Tania Lombrozo part 2: It can be rational to have faith

Tania Lombrozo, a Templeton-funded associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been writing on the cosmos & culture science website for National Public Radio. Yesterday I discussed what I saw as her gratuitous call for “respectful dialogue” between believers and nonbelievers, which seemed to me an effort to buttress religion’s undeserved privilege in public discourse. Soon thereafter—about a week ago—Lombrozo followed up with another post, “Can faith ever be rational?” Her answer, of course, is “yes.”

To those of us who think of “rational” as “something based on reason and logic,” and “faith” (I use Walter Kaufmann’s definition) as “intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person,” this seems strange. How can it be rational to have a confident belief in something without supporting evidence?

Well, it all depends on a semantic trick: redefining “faith” and “rationality” in a way that makes them compatible. Sounds like Steve Gould’s NOMA gambit, doesn’t it?

Lombrozo reached her faith-friendly conclusion after reading some philosophy. As she notes:

To help me think about these weighty matters, I decided to read two recent papers (one already published, with a more accessible version forthcoming) by Berkeley philosophy professor Lara Buchak.

I’ve read both (free at Lombrozo’s links), but will take Buchak’s quotes from the one cited at the bottom of this post. Here’s Buchak’s definition of “faith”

By ‘faith statements’ I simply mean statements involving the term ‘faith’. The following are representative

I have faith in your abilities.
He has faith that his spouse won’t cheat on him.
I have faith in you.
He has faith that you won’t reveal his secret.
She acted on faith.
She has faith that her car will start.
It was an act of faith.
I have faith that God exists.
I have faith in God’s goodness
.
I have faith in God.

Note that this conflates the notion of faith as “evidence-based confidence” with the “belief in the absence of much evidence” definition of Kaufmann.  Buchak then says that “faith” involves taking an action initially motivated by some empirically-supported belief—but not a belief held with 100% certainty.  Faith means taking such an action without looking for further evidence that could provide more certainty.

Then Buchak distinguishes between two types of rationality: “epistemic” rationality, which involves “[proportioning] one’s beliefs to one’s evidence.” and “practical” rationality, which involves “selecting the means to achieve one’s ends.” (I’m simplifying things a bit here, but not in a way that seems to distort her argument.)

Given that, then of course it can be practically rational to have faith. If you have a certain end beyond just a stronger knowledge of the truth (say, more money, a better relationship, etc.), then you can act based on what you know—provided, of course, that you are initially acting based on a fairly strong degree of evidence. It would be rational, then, to act without getting more evidence if  “available evidence is such that no potential piece of evidence [yet unfound] would tell conclusively enough against it.” (I’m still quoting Buchak here.)

Buchak uses an example of a marriage in which one partner is contemplating adultery.  He would do so if he found out his spouse was cheating, but there is no evidence to suggest that; the evidence is that she is faithful. It would be rational, then, to not continue to look for evidence for the wife’s adultery, because by so doing you could just make the relationship worse—something that isn’t in your interest.  In other words, in this situation, says Buchak, it’s rational to have faith in your wife’s fidelity. There are costs of further investigation, including the time lost when you could have achieved your end.

So faith can be rational.  But this isn’t something new, for of course scientists act the same way so long as you use “faith” in the scientific sense of “confidence based on evidence.” We never have 100% certainty, but when we take actions based on evidence, like launching a Mars rover, we have enough confidence in our results that we consider it rational to launch the rocket. We could keep testing the systems over and over again, but one reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Too, we could always look for more evidence for the hexagonal nature of benzene, as we’re not 100% certain it has that shape; but one reaches a point where it’s “rational” to act as if we know the shape with sufficient confidence to achieve our chemical ends. Further investigation will never give us 100% certainty in the scientific sense.

So if you define “faith” as “confidence based on evidence”, which is its vernacular meaning in science, then yes, it can be rational for even scientists to have faith.

But that’s not what Lombrozo’s piece is about, of course. In the end it’s about whether it can be rational to have faith in God. One would think that this wouldn’t wash, because to believe in God in the first place you require fairly strong evidence (that’s part of Buchak’s definition of “faith”), and there simply isn’t that kind of evidence.  Buchak says otherwise:

[William] James argued that when a decision about what to believe is momentous—in that it involves a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for example—then it must be made by the will, and that postponing the decision is a decision in itself. He used this observation to argue that it is rationally permissible to choose to believe in God even when one does not have conclusive evidence for God’s existence. I don’t think that it is rationally permissible to believe that God exists when one does not have conclusive evidence, if this means setting one’s credences differently from what one has evidence for (though I’m not saying that this is what James is suggesting). However, I do think that it is sometimes rationally permissible (and indeed, sometimes rationally required!) to have faith in God—as evidenced by doing some particular religious act without looking for further evidence—in circumstances in which postponing the decision to act is costly, provided one has the appropriate credences, and provided these are the correct credences to have given one’s evidence.

This is where Buchak’s argument goes wonky. How can one have faith in God without believing in God? That implies that you take an action normally predicated on fairly strong evidence—”appropriate credences” is the euphemism here—that God exists, without having such evidence. That contravene’s Buchak’s notion of faith, which initially requires pretty strong evidence.  Second, postponing belief in God is not costly unless you think you’re going to die and are desperately making a Pascal’s Wager.  Maybe I’m missing something in Buchak’s argument, but it doesn’t sound to me, based on her own definition of faith, that it is “sometimes permissible (and rationally required!)” to have faith in God. Indeed, the argument above contradicts Buchak’s own claim at the end of her paper:

We have seen that whether faith that X, expressed by A, is rational depends on two important factors: (1) whether one has a high enough (rational) credence in X, and (2) the character of the available evidence. Specifically, faith in X is rational only if the available evidence is such that no potential piece of evidence would tell conclusively enough against X. . . So, in a rough-and-ready way, we might say that faith that X (expressed by some particular act A) is practically rational to the extent that the individual’s degree of belief in X is already based on a large body of evidence.

. . . Individuals who lack faith because they insist on gathering all of the available evidence before making a decision stand to miss out on opportunities that could greatly benefit them.

It would be rationally permissible to believe in God, then, only if you have enough evidence for a deity that no further evidence (rationally considered) would change your actions predicated on that belief.  And that’s not the way religion works. One doesn’t require strong empirical evidence to believe, nor does one contemplate what evidence would erase your faith.

I find myself criticizing Buchak more than Lombrozo here, but Lombrozo’s piece is largely a regurgitation in popular language of what Buchak says, and Lombrozo’s piece will certainly have far wider circulation than Buchak’s two articles that were published in anthologies of religious philosophy.

But Lombrozo certainly assents to Buchak’s conclusions. She first gives a nod to atheists (without apparently realizing that their arguments are absolutely decisive in this case) and then reproduces some correspondence she got from Buchak (in italics) that seems to give religious people permission to claim that their faith is rational:

Of course, it doesn’t follow from these arguments that religious faith – in general – is rational. Skeptics could argue that the condition of having strong evidence to begin with simply won’t obtain when it comes to having faith in God, and New Atheists might argue that actions based on faith can themselves be costly to oneself and to others, challenging the idea that they’ll ever yield greater expected utility.

Nonetheless, Buchak’s paper suggests that under some conditions, faith can be rational, and sets the stage for a more sophisticated conversation about faith for theists and atheists alike. In our own conversation, Buchak shared the following reflections:

“The way that religious faith is sometimes talked about in the larger cultural conversation can be harmful to everyone who is trying to find out the truth in religious matters and how they should live their lives. There’s a naïve idea that faith requires believing against the evidence, or in the absence of evidence. When this idea is adopted by atheists, it can allow them to dismiss all religious faith as irrational by definition, without considering what the evidence is for particular religious claims. When this idea is adopted by religious people, it can allow them to think that believing against the evidence is a virtue, which is harmful to the pursuit of truth – it can also be psychologically harmful to try to believe something you think you don’t have evidence for.”

Sounds like an excellent basis for establishing more charitable ground!

Oy vey!  This is a “more sophisticated conversation”? At the outset Lombrozo notes that there’s a case to be made that there isn’t strong evidence for God, but then quotes Buchak as saying that maybe there is some good evidence for particular religious claims (“everyone . .  trying to find out the truth in religious matters”). But what makes either Buchak or Lombrozo think that there is such truth to be found? Buchak’s assertion that atheists don’t consider “what the evidence is for particular religious claims” is flatly wrong. We all know that the claims of different faiths are contradictory, so at most only one can be right. But none of them have credible truth claims. If Buchak and Lombrozo imply that if it’s rational to believe in Jesus, then it must be irrational to believe in Allah.

Atheists have good reasons for not believing in God, and those come down to the lack of evidence. This means that can never be rational to have religious faith, by either Lombrozo or Buchak’s lights. There’s simply not the required preliminary evidence that’s an integral part of “rational faith”.  Nor need we atheists admit that faith can be rational, no matter which definition of “faith” you use.

Yet look at Lombrozo’s last sentence. It claims that Buchak’s argument provides “an excellent basis for establishing more charitable ground,” i.e., creating a respectful and fruitful dialogue between faith and religion.  That’s simply not the case. Although Lombrozo is a cultural Jewish atheist, she seems unaware of why most people are atheists. If she understood that, she’d know that Buchak’s paper doesn’t establish any common ground.

As I noted yesterday, the claims of belief and atheism are irreconcilable, and a dialogue between them will accomplish nothing. That doesn’t mean we need to vilify believers themselves—as opposed to their beliefs. But it does mean that we needn’t consider faith as either credible or rational.

___________________

Buchak, L  2013. Can it be rational to have faith? In Louis P. Pojman & Michael Rea (eds.), Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, 7th edition (forthcoming)

106 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    sub

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      yup

  2. Alex
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    The same old rhethorical sleight-of-hand (evidence based faith -> faithy faith) in new Templeton-funded packaging. How quaint.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      It’s the “argument from impoverished vocabulary.”

      • Alex
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Haha I like!

      • Robert
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Where’s the like button? That’s a good one.

  3. eric
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Buchak’s paper suggests that under some conditions, faith can be rational,

    Oh, sure. However, what’s at issue is not the philosophical possibility of some hypothetical rational faith, but rather whether this faith you’re talking about is rational. Whether Christianity is rational. Whether Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism is rational. If those aren’t members of the set of ‘rational faiths,’ then the existence of a set of ‘rational faiths’ cannot be used to defend them.

    Buchak’s argument strikes me as very similar to the ‘other ways of knowing’ argument. Sure there may be other ways of knowing, in principle. Philosophically, it’s possible. That’s not the issue: the issue is whether some particular other way of knowing, claimed by a real religion, actually yields knowledge. For example, does the bible provide a way of knowing. Does divine revelation provide a way of knowing. Does listening to a prophet provide a way of knowing. And the answor to such questions is no, no, no, etc… on down the list. Exactly as with the rational faith example, the existence of a ‘set of useful ways of knowing,’ provides no support whatsoever to the claim that your particular way of knowing is in that set. If it’s not in the set, the existence of the set provides no defense for it.

    • Ken Elliott
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Eric. That’s it in a nutshell.

    • Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      It seems to me that a lot of problems arise when listening to religious people because they are so very sure that their beliefs have a basis in rationality. And they are quite right! As Aquinas always insisted, Christianity is based upon reason. But here’s the thing. Beliefs arrived-at by using logic applied to false assumptions, always leads to nonsense. The difficulty for religious people is to understand the false assumptions behind their world-view. And they enjoy rich, ripe and quite delicious false assumptions; juicy enough to make an excellent false-assumption fruit pie. The core belief of all religious people is that they live within an ‘Intentional Universe’. From that one belief alone, all the gods emanate. Look at the life’s work of William Lane Craig; all based upon an absolute conviction that we live within an Intentional Universe. That strange assumption leaks from his every spoken or written word. But where does such an unwarranted assumption come from?…

      It goes like this. After the confusions of childhood, and after being exposed to the parental worldview, the adolescent has developed a system or matrix for processing experiential information. But there is an immediate problem. About a third of young people come to believe that they can only self-actualise and become a part of society as a whole by recognising and joining an authority-structure. That person is called a ‘Drone’. And Drones make up about a third of any human gathering or community anywhere.

      There are many types of Drone authority-structures; administration, religion, Law or any profession, education, IT, and especially within any hierarchical social structure such as local and national government. For religious people their objective is to recognise the authority-structure (real or imaginary) and to find a place within that authority-structure. Once within that structure, they lose individuality because the higher authorities rewrite the brain to bring that person into line with the authority’s demands. In effect, they become willing and unquestioning slaves to the rules of the authority. There are compelling similarities between those who work for government (civil servants) those who work for royalty (courtiers) and those who work for religion (worshippers) Their chief characteristics are obedience to authority; denial of individuality; inability to process experiential information; the need to dissemble (read: lie in defence of their beliefs); and a shocking indifference to those who, they think, are left out of the authority-plan.

      Two thirds of people have no such need, and may even develop an academic career where they remain a thorn in the side of widespread establishment opinion. I suspect that professor Ceiling Cat is one such religious dissenter.

      And here’s the difficult part. Human consciousness is the booting-up of the brain to put into place the collection of assumptions that allow the processing of experiential information. But human consciousness is not just one thing. There are many workable collection of false assumptions (called ‘solution-ideologies’) that will allow the human brain, when fully operating, to try to make sense of the world; many types of Brain Operating Systems… Astrology and its academic twin, psychology; all the religions; and all those who seek to join an hierarchy in sportsmanship; or within an intellectual hierarchy who’s numbered rungs of excellence are called I.Q. points: or those wanting to make progress up the slippery poles of the media, politics, banking, business or the commercial world.

      And so we cannot look at religion in isolation; we need to study and understand underlying Brain Operating Systems that seem to the true believers to provide a framework for understanding the universe, its contents and its processes.

      The bottom line is that logic, when applied to false assumptions, does not lead to knowledge; it leads to ideology. The theory is called ‘Human Sub-Set Theory’.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, a lot hinges on asking the right question to start or it all goes wonky fast!

      • pacopicopiedra
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        How do you know that drones makes up a third of every human gathering anywhere?

  4. Richard Olson
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Sub

  5. TJR
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    So, her whole argument boils down to conflating different meanings of the word “faith”?

    If Wittgenstein were alive today he’d turn in his grave.

  6. Alex
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    “If Wittgenstein were alive today he’d turn in his grave.”
    :D

    • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      If Wittgenstein were alive today, he’d be scratching at the lid of his coffin.

      Offhand, I can think of a kind of rational faith in the Bible, though. If I was certain of biblical inerrancy and sure that Solomon knew how to requisition a circular tub (1 Kings 7:23), I could say that I had faith that pi was rational.

      • Alex
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        Also, we’re dealing with a purely imaginary deity. He says so Himself in the ten commandments:

        “I am Yahweh your God”

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    The mental acrobatics Lombrozo performs for this Templeton money must leave her exhausted. Her piece was so convoluted (mostly resting conflated definitions of “faith” as others have noted above) that it betrays just how desperate she is to reconcile religious faith with reason. She must have reviewed her article and known,deep down, that it was profoundly flawed. It’s a horrible feeling – I remember that feeling when I would write essays in school and realize my point was wrong and I had to start over. Sadly, Lombrozo doesn’t start over.

    • Notagod
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I was thinking that as well. My conclusion was that Lombrozo needed some money and had reason (the twisted “faith” kind) to believe she would be paid for her scribblings.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      “To be a mathematician, all you need is a pencil, some paper, and a wastebasket. To be a philosopher, you don’t even need the wastebasket.”

  8. Greg Esres
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The logical fallacy of “equivocation”. Another demonstration of how religious beliefs cripple one’s reasoning capabilities.

  9. Mave
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    “Individuals who lack faith because they insist on gathering all of the available evidence before making a decision stand to miss out on opportunities that could greatly benefit them.”

    The irrational fear that Jesus will torture you forever is the “reason” for Christian faith.

    “Jesus … will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and [will] throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” —Matthew 13:41-42

    It’s really funny to watch adult academics dress up the Bible’s baseless threat in pseudo-mathematical gibberish.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Not to mention that it just doesn’t work that way. In reality a more accurate portrayal is that people that prefer to base their decisions on evidence often make decisions without having all the evidence they might otherwise wish to have for various reasons, such as risk assessment, time constaints or value judgements. And then they move forward aware of the fact that their decision is not as informed by evidence as would otherwise be deemed prudent, and aware of what it means.

      Sounds better than moving forward oblivious to the fact that reality might intrude on your delusion at any time without warning. At the least you are less well prepared to deal with surprises.

  10. H.H.
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    In brief, faith requires a willingness to act as if something is true while also refraining from gathering evidence for the purpose of checking whether it’s true.

    It sounds like she is saying religious faith can be “rational” so long as you don’t think about it very deeply or care whether it’s true. In other words, so long as a person either isn’t aware or doesn’t care that their beliefs are irrational, we can’t can’t judge such a person to be acting irrationally.

    By this standard, a person who really believes they can fly by flapping arms isn’t being irrational when they jump off a building.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      “Herbie pushed Tony from the Boys’ Club roof
      Tony thought that his rage was just some goof
      But Herbie sure gave Tony some bitchen proof
      “Hey,” Herbie said, “Tony, can you fly?”
      But Tony couldn’t fly . . . Tony died”

    • Prof.Pedant
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      I think that she is riffing off of the reason that I think “deciding to believe” is a nonsense statement.

      When I believe in something it is because I am convinced that it is true. I never ‘decide’ what is true, the ‘evidence’ is either convincing or it is not (and being told by someone else that it is convincing is not itself convincing). Because I am a fallible human with imperfect reasoning abilities and imperfect information I often become convinced by insufficient or inaccurate information. Still, there is ‘some sort of evidence’ that convinces me, even if it is rather poor evidence.

      It follows then that anyone who is convinced of something has a reason to be so, and since the ‘evidence’ that they ‘have’ is sufficient to convince them it (obviously) should be enough to convince you or me simply because it is ‘evidence’ and their apprehension of truth is true, because truth is true!. To deny that ‘their evidence’ is convincing is to suggest that their faith is ‘wrong’ (i.e. not reasonable, logical, rational, etc.), which would be rude….and problematic because someone might then criticize ‘your own truth’….

      The “act as if something is true” is a ‘sophisticated’ way to acknowledge that the ‘evidence’ that convinces us is often flawed (and is thus an assertion that ‘if you say my evidence is flawed I get to say that your evidence is flawed’). The “refraining from gathering evidence” is an appeal for the sort of ‘mutual respect’ that allows her to not have to closely examine the reasons why she is convinced of what she believes, and which allows her to not have to contemplate how nutty so many beliefs are (it can be scary to realize that many people believe seriously crazy things). In both parts the statement is ‘an act of generosity’ that should bring credit and respect to the person saying it.

      Thus, Ms. Lombrozo’s article is about how she, and everyone else, can feel good – if only people would understand that believing something is true is always rational, and that if we ‘refrain from gathering evidence’ in the right ways everyone can feel good about whatever they believe. And it is good to feel good! Which is really good, and shows how good Ms. Lombrozo is. (And since the article ‘proves’ Ms. Lombrozo is good any criticism of the article that doesn’t forthrightly state that Ms. Lombrozo is good is obviously a bad and invalid criticism, even though no way of knowing is invalid.)

  11. Mike Brady
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    William James is often trotted out by “believers” as a source to justify their faith in god. James does NOT use his arguments in “The Will to Believe” and “The Varieties of Religious Experience” to prove the existence of god. Nor does he prove or even assert that we must have a faith in god. He speaks almost exclusively of a possibility of a faith in religion…not the same thing. Even those who love James will admit he is a bit scattered at times. So here is what he actually asserts in those two texts. First and most important, James is a pluralist when it come to religion (and everything else). That means that there are any number of possible starting points. His explanation for this religious plurality is loosely based on an early version of evolutionary psychology. Varieties arise naturally and there is no way to determine worth except through practice…he is a pragmatist. Religion is subjective in this sense and faith in any specific religion is a contingent fact…it is an empirical faith and not a necessary faith (or absolutist faith as he might say).

    The “faith” James argues for in the “Will to Believe” would be better understood if people read a bit more James. He also wrote (as a part of a syllabus used to introduce philosophy) “Faith and the Right to Believe.” This title much more accurately represents his view. Faith for James MUST be a “live option” for the individual. A live option is a subjective, emotional response–not rational. If faith in religion is not a live option for you, James admits this is a possibility, then ignore the rest of his argument from “Will to Believe.” It is better understood as the right to believe if religion has an emotional appeal to you. If you ever hear a non-pluralist argument attributed to James be suspicious.

    The author writes of James above, “He used this observation to argue that it is rationally permissible to choose to believe in God even when one does not have conclusive evidence for God’s existence.” NO. James argued that it is subjectively and emotionally allowable to believe in religion (and perhaps god indirectly…though equally subjectively). You have a right to follow your own subjective leanings. This is not an argument that moves beyond the individual rationally. A quote from the conclusion of his Varieties, “Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? are so many irrelevant questions.”

  12. Achrachno
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I was stopped by this:

    “By ‘faith statements’ I simply mean statements involving the term ‘faith’. The following are representative

    I have faith in your abilities.” … etc.

    That’s a pretty poor definition. Does she elsewhere define the word faith as she intends to use it?

    This is about what she seems to be doing: By ‘BLOOFNER statements’ I simply mean statements involving the term ‘BLOOFNER’. The following is representative: I have BLOOFNER in your abilities.

    This may be the beginning of the equivocation.

    • Tulse
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      By ‘rock statements’ I simply mean statements involving the term ‘rock’. The following are representative:

      The Rolling Stones play rock.
      That rock is made of granite.
      That is a chair that can rock.
      The Scorpions will “rock you like a hurricane”.
      That is a rock of crack cocaine.

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        And from a professor of philosophy. A professor of philosophy. At a university. Definitely a Mugatu moment.

  13. Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    To those of us who think of ‘rational’ as ‘something based on reason and logic,’ and ‘faith’ (I use Walter Kaufmann’s definition) as ‘intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person,…’”

    By Kaufman’s definition, cutting edge science is a matter of faith since reasonable people typically disagree mightily about it (if its proponents believe it to be true, as the history of science suggests they generally do). I wouldn’t have thought you’d want to go there. I wouldn’t.

    “…this seems strange. How can it be rational to have a confident belief in something without supporting evidence?”

    Which is it — “not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person” or “without supporting evidence”? I don’t think either is very good.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      The ideas in cutting edge science are based on some evidence but push that evidence further to make predictions, which are then tested. As you noted the new ideas do not “command assent”, this aspect of Kaufmann’s definition does not fit science either. If these ideas were as intense and confident as a religious idea scientists wouldn’t experiment.

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        “The ideas in cutting edge science are based on some evidence….”

        Not always (at least at first).

        “…but push that evidence further to make predictions, which are then tested.”

        Of course. That’s the way science works.

        “As you noted the new ideas do not ‘command assent’, this aspect of Kaufmann’s definition does not fit science either. If these ideas were as intense and confident as a religious idea scientists wouldn’t experiment.”

        I am not a scientist so my sample size isn’t as large as I’d like. But the scientists I do know are generally very intense and confident about their cutting edge ideas, even if they can’t fully support them yet. Even so, they do more work and try to let the data control. I think Kaufmann is in error because I don’t think it’s “faith” when the cutting edge scientist can’t convince everyone yet. Kaufmann also seems to assume a reasonableness on the part of those supporting the “outgoing concept” that ain’t necessarily so (on account of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias).

        • Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          What has been the point if the comments you’ve made over past couple of days?

          Do you or do you not see a difference between religious faith and the scientific method?

          Do you or do you not think faith is just peachy as a valid epistemology?

          Your accusations of tu quoque aren’t apt. It’s the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it. (pace Larry Miller)

          • Marta
            Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

            Thank you for putting these questions, which I have, too, particularly the third.

          • Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

            “What has been the point if the comments you’ve made over past couple of days?”

            I think these types of discussions, while interesting and entertaining at a certain level, are futile and ultimately a waste of time. Each side is usually talking past the other, eager to preach primarily to the converted while slamming the opposition as evil, delusional, stupid or whatever. I don’t think that’s very smart or very productive.

            “Do you or do you not see a difference between religious faith and the scientific method?”

            I do.

            “Do you or do you not think faith is just peachy as a valid epistemology?”

            I think that’s the wrong question. Religionists think that faith “works” for them in some sense and at some level. There are issues of fact, value, taste, history and culture involved. Some on each side want to convert the opposition. Since ideas have consequences, this isn’t altogether a bad thing. Some people are swayed by hard preaching (from whatever side). But I think the better approach — especially if understanding and co-existence are goals too (the objective isn’t *just* conversion, based upon the self-evident idea that not everybody is going to agree with me) — is generally to talk to people about what’s important to them, why they think and believe the way they do, what the consequences of their beliefs are, and how people who so strongly disagree can get along (at least functionally) in a way that’s fair to everyone. Some will remain nasty, belligerent and even pig-headed, but others may well decide that the opposition isn’t entirely populated by the caricatures so many want to insist are the norm.

            We all tend to demonize the “other.” But by and large, the atheists I know aren’t the immoral, evil, nasty people so frequently portrayed by too many believers. Similarly, the religionists I know aren’t often the stupid, delusional cretins too often portrayed here. That suggests to me that we’d all be better off facing actual reality rather than some overly polarized view of reality.

            On the other hand, there are some pretty disgusting people on both (all) sides. If they are going to be marginalized, it’s going to happen via real communication and understanding among people of goodwill. I see very little of that from any side, especially on the internet.

            “Your accusations of tu quoque aren’t apt. It’s the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.”

            We almost *always* think we’re way better than the other side. “But I’m so nice and reasonable.” Bias blindness is a constant. Without asserting a false equivalency, to the extent that we’re decent people, we should all be able to acknowledge that there are lots of people of goodwill who disagree with us on a variety of things that are important (religion, politics, policy, etc.) and then try to foster relationships and conversations with them. That people on each side might get to think that they have “gone the extra mile” for a good cause is an added bonus.

            • gbjames
              Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

              “I think these types of discussions, while interesting and entertaining at a certain level, are futile and ultimately a waste of time.”

              Which makes me wonder why you are motivated to run on at such length about how nobody’s ideas are any better than anyone else’s. Why on earth should anyone take seriously the the argument of someone who claims, essentially, that all points of view are equally valid?

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

                “Why on earth should anyone take seriously the the argument of someone who claims, essentially, that all points of view are equally valid?”

                Had I argued or implied any such thing, you might have a point.

              • gbjames
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

                Does “… are futile and ultimately a waste of time.” mean something different to you than it does to me?

            • Marta
              Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

              Egad.

              Respectfully, Mr. Seawright, for one who finds these discussions “futile” and “time-wasting”, you’ve certainly written several comments over two days consisting of hundreds of words. Each.

              The point, if you have one, is still lost somewhere in the tall weeds of your lengthy commentary, and for a better exemplar of futility and time-wasting . . .

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

                “Does ‘… are futile and ultimately a waste of time.’ mean something different to you than it does to me?”

                How could I possibly know?

                “Respectfully….”

                That almost always indicates a lack of respect (the way “clearly” and “obviously” indicate a lack of clarity and that it isn’t obvious at all).

                “[F]or one who finds these discussions ‘futile’ and ‘time-wasting’, you’ve certainly written….”

                If your goals are some combination of conversion, mutual understanding or productive co-existence, I don’t think the “You’re evil, stupid or delusional” approach will be effective all that often. If your objective is self-flattery and pumping up the converted, it works great.

                As for why I have bothered in this instance, I find such exercises occasionally interesting and entertaining. They also help me clarify my thinking. Thank you for asking.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                +1 My thoughts as well.

              • gbjames
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                Speaking of the Tea Party, Bob Seawright, have you considered applying for a job in the filibuster department?

              • Posted September 25, 2013 at 3:30 am | Permalink

                Sorry, Mr. Seawright, but we’re not here to amuse you, but to further discussion. Your comments are bordering on trolling, especially since you are so deeply engaged in a discussion you see as futile.

                And while they may waste YOUR precious time, I have ample testimony that they’ve helped other people clarify their thinking AND have weaned some people from their faith. I occasionally publish a reader’s letter to this effect.

                Are you religious (this is a question I often ask new commenters)? If the answer is yes, you must give the evidence for your faith before you can comment further.

            • Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

              I’m still not getting a well-defined point from you. It seems like it might be: “Even atheists sometimes fall back on faith [the tu quoque I mentioned], therefore, you shouldn’t go around decrying faith.” I disagree. Do I sometimes draw conclusions and take action based on shaky evidence? Sure. As you say, we all do. We have to. Not every decision we ever make can be given the time and rigorous treatment a scientific hypothesis gets, as a matter of practicality. Enter the tu quoque fallacy. Just because I base my decision about what plumber to hire only on word-of-mouth doesn’t mean I can’t argue against faith in its more virulent manifestations.

              Why is it wrong to ask if faith constitutes a valid epistemology? That is the question, it seems to me. The answer is “no”, even though I, myself, may fall back on it from time to time, out of necessity. I’d love to be able not to have to do so. I really don’t know what to make of your point that “religionists think faith works for them…” How does that bear at all on the question of whether or not faith can ascertain truth?

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

                “I’m still not getting a well-defined point from you.”

                I’ll try to do better.

                I have been addressing two separate questions. As a practical matter, the more important issue in my view is trying to find a way to co-exist when and where there are such intense disagreements among believers and atheists.

                I’ll start with a political comparison. The Tea Party movement is committed to the idea that the President’s positions aren’t just wrong. It is committed to their illegitimacy. Accordingly, it doesn’t make sense for the Tea Party to cooperate or compromise with him in any way. It helps that the movement’s leaders see that approach as the best means of success (cynically and shortsightedly viewed as re-election for individuals and ongoing control of the House). Becoming a working majority is seen as less important than remaining pure.

                Anti-accomodationists take a similar view with respect to religious belief. They see it as illegitimate (incompatible with science) and not worthy of any sort of compromise. As with the Tea Party, the already converted base feels great about itself (“We’re smarter and better”) and the leaders are hailed as speaking truth to power and get lots of adulation from the converted. They can all be proud of how pure they are too.

                But also as with the Tea Party, I don’t think the idea that a minority group gains power by telling the large majority that it’s evil, stupid and/or delusional (illegitimate) makes a lot of sense if there are bigger goals. It’s condescending (rarely attractive) and makes it hard to build coalitions with those of the great unwashed with which you may otherwise have significant policy agreements.

                Yet while I think this practical concern is really important, the great majority here doesn’t seem to agree. They’re simply interested in being right and staying pure, by golly. Just like the Tea Party.

                I suspect that your confusion over my position is grounded in the fact that I haven’t outlined my affirmative position with respect to faith to this point.

                Atheists pretty consistently try to define faith as “belief without evidence.” However, I don’t think that claim comports with historic Christianity (or other faiths, though I know less about them), standard dictionary definitions, or common sense. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines faith as

                “a. Confidence, reliance, trust (in the ability, goodness, etc., of a person; in the efficacy or worth of a thing; or in the truth of a statement or doctrine).

                “b. Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.”

                For the Christian (at least, since it’s the religion I know most about), it seems to me that faith is confident belief in God as revealed in Jesus. It doesn’t relate to a set of propositions at all and thus evidence as to the truth or falsity of certain propositions is manifestly irrelevant. That is not to say that such evidence doesn’t exist, however. The unsupported claim that faith is belief without evidence is an assertion disguised as a definition. Moreover, there is already a good word for “belief without evidence” and it’s “credulity.”

                Thus faith isn’t about propositions; it’s about commitment. Atheists (generally speaking) are unalterably committed to the classical view of rational argument via mathematical logic. That’s why accusations of formal fallacies (your tu quoque claim, for example) are so common. But that’s not the way people really think and decide by and large. It usually takes more than rational argument to overturn a bedrock moral commitment. That’s why I emphasize that so long as religion “works” for the religionist at some level, s/he isn’t going to reexamine the underlying epistemology (and there would be no reason to). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

                Some of us obtain our most important commitments (about religion, politics, relationships, etc.) via rational argument. But I think that’s unusual (though not to say “wrong”). I don’t think the anti-accomodationist argument is a very good one logically. If it were, we should be able to see it in the work of scientists who are religionists, but I’ve seen no evidence that it can be done. Thus the incompatibility claim is merely an exclusionary device (believing scientists are deemed impure) with no real impact on the science. That’s silly.

                But more than that I think the incompatibility claim is largely irrelevant. If you want to win the argument on the merits with the culture as a whole, you need to meet people where they live (so to speak). The evidence for the existence of God (or the lack thereof) will only become relevant if and when the believer doesn’t see faith as working anymore. I don’t see many here looking to make that argument.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

                I think the beef with accomodationism could be misunderstood. Many atheists (I can’t say all – atheists are a diverse group) don’t really care what people believe except when it interferes with science or politics or affects their lives adversely. Examples include forcing public prayer, pushing Intelligent Design or other creation myths into schools as real science or affecting public policies or laws (like saying abortion is bad or euthanasia is immoral).

                These examples I’ve given are not negotiable. I do not want to be forced to endure prayer. You are free to do that on your own wherever you are but please don’t force this on me and make me appear as an outcast if I object. Likewise, go ahead and believe the earth is 6000 years old and intelligent design is the bees knees but don’t force it on others as legitimate science. In this way science and religion are not compatible. Doing them at the same time is a cognitive disconnect and it’s okay if you want to do that but when you go into the lab, leave your religion at the door because I don’t want to fly in a plane built on faith and poetry.

                I get the impression that you feel anti-accomodationists aim to rid the world of religion. I may hold the opinion that the world is better without religion but that is not exactly why I see science and religion as incompatible – it’s more nuanced as I’ve outlined in the paragraphs above.

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                I dont want to fly in a plane built on faith and poetry.

                There ain’t no faith in Burt Rutan’s planes, but they are the very embodiment of poetry in motion. Much the same applies to certain aircraft made by Lear, Cessna, and, yes, even Boeing.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

                She’s lost the will to live? What’s your degree in, poetry? – Dr Ball :D

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                Something tells me there’s a cultural reference I’m missing….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                In Star Wars the ball with the needle is a torture device Darth Vader uses to intimidate Princess Leia bit in Robot Chicken it is shown as a doctor. Doctor Ball goes through several iconic Star Wars scenes, the scene with Leia, Luke when he is recovering and the death of Padme, after Anakin becomes Vader and she dies (of a broken heart). It is extra funny because of the atheist overtones of getting on your knees and praying instead of using medical equipment.

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                Didn’t notice the link…having watched the video, yes, makes much more sense. Thanks!

                b&

                >

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

                But also as with the Tea Party, I dont think the idea that a minority group gains power by telling the large majority that its evil, stupid and/or delusional (illegitimate) makes a lot of sense if there are bigger goals.

                First, that’s not even vaguely true to a first approximation. The Civil Rights movement didn’t win its victories with accommodationism; it won it when little old ladies refused to sit at the back of the bus, when people insisted on being served at the same counter as everybody else, and when other people chose to be attacked by dogs and burly men with firehoses and even hang by the neck until dead rather than give up the right to vote. There’s no more powerful way to make the message that somebody is evil than to broadcast the funeral of little girls who died in a church bombing.

                Secondly, I don’t think many rationalists are primarily interested in changing the hearts and minds of the religious masses. Our first focus is on keeping the State from using its overwhelming power to coerce religious behavior — and that’s something that many religious people happily agree with us about.

                And, while it can be rewarding and entertaining to try to convince people to abandon superstition and embrace reality, again, for most of us, the goal is simple personal integrity. I’m not going to lie to a religious person that I think it’s reasonable that some ancient Jewish zombie is going to let them fondle his intestines forever if they just eat his flesh that some shaman has magically reanimated from a stale cracker. I’m generally not going to go out of my way to tell adults that they’re being stupidly childish in an unhealthy and embarrassing manner, but I’m certainly not going to lie to them that they’re being rational adults.

                That’s another part of the equation. Most rationalists have too much respect for the religious to treat them with those kinds of kid gloves. It’s the accommodationists who’re showing true arrogance by patronizingly telling the religious that they’re too fragile or uninformed or plain stupid to handle the truth. Bullshit; they can handle the truth just fine.

                Finally, you seriously need to get caught up on modern psychology. People don’t abandon dearly-held false beliefs because everybody is telling them how right they are to believe in lies. They abandon those false beliefs when the pain of lying to themselves becomes greater than the comfort they take in deluding themselves. “There is no coming to consciousness without pain,” a wise man once wrote, and the researchers specializing in cognitive dissonance can fill you in on all the details.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                Bob –

                You are fixated on the symbol.

                Even if I grant that the word “faith” is not defined as “belief without evidence” (although that is one of its definitions, like it or not), all that means is that the phenomenon we naturalists are aguing against will have to go by some other name, some other verbal symbol. “Credulity” works fine for me. But you score no points arguing from the semantic angle.

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

                Also I want to second what Diana and Ben wrote.

              • eric
                Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

                “As a practical matter, the more important issue in my view is trying to find a way to
                co-exist..”

                We do co-exist. There are not masses of atheists killing theists for their theism, or vice versa. There’s the occasional loony, but they do not characterize either social movement. At least not in modern western nations.

                So, I think co-existence is not what you’re going for. I think your position is more accommodationist; you think we should not argue over points of disagreement. I can’t really buy into that.

                Frankly, I’m too much of an optimist. I think the vast majority of adults are mature enough to understand that not agreeing on everything does not equal being a tribal enemy.

        • Alex Shuffell
          Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          I’m struggling to think of a scientific idea that wasn’t initially based on evidence. I’m including mathematical arguments as evidence.

          Scientists can be confident and intense with their ideas, but they probably would change their mind and update or discard the idea if given evidence to the contrary, unlike religious faith. I think we are saying the same thing here.

          • Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

            “[T]hat’s not even vaguely true to a first approximation.”

            The revisionism is interesting, but wrong. The Civil Rights Movement prevailed, first, by demonstrating — obviously and powerfully — the dignity, bravery and common humanity of those who were oppressed. It succeeded in the long run (with a good bit of work still to do) by people living and working with those they had hated and feared and finding that they (by and large) weren’t so bad after all. The victory was moral at its core. People could see – viscerally and emotionally – what was right and what was wrong. Your screaming at religionists about how evil, stupid or mentally ill they are is hardly in the same category.

            “I don’t think many rationalists are primarily interested in changing the hearts and minds of the religious masses. Our first focus is on keeping the State from using its overwhelming power to coerce religious behavior — and that’s something that many religious people happily agree with us about.”

            To the extent that your analysis is correct in this regard, I happily agree.

            “[T]he goal is simple personal integrity. I’m generally not going to go out of my way to tell adults that they’re being stupidly childish in an unhealthy and embarrassing manner, but I’m certainly not going to lie to them that they’re being rational adults.“

            It’s wonderful the way you deign to aid those poor unfortunates who aren’t as smart and good as you. So the next time you see a little old lady working in a church soup kitchen, perhaps the daughter of one who refused to stand up on a bus in Montgomery or Selma half a century ago, remind yourself that it’s a matter of personal integrity for you to advise her that she’s some combination of evil, stupid and mentally ill. I have little doubt she’ll immediately see the error of her ways and drop to her knees in gratitude and adulation.

            “Most rationalists have too much respect for the religious to treat them with those kinds of kid gloves. It’s the accommodationists who’re showing true arrogance by patronizingly telling the religious that they’re too fragile or uninformed or plain stupid to handle the truth. Bullshit; they can handle the truth just fine.”

            That’s just poor and dishonest rhetoric. I encourage you (and anyone else) to tell me – forcefully and unequivocally – when and where I am wrong, even dangerously wrong. I encourage you to do that with religionists across the board. But if religionists were truly (rather than rhetorically) evil, stupid or mentally ill, you would never hire them, work with them, live near them, vote for them or befriend them. In fact, personal integrity would demand that you actively work toward the institutionalization of this great mass of wretched unfortunates, since they are in such need of reprogramming. I suppose you’ll tell me next that Martin Luther King, Jr. was *really* to be pitied (or even hated) as evil, stupid or mentally ill. It’s a great marketing plan. Really.

            Moreover, unless and until you can *show* me via specific examples that the work of religious scientists is necessarily compromised by their being religious, quit with the embarrassing argument that science and religion are somehow incompatible. If that were so, there’d be, like, evidence (donchaknow). Without evidence, it’s an exclusionary devise defining “us” and “them” and nothing more.

            “Finally, you seriously need to get caught up on modern psychology. People don’t abandon dearly-held false beliefs because everybody is telling them how right they are to believe in lies.”

            Straw man. I am not encouraging you or anybody else to snuggle up to people with whom you disagree and tell them how right they are. There is indeed pain when dearly-held commitments are forsaken. But it won’t likely come about (painfully or otherwise) via condescending atheists telling religionists how inferior they are and implying that they should admit themselves for treatment forthwith.

            • Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

              So the next time you see a little old lady working in a church soup kitchen, perhaps the daughter of one who refused to stand up on a bus in Montgomery or Selma half a century ago, remind yourself that its a matter of personal integrity for you to advise her that shes some combination of evil, stupid and mentally ill.

              It’s exactly that type of strawmanning that gives accommodationists such a bad name with rationalists. That’s exactly what I wrote that I wouldn’t do, exactly what Richard Dawkins repeatedly says he wouldn’t do, exactly what no prominent rationalist has ever done.

              But if religionists were truly (rather than rhetorically) evil, stupid or mentally ill, you would never hire them, work with them, live near them, vote for them or befriend them.

              You’re using the typical Christian definition of evil, whereby it’s some sort of binary on-or-off thing that instantly turns somebody into a horned monster. In the real world, most religious people mostly aren’t evil, and the evil mostly done is mostly in the form of pushing their religious beliefs on others, often with the force of law.

              And, in such contexts, you can bet that rationalists tell the religionists that they’re being evil when they deny women urgent medical care, when they spread communicable diseases by restricting access to contraception, when they deny rights to people based on gender association, when they shield child rapists. Hell, it’s that sort of thing that gets us labeled as “militant” and “strident” — and exactly, apparently, what you wish we would just shut up about already.

              But, again, only in context. Your cubicle-mate might be picketing abortion clinics nights and weekends but is a good worker and keeps religion and politics out of the workplace and so you have no clue — which is as it should be. If you pick up such a discussion after hours, that’s one thing; but a professional will be able to forget all about that the next day back at the office. And, incidentally, when professionalism does break down, it’s generally the religious who try to convert their officemates, not the other way ’round.

              I am not encouraging you or anybody else to snuggle up to people with whom you disagree and tell them how right they are.

              Could have fooled me. You’re the one laying on with the whole “catch flies with honey” schtick.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                “That’s exactly what I wrote that I wouldn’t do.”

                Then it’s not a matter of integrity after all.

                “You’re using the typical Christian definition of evil, whereby it’s some sort of binary on-or-off thing that instantly turns somebody into a horned monster. In the real world, most religious people mostly aren’t evil, and the evil mostly done is mostly in the form of pushing their religious beliefs on others, often with the force of law.”

                Then it isn’t religion itself that’s the problem. It’s what some religionists *do* based upon their religion that’s the problem. You’ve conceded the argument. Thank you.

                “Hell, it’s that sort of thing that gets us labeled as ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ — and exactly, apparently, what you wish we would just shut up about already.”

                Somehow the difference between “Some religionists do evil things and some are even flat-out evil” on the one hand and “Religionists are inherently evil” (since religion poisons everything) on the other is lost on you. Perhaps if you go back and read more slowly you’ll get it next time.

                “Your cubicle-mate might be… good worker and keeps religion and politics out of the workplace and so you have no clue — which is as it should be.”

                So in that case there’s no actual *evidence* that religion makes one or necessarily means that one is evil, stupid or delusional. Powerful argument you’ve got there. Just like the barn-burner that claims that science is incompatible with religion but there’s no way to tell the religious scientists from the non-religious scientists by their work. You’re on a roll. Apparently only your opponents bear an obligation to offer evidence.

                “[W]hen professionalism does break down, it’s generally the religious who try to convert their officemates, not the other way ’round.”

                So religionists often do wrong. Point conceded. I hope and expect you’ll call them on it when they do. But that’s more than a bit removed from evil, stupid or mentally ill.

                “You’re the one laying on with the whole ‘catch flies with honey’ schtick.”

                I’m merely suggesting that you don’t accuse someone of being evil, stupid or mentally ill without good evidence; “wrong” is in a different category altogether. And if you’re willing to tell an acquaintance in casual conversation that s/he is wrong about religion but hesitate to make an accusation or diagnosis of – say – mental illness, you might ask yourself is that’s because you have a reasonable basis for the first but not the second, especially if evidence matters to you at all.

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

                Cheap sophistry ain’t gonna win you no points here, Bob. For example:

                “Religionists are inherently evil” (since religion poisons everything)

                The one clearly doesn’t follow from the other. Just because religion poisons everything obviously doesn’t mean that that which it pistons is absolutely purely corrupted. I already made that point earlier. You’re clearly either stuck in some sort of bizarre absolutist black-and-white mindset or just going for cheap points to score with those not paying attention. Either way, I doubt you have anything further to contribute to the conversation.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

                If the common claim were on the order of “religionists sometimes do evil things” or “sometimes act stupidly” it would be trivial and unworthy of comment much less contesting. But for many here, religion is a monumental evil, perhaps the supreme evil. They routinely claim and even seem to believe that religionists truly are evil, mentally ill and stupid. That you want to pretend that my pointing out the differences between those positions is mere sophistry goes a long way toward explaining your eagerness to declare victory and move on. Res ipsa loquitur. But the record will also reflect your ongoing failure to provide evidence for your claims whilst proclaiming the priority of evidence.

                Move along then. Nothing to see here.

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

                If it’s evidence of the evil nature of religion you’re after, I’m sure I’ve already provided more than ample examples: perversion of science education, attacks on civil liberties and basic health care, global child rape rackets, and more. And all of it stems from the basic foundation of religion: faith, the proposition that belief need not be apportioned in proportion with a rational analysis of empirical evidence. Religion, in other words, is a scam no different fr

                >

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

                Damn iPhone. Hit send too soon. But you get the idea.

                b&

                >

              • Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

                Well, participating in this argument has become a fool’s errand. So just one last minor rebuttal:

                Ben didn’t concede anything by noting that religious people mostly aren’t evil. If you’d read the replies from Ben and Diana above you’d see that’s what they, and most atheists, have been saying all along. Be a good person, do your religious thing, fine, whatever – as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Do you not see that religious privilege is currently running roughshod over the rights of several different kinds of “others”? Hence our indignant arguments.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      The problem with your argument here is that it fails to explain the rather large mountain of evidence contrary to it. It, you, seem to simply ignore the evidence.

      By your comments so far your general position seems to be a mix of “it is all the same no matter how you try to dress it up” and concern about tone or etiquette.

      You say you agree that faith and the scientific method are different, and then you say they are the same. And I definitely have no worries about going there.

  14. Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    “The mental acrobatics Lombrozo performs for this Templeton money must leave her exhausted.”

    Amazing how much endurance one can muster when one receives $600,000 over six years to promulgate the the thesis:

    “Knowledge from nowhere: How thinking leads to learning”

  15. Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Trust based on previous experience has nothing to do with uncritical anticipation.

  16. Alex Shuffell
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Buchak’s definition of faith and it’s representatives can be have rational answers for that faith if one were to ask “why?” I have faith in your abilities. Why? Because you are a highly trained doctor with a proven record. I have faith he wont cheat on me because he has shown he cares for me and doesn’t want to hurt me, and we can keep asking why. When it comes to rationalising belief in God the answers to a why question become increasingly absurd. Any attempt to answer these questions on my part will be seen as a straw-man as everyone invents their own religion with their own beliefs. Why just one god, why do you not believe in the millions of others? why do you think it cares for us and so on. We know all these questions have no satisfactory answer, only “faith,” which prevents and further questioning because it is not rational.

    • threeflangedjavis
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Many people believe in god, or many gods, because it makes them happy. Nothing irrational about that. If they have to do backflips to maintain their belief, then so be it. Nothing irrational about wanting to stay happy. For non scientists there is nothing particularly important about being objective about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. The nebulousness and adaptability of faith-based belief is one of it’s strengths as an emotional crutch. Primary process type thinking may be irritating to rationalists, but it serves to get a lot of people through life.

      Live and let live, but let go with both barrels when some spanner tries to convince a cancer patient to ditch the chemo and rely on faith healing.

  17. kennyrb
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    “Individuals who lack faith because they insist on gathering all of the available evidence before making a decision stand to miss out on opportunities that could greatly benefit them.”

    “Individuals who lack faith because they insist on gathering all of the available sufficient evidence corresponding to the risk before making a decision stand to miss out on opportunities that could greatly benefit them wasting resources.”

    When one considers the multiplicity of religions it’s obvious that religious commitment involves very serious resource allocation and high error rates and is thus, even in the benign cases, a serious risk management issue.

    Show us the evidence.

  18. Tulse
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    ‘There’s glory for you!’
    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

  19. Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I comment on Lombrozo and Coyne (Sorry, it is in spanish)

    http://arbolabajo.blogspot.mx/2013/09/es-razonable-tener-fe-una-critica.html

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    At best, this is an argument for a rather weakish belief in God assumed for practical purposes that is tempered with a lot of agnosticism. It’s an apologetic for being a “3” on the Dawkins scale ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawkins_Scale ), a la William James.

    William James held religion was good for practical purposes, such beliefs work by guiding us, therefore can be held. According to Wikipedia, “James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. This… sought to ground justified belief in an unwavering principle that would prove more beneficial. Through his philosophy of pragmatism William James justifies religious beliefs by using the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis’ truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove His existence by what the belief brings to one’s life.”

    I’m fine with folks like this, but America is being besieged by a fanatical faith these days, which is what dominates the MidWest and the South. They view this more abstract & tentative theism as fatally flawed.

    A good philosophical rebuttal of William James is in ST Joshi’s book “God’s Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong”.

    A more sympathetic and enjoyable defense of taking God as a working hypothesis without being really sure of it is in actor Christopher Reeve’s second autobiographical book “Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life”.

  21. Scote
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    The article sounds like more of the usual “if we just equivocate the meaning of ‘faith’ then having faith is rational” type argument.

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    It seems to me Buchak’s “circumstances in which postponing the decision to act is costly” has only one rationalist meaning. It is what rationalists find themselves in when they need to choose the likeliest and fastest testable theory to start working on.

    Buchak should rationally be arguing for parsimony. E.g. atheism!

    Lombrozo on the other hand is arguing that faith, unsupported belief, is the same as trust.

    But trust has to be earned. How can you earn trust without using evidence-based confidence?

    But what I find most arguable is the idea that atheists, or more generally skeptics, should abandon fallible facts for an unsupportable philosophic idea of 100 % exclusion. Instead of first and simplest asking for evidence of magic we should pay obeisance to a strawman of evidence-free dogma, that of religion as apriori irrational.

    Rationality doesn’t work that way. Just because a few individuals have survived kilometers of free fall without a parachute in WWII doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to step out of a plane at altitude.

    What we want to establish is whether or not faith is empirically irrational.

    And it is, from the bottom to the top. Unsupported belief can only lead to accepting irrational ideas.

    This has lead all organized beliefs to use a method of pointing at anything and claim “godsdiddit”, which means they intentionally want to accept untestable, irrational ideas.

    And now we know that the “godsdidit” method has meant inventing the worst possible ideas to explain anything, the idea that magic action is responsible for life and its species or the universe and its contents. Multiple common ancestors are less likely than picking a specific atom out of the observable universe, the universal hereditary machinery tells us that. And a universe where magic was partaking even a minute part when it arose would neither have orderly laws nor time for life to arise, it wouldn’t be the required perfectly flat universe.

    In the same way that science has earned our trust, religion has earned our distrust. In spades. If it hasn’t worked for millenniums, why would we expect it to suddenly work?

    The question “Can faith ever be rational?” reminds me of Hoyle’s junkyard argument. Possibly, by some unlikely coincidence despite being both willfully blind and striving to desensitize itself, faith can appear as having made an enlightened choice.

    But, so what?

    • Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      “…the likeliest and fastest testable theory to start working on…parsimony…atheism!”

      Ha! Good point. Sort of shot herself in the foot, there, didn’t she?

  23. Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I sometimes ask myself this question in the past tense (i’ll get back to the present in the end) :

    Has it ever been rational to believe in God ?

    Let’s imagine a world without books or deep knowledge about anything, I see rainbows, volcanic eruptions, flying animals, wind (remember i don’t even know that air exists), clouds, rain, night and day, fire, lightning, eclipses…

    Considering this, a guy with a beard sitting on a cloud having fun with the world doesn’t seem so far stretched.

    Now what would Occam’s razor say in this situation ?
    Well If I live in this world I don’t even know Occam’s razor but I still have a brain capable of good reasoning so I’m capable of some rational thought.
    Maybe it’s wiser for me to trust what the elders say rather than think i can get to a better knowledge by myself, don’t you think ?
    Can I really trust my independent thought that much?

    My atheist belief would challenge all the “knowledge” the field has built (like today people observe stuff and report with bias, it’s just that in this time the bias is much much bigger because of low sample in everything and no formal protocol). Moreover there probably is a lot of eye witnesses of miracles or personal encounters with god (probably a LOT more than today).

    I don’t have much alternative solutions to propose either so no extraordinary evidence for my extraordinary claim…

    I may question some superstition that are quite easy to debunk, maybe about some rain dances that don’t seem to work very well all the time for example, but questioning the existence of my deity may not be very rational at this point.

    Well now back to today:

    What if today i’m a very rational but very ignorant person (super brainwashed, and surrounded by similar believers, but with a decent brain), couldn’t it be rational for me to believe ?

    It reminds me of Dan Barker’s book Godless (the tale of his way out of preacherhood) where he says he’s not like some other believers, he says he’s always been a truth seeker, even during his fondamentalist years. It just made sense to him that someone else had done the job of proving the fundamental stuff, like we all do to a certain point. The difference is his fundamental stuff was “the bible is true”. He had also tons of eye witnesses of miracles, he had seen some himself, plus people convulsing, plus he spoke himself in tongues sometimes, quite good evidence in my opinion.

    Well the modern world helped this truth seeker to identify the lie he was living in, but before he did, wasn’t he rational ?

  24. Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Too, we could always look for more evidence for the hexagonal nature of benzene, as we’re not 100% certain it has that shape; but one reaches a point where it’s “rational” to act as if we know the shape with sufficient confidence to achieve our chemical ends. Further investigation will never give us 100% certainty in the scientific sense.

    If you’ll pardon me, I’ve started to see this assertion that 100% certainty is unobtainable as itself an irrational faith-based position.

    I do believe it is perfectly reasonable to have absolute, 100% certainty that I am not right now in the midst of a herd of stampeding mastodons. I am not willing to reserve any form of judgement on that; this conclusion is not subject to revision. I might at some later date find myself in the midst of a herd of stampeding mastodons, but I most certainly am not right now.

    I am also similarly absolutely certain that there are no married bachelors, and that there is no place north of the North Pole. And that there is no such thing as “the largest prime number,” and that 1 + 1 = 2. Again, I could grant the possibility of some other language that uses the same arrangements of phonemes as “married” and “bachelor” for words that are not contradictory, that one can attain an elevation above the North Pole, and so on…but all those points are irrelevant to the question of certainty about the original positions.

    I would suspect that this insistence on no absolute proofs might be an holdover from Platonic discomfort with infinities and a belief in an analog, un-quantized universe. The question of whether one may achieve 100% certainty is really quite similar to Zeno’s Arrow Paradox. One may double the evidence and halve the uncertainty. Double the evidence again and the uncertainty is now down to 1/4. But no amount of doublings will ever reduce the uncertainty to zero. In reality, though, the arrow hits its target and 100% certainty is trivially attainable — as in my examples above.

    This would hold, I would argue, for most scientific theories as well. We can have 100% certainty in the fact of Evolution; the observations are every bit as overwhelming and leave as little room for doubt as the observations with respect to nearby angry mastodons. And we can have equal certainty in the Theory of Evolution, for it is as inevitable a conclusion from the observed facts as two apples is what you get when you add one apple to another. Even if we did find the proverbial rabbit in the Precambrian, that would not invalidate the Theory of Evolution. It would demand an explanation of its own, of course, with the likely candidates being trickster aliens or a glitch in the Matrix, with an unreasonable long shot holdout for time travel. But the conclusion that yes, absolutely, 100% certain, no doubt whatsoever that Evolution is true is the only rational one; only faith in the irrational claims that absolute certainty is impossible can lead one to a different conclusion.

    And do note that this is not the same sort of absolute faith that the religious have in their gods. The religious have little or no empirical observations to support their conclusions, or their conclusions are not rationally derived from their observations or not in proper proportion with the evidence. The evidence that I am not being stampeded by mastodons is overwhelming and irrefutable; therefore, the proper proportioning of belief with a rational analysis of said evidence is absolute certainty.

    The problem with faith isn’t that it’s absolute certainty. The problem is that the degree of belief isn’t properly proportioned with a rational analysis of empirical observation.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I can say with 100% certainty that an event that just occurred, has occurred.

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        True…but you might not necessarily have a reasonable degree of confidence in what, exactly, it was that occurred. Mr. James “The Amazing” Randi would be delighted to provide you with all sorts of examples where you were convinced that one thing happened when something else entirely different actually happened.

        But even then there are limits. You, too, can be 100% certain that you’re not currently being trampled to death by a mastodon stampede.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

          Yeah but that’s because my Mastodons are trained from the times they are pups!

          • Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Mastodon calves — now that’s something I’d dearly love to see in person. Sadly, I’m afraid I’m only a dozen millennia too young for that….

            b&

            • Achrachno
              Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

              Half a dozen. More sadly.

    • Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      So the stampeding mastodons missed your house. You were lucky, Goren. You should see what they did to my house in Hemet, Riverside County…

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        I understand that was a rather sticky situation….

        Cheers,

        b&

    • Posted September 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Agree.

      Empiricism must take priority over abstract philosophizing.

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        A philosopher would challenge Zeno to take his best shot, confident that the arrow couldn’t possibly reach him. An empiricist would try to get the popcorn and peanut concession at the event.

        Cheers,

        b&

    • H.H.
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      I do believe it is perfectly reasonable to have absolute, 100% certainty that I am not right now in the midst of a herd of stampeding mastodons.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to behave as if that is a certainty, but you can’t actually be absolutely certain. There is an infinitesimally small chance that you are actually an injured Neanderthal hunter lying under a herd of stampeding mastodons while having a particular lucid hallucination that you are man living in a wondrous (but completely fictitious) future time. Yes, a silly possibility and difficult to take seriously. But possible. And because we are not omniscient gods, we must content ourselves with near certainty.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        Coincidentally, I read this article about 95% certainty about climate change today.

        • Alex
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 3:07 am | Permalink

          I think this artice is very timely. But I have to nitpick


          Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss said the 95 percent quoted for climate change is equivalent to the current certainty among physicists that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.”

          *SIGH* that is a nonsensical statement :(
          That’s annoying in an article specifically explaining what errors in scientific statements mean.

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Even in such an eventuality, I don’t at all think it reasonable to equate the Neandertal with me. Even if there is a Neandertal dreaming me into existence, I am clearly no more that (or any other) Neandertal than Alice is somehow “really” the Red King (or he her).

        So, no. I don’t see how any variations on what constitutes the “ultimate” “real” nature of reality have any bearing on the question of warranted certainty about certain questions in a particular scope and context.

        Put another way…the angles of a triangle always sum to 180° in an Euclidean geometry. That the surface of the Earth is not Euclidean doesn’t have any bearing on the question.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

  25. Old Rasputin
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Yes, she’s correct. Having faith in something is perfectly rational if you define “faith” as “confidence/trust based on evidence”. It is similarly possible to accept faith as rational (and even necessary!) if we re-define it as “pants”.

    Now that we’ve got that sorted, we can stop arguing and focus on the real enemy: the new atheists who are trying to take away everyone’s pants.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Could I just be clear on whether that’s ‘pants’ as in trousers or ‘pants’ as in knickers?

      • Posted September 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        “Pants” as in rubbish?

        /@

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          Or pants the verb.

      • Old Rasputin
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Interpret it how you like. Frankly, I only chose “pants” because I think it’s kind of a funny sounding word.

  26. Dermot C
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Orwell – do you believe in God the way you believe in Australia?

  27. Yiam Cross
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    This woman would appear to be a properly accredited academic. Surely she could, or should, have found someone to review her “paper” for errors? Then she would have been spared the embarrassment of publishing something so terribly flawed.

    It’s not quite on the same level as falsifying results to claim the discovery of a process for cold fusion but it’s in the same ballpark, surely.

  28. ullrich fischer
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    If you treat “faith” as just a synonym for “confidence” then of course, the assertion is true. It just renders the word “faith” redundant since “confidence” does the same thing without suffering from the ambiguity inherent in redefining “faith” in a way which most people don’t intend it to mean.

  29. Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    According to Cicero’s Stasis Theory, this would be a definitional stasis. The term “faith”, which is defined as something that is believed to be true despite the lack of supporting evidence, is being used instead of the term “trust”, which is based on evidence and past experience.

    For example: “She has faith that God exists”. Here faith is used correctly because there is no evidence to support this claim.

    “She has faith that her car will start”, is an incorrect use of the term “faith” because there is evidence that it will most likely start. It should read: “She TRUSTS that her car will start” because that is what the car was designed and built to do and past experience of having her car start indicates that it will do so again.

    • Yiam Cross
      Posted September 25, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      The abuse of language appears to be one of the few weapons in their arsenal.

      Humans are dependent on faith, if we don’t have faith we can’t function. Faith that the car will start, faith that we won’t get run over on the way home from work, faith that you exist etc etc, because as everyone knows science can’t prove anything. So if nothing can be proved or disproved, everything is possible, apparently. Certainly whichever flavour of god they’re selling is not so much possible as, when you look at it from the right angle, certain.

      Everything else seems to be aimed at a demonstration of how faith in god is no different from all the other kinds of faith we rely on every day so why not believe in god. And by the way, you need to pay us 10% of your gross income as a minimum or give us your last couple of hundred dollars as a seed for the lord it will come back to you 100 fold. Nothing is for nothing, even for an all powerful god who should be beyond the need for cash.

      The strange thing is they’re completely unable to explain why their arguments don’t apply to some other flavour of god even when it’s pointed out to them there’s exactly the same weight of evidence for wrong god as right god. All their arguments are as valid for wrong god as they are for right god but somehow they manage to come up with the right answer.

      The question we need to answer is why a reasonably (or highly, in this case) educated person who is able to function reasonably in other areas of their lives are unable to follow the logic in this.

      One thing is for sure, senior members of faculty in science based departments of prestigious universities shouldn’t be allowed to produce this kind of crap with no consequences for their careers. It’s no crime (sadly) to have a religious belief but it must surely be an actionable offence to deliberately manipulate reason in an attempt to prove a partisan position. If it’s not deliberate misrepresentation then it’s incompetence, neither of which are qualities any academic institution should be encouraging in staff.

  30. Ben
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Who are all these religious people who _decide_ to be religious? Who weigh what evidence is available to them and _decide_ that the God proposition sounds reasonable? Who tally up the pros and cons and realize, “Hey! I believe in an afterlife”?

    I thought most people were just told stuff and believed it. Which doesn’t make them stupid. It makes them naive, gullible, juvenile (usually literally), trusting, credulous, and so on. Human, basically.

    Some people (like me) were never subjected to religion’s silly beliefs—not in any direct, here’s-what’s-true way—or were mentally tough enough to reason their way out.

  31. Kevin
    Posted September 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Philosophy is sad and abused when it becomes usurped by apologists who make invalid claims.

    Deism
    “Faith in god.” All the empirical evidence we have suggests that this faith is not rational. It does not mean it is not rational, just that there is no evidence that it is rational.

    Theism
    “Faith in some god associated with some religion.” This faith is irrational. It is arbitrary, illogical, and inconsistent. In most cases this faith is egregiously ignorant and prejudicial.

    • Posted September 27, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Deism is no more rational than any other form of theism. The only difference between the gods of the deists and the gods of thunder is that the deist gods are responsible for creating the universe whilst the gods of thunder are responsible for creating thunder. Bigger scope, but that’s it.

      Worse, a thunder god is actually logically self-consistent. Hell, a modern fighter pilot in a fully-armed supersonic jet is, by any ancient definition of the term, exactly a thunder god. But the deist gods are all creator gods, and instantly fall to the question: who created the creator? They’re the boundary point of an unbounded number line, or the proverbial married bachelor.

      Cheers,

      b&

  32. Posted September 27, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Ben, You’ve heard my point before, I’m sure. It seems to me that religion is the application of logic to false premises. Those false premises, embedded in the subconscious mind, concern the nature of the thinker’s relationships with the world of objects and processes, and with the social structure of family, work, and society at large. Those false premises are of a high level of abstraction and concern such metaphysical assumptions such as ‘an intentional universe’, and ‘what are the social expectations upon me?’ and ‘who is the ultimate authority?’ From those false premises, religious people derive their gods.
    Therefore the religious people are quite right in asserting that there is logic to their position. That is why they get so angry when we talk of them being irrational.

    A parallel example is astrology whereby the dodgy premise that human life is influenced by the position of planets and the moon within constellations – is sheer bunkum, but the careful charting of times and places of planetary motion is (usually) impeccable. Impeccable calculations based upon rubbish premises yields more rubbish. And so it is with all religions.

    But here’s the thing. To those of us who have no need of the baby Jebus, the premises of religious faith, and all that magnificent pile of theological speculation based upon those false premises that fill the libraries of the world, are irrational. Therefore, to us, the whole of religion is irrational. An important distinction, don’t you think?

    And, please; no more ‘thought-experiments’ with herds of stampeding mastodons. The bruises haven’t gone down yet; and I am still picking the dung off my lawn!

    • Posted September 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      The problem with that thesis is that the logic of the religious is every bit as flawed as the evidence. Everything needs a creator, and that creator is The Creator. But who created The Creator? Nobody — he doesn’t need a creator, even though everything still needs a creator, except for him. The Ultimate Knower is as stumped by the Halting Problem as you and me. The Greatest Power is powerless to resign. The ultimate moral authority of great power and knowledge never calls 9-1-1, never offers testimony at trial.

      The “logic” of religion is as many millennia out of date as its evidentiary foundation.

      You wouldn’t argue that belief in Santa is reasonable within a certain mental framework because the plate of cookies gets replaced with presents, would you? So why the parallel excuse-making for those who weekly cannibalize the baby Jesus whilst fantasizing about groping his guts (John 20:27)?

      Cheers,

      b&


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