Dawkins’ prayer for his daughter

There has been a fair amount of discussion here about beliefs. Specifically about the nature of scientific knowledge, how that is justified and whether ‘inferences’ such as intelligent design and creationism can be considered scientific.

Richard Dawkins wrote about the nature of our knowledge and compared scientific and religious beliefs in a letter to his daughter, Juliet. She was 10 years old at the time. The article is very relevant to our discussions.

As expected from Dawkins the explanation in this article is very clear and enthusiastic. You can find the full text here (A prayer for my daughter) or download it as a pdf file.

It’s taken from his book  A Devil’s Chaplain – Chapter 7. Here are a few relevant extracts.

Evidence

The subject is “something that is important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know?” How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun?

The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.”

Dawkins declares that scientists are ” the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe.” And “The way scientists use evidence to learn about the world is much cleverer and more complicated than I can say in a short letter. But now I want to move on from evidence, which is a good reason for believing something, and warn you against three bad reasons for believing anything. They are called ‘tradition’, ‘authority’ and ‘revelation’.”

Tradition

Referring to people who base their beliefs on traditioon he says: “Their beliefs turned out to have no connection with evidence. They just trotted out the beliefs of their parents and grandparents, which, in turn, were not based upon evidence either. They said things like, ‘We Hindus believe so and so.’ ‘We Muslims believe such and such.’ ‘We Christians believe something else.'”

Authority

Moving on to authority he describes it “as a reason for believing something, … because you are told to believe it by somebody important.” . . .

“Of course, even in science sometimes we haven’t seen the evidence ourselves and we have to take somebody else’s word for it.

This looks like ‘authority’. But actually it is much better than authority because the people who wrote the books have seen the evidence and anyone is free to look carefully at the evidence whenever they want. That is very comforting.”

Revelation

In discussion ‘revelation’ he says: “When religious people just have a feeling inside themselves that something must be true, even though there is no evidence that it is true, they call their feeling ‘revelation’. It isn’t only popes who claim to have revelations. Lots of religious people do. It is one of their main reasons for believing the things that they do believe. But is it a good reason?”

Describing revelations as ‘inside feelings’ he points out that they “must be backed up by evidence, otherwise you just can’t trust them.”

“Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence.”

Ask for evidence

Concluding his letter Dawkins advises his daughter: “Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.”

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78 responses to “Dawkins’ prayer for his daughter

  1. In discussion ‘revelation’ he says: “When religious people just have a feeling inside themselves that something must be true, even though there is no evidence that it is true, they call their feeling ‘revelation’. It isn’t only popes who claim to have revelations. Lots of religious people do. It is one of their main reasons for believing the things that they do believe. But is it a good reason?”

    Of course, biblical Revelation makes no such claim. The biblical claim is that the Creator actually spoke to man. Verbally and objectively. And this Being manipulated nature (miracles) to prove His status as Creator and ruler over nature.

    Now I do not expect the atheist to buy this (since sin as effected his thinking process), but I do expect him to agree with this proposition: That is – if a all knowing Creator did exist His revelation, or imparted knowledge, would be as true or factual, or more true, more factual, than any fact that scientific investigation could produce.

    This is only logical since such a God would have knowledge that we are ignorant of.

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  2. Oooohh, Sin has corrupted my thinking process. Yummy.

    I seem to remember some little detail about original sin, how can you be sure that your sin has not affected your thinking process.

    Seems appropriate for somebody (with the most positive interpretation) who spends most of his time playing devils advocate.

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  3. I seem to remember some little detail about original sin, how can you be sure that your sin has not affected your thinking process.

    Well of course sin has effected my thinking (I used to be agnostic). But God graciously decided to make me rational.

    And that rationality is weighed by the objective standard of scripture. How close does your mind conform to said scripture…

    What is your standard of rationality Nick?

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  4. Ken, thanks for linking to that chapter from A Devil’s Chaplain. I’ve not read that book and the clarity with which Dawkins discusses the topic of evidence is excellent. It was also very relevant to a conversation I had this week with a friend on the role of science in helping build an accurate worldview. Very good.

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  5. Ken,

    There has been a fair amount of discussion here about beliefs. Specifically about the nature of scientific knowledge, how that is justified

    Actually, there has been very little discussion of justification. Any time the debate heads into that territory, it degenerates into ridicule from the scientific types here, rather than honest answers to the philosophical problems which are posed. James and myself have both attempted many times to point out various problems with the grounds for scientific “knowledge”—but, as is generally typical in my experience, this is dismissed and ignored with prejudice. Why do scientists treat philosophy with such contempt?

    This is seen just as clearly in your quotes from Dawkins. He may be a good scientist (I don’t know) but he is a terrible philosopher. Not only does he misrepresent what revelation is, but he is essentially trying to teach his daughter verificationalism. Well, verificationalism has been dead for a long while now, and with good reasons. Philosophical reasons, as it turns out. Surely you don’t agree with Dawkins that any claim has to be evaluated on the basis of the empirical evidence in support of it? Surely you wouldn’t be so irresponsible and backward as to teach this to your children? What do you tell them when they ask about the existence of numbers, or propositions? Are you a nominalist? If so, what are your reasons for this—and can you test them empirically?

    As someone in another thread commented, atheists are trying to replace the foundations for science with science itself. You want to disallow any kind of knowledge except empirical knowledge. But science is not a foundational discipline, and so you end up looking like twits. And then you have to ignore or abuse philosophy when people try to point this out to you, so that you can stay safely barricaded in your castle of sand, while pouring contempt on those who are not ignorant or naive or foolish enough to think that empirical knowledge should have the status you’ve elevated it to, and who are instead genuinely interested in rational inquiry.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  6. youngdoctoralstudent

    I think the problem is that in looking at religion through a scientific lens you are neglecting the fundamental principle of systematic empiricism: that you address answerable questions. Science looks at observable, reproducible phenomena. Religion is based in the idiographic–experiences in faith are non-reproducible, they are beyond empiricism by their nature. I think the approach to the world that assumes that everything can be broken down into laws and biology is too narrow to account for the entirety of the human experience. You can’t reproduce the feelings of the first time you viewed a painting, because that moment has passed and you will never look on it with new eyes again, and likewise you cannot measure the experience of God, because it is unique to each individual, more unique than a fingerprint or DNA. To apply one to the other makes no sense.

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  7. @ youngdoctoralstudent:

    I wouldn’t restrict science in that way. Surely science looks at reality. Things don’t have to be observable, or even reproducible.

    Neither does science require “everything [to] be broken down into laws and biology”.

    And I think we can study (not restricted to ‘measure’) personal experience.

    In the end, however, if science is incapable of investigating specific phenomena (because we may find this to be the case one day) then there is no way that a non-scientific approach can do so. Specifically, if science can’t discover aspects of reality religion and theology certainly can’t.

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  8. In the end, however, if science is incapable of investigating specific phenomena (because we may find this to be the case one day) then there is no way that a non-scientific approach can do so. Specifically, if science can’t discover aspects of reality religion and theology certainly can’t.

    Ken, it’s nice that you’re so open about your religion. If this isn’t an assertion of faith, I’ve never seen one. The problem is that to most anyone it’s an obviously false assertion. Anyone who has really considered it with an open mind for more than about thirty seconds could tell how ludicrously, wildly wrong it is.

    Let me be frank. You have go to get past this absurd attitude that if something cannot be investigated empirically, then it cannot be investigated at all. There is just no merit in such a view. You’re retired, right? So spend some spare time dabbling into, I dunno, the history of verificationalism. Or look up arguments surrounding the ontology of abstracta (nominalism, platonism, conceptualism). It is just intellectually vapid—and, frankly, either ignorant, dishonest, or both—to spout this tripe about science being the be-all and end-all of “mapping against reality”. It just shows that you don’t have a clue.

    I’m saying this harshly because I’ve said it before and tried to be polite and it just isn’t sinking in. You willfully ignore any argumentation or evidence which anyone forwards to demonstrate your philosophical ineptness. You seem to think that philosophical ineptness either doesn’t exist, or is irrelevant because SCIENCE!!!11

    Ken, there is a reason that high-level Christian apologists like Craig and Plantinga don’t think that people like Dawkins are worth responding to: their arguments, and their entire approach to knowledge-acquisition, are worse than sophomoric. They are, in truth, moronic. Unfortunately, empirical prejudice like yours is becoming more popular, and needs to be addressed regardless of how jejune it is, because the people espousing it (like you) don’t seem to realize how fundamentally naive and silly it is…and more importantly, they are very bigoted and forceful in the way they forward it.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  9. @ Dominic Bnonn Tennant:

    I have often wondered about the irony of these sorts of comments. About the irony of a person of “faith”, an adherent of a “religion” who actually seem to believe that the best way to discredit someone with different beliefs is to accuse them of having a “religion”, a “faith.”

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  10. Ken,

    If you are openly opposed to faith-claims because they cannot be “mapped against reality”, then it is not ironic for me to “discredit you” by highlighting your own faith-claims. I am not making a general critique of faith claims in toto; I am making an internal criqitue of your own worldview and pointing out the inconsistency therein.

    However, even if I were making a general critique, it remains that not all faith-claims are made equal. I am able to defend my own faith-claims, and I have offered refutations of yours on several occasions. So again there is nothing ironic about my position.

    That aside, I note that you haven’t rebuffed my previous post, so I’m hopeful you’ll still take it under consideration.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  11. But Bnonn, your method of mapping reality has led you to believe that the earth was created in six literal days around 6000 years ago.

    QED.

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  12. How is that relevant to what I said above; and how are you not begging the question against me?

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  13. Bnonn, it’s relevant because it shows that what you consider an effective method of discovering truth about the world in which we find ourselves is fundamentally flawed. Demonstrably flawed.

    If only you could comprehend just how embarrassed you aught to be.

    It is my greatest hope that one day you’ll wake up and realise just how convoluted a deception you’ve woven for yourself. And we can pop down to the pub together and have a good old laugh about just how wacky beliefs can be.

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  14. FYI

    A verificationist is someone who adheres to the verification principle proposed by A.J. Ayer in Language, Truth and Logic (1936), a principle and criterion for meaningfulness that requires a non-analytic, meaningful sentence to be empirically verifiable.

    Does anyone here see the problem? Of course, the statement is self-refuting because the proposition itself can not be empirically verified. It fails to be true by it’s own standard.

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  15. Bnonn (and James, I guess):

    In trying to make out that is philosophy that people are treating “with such concept”, you’re switching targets. Its not philosophy that people are ridiculing but your use of it and your posturing.

    […] he is essentially trying to teach his daughter verificationalism. […] Surely you wouldn’t be so irresponsible and backward as to teach this to your children? What do you tell them when they ask about the existence of numbers, or propositions? Are you a nominalist? If so, what are your reasons for this—and can you test them empirically?

    A little reality: he wrote to a ten year-old kid. You just “have” to make it “about” philosophy. (Because you think that makes you look erudite and therefore “right”?)

    Its a sight better than teaching kids that they should blindly believe that the contents of an ancient book should be taken as literally true, “or else”.

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  16. DBT said…“Let me be frank. You have go to get past this absurd attitude that if something cannot be investigated empirically, then it cannot be investigated at all. There is just no merit in such a view.”

    Well allow me to be frank. It is your position that is absurd.
    Empirical investigation works. It produces results that humanity can actually use.
    There is no alternative.
    You cannot provide one.
    Either come up with another way and demonstrate it or admit you are just full of gas.

    DBT said…“It is just intellectually vapid—and, frankly, either ignorant, dishonest, or both—to spout this tripe about science being the be-all and end-all of “mapping against reality”. It just shows that you don’t have a clue.”

    No. You’re the one that doesn’t get it.
    It’s not about verbiage. It’s about results. Science produces results.
    You produce whining and endless bleating wrapped up in sophistry. Science gets on with the job.
    (Life-spans to extend. Diseases to kill. Food to produce. Rockets to launch. Etc.)

    DBT rants…”You willfully ignore any argumentation or evidence which anyone forwards to demonstrate your philosophical ineptness.”
    Verbal diarrhea doesn’t equal evidence.
    Besides, Ken (and others) have been very patient with you. You should be more grateful.

    DBT said…“Unfortunately, empirical prejudice like yours is becoming more popular, and needs to be addressed regardless of how jejune it is, because the people espousing it (like you) don’t seem to realize how fundamentally naive and silly it is…and more importantly, they are very bigoted and forceful in the way they forward it.”
    Yes, it has become more popular, hasn’t it? Even among religious people, I believe.
    Ever since that Enlightenment thingy, the whole place has gone to the dogs.
    Oh dear.
    Yet, and yet, science seems to work very well despite your objections.

    On to other matters….
    DBT said (in response to Damian’s post) “How is that relevant to what I said above; and how are you not begging the question against me?”

    DBT, you believe in a 6000 year old Earth.
    Your thinking got you there. We are NOT responsible. It’s your mess.
    As Damian put it…” Bnonn, it’s relevant because it shows that what you consider an effective method of discovering truth about the world in which we find ourselves is fundamentally flawed. Demonstrably flawed.”
    People don’t believe that the Earth is really 6000 years old.
    Honest.
    You do because, well, …you know…you’re…
    …Um….
    Dumb.
    Please don’t take offence, but seriously, you come across as a total idiot by being a YEC.
    Do this as a little experiment, ok?
    Go up to some stranger at a bus-stop. Make some light chit-chat and introduce yourself.
    Then casually, very casually, just happen to mention that you think that the Earth is 6000 years old.
    An instant chill will come over the conversation. The stranger will see you in a new light.
    They’ll probably be polite to your face but…they’ll soon start looking for that bus to show up. If the bus doesn’t come that very second, then they will give you a tight smile and quickly try to change the conversation.
    If the bus does come along, then they will breathe a sigh of relief and get aboard.
    Sane, educated people don’t think the Earth is 6000 years old.
    Honest.
    (Of course, if you stop a stranger at a bus-stop in Hicksville, Alabama then you will improve your chances.)
    That’s why most YEC’ers are so very shy about admitting their beliefs. It’s hard for someone to respect you when you have only a tenuous grip on reality.

    Modern YECism isn’t based on science, you know. It’s actually based on the 1920’s Seventh Day Adventist prophets. George McCready Price. Mary Baker Eddy.
    Look them up. They were very special people.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_earth_creationism

    When cultists go door to door, it’s not a good sales pitch to come right out and say… “Hey, we have a package deal for you. You get to believe in our God, we get to tell you how to live your life, we get to take your money every Sunday AND you have to reject modern science in order to accommodate a Young Earth because we read the bible wrong.”
    It doesn’t work. You have to get the 6000 year old thingy done quietly.
    In a gentle sneaky way. If you just blurt it out, then it just freaks normal people out.

    You are wrong about science. Wildly wrong. You haven’t a clue.
    You are a victim of Morton’s demon.
    http://www.answersincreation.org/mortond.htm

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  17. Science gets on with the job.(Life-spans to extend. Diseases to kill. Food to produce. Rockets to launch. Etc.)

    And don’t forget science gave humanity the ability to destroy itself for the first time in history. And lets be clear science tells us nothing about how to treat each other. What is good, not good, etc… And in the end these ethical questions are much more important than “scientific” fact.

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  18. Cedric,

    You do because, well, …you know…you’re… …Um…. Dumb.

    To be fair, Bnonn is far from dumb. It’s just that his rationalisations have led him down a path that, in some aspects at least, can be demonstrated to contradict fairly simple observations about the world. In the past, I was also forced to draw the same conclusions in an effort to keep my other beliefs intact.

    Bnonn, I know that in the past you have generally shrugged off the question of the contradiction between the age of the earth as science sees it and your conclusion based on your reading of the Bible by claiming a disinterest in science. But this, it would seem, is a fairly important sticking point and I would encourage you to at least take an interest in the findings of science to test you methodology for discovering truth.

    If you agree that the science has been performed correctly but that you can’t alter your interpretation of the Bible which way will you go? With the evidence or with your interpretation? And why? Does the scenario that Genesis 1-11 was merely a kind of story made up by a group of people around 4-5000 years ago actually fit the evidence better than that it is divinely inspired and to be taken at face value?

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  19. But this, it would seem, is a fairly important sticking point and I would encourage you to at least take an interest in the findings of science to test you methodology for discovering truth.

    This is the problem Damian. Like I said in another thread. When I went to school settled science told us the universe was eternal and in a steady state. But scripture said that the universe began. Well, as of today, it seems that science now agrees that the universe began.

    So what facts are out there that could overturn the old universe theory? Why at this point should we take this theory as gospel?

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  20. James, the origins of the universe are a very different topic to the age of the earth. Especially when we are comparing a 6000 year hypothesis with a 4 billion year one.

    The evidence we have for what happened 14 billion years ago is fairly scant but the evidence that points away from an earth that is only thousands of years old and toward it being in the billions is overwhelming.

    And with regard to your last question; you shouldn’t take any theory as gospel. But you also really shouldn’t take “gospel” as gospel either. 😉 (I’m assuming that you are using the word “gospel” in the context of an unquestionable fact rather than the traditional “good news”).

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  21. @20:

    There is a recent paper in Science (O’Neil J, Carlson RW, Francis D, Stevenson RK (2008) Neodymium-142 Evidence for Hadean Mafic Crust. Science 321(5897):1828-1831.) reporting rocks dates to something in the range of 3.8 to 4.2 billion years old. Its covered in any number of places on the blogosphere.

    These are ages of formed rock. The earth is older than formed rock as the early earth was molten (not formed rock) and essentially all of the early rock will have been “recycled”.

    A geologist can explain this in more detail (and accuracy!) than me 😉

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  22. James said…”And let’s be clear science tells us nothing about how to treat each other. What is good, not good, etc…”

    Did anybody here make that claim? Anybody?

    (..silence..)

    Well done, James. You have managed to point out something that everybody knew in the first place.

    James said…”And in the end these ethical questions are much more important than “scientific” fact.”

    Says you.
    (shrug)

    …………………………………………………….

    Damian said…”To be fair, Bnonn is far from dumb.”

    Perhaps he’s genius with a dozen Phds, who knows?
    Yet dumb is as dumb does.
    I’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt but…

    His ignorance is staggering. It defies belief.
    He gets on the Internet wearing his “I’m a REAL Christian” badge and then bores people to tears with his cock-eyed philosophy.
    Other Christians don’t seem to need to leave their brain at the door when they go to church, why does Bnonn?
    While we’re talking of absent things, what of the Christian values of humility or modesty?

    (Bnonn doesn’t seem to have shown up at Sunday school for those lessons. Pity that.)

    It embarrassing. Imagine the people he will alienate from Christianity just because nobody wants to be in the same “club” as him!

    Saint Augustine said it best…

    “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

    – The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#Natural_knowledge_and_biblical_interpretation

    He doesn’t even seem to realise that some of the best scientists around are Christians.
    There is no titanic struggle between science and Christianity/Religion.
    It’s science versus anti-science wing-nuttery and pig ignorance.

    Damian said…”In the past, I was also forced to draw the same conclusions in an effort to keep my other beliefs intact.”

    Now this I would be interested to hear about.
    How did you get there? How did you get out?

    For those of you with any lingering doubts on just how screwy it is to believe in a 6000 year old Earth, here’s a very entertaining youtube video. It puts things neatly in perspective. There are no, big, scary words. I promise.

    How wrong are Young Earth Creationists?
    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=amDERsZUVn0

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  23. James said…”And let’s be clear science tells us nothing about how to treat each other. What is good, not good, etc…”

    Did anybody here make that claim? Anybody?

    (..silence..)

    Well done, James. You have managed to point out something that everybody knew in the first place.

    James said…”And in the end these ethical questions are much more important than “scientific” fact.”

    Says you.
    (shrug)

    …………………………………………………….

    Damian said…”To be fair, Bnonn is far from dumb.”

    Perhaps he’s genius with a dozen Phds, who knows?
    Yet dumb is as dumb does.
    I’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt but…

    His ignorance is staggering. It defies belief.
    He gets on the Internet wearing his “I’m a REAL Christian” badge and then bores people to tears with his cock-eyed philosophy.
    Other Christians don’t seem to need to leave their brain at the door when they go to church, why does Bnonn?
    While we’re talking of absent things, what of the Christian values of humility or modesty?

    (Bnonn doesn’t seem to have shown up at Sunday school for those lessons. Pity that.)

    It embarrassing. Imagine the people he will alienate from Christianity just because nobody wants to be in the same “club” as him!

    Saint Augustine said it best…
    “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

    – The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]

    He doesn’t even seem to realize that some of the best scientists around are Christians.
    There is no titanic struggle between science and Christianity/Religion.
    It’s science versus anti-science wing-nuttery and pig ignorance.

    Damian said…”In the past, I was also forced to draw the same conclusions in an effort to keep my other beliefs intact.”

    Now this I would be interested to hear about.
    How did you get there? How did you get out?

    For those of you with any lingering doubts on just how screwy it is to believe in a 6000 year old Earth, here’s a very entertaining you-tube video. It puts things neatly in perspective. There are no, big, scary words. I promise.

    How wrong are Young Earth Creationists?
    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=amDERsZUVn0

    Like

  24. James said…”And in the end these ethical questions are much more important than “scientific” fact.”

    Says you.
    (shrug)

    You don’t agree? I mean science can give us the A bomb but it can tell us whether to use it or not. Science can help us grow more crops but it can’t tell us whether to feed a starving child. Science can tells us about biology but it can’t tell us whether we should love our kids or be faithful to our wife. Science can tell us that humans live in community but it has noting to say about what is just or unjust.

    Science must be the handmaiden to ethical theories. Ethical considerations are certainlt more important – don’t you agree? If not why not?

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  25. Damian

    The evidence we have for what happened 14 billion years ago is fairly scant but the evidence that points away from an earth that is only thousands of years old and toward it being in the billions is overwhelming.

    I generally lean towards a old earth/universe. But here is another problem. There are no brut facts per-say. All facts are subjectively filterd through the bias human mind. And this subjectivity can be a group subjectivity. In other words, whole groups of men can wrongly interpret the same facts. And this includes scientists who are just as subject to bias and group think and peer pressure as anyone else.

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  26. @ 24: it’s a rather large jump from pointing out that we should apply science in an ethical way, to saying that the only correct worldview is that provided by the bible…

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  27. alison Says:

    “it’s a rather large jump from pointing out that we should apply science in an ethical way, to saying that the only correct worldview is that provided by the bible…”

    Whether Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, the Only begotten Son of God, is something you can work that out for yourself. My point was that science tells us nothing about these ethical issues, they are beyond science. And, I might add, much more important that science – you agree, correct?

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  28. @ James:

    All facts are subjectively filtered through the bias human mind. And this subjectivity can be a group subjectivity. In other words, whole groups of men can wrongly interpret the same facts. And this includes scientists who are just as subject to bias and group think and peer pressure as anyone else.”

    This is true as far as it goes – and the mistake is not only the way that women are ignored! In contrast to non-scientific approaches which stop with ‘inferences’ or ‘revelations’ (or just ‘prejudice’). The scientific process is a social process – and a long term self-correcting process. Mapping against reality and transparent, open consideration and discussion of evidence works to reduce the influence of “bias and peer pressure” in the scientific process.

    Science is dynamic – that is why we don’t say we believe in the age of the earth (or the universe) or evolution because, after all, belief is only belief and could have nothing to do with evidence). We say we accept scientific knowledge. And our acceptance has the understanding that this knowledge changes (because it produces a less imperfect picture of reality) with new evidence, data and new ways of analysing these.

    You may well consider the dynamic nature of science a fault. I consider it to be its greatest strength – the reason why it works. “Revelation” is the complete opposite in this respect.

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  29. @27: Science doesn’t block ethics, James, so its a moot point to be banging on about. Its just you trying to find yet another thing you think you can “bash” science with without presenting anything positive.

    Science can support (some) ethics by providing background understanding, e.g. illustrate the fallacy of discriminating by race, social behaviour in animals illustrates some aspects of basic “treating others” roles, and so on.

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  30. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Ken, knowledge is generally defined as “justified and true belief”. So your post #28 really doesn’t make sense. You’re trying to say that scientific “knowledge” is not “belief”…and by your own admission it also isn’t true, since it’s being continually falsified and replaced. But if it’s not true, and it’s not belief, then what is it?

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  31. 30:

    re: knowledge is generally defined as “justified and true belief”

    Erm, Bnonn, its justified and true belief, not “belief” in the sense of an opinion (e.g. from the OED: “true, justified belief; certain understanding, as opposed to opinion”).

    The key point is that the belief is to be one founded on justification (e.g. evidence). You claim to be a philosopher, if that were true, I shouldn’t have to be pointing this out to you, surely… 😉

    You seem to be trying to read into this definition a meaning that you want to be true. You might to think about why you’re doing that.

    Furthermore, knowledge is not generally defined that way. The definition you’ve given is the one applied specifically to philosophy, not in general use. On that note, if you’re going to refer to science with the word, you should really use the definition that applies in the context of science. You know, match the definition of a word with its use. (Its similar to creationists trying to use the general meaning of ‘theory’ in a science discussion.)

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  32. I notice that John Locke’s definition of the term is rather different: he saw it as an internal framework that’s used for evaluating new experiences/data. That framework can be based upon prior experiences, values, motivations, information – & yes, beliefs (but they’re only part of the mix). And it allows us to evaluate new data & experiences & incorporate them into our knowledge of the world. This would seem to have direct bearing on what Ken’s saying about the nature of science.

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  33. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Heraclides, since we are speaking in a philosophical context, it’s hard to believe that you’re seriously taking me to task for defining knowledge philosophically.

    Are you arguing that a belief can be both false and justified? That’s a fairly exciting claim, since justification is typically recognized as a quality of truth as regards knowledge.

    Either way, using the term “knowledge” about scientific theories etc is rather misleading.

    Alison, unless you’re a Lockean, I’m not sure how his view is really relevant to the general definition of knowledge.

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  34. There is a danger in ‘speaking in a philosophical context’. It’s often used in discussion to divert attention away from the real issues (and often the real world). Some people really love to talk around a subject rather than deal with the real issues. And it seems to be a common tactic used to defend the indefensible.

    (Reminds me a bit of the Monty Python skit portraying a football game as philosophers attempting to score points off each other).

    I say – bugger the ‘philosophy.’ If you are really interested in the issues being debated just look at what has been said, and the context in which it is said.

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  35. You might claim to be using a philosophical context, but Ken was a using ‘knowledge’ in the context of science, he even prefixed ‘knowledge’ with ‘scientific’. I was writing about his use of it, that you referred to, so what I referred does not seem to be “in a philosophical context”. Its a little hard for it to be when its explicitly prefixed with ‘scientific’. In any event its a lesser point, more important is that you have to include the “true and justified” aspect, which you left out.

    It also is a difference in the use of the word: in science knowledge is accepted as being of its time, as several of us have already pointed out to you & James. You, or philosophy, might try refer to absolutes “for all time”, but (modern) science doesn’t. All that means is that the definition is limited to the realm its applied to, as I wrote earlier. I shouldn’t really have to spell this out for you.

    I get an impression that you are deliberately working at cross-purposes. I gave the commonly observed abuse of the word ‘theory’ by creationists as an example for a reason. It struck me that what you’re doing is much the same. You dropped the “true and justified” aspect. Dropping that reduces ‘knowledge’ to ‘opinion’. Its exactly the same silliness as trying to insist on the “general” definition of theory on the use of the word in science: playing word games, etc.

    Are you arguing that a belief can be both false and justified? That’s a fairly exciting claim, since justification is typically recognized as a quality of truth as regards knowledge.

    Why is it that you repeatedly make out that people have said things that they very obviously didn’t haven’t, then try make out that should defend it? It makes you a jerk, if that hasn’t occurred to you by now.

    Given you avoided the key point of my post, I might as well chalk that up as you not having an answer to the point I made.

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  36. @34: Cross-posted. You’re always more concise 🙂 What your last paragraph said.

    Must track that skit down again, is it in one of the movies?

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  37. It was in one of the TV shows. I tracked down this You Tube video. It’s still quite funny.

    We have the philosophers absorbed in their debates and neglecting the ball until Archimedes declares ‘Eureka.’ So the Greeks win against the Germans. Seems to sum it up for me.

    Listened to a nice lecture on ancient Greek philosophers and scientists at the Skeptics conference in the weekend so found the video even more interesting.

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  38. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I say – bugger the ‘philosophy.’ If you are really interested in the issues being debated just look at what has been said, and the context in which it is said.

    I know you do, Ken, which is why you, like Dawkins, are not a serious scholar in issues of science and religion—regardless of how you like to portray yourself. Anyone who has that attitude to philosophy is manifestly ignorant of its importance; and anyone so ignorant is not equipped to engage with the “issues”, as regards science and religion, at all.

    Heraclides: are you saying that in the philosophy of science, and specifically in scientific epistemology, “knowledge” has a different definition than it does in general epistemology? Perhaps it does; I don’t know—but that doesn’t make scientific “knowledge” true or justified. It just means that the conventional goalposts have been shifted to accommodate the fact that the best “knowledge” science can attain is very weak, epistemologically speaking. Scientific knowledge is neither true nor justified by any rigorous view of epistemology.

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  39. @37: Thanks for link. Great to watch 🙂

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  40. Ah. A Python fan, I see.
    I love that video.

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  41. Ken said:

    This is true as far as it goes – and the mistake is not only the way that women are ignored! In contrast to non-scientific approaches which stop with ‘inferences’ or ‘revelations’ (or just ‘prejudice’). The scientific process is a social process – and a long term self-correcting process. Mapping against reality and transparent, open consideration and discussion of evidence works to reduce the influence of “bias and peer pressure” in the scientific process.

    Science is dynamic – that is why we don’t say we believe in the age of the earth (or the universe) or evolution because, after all, belief is only belief and could have nothing to do with evidence). We say we accept scientific knowledge. And our acceptance has the understanding that this knowledge changes (because it produces a less imperfect picture of reality) with new evidence, data and new ways of analysing these.

    You may well consider the dynamic nature of science a fault. I consider it to be its greatest strength – the reason why it works. “Revelation” is the complete opposite in this respect.

    Ken, you still don’t get it. You don’t “know” the age of the earth, or that purposeless, blind evolution took place. You you have no idea if these present conclusion will hold up tomorrow. Remember science is “tenative.”

    Second, if a all knowning Creator did communicate to man, then that Revelation would trump investigation.

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  42. @41:

    It seems you’d prefer a flat statement based on no evidence, to the best statement you could make on available evidence. Some people would call that irrational 😉

    Science isn’t tentative in the way you make out: its firm, but accepts that its limited to what is currently known. No-one can ask for more: what is unknown is unknown.

    Your second point is based on blind faith, which is ironic considering what you keep complaining about.

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  43. @38:

    Aside from side-stepping, avoiding referring to your earlier errors, and broad sweeping statements that simply aren’t correct, you’re still mixing the definitions and their contexts! 🙂

    If you (or James) would actually think for a moment, you’d realise theologists (and others) who insist that knowledge has to be “fixed for all time” have a major problem that the scientific approach doesn’t have.

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  44. Science isn’t tentative in the way you make out: its firm, but accepts that its limited to what is currently known. No-one can ask for more: what is unknown is unknown.

    Your second point is based on blind faith, which is ironic considering what you keep complaining about.

    1. Yes what is unknown is unknown. Which is probably way more than what is known. So no sense jumpting to conclusion.

    2. And how is my belief in God anymore blind than your belief that you are not a brain in a vat? Or your belief in memories? Or your blind belief the non-rational evolutionary process ceated you to have rational true beliefs?

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  45. If you (or James) would actually think for a moment, you’d realise theologists (and others) who insist that knowledge has to be “fixed for all time” have a major problem that the scientific approach doesn’t have.

    But somethings are fixed for all time. Like the law of non-contradiction, 2+2=4, raping little children is always wrong, etc… I don’t see a major problem here – do you?

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  46. @ James:

    “But somethings are fixed for all time.” That’s a silly statement because we have so many examples where it breaks down – and, don’t forget, these “fixed concepts” are very much intertwined with our perceptions – how we perceive such “absolutes.”

    Conservation “laws” are a glaring example. The abstract principle may well be objective. But when we apply such principles to our interaction with reality we find that we must keep adjusting our perception of that “absolute.” This occurred when we found that conservation of mass, and conservation of energy worked well for chemical processes but broke down when we discovered nuclear processes. (Of course this indicated that they actually hadn’t really been working in chemistry but we just didn’t have the sensitivity to detect that breakdown).

    So now we have to perceive the conservation “absolute” in terms of energy/mass – recognise that energy and mass are the same thing.

    Of course we are able to make these adjustments in our perception of “absolute” logical and philosophical principles because we interact with reality. We test our ideas.

    Just imagine where we would be today if we had relied completely on the “revelation” of conservation “laws”.

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  47. Richard Dawkins is first a Biologist, the man is by no means an intentional philosopher. Voted by his peers as the U.K’s Top Public Intellectual, Dawkins writings are made eatable for public consumption.

    The God Delusion consistently ranks in the top selling books, as testament (not a good choice of words I appreciate) to his appeal to a wider audience than just ‘rabid atheists’, the rabid atheist reading sector having been well serviced by Christopher Hitchens.

    Love him or loath him, Dawkins is a great writer.

    To quote Dawkins “I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect”.

    And this is exactly what we are seeing in this debate.

    As an aside to this, perhaps Bnonn (Jovi?), could tell us how many copies of his own publication ‘The Wisdom of God’ has sold?? It shouldn’t be that hard one thinks, most of them will still be in his garage, gathering dust.

    I tried to find the pseudo-intellectual master work on both Amazon.co.uk and fishpond.co.nz, to sort the argument out, but shock,horror, ‘The Wisdom of God’ doesn’t feature? Heaps of Dawkins but strangely nothing by that well-know New Zealand intellectual (makes coughing sound, as if clearing ones throat)Dominic Tennant.

    It appears you suffer from some sort of adult attention deficit there Bnonn and, having played too many ‘war games’ & ‘dungeon and dragons’ in your youth (probably still do)and you must have a public service job with the amount of time you can dedicate to blogging/posting.

    You are quick to run down Dawkins there mate, so lets see what the book-buying public (Christians included) have to say on ‘The Wisdom of God’ versus perhaps ‘The Selfish Gene’?

    Tell us how many people (to the nearest 10 is fine, realatives don’t count) paid to read your book Dominic, without kindly using that long-winded, humourless, self-righteous fashion, we have become so use to with all your postings, please!

    Just numbers, would be nice.

    Cheers.

    Paul.

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  48. Way to snooker yourself Paul. Going by this logic the Bible must be absolutely correct in every way as it is has sold far more copies than all of Dawkins’ books combined.

    Before you go off on one; you’ve mistaken me for a theist before because I’ve criticised your comments on ServantsThoughts but you’re just using such poor reasoning that I can let it go without commenting lest people this all atheists are as silly.

    The elephant in the room as far as Bnonn’s thinking goes is that his constructed worldview leads him to believe in something that demonstrably incorrect. (He believes in a literal 6-day creation but is not keen to actually look into the evidence that points away from this). However, Bnonn is a smart guy and I feel confident that if he were to take time to openly and critically examine his beliefs against observable evidence he will see that there must be something fundamentally wrong in at least a part of his philosophy.

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  49. Damian, buddy, if you are an author like Bnoon wishing to critique another author, the level of Dawkins, you are open to a ‘blow torch’ examination yourself, as to your relative literary merits in an open market. That is to say – if Dawkins is so wrong and Dominic is sooooo right, why have Dawkins books sold a million to one versus ‘The Wisdom of God? Why have the public shunned Bnoon’s writings and embraced those of Dawkins?

    As to The Bible, it is a giveaway available in any motel room for free, along with the two year old copy of New Idea.The Holy Bible is ranked 4,269 on Amazon U.K sales (emphasis on sales, that’s to say someone spending their hard earned dollars to purchase, not being handed one) and The God Delusion is at 72.

    Besides, no one actually reads The Bible in the sense they would read Dawkins book. In its entirety The Bible is simply not digestible, that’s why it’s broken down into little pieces for easy consumption, the untasty bits having been cut-out.

    Despite his grandiose use of the English, be honest mate , smart-guys don’t think the world was created in six days. Atheists are a diverse bunch there Damian – and if I think we both are able to revaluate our own mind-sets, have a beer, chat and a laugh. Apologise when wrong. These are dimensions, that seem missing from Mr Tennants life ,and I make no apologies pointing them out.

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  50. Paul, the problem is that the crux of your argument relies on sales figures rather than the merit of the writing. If, say, The Secret gets to position number 58 (which it currently is) does that mean that it’s better than The God Delusion? Does that mean that I, author of 0 books, am in no position to criticise it?

    I love Dawkins’ books, especially those on evolution but I’d still rate his books highly even if they never even made it to the Amazon Bestseller list. Bnonn’s book may be brilliant, mediocre or just plain crap but you can’t judge that by how popular it is with Amazon readers. I’ve not read it so I can’t comment.

    And with regard to your last paragraph; I realise that it sounds counter-intuitive but I genuinely believe that you can be smart (a genius, even) and still hold some ideas that are absurd. Some of the smartest people in history have had some pseudoscientific or superstitious Achilles Heel. We have to accept that people are made of many ideas, some of them good, some bad, some correct, some incorrect. If you identify an idea that Bnonn has that you feel is incorrect then, by all means, challenge him on that. But don’t discard all of his ideas because you don’t agree with some of them and, whatever you do, don’t think that the position any work of literature gets to on the Amazon Bestseller list means that it’s any good (otherwise I’m never going to be able to take the piss out of The Secret again 😉 ).

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  51. Ken said:

    That’s a silly statement because we have so many examples where it breaks down – and, don’t forget, these “fixed concepts” are very much intertwined with our perceptions – how we perceive such “absolutes.”

    Ken I gave three examples of absolutes: the law of non-contradiction, 2+2=4, raping little children is always wrong.

    One moral, one logical, and one mathematical. Can you tell me which one “breaks down?”

    If basic mathematics breaks down then much of our knowledge of physics breaks down – and we know little to nothing. If the law of non-contradiction breaks down then right now we may be speaking gibberish, since the opposite meaning of our words could be equally true. Of course this would destroy science also since with every scientific conclusion the opposite conclusion would be equally true. And if you don’t believe that raping little children is always wrong – then I don’t know what to say to you…

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  52. James:

    1. Yes what is unknown is unknown. Which is probably way more than what is known. So no sense jumpting to conclusion.

    Its hard to make sense of what you are trying to say here, but it you appear not to be referring to what I wrote about. I wrote about you and other theists argue that unknowns should (somehow!) be used in a “positive” fashion, when that’s a contradiction in terms, e.g. “because there are unknowns, G-d must be real” is a non-argument. As I wrote, unknowns are unknown: nothing of sense can be derived from them.

    2. And how is my belief in G-d anymore blind than your belief that you are not a brain in a vat? Or your belief in memories? Or your blind belief the non-rational evolutionary process ceated you to have rational true beliefs?

    Evolution is not founded on “blind belief” as you do know. You’re also mixing conclusions derived from the science process with our intuitions. The science-based process works to counter “intuitions”, as has already been pointed out to you numerous times.

    The brain and memories examples are just teases referring to classic “pop” philosophy exercises. They’re limited to pure philosophy.

    But somethings are fixed for all time. Like the law of non-contradiction, 2+2=4, raping little children is always wrong, etc… I don’t see a major problem here – do you?

    I would have thought that (not) “raping little children” is a cultural/societal practice, not “knowledge” (and certainly not in the sense I was referring to). I presume you’re hoping to draw some line between this and “child abuse”.

    2+2=4 isn’t really knowledge either (its axiomatic).

    As for the law of non-contradiction, in logical algebra, because of its formalism, its essentially axiomatic, but it apparently has some issues in wider application. Incidentally, its apparently not quite true to say that its “fixed for all time”. Shows your philosophy and research may be lacking-this only takes a couple of minutes on google to find, see: ‘paraconsistent logic’ and ‘dialetheism’. But from memory, you refuse to do any homework. Shame, that 😉

    Try applying what I wrote, to what I was writing about, theories and the like. It’d make a lot more sense 😉

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  53. As for the law of non-contradiction, in logical algebra, because of its formalism, its essentially axiomatic, but it apparently has some issues in wider application. Incidentally, its apparently not quite true to say that its “fixed for all time”. Shows your philosophy and research may be lacking-this only takes a couple of minutes on google to find, see: ‘paraconsistent logic’ and ‘dialetheism’. But from memory, you refuse to do any homework. Shame, that

    Heraclides, I understand what paraconsistent logic is – the liars sentence/paradox is a prime example. But if the law of contradiction is not universal and immutable then opposite statements can be equally true. The universe is 15 billion years old, the universe is 6,000 years old – both could be equally true. Any evidence you bring forth for either position an opposite conclusion could be equally true. Are you really ready to suggest that law of non-contradiction is not fixed and universal?

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  54. The brain and memories examples are just teases referring to classic “pop” philosophy exercises. They’re limited to pure philosophy.

    No, the point is that you believe many things (as true) that can’t be proven Heraclides or demostrated. And that my good man is a fact…Deal with it…

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  55. 2+2=4 isn’t really knowledge either (its axiomatic).

    It may be axiomatic, but it certainly is knowledge. And fixed. Or are you suggesting that 2+2=4 may not be true/fixed? Imagine what that would do to “science.”

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  56. “Or your blind belief the non-rational evolutionary process ceated you to have rational true beliefs?”

    Ignorace of science abounds. Where do you get this drivel?
    Back-seat driver. A blind back seat driver.
    Sitting in a parked car.

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  57. “Or your blind belief the non-rational evolutionary process ceated you to have rational true beliefs?”

    Cedric said:

    Ignorace of science abounds. Where do you get this drivel?
    Back-seat driver. A blind back seat driver.
    Sitting in a parked car.

    You mean that the evolutionary process is not blind and is rational (i.e. thinking and intending)?

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  58. “You mean that the evolutionary process is not blind and is rational (i.e. thinking and intending)?”

    No. Duh!

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  59. “You mean that the evolutionary process is not blind and is rational (i.e. thinking and intending)?”

    No. Duh!

    So you agree or disagree? If you agree then why was my claim the blind belief that the non-rational evolutionary process ceated you to have rational true beliefs drivel?

    Why sould we believe that the non-rational evolutionary process did produce rational true beliefs?

    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/naturalism_defeated.pdf

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  60. @55: You should compare what axiomatic and knowledge mean. The former means self-evident: it doesn’t need any learned thing to imply it.

    @53: I pointed out there is arguments out there-you can look them up yourself. You keep making yourself out to be the philosophy scholar… if you really were, wouldn’t you either already know these arguments or go an check them out for yourself?

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  61. Pingback: Philosophical problems | Open Parachute

  62. Pingback: How do you know that? | Open Parachute

  63. I wrote a response to this for my New Atheism class. If you are interested, view here: http://sdrv.ms/17E2nuo

    Abstract for above document:
    At the end of Richard Dawkins’ book, A Devil’s Chaplain, (2003) we see a letter to his daughter Juliet in the last chapter entitled “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing” (pp. 242-248). This paper will show that Richard Dawkins’ “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing” consist of a limited understanding of knowledge: he wrongly limits his ways of knowing and his assertions about scientific reality are incomplete and inadequate as the sole way of knowing. Dawkins argues that empirical evidence is the only good reason for believing and tradition, authority and revelation are bad reasons for believing. By properly defining significant terms used in and related to the chapter, I will argue that he not only misunderstands these terms, but that empirical evidence may be deficient enough to be called “bad,” and that tradition, authority and revelation may be sufficient enough to be called “good,” additionally, I will make a case for faith as not only a good, but indeed, the best way of knowing.

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  64. I bet you failed the course, Josh. Unless, of course it was a religious apologetics one.

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  65. A- actually. The teacher was Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual for Creating Atheists.”
    Are you a fundamentalist by any chance?
    You sound like one.

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  66. Religious apologetics, then. I would have failed you because of your basic lack of understanding of science and scientific knowledge. Still, you are welcome to make you case here.
    .

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  67. I will make a case for faith… in what?
    Batman?

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  68. @Ken
    Uhhhhhh?
    I’d be careful if I were you, your ignorance is hanging out.
    1) “Religious apologetics, then.” ??? Try calling him that. Why don’t you use our good friend google and ask him if Dr. Boghossian is a religious apologetics teacher.
    2) “I would have failed you because of your basic lack of understanding of science and scientific knowledge.” a) I’m really hoping you’re not a teacher – that would be a travesty – because, b) what lack of understanding of science and scientific knowledge? i) this is not a science paper. ii) the paper does discuss philosophy of science. iii) did you even look at the paper? – which leads back to a) I’m really hoping you’re not a teacher!
    3) Read the paper – if you can understand it, you might find a “case” for whatever you welcomed me to make a case for.

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  69. A Second Prayer for Juliet

    Dear Juliet,

    Now that you are almost thirty and capable of thinking on your own, I would like to revise my letter that I wrote to you when you were ten. I know that you may have noticed the emotional evidence in my previous letter, and come to the belief that I care about you. It is for this reason that I would like to clarify a few issues which may have been confusing as you got older. You may have noticed that you form opinions based not only on empirical evidence, but also from emotional and rational evidence. These are good reasons for believing when you maintain a balance between them and do not ignore any of them. Reason should govern all of your beliefs and you should evaluate everything for yourself.

    I told you before that tradition, authority and revelation were bad reasons for believing, but that was just because you were not yet sophisticated enough to understand that all of our knowledge comes to us through tradition and authority, and that revelation was beyond your scope of understanding. Now that you are old enough, however, I want to tell you that there is yet another, more significant way of knowing. It is about time for you to move beyond the childish assumption that the only things we can know are the things we can know from observation, emotion and reason. In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that God exists. The choice is yours, but there are significant repercussions to this choice. If you would like to know more we can talk in person.

    Your loving

    Daddy

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  70. Josh, do you not recognise the silliness of students sending out their class papers (yes I know they will be proud of them) to others on blogs as if they are gospel?

    I have told you that you are welcome to argue for your ideas here – that’s what blogs are for. But to make spurious claims about science just because you have written an essay arguing for faith is not enough. Why not support you ideas instead of asking people you don’t know to read your student essay?

    Come on – I enjoy a good philosophical discussion on these issues – (and I could divert you by saying read my articles – but I won’t). Let’s discuss the issues.

    And please, lay off personal attacks – they just get in the way of the real issues and do absolutely nothing for your case.

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  71. Yes, Dawkins is getting on in age (aren’t we all) but I see no evidence he has got that senile yet. Meanwhile some people will attempt forgeries.

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  72. …but that was just because you were not yet sophisticated enough to understand that all of our knowledge comes to us through tradition and authority, and that revelation was beyond your scope of understanding.

    Smallpox.
    Look it up.

    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that God exists.

    YAY!
    A new chew-toy. Happy, happy me.

    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Vishnu exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Xenu exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Baal exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that MegaPixie exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that sweaty, magic, football socks exists.

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  73. @Cedric Katesby
    “Smallpox. Look it up.” Look up which authority, from what tradition?

    Read some Kuhn.

    “In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Vishnu exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Xenu exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Baal exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that MegaPixie exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that sweaty, magic, football socks exists.”

    Translate: blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.blah.

    You guys really think you have devastating arguments… such a sad delusion. 😦

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  74. Josh – you haven’t put up any argument – just promoted a student essay. Come on – lets have a discussion. Surely you have more than this!

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  75. “Josh, do you not recognize the silliness of students sending out their class papers” No. Please enlighten me.

    “to others on blogs as if they are gospel?” No. I actually said “I wrote a response to this for my New Atheism class. If you are interested, view here” – to promote discussion.

    “to make spurious claims about science” What claims?

    “just because you have written an essay arguing for faith is not enough” Enough for what?

    “Why not support you ideas instead of asking people you don’t know to read your student essay?” I don’t really care if you read my essay, other than the fact that I might learn how to overcome objections better. The essay is convenient because it is a fairly thorough refutation of the topic at hand…

    “Let’s discuss the issues.” Okay, maybe I will post it piece by piece. Dawkins has an awful argument though. And I hope you can stand my sarcasm.

    “And please, lay off personal attacks – they just get in the way of the real issues and do absolutely nothing for your case.” I apologize if I offended you. I typically respond to fire with fire – believe it or not, I build rapport better that way.

    The last post was a concluding portion to my paper, which you may not properly understand without reading the argument leading up to it. Shall we start from the beginning?

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  76. Please, Josh, no posting the essay. Just in your own words a relatively brief summary of your arguments.

    I get all sorts of people sending me things to read – I have too much king on in my life to do so except unexceptional cases – your isn’t one of them.

    You are advocating faith over scientific knowledge as a process – a complete reversal of modern understanding of how to know he world – something we look up to Galileo for. Now, I have written in this in quite a few articles on this blog and am prepared to have another discussion on the topic – but you are the one making the point so please do so.

    A hint, leave Dawkins out of it – I suspect he is clouding your perception. Just stick with the arguments and avoid personalities. Some people are so obsessed with Dawkins they are unable to think logically when his name comes up – it’s like a red flag to a bull.

    And, no, I am not going to the bother looking up your essay. It’s up to you to make your arguments here.

    And please – no extensive copy and past – that is adjust trolling.

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  77. Read some Kuhn.

    Already have. Do you have a point to make?
    Smallpox.

    …blah.blah.blah.blah…

    Yep, predictable. You have nothing.
    You have only empty assertions and it ticks you off when it’s pointed out to you.
    Your magical invisible friend does not poof into existence because you close your eyes and tap your red shoes three times. Reality does not work that way.

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens

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  78. The last post was a concluding portion to my paper, which you may not properly understand without reading the argument leading up to it. Shall we start from the beginning?

    You could start by removing the stick from your butt.

    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that God exists.

    “In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Unicorns exists.
    In order to reach the higher level of humanity you have to be open-minded and acknowledge not only the possibility, but the reality that Superman exists.”

    Ah, good times.

    Like

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