both atheist starting assumptions and theist starting assumptions rest upon zero pieces of empirical data. ZERO.

    For example, in terms of ontology there is no way of knowing which came first in the universe: mind or matter. Whichever one you pick invites question begging. If you are an atheist and say matter just popped into existence at the beginning or has always been, then you are making a claim for which there is no empirical evidence that you can appeal to. It is your starting assumption (however dumbfounding to contemplate). Likewise, if you are a theist and say that mind—or telos—is at the beginning of the universe, you likewise have no empirical data to appeal to. Nevertheless, to even get started on a worldview—theist or atheist—you must choose without access to empirical data. Why does one seem more likely to you than the other? Both are outrageously bizaare and absurd, and yet one of them must be true. How to decide?

    In other words, if matter came from nothing or always existed, how could that be? And if mind came from nothing or always existed, how could that be?

    Unfortunately, you and I are stuck in the system that we are trying to describe. And so our starting premise with regard to mind v. matter at the “beginning” of the universe must necessarily be based on what? Our best guesses, that’s what.

    And that’s just another way of saying that all of us must engage in a leap of faith and act on those things that we treat as axioms (and that we cannot formally or empirically justify).

    If you disagree, please justify your own position. Has matter just always been, or has it emerged from nothing? And how is your claim about this anything more than an act of imagination on your part?

    I assert that you too believe in something that may in fact be no more than imaginary (matter that popped out of nothing at “the beginning” or matter that has just always been—that is, eternal matter). These two hypotheses may be just as delusional—and are as non-evidence based—as any God hypothesis is. It takes faith to be an atheist. It is, like the theistic belief that mind precedes matter, a leap into the dark that invites question begging.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      Yet another completely nonsense pile of baloney from Santi:

      For example, in terms of ontology there is no way of knowing which came first in the universe: mind or matter.

      Here is another tactic of those who have nothing worthy to say:

      If you disagree, please justify your own position.

      Once again, word salad spewing with no real content.

      Laughable.

  32. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Articulett:

    Somebody could write a scathing book titled, “The Matter Delusion,” mocking the irrationality and faith-based nature of those who believe that matter has just always existed or that matter popped literally out of nothing at the “beginning.”

    These two beliefs are as bizaare, when you think about it, as anything that Scientologists believe. And yet millions of people have based their lives on the assumption that one of these two things, however mind-boggling, is true.

    I’m one of them. But people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We are, all of us, guilty of spectacular gestures of cognitive dissonance.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Once again, Santi confuses reality with his nonsense.

      There are physicists who have written about how “matter popped literally out of nothing at the “beginning” and used justifications from mathematics and physics (quantum mechanics) to justify their hypotheses. They talk about energy conservation principles. They also don’t claim it as fact, but as a possibility. That is real science.

      How anyone can compare that as equivalent to Scientology shows that his thought processes are either defective or he is fabricating nonsense.

      I think Santi should go read all the Harry Potter books and study them and report back to us on the deep meaning of those works and how they affect our daily lives. If the links to Amazon.com are needed, I can supply them.

    • articulett
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Materialism works in the real world.

      Woo doesn’t. (But it can make the believer feel good.)

  33. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    You said: “There are physicists who have written about how “matter popped literally out of nothing at the ‘beginning’ and used justifications from mathematics and physics (quantum mechanics) to justify their hypotheses. They talk about energy conservation principles.”

    I appreciate the honest attempt to justify your position (that matter preceeds mind), but what you’ve justified it with is a form of hand-waiving. WHY matter, should it in fact have the property of self-popping itself into existence, have this ability in the first place is itself part of the mystery. And where did those “energy conservation principles” and “quantum mechanical” principles come from?

    And the fact is, New England Bob, that where physicists speak of quantum fluctuations of matter “popping into existence” it is always within the vaccuum of an already existing universe. It is a rock hard law of the current universe (as physicists understand it) that matter and energy, on balance, can be neither created nor destroyed (it’s called the law of the conservation of matter and energy). What you are positing is that this law did not hold at the beginning. Indeed, that the law was so completely violated that a different principle was at work—one in which all the matter and energy of the universe concentrated itself somehow into a singular point of unimaginable density and then “exploded” into this enormous universe of breathtakingly beautiful monster-sized galaxies. And prior to this maybe there was absolutely nothing, or some eternal material something (like a multiverse capable of birthing this universe). Whatever it was, however, you are excluding (if you are an atheist) an alternative hypothesis that is no less mind boggling or justifiable or question begging: that a necessary mind preceeded our universe of contingent matter.

    So what you are doing, New England Bob, is chasing a rabbit down Alice’s rabbit hole. At some point you have to take a deep breath and say: Whatever weird things I choose to believe about the nature of the universe, I must, even as an atheist, take a deep breath and go into territory that science cannot follow me into. In other words, if I am to be an atheist I must simply presume that matter preceeds mind and is eternal or self-created; that the laws of nature are eternal or self-created themselves by some lucky accident or evolutionary “multiple worlds” birthing process; and that matter just happens to have this curiously fortunate and improbable property of sometimes generating, not just itself out of nothing, but of generating consciousness from matter!

    That’s one hell of an imaginitive leap into the non-empirical. Like captain Kirk, you’re boldly going where no man’s impirical instruments can go before. What makes you so cocksure that you’re right? I’m not trying to taunt. We’re all in the exact same boat. But this is precisely why “accomodationism” and dialogue are preferable to contempt. We are, all of us, just human beings trying to figure out how to live in a world that offers few clear answers concerning ultimate things. A little humility and kindness directed toward one another is in order. It’s why a “Catholic astronomer” or a “Baptist geneticist” or an “atheist biologist” are not oxymorons.

    At some point, in my view, we have to stop pretending that science is on the side of atheism when it comes to ultimate questions, and that everyone else is ridiculous and stupid.

    We are, all of us, ridiculous and stupid about ultimate things, for we all believe, at some crucial point in our reasoning, mind bogglingly improbable things via leaps of faith that we cannot justify empirically—atheists included.

    If, however, you feel that you have, in fact, grounded your atheism in empiricism through and through—and that it is free of imaginitive leaps and improbabilities of any sort—by all means, New England Bob, please contact the major science and philosophical journals and get your ideas peer reviewed and published, for you will have achieved something of world historical importance, and settled at long last the question of the relation of ontology and epistemology to science.

    But if you cannot do this, then it follows that not just the scientific empirical enterprise should go on, but the poetic, the philosophical, the theological, and atheological enterprises should go on as well, for it is human for them to do so.

    We live in a riddle wrapped in mystery, the proper response to which is not just more empiricism, but imaginitive speculation, rhetoric, faith moves, and song.

    Atheism itself is a faith move, and some atheists make songs about their atheism, and use the techniques of marketing and rhetoric to appeal to audiences, and imaginitively speculate about how their atheism might be true (as in positing multiverses that evolved the current contants of our universe’s physical laws). It is not just the religionist who goes beyond the strictly empirical. Atheists and agnostics do too.

    —Santi

    • articulett
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Santi says: Atheism itself is a faith move

      Wrong– that’s a lie that believers propagate. Atheism is no more a faith than lack of belief in Scientology, fairies, demons, psychics, and other invisible undetectable immeasurable entities and forces.

  34. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    As always, Santi, you get the science all wrong. Maybe this is because you decide to educate yourself contemplating your navel instead of reading real science.

    1. To even assume that minds were around 15 billion years ago is ludicrous and delusional.

    2. You got this wrong too:

    …where physicists speak of quantum fluctuations of matter “popping into existence” it is always within the vaccuum of an already existing universe

    That is <not what they propose. Learn before you speak.

    3, Your fourth paragraph is complete nonsense, unintelligible dogma.

    4.Your entire fifth paragraph is baloney:

    That’s one hell of an imaginitive leap into the non-empirical.

    No, this is YOUR leap out of ignorance.

    5. This gem:

    At some point, in my view, we have to stop pretending that science is on the side of atheism when it comes to ultimate questions, and that everyone else is ridiculous and stupid.

    Only YOU pretend that, so your argument is specious. Also, there are no “ultimate questions” – only you religionists think that way, and it is a delusion.

    6. Speak only for yourself – do not include us in your delusions:

    We are, all of us, ridiculous and stupid about ultimate things…

    There you go again – “ultimate things” – yet another religious dogma pronouncement.

    7.

    …and that it is free of imaginative leaps and improbabilities of any sort…

    Who claims this? This is a straw man argument or is a malicious falsehood.

    8. Another nuthouse saying:

    …for you will have achieved something of world historical importance, and settled at long last the question of the relation of ontology and epistemology to science.

    Meaning and knowledge is what science is all about and it has slowly and carefully been moving towards. No one claims to have all the answers and no one claims to have them all in the future. Only people like you fret over this kind of stuff. But the study of meaning and knowledge is a philosophical issue and is NOT science’s worry.

    9. Your last three paragraphs are just meaningless posturing. I bet English literature classes would love to read those for the flights of fancy.

    10. In summation – Santi STILL does not get it, but is trying to foist his own weaknesses and aberrant thoughts onto the worldby using ignorance combined with fabrications and delusional fantasies.

    Santi uses words by the pound and says very little of value. There is absolutely no one here who supported any of his conclusions because they are based on false premises and bizarre pathways of thought.

  35. articulett
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Santi, your arguments may be working to convince you that there is something mystical and magical out there that scientists can’t understand (but mystics can?!), but to me it’s the same as this:

    The same nothingness. Lots of words, but nothing is really said.

    Science works. It is the only thing that has revealed and honed our real “miracles” and knowledge. When science doesn’t have the answer or doesn’t understand something, I’ve yet to find anyone else who does. Sure, lots of people think they “know” something, but unless the knowledge is intelligible and repeatable it’s… well, it’s exactly like Tom Cruise’s verbiage as far as I’m concerned.

    It’s fascinating to watch, but there’s just nothing there. Clearly the person is trying to build up their delusion in their head by “selling” it to others.

    I understand that it makes you guys feel super deep… and I’ve been there, but I feel much more awe inspired by the actual knowledge we humans have figured out.

    I understand the natural world, and I find it far more “super” than babble about the “supernatural”. I care about what is true, and I’d rather not know something then “believe in” a lie.

    Humans have been making up supernatural explanations to explain things they don’t understand for eons. Never once have those supernatural explanations turned out to be verifiable. Instead they are slowly and steadily replaced by natural explanations like evolution. I’m tired of made up answers and semantic flummery. I care about what is true.

    Asking us to accommodate woo is like asking us to be dishonest. Nobody is stopping you from kissing the ass of whatever superstitions you find “compatible”, but don’t ask us to play along. I don’t find any kind of magical thinking compatible with science.

  36. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    Ad hominem attacks and expression of scorn are not arguments. For example, you said: “To even assume that minds were around 15 billion years ago is ludicrous and delusional.”

    But on what assumptions do you base your claim, and how do you justify your assumptions? In other words, at the moment just “prior” to the Big Bang there are only three possibilities: (1) there was some sort of eternal matter that birthed this universe; (2) there was nothing, and the universe, with all its laws, energy, and matter simply jumped into existence from nothing; or there was (3) some sort of necessary telos (mind) that set the contingent Big Bang universe into motion.

    Please explain (without derision) why option #3 alone is “ludicrous and delusional”, and why options 1 and 2 do not invite equivelent forms of question begging.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      You are the one spouting ad hominem attacks by saying atheists are just the same as religious dogma and most of the swill you profess.

      It is ludicrous and delusional for you to say minds were around 15 billion years ago because you have no evidence whatsoever!

      YOU are the one who needs to prove your assumptions. As anyone who has more than a grade school education knows, there is no need to prove a lack of something (minds existing 15 billion years ago) but you need to show evidence of your silly statements including what existed prior to the big bang. I do not propose any of the three, because it could be number 4 or 5 or 6,126,433,569.

      YOU are the one who needs to explain, not me. You still don’t get it.

  37. articulett
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Santi, why don’t you first tell us why we should take your claims more seriously than the claims of Scientologists…

    You make a lot of assertions, but this topic is about which claims scientists are supposed to “accomodate”… it’s not about your delusion as to how atheism is another faith. Atheism is no more another faith then your lack of belief in Scientology.

  38. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    Your choice to “punt” and not make explicit your own justifications for your materialist assumptions could be seen as telling.

    But I’m happy to go first, if that helps you. I’ve said all along that I’m neither an atheist nor a theist, but an agnostic. This means that in the context of the three options that we face with regard to the beginning of time, I hold that all three of them are equally improbable (that is, they are all three equally subject to question begging, and equally confounding to the human mind, whichever one of them proves to be true). Further, I hold that the three possibilities are equally impervious to direct empirical support.

    You, by contrast, have explicitly said that one of the three positions—that of “mind prior to matter”—is patently absurd. I’ve asked you why, and which position of the three you then take to be most rational and most in accord with the evidence, and you have yet to answer, or give justification for an answer.

    So once again, I’ll go first in this regard also. I’ll give you a couple of reasons (since you asked for them) as to why I do not think the “mind prior to nature” position is any more absurd on its face than the two “matter prior to mind” positions:

    1) The physical constants of the universe are in real need of explanation.

    2) The fact that the universe appears to not be eternal, and to have had a very definite beginning, and may be singular (that is, it may not be part of a multiverse), suggests that the universe is contingent and in need of some necessary and non-contingent first cause. Given the universe’s complexity, that first cause might be, in some sense, “intelligent” as opposed to blind, and “transcendent” as opposed to being within the material system set in motion. I would remind you that even Richard Dawkins concedes that the universe may be the product of a laboratory tinkerer from another, unseen, universe.

    3) The fact that the universe’s laws are predictable and knowable to human minds may suggest that mind somehow preceeds and is prior to matter and “behind” it. It seems strange and implausible (to say the least) that mind should be able to so thoroughly comprehend the universe in the way it does, and access its underlying principles. That we discover a blind system to be a comprehensible cosmos and not a chaos is odd. Einstein too thought it strange. Mind mirroring mind?

    4) The fact that matter produces mental states (such as consciousness, love, desire, creativity, imagination, and so on) may be suggestive of the priority of mind to matter at the beginning (that is, a system designed by something outside it to produce complex biology and consciousness). It does seem, curiously, that the human mind is “like a god” (to quote Shakespeare). It’s odd that a blind universe would generate so exquisite an imitation of a god-like, moral, and emotionally sensitive and imaginitive-creative being. If there are no gods, one thing seems undeniable: the universe manufacturers little “gods” by the billions.

    5) The fact that the universe appears to be explainable in terms of complex mathematics is especially curious. Why an otherwise “dumb” material system would be so mathematically complex seems to beg for explanation—especially if it is only 12-15 billion years old. Mathematics suggests that it might be that there is an intelligence or mind behind matter. I think of, for example, of physicist Garrett Lisi’s “E8″ scaffold on which the universe (in Lisi’s view) is constructed to be quite beautiful and elegant. Why there should be anything beautiful and elegant or simple in the material system seems to require some explanation beyond “luck” or “coincidence.” Also, some physicists think the universe is actually a hologram being projected from a two-dimensional plain. How blind matter could arrive at such a configuration by sheer chance seems to be a question in need of an explanation that might resort to mind behind matter.

    These are just some of the examples of why a reasonable person might keep in play the “mind preceeds matter” possibility. It would seem to explain certain features of the existing universe better than non-teleological material explanations.

    Okay, it’s your turn. Justify your own position (that mind prior to nature 15 billion years ago is absurd, and matter as either eternal or self-created from nothing is less question begging than the theist position).

    As an agnostic talking to an atheist, I’m interested in discovering the reasoning underlying your assertions.

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted July 5, 2009 at 5:18 am | Permalink

      1. We would like an explanation of everything. Some things have them, some do not. Science and humanity attempts to find more.

      Nothing “needs” an explanation. You need is your problem.

      2. Your starting premise is wrong. YOU need there to be a first cause.

      3. This premise is also wrong. There is no evidence of it.

      4. Once again, you state a fact then make a leap with an absurd prediction that has no evidence and therefore no value in it. I can play your game too: warm chocolate looks like feces so it must be the waist of some species we cant see. See how stupid your leaps from facts to nonsense works?

      5. Once again, a silly premise leads to a leap of absurdity. Of course the laws of universe follows mathematics. What else could it do? Magical, woo?

      Once again, Santi, you use many, many words to start with nonsense premises and progress without evidence or logic to wildly stupid end points.

      Same old garbage from Santi.

      Since I have easily exposed your nonsense and falacies all the time, I will answer every post of yours from now on with “Same old Santi nonsense – see the last 100 posts, people”.

  39. santitafarella
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Articulett:

    I can’t agree with you when you say: “Atheism is no more another faith then your lack of belief in Scientology.”

    Atheism is certainly a more rational “faith” than Scientology, with far less premises to maintain, but insofar as atheism is an “ism” (that is, a worldview based on naturalist assumptions such as that we live in one world, not two, and that matter preceeds mind), it is certainly no more subject to empirical verification than religious claims. Indeed, to say that the universe is an eternal material entity or created itself from nothing requires a great deal of imagination and invites every bit as much question begging as any religious position.

    With regard to justifying my own position, I hope my above post addressed to New England Bob satisfies your request.

    But I would say that it is now both New England Bob’s, and your own turn, to offer a positive affirmation and justification of your own worldviews. It seems to me that a characteristic of honest dialogue is not simply to offer criticism of another’s position, but to explain and justify what one wishes to offer in its place.

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted July 5, 2009 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      He he, Santi did not understand Articulett’s original statement and turned it backwards.

      Same old Santi nonsense – see the last 100 posts, people.

  40. articulett
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    atheism is a lack of belief in invisible entities that people describe as gods.

    As such it is the same as lack of belief in invisible entities that people describe as demons, devils, unicorns,and fairies.

    I can see why believers want to call such things a “faith”. But it’s not. If you don’t call your lack of belief in Santa a faith then you are dishonest to call atheism a faith. No atheist I know considers the things they don’t believe in as being faith based beliefs. You are shifting the burden of proof because of the word “ism”. Sorry, it’s up to those who believe in unintelligible immeasurable beings to prove they exist. The default rational position is disbelief.

    You may believe that atheism is another faith, but I consider that belief on par with all woo beliefs… including belief in god. It’s an unsubstantiated belief that is barely intelligible, but it seems to make people feel good.

    When people believe strongly in things for which there is no evidence (or very poor evidence), we call them delusional. You are as delusional about atheists as you are about other aspects of reality, Santi.

  41. articulett
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, I’ve never heard of an intelligible concept of a god I could believe in. I don’t believe consciousness can exist absent a material brain any more than I believe sound can exist in a vacuum– and for the same reason! I would need evidence to suggest that such a thing is possible before I’d care what you or any guru had to say about the subject.

    To me, you sound desperately like you are trying to convince yourself that some magical belief you have could be true… or is at least as likey to be true as the absence of such a belief. But just because there are 2 options, doesn’t mean that both are equally likely. Example: either fairies exist or they don’t. I think we can all agree that both options are not equally probable. The same goes for gods… and for the same reason.

    The problem with all your arguments is that they could be used equally well to prop up belief in fairies or demons or things you don’t believe in. That’s why you sound as nutty, desperate, and unintelligible as the average Scientologist to me. I’m sure they would argue that lack of belief in Scientology is a faith too.

  42. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Believers in invisible entities (angels, ghosts, goblins, gods, demons, Thetans, souls, fairies, spirit guides, etc.) ought really to have conversations with each other over which of their invisible entities are the most likely to be true, because as far as I can tell, they have nothing to offer science except a peek into the way the human mind fools itself.

    Do you see the problem, Santi? There IS no way to tell one of these entities from the others or a real one from a false one. There is no evidence for any of them. You are all reduced to trying to make scientists and materialists look bad (via straw men) because you have nothing else to spin you delusions with. You are saying exactly what believers in the things you don’t believe in would say to you! You are just as manipulative and deluded as they are.

    If there are no immaterial conscious entities, would you want to know? And if so, how in the world do you think you’d find this out? I don’t think enabling you with discussion and semantics is likely to help you get a clue any more then doing the same for those who have beliefs that you find delusional.

  43. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    If you truly understood evolution, I think you’d realize that human consciousness as well as our various supernatural beliefs evolved via natural selection just like everything else…

    Nothing could have been “pre planned” because the pre-planner would have to have evolved too. Our myths, and gods, and languages, and explanations evolved as ways of explaining our awareness and as a byproduct of the way our consciousness evolved. We “feel like” we are separate from our bodies the way the earth feels flat–but it’s an illusion based on perceptions that help us make sense of the world we find ourselves in.

    But how can you teach this to anyone when they’ve come to “need” a different belief in order to feel “saved”? People like you, Santi, put people like Jerry in the position of having to lie, ignore you, or inadvertently crush the equivalent of a child’s Santa belief and have the scorn heaped upon him for doing such.

    This is why all faith needs to be kept private and science cannot be expected to “accommodate” any brand. Not Scientology and not your brand either.

  44. santitafarella
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Articulett:

    I appreciate your responses, but I think that it is interesting that you chose not to even attempt a justification of the premises underlying your atheism. I’m getting the impression that you are willing to look at your own intellectual premises only so far, and then at a certain point you simply stop and regard them as a “natural” default position from which you refuse to inquire further.

    Can you tell me, for example, which of the three options for the beginning of the universe that you (personally) favor, and WHY you think one is better than the others? This, I realize, requires an explicit statement of your own premises, and perhaps you’ve never thought about them, or don’t like thinking about them because you think you cannot adequately justify them.

    And I don’t know if it is a matter of comfort to you, or what, but you keep talking to me as if I’m a religionist. I’m an agnostic with regard to whether mind preceeds matter at the beginning or time or matter preceeds mind. But as to specific culturally generated gods, like you I’m an atheist. I’m not agnostic about the existence of Yahweh, Krishna, Zeus, hell, the Muslim heaven, Xenu, or Baal. I don’t think any of these gods or theological ideas have intellectual credence. I’m less certain, however, about some of the more reserved claims of intellectual theology. My agnosticism keeps open just some of the narrower claims of religion. I think, for example, that there is logical merit in the cosmological argument, but it does not follow that were I ever to become a theist that I would likely go beyond the limited propositions of 18th century deism.

    In terms of accomodationism, I think that the dialogue between science and religion is valuable, and that intellectuals can say interesting things when they discuss these issues together. I don’t think that science should be afraid, or regard as pointless, metaphysical and epistemic discussions that include intellectual theists in the room. I note, for example, that the physicist Paul Davies has recently started an institute at ASU devoted to reflecting on big issues concerning the universe’s origin and potential meaning. Here’s the link: http://beyond.asu.edu/

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted July 5, 2009 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Same old Santi nonsense – see the last 100 posts, people.

  45. santitafarella
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Here is physicist Paul Davies on the perplexities of the life and consciousness friendly universe and its origin:

    “The problem with saying God did it is that God himself or herself is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off. But to say that the laws of physics just happen to permit life is no explanation either.”

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted July 5, 2009 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Who says “the laws of physics just happen to permit life”? No one uses that as an explanation of life. Do you have apoint here?

      Same old Santi nonsense – see his last 100 posts, people.

      • articulett
        Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        It’s the nonsense all believers in all superstitions use… Truthers, homeopaths, psychics…

        They all use tangents, digressions, straw men, obfuscation, semantic bullshit, attack of their opponent, claims of conspiracy by scientists, etc.

        They want to believe that nothing will change our minds, but the truth is, ordinary evidence of the kind they’d need to “believe in” Scientology or some other wacky belief would do. Why wouldn’t they expect scientists to require the same sort of evidence that they, themselves, would require to believe in fairies or other supernatural entities?

        It is they who are close minded. No amount of evidence will change the mind of a person who believes that faith is an avenue towards truth.

        They need to believe that those who threaten their beliefs are “bad guys”… that’s easier than examining whether they’ve been deluding themselves.

        I actually think Santi’s words here are good, because they do illustrate exactly why we can’t mix any superstition with science– there’s no place to draw the line and believers get defensive and muddled and attacking when their pet delusion is threatened.

        I don’t think science needs to accommodate any kind of magical thinking. I think we can safely dismiss it all as “not science”.

      • articulett
        Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        And they aren’t really asking for “accommodation”, they really want us to respect their beliefs and say that we think they are rational– and, barring that, they want us to say that our “lack of belief” is just as much of a “faith” as whatever it is they believe (which they are never very clear about).

        That’s the essence of the whole accommodation debate.

  46. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Santi,

    The premise underlying my atheism and all atheism is the complete lack of evidence for any gods. It’s the same premise you use to justify your disbelief in Scientology, Thor, fairies, Santa, demons, astrological influences, etc.

    You can’t accept this because you want to believe that god belief is more justified than belief in those things, but you have no evidence in favor of this claim so you are stuck doing what every “woo” does– obfuscating the issue and attacking straw man positions of your opponent.

    This is why no “woo” should be mixed with science. You woo need to stick to the woo magisteria. Science is about evidence– you woo have none.

    You are too in need of your beliefs to participate in coherent productive conversations if they threaten the “woo” that you imagine is responsible for all your transcendent feelings.

    When I talk to you, I suspect I feel exactly the way you would feel trying to talk sensibly to a Scientologist. I think you are too brainwashed with whatever nebulous thing you “believe in” to hear anything that anyone else is actually saying. You mishear and mischaracterize the words of others so as to never have to actually explain or justify your own silly beliefs.

  47. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Santi, you can answer all the questions you direct at me and others by pretending that Scientologists are asking those questions of you about their beliefs.

    How can you justify your non-belief in Scientology. How do you know there are no such things as engrams? Surely, Tom Cruise is richer, handsomer, and more successful than you and he credit Scientology– are you so closed minded as to think you have a truer belief system? Where’s the evidence? How do you know Thetans aren’t real. You’re a “wog”… a “suppressive person” so of course you are an enemy of Scientology. Your lack of belief in Scientology is another faith which you have failed to justify.

    If you really want to understand my answer to your silly questions, then I suggest that they are the same sorts of answers you’d give to the above.

  48. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Of course, I don’t believe any woo want their questions answered… the questions themselves are just their dishonest attempts at creating straw men that they can knock down and use to win points in their head game.

    That’s another reason woo can’t sit at the grown up table… they ask loaded questions meant to infer something smarmy about their opponent. Science is about asking real questions and then figuring out real answers.

    You may not understand this, Santi, but everyone else here understands that you are playing the insincere question game as a pretense for dialogue and discussion. You don’t want a discussion or answers to your question, you are just trying to prove to yourself in your head that you are right about something (that atheism is a faith based position that needs to be justified the way a faith based position would for example.)

  49. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    As for the beginning of the universe, I don’t have a lot of strong beliefs about the subject, but I trust that there is one true answer,and that scientists are far more likely to come up with that answer than any guru. When it comes to “before the big bang”, I think all mortals are in the same boat of not knowing. But some people imagine they DO know… and they think a magic man is involved.

  50. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    By the way, I don’t have to know or have any beliefs at all about the universe to understand that you cannot know anything about it that I cannot know.

    I don’t have to have answers to understand why you and assorted gurus don’t have answers either. What I believe about the creation of the universe is irrelevant as to what is true and what can be known at this time.

    When science doesn’t know the answer yet, then that doesn’t mean that your woo IS the answer. As far as I’m concerned, when you say “god” is the answer it’s the same as saying “magic” is the answer. It means nothing and explains nothing. It just makes the faithful “feel” like they know something “real”. To me your silly questions sound so ignorant like this: “If the earth is round,how come the oceans don’t spill out?”

    Your questions themselves speak of ignorance not easily remedied. You have a clear interest in maintaining your ignorance. You ask dishonest questions that you don’t want the answer to and you can’t understand the answer anyhow, because you have a desperate need to believe that your god is more likely to exist than fairies or demons or all those other supernatural things you don’t believe in.

    You exemplify the reason WHY science cannot accommodate any magical thinking–including the one that you deny is magical thinking.

  51. articulett
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    The more respect you show to believers, the more they feel special for their inane beliefs and the nastier they are to those who threaten them.

    I don’t think “god” faith is any more worthy of respect than belief in demons. I also think it’s just as harmful and just as much an impediment to learning about reality.


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