Note to heathens and the faithful

I try to let religious people comment here when they say something related to the post at hand, and occasionally  I even stand by while they hijack threads (they like nothing more than to do that). This is all in the interest of hearing what they have to say. (I’ve blacklisted some loonies whose blather was completely outrageous.)

And sometimes the threads blow up without my noticing, for I can’t read every comment right when it comes in.  So let me reiterate the policy vis-a-vis the proselytizing faithful:

1. If you come over here wearing your faith on your sleeve, and asserting it forcefully, I (or the commenters) will ask you for evidence for your beliefs.  You will be expected to provide that before you can make any more comments.  This website is, after all, about evidence.  If you can’t make a good argument for your beliefs (and believe me, you’ll be challenged!), you should go to one of the many websites that cater to the faithful and don’t care whether your beliefs are supported by evidence.

2. If you’re a heathen and are arguing with a religious person, please be civil.  You can be as firm as you want, but I don’t want to see name-calling and swearing directed to another commenter.  Deal with the ideas, not with the person. I realize that this isn’t always possible if you’re all het up, but do try.  I often send private emails to people asking them to tone down the invective.  And if you see one of the proselytizing faithful come aboard, feel free to challenge him or her to produce the requisite evidence.

kthxbye

119 Comments

  1. Gary
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Noted.

    Thanks. 😉

  2. Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Sorry! It’s just that I’m allergic to that much stupidity, and have a hard time controlling the reaction before my morning pot of tea….

    b&

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      …and let me be the first to call myself a blithering fucking idiot for failing to cross that goddamned jesusbox for subsciptions….

      b&

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        You’re not the only one…

        /@

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

        ROFL!

        If there were a God, he’d smite WordPress for not automatically subscibing commenters.

  3. Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Oops! Mea culpa!

  4. Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    If you can’t make a good argument for your beliefs (and believe me, you’ll be challenged!), …

    … your argument shall be cut by Hitchens’ Razor.*

    * Available where any critical thinking is solid.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Typing error or deliberate pun? Funny, anyhoo.

      /@

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        Not telling 😉

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          Well, I really must have it on a mug! Call it a Smug Mug, if you will, but I really must!

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for Hitchens’ Razor!!!!

  5. Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Jerry! Are you privileging the faithful? Can they be uncivil to other commenters?

    Surely rool 2 should apply religious persons arguing with a heathen, too… ?

    /@

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      *apply to

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Not really, as it is covered in Rool 1. If a member of the faithful called a heathen a “lying sack of post-digestive waste matter” we would demand to see the evidence that the heathen really is a “lying sack of post-digestive waste matter”.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        See, that’s where I blew it. I said the troll was so full of sh–, I bet his eyes were brown.
        Would brown eyes have constituted evidence, though, in that case? Surely, it was equal to the “evidence” provided by said troll…

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          But we don’t want to stoop to the level of evidence provided by the faithful. As a full inducted member of the Crèche of Gnu Scientism (Reformed) we have evidence to guide us – the kind of evidence that stands up, tall and proud, on its own. Not some crouching, bent over gut feelings. If we start using the evidential standards of the faithful, we become debased in the Eyes of Scientism, regardless of how pretty they are, or what sunsets are reflected in them.

          • Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

            I just said it because the troll’s sneaky, snarky antisemitism made me furious, that’s all. And I will try not to let it happen, again. But, oh, I was soooo furious!

            • microraptor
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

              Considering what he was saying, I don’t think you can really be blamed. That guy has a seriously twisted world view.

  6. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    “I often send private emails to people asking them to tone down the invective.”

    A private email from Dr. Jerry Coyne would be a pretty cool thing to get. You should save those for the people who cooperate!

  7. Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    You know, I do feel bad about bringing one of the faithful over here.
    I’ll try to be nice.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Don’t feel bad. We all need a squeaky toy from time to time.

      True, there might not be much nutritional value, but there isn’t any in any other type of junk food, either.

      b&

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Don’t apologize for bringing the faithful here. Without exposure to rational ideas, they’ll be stuck in the echo chambers of their churches forever.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        I do hope some more rational people stopped by.

  8. Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I want to apologize for getting hot headed in the Pope.. stupid blog. I used a four letter word that I shouldn’t have, though at least I showed enough propriety to blank the last two letters. I let that troll get under my skin, when he pushed the right antisemite-in-jeebus-clothing buttons.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:39 am | Permalink

      I used a four letter word that I shouldn’t have

      Pope?

      (jest funnin’ ye)

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        OMG, you’re right, LOL! I totally forgot THAT vile four letter word!

  9. Chris Granger
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Does calling someone a troll when they’re clearly behaving as such qualify as being uncivil? If so, I apologize. I’m not sorry for calling him a troll, but I am sorry for doing so on your bl— er, website.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      For whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that someone who is trolling is a troll, just like someone who is proselytizing is a proselytizer. It’s addressing the behavior.

      Calling someone a dumbfuck or whatever is different.

      • Chris Granger
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you on this point, though Jerry’s opinion is the only one that really matters in the context of his website.

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          Of course, and as long as he doesn’t institute a dress code, I’m cool with it. *flicks at one of his ears*

      • andyo
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        …unless you fucked them and you feel it was dumb to do so.

  10. Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    “I can’t read every comment right when it comes in.”

    This is my very first comment, even though I’ve subscribed to your excellent blog and thoroughly enjoy your posts—and of course those of your guests.

    I’m astonished that you can squeeze so much into your day! Genuinely. I’m no slouch when it comes to getting that daily quota of words ready for the masses lol. But man, your output is truly amazing. Respect.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:04 am | Permalink

      Amen!

  11. Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately, I rarely post the angry tirades I mash into this little comment box.

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps you should post them on your own blog, for entertainment’s sake. 😉

  12. Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Now you want *proof* of Harry Potter? Hmph. Typical.

  13. Andy Dufresne
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Imagine if more sectors of society adopted The Jerry Rules. Wear your faith on your sleeve or assert it forcefully, and you’ll be asked either to provide evidence or stop wasting everyone’s time. The GOP debates would be shorter if they adopted that rule.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, they’d introduce everyone and call it a night.

  14. Marcus
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    [quote]I (or the commenters) will ask you for evidence for your beliefs.[/quote]

    And what, exactly, is the point of that?  Seriously.  This debate has been raging for millenia.  If there was evidence available to be presented, somebody would have presented it by now.

    I’m 47 years old.  The question of God is a subject that I have studied on and off for decades.  I have read the cosmological arguments, the teleological arguments, the ontologigical arguments, and the moral arguments.  I’ve read Pascal’s Wager and Lord, Liar, and Lunatic and countless others.  I’ve read everything from Descartes to Dennett.  Over the years I’ve read variations of all these arguments and all of their counter-arguments.

    At some point you just have to draw a conclusion and move on.  Either you find the arguments compelling or you don’t.  Either you believe your personal experience can only be explained by a God, or you don’t.  That’s all there is: unresolvable arguments and personal experience.  There is no evidence.

    Perhaps you should word it as, “…if you have anything new to present…”

    • Marcus
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Well, so much for the quote. It sure would be nice if this comment section had a preview.

      • articulett
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        (Use the alligator brackets for quotes– they look like the “greater than” and “less than” symbol.)

        • Chris Granger
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          And I believe the tag is blockquote, not just quote. At least, that’s the HTML tag for quoting…

    • Rob
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      “Put up or shut up” is the only way to settle those arguments. All the theorizing in the world means squat if there’s nothing supporting it.

      And you’re right, there is no evidence to be presented. That’s why it generally translates to “shut up”. Problem with your solution is everyone thinks they have something new that’s going to stump the atheists.

      • Gabrielle Guichard
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        The problem is that each believer comes with the certainty they do “put up”. I can’t count how many times I have read the letter-at-random example and all the other explosion-in-a-printshop, nevertheless I would not be really surprised to learn that all those who explain us the baby-and-keyboard evidence against evolution think that no one told us before. Because, hé! how could we still be atheists if we knew an argument of this strength?
        By the way, how is it that no believer ever plays Scrabble?

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      There is no evidence.

      QED.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      The point is to (hopefully) drive home the fact that “there is no evidence.”

      Will it work all the time? Of course not. It may not even work most of the time. But as several former theists/current atheists will attest, it works some of the time. This website’s audience is huge. We continue to make our arguments for the benefit of those pairs of eyes looking on that might just be ready to face reality’s music.

  15. Dominic
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I know nowt about any strange ‘god’, but I like fwuffy kitties!

  16. David Hay
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    I have just registered for this website and have been surprised by the tone of many of the participants – both intolerant and shockingly impolite. Writing as someone who has spent his life in empirical science, completely committed to a Darwinian view of the origin of species, but also impressed by our numinous experience, I find it difficult to understand such extreme rage against the phenomenon of religion. E.B. Tylor was only the first of many anthropologists to point to its universality in the human species – no convincing evidence of a society without some form of religion has ever been identified. In my view, that in itself suggests that the sympathetic empirical investigation of religion deserves respect. Some of our contemporaries seem to be blown off course by the regrettable history of violence associated with religion, or the stupidity of many of its proponents, but the same is true of any social situation which arbitrarily separates people into subgroups (cf. The social experiments of Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University) or which matters deeply to the individual(for example: Has life meaning? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is consciousness ‘de novo’ the result of certain kinds of complexification of matter – that very clever American, William James, argued more than a hundred years ago the irrationality of such a view. Finally, I’m not claiming any special authority for the religious point of view, simply that when it is put rationally and without rancour, it is not necessarily the empty vessel that so many of your correspondents (by my reckoning the great majority of them) take it to be. Along with its violent – I would say corrupt – aspect it has also been the source of courage in the face of injustice, defender of the poor, creator of the bonds that make for social capital, patron of the very greatest works of art, music and architecture, and originator of the axiom that the universe is rationally explicable (hence introducing the possibility of the
    scientific project).

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:15 am | Permalink

      Might I direct you towards Sam Harris’s The End of Faith for one particular take on why some of us are vocally anti-religion?

    • AndreSchuiteman
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:32 am | Permalink

      Along with its violent – I would say corrupt – aspect it has also been the source of courage in the face of injustice, defender of the poor, creator of the bonds that make for social capital, patron of the very greatest works of art, music and architecture, and originator of the axiom that the universe is rationally explicable (hence introducing the possibility of the
      scientific project).

      Even if any of this is fact, which is debatable, it still is just one big argument from consequences. It doesn’t make the premises of religion true, which is all that really matters in the end.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      “I find it difficult to understand such extreme rage against the phenomenon of religion.”

      People are angry for lots of reasons. Perhaps they don’t like attempts to force stupidity into our education system or government. Perhaps they were abused physically or mentally bey a religious institution, or have a dislike of institutionalised homophobia or misogyny. Perhaps they feel that unbased ideas get too much protection? Perhaps they grew up in areas with religious tensions? Others no doubt were religious and feel they lived a lie, and were lied to by those they trusted. These are just a few possibilities. There are others.

      If you don’t like the angry ones, ignore them or participate elsewhere, although, compared to some fundie sites I’ve visited, most atheist leaning sites are mild in comparison.

      ” patron of the very greatest works of art, music and architecture, and originator of the axiom that the universe is rationally explicable ”

      That is a somewhat subjective statement and therefore meaningless – I may not agree with you on what constitutes the best art or architecture.
      Lets not forget that the church also silenced (and still tries to do so) rational enquirey that went against its dogma. Also, if you believe that you have to weave every discovery into your theology, well, that’s not very rational…

    • Egbert
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      David,

      It seems you’re unaware of new atheism or the recent zeitgeist. Religion is not to be respected, but to be criticized like any other belief.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Agree. Mostly.

        Yes, respect is not a default position. Respect must be earned. Religion has failed miserably to earn anything even resembling respect.

        But…

        I don’t think criticism or ridicule of religion should be characterized as “the current zeitgeist.” We don’t argue against religion simply because it’s fashionable to do so. In many places, it is emphatically not fashionable.

    • Jeff Engel
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      E.B. Tylor was only the first of many anthropologists to point to its universality in the human species – no convincing evidence of a society without some form of religion has ever been identified. In my view, that in itself suggests that the sympathetic empirical investigation of religion deserves respect.

      Certainly the empirical investigation of religion is a worthwhile, respectable field of research, and it’s not one that can be conducted too well with raging antipathy.

      However, it’s a great leap from there to think that religion itself merits sympathy on account of cropping up in every society. So does xenophobia and sexually transmitted disease. You conduct the investigation and you make your judgments – hopefully, with care, attention, rigor, and with a strength of conviction proportionate to each of those. The average WEIT commentator has done that and found religion undeserving of respect – it’s wrong, it’s wrong-headed, and it’s dangerous.

      Certainly not every religion or every religious person is equally dangerous, and not all of them attach nothing of value to their religious beliefs and activities. But no one needs to deny that to conclude, provisionally, that it’s not a reasonable way of looking at the world.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Perhaps I misunderstood, but did you just suggest a study — implying a scientific study — which is both sympathetic and empirical? Sympathy clouds empiric judgement, applying bias, does it not?

    • Rob
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      We’re committed to Darwin in the same manner physicists are committed to Newton.

      And why shouldn’t delusion be treated harshly?

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I suggest you take in this videotaped lecture by Greta Christina, aptly entitled, “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”: youtube.com/watch?v=GUI_ML1qkQE. Ms. Christina gives clear and accurate reasons, and brings those reasons to their logical conclusions. She is also intellectually entertaining, so I hope you enjoy it as well as learn from it. It is, indeed, my personal favorite.

    • steve oberski
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      I’m not claiming any special authority for the religious point of view, simply that when it is put rationally

      Example please of a religious point of view put forth rationally.

      You claim no special authority for religion but your all your examples seem to accord it special status that could not be achieved through any other social mechanism and is
      not indeed the author of the wrongs that you claim it makes right.

      And you assertion that religion is the originator of the axiom that the universe is rationally explicable is ludicrous in the extreme, religion is the antithesis of rationality being as it is based on authority and revelation.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        +1

      • IreneD
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        David, trying to credit religion (and which religion in particular?) for originating the idea that the world is intelligible is intellectually misguided and historically incorrect. First, the belief in a transcendent reality beyond reality is not something that can be rationally explored. Second, the first philosophers who put forth the idea of a rationally intelligible cosmos were materialists of the Cārvāka school in India (around 600 BCE) and the disciples of Anaxagoras in Greece (500 BCE and later). As this “materialist” label implies, they thought the world could be explain without resorting to supernatural deities.

        As an aside, this “numinous experience” of which you speak is a personal experience, not any kind of scientific evidence. You could also mention the pleasure, and even awe, inspired by beauty as something that we can experience but not rationalise. (I know that when I was still believing in Christianism, I had the same kind of experience when thinking about God as I had, and still have now, when seeing a beautiful scene or listening to my favourite music.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      As one of those whom you probably have in mind, I think you might like to know whence comes my rage.

      Simply put, religion is a scam.

      Even in its most benign form, it still takes a significant portion of its victims’s income and funnels it towards the maintenance of the parasites. And don’t bother me with “But look at all the religious charity!” Those charities, by definition, have a significant “overhead” that true charities (like Doctors Without Borders) don’t suffer from. I assure you, the chief administrator of the Peace Corps most emphatically does not wear a crown and the finest silk robes, does not live in the most magnificent castle ever constructed, and his domicile is not filled with the greatest treasures and works of art from all over the world, many of them stolen by his predecessors’s private armies. But the head of Catholic Charities sure does!

      And even that’s the rosy picture if you squint at it just right. In reality, we see that the Catholic Church is an international crime syndicate with a particularly nasty child sex slave racket still going strong (and let’s not even get into the racial genocide they’re waging with AIDS in Africa). We see that Islam institutionalizes such horrors as executing rape victims for the terrible crime of being raped. We see American Protestants waging an all-out war on biology. And on and on and on and on.

      And, for me, perhaps the most frustrating part, is that it’s so fucking obvious it’s a scam!

      I mean, the damned book opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant. How much more obvious can you get?

      And they take pride in the fact that the reason to accept all that is the clarion cry of the conman: “Trust me! Have faith! Show some respect!”

      If somebody tried to sell you a used car using the same techniques people do to proselytize — or even, for that matter, just to shield religion from criticism — you’d laugh at the ineptitude of the hard sell techniques, you’d wonder at the gullibility of those who fell for them, and you’d be calling for regulation to shut down the scam to protect those desperate enough to fall victim.

      But, for some absolutely inexplicable reason, this most obvious, destructive, and popular of all scams is off-limits to even rational investigation. Why? “Trust me! Have faith! Show some respect!”

      Well, fuck that shit. If those assholes don’t want their idiocies, their antisocial tendencies, their criminal behaviors rubbed in their noses, they damned well better grow up.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • microraptor
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        “We see American Protestants waging an all-out war on biology.”

        No, what we see is an all-out war on science, technology, and medicine in general. Biology is merely among the most visible of the targets, but there’s just as much effort to target climatology, medical vaccination programs, women’s reproductive rights, STD prevention programs, and public education.

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          Well, yeah. Of course. There’s hardly enough space in the Britannica to list the crimes of any single religion, let alone Jerry’s Web site….

          b&

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          See? That’s why I coined st00pid as double-0 stupid, licensed to die. If those religionists lived by their principles and stopped enjoying the benefits of the very science and technology they attack, what would their lifespan be? Chances are, much, much shorter than they are, now, and those lives would be much less pleasant, as well. Can we not call their bluff and demand they live by their own principles?

          • Microraptor
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

            Heck, we could even meet them halfway and only demand that they limit themselves to Age of Sail technology instead of restricting them to what was available during the Roman Empire.

            • Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

              Okay. I’ll go for that. I’m just so frustrated with their high and mighty ignorance, it drives me bananas!

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Talking of charities, I passed a Maxie Richards shop today (christian). The logo read “hope in a careless world”. Trust a christian to label humanity uncaring. That’s just so typical, the wallow in a negative belief of human nature, and effectively tell folk they are worthless or bad, no doubt fuelled by the ridiculous concept of sin. Just another reason to sneer at religion with contempt.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        + 1

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      First, that is tone trolling.

      Second, most secular people are offended by religionists who asks for special privilegies at any time. For example in the form of tone trolling.

      Third, there are plenty of evidence fopr societies without religion or where it is difficult to recognize religion, from many related apes over to the beginnings of our own species. Or did you just ask for the special privilege to consider only human societies?

      Fourth, there exists no “axiom that the universe is rationally explicable” in science. Science has painstakingly evolved, because it works, in a telling analog to natural evolution.

      Similarly, religion has proven itself to be a hindrance for science. Yes, religious patrons helped early scientists. But that was because society was set up that way. There has been many more priests trying to replace facts with belief than there have been religious patrons of science.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      There are already many great rebuttals here, addressing all the major points.

      So let me just add my two cents, in the niche in which I have expertise:

      Music and art do not get to be claimed for religion. Many great musicians and artists were, in fact, atheists. And the fact that musicians and artists of the more distant past happened to be religious doesn’t mean anything. Everybody was religious. And religion is not what makes, say, Bach’s music great. The logic and beauty of the musical content itself, in the abstract, is what makes it great. I have no doubt that Bach still would’ve produced musical greatness were he to have been an atheist rather than a Lutheran. It’s what he was good at. Religion had nothing to do with it – it only attached itself at the most superficial level.

      /rant

    • Mary
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      You are morally judging others who (rightfully) challenge religious doctrine/claims while at the same time claiming to espouse no special authority! So would it be accurate to assume you to be a religious apologist and accommodationist?

    • Achrachno
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Hay says — I have just registered for this website and have been surprised by the tone of many of the participants – both intolerant and shockingly impolite.

      What?? This place is astonishingly polite, tolerant and just generally rational. You must not get out on the internet much. Have you seen what conservative Christians write?

      If you want to see what the less tolerant unbelievers are like, go over to that squid place in FreethoughtBlogs. They don’t brook any nonsense over there.

  17. Marta
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    In the first place, Mr. Hay, how do you put a religious point of view rationally?

    Secondly, there are still not that many places where like-minded, non-religious thinkers can congregate and air their grievances with religion. This is one of them. If you’ve read here for any length of time, you know what we discuss. It is disingenuous of you to complain that you’re shocked by any intemperance that you find here. In that regard, I accuse you of tone-trolling.

    Finally, religion has placed its boot heel too long on the necks of too many people for you to make any special pleading that it deserves respect.

    Make an argument, and expect vigorous push-back if readers disagree, but the days when you can claim to be offended because users here are insufficiently deferential to your point of view are over.

    • Achrachno
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Marta — In that regard, I accuse you of tone-trolling.

      Why do people care about “tone trolls”?? They, to me, are so totally non-irritating that I don’t even see how they qualify as trolls.

      Trolls are nasty, mean-spirited jerks with no real interest in the discussion and who just join in order to verbally abuse people. If someone thinks we’re arguing in an unconvincing manner because of the tone or style we’re using — let them present their arguments. Who cares? If their arguments are weak, we’ll just point that out, perhaps in the same style they find so offensive.

      • Microraptor
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        It’s because tone trolling is an attempt to shut down discussion by attacking someone as being rude instead of addressing the content of their message. Pointing out when someone’s tone trolling is sending a message that you see what they’re doing and aren’t going to be be fooled or distracted by it.

  18. Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    David,

    Defenders of the poor? Really? All I hear out of religious conservatives these days is that poor people just need to work harder. Rick “family values” Santorum says that poor people MUST have voter ids on them, how else would they be able to take a plane anywhere?

    Forget about religious violence, that is not the objection here. Rather it is religious drivel being passed off as biological science, especially in schools. We are the laughing stock of the developed world.

  19. Sastra
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    David Hay #16 wrote:

    Finally, I’m not claiming any special authority for the religious point of view, simply that when it is put rationally and without rancour, it is not necessarily the empty vessel that so many of your correspondents (by my reckoning the great majority of them) take it to be.

    When the ‘religious point of view’ is put rationally and without favor, then the anthropological, psychological, sociological, and cultural aspects are teased away from what makes the ‘religious point of view’ unique: supernatural claims and the subjective methods of inquiry which protect these claims from public scrutiny.

    Is it true? Yes, but only people who abandon objective honesty and intellectual integrity and call doing that ‘virtue’ will know it.

    That makes me angry.

  20. Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    This is a fantastic blog! I especially love the comments to this particular post – some are just hilarious. While I do believe there is intelligent design behind the laws of nature, I do not profess that those beliefs are any more (or less) substantiated than scientific theory. Theory itself still requires an element of faith as well – even though the intellectuals would argue this point.

    My view is religion is a creation of man and it’s intent is merely to place moralistic boundaries and explain the unexplainable at its best; while inducing oppresion and dogmatic control at its worst.

    Science has yet to prove a definitive origin of the cosmos or what exactly implants a sense of morality in the human mind. The emotion of love itself is not something that can be grasped rationally either. So my blog, I believe is an attempt at exploring, in a reasonable and rational way, the answers to those types of questions. I would love for some of you to stop in as I’ve had very few seculars and atheist visit. (The religious response has been mixed because I try to apply reason to religion – it is hard work by the way).

    – Nelson
    http://quest4light.net

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but theory in science means “explaination”. As in, the theory of evolution has had 150 years of genetic, fossil and morphological evidence to back it up. ID has had zero, unless there’s something you’d like to share.

      Origin of life is not the same as origin of the species, but both have been proven. I’ll give you evidence if you’d like.

      Obviously the cosmos did originate, otherwise none of us would be here, right?

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        “Explanation” with no extra “i”. See, we all learned something today. How to spell. You’re welcome.

      • Rob
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Origin of life has been proven? I would definitely like to see the citations there. I didn’t know there was finally one version of abiogenesis that was fully accepted.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Even if something can’t be explained by current scientific knowledge, it doesn’t mean that any old answer can be put forth as a possible explanation. You’re merely attempting to use the tired, old god in the gaps argument from ignorance. It’s not even an argument from human ignorance, it’s just an argument from your ignorance because other people already know more about the subject than you do and have found answers to those questions.

      Evolution is true, it has been observed in nature. Intelligent design is simply biblical creation that’s had all references to the bible removed in an attempt to get it back into public schools after the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in a science class violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

      If you want to have a discussion on this website, the first thing you ought to do is find out what theory actually means when it’s used in science, because the second you try using “only a theory” or “theories require faith” as a serious argument it just reveals that you haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re talking about and aren’t going to be doing anything but regurgitating the same old lame nonsense.

      • Egbert
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        You can apply reason to love, or any personal experiences, but that is the realm of philosophy. Religion is not rational, but an appeal to emotion or authority, and no sane person is going to be fooled otherwise.

    • Marta
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      “I do not profess that those beliefs are any more (or less) substantiated than scientific theory.”

      If you don’t think that science “theory” is more substantiated than your religious beliefs, your education has been inadequate, and your ability to think critically is impaired.

      Science starts out with an hypothesis, which scientists work to prove, or better-disprove. There are abundant holes in our knowledge, but filling the holes in with a supernatural answer is not evidence of rationality.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      OK. I made an assumption here that a rational discourse could be achieved. Clearly some of you are as irrational and narrow minded as the many evangelical christians that tell me I am going to hell because I don’t believe some Jewish carpenter died to save me.

      At no time was I evangelizing to anyone. At not time did I attempt to debunk any scientific research. In fact if you read my post at all you would have seen that I said religion was an invention of man to explain the unexplainable.

      And for the record – theory requires an element of faith because you have to guess at what you need to fill in the gaps of actual facts that have been discovered in your research.

      I have to admit I am very disappointed at the tone of the repsonses I received here. I was merely engaging in the conversation and was attacked in very much the same manner as is used by dogmatic religionist.

      I see no need to stick around here. You folks are no better than a bunch of born agains.

      • Sastra
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Nelson Rose wrote:

        And for the record – theory requires an element of faith because you have to guess at what you need to fill in the gaps of actual facts that have been discovered in your research.

        There is ambiguity in the term “faith.” You seem to be equating it here with pragmatic reliance, or provisional assumption open to confirmation OR disconfirmation.

        When “faith” is used in a religious sense there’s a strong element of commitment and desire. I do not think you would want to say that biologists or cosmologists or physicists have a religious faith in their theories — any more than you would admit to having a religious faith in your doctor, or that your car is in the garage when you can’t see it. That would be different. And wrong. And possibly dangerous.

        If your views are mistaken, how would you know?

        That’s not a minor or nitpicky question.

      • microraptor
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        You offered unsubstantiated statements about the religion and the universe, as well as profoundly ignorant statements about science on a website that’s devoted to science. What were you expecting, that you’d be welcomed with cookies and punch?

      • Sastra
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        I was merely engaging in the conversation and was attacked in very much the same manner as is used by dogmatic religionist.

        No, you were ‘attacked’ in very much the same manner as is used by the science community when taking an extraordinary claim seriously.

        If you value diversity, you have to become inured to disagreement.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        No, your problem is coming here wearing on your sleeve your undying love for an undead corpse with a fetish for having his intestines fondled through his gaping chest wound, and yet you don’t want anybody to comment on how disgusting it looks and smells, and could you please do something to clean up that godawful mess before it gets on the furniture?

        Religion doesn’t get a pass around here, any more than those who profess sincere belief in any other form of fiction. We no more respect your beliefs in your gods than you would respect somebody else’s belief that Harry Potter is real and that he can use his lightsaber to stop Superman cold in his tracks.

        Of course, if you could manage to be the first to ever offer up some evidence supporting the existence of your gods….

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        @Nelson Rose wrote: “I made an assumption here that a rational discourse could be achieved. Clearly some of you are as irrational and narrow minded as the many evangelical christians that tell me I am going to hell because I don’t believe some Jewish carpenter died to save me.”

        Mr. Rose, you entered a site of rational discourse and expected superstition to be treated on par with science. Your mistake. As for your insult to those of us here, you owe us an apology. Your name calling (“irrational and narrow-minded”) is nothing more than projection. Were you rational and openminded, you would not have made such a comment.

        As for your “Jewish carpenter”, the carpenter part was sold as part of the myth for millenia, but the Jewish part was only emphasized in the past decade. It is propaganda to rope Jews into Dominionist plans to force the second coming. Fuggedaboutit!

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        Clearly some of you are as irrational and narrow minded as the many evangelical christians that tell me I am going to hell because I don’t believe some Jewish carpenter died to save me.

        Be fair, Nelson. “You’re wrong because of X” is incomparable to “You’re going to spend an eternity in burning torment because you haven’t hugged Jesus.” You have misrepresented the concept of theory in a scientific context, and reduced it to no more or less substantial than your personal opinions regarding natural laws. This is like saying that you believe sauerkraut to be poison because you find the taste detestable and saying that this opinion is no more or less substantiated than the specific scientific explanation for why cyanide is a poison. You cannot claim anyone who disagrees with you on this point to be “closed minded” when you have not even done your own due diligence on your understanding of “theory”. Especially considering that this a website titled “Why Evolution is True” based on a book of the same name that eloquently explains this theory and combats the common creationist pejorative of “just a theory”. You do yourself no favors aligning with the illegitimate claims of creationists. I strongly suggest you do some more reading on the subject. Jerry’s book is quite good, and “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins is also quite good. I might also suggest “The Magic of Reality” by Richard Dawkins as well. These gentleman are both scientists with a very firm grasp on the scientific meaning of “theory”. The only faith required for such theories, is the faith that we are all not simply brains sitting in a vat imagining the world around us. Such musings are often fun, and best served with well aged cannabis, but they don’t do much for scientific inquiry. If you can educate yourself on these points, and then comport those elements of religion which you deem the most valuable with the reality of the natural world, then more power to you. But specific claims about the real world presented here will require something to back them up. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that most of us have given these subjects quite a bit of study and thought, and we expect the same consideration from everyone participating in the discussion.

      • Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:06 am | Permalink

        “And for the record – theory requires an element of faith because you have to guess at what you need to fill in the gaps of actual facts that have been discovered in your research.”

        Not so. You can make predictions about the properties of your missing thing. This is hardly a guess

    • steve oberski
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Wow Nelson !!!

      Fantastic to irrational in 2 1/2 hours.

      We need a tougher breed of tone trolls visiting this blog.

      • steve oberski
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, web site.

  21. David Hay
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I have read all of the many comments on my remarks, for which I thank everyone who responded. Since more or less everyone told me I was talking rubbish, I realise that I have joined the wrong blog. I supposed that there would be a balanced debate, and that is obviously not the case.

    Western thought has brought many benefits to the human species at the expense of partially shutting off the relational, holistic dimension of our experience. I believe this is a genuine dimension of human reality, largely ignored by the New Atheists, with the possible exception of Richard Dawkins (see Chapter 1 of “The God Delusion”). On the basis of the other chapters I fear Richard would label me a ‘faith-head’.

    As to rational argument on the subject, if anyone is genuinely and honestly interested in reading about it, please let me have your e-mail address and I will send you some references.

    I’m going to hang around on this blog for a short time to see if the messages I receive begin to be less one-track, but if not, I shall disappear into the mists of virtual reality as silently as I had come.

    • Sastra
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      David Hay #21 wrote:

      I supposed that there would be a balanced debate, and that is obviously not the case.

      My post at #19 did not simply dismiss you as “talking rubbish.” I pointed out what I see as a serious flaw in the religious method of making and analyzing supernatural claims.

      You are welcome to address this. Or not. But do not then pretend that your views were ignored.

      I am not sure what, exactly, you mean by “the relational, holistic dimension of our experience.” Could you be more precise?

      • David Hay
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Sastra,

        I apologise. Yours was one of the nicer messages I received.

        I think the religious method of exploring reality (attentiveness, contemplation, the prayer of quiet) is very similar to the empirical methodology of the science lab. The difficulty is that in our western culture it is more or less axiomatic that subjectivity is not to be trusted; only objectivity. But however many times you say “Water was placed in a test-tube” as I was taught to write up experiments as a schoolboy, that spurious objectivity only disguises the fact that real, scruffy, deeply subjective schoolboys did the pouring. To ignore subjectivity as we were taught is to ignore reality. Of course one tries to be careful and accurate in what one does, but the subjective dimension cannot be erased without being dishonest to one’s lived experience. The same thing applies to religious exercises like meditation. It is possible to undertake meditation honestly or dishonestly – this is most clearly seen in Buddhist awareness meditation or vipassana as it is called, but it applies equally to western contemplative prayer.

        Your second question, about relational consciousness’ needs a much longer reply than I have time for at this moment. Basically, I think that for various reasons western culture has got itself into a philosophical jam over individualism, so that we are inclined to see ourselves as isolated individuals unable to relate truly to the rest of reality (other people, the environment, our own deeper intuitive knowledge and – if there is a God – God).

        I have written quite a lot about this. I imagine that advertisement of books one has written is forbidden on this website, but if you care to send me you e-mail address, via the editor of the site , I will send you in return a couple of references to relational consciousness.

        • Sastra
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          To ignore subjectivity as we were taught is to ignore reality. Of course one tries to be careful and accurate in what one does, but the subjective dimension cannot be erased without being dishonest to one’s lived experience.

          I disagree: science and other objective methods of inquiry do not ignore subjectivity or erase it from the models of reality. They simply try to be very clear in making distinctions between a direct experience — and an inference from a direct experience.

          For example, if your head is hurting then you know, better than anyone else, that you have a headache. That’s a ‘lived experience’ and you can’t be wrong about that. The fact that it’s not inter-subjectively felt by all people does not make it any less real. Scientists do not dismiss ‘pain.’

          But, if you were to then talk about your direct experience of a brain tumor, you’ve now made an inference that not only could be mistaken, but which could and should be checked against other alternatives. A scientist stating that no, you don’t have a brain tumor, you have a sinus blockage or an ice pick sticking out of the back of your skull is not ignoring the “subjective dimension” or denying your experience.

          In the same way, mystical experiences where people sense a “one-ness” with the cosmos, a felt presence, a deep connection to others, or a melting away of body and the material world need to be approached by making a distinction between what is felt — and what is concluded.

          A brain state is very real, and saying that one is learning more about how the ‘self’ is neurologically put together than one is learning about how cosmic reality as a whole is put together is not dismissive. It’s insightful and illuminating. And honest.

          It’s also consistent with new atheism.

        • steve oberski
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          You know David that you have not substantiated any of your claims with a single piece of evidence, which if I recall correctly was a major point in Prof. Coyne’s post.

          Are you being deliberately dishonest ?

        • Sastra
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          If you have written quite a bit about ‘relational consciousness’ then I think you ought to be able to capture the general gist of it in a sentence or two. Or three. And define it in a way that rules out gross misapplication.

          ‘Relating to the rest of reality’ is far too vague and general to really tell me anything, I think. Richard Dawkins is very keen on relating to the rest of reality, and helping others learn to relate to the rest of reality, but it does not seem to me that you think he’s on the right track.

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

            Relational consciousness is a psychosocial term that has recently gained attention in the field of religious and spiritual development. It refers to an awareness of our interdependence with other beings, including God, animals, and other humans. It suggests a nuanced sensitivity to the complexity and connection of all creatures. More specifically, the phrase refers to an intuitive, experiential awareness, a felt sense, rather than a mere intellectual awareness. The term was popularized by David Hay in the 1990s through his research into the spirituality of English school children. From interviews with children, Hay came to the conclusion that much of what has been seen as spirituality or religion is actually this awareness of being in relationship with some larger reality.

            … relational consciousness holds that

            1. What can be known extends beyond the physical world and includes supernatural, spiritual, or nonmaterial realities; these can be accessed through other forms of consciousness besides the scientific and rational.

            2. A human being’s primary identity is in relationship with other beings (intentional connection with God, people, nature).

            3. In the large picture, possessions are fleeting and unimportant measures of value.

            More here.

            /@

    • steve oberski
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I can’t put my response to this drivel any better than PZ Myers did:

      squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      There is a profound difference between providing a place where people may express their ideas and providing a place where those ideas may be expressed without being subject to criticism. This website is not the later- you can post what you’d like here (so long as you follow the rules), but any assertions you make can and will be challenged.

      • microraptor
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        So, as the old saying goes, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    • articulett
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      If there was no such thing as immortal souls would you want to know? How do you imagine you would know?

      If the invisible beings you believe in (god, souls, demons) were as imaginary as the ones you don’t believe in (fairies, Zeus, Thetans) would you want to know?

      If you wouldn’t want to know or can’t posit a way of determining which supernatural beings actually exist, how can there be a debate? How does one distinguish a real immaterial being from a non-existent one?

      You have to have a coherent definition of terms and an understanding of what kind of evidence that would make you change your mind before you can engage in an honest discussion (or debate) of purported supernatural beings.

      I don’t think you really want a debate– you want a place where you can convince yourself your woo is true via semantic games.

    • Mary
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      And off on your high (moral) horse you go into the sunset

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      You dare to enter this blog and offer insult to those here? That is exactly how your sentence reads: ” I supposed that there would be a balanced debate, and that is obviously not the case.” The debate, here, is based on reality, as you knew when you commented, and it is balanced around reality. You wish for imbalance based on superstition, but since you didn’t get it, you gave insult, instead. I believe you owe us an apology.

    • Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:10 am | Permalink

      David, I don’t think you are really that interested in debate. Your comments have been refuted both factually and logically. You chose to ignore this and threaten to take your ball home with you.

  22. David Hay
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    You bet, Mary. Bye Bye.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Quelle surprise.

      Yet another religionist who, when told to put up or shut up, shuts up.

      <sigh />

      You’d think they’d notice their performance problems by now….

      b&

  23. Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Hmph. I was perfectly polite to both David Hay and Nelson Rose, and BOTH choose to blow me off. Instead they offered a response to those they deemed too harsh, then huffed off into the ether. It is both cowardly and shows that they know how weak their positions are. Very disappointing.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      And not at all surprising.

      The most you can hope for in an exchange with a faithhead is a very, very tired “argument” from them, long since dismissed as idiotic by people capable of rational inquiry, followed by you pointing out the blindingly obvious flaws, followed by them harumphing about your incivility and / or lack of sophistication.

      Yet another data point supporting the theory that identifies religion / theology as a con game exactly on a par with every other that relies upon “Trust me!,” aka “faith.”

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        **Sigh so true – and so blindingly obvious. I should probably not waste my time.

    • Egbert
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Well calling them cowardly isn’t polite, even if you’re probably correct. Politeness never won a war though!

      • Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Notice I called their *actions* cowardly, not the men themselves.

        I have had a few Christians say after some debate, that they are willing to admit there is no evidence for God and that theology should never be taught with science, that worked okay in polite conversation. So you never know!

  24. tim ellison
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I must be missing something here. i am 100% committed to the belief that evolution is true. i am also 100% committed to the bible as God’s word. no big deal


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] believable ways of expressing this ideal of a kinder world, by the way, than for example, “I’ve blacklisted some loonies whose blather was completely outrageous.” (I smiled when I saw that—I’m on his […]

%d bloggers like this: