Why there are no “fundamentalist atheists”

From a surprising source, The Economist, comes this essay on the stupidity of the term “fundamentalist atheist” (the same goes for “militant atheists” and the like).  Short excerpts:

First and most salient, as Oxford’s Tim Garton Ash writes, “there are no al-Darwinia brigades making bombs in secret laboratories in north Oxford.” Yes, sigh, many atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet are just as convinced that there is no God as Osama bin Laden is convinced that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger. On one hand you have faith that makes people fly planes into buildings, genitally mutilate young girls, murder abortion doctors (in church), stone adultresses, outlaw certain forms of consensual sex or even just make it impossible to buy beer on Sunday in some states. On the other hand there is the atheist “faith” that makes people write smug op-eds, put ads on buses (see photo), file frivolous lawsuits against nativity scenes on public property, and the like. Show me what harm in the world a prominent atheist intellectual has done. . .

(If you’re thinking of Stalin and Mao here, read the essay first.)

Atheists can be smug and annoying. So can Christians and Jews, Yankee fans and Red Sox fans. The claims of religious writers and atheist writers should be debated on their merits. But let’s can the “fundamentalist atheist” meme. The fundamentalist mindset is defined as one that cannot be changed by evidence. As Sam Harris, another atheist, has said, God could easily prove all the world’s atheists wrong. (Mr Harris’s challenge: “I have just written a 30-digit number on a scrap of paper and hidden it in my office. If God tells you [or any of our readers] what this number is, I will be appropriately astounded and will publicize the results of this experiment to the limit of my abilities… Hint to the Creator: I’m thinking of an even number, and it’s not 927459757074561008328610835528”.)

For more on this, see Anthony Grayling’s nice piece, “Can an atheist be a fundamentalist?”

163 Comments

  1. Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, sigh, many atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet are just as convinced that there is no God as Osama bin Laden is convinced that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.

    *headdesk*

    Yes, there’s no important distinction between the mindset of a philospoher who’s written about the epistemological import of evolutionary algorithms and the nature of consciousness, and Osama bin fucking Laden. Christ.

    Moreover, he seems to contradict himself:

    The fundamentalist mindset is defined as one that cannot be changed by evidence. As Sam Harris, another atheist, has said, God could easily prove all the world’s atheists wrong.

    So is he saying “all the world’s atheists” doesn’t include Hitchens and Dennett, or that bin Laden is also amenable to evidence in the other direction (seeing as how his level of belief is on a par with H&D’s unbelief), or what?

    The thesis is welcome, of course, especially given the source, but the passive-aggressive potshot flinging grates. Also, this:

    file frivolous lawsuits against nativity scenes on public property,

    Yeah, those silly atheists, defending the secular nature of our government! Next thing you know, they’ll claim that the word “God” on bank notes actually refers to a deity, instead of being merely ceremonial jibber-jabber that in no way endorses religion!

    It’s like the guy is warding off theocratic conservative nutjobs (presumably because they make his side look bad) while simultaneously warning us not to get get too uppity.

    Oh, and he claims Hitler was an atheist. Feckin’ idgit.

    • MadScientist
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      The “god” on the money really is the xian god. See here:

      http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml

      There are many points in history where god was stuffed into government and schools. For example, have a look at the pledge of allegiance; “one nation under god” was put in during McCarthy and co.’s reign of terror.

  2. Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I just have to guess!

    857087959680684829497989483756?

    • Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Oops, quote.

      I guess you can’t answer that for me…

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Oh!
      So close David!

      You only missed it by one digit!!!!

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        that makes him a demigod, and it could be very useful if he plays lotto.

  3. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    From A. C. Grayling’s 2006 article:

    So, in order not to be a “fundamentalist” atheist, which of the absurdities connoted in the foregoing should an atheist temporise over? Should a “moderate atheist” be one who does not mind how many hundreds of millions of people have been deeply harmed by religion throughout history? Should he or she be one who chuckles indulgently at the antipathy of Sunni for Shia, Christian for Jew, Muslim for Hindu, and all of them for anyone who does not think the universe is controlled by invisible powers? Is an acceptable (to the faithful) atheist one who thinks it is reasonable for people to believe that the gods suspend the laws of nature occasionally in answer to personal prayers, or that to save someone’s soul from further sin (especially the sin of heresy) it is in his own interests to be murdered?

    A perfect response to Chris Moooney’s Faitheism, even though written 3 years ago.

    And his brilliant conclusion:

    … their attempt to describe naturalism (atheism) as itself a “religion” …
    … Any view of the world that does not premise the existence of something supernatural is a philosophy, or a theory, or at worst an ideology. If it is either of the two first, at its best it proportions what it accepts to the evidence for accepting it, knows what would refute it, and stands ready to revise itself in the light of new evidence. This is the essence of science. …

    …And one can grant that the word “fundamental” does after all apply to this: in the phrase “fundamentally sensible”.

    • MadScientist
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Few things annoy me more than people pulling the old “atheism is a religion” bullshit. I usually end up screaming at people and telling them to go to hell.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Theism is just atheism (to most gods ever posited) + magic (a magic man, souls, etc.)

        Theism = naturalism + a dash of the supernatural inserted into areas of ignorance. (Simmer until one feels special, righteous, and saved.)

  4. Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    It is worth noting that Richard Dawkins advocated “militant atheism” in a 2002 talk. Dawkins used the phrase for humour — he was smiling as he said it, and it got a laugh.

    • Hansen
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Humor is lost on religious people. They will do whatever they can to misunderstand either deliberately or out of ignorance.

      However, I don’t think that should stop us from using humor. It is a powerful tool against unreasonable ideas. Even if it occasionally backfires.

      • Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Dawkins said at that TED talk, “I’m not asking you to be atheists [pause for a beat] … I’m asking you to be militant atheists.”

        I don’t think there’s much wrong with being a militant atheist if it means something analogous to, say, a militant trade unionist. Presumably that was what Dawkins meant. If he’d said “atheist militants” it would suggest something else, rather more sinister.

        I haven’t been consistent about this over time, but I tend to think these days that we ought to embrace the expression “militant atheist” rather than getting offended by it.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        I think all you need to do to be considered a “militant atheist” is publicly declare your atheism and/or treat god belief the way you treat belief in other fantastical things. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H74ckoCYq3c

        You have to kill people with guns and claim to have done it in the name of god to be considered a “militant theist”, however… and, even then, people will dash about claiming that the real reason you killed politics, mental illness, or something complex that you don’t understand.

  5. Andrew
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I do not think that Sam Harris understands the exact implications of what he is doing.

    If God does not exist, then he is going to disappear into nothingness when he dies.

    If God does exist, and he answered his call, how would that help Sam Harris and his critical view? His next test for God would be to give him a list of the rules that he should follow in order to get to Heaven. Then, because he had just interfaced with God, he may feel empowered enough to see himself as much superior to other human beings, and probably develop a God complex.

    The point is that because God gives us free will, he cannot force people to love Him. The Jews were very sure that God existed, but this had disastrous consequences for them. The only person who can change Sam Harris is Sam Harris.

    • Rules For
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Andrew:
      The point is that lots of people think that there is good evidence for believing that God exists – there’s not. These people are fooling themselves. Apparently you agree, as you’ve given a rationale for why God doesn’t and shouldn’t provide evidence for his existence.
      Believers like to think that God answers their prayers and provides them with information and guidance, but this is no better than information and guidance collected from psychics or astrology – and these things aren’t real.

    • Hansen
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      The only person who can stop you from trolling is you.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        (polite applause of agreement…)

    • Fraser
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      In what sense do people have free will? Do you seriously believe that, had you been born in Kabul, you would now be a Christian?

    • hillbilly78
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      *headdesk* *headmonitor* *headwall*

      If God does not exist, then he is going to disappear into nothingness when he dies.

      Yes, thats right he will become nothing, but he will live on in the minds of those people that knew him personally, have read his books, watched his debates and in the overall influence he had in wider society. He came from nothing in the first place, as we all did. Appeals to emotion are a logical falacy.

      Then, because he had just interfaced with God, he may feel empowered enough to see himself as much superior to other human beings, and probably develop a God complex.

      That made me chuckle, there is a saying about a pot and a kettle… Andrew, have you interfaced with God? Do you pray? Does it give you a god complex to know that you have a private line to the creator of the universe?

      The point is that because God gives us free will, he cannot force people to love Him.

      Thats right, he doesn’t force you to love him, he just threatens you with roasting in hell for eternity.

      The only person who can change Sam Harris is Sam Harris.

      So God can’t change him then? I thought he was supposed to be omnipotent.

      • bric
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Ah, you are one of those atheists who fail to comprehend the sublime subtlety of the Christian ‘God’ concept. Omnipotence has its limits – see Augustine, or even better Karen Armstrong (she used to be a nun you know).

      • hillbilly78
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        I get the subtlety of omnipotence, and the whole open theism thing, as far as I can tell ‘God’ is as omnipotent as a theologian makes him in order to fit in with their twisted logic.
        Ah yes, Karen Armstrong, the ex-nun that thinks the Bible, Koran and other ‘holy’ books are just peoples expressions of love. I get what she is talking about, 2 Kings 2:23-24 is a fine example of that.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        He’s also omniscient so he already knows how Sam Harris will spend eternity.

    • Rules For
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      I also have to say something about your free will rationale – “he cannot force people to love Him.” Deciding whether or not to love God is obviously a separate question from (and dependent on) whether or not God even exists, which is what Harris and atheists in general are addressing. Harris and other atheists actually don’t even have this supposed free choice at the moment, since they don’t even think the guy is real.
      If this god really did not want to “force people to love him,” then he wouldn’t have created a reward & punishment system. Maybe you don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, but obviously lots of believers do.

      I give you free will because I really want you to choose freely – so, choose heads or tails – I’ll give you an ice cream sundae if you choose heads but I’ll blow your brains out if you choose tails – now go ahead and make your “free” choice, because that’s what I really want, I assure you.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        And how do you make yourself “believe” much less “love” something that you can’t even distinguish from nothing? How do you know if you “believe in” the right invisible guy with the right fervency and are following the right rubric to get “live happily ever after”? And if you think you aren’t, how do you fix it?

        Even as a kid, I understood that this was a no-win situation for the vast majority of believers–everyone was going to hell according to at least one religion.

    • Chayanov
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Pascal’s Wager? Really?

      “But Marge, what if we chose the wrong religion? Each week we just make God madder and madder.” — Homer Simpson

    • Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      ….if your god does exist, I’d rather go to Hell as a political statement than worship a god that would conceive of a hell in the first place.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        It takes a living material brain to actually experience suffering in the first place– so you’re safe. No brain; no pain. (Even if hell were real, you couldn’t experience it…not even to make a political statement :))

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Zowie– you’re psychic and you KNOW what Sam Harris’ next test would be??

      AND you KNOW what the invisible undetectable supposed creator of the universe wants and did?? Where did you get this “divine knowledge” and what can we do to verify that it is more valid then Tom Cruise’s claims about Scientology?

      What’s the differential you use to compare your invisible friend from all the ones you don’t believe in? What tests have you done to ensure that you aren’t as fooled as the believers in Greek Myths? Or Muslims? Or Moonies? Why do you imagine all these people have been fooled while you have stumbled into the really true unknowable answers and entity?

      This astounding hubris on the part of the faithful (who have a myriad of conflicting faiths) never ceases to amaze me.

      To me, believers are stuck in this endless mental masturbation of the type Andrew is doing in a desperate attempt to convince THEMSELVES that their nebulous beliefs have some basis in reality.

  6. Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    For the record, OBL did not fly planes into buildings because of his faith. He’s been very clear about why he did it. He’s mad that there are U.S. military bases in his country. He’s made that around 1.5 million Iraqi children died of starvation due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Britain. He’s mad that the U.S. has installed brutal puppet dictators throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Basically it’s political reasons. He’s not fighting a holy war against Christians. If that were the case, why fly across the ocean to find Christians? There are plenty of Christians he could kill in Pakistan and elsewhere that are closer.

    What he did was a war crime, but I just find it odd that we live in this world where his actual motivations are obscured in a manner to make him sound crazy. You’re not going to solve the problem of Middle East violence if you don’t at least try to understand what really makes them mad.

    • Rules For
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I think faith did play a large role for the people who did in fact fly the planes into the buildings (for bin Laden).

      • SLC
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Of course, the fact that the 19 hijackers thought that their sacrifice would avail each of them 72 virgins in paradise had nothing to do with their actions. End snark. This is also the mentality of the homicide bombers who blow up pizza parlors in Israel and funeral processions in Baghdad.

      • Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Why think that? The shoe bomber, when he was being sentenced basically said “I’m at war with the United States because you starved 2 million kids in Iraq.” The judge responds with “Nope, you hate freedom and democracy.” I don’t see how smart people can convince themselves of this stuff. It’s an answer that allows them to avoid looking the mirror I guess. This is not about religion. It’s purely political.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I think it’s bizarre that people go out of their way not to see the connection between faith and resulting human misery.

        If your eternity depends on following the will of some supposed god, then you will do anything you become convinced that this god wants you to do.
        If faith is necessary for the rewards, you will do things that a person would not do if they did not have faith.

        For this reason, people have withheld medical treatments until kids died, started wars, killed “witches”, and drove planes into buildings. Why wouldn’t they if it “ensured” their eternal bliss?

        Andrea Yates killed her kids before they could sin enough to be hell eligible. From a Christian perspective, she just started their eternity early– and ensured that it would not be in hell. What greater gift could a mother give? And yet the faitheists want to say that her faith had nothing to do with what happened.

        Faitheism not only ensures that people will imagine horrible things about atheism and atheists, but it also blinds them and caused them to make excuses for faith as if faith never leads to anything bad and truly helps people be more moral.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        (I agree with SLC and Rules For–not Jon… who sounds like the infamous fatheist, Jon Davidson many have grown to know and loathe over teh interwebs.)

  7. blue
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    why “surprising”? the economist is the best source of current event analysis out there, as far as i’m concerned. a friend once walked into my house and saw the latest economist on my coffee table, and rolled her eyes. i’ve no idea what she thought the economist is, i didn’t bother to ask. can someone enlighten me on what is the stigma?

    • David Ratnasabapathy
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Their stance on green issues was at one time seriously biased. e.g. one of their “finest books of 2001” was Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist. This is the book that claimed that environmental destruction wasn’t happening any more, and in fact is being reversed these days. The whole year they were cheering on Lomborg’s side.

      Their recent articles accept the reality of human-caused global warming so maybe they’ve educated themselves.

  8. Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Militant about the right to examine nonsense.

  9. hillbilly78
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Those militant rationalists, they are so mean with all their arguments and science.

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      yah… and all their strident demands for empirical evidence– damn them!

  10. George
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The latest installment of Science Saturday on Bloggingheads TV is a complete travesty.
    http://brainwaveweb.com/diavlogs/21107

    It is hard to call it science when one of the diavloggers is Paul Nelson of the Disco Ball and BIOLA. The other is Ronald Numbers of Wisconsin (History) who basically gives Nelson free reign to attack Jerry.

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      PZ commented on it too. I shan’t waste my time. I’ve read and heard enough faitheist propaganda to last a life time.

      I like my science undiluted and my spokesmen sharp and biting. I shan’t give up any more brain space to believers and the faitheists that enable them.

      I think it’s time for religious delusions to be treated like the religious people treat delusions they find ridiculous. And for the same reasons. We don’t give over reaching respect to people who imagine that their government is sending them private messages through their television, and we shouldn’t give that respect to those who imagine that their deities are giving them messages through magic books, nature, or anything else.

  11. Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “Yes, sigh, many atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet are just as convinced that there is no God as Osama bin Laden is convinced that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.”

    Not exactly – because the quality of belief is not the same, so I’m not sure it makes sense to claim that the quantity is the same (leaving aside the question of how one would know that anyway).

    The quality of belief that there is no god but God is different from the quality of belief that I can detect no sign of anything or anyone that fits the description of ‘God.’ I’m very sure that I can detect no such sign – but that sureness is a different kind of sureness from the kind it takes to believe that a signless God is nevertheless real.

  12. Blaine
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. Hitler wasn’t an Atheist. Have people not read his speeches? Have people not read Mein Kampf? Have people not read accounts of Hitler’s religious beliefs from close friends? I suppose his aspirations to unite the churches of Germany for his Third Reich Church and his personal crusade against free thought and the “antigodless” (which he unequivocally spelled out during the Concordate negotiations in a speech in Munich in ’33 where he stated he would stamp out the atheistic movement) was motivated by his secret atheism? Please, that’s laughable. If people want to lay blame on anything or anyone having a vast influence on Hitler and the Nazis they need look no further than the “positive Christianity” influenced by none other than the violently antisemetic Martin Luther, the “great” German reformer whom Hitler hailed and called a personal hero.

    • Blaine
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Excuse me that’s the Concordat negotiations. Accidentally added an “e.”

    • Blaine
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and I meant to say his crusade against the “godless.”

  13. mk
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    The 30 digit number? God told me it was:
    100000000000000000000000000002

  14. articulett
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    To me you can no more be a “fundamentalist atheist” then you can be a “fundamentalist nonscientologist” or a “fundamentalist not believer in fairies”.

    How can you be fundamentalist about not believing in something for which there is no evidence FOR in the first place?

    I very much appreciate Graylings and Harris’ writing on the subject and PZ column regarding this article. It seems that some people have to work very hard to see atheism as something it isn’t in order to justify their prejudice towards those that won’t support their delusions.

    I don’t know of any vocal atheist that claims to have “divine knowledge” or enables the delusion that voices in one’s head or “signs” are communications from invisible beings

  15. articulett
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    A “fundamentalist atheist” is one who treats the believers’ religion the way the believer treats all other religions and superstitions.

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      We don’t believe in the believers’ invisible entities with the same rabid fervency that the believer doesn’t believe in fairies.

      (If you name your fairy “god” then I guess you get to feel righteous as you demand special privileges and respect that you’d never think of giving to those other fairy believers… especially those who worship a fairy they called “Satan”.)

  16. santitafarella
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Professor Coyne:

    I think, as a practical matter, if the purpose of atheism is to win debates with, or score points against, theists, then it makes sense to resist phrases like “fundamentalist atheist.” But as an existential concern, this kind of semantic jostling seems to me close to pointless. Every person must look at the world whole, and ask herself what worldview, as a whole, makes the most sense. Both atheist and theistic worldviews—however elaborate or reserved in their claims—require more than rhetoric or positioning from their honest adherents. All worldviews require metaphysical, epistemic, and evidentiary justifications. In matters of truth nobody gets the presumption of innocence, or gets to leave certain of her assumptions unstated and simply “given.” As the Royal Society of London’s famed and hundreds of years old motto has it: Nullis in verba (”Take nobody’s word for it”).

    I think, therefore, that fundamentalism in all its stylistic forms should be resisted—and that includes its secular manifestations. To my mind, a fundamentalist is someone who tends to:

    1) show impatience for nuance;
    2) lacks irony with regard to his/her own positions;
    3) has an excess identification with a group (or groups) led by jut-jawed confidence men (charismatic leaders);
    4) demonizes out-groups and attributes to opponents malign motives, evil, or stupidity;
    5) treats texts or certain authorities with excessive deference;
    6) does not look too closely at his/her own metaphysical/epistemic premises
    7) dreams of a mono-cultural world in which the views of his/her small group become the universal sensibilities of all humanity;
    8) is inherently incurious and impatient towards books, ideas, or points of view different from those of his/her group;
    9) tends to learn a “lingo” that marks her off as a member of the group;
    10) absorbs and memorizes knee-jerk thought-terminating cliches as “answers” to questions about the movement.

    I think of a small secular cult like the followers of Ayn Rand as having these traits, and I think it is undoubtedly true that Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers etc. attract a fair amount of people who are stylistically cultic and dogmatic, and who have character traits that would fit in real comfy with religious fundamentalists (if they were religious adherents).

    Frankly, there are people who see a “market” in “confidence atheism” and are happy to exploit it. There are people, in short, who are drawn to confidence men with outsized personas. Cults of personality—whatever you call them—are dangerous. And I think that is what people are responding to when they compare contemporary neo-atheists to fundamentalists. They’re trying to get a handle on that Ayn Rand personality cult and hyper-certainty phenomenon that seems to be lurking about the neo-atheist movement.

    —Santi

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Do you have any “cut and paste” examples of this fundamentalist atheism you imagine so that we can compare and contrast it to the words of fundamentalist theists.

      Because I think it’s a straw man to imagine that people can be “fundamentalist” about the invisible entities they don’t believe in. I think you are imagining attributes in others who find your opinions ridiculous in order to keep from understanding just how unsupported your opinions are. You are furthering prejudice in order to imagine yourself as holding a more “moderate” position. But reality doesn’t need moderation. Either some invisible undetectable forms of consciousness exist (and if so, then we can do some test to delineate them from myths and delusions)– or they don’t. So far, there is no evidence to suggest such entities exist. Period. Until there is, the rational person rightfully dismisses them the way you dismiss fairies. You aren’t “agnostic” about fairies are you?

      • santitafarella
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Articulett:

        You appear to actually be addressing me in a civil fashion above, and so I don’t mind responding. However, I must insist that if you want any response from me in future, that you keep it on the far side of civil and not insult or mock or name call. I simply do not come here for competitions in agression—and the moment the dialogue turns mean or not forthcoming I stop. It’s why I didn’t, for example, attempt to speak to Andrew further after he refused to even respond to my most basic questions on evolution.

        With regard to your question, I would offer, as an example, this from your own post: “So far, there is no evidence to suggest such entities exist. Period.” I think that the insistence of that “Period” is an example of the kinds of either/or thinking that can lead to dogmatism and emotional narrowness. It’s a conversation stopper. I’m saying that the very tone in which you put your arguments is suggestive of impatience and being closed to really looking fairly at the other side. And by reducing God belief to “fairy” belief, you have made it near-impossible to have a dialogue on the subject. You’ve translated an open question into a closed question that deserves (at best) mockery.

        But what if we back up and remove the “period” and then actually talk about God? If you look at the world as a whole, there are more than a few sensible reasons to believe in God. It seems to me that, to be an open (as opposed to a closed) atheist or agnostic, one would simply acknowledge that there are more than a few good reasons for God belief and be more open (therefore) towards people who have taken that direction in their worldviews. You haven’t chosen it, but that doesn’t mean it is unreasonable that others have chosen it.

        But instead of me listing all the good reasons for thinking there is (or might be) a God, why don’t I kick it over to you and let you make the list. I’m not asking you to agree with the list. I’m simply asking you to generate a sympathetic list. If you refuse to do so, then I’ll do it if you ask. My point is that a reasonable atheist—an ironic atheist—ought to be able to step out from behind their own position and make a measured case for the side they otherwise oppose, and do so in such a way that is fair to that opposing side.

        Give it a try. And I’ll respond to your list, perhaps adding to it.

        As I assume you might be reluctant to make such a list, I’ll offer the first good reason to believe there might be a God or Mind that preceeds matter:

        1. The complexity of the cell

        —Santi

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        You’d have to give me an actual reason why god belief is different than fairy belief for me to even begin to engage you on this off-topic subject. I see no difference. They are both equally imaginary and the evidence for both is equal. Zilch. Fairies could have made the first cell on their home planet and then put in on earth’s petri dish just as easily as any immaterial god could.

        You are the one making claims about all sorts of things and then whining when people point this out.

        You’ve inferred that my saying “period” makes my statement fundamentalist. So lets contrast that to the statements of actual fundamentalists or even your own vapid statements and see how it compares in it’s (fundamentalism). By the way, do you have any actual evidence that invisible entities CAN exist– because people have believed in all sorts of such entities for eons, and science hasn’t found any evidence at all for any of them. They just learn that people tend to invent such entities when they don’t understand something or want to manipulate others. If you have such evidence, then step up and get your Nobel prize (and I will remove the “period” that follows my factual statement.)

        If there WAS evidence, scientists would be busy refining and honing that evidence for their own benefit! It’s not like we would deny ourselves such knowledge, you know?! But, you– in your arrogance, manage to believe that you may have tapped into secret knowledge about one such entity and what he was busy doing in the universe sometime in the present or past!

        Now, if I’d made my “no evidence” statement about fairies, demons, Xenu, and so forth and added the period… would you have thought me dogmatic? Or is just because I treat your imaginary friend the same way I treat those entities? Are you “agnostic” about demons? Succubi? Bigfoot (he’s “material”)?

        I think your hypocrisy is obvious to everyone but you here and that’s the real reason you need to run around and pretend that atheists are all sorts of terrible things. I think you may have a bit of “dogmatic fatheism” that you may wish to examine. You aren’t really coming across in the diplomatic well-reasoned manner you seem to imagine. This is a clue as to why you may be having trouble conversing with people–why everyone who isn’t “agnostic” about your god seems “dogmatic” to you.

        You imagine characteristics in others that are more evident in yourself. And there is no need to respond to me. I can’t work my way through your “nuance filled” posts to find your point and how it relates to the topic at hand, and I haven’t seen evidence that you are capable of reasoned back and forth discussion.

        I think my point has been proven: you imagine “fundamentalism” that isn’t there whenever someone treats god like any other invisible entity people have believed in. You put down others and then call them meanies and strident and play the “I’m offended” card when people challenge your straw man prejudices or return their opinion of your self-aggrandizing opinion. Just like all other fatheists. “Fundamentalist atheists” are straw men that exist only in the mind of theists and their faitheist enablers.

        I have a feeling I’d much rather be seen as similar to those atheists YOU find dogmatic than to anyone who sounds as wishy washy, passive aggressive, and easily offended as you.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Mind precedes matter, mind precedes matter – there he goes again. A dozen people have ripped that nonsense apart here but he ignores the rational and has given no counter argument except verbiage by the ton about accommodation.

        Go ahead Santi give one piece of evidence why the complexity of cells have anything to do with a god. The only thing you can say is “I don’t know, therefore goddidit”.
        And you claim to be agnostic. That is laughable.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Santi, did you even READ this article that Coyne wrote?

      The article is about how there is NO fundamental atheists.

      You then go on explaining why fundamentalism is bad. He knows that.

      Once again, Santi you don’t get it, so I will say it here many times for you to absorb:

      Atheism is not a worldview.
      Atheism is not a worldview.
      Atheism is not a worldview.
      Atheism is not a worldview.

      I think it is undoubtedly true that Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers etc. attract a fair amount of people who are stylistically cultic and dogmatic, and who have character traits that would fit in real comfy with religious fundamentalists (if they were religious adherents).

      This is a blatant lie. This is defamation and I demand that you apologize immediately or maybe Jerry Coyne should discipline your outrageous statements.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        I think Santi exemplifies his list quite well… except for the first one–since all of his posts are so full of “nuance” that I find great difficulty in finding any actual point. Faitheists love to use “nuance” to dress up arguments so it looks like they are actually saying something.

        I think Santi confuses his opinions for fact. Of course if he were to cut and paste actual examples to illustrate all these qualities he lists, I might see his point. I’m sure I can find examples illustrating his list of fundamentalist type traits in his own quotes here– and in those of Andrew–not to mention tons of such quote illustrations from fundamentalist theists like Phelps, Robertson, and the followers of Osama Bin Laden.

        #2 was funny in a Kruger-Dunning sort of way. Studies do show that the incompetent people are the most likely to overestimate their own competence.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        articulett, “nuance” is just a polite word here for baloney. I would go with a mix of that and deliberate obfuscation and deceit as his real object.

      • santitafarella
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        Articulett:

        You wrote: “By the way, do you have any actual evidence that invisible entities CAN exist– because people have believed in all sorts of such entities for eons, and science hasn’t found any evidence at all for any of them.”

        Ah, yes I do. They’re called minds. Minds exist. And they exist in profusion. Billions of them. Minds with free will apparently have no physical extension in either space or time. They cannot be isolated or located in any part of the brain, and yet they are some sort of epiphenomenon in the physical universe. Why mindless matter should generate (or exist alongside of) mind is a total mystery. Scientists know minds exist. They do not have a clue how (or if) physics and chemistry can give a materialist account for their origins or existence. There is correspondence between human brains and human minds, but correspondence is not causation. It may be that minds are not completely reducible to physics and chemistry. It may be that you can know every movement of the atoms in your brain and not account for how the arrangement of those atoms generates consciousness, specific mental states, or choice. As an agnostic I’m not saying that science might not, someday, account for consciousness and mental states. As an agnostic I’m saying that science has not, and that there is an enigma there that may resist solution precisely because minds are wholly other from the material, and not, strictly speaking, reducible to the material. I don’t know this. I am saying that nobody knows this, and it is a huge metaphysical leap to presume that minds are completely reducible to matter. There is a difference between having confidence in a material solution and actually achieving such a reductive solution.

        Furthermore, it is quite apparent that quantum physics leaves room for mental states to impact physical states. Indeed, the paradoxes of quantum physics all rest upon the problematics of consciousness “contaminating” physical experiments. If you look at the results of a quantum experiment at different moments in the process of the experiment, or if you ask certain questions—and not others—of an experiment, you literally impact the results of the experiment. Physicists have little more than guesses as to how mental states—that is states that have no physical properties—can nevertheless effect quantum physical/material states, but they do.

        Of course, every time you choose to crook your elbow, it appears that your mental state—your decision—has literally changed the course of physical properties (chemical and atomic). Unless you are a strict materialist/determinist who believes that free will is an illusion—another leap of faith—then you must believe that your free will exists—and it influences the physical world when you exercise it.

        The atheist who treats the enigmas of mind, free will, and existence glibly is not, in my view, thinking very hard.

        I am saying that humility in the face of uncertainties is better than competing confidences. Neither the atheist nor the theist—in my view—gives proper weight to the vast amount that we do not know. They are expressing forms of confidence about areas where confidence is not warranted.

        —Santi

        —Santi

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:15 am | Permalink

        Minds with free will apparently have no physical extension in either space or time.

        Now this is one incredibly stupid statement. Santi has lost his mind I laugh at the arrogance of this statement. Ever hear of MRIs? There is a HUGE amount of evidence that brains contain are minds with no supernatural woo.

        yet they are some sort of epiphenomenon in the physical universe.

        Another stupid supernatural statement. This has nothing to do with Evolution. I think Jerry should ban Santi for this nonsense.

        precisely because minds are wholly other from the material

        Same old nonsense. It is time for the troll Santi to go.

        Furthermore, it is quite apparent that quantum physics leaves room for mental states to impact physical states. Indeed, the paradoxes of quantum physics all rest upon the problematics of consciousness “contaminating” physical experiments. If you look at the results of a quantum experiment at different moments in the process of the experiment, or if you ask certain questions—and not others—of an experiment, you literally impact the results of the experiment. Physicists have little more than guesses as to how mental states—that is states that have no physical properties—can nevertheless effect quantum physical/material states, but they do.

        Another statement pulled from his ass instead of from evidence. Quantum physicist do not study mental states.

        The atheist who treats the enigmas of mind, free will, and existence glibly is not, in my view, thinking very hard.

        Once again, Santi ignorantly attributes nonsense:

        Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
        Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
        Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
        Atheism is lack of belief in gods.

        It is Santi who doesnt think at all. This is offensive and Santi should be banned.

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      I want to assure you that my lack of belief of god(s) is identical and as “dogmatic” as my lack of belief in demons and Satan.

      Are you as agnostic about Satan as you are about God, Santi? Why or why not. Are you “dogmatic”.

      I shall paraphrase you and then you can respond in the same manner you hoped I’d respond:

      “I’ll offer the first good reason to believe there might be a Devil or Mind responsible for Evil:

      1. Suffering exists in the world.

      • articulett
        Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        By the way, if you don’t want to be mistaken for Andrew it might behoove you to not engage in the same sort of non-conversation manipulations that he engages in under the guise of “dialogue”.

        You are both in desperate need of seeing atheism as some sort of “bad thing” because it helps you believe your faith is a “good thing”. And it’s obvious to everyone but yourselves. You insult people here and atheists in general to build up your own unsupportable beliefs which you never really lay out or give evidence for.

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      I think, as a practical matter, if the purpose of atheism is to win debates with, or score points against, theists,

      It isn’t, Santi. You’re first statement on this thread is a false premise you spun in your own mind. Atheism has no “purpose” just like lack of belief in fairies has no purpose.

      It’s just a lack of belief. The purpose of scientific naturalism is to winnow out the truth from conjecture–not “win debates”. The truth doesn’t have “sides”.

      Atheism happens to fit in well with that purpose since atheists don’t need to look for hidden clues that a certain supernatural entity exists out there.

      Until you understand this, you–like Andrew– are doomed to spend your time here trying to convince yourself that atheism is something it’s not and that the “purpose” of “atheism” is to win debates with theists. I mean–look at your first line! Do you really think you are coming across better than Andrew?

  17. santitafarella
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Articulett:

    You said: “You’d have to give me an actual reason why god belief is different than fairy belief for me to even begin to engage you on this off-topic subject. I see no difference. They are both equally imaginary and the evidence for both is equal. Zilch.”

    To be clear: You have never heard a single argument for the existence of God that even remotely functions rationally for you, is that right? You literally can’t see how a sane person might infer the existence of God—or mind preceding matter—from the complexity of the cell, or the existence of physical law, or the apparently finely-tuned physical constants of the universe, is that correct? The only reasonable induction to draw from these facts of nature is that they derived from strictly material causes, and no reasonable person could possibly draw any other sane conclusion but this singular one? Yes?

    —Santi

    • articulett
      Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Wrong…it’s just that positing god as an explanation goes nowhere… it is a worse explanation than positing that we are some experiment from beings from another planet. Why? Because beings from another planet would be material and could thus affect matter. There’s no evidence that an immaterial thing can exert any kind of force on material things.

      You may as well say it happened by magic as to say “goddidit”. But theists are even more arrogant than that… they claim to “know” a lot more about this god fellow than the fact that he “exists”.

      Whenever people are bold enough to sweep away straw men such as yours (and it IS another straw man)and explain why god is a “non answer” in science, faitheists cry “fundamentalist atheism”. I am no more fundamentalist in my lack of belief in gods than I am in my lack of belief in demons. Are you agnostic about demons the way you are about god(s)?

      • Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:31 am | Permalink

        The problem with traditional religious dogmas are not that they explain nothing – they clearly (at least seek to) explain everything. The problem is that they only explain things as well as any other arbitrary claim to the supernatural.
        For instance on what basis should you choose between the traditional Christian teaching of God creating the world in order to host man, who is made in the image of Himself, and the alternative belief that the Universe was created last Wednesday by a magic chicken called Gerald.
        The best tact for arguing against religious beliefs is the ‘Magic Chicken’, ‘Magic Leprechaun’ etc points. Most religious believers sincerely think there is a qualitative difference between their particular belief and that of a belief in Gerald and his unusual powers – yet fail to realize it simply a case of discrimination between two faith positions with equal evidence behind them.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:02 am | Permalink

      Once again, Santi you slime words into people’s mouths that they do not say. It is offensive. Stop doing it or leave.

  18. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    By the way, I was indoctrinated in childhood and I can understand why people would grow up to believe what they are told by people they trust.

    I once believed in Santa too.

    I know from experience all the ways that the human mind can rationalize explanations.

    I now feel towards “god” the way I feel about “santa” and for very similar reasons. I grew up.

    I don’t think I’m any more “dogmatic” in my disbelief of Santa than I am for my disbelief in god. It’s just that god believers invade spaces like this all the time rather than hanging out in their own delusional milieu.

    I’ve believed in a lot of things I no longer believe in, and I understand why people like you need to continually argue to prop up your beliefs. By the way, I don’t really believe you are agnostic. Or at least you’re not defining it the way it should be defined. It doesn’t mean that you think there is a 50-50 probability that some god exists, you know? It means that you don’t think that gods existence can be known. But this would be true of any and all invisible undetectable entities–even imaginary ones. I’m agnostic about god and fairies equally.

    Just as mental aberrations are not evidence of demon possession… and toys under the tree aren’t evidence of Santa… the complexity of the cell is NOT evidence for the invisible undetectable creator you believe in (or, rather, claim to be “agnostic” about)and science loses the opportunity to expand on the actual explanation by imagining it is evidence.

    Your need to see god in the complexity of life makes you unlikely to understand, enjoy, or further information like this: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2009/03/10/on-the-quest-for-synthetic-life-scientists-build-their-own-cellular-protein-factory/

    or this: http://www.madison.com/tct/news/stories/459383

    And “complexity of the cell”… prokaryotes… even though they’ve been evolving for possibly Billions of years… aren’t very “complex”. It took a long time for “complexity” to get a toehold on our planet. It’s really inexcusably wasteful and sloppy if it was done this way by “design”.

  19. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Ugh… now the “mind” is Santi’s “evidence” for god. How much creationist crapola has sunk have you seeped your brain in, Santi? I’m sorry, but your huge “gee whiz” ignorance is not “evidence” of god … or rather, not to any serious scientist it isn’t. Just as Andrew’s ignorance about radiometric dating is not evidence that the earth is young. Don’t get your science from non-scientists; it makes you sound like a creotard.

    When we didn’t understand lightening, it was not evidence that Thor was tossing lightening bolts… although I’m sure it was to Thor believers. We don’t need to understand anything about the mind to understand that the invisible undetectable entity that you believe in is NOT an explanation. Believing that it is, could keep people from learning actual true and useful things about the mind. Read any Pinker? V.S. Ramachandran? Oliver Sacks? The mind is very fascinating, indeed, but don’t expect to learn about it from priests, gurus, or supposed holy books. And don’t expect your own mind to come up with answers through “resonating inner knowingness”. These methods have never produced any actual knowledge on the subject. Really.

    The mind is no more evidence for god then it is for “the matrix”–but I can see why you’d like to believe it to be so. I bet it makes you feel “special” and “divine” to believe such a thing.

    BTW it’s theists who are glib and give nonexplantions while neuroscientists tease out the facts. Your brain just translates threats to your delusion as “glibness”, “dogmatism”, and “fundamentalist atheism”. It’s your brains way of saying “la, la, la– I can’t hear you.”

    Without a living brain, there is no no mind– not before you’re brain developed nor after your brain dies. Or, at least, that’s what the evidence shows. The mind appears to be as dependent on matter just as much as sound is as far as the evidence is concerned. Heck, you can’t even make a single new memory without a tiny piece of the brain called a hippocampus. If that is damaged, you get stuck in an eternal “now”. (Google “Clive Wearing” on youtube to see how devastating this loss is.) There is no “soul” stepping in when the brain is damaged to take over… the mind is entirely brain dependent… it’s what the brain does. If you cannot understand that, blame your indoctrination, not the supposed glibness/dogmatism of others.

    Of course with god (e.g. “magic”) anything could be true… and it seems every nutty idea is “true” in somebody’s mind. But when it comes to objective reality, all the belief in the world can’t make gods or souls or angels real just like it cannot make the earth flat nor can it make you fly.

    The evidence you use to support your belief could be used equally well to support conflicting crazy beliefs that you want no part of. Thus they are useless except as an obstacle to actual understanding.

    Blame your preachers for making this message so hard for you to understand. You are the reason honest scientists will have nothing to do with creationists and increasingly less to do with faitheists. They regularly turn out people like you as their products… and it’s very hard to deprogram such people once they’ve come to “need” or feel “saved” because of their beliefs. Scientists are stuck in the position of walking on eggshells so as not to shatter some creotards heartfelt delusion.

    I want nothing to do with the lies you’ve come to need.

    • Trismos
      Posted July 27, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      articulett:

      “It’s your brains way of saying “la, la, la– I can’t hear you.”

      This is fundementally important to understand. And I’m not saying I do but posting on topics such as this help in a couple of ways, they let me arrange and understand MY thoughts on the matter better. And there are some pretty intelligent people to bounce those thoughts upon here.

      Someone who has a superstitious belief such as the Christian faith has invested a lot of hope into the notion that they will be rewarded by their god for being good, that they will see loved ones again, that there is a soul and that their soul will go to heaven if they believe what they are supposed to. I don’t think it’s so much that they refuse to look through the door you offer to them, that they might understand what you are trying to say to them, as that they are unable to see this door. They have so firmly accepted the blinders of faith that your door is no longer there.

      Your comments equating one superstition with another, faeries with any other ethereal supernatural entity are re-hashed and obvious statements that most of us understand without a blink of the eye. It’s a door we’ve long since walked through. The likes of this poster you were responding to will not even acknowledge that your door exists.

      (not that I want you to give up on your replies. I enjoy them a lot!)

      • articulett
        Posted July 28, 2009 at 1:19 am | Permalink

        You seem to be responding very well to Santi, and yes– I know Santi can’t see the door even though he is sure that he sees it clearly and no one here can see it. I don’t expect him to change… I can’t even tell what he’s really saying or what he really believes– or what’s the use of his nebulous “agnosticism”… they explain nothing… in fact, it seems to make him unable to discover new facts as we uncover them. And it makes him lie to himself and others. Repeatedly.

        Faith makes people have a vested interest in ignorance when it challenges the faith. All virulent faith memes also include the back-up meme that faith is “good” or “virtuous” or “salvation worthy” (or “the only thing the invisible creator of the universe wants from you –is that too much to ask?”)… Virulent faiths also have a mechanism to ensure it’s spread (spread the good news, save others, go forth and multiply, win souls for Christ, protect the faith!)For this reason, I think faith is an enemy of science, and science is a preventative against magical thinking, cult indoctrination, superstitions,fear of hell, demons, devils, chupacabras, etc. As long as the faith isn’t too entrenched and the person hasn’t come to “need” their faith or believe that their salvation depends on their faith, then science can be a tool for thinking in more rational ways.

        Santi’s posts are a jumble of rationalizing pedantry, straw manning, new agey post modernist woo, and bad mouthing of those who challenge his sacred “agnosticism”. I think he’s beyond being able to understand that his god is exactly identical to the invisible entities he doesn’t believe in. I just would like some woo to give me some reason to think they are more credible than, say, Tom Cruise in his recent youtube Scientology rant. Is that so much to ask? Surely, every woo must think they are making more sense than he is. But they aren’t to me. It sounds like the same non-sense. There’s just nothing there.

        I’m through venting at Santi, though. It was just a little stress release, because I don’t like it when faitheists come to science/skeptic sites and try to pass off their prejudices as “discussion” to bolster their delusions. I don’t go to woo sites and tell the credulous how gullible and irrational I think they are. I feel like their posting here deserves about as much welcoming as they’d receive if they’d gone to a feminist site and told the partipants that they should be more lady like. And for the same reasons.

        I’m agnostic about whether there are any purple swans because there’s no way to rule out the possibility, but I see no evidence to suggest there is such a thing and it would be up to the person positing such a belief to provide such evidence. A single example of such a swan would do.

        As far as the evidence shows, god is even less likely than purple swans. Purple animals exist… so do swans. But there is no evidence that any kind of consciousness can exist absent a brain. In fact, you cannot make new memories without a hippocampus. So god is just a nonsense concept to me… like sound in a vacuum. And people who argue that it’s rational to believe in some such entities sound as delusional as the average Scientologist to me. For a long time I truly wished I could find a rational way to believe in, if not god, then a soul– but eventually, I just got tired of trying to fool myself. And, apparently, some who do it for long enough, never are able to stop.

        A “fundamentalist atheists” appears to be a person who doesn’t like to see other people fooling themselves… s/he wants everyone to know that the emperor truly is naked so no one has to feel bad about not being able to see the magical clothes.

  20. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    And the atheist is fine with “not knowing”… it’s the theist that claims to know what can’t be known. Their position is basically, “I don’t know the answer therefore I DO know the answer–it’s god”.

    Ridiculous.

    Is your non belief in Scientology a claim of knowing something that can’t be known? No? Well, neither is the atheist’s non belief in god(s). Quit trying to delude yourself into thinking atheism is something it isn’t so you can feel victorious in knocking down yet another straw man created in your own mind.

  21. santitafarella
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne:

    One more issue: I think that, ultimately (or at least in large part), the reason people sometimes use the phrases “fundamentalist atheist” or “militant atheist” has to do with the high expression of confidence expressed by some atheists. Like fundamentalists who express a high degree of confidence on matters for which high confidence is (to put it politely) not warranted, so there are atheists who come across as more confident in their own beliefs than the evidence warrants. In the face of the enormous mysteries, enigmas, and perplexities of existence, expressions of confidence come across as being akin to religious certitude—and hence “fundamentalist.”

    Perhaps “fundamentalist” is the wrong word—but it is not entirely the wrong word. The analogy may be imperfect, but it is not wholly absent of meaning or relevance to the neo-atheist phenomenon.

    And perhaps “triumphalist” is better. People who are triumphalist display outsized confidence in the essential correctness of their way of seeing the world and display little irony or self-doubt about it. You never get the impression from a triumphalist that he or she might spend any time seriously wondering if maybe he or she is wrong. And a triumphalist would not be caught dead “wasting time” reading the books of the other side—except perhaps to gather fodder for ridicule or apologetics.

    And triumphalists—whether of the religious or secular varieties—are really good at cognitive dissonance. Their triumphalism is at once sunny and utterly disproportionate to the reality of their actual situation.

    Perhaps “Don Quixote atheists” is better than “fundamentalist atheists”. It is not unusual to encounter “new atheists” who are kind of living in a fantasy world that is impervious to anything outside of it. And circular reasoning keeps everything out that the “Don Quixote atheist” wants to keep out. Everything in “atheist land” is declared rosy. Its leaders are outsized in their moral rectitude and intellectual vision, and the sun shines clear. No problems worth bothering about, and no difficulties (only apparent ones). To the triumphalist atheist, the pessimistic atheist or agnostic—or the atheist or agnostic who is a sympathetic listener and dialoguer with theists—or the atheist or agnostic who is dubious of the “leaders” of the new atheist movement—has not absorbed how wonderful “pure” atheism is. It really is like the Ayn Rand cult for some new atheists. There is an obsession with purity and an image (largely delusionary) of one’s ideology and movement being free of taint when practiced confidently, fully, and without apology.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      Philosophy from Santi who starts with nonsense premises and then tries to psychoanalyze people with stupid hypotheses and conclusions brought in from left field makes me want to laugh and vomit at the same time.

      Any discussion that Santi dumps his verbal diarrhea into becomes sidetracked. Santi lowers the intelligence of any discussion. He is offensive and obviously has an agenda of supernatural woo. He should be banned.

      • Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        Nah, I hope Jerry will let him have his say. I’m not sure Santi is suddenly so excited today, with all these long commments, but he’s being civil .. as I understand civility. I disagree with almost everything he’s said on this thread, but I don’t see why any of it is cause for being banned.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:44 am | Permalink

        Nah… then who would I sharpen my claws on?

        I don’t go into places of woo to voice my opinion of woo, but when they post their nonsense on a blog dedicated to scientific truth… well then, I feel personally invited to return my opinion of their opinions.

        Besides, Santi keeps trying to draw Jerry into a conversation, and I feel like it’s a waste of Jerry’s time to deal with this stuff. But it’s kind of fun for me. When you are a good teacher, you let your students fight your little battles for you so you can address more important things. I’ve learned a lot from Jerry’s writings.

        I’ve also learned a lot from the writings of many people who’ve responded to faitheist nonsense in the cyberworld. I like to pass on the learning so that others will take things they glean from me into their “discussions” with similar sorts. I also like lending my support to similar folks engaged in similar “discussions”…especially when they say something I wish I’d said.

        I know Santi’s trying to get Jerry to “discipline” people like you and me whom he imagines are defaming him, but I think we’re safe. I think it’s obvious to everyone but Santi, that he’s far more guilty of the things he accuses others of. Santi disappeared for a while before; maybe we can recreate the situation so that he does so again.

      • Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:45 am | Permalink

        Dammit, I meant to write “I’m not sure why Santi is so excited today …”

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 5:15 am | Permalink

        Russell and articulett:

        The reason I suggest banning is because of the outright untruths he tells and which he knows he is lying. How many times should he be allowed to attribute nonsense and offensive attributes to atheists and naturalists etc. and claim that they say the opposite of what they stand for?

        How many times should he be allowed to divert rational discourse into his “mind precedes matter” delusion?

        He is a creationist with a malicious intent.

  22. santitafarella
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    Articulett:

    You said: “The mind is very fascinating, indeed, but don’t expect to learn about it from priests, gurus, or supposed holy books.”

    None of those are my sources. I’m an agnostic, remember? When I mentioned quantum physics, I was thinking of the works of UC physicists like Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. Their science text on the relationship of consciousness to physics is published by Oxford Press and is titled, “Quantum Enigma” (2006).

    And pointing out that mental causation is a highly problematic issue for committed naturalists is not news, but a fact that any neurologist (including Sacks) would readily acknowledge.

    As for Pinker, of course I’ve read Pinker.

    My questions for you are straightforward ones: If you say that mind studies are fascinating, what makes them fascinating but the enigmas of the mind’s interactions with matter? And how does one account for the origin of mind via matter? How could matter have such an extraordinary property as “producing” minds? These are question that go to the ontological core of existence. It is absurd, in my view, to show unwarranted confidence with regard to their answers, or their implications for the posited existence of mind (or God) prior to matter.

    In other words, to say (as you do) that the mind is not “evidence for God” is simply your way of saying that you do not believe that the existence of mind has a non-material explanation. It is, in short, your expression of a tautology—and nothing more than an affirmation of your own atheist longing. It is not the only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the fact that mind exists and interacts with matter in enigmatic ways. All you are saying is that the implications of these things have already been settled in your own mind. Your statement is a symptom of your own faith and certitude, not a warrant derived from the evidence. The people around this site who are being called “faithiests” are actually the wrong ones deserving of that title. It is in fact the overconfident atheist who believes things that go beyond current evidential warrant, that is engaging in “faitheism.”

    —Santi

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      Wrong… as always. And I’ve had it with your straw men. You may be convincing yourself that you have good evidence for god and that atheism is another faith, but I think you’ve failed across the board here with your unwarranted assertions. I don’t think Jerry will answer you, because no answer will satisfy you except agreement with your straw men. You hear no one. You avoid all questions that reveal your bias. People who threaten your “agnosticism” are “defaming” you in your mind. And you spin straw man after straw man as a pretense for just wanting to converse… but your real goal is to prove that atheism is “bad” and because there is no evidence that your “faitheism” is good though you desperately wish this to be the case.

      Your very first statement on this thread contained a false presumption and you’ve never stopped. Nor have you ever apologized for your errors. You do not let anyone correct your false, repeated presumptions. You think that repeating a straw man makes it truer apparently. Every statement of yours is as manipulative as the ones used to indoctrinated you. And I, for one, have heard them all before. There’s only so many ways a person can keep lying to themselves.

      I think you are too meme infected to have an intelligent conversation on what is known about the mind, Santi. And you are way out of your league here–and it’s more obvious than you reaize. Plus this is not the place for it. Moreover, you NEED to believe in whatever god you pretend to be “agnostic” about. I don’t want to be the bad guy who threatens your cherished opinions. Besides, I don’t believe you are an agnostic. You certainly have a different agnosticism towards fairies than you do towards gods… though you have yet to give us a reason why.

      Go take your self-important meanderings back to your blog or to places where your confusion about what an atheist is is warranted. It’ll make it easier for me to refrain from sharpening my claws on you. Or go to a gay rights blog and tell them not to be so strident and uppity… tell them to be more like you. Go tell Astronomers to coddle the astrologers and call them dogmatic if they don’t. Repeatedly mistake honesty and passion for “fundamentalism” somewhere else. Go project your own faults on some other poor bloggers and their followers.

      Remember, most atheists were once like you. We recognize the bullshit a lot easier than you can. I write what I wish someone had written to me when I sounded like you (though I like to believe I was never as grotesque a caricature of a faitheist as you are.) But I had to deprogram myself in a time before the internet–the hard way. And though I can’t deprogram you… I can exercise the tools I’ve learned from reading others and share those tools with someone who might come across my words.

      Would any evidence make you disbelieve in god the way you disbelieve in fairies, Santi? If not, then YOU are the closed minded one and all atheists that are well reasoned will become “fundamentalist atheists” in your faith-in-faith brain.

      Why shouldn’t an atheist require the exact kind of evidence you’d require to believe in something supernatural that you don’t currently believe in… Scientology, for example. Isn’t that fair and reasonable. Why should we pay any more attention to your agnosticism than those who are agnostic about Scientology?

      And what does any of this have to do with evolution… except that it illustrates how faith-based beliefs can get in the way of actually understanding. The faitheist can’t learn what is known in areas where he’s counted on ignorance as evidence for his god (or other woo). And he’s compelled to make straw men out of the very people who might ameliorate the ignorance.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:24 am | Permalink

      Get this stink of Santi’s super-naturalistic woo away from intelligent people.

  23. Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    The idea of a fundamentalist atheist is somewhat similar to the idea of a religious person whose particular faith is compatible with science. Both concepts are possible but almost never encountered in the wild.
    Personally I think that we should use this sort of attack to our advantage.
    We have individuals who criticise the idea of ‘fundamentalistic atheism’ as something that is unresponsive to reason and evidence.
    Lets simply agree with them – such unresponsiveness is wrong and we should not support this type of ideology.
    Now the other part of their attack is to identify a group of atheists – the ‘New Atheists’ – who are generally named, (Dawkins, Myers, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Coyne).
    Lets agree with them that these individuals are indeed representative of the ‘New Atheists’ but lets ad the caveat that the ideology of this group is probably best described as “outspoken and unapologetic scientific naturalism”.
    Next they try to link the two groups together.
    This is where they fail since the definitions of the two ideologies – fundamentalistism and scientific natualism, are polar opposites.

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:16 am | Permalink

      Agreed. That’s why they can never come up with a quote from a supposed “fundamentalist atheist” that sounds “fundamentalist” when compared to an actual quote of known fundamentalists (The Pope, Fred Phelps, Osama Bin Laden, YEC’s, etc.) There is no comparison… it’s as much of a delusion as their god(s).

      And if you plug in the supposed fundamentalist statements of atheists so that they are talking about “non belief” in ghosts or demons in sounds eminently sensible… If you plug in Scientology for religion and Non-Scientology for Atheism it sounds…obvious– not fundamentalist at all! Is there any reason to treat god belief differently or Scientology differently than “religion in general”? Theists and faitheists never give any good reasons. Instead they keep mishearing me and mischaracterizing those I like much better than them.

      Ah well… if you can’t talk to them, you can always talk about them. (Sometimes it even makes them go away to a more receptive audience.)

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        “it” not “in”.

        I think I better go to sleep before I start sounding as incoherent as Santi sounds to me.

  24. RichardW
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Even if it were true that a particular atheist’s beliefs were (a) not based on rational thinking, (b) held with dogmatic certainty, and (c) were the most extreme variants of such beliefs, that would not make him a fundamentalist. That’s simply not what the word means.

    Consulting several online dictionaries, I find some definitions which are specific to religious beliefs and clearly not applicable to atheists, and more general definitions like the following:

    “2: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles ”
    [Merriam-Webster Online]

    There are no “basic principles” of atheism, apart from the disbelief in gods which is shared by all atheists. Any additional beliefs an atheist may have, such as the desirability of eliminating religions, are optional extras which he picks for himself. There is no atheist creed or doctrine that he is expected to adhere to.

  25. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    “I’m not sure why Santi is so excited today …”

    It’s me… I have that effect on people.
    😉

  26. JefFlyingV
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Is it possible that Santi is a neo-agnostic?
    I’ve only read his musings a few times, but it seems he tries to impute the idea that he has a deep philosophical system that is superior to all others. I would contend his belief is a second stage of theism that a god or gods are unknowable but the powers of creation are attributable to the supernatural (god or gods). He does not adhere to the paleo-agnostics of indifference to a god or the supernatural.

  27. santitafarella
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Russell Blackford:

    You said of me: “he’s being civil .. as I understand civility. I disagree with almost everything he’s said on this thread, but I don’t see why any of it is cause for being banned.”

    Thank you. I appreciate your own civility, and I welcome your disagreements when offered. They help me think. I wish others welcomed contrarity in the same fashion. I don’t understand why people feel that disagreement needs to be lacking in civility, or that it must result in name calling(“faitheist” etc.). Socratic disagreement and jostling is how we arrive at greater and subtler reflection. Jerry Coyne, if he reads his own threads here, should value my contributions even more highly than those who agree with him precisely because they do not constitute an echo.

    I am, truth be told, Coyne’s best friend around here. I tell him what I think from an agnostic vantage different from his own. I value people who visit threads on my own blog and disagree with me. I don’t want my prejudices reinforced. Nothing is more boring than a sycophant telling you how great or right you are, or trying to ward off people from your site who are trying to disagree with you. You learn zero from such a person.

    What an intellectual atheism does not need is a “dittohead” phenomenon trailing it, or people who think that they are serving a cause by ideologically policing it and keeping the discussion in narrow parameters. There are no closed issues or cases in secular discussions (or shouldn’t be). There are no final, complete, or “right” answers (or shouldn’t be). The atheist and agnostic should be characterized by the trait of welcoming ongoing dialogue, even on matters apparently “settled.”

    Impatience and atheism/agnosticism should not be going together with such unironic vigor. And hectoring about a person like myself who resists final “correction” and “doesn’t get it” simply reinforces the impression that the neo-atheist movement is being trailed by an unfortunate host of anti-intellectuals.

    Atheists and agnostics should be like cats, hard to herd. My gosh, what is a “confident atheist thread groupie”, ultimately, but the parody of a free thinker, an oxymoron? The history of atheism, and the success of secularism arose out of vigorous internal self-criticism. No sacred cows. No banned books. Even large errors often have elements of truth attached to them. And even large and overriding truths can conceal errors and places for blindspots to reside.

    Nothing is more dulling to the intellect than a lack of curiosity. I recommended, a few weeks back, for example, an essay by Reinhold Niebuhr that would be of interest to atheists, and the response I got: crickets chirping in the night. No response at all. Zero. Coyne had no interest, apparently, nor did any threaders here tell me that they had read the essay. I got one biologist who wrote to me at my own blog and said he actually read the first paragraph, but then read no further.

    And the essay was short to boot. Is that what it means to be a new atheist?

    If anybody asks me, I’m happy to give the title of the Niebuhr essay again, so you can locate it.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      They help me think. I wish others welcomed contrarity(sic) in the same fashion.

      There is intelligent contraian(sic) thinking and then there is baloney. You speak pure baloney.

      I am, truth be told, Coyne’s best friend around here. I tell him what I think from an agnostic vantage different from his own.

      Someone has a huge inflated ego. Santi, you are NOT an agnostic, you are a creationist. You proved it here a hundred times.

      What an intellectual atheism does not need is a “dittohead” phenomenon trailing it, or people who think that they are serving a cause by ideologically policing it and keeping the discussion in narrow parameters. There are no closed issues or cases in secular discussions (or shouldn’t be). There are no final, complete, or “right” answers (or shouldn’t be). The atheist and agnostic should be characterized by the trait of welcoming ongoing dialogue, even on matters apparently “settled.”

      No one says otherwise. This is one of your usual straw man nonsense diarrhea spewings.

      Impatience and atheism/agnosticism should not be going together with such unironic(sic) vigor. And hectoring about a person like myself who resists final “correction” and “doesn’t get it” simply reinforces the impression that the neo-atheist movement is being trailed by an unfortunate host of anti-intellectuals.

      We await you making a real argument with evidence instead of your delusional beliefs of “mind over matter” and other pure baloney.

      Atheists and agnostics should be like cats, hard to herd. My gosh, what is a “confident atheist thread groupie”, ultimately, but the parody of a free thinker, an oxymoron? The history of atheism, and the success of secularism arose out of vigorous internal self-criticism. No sacred cows. No banned books. Even large errors often have elements of truth attached to them. And even large and overriding truths can conceal errors and places for blindspots to reside.

      This is just a childish person who can’t take that everyone here thinks your ideas are baloney and delusional. This is Santi acting out, stomping his feet with mock rage.

      People MIGHT read Niebuhr when you have an intelligent point to contribute. As long as you act the buffoon, your will have no respect.

  28. santitafarella
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Richard W:

    You said: “There is no atheist creed or doctrine that he is expected to adhere to.”

    Ah, you don’t see the intellectual self-policing in the threads at Dawkins’s, Coyne’s, and Myers’s websites? There are people who have literally taken it upon themselves at all of these sites to hector people who stray from the perceived sensiblity promoted by the charismatic head of each site.

    In other words, there is an ideological “static” signature at all of these websites that is unmistakable. The atheist ET persistently calls home from a very definite vantage, loud and clear.

    Your very gesture of setting definitional closure on the word atheism is itself a way of constraining discussion. Look at how emphatic, for example, your own phrases are: “That’s simply not what the word means”, and “There are no ‘basic principles’ of atheism, apart from the disbelief in gods which is shared by all atheists.”

    These are assertions that are not just trivial, but conceal important things from anyone who might adhere to them, and if taken seriously, drives discussion about atheism into the very narrowest range.

    For example, you don’t seriously believe that atheism entails no metaphysical or epistemic premises, do you? And if you don’t, then what could it possibly mean (or how is it helpful to say) that atheism has no “basic principles”? Metaphysical and epistemic premises are “basic principles” (if anything is basic). And all atheists have them (whether they acknowledge them or not). And the ones that atheists have are pretty predictable. To pretend that atheism is just a minimalist negation with minimalist consequences is simply not how atheism qua atheism functions in the “wild.”

    Why would you want to ignore this by insisting on a narrow (and unhelpful) definition? Is it taboo to state plainly the predominate worldview and sensibilities that consistently manifest themselves among actual new atheists, and talk about them honestly? Why?

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Ah, you don’t see the intellectual self-policing in the threads at Dawkins’s, Coyne’s, and Myers’s websites? There are people who have literally taken it upon themselves at all of these sites to hector people who stray from the perceived sensiblity promoted by the charismatic head of each site.

      This is just Santi’s dogma. He can not stand the fact that NO ONE AGREES WITH HIS DELUSIONS so he imagines conspiracies.

      Fore the feeble minded:

      Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
      Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
      Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
      Atheism is lack of belief in gods.

      A – means NOT. Theism – belief in god(s).

      So simple that a five year old could get it.

      For example, you don’t seriously believe that atheism entails no metaphysical or epistemic premises, do you? And if you don’t, then what could it possibly mean (or how is it helpful to say) that atheism has no “basic principles”? Metaphysical and epistemic premises are “basic principles”

      Ther goes Santi, once again, with his supernatural woo. It is offensive and disruptive.

      Once again Santi is way off topic and has dragged the tread into the garbage

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        tread=thread

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      With all these examples everywhere of these uncivil atheists you’d think you’d cut and paste one… but the only example you used was my use of the word “period” at the end of a sentence for emphasis. It seems no one agreed with your conjecture that this was dogmatic or exemplary of whatever the hell you’re talking about.

      The atheists aren’t the bad guys you’ve imagined them to be– they are just people who make you realize that the crap your using to defend your woo is the same crap people have been using for years to defend woo you don’t believe in. If Jerry responded to you, you’d start seeing him as one of the “bad guys” too. Everyone who doesn’t support your delusions of yourself is “uncivil” in your head.

      You need to vilify them because they threaten to show you that your delusions are as goofy as the delusions you mock. They threaten to fill those gaps where you’ve inserted your “evidence of god” with actual evidence that has nothing to do with gods. And they threaten to hold up a mirror to you and show you how you really come across to others.

      Russel said you were being civil… he didn’t say you are being more civil than all those atheists you think are being uncivil. And yet, you’ve extrapolated such a message and now you are off spinning more delusional yarns where you are the good guy fighting incivility at every turn… in fact, now you’ve declared yourself, “Jerry’s Best Friend”… incredible.

      You might be fairly civil but, you are also fairly incoherent and a tad delusional. You don’t really listen to anyone, and that’s why you have so few people taking the time to try and parse your self-aggrandizing nonsensical posts.

      We all get it, Santi. You think you are an example of reasoned discourse and that the “new atheists” are uncivil and should be more like you because QM is weird and, therefore, god could explain the mind. Plus, you are scared that people on this blog will start treating you like those mean old atheists on PZ’s blog etc. have

      Or something like that.

  29. santitafarella
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    JeffFlying:

    You said of me: “He does not adhere to the paleo-agnostics of indifference to a god or the supernatural.”

    I like that observation. I don’t mind being called a neo-agnostic, if that is what you mean by it. I think an agnostic is in the unique (and enviable) position of being able to look sympathetically at both sides (theism and atheism) and actually feel some engagement with the arguments of both of them—to even feel their emotional power and pull—depending on mood (pessimistic or optimistic)— but without submitting fully to either of them (intellectually or emotionally).

    It’s good to keep your eyes and heart open. Indifference is not something I’m interested in. If that makes me unlike agnostics in the past (indifferent to gods, but not certain one way or the other), that’s a distinction from the past that I’m happy to embrace for myself.

    I feel viscerally the paradoxes and perplexities underlying the ontological mysteries of mind, matter, and origins, and I’m not indifferent to them. I don’t think that it is inconsistent with agnosticism to say so.

    —Santi

    • JefFlyingV
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Interesting that you only replied to one sentence of my comment.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        He only reads that which he can use to support his view that he’s the “uber” skeptic and/or that which he can twist to support his belief in “militant atheists” who challenge his fuzzy thinking.

        I’m “uncivil” for pointing this out, of course.

        He needs to believe in the “fundamentalist atheist straw man”, because then he can feel noble and righteous and “civil” in fighting against it. In his mind, he’s a warrior for diplomacy and reason. To the rest of us, he’s just a garden variety faitheist doing what garden variety fathiests do.

        For some reason, they think they are “role models” and that others should want to be more like them. I consider them excellent role models of how NOT to be.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I feel viscerally the paradoxes and perplexities underlying the ontological mysteries of mind, matter, and origins, and I’m not indifferent to them. I don’t think that it is inconsistent with agnosticism to say so.

      There goes Santi, once again with supernatural woo baloney. He is clearly a creationist.

      “I feel viscerally:

      vis·cer·al
      Function: adjective
      Date: 1575

      1 : felt in or as if in the viscera : deep
      2 : not intellectual : instinctive, unreasoning
      3 : dealing with crude or elemental emotions : earthy

      4 : of, relating to, or located on or among the viscera : splanchnic

  30. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    There is a reason that Santi only “cherry picks” an occasional response to his nonsense posts. He knows that he can not answer 95% of the exposure of his baloney and his (not very hidden) creationism. He pretends that if he ignores all the prominent and salient points that show his arguments to be nothing but passing wind that no one will notice.

    His false pretense of civility and faux umbrage is another of his tactics to maliciously derail threads.

  31. JefFlyingV
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    NewEnglandBob and articulett, Thanks for pointing these out. I think I had a discussion with santi 2 years ago under a different name. He hasn’t presented anything new.

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be so sure it was him. A lot of faitheists sound alike. I suspect it’s a sort of convergent evolution… there are only so many ways you can lie to yourself.

      I’ve been involved in the skeptics movement a long time–and though faitheists are particularly self righteous in their beliefs and their prejudices against skeptics of their beliefs, they really aren’t much different than believers in psychics or crystal healing or bigfoot or conspiracies theories.

      I think it’s interesting to look at their words, because it reveals the arguments someone used on them to convince them of whatever belief it is they are protecting.

      This is what science education needs to inoculate against.

  32. Cory Albrecht
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    What about atheists who adamantly insist that all religion is evil and no good ever comes from and ignore it when one points out groups like Ten Thousand Villages and Habitat for Humanity or the many people who good works because what they feel their faith calls them to do and don’t force their faith on others?

    That type of atheist is just as dogmatically unwilling to look at evidence that counters their claim as any fundie christian is.

    People like that, I feel, validate the term “fundamentalist atheist”.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Once again, the definition of fundamentalism includes the fact that they will not change their mind, regardless of the evidence. Most atheists WILL change their mind given evidence. Which atheists have stated they will not change their mind given evidence?

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        I’ve pointed out an example in another comment, but have you never read screeds similar this: (not the video, below that) on Usenet or a blog, and when people comment and mention $X religious group that does good without being preachy and the original poster just ignores those examples?

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      With so many such atheists out there, you should have no trouble linking or cutting and pasting examples, right?

      I think you’re hearing people say things they aren’t saying so you can keep your “fundamentalist atheist” stereotype alive.

      If you provide an example instead of just ensuring us that they are “out there”, we can compare the actual words of supposed “fundamentalist atheists” with their “fundamentalist theist” counterparts.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        By the way, I’ve been a believer in all sorts of “woo”, so I have empathy, but I want no part of enabling this sort of thinking in others. It makes them closed minded and prejudiced as they imagine themselves open-minded and humble.

        I’d like to encourage people to keep their supernatural beliefs to themselves in the same manner they want other cultists (Scientologists, for example) to keep their beliefs to themselves and not to ask for privileges or respect that they would not give to them.

        I think the “fundamentalist atheist” stereotype is a label believers use to make atheism into another “faith” they can dismiss so they don’t have to realize it’s just “non belief” in their god… identical to their own non-belief in Scientology, Santa, and mythological gods of yesteryear.

    • JefFlyingV
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      In a generalized way religion is for those people that are not civilized enough to have ethics, morality…etc. without the threat of eternal damnation (or those equivalents in other religions).

      Cory what evidence are you presenting?

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        There’s a person who posts to the talk.origins newsgroup who uses the nym “snex”. That’s the type of person I’m thinking of.

        See this thread: for a similar discussion, involving said person.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Well why don’t you link or cut and paste the quote(s) that made you come to the conclusion that this is the type of person who:

        “adamantly insist that all religion is evil and no good ever comes from and ignore it when one points out groups like Ten Thousand Villages and Habitat for Humanity or the many people who good works because what they feel their faith calls them to do and don’t force their faith on others?

        That type of atheist is just as dogmatically unwilling to look at evidence that counters their claim as any fundie christian is.”

        Since this is the characterization of what you think a “fundamentalist atheist” is.

        I suspect you are hearing snex say things he didn’t actually say to keep yourself from hearing what he actually is saying.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        See, people have accused me of saying all these things and being a fundamentalist atheist, and yet, I know I never said any of those things and I don’t think what such people claim I think.

        You may not mean to be furthering a prejudice, but you may, in fact, be doing so. It’s unfair to claim that there are these “atheist fundamentalists” out there who think all religion is evil without giving evidence of what they said to make you conclude that.

        Could it be that such people only exist in your mind… that you’ve exaggerated what was actually said to protect faith based thinking from criticism?

      • JefFlyingV
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        As compelling as the talk origins thread may seem to be, they are not presenting science. Talk Origins doesn’t make an effort to present models to replace any of the sciences they dispute, all they are presenting is dogma that reinforces religious belief.

        Cory, are they presenting new replacement theories or are they mining long discredted theories?

        Cory, again what is your evidence for challenge?

      • JefFlyingV
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Or I don’t know what the heck the talk origins site is…

      • JefFlyingV
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I am now linked to talk origins and over the next couple of days will read through the articles. My apologies for commenting on the website without knowledge.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        Talkorigins is actually a great site that addresses the top creationist canards and obfuscations.

        There’s a lot of creationist sites like Answersingenesis that toss out creationist propaganda in a pseudoscientific fashion.

        Hopefully, Cory will provide a link and quote… but I doubt it. I think when s/he looks at what was actually said or tries to support the “atheist fundamentalist” stereotype s/he was sure was displayed by snex, s/he will find out that s/he misremembered the conversation.

        I’m pretty sure I know of snex, and I’m pretty sure he’s not as Cory characterized him.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        articulett said:

        There’s a lot of creationist sites like Answersingenesis that toss out creationist propaganda in a pseudo-scientific fashion.

        And there is a debunking site “Answers in Genesis BUSTED!” which can be found right here

  33. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I don’t any atheist that says all religions are evil, but I know a lot of faitheists who seem to hear that whenever anyone criticizes any religion or contends that faith is not a means of knowledge.

    • articulett
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      “don’t know any” not “don’t any”

      (note to self: proofread before submitting!)

  34. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    So, no evidence from Cory? S/he just wanted to drop by, further bigotry, and then leave?

    Typical faitheist–ssumes the conclusion and then imagines that it’s been demonstrated.

  35. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    By the way, I, an atheist, contribute to Habitat for Humanity and give kudos to Jimmy Carter for his support of evolution education. Brad Pitt (also an atheist) contributes hugely to HfH. Some of the biggest philanthropists of our time are, in fact, atheists… so your example of “fundamentalist atheist” rings particularly hollow, Cory. We know that religions can be involved in charities: I don’t, however, think that belief in god makes humans more charitable–although it makes them imagine they are.

    • Cory Albrecht
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      @articulett: You seem to be under the impression that I am saying that all atheists are “fundamentalists atheists” and act like that. I haven’t said any such thing. All I said is that there are *some* atheists who post some “religion is evil” screed and then ignore when others bring up organizations like HfH.

      Neither did I claim that religion makes one more charitable than being non-religious would make one. IMNSHO that would be a patently stupid claim to make as there a great many examples of very charitable atheists.

      I think that you are reading things into my comments here, things which I have not said.

  36. Cory Albrecht
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Argh… that didn’t work let me try again here. (Can I use HTML in here?) If that URL doesn’t show up, somebody want to clue me in, please?

    @JeffFlyingV: I wasn’t using t.o. as an example of presenting science. I was using a thread from there as an example of a person whom I would consider to be an example of a “fundamentalist atheist”. (Or at least trying to, had my URL shown up. Bah humbug.)

    @articulett: “just wanted to drop by, further bigotry, and then leave?” Sheesh, give me a chance to respond, why don’t you? What, you think I’m hitting Ctrl+R in Firefox over and over again? And please, show where I have acted in a bigoted manner here.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      I can not make sense of that back and forth in the middle of someone’s conversation, out of context. I haven’t a clue who is who nor what they stand for.

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Then read the entire thread. What, you expected a little, easily read post that summed up another person’s attitude? Even I might think for a single post that the person was merely having a bad day.

        If you don’t want to read the example I presented, that isn’t my fault.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      What, you think I’m hitting Ctrl+R in Firefox

      No need to do that. See that little check box under “Post Comment”? If you select it, a magical being will knock on your e-mailbox and tell you all about new messages here.

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I saw it and I even checked it. That bit was sarcasm, though, granted, sarcasm does not always work well in a text-only medium. My point was that Articulett was rather undeservedly calling me bigot for being a drive-by just because I didn’t reply soon enough for his impatience. It’s not like I’m refreshing Thunderbird every 30 seconds either, looking for new emails telling me there’s been another comment here.

    • JefFlyingV
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Cory your link took me directly to the post. Fundamentalist? I don’t know about that. I can see where a spritual or a religious person can see equivalents of fundamentalism in the atheist community.

      I myself have doubts of an Evangelical Christian heading the NIH, no matter what his science credentials are.

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        You’re not the only one. I would have concerns, too, if somebody was appointed to a similar post here in Canada and I thought their religion might get in the way of being a good *science* administrator, or might cosy up with creationists. But beyond that I wouldn’t what their religion is.

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Call me uncivil, but I’d prefer that my representatives didn’t imagine themselves getting messages from god in waterfalls.

        Imagining “signs” is a symptom of schizoid thinking.

        Francis Collins makes no qualms about the fact that a waterfall somehow confirmed for him that all the mythology around Christianity is “the truth”… he considers it a personal message from the creator of the universe. If he interpreted the sign to mean Islam was true, you can bet there’d be a much bigger protest, that’s for sure. (I’m sure belief would suddenly start mattering to those who claim it shouldn’t matter now.) That makes such people faitheist hypocrites.

  37. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    What I meant by bigotry is that every time someone treats religion the way they would treat demon belief or any other superstition that makes unscientific claims they are called a “fundamentalist atheist” and vilified as if they are saying something at all equivalent to actual fundamentalists who say things like “the devil is real” and “god hates fags” and “contraception is a sin”. I’ve never heard an atheist say anything like this “fundamentalist” crap. I’ve never seen an atheist demand respect for the unprovable things they believe either.

    Critiquing faith is not hate speech and the person doing so is NOT saying “all religion is evil” though “defenders of faith” keep claiming they are saying such things. They are just treating religion the way religionists treat competing religions and superstitions.

    I think that the only place an actual “fundamentalist atheis”t exists is in the mind of the faitheist. And I’m not seeing what they are seeing. I’ve never heard any atheist say “all religion is evil”, but ALL religions do make truth claims they have no evidence to back up.

    There’s this zeitgeist out there that they exist and are harming science or doing some other “bad thing”, but I think this is a lie propagated by the “faith in faith” crowd so they can feel like peacekeepers and moderates while adding nothing to the actual process of teasing out fact from the myriad of things people “believe in”.

    What was your reason for your original post, Cory, except to shore up your belief that there are these “fundamentalist atheists” out there doing harm to some cause?

    • Cory Albrecht
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Well, my point certainly wasn’t saying that critiquing faith was hate speech – I never said anything like that.

      I would have thought that my point was fairly and can broken down thusly:

      – that there exists a subset of atheists who have written in blogs or in newsgroups various screeds on the “religion is evil” theme

      – that some of that subset show little (if any) willingness to change their opinion based on the evidence that organizations like HfH exist that do good and were started out of religious convictions

      – that that subset of people could be labelled as “fundamentalist atheists”

      Other commenters asked me to pony up some evidence for my claim that such people existed, and I gave what I felt was a good example – Snex from the talk.origins newsgroup.

      But you, instead, accuse me of being a drive-by troll and a bigot to boot, just because I didn’t continue commenting within some arbitrary time limit imagined by your ownself. This isn’t a real time chat like IRC – people post a comment and then go off and do other things.

      Again, you seem to be reading into my posts stuff that I did not say..

      • articulett
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        just as you have read stuff into Snex’s posts that he did not say…

        Could you highlight the part where he said all religions are evil or no religions do any good… or what ever else you think is “fundamentalist atheism”.

      • Wowbagger
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        Cory,

        I’m not going to quibble about whether or not there are examples of what you’re claiming, but that still doesn’t mean that the term ‘fundamentalist atheist’ is the appropriate term to use.

        To be able to say that a person who claimed ‘religion is evil’ is a ‘fundamentalist atheist’, it would require them to be adhering to a tenet of atheism which instructed them to make such a claim – since that’s what ‘fundamentalist’ means.

        But there are no tenets to atheism beyond ‘lack a belief in gods’. Calling religion evil is unrelated to the lack of belief in gods; rather, it is an opinion about the behaviour of the religious and how this impacts on how the religion they belong to is perceived.

        You can call the atheists in question rude, or wrong, or unreasonable and irrational in the face of evidence – but it’s incorrect to label them ‘fundamentalist’, at least based on the accepted definition of the word.

  38. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    By the way, I suspect most atheists don’t believe in “evil”, because it has supernatural overtones and implies an “according to”.

    Evil is the word that humans use to describe “purposeful causing of suffering.”

    Most atheists probably feel about religion in general the way you feel about Scientology or voo doo or psychics who claim to talk to the dead. It’s no more “evil” than these beliefs… but it also has no more claims to truth… and no more right to respect from scientists or anyone else.

  39. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Cory,
    I found your comment bigoted, because I don’t think snex or anyone else exhibiting the “fundamentalist atheism” you described nor are they saying all religion is evil. You are hearing things in both myself and others and then taking offense and imagining you have a case about “fundamentalist atheists” when, in fact, such people exist more in your imagination then reality.

    You haven’t presented a case that there is such a thing as a fundamentalist atheist or that any atheist is saying all religion is evil or treating religion differently than religionists treat competing religion. And you are taking offense when this is pointed out.

    You posted here to tell Jerry and others that fundamentaist atheists exist and you have failed to present your case to anyone but yourself. The example you provided in no way compares to the statements of fundamentalist theists I gave you for comparison. They are just words that hurt your feelings and what you’d like to believe about yourself and your beliefs. Snex view of religion is no worse than your veiw of snex as far as I can tell, and neither exhibit anything having to do with “fundamental teachings”.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      I agree with articulett that Cory has not presented a case that there is such a thing as a fundamentalist atheist or that any atheist is saying all religion is evil.

      Christopher Hitchens appears to come close, but he does not say that all religion is evil. He says religion poisons everything.

      I also think that Cory has not addressed the original “Economist” article that started this thread.

      • Cory Albrecht
        Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Bon, you said elsethread: “I can not make sense of that back and forth in the middle of someone’s conversation, out of context. I haven’t a clue who is who nor what they stand for.”

        So how would you know whether or not I presented my case? You appear to not even have read my example.

    • Cory Albrecht
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      “You are hearing things in both myself and others…”

      Umm… no, I never said anything about you being a fundamentalist atheist – I never even tried to place you in any group at all. You’re imagining things.

      BTW, go look up what “bigoted” actually means. Talking about a subset of atheists that I feel exhibit a certain trait hardly qualifies as bigoted.

      As for Snex, did you go and read through his responses in that particular thread? I feel that his posts they are a perfect example of somebody unwilling to change his opinion when others give him new evidence.

      • JefFlyingV
        Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:34 am | Permalink

        I went through the first 60 posts on the trhread you provided Cory. I have to agree with articullet.

        Snex brought up valid points for Collins not being an acceptable choice to head the NIH. Was he being an equivalent of an evangelical fundamentalist (christian)? Again I don’t think so. I think science should be divorced from religious (supernatural) influences, otherwise science gets tainted and does not find answers. What you get is similar to Lysenkoism which derailed the sciences in the Soviet Union.

        There are fundamentals to atheism, fundamentalism in a religious sense is not a part of atheism. If I have someone trying to convert me to a religious doctrine I will argue and poke holes in their beliefs, Is that your definition of fundamentalism Cory?

    • Cory Albrecht
      Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      As an aside, I notice that you’re not commenting about you jumped in and labelled me as a bigot and troll just because I didn’t respond to you within some arbitrary time limit. Any particular reason why you’re avoiding that?

  40. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Cory, you dropped by this posting to tell us that there ARE such things as fundamentalist atheists. And then you gave us a characteristic of what you think a fundamentalist atheist is. You were asked for quotes demonstrating what a fundamentalist atheist might say… you said that they “think all religion is evil”.

    I don’t think that having the opinion that all religion is evil IS fundamentalist… but I have seen no evidence that anyone actually said such a thing. You invited us to read an ongoing dialogue to prove your own point to you… Why don’t you cut and paste what a “fundamentalist atheist” actually said so we can agree that it’s akin to what a fundamentalist theist says… we can examine what is fundamentalist about it… or why it might be bad to say whatever they said… we can see if they are saying what you imagine they are saying.

    Until you provide such evidence, then we are right to assume that Jerry’s original post is correct and that you are spinning straw men “fundamentalist atheists” out of people who make you insecure it whatever faith it is you think deserves special coddling. If Snex had made his commentary about Scientology would you think he was a fundamentalist anti-scientologist?

    From my perspective, you are unwilling to look at how your own biases make you see what you call “fundamentalist atheism” when someone is treating religion in general, the way you’d treat dogmas you find harmful. You’ve supported your own belief that there are “fundamentalist atheists”, but you haven’t actually made a case for such a character to someone who does not already have such biases.

    I think religions encourage people to think this way about those who don’t share their faith… in that way, people won’t be tempted to examine what exactly they believe too closely.

  41. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I gave a quick run through of the talk origins piece, and I agree with SNEX, so I guess I’m a “fundamentalist atheist” per your definition too, Cory. Maybe you should voice your concerns about such people over and Santi’s blog since he seems to see what you are seeing.

    Myself, I don’t see anything fundamentalist about what SNEX says nor did he say what you’ve claimed he said.
    Maybe I missed the part where he said all religions are evil… why don’t you cut and paste that portion…

  42. articulett
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Snex, Jerry Coyne, and Sam Harris regarding Francis Collins appointment. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/opinion/27harris.html

    I want to know exactly what “evidence” snex is being closed minded about and how the people he is discussing things with being more open minded.

    To me, it looks like the usual brouhaha where faitheists are hearing things that aren’t said while imagining he’s saying things that he’s not.

  43. santitafarella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Cory,

    In support of your claim that “fundamentalist atheist” has at least some descriptive value, it should be noted that Stephen Gould used a similar phrase in his early disputes with evolutionary psychologists who imagined a reductive Darwinian “just so” story accounting for each and every human behavior and mental property. Gould called them “Darwinian fundamentalists.”

    So I suppose that when people have a reductive formula for “explaining” and measuring all phenomena (whether it is the Bible or materialist reduction or natural selection) and use it as a kind of “universal acid”—a one size fits all—tool that substitutes for thought—and wishes that tool global (subsuming all other ways of thinking)—then we might call it a kind of fundamentalist mentality.

    Hitler, for example, wasn’t a religious fundamentalist adhering to the strict dictates of a religious book, but he did have obsessive simplifying “formulas” in his head that reduced his problem solving to thought-substituting equations (Aryan advancement via struggle, the “law” of survival of the fittest, eugenics, Jews as parasites on the Aryan body).

    Hitler, if anybody was, was an early “Darwinian fundamentalist”. His intellectual instruments made no distinctions and applied globally.

    And so a “fundamentalist atheist” is someone who might have in his head a reductive formula (or small list of formulas) for quickly explaining and thinking away complex issues, which is very like fundamentalism. Thus, we see formulaics in atheist phrases like these:

    “Religion poisons everything.”

    “Religion is the root of all evil.”

    “Religion is a viral meme.”

    “All properties of mind, existence, and origins can be reduced to physics and chemistry.”

    “Natural selection accounts for all biological and human mental phenomena.”

    “Evolution by natural selection is a universal acid.”

    Such statements can (and have) functioned in ways akin to quoting Bible verses. They are used as global reductive dogmas that go very far beyond what the evidence warrants, and that are substitutes for complexity, thought, and nuance. They are expressions of faith and ideology, and they are very blunt intellectual instruments.

    I think, for example, that one of the very great errors of the contemporary neo-atheist movement is its general failure to make distinctions between different religious practices and thought, lumping religious people together as a collective “evil.” Thus Francis Collins and Miller are treated with an indistinguishable vehemence from that dished upon young earth creationists. And even I, as an agnostic, am seen as a “creationist” because I’m merely open to the possiblity that there might be mind (or telos) prior to matter—that it is not a closed issue for me. The very fact that I keep my mind open to the possibility that there might be a non-material (teleological) explanation for some aspects of existence, mind, or origins is sufficient to brand me a “supernaturalist.” To say “I don’t know” constitutes a secret and sinister commitment.

    Another example: I notice a repeated habit on the part of some posters here to equate God-belief with fairy-belief. Again, there is no subtlety and nuance to their thinking. There is no attempt to make epistemic distinctions. It is just a bludgeon.

    In other words, distinctions and qualifications matter. And when you stop making them, you’re heading for reductive fundamentalism.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I guess that make the trolling Santi a fundamentalist creationist from all the nonsense he spews about gods and disconnected minds.

      One thing I see is that his mind is certainly disconnected from reality.

      Hitler was a Christian, you liar Santi.

      Blatant lies like this is the reason that this troll Santi should be banned.

  44. articulett
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Ha… the woo always think they are “open minded” even though they never can answer what exactly would change their mind about whatever they “believe in” or what would it take for them to believe in some other religion or invisible being that they reject now.

    The atheist usually knows exactly the kind of things that would make them believe in god, and even if they didn’t, any god worth his title would.

    It’s silly. No amount of evidence can make the believer concede that the emperor is truly naked–especially those who feel “chosen” because they imagine they caught a glimpse of his magical robes.

    All woo believers sound the same to me. And all faitheists give the equivalent of the “courtier’s reply”. I prefer the blunt honesty of those who “he’s naked–there is no evidence for magical clothes that only chosen people can see!”

    “Fundamentalist atheist” is term believers use for anyone in the latter category so they don’t have to let the truth spoil the self aggrandizing delusion they feel so “open minded” for “believing in”.

  45. articulett
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Santi:

    You are clearly a fundamentalist a-fairyist… so show tell us what evidence would you require to believe in fairies?

    Why shouldn’t an atheist require the same evidence to believe in god?

    How open minded are you really? What sort of evidence would you require to understand that god and fairies are identical as far as being real explanations for real phenomena?

    • santitafarella
      Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Articulett:

      There are no good reasons that I can think of for believing in fairies (nor have I ever heard any advanced). There are, however, a multitude of good reasons that I can think of for believing that mind (or telos) preceded matter at the beginning of the universe, and that mind (or telos) is responsible for the information content that we find in the universe.

      And let me invert your own argument. I could easily equate (in your terms) afairyism with anaturalism. I could, in short, shift the burden of proof (as you do with theism). I could say:

      “I’m an afairiest for precisely the same reason that I am an anaturalist. Much of the world appears so complex as to be designed by a mind. I mean look at it. It’s obvious. Nothing I see with my own eyes contradicts this impression for me. Look, for example, at a spider web. How about that? Do you have any idea how complex the organic system is that builds a spider’s web? And absolutely no one has ever offered an even probable naturalistic explanation for the existence of the laws of nature, nor has anyone ever offered an even remotely probable naturalistic path to the first cell, or the sudden appearance of the human mind in the universe, or the Cambrian explosion. The burden of proof, therefore, is on anyone who claims (absent any evidence whatsoever) that all these things that appear designed and information rich can be accounted for by blind material atoms jostling contingently in the void, or being acted upon by natural selection. It is up to you to demonstrate, with actual evidence and sound reasoning (not “just so” stories), that the laws of nature, the first cell, and the mind can be generated by the chance interaction of unconscious atoms in the void. You make an extraordinary claim. You say that all—not just some, but ALL—of the universe—even its own laws and creation!—and the properties of the mind!—can be explained as a product of blind, contingent material forces shuffling and interacting in the void. Now prove it. An extraordinary claim demands extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof is also upon you to demonstrate that matter is either eternal or can create itself out of nothing. I mean, how ridiculous is that! It’s absurd! And until you can advance proof and sound reasoning for these things, then I must respond to your faith in naturalism with anaturalism and give your opinions no more epistemic status than I give to deluded people who believe in lepruchans or fairies. Your views are crazy and you’ve got some nerve advancing them at a site devoted to serious thought! When you’ve got some actual evidence for what you say, then come back here.”

      Now do you think this is a fair line of reasoning? I don’t. I think it is unfair precisely because naturalism, however improbable, has some things going for it (just as the idea that mind preceding matter, however improbable, has some things going for it). Neither naturalism nor some version of telos, God or mind prior to matter are very good full explanations for what we observe. And both have huge holes in logic and evidence, and are paradoxical, and beg numerous questions. But they’re both better ideas than fairyism. And they’re both better by orders of magnitude. Both have things that one can point to in the universe that actually recommend them to us for belief. And logically one of them, however dumbfounding and improbable they might appear to us individually and in isolation, is nevertheless almost certainly true. We can’t say that about fairyism.

      —Santi

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        There are, however, a multitude of good reasons that I can think of for believing that mind (or telos) preceded matter at the beginning of the universe,

        Here we go again with the disproved lunacy. Does this troll ever stop repeating the same baloney?

        And let me invert your own argument.

        When he can not address an issue he uses this slimey tactic.

        The rest of Santi’s post is just word salad gibberish, a verbal spew.

        No intelligent discourse to see here from Santi – see his last 100 posts

      • Trismos
        Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Santi: There are no good reasons that I can think of for believing in fairies (nor have I ever heard any advanced). There are, however, a multitude of good reasons that I can think of for believing that mind (or telos) preceded matter at the beginning of the universe, and that mind (or telos) is responsible for the information content that we find in the universe.”

        Please share them with me then.

        You go on: “And let me invert your own argument. I could easily equate (in your terms) afairyism with anaturalism. I could, in short, shift the burden of proof (as you do with theism). I could say:

        “I’m an afairiest for precisely the same reason that I am an anaturalist. Much of the world appears so complex as to be designed by a mind. I mean look at it. It’s obvious. Nothing I see with my own eyes contradicts this impression for me. Look, for example, at a spider web. How about that? Do you have any idea how complex the organic system is that builds a spider’s web? And absolutely no one has ever offered an even probable naturalistic explanation for the existence of the laws of nature, nor has anyone ever offered an even remotely probable naturalistic path to the first cell, or the sudden appearance of the human mind in the universe, or the Cambrian explosion. The burden of proof, therefore, is on anyone who claims (absent any evidence whatsoever) that all these things that appear designed and information rich can be accounted for by blind material atoms jostling contingently in the void, or being acted upon by natural selection. It is up to you to demonstrate, with actual evidence and sound reasoning (not “just so” stories), that the laws of nature, the first cell, and the mind can be generated by the chance interaction of unconscious atoms in the void. You make an extraordinary claim…..”

        Your inability to understand or your penchant to see design in the universe is not evidence for your telos. Since an atheist isn’t satisfied with the theistic bail-out that religion offers, they are the ones who will invariably find the answers. And even if that answer is that there is a god or gods … it will be science that discovers this for fact. That you or anyone else ‘intuited’ such a thing is no cause for celebration and makes you none the smarter.

        (Actually can you imagine the spectacle? Every superstitionist vying to claim they KNEW? …. Attempting to revise everything they said to match what has now become reality?)

        You claim that the scientific explanations are extra-ordinary, but your claim is just as extraordinary. At least science is looking for answers.

        You also make the argument that one must understand the subtleties and nuances between different superstitious beliefs; that of course you don’t believe in faeries but you do believe in your telos.

        Again, as has been pointed out innumerable times in posts here and elsewhere: the shtick is the same so of course it get’s painted with the same broad brush. The nuances do not make it different at it’s core. The god or telos or faerie may have different names. There may be more than one or none at all. The rules may be similar or totally different. But you all believe in something that exists beyond our natural universe, that is not subject to the laws of physics, and is therefore not subject to our perusal and understanding. Just because you feel it is so.

      • Trismos
        Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        And actually I evolved from protestant to atheist to asuperstionist. Or asupernaturalist perhaps.

        Semantics. The universe exists. Science (the art of knowing by perceiving what exists) attempts to understand the universe.

        Is this what you are doing Santi? Trying to understand the universe? How do you think one should go about that?

  46. articulett
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Santi,

    educate yourself so you aren’t furthering prejudices and spreading lies.

    here’s a start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Root_of_All_Evil%3F

    • santitafarella
      Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Articulett:

      I have the video and I know that Dawkins has expressed discomfort with the title. But he did not reject the title. He merely said that it was not his first preference. And he let it stand, didn’t he?

      Look, I’m glad Dawkins distanced himself from the title a bit. I’m glad for that. I commend him for it. The video has many good points, by the way, and I’m glad the video exists. But if you don’t think that there are a lot of “new atheists” about who, in general terms, see religion in the grossest and broadest negative terms, and as the root of all (or much) contemporary evil in the world, you’re not looking.

      Why, for example, is it so important to make Hitler a Christian (which he wasn’t) except to advance the theory that religion is the ultimate source for metaphysical levels of horrendous evil in the world?

      Of course, religionists also try to taint atheism with Hitlerism. Neither attack is fair. The major faiths (and atheism) are generally neutral in their moral implications, and historical circumstances and contingencies determine how people make use of them (or choose to make use of them). Thus Hitler could vaguely mix Christian Antisemitism with Darwinian-inspired eugenics and notions of racial improvement to arrive at his “Final Solution.” But neither Christianity qua Christianity nor evolution qua evolution is responsible for Hitler.

      That doesn’t mean, by the way, that Christians and atheists and Darwinists do not have a responsibility for thinking very hard about Hitler, and to think about the ways that their own ideologies can morph into noxious forms. Any atheist or Christian who pushes the Hitler question away to the other side is doing a disservice to their own intellectual and moral responsibility to be vigilant against the rise of evil in their midst.

      I’m simply asking for my fellow agnostics and atheists to make distinctions, and be careful about the temptations of painting one’s “enemies” with too broad and reductive a brush. I’m also suggesting that atheists, like other faith-style groups who believe things in excess of empirical evidence, should be very careful about the projection of inner evil onto others. It’s a human temptation, not a specifically atheist one. And we all possess inner devils (metaphorically). And not making distinction and engaging in projection are the kinds of things that we associate with fundamentalism, and that can bleed into other movements as well, turning them illiberal and anti-intellectual.

      It’s why I think the PZ Myers wafer-incident is so important, and a real watershed of what the new atheist movement means, and the direction it is moving. Will it be a liberal and open and vulnerable movement, or will it salivate to and defend confidence men who indulge illiberal impulses? In my view, you have to fight illiberalism and conning confidence men from whatever quarter they come from.

      —Santi

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Here is proof to the troll and liar Santi:

        Excerpt from Hitler’s SPEECH OF APRIL 12, 1922:

        I SAY: MY FEELING AS A CHRISTIAN POINTS ME TO MY LORD AND SAVIOUR AS A FIGHTER. IT POINTS ME TO THE MAN WHO ONCE IN LONELINESS, SURROUNDED ONLY BY A FEW FOLLOWERS, RECOGNIZED THESE JEWS FOR WHAT THEY WERE AND SUMMONED MEN TO THE FIGHT AGAINST THEM AND WHO, GOD’S TRUTH! WAS GREATEST NOT AS SUFFERER BUT AS FIGHTER. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before – the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago – a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.

        This is why the troll and liar Santi should be banned.

  47. santitafarella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    “This is why the troll and liar Santi should be banned.”

    Was that part of Hitler’s speech? I couldn’t tell because you didn’t indicate with quotation marks where Hitler left off and you started up.

    I’d just point out that when someone who is a politician or political activist, and they give a speech or write something, context is everything. A politician, for example, speaking to a specifically Christian audience might well try to appeal to them by saying, “I’m one of you.” But point me to a single biographer or historian who, taking Hitler’s life and writings whole, has drawn the conclusion that Hitler was informing his life based primarily or exclusively on the Bible, Catholic teaching, or Christian faith generally. Hitler was, if anything, a sycretist, picking up on Christian Antisemitism here, Aryan mythology there, Darwinism here, eugenics there, racial ideology here, Fordism there, Nietzscheanism here etc. etc.

    Hitler despised the idea that one should turn the other cheek. You can’t blame the Jewish and non-violent preacher, Jesus, of 2000 years prior, for the crimes of Hitler. And no historian that I know of does so. There is no respected historian (to my knowledge) who has written a book on Hitler titled something like “Hitler was a Christian,” or promoted that particular thesis. There have been books with theses like “Hitler was a homosexual” or “Hitler was an enthusiastic Darwinist”, but no historian (so far as I know) has ever imagined Hitler to be a devoted advancer of Orthodox Christianity. He put little copies of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in the pockets of his soldiers, not the New Testament.

    But I’m certainly prepared to modify my view. If somebody can direct me to a BOOK by a respected historian, and published by an academic publisher, devoted to the thesis that Hitler was primarily or completely motivated by Christianity, or was a practicing and devoted Christian in his private life, please share it.

    An analogy: Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity occasionally call themselves “Christians”, but do either of them practice Christianity? Or have their ideas been formatively influenced by reading theology and the Bible? I seriously doubt it. Hitler, like Limbaugh and Hannity, was an anti-intellectual sycretist, picking things from here and there and cobbling together an eccentric ideology.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I knew you would try to weasel out of listening to Hitler’s own words.

      You will try any slimeball tactic to avoid all the voluminous proof that you are wrong and full of baloney.

      Now you say “Hitler didn’t mean what he said”.

      How about me doing this:

      Santi said he is an agnostic but he really didn’t mean what he said. He is really a pedophile.

      Is that how this tactic works for you Santi?

      Santi, you are disgusting for saying Hitler was a Darwinian.

      Santi, you are disgusting for saying some historians know better what Hitler stood for than Hitler’s own words.

      Santi, you are disgusting for saying I blame Jesus for what Hitler did.

      Yes, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are Christians and represent the right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christians. They are typical of the religious right where the televangelists and conservative Christian politicians get caught in adultery and bribes etc.

      There has been nothing you have said on any of your posts that resemble truth or facts or evidence. You are a useless troll. Go back to your lonely blog and play by yourself, you need to learn evidence and facts and logic before you should interact with humans.

      This is why the troll and liar Santi should be banned.

  48. articulett
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Richard Dawkins was not allowed to choose the title of the documentary… the question mark at the end was the only thing they allowed him to add. And he’s gone on record as saying that he doesn’t think religion or anything is the root of all evil.

    I didn’t read anything Santi said after that. He lies to vilify the honest people and overlook the crimes of faith so he can pretend his “agnosticism” towards god is moderate and reasonable.

    All theists are forced to lie to themselves in the same way so they can keep on believing that their faith is good or lets them in on something true.

    Santi is a fundamentalist fatheist who fools no one here but himself.

  49. articulett
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    You can’t find real answers by engaging in magical thinking.

    But saying so apparently earns you the label of “fundamentalist atheist” to the faith infected.

  50. santitafarella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Trismos:

    You wrote to me concerning reasons to believe in God: “Please share them with me then.”

    As an agnostic, I don’t advocate God belief. I think that there are a lot of very good reasons not to believe in God (the problem of suffering being very high on my personal list) and I think that all the things I could list as reasons to believe in God have atheist retorts (some weaker, some stronger). Personally, I am an agnostic/Camus-existentialist. But I do think the fairy/God conflation is unfair because there are many, many good reasons—even with the atheist retorts—to believe in God. I agree with you that they are primarily inductive and utilitarian reasons. And I agree that God belief is, at best, an inference that resists anything like scientific proof. In any case, here are some (to my mind) good reasons (were I so inclined) to believe in God:

    1. There is the nasty fact that the universe of matter could only be here by three possibilities, all of them involving paradox and equal amounts of question begging: (1) the universe made itself out of nothing; (2) the universe has always existed; (3) some sort of telos preceded matter and made it. This one fact, in isolation, would seem to give the God hypothesis at least a 33% chance of being true (unless you can explain to me how to distinguish the probabilities between the three options).

    2. There is the nasty fact that the universe is lawful, and if one is a materialist then you have a chicken and egg problem. Where did matter come from? Where the laws? Which came first? From whom or what? And what about that nasty dilemma of the precision of the physical constants? Lucky us, huh? The laws of nature seem to suggest that there is some sort of telos behind them.

    3. There is the nasty fact that the universe is gorgeously mathematical. For example, Google and take a look at physicist Garrett Lisi’s E8 scaffolding on which he thinks the universe hangs. It’s beauty and intricacy are at once wonder-generating and terrifying. It seems to beg the question: Is a universe like this the product of blind material forces? Why does such exquisite mathematical beauty and order seem to be beneath things?

    4. There is the nasty fact that nobody really has much of a clue how the first cell for natural selection to act upon could have come about in the first place. I know the retort. There were “proto-cells” and the RNA world and yada yada. But this is a lot of guesswork, and loaded with problems. The cell is so spectacularly complex. It is not unreasonable to infer that it is a product, not of chance, but of mind.

    5. The human mind is the weirdest fucking thing in the universe. Nobody really has a clue how inanimate matter could have turned on as consciousness, with the mind and its amazing multitude of properties. Every one of them is a good separate reason to believe in God. Chomsky has long said he thinks language (for example) is some sort of fluke unaccountable for by natural selection. Natural selection is the guess that atheists offer for the mind’s evolution, but once again, you could infer design and mind as being behind such an extraordinary phenomenon (or evolution guided by telos). And that inference is a reasonable one.

    6. In apprehension, how like a god! Why is the universe even comprehensible to us? It’s one thing that minds evolved—that’s bizaare enough—but how can they have such enormous excess capacities? Talk about the peacock’s tail! Minds perceiving mind?

    7. Pessimism v. optimism. Atheism is a deeply unsatisfying philosophy. It gives one zero hope of life having any larger meaning than the present. The curtain closeth soon. Neither history nor individual lives amount to more than zero. Just fifty years from now, all us adults around here today will be forgotten or old and on our way out. Atheism seems to me a natural breeder of nihilism. Nietzsche saw this. There are some comforts of God-faith that the atheist must do without. Atheism is an honest, heroic, and difficult path, but the temptation to nihilism has to be daily resisted or sublimated. Atheism is not something to choose lightly. Camus said: “We must imagine Sisyphus happy.” But that’s not easy to do, is it? The guy on the cross at least offers transcendence. Sisyphus offers a futile push of a rock that’s going to, ultimately, roll back over you.

    8. Here’s one biblical answer: I think Job 12:7-9 is poetic and nice, and it’s not unreasonable to think that the old design argument that it offers, even within the framework of our contemporary Darwinian gloss, might be true. It’s nice to think that all the animals and plants about us are the creatures of God. They are certainly complex enough to think they might be. All that system complexity. Amazing. All that miracle of movement and form. Evolution needn’t exclude ultimate telos. If anything, it just raises the level of one’s wonder.

    I could multiply this list, and if you ask me to I don’t mind. Perhaps you think it is funny. I don’t. And I know that all of the things on the list I made have their standard atheist retorts. No need to bother producing them. I know them. But you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Neither god-belief nor atheism do a very good job of accounting for the universe as a whole. It’s why I’m an agnostic. I see both sides. I don’t think theists are unreasonable. I don’t think atheists are unreasonable. I wish for both sides civility in an ongoing dialogue.

    What annoys me are atheists who don’t even see problems for their own side. They are like the fundamentalists who can’t see errors, contradictions, or absurdities in the Bible. You point them out and they say, “I don’t see the problem” or “That has an easy solution!” Like religious fundamentalists, there are atheists who paper over all the problems with atheism and pretend that atheism, in terms of its global explanation for things (naturalism/materialism/natural selection), is all air and sunlight.

    But there’s fire in the hole. No rest for the wicked theist or atheist.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:04 am | Permalink

      Trimos, why do you even engage this liar and creationist Santi? Look at the diarrhea that he spewed out.

      What the fuck does this progression of made up nonsense plus bible quotes have to do with the topic? Nothing?

  51. santitafarella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Trismos:

    Here’s a link for you to see Garrett Lisi’s E8 scaffold and my yakity yak about it:

    http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/?s=garret+lisi

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      What does this have to do with the topic? Nothing?

  52. santitafarella
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Trismos:

    You ask: “Is this what you are doing Santi? Trying to understand the universe? How do you think one should go about that?”

    Thinking, my dear boy! Thinking!

    The truth is the whole. You’ve got to have empiricism—it’s crucial—it’s the only way to reality test your mad speculations. But you can’t ignore metaphysics and epistemology. You can’t ignore the premises underlying your worldview. And stay humble. No confidence games. Doubt. Doubt. Doubt. Read and question. And especially read the other side. To just stay on your side of the fence, talking to people who agree with you, reading books you agree with, is folly. Get out of your bubble of rectitude. Be a pain in the ass to the people you identify with. If you’re a Christian, make your pastor crazy with hard questions. If you’re an atheist, doubt your atheism. Cut down all the sacred trees. Find the people who critique atheism and read them carefully. And if the books convert you to a theist, then get out all the atheist books and start reading them again. Never get comfy. Never stop thinking and talking and listening and reading and engaging in mad speculations. I like Jack Kerouac’s great quote:

    “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”

    And I like this quote of Richard Feynman (it’s so unlike the confidence atheists): “You should not fool the laymen why you’re talking as a scientist. . . . I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is more than not lying, but bending over backwards to show how maybe you’re wrong.”

    Show how maybe you’re wrong. That’s atheism with integrity. That’s theism with integrity. That’s the mantra for all people not selling snake oil or playing a confidence game.

    Burn, baby, burn.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:07 am | Permalink

      What the fuck does this progression of made up nonsense metaphysics have to do with the topic? Nothing?

      • Trismos
        Posted July 28, 2009 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        My apologies NEB. I debate to further my understanding of things on several levels. I enjoy delving into the psychology of the matter. How is it someone can delude themselves so? What are the mechanisms and false presumptions they have accepted that lead to this state? How do they live and function with this disability? How does their mind manage to compartmentalize such contradictions? Also it helps my thought processes and whether you like it or not, introduces other possibilities.

        I tend to agree with you when you are making a point. But it’s hardly worthy of you to let someone push your buttons. It’s somewhat understandable perhaps to get in a heated debate where you are sparring with an equal, and it’s the finer points you are trying to get them to understand. But Santi? Please. He is an exercise in mental masturbation and you know it.

        Santi

        The progression of your posts and the tone suggests you have been indulging in some mind altering chemicals. Perhaps something as simple as what the americans call beer (water with foam). Your burn baby burn comment suggests you’re peaking at the moment and having a good time of it all. Good for you. And I agree with some of what you have said. I am a rational objectivist so empirical evidence is high on my list of how one might go about understanding reality. (Just for semantics sake: reality is that which we can perceive, or deduce from perceived things. Those things that we can empirically perceive we have little problem showing evidence for. Those things that we deduce might exist through the evidence of empirically derived knowledge fall into the category of ‘hypotheses”. Science is the art of massaging the hypothesis. Try it. You might like it).

        How do your comments regarding empiricism correlate with your notions of telos? You are of course permitted, no, even encouraged, to think outside the box. But pulease! Have a little more dignity and self respect before you hit the post comment button. It’s the interwebs. This info will be available for your children to see. (I might also suggest having a little more empathy. There may very well be intelligent beings out there somewhere who might come to think your comments are representative of the norm.)

        Regards
        Dave

        Regards
        Dave

  53. Trismos
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    oh….Santi….

    you mentioned a ‘multitude of good reasons for mind preceding matter”. I can only imagine that, for you, beyond here dragons lie. When I get to a point in a conversation where someone has said such a thing, it is often necessary to define what we mean by certain words and concepts. Are you capable of having a discussion about this? If you truly are interested in advancing an idea, as opposed to doing what you appear to be doing: masturbating in public and wondering if everyones as impressed with your dick as you are, please define a few concepts for me so that we may continue this discussion on even terms. What do you mean by ‘reason’, what do you mean by ‘mind’. What is your definition of reality?

    Thx

    Regards
    Dave


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