Being good for goodness’ sake

The London Atheist bus Campaign (“Probably” no God – probably acceptable) seems to be encouraging similar ideas in other cities. The American Humanist Association recently announced an ad campaign in the New York Times and Washington Post. There will also be messages  on the sides and interiors of over 200 Washington DC Metro buses (Humanists Launch Godless Holiday Campaign).

The message – “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake,”

why-believe-bus-side

It’s the first ad campaign of its kind in the United States, and the American Humanist Association predicts it will raise public awareness of humanism as well as controversy over humanist ideas.

“Humanists have always understood that you don’t need a god to be good,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “So that’s the point we’re making with this advertising campaign. Morality doesn’t come from religion. It’s a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience.”

Some Christians insulted

If the London experience is anything to go by the messages should be well received – partly because than are not dogmatic. However, the campaign is predictably being criticised by some Christian organisations. Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association said (“Group’s new Christmas message: Be good, not godly):

“It’s a stupid ad. How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

The Chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group based in Orlando, Florida, said:

“It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.”

These are common arguments used to attack non-theists. But they are stupid and sterile because the reality is that non-theists can be just as moral and ethical as theists. Those arguments are on the same level of those parents who try to blackmail their children to be good because Santa Claus will not bring presents to bad children at Christmas time.

Goodness that comes from within, rather than imposed by blackmail, is what makes humans moral. And religious people are just as capable of this goodness as non-religious people. The problem is that some religious people use their religion, their god, as an excuse or explanation for their goodness.

When we start attributing human morality to a god or religion we fall into the trap of using that belief to excuse other human attitudes. One’s god then becomes an excuse for guilt and judgementalism. And once we start attributing anti-human attitudes to a god we can provide divine justification for things like interfering in human sexuality, banning same sex marriage and stoning adulterers, apostates and rape victims.

Similar articles

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine


156 responses to “Being good for goodness’ sake

  1. Well who defines “goodness?” What if badness helps me and my offspring to survive better? Is that not good for me and mine? What if badness helps a culture to survive better, why not embrace badness? Badness also comes from “within” so why is the “goodness” that comes from within prefered to the “badness” that comes from within – especially if the badness helps survival?

    Like

  2. I have probably made this comment on this blog before but I question the morality of profoundly religious Catholics. The reason isn’t that I do not think they can be helpful to others. It isn’t even that I do not think they can feel compassion. Rather, it is because profound belief in eternal punishment renders all good deeds ultimately self-serving. If you believe deeply in eternal damnation for sins committed on Earth you will see all sins as detrimental to yourself.

    I should add that this view is problematic for me since I, also, believe that all ‘sins’ are ultimately detrimental to oneself. But that is because I believe the good life is one lived morally.

    Like

  3. “How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

    No. 345: ARGUMENT FROM OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE ANARCHY
    (1) There has to be an objective truth to the universe, and humans have to be able to access it.
    (2) Otherwise, there would be anarchy everywhere.
    (3) No courts or governments or anything.
    (4) [Non-believer falls out of her chair from laughing so hard.]
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    “It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.”

    No. 482: CHRISTMAS ARGUMENT
    (1) How can you doubt Christianity now, at this most special and most Holy time of the year?
    (2) Today, oh unbeliever, surely you must fall down in adoration when you consider how God sent his only son to redeem all mankind from Hell!
    (3) Today, oh unbeliever, surely you must fall down in adoration when you consider how we are all God’s children!
    (4) Today, oh unbeliever, surely you must remember how many will go to perdition, as it says in the Holy Book of Revelation!
    (5) God in his infinite compassion does not want you to go to Hell, which He in His infinite mercy created!
    (6) Cease your unbelief, and join in the wonder of Christmas!
    (7) Praise the Baby Jesus!
    (8) Praise the Baby Jesus!
    (9) Praise the Baby Jesus!
    (10) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Like

  4. “How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

    Ok Cedric, define “good.” And then tell us why your definition has any authority or is any more valid than an opposite definition.

    Like

  5. James said: Ok Cedric, define “good.”

    Good is whatever the Flying Spaghetti Monster tells me it is.
    He’s an all knowing, divine creator and that’s about as authoritative as it gets.

    I find it amusing that people think that they know what goodness is when they don’t even accept his Noodly Oneness.
    They fail to realize a simple truth.
    We are ALL made in the FSM’s image and in our heart of hearts we know when we see badness and goodness: objectively, universally, absolutely, and justly.
    The FSM has given us this gift.

    Without His Meatball in The Spicy Sauce, then it’s all subjective.
    Why would somebody farting in an elevator upset you more, let’s say, than a lizard eating a fly?

    No, bro.
    Hear the Truth.

    We have the historic claims and teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I see no reason not to take those claims and teachings at face value.
    Without a belief in the FSM, Mother Teresa and Hitler share the same fate – dust… Nothing we do, in the end, matters. Humans really are just bags of chemicals that “wink” in and out of existence…
    I’m not prepared to accept that.
    So, the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, Q.E.D.

    Like

  6. Another non-answer. Interesting, atheists tell us to be good (for goodness sake), but they can’t even define good… So I guess this whole American Humanist thing is just nonsense… What else is new…

    Like

  7. James, (comment #1), personally I think that whatever “badness” might help someone in the short-term, leaves us collectively worse off in the long-term, so that’s part of the reason I myself choose to “be good for goodness sake” 😉 .

    Like

  8. James, (comment #1), personally I think that whatever “badness” might help someone in the short-term, leaves us collectively worse off in the long-term, so that’s part of the reason I myself choose to “be good for goodness sake”

    And we should care about long term consequences why? Especially if short term badness causes me and mine to survive better, even flourish? And how would we define “worse?” Worse compared to what?

    Like

  9. worse than how well we could’ve been had you not committed your “badness” is what I was obviously referring to, James, come on now

    I don’t need the threat of hell, cuz’ I have empathy, I care about other people

    if you need some sorta fear to keep you in line, then the most I could offer is that you don’t know how soon the long-term consequences might hit you

    people are less likely to kindly treat someone who hasn’t kindly treated them

    & if you care about “me and mine” then I might guess that you somewhat care about the future of your kin

    Like

  10. James said…”Another non-answer.”

    Well, they’re your words.
    🙂

    Like

  11. worse than how well we could’ve been had you not committed your “badness” is what I was obviously referring to, James, come on now

    I don’t need the threat of hell, cuz’ I have empathy, I care about other people

    if you need some sorta fear to keep you in line, then the most I could offer is that you don’t know how soon the long-term consequences might hit you

    people are less likely to kindly treat someone who hasn’t kindly treated them

    & if you care about “me and mine” then I might guess that you somewhat care about the future of your kin

    And yes Iapetus, you have no idea if those long term consequences will ever effect me or mine. Heck, me and mine (just like you are yours) are all going to die anyway. No matter how moral and loving you are – you die. We all die, it all ends. Many evil men live long and prosperous lives. Many good men die young. There is not a lot of cause and effect here…In other words “possible” unknown consequences does not seem to be a good reason to act morally. I think the fact that we simply have an emotional desire to act kindly (empathy) is a better reason. But of course, then we are left with mere preference.

    Like

  12. I don’t need the threat of hell, cuz’ I have empathy, I care about other people

    if you need some sorta fear to keep you in line, then the most I could offer is that you don’t know how soon the long-term consequences might hit you

    I don’t need fear to keep me in line, though some do. I love God because He first loved me and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for my sins. And as I said, we are saved by grace, not works. But I do like the fact of ultimate justice. That one day all evil will be removed from the universe and civil society. A true brotherhood of man, where men will effortlessly love their fellow man as themselves and love God with all their hearts. Where even nature will be reconciled with nature – the Lion will lie with the lamb…

    Like

  13. Christian morality:

    By CS Lewis:

    People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

    http://www.philosophyforlife.com/mctoc.htm

    Like

  14. James said…”But of course, then we are left with mere preference.”

    I can’t accept mere preference.
    A purely emotional desire to act kindly is amusing to me.
    Why do non-believers bother to act kindly?
    I do wish they would spare me their subjective moral niciness… It’s meaningless…

    Why can’t unbelievers just admit the truth?
    People who act kindly are clearly feigning it.

    All men have a Flying Spaghetti Monster given moral sense.

    How does one know that a stick is crooked unless he first has some idea of what a straight stick looks like? How does the evolutionary process give us the idea of a straight stick?

    It can’t.

    However, an all powerful, all knowing “Being” if (and I stress IF) He existed would odviously know if a stick was straight.

    What we need is an objective morality.
    A way of knowing that a stick is straight or not.

    Who can provide that objective morality?
    The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a truth-teller – not a liar. That he speaks as the One True Pasta on moral issues.

    Ergo, the Flying Spaghetti Monster Exists.

    Like

  15. James said…”But I do like the fact of ultimate justice. That one day all evil will be removed from the universe and civil society.”

    No. 544: ARGUMENT FROM NEGATIVE DIVINE JUSTICE (I)
    (1) If there is no God, then Hitler and Stalin were never punished for the evil that they did.
    (2) There would be no Divine Justice for them, and this is not acceptable.
    (3) Only God could give us Divine Justice.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Like

  16. Well for what it’s worth, I think of empathy as the epitome of human experience, James, those who don’t have it are missing out.

    It’s a developmental thing, learning to outgrow selfishness.

    Yes, death awaits us all, if that’s all anybody ever cared about you’d think we’d all just commit mass suicide or something, to get it out of the way, yet we don’t & I suppose your next question would be why, cuz’ all these notions seem to be so difficult to grasp somehow, well here’s my answer: cuz’ we actually feel the urge to DO something with our lives, James, while we have it, & with our world. There is so much beauty out there, James, right here on Earth, why waste time trying to destroy it? why not add to it? you know, try to make the most it.. can the concept really be that foreign?

    Like

  17. James said…”Christian morality: By CS Lewis: etc, etc,etc, etc, etc ,etc ”

    No. 192: ARGUMENT FROM C.S. LEWIS
    (1) C.S. Lewis had a lot of good arguments in favor of Christianity … at least that’s what all my Christian friends tell me…
    (2) C.S. Lewis wrote some popular books too!
    (3) So anything C.S. Lewis said must be right!
    (4) Therefore, God Exists.

    Like

  18. Well for what it’s worth, I think of empathy as the epitome of human experience, James, those who don’t have it are missing out. It’s a developmental thing, learning to outgrow selfishness.

    I would say that the summum bonum is love. Empathy being a key part of that. And yes we should out grow selfishness, but I have a hard time understanding why that would be desirable in a non-theistic universe. Especially if selfishness serves our greater good. I mean if both empathy and selfishness are natural dispositions it is hard to objectively choose between the two. Why empathy over selfishness, especially if empathy causes us harm or loss – which it easily can. I think you are smuggling in an objective moral truth, an objective reference point…

    There is so much beauty out there, James, right here on Earth, why waste time trying to destroy it? why not add to it? you know, try to make the most it.. can the concept really be that foreign?

    Well we would probably agree on a lot of this. But that is our opinion. Others might see personal power and wealth as their summum bonum. And it’s hard to see how our opinion would be more valid or correct than theirs in a non-theistic universe. There would be no objective rule or law to mitigate between the two opinions…

    BTW are you a different Iapetus?

    Like

  19. Iapetus (the original!)

    Hey, looks like I have a double!

    “I have probably made this comment on this blog before but I question the morality of profoundly religious Catholics. The reason isn’t that I do not think they can be helpful to others. It isn’t even that I do not think they can feel compassion. Rather, it is because profound belief in eternal punishment renders all good deeds ultimately self-serving. If you believe deeply in eternal damnation for sins committed on Earth you will see all sins as detrimental to yourself.”

    Quite right.

    I have noted it on another thread before, but it bears repeating:

    Christian morality as presented in the bible is based on the tenets of reward and retribution. It crudely appeals to the self-interest of the individual in order to enforce its requirements and to achieve obedience, i.e. it has a strongly utilitaristic component. The idea of the morally good deed that carries its worth in itself (as well as the morally objectionable deed that is worthy in itself to be refrained from) is utterly alien to this morality. To once again cite Walter Kaufmann (“The Faith of a Heretic”):

    “The point is that Jesus’ ethics, as it is presented in the Gospels, is based on the incessant appeal to the hope of a reward. Jesus preaches to those who desire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and tells them how to achieve this.”

    Of course there were attempts to ethicize it, most notably by one of the most sincere, but unfortunately also one of the most neglected Christian reformers, namely Albert Schweitzer. He realized that this could only be achieved by more or less discarding most of the relevant biblical passages and reinterpreting the rest in light of a consequent, secularistic humanism. It is no coincidence that modern day theologians and church officials try to ignore him as best they can.

    “The Chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group based in Orlando, Florida, said:

    “It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.””

    Translation: non-theists can believe whatever they want as long as they keep their mouths shut about it while we proclaim our beliefs loudly and proudly.

    It never ceases to amaze me when people assert a “right not to be offended”. If this principle was generally adopted, any discussion could be immediately terminated by claiming that the opposing viewpoint causes me “offense”. There is a difference between attacking a person and attacking an opinion said person holds. Confounding these issues is simply ridiculous and a cheap method to stifle criticism.

    Finally, some thoughts about theistic and non-theistic morality:

    First of all, it is a common misconception that invoking a deity as a justification for moral values would provide an objective basis for them. “Objective” means “independent of personal opinion, will, desire etc.”, and that means both human and divine. What we have here is a conflation between “objective” and “universal”. While the commands of an omnipotent or at least unimaginably powerful being might be universally applicable to humans and while such a being might be capable of enforcing them, they are absolutely not objective, since they are determined by this being.

    Furthermore, like any attempt at an ultimate justification it runs into the problem of ultimate regress vs. arbitrary termination via recourse to a dogma. After all, how would the theist justify that the deity´s moral commands must be obeyed? The only answer he can give is to say that his deity is a moral absolute and that there can not be anything more. However, this is nothing but an assertion to terminate the regress at this point.

    Regarding the non-theist, he has access both to objectivist as well as subjectivist moral theories, depending on his metaphysical commitments.

    If he does not adhere to a strict materialism, he can be an objectivist neo-Kantian or even a full-blown Platonist.

    However, successfully applicable and justifiable moral theories do not require metaphysically objective moral values at all.

    Intentionality, communication of concepts and a tendency to cooperate (which is given – as not having the latter would not be evolutionary stable at all) – that is all that is needed, and none of these is definitly impossible to account for within materialism. So, while a strict materialist cannot be a neo-Kantian or Platonist, he can definitely be a utilitarianist, a contractualist or a consequentialist of any flavour.

    While an ethical theory from within materialism cannot employ the traditional concepts of “one morally ought to behave this way” – meaning “there is an absolute metaphysical standard which by its nature it is the right thing to do to conform to”, the words “ought”, “must” and their negatives can be employed from within the framework outlined above – coherently. No problem, really.

    The fact that most if not all theists think that morality is unfulfilling and useless without metaphysically objective moral values is interesting with regard to psychological and emotional needs, but naturally does not imply in any way that such things exist (and even if they did, I do not see how we would have epistemological access to them).

    Like

  20. I should make it clear – you can believe in a god and still do good.

    Like

  21. I should make it clear – you can believe in a god and still do good.

    And you can be an atheist and still do good. My pain management doctor is a stone cold atheist, we are great friends, and he is one of the most ethical men I know…

    Like

  22. Jmaes said…”My pain management doctor is a stone cold atheist, we are great friends, and he is one of the most ethical men I know…”

    And those ethics, being subjective, are “amusing” to you.
    You know he’s “feigning” them.
    Yeah?

    Given your behaviour here on this site, I’d like to know how you interact with him.
    Do you feel obliged to show up daily at his clinic and spam him with questions too?
    The answer to each of your questions being (of course)…”Nah huh, you’re wrong. Thor diddit!”

    Or perhaps you choose to be more social to people in real life? Maybe you restrict your trolling to cyberspace because it doesn’t really count here.
    Hmmm?

    Like

  23. Do you feel obliged to show up daily at his clinic and spam him with questions too?

    Yes unlike you he enjoys actually interacting. At my last visit we spent 10 minutes for the exam and over an hour in his private office discussing all manner of things. I know him on the outside too. We do have a lot in common though, he is strongly pro-life and politically conservative. And he is not at all anal when it comes to religion…

    Like

  24. There is a very good case and strong scientific evidence from studies throughout many different cultures, that our morality is an evolutionary trait that originated from our care for our relatives, our groups, and eventually our close circle of people. “Help me to help you” tactics were also important. Probably many other stuff that I forget right now.

    As for defining good, one might have problems doing it even if we accept God and his infallible word. James, how would you define good based on your beliefs and religion?

    Being good can be defined mainly as being fair and just, and perhaps also as not inflicting pain (in any form) on those around you.

    Like

  25. “Yes unlike you he enjoys actually interacting.”

    Trolling is not the same as interacting.
    Interact here as much as you like.
    Just don’t troll.

    Here’s an experiment.
    Ask him to check out your postings here.
    Ask him whether or not you troll.

    “And he is not at all anal when it comes to religion…”

    So you and he must be very different.

    Like

  26. (apparently my original post was lost in the ether, so I will try again)

    Hey, looks like I have a double!

    “I have probably made this comment on this blog before but I question the morality of profoundly religious Catholics. The reason isn’t that I do not think they can be helpful to others. It isn’t even that I do not think they can feel compassion. Rather, it is because profound belief in eternal punishment renders all good deeds ultimately self-serving. If you believe deeply in eternal damnation for sins committed on Earth you will see all sins as detrimental to yourself.”

    Quite right.

    I have noted it on another thread before, but it bears repeating:

    Christian morality as presented in the bible is based on the tenets of reward and retribution. It openly appeals to the self-interest of the individual in order to enforce its requirements and to achieve obedience, i.e. it has a strongly utilitaristic component. The idea of the morally good deed that carries its worth in itself (as well as the morally objectionable deed that is worthy in itself to be refrained from) is utterly alien to this morality. To once again cite Walter Kaufmann (“The Faith of a Heretic”):

    “The point is that Jesus’ ethics, as it is presented in the Gospels, is based on the incessant appeal to the hope of a reward. Jesus preaches to those who desire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and tells them how to achieve this.”

    Of course there were attempts to ethicize it, most notably by one of the most sincere, but unfortunately also one of the most neglected and disregarded Christian reformers, namely Albert Schweitzer. He realized that this could only be achieved by more or less discarding most of the relevant biblical passages and reinterpreting the rest in light of a consequent, secularistic humanism. It is no coincidence that modern day theologians and church officials try to ignore him as best they can.

    “The Chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group based in Orlando, Florida, said:

    “It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.””

    Translation: non-theists can believe whatever they want as long as they keep their mouths shut about it while we proclaim our beliefs loudly and proudly.

    It never ceases to amaze me when people assert a “right not to be offended”. If this principle was generally adopted, any discussion could be immediately terminated by claiming that the opposing viewpoint causes me “offense”. There is a difference between attacking a person and attacking an opinion said person holds. Confounding these issues is simply ridiculous and a cheap method to stifle criticism.

    Finally, some thoughts about theistic and non-theistic morality:

    First of all, it is a common misconception that invoking a deity as a justification for moral values would provide an objective basis for them. “Objective” means “independent of personal opinion, will, desire etc.”, and that encompasses both human and divine. What we have here is a conflation between “objective” and “universal”. While the commands of an omnipotent or at least unimaginably powerful being might be universally applicable to humans and while such a being might be capable of enforcing them, they are absolutely not objective, since they are determined by this being.

    Furthermore, like any attempt at an ultimate justification it runs into the problem of ultimate regress vs. arbitrary termination via recourse to a dogma. After all, how would the theist justify that the deity´s moral commands must be obeyed? The only answer he can give is to say that they are a moral absolute and that there can not be anything more. However, this is nothing but an assertion based on a respective definition to terminate the regress at this point.

    Regarding the non-theist, he has access both to objectivist as well as subjectivist moral theories, depending on his metaphysical commitments.

    If he does not adhere to a strict materialism, he can be an objectivist neo-Kantian or even a full-blown Platonist.

    However, successfully applicable and justifiable moral theories do not require metaphysically objective moral values at all.

    Intentionality, communication of concepts and a tendency to cooperate (which is given – as not having the latter would not be evolutionary stable at all) – that is all that is needed, and none of these is definitly impossible to account for within materialism. So, while a strict materialist cannot be a neo-Kantian or Platonist, he can definitely be a utilitarianist, a contractualist or a consequentialist of any flavour.

    While an ethical theory from within materialism cannot employ the traditional concepts of “one morally ought to behave this way” – meaning “there is an absolute metaphysical standard which by its nature it is the right thing to do to conform to”, the words “ought”, “must” and their negatives can be employed from within the framework outlined above – coherently. There is no problem here.

    The fact that most if not all theists think that morality is unfulfilling and useless without metaphysically objective moral values is interesting with regard to psychological and emotional needs, but naturally does not imply in any way that such things exist (and even if they did, I do not see how we would have epistemological access to them).

    And with that I am off into the weekend!

    Like

  27. There is a very good case and strong scientific evidence from studies throughout many different cultures, that our morality is an evolutionary trait that originated from our care for our relatives, our groups, and eventually our close circle of people.

    Well I would not consider evolutionary psychology a field of science, since as I said in another thread, there is no human behavior that could falsify this theory of human behavior. When a system explains completely opposite behaviors (like a woman loving her child or a woman throwing her child in the dumpster) it can’t be falisfied. And even if our morality has an evolutionary component to it, and it may have, that does not negate a God given conscience.

    As for defining good, one might have problems doing it even if we accept God and his infallible word. James, how would you define good based on your beliefs and religion?

    Good first would be defined by the teachings and example of Christ and the New Testament writers in general. It would be an objective good to love one’s neighbor. It would be an objective good to help the weak, poor and outcast. It would be an objective good to refrain from stealing, fornication, adultery, drunkenness etc… Ontologically these moral commands would vastly superior if they were grounded in an all wise, supremely powerful Creator, rather than being grounded in our subjective opinion.

    Being good can be defined mainly as being fair and just, and perhaps also as not inflicting pain (in any form) on those around you.

    Well sure, that may be our opinion. But why would that opinion be anymore valid or correct than an opposite opinion? Perhaps, like we have just seen on Wall Street, some would believe that greed is good.

    Like

  28. “Well I would not consider evolutionary psychology a field of science”

    you bypassed the point where I said “strong scientific evidence”. And it seems to me that you have not studied the field enough. Evolution provides the foundations for moral guidance. The environment and current conditions will fine tune each individual’s character -thus allowing for exceptions in the general rules. Read a bit more on the subject before rejecting a valid scientific field purely based on your theistic presumptions!

    “Good first would be defined by the teachings and example of Christ and the New Testament writers in general. It would be an objective good to love one’s neighbor.”

    The teachings and example of Christ are open to huge interpretation issues and contain discrimination and violence. Regarding the neighbour it is speculated that Christ was referring to a “tribal” neighbourhood thus promoting discrimination against other groups outside the “neighbourhood”. In any case, the absolute nature of the objectively good factors you mention makes them meaningless for adoption in real-life situations. Such pure deontological approach is not realistic and not helpful. Sometimes it might be good to lie.

    “Well sure, that may be our opinion. But why would that opinion be anymore valid or correct than an opposite opinion?”

    I think everyone would agree on such definition of good even if unconsciously. As I mentioned (but you ignored) there are many scientific studies that show exactly that people around the world, with different cultures, different environments, different conditions etc. all “agree” and act based on the fundamental principles of goodness and following moral values they might not even be able to explain why. This is true for non-religious people as well as non-Christians. And there are lots of such studies James that show this. It seems to me that Christ is completely unnecessary for the vast majority of the world’s population to realize what good is.

    And it also seems evident from your posts and your ignoring of facts James, that you realize that with the advance of science there are less and less things for God to have done and be responsible for. Gaps are being filled in and the only thing you have left now is cheap philosophical tricks and irrelevant questions which I am sure you will employ again soon enough.

    Like

  29. Test

    Like

  30. Hmm, apparently I can no longer post under my usual name since my double showed up.

    Ken, is there anything you can do about it? After all, it seems that I have the older IP rights here…

    “I have probably made this comment on this blog before but I question the morality of profoundly religious Catholics. The reason isn’t that I do not think they can be helpful to others. It isn’t even that I do not think they can feel compassion. Rather, it is because profound belief in eternal punishment renders all good deeds ultimately self-serving. If you believe deeply in eternal damnation for sins committed on Earth you will see all sins as detrimental to yourself.”

    Quite right.

    I have noted it on another thread before, but it bears repeating:

    Christian morality as presented in the bible is based on the tenets of reward and retribution. It blatantly appeals to the self-interest of the individual in order to enforce its requirements and to achieve obedience, i.e. it has a strongly utilitaristic component. The idea of the morally good deed that carries its worth in itself (as well as the morally objectionable deed that is worthy in itself to be refrained from) is utterly alien to this morality. To once again cite Walter Kaufmann (“The Faith of a Heretic”):

    “The point is that Jesus’ ethics, as it is presented in the Gospels, is based on the incessant appeal to the hope of a reward. Jesus preaches to those who desire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and tells them how to achieve this.”

    Of course there were attempts to ethicize it, most notably by one of the most sincere, but unfortunately also one of the most neglected and overlooked Christian reformers, namely Albert Schweitzer. He realized that this could only be achieved by more or less discarding most of the relevant biblical passages and reinterpreting the rest in light of a consequent, secularistic humanism. It is no coincidence that modern day theologians and church officials try to ignore him as best they can.

    “The Chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group based in Orlando, Florida, said:

    “It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.””

    Translation: non-theists can believe whatever they want as long as they keep their mouths shut about it while we proclaim our beliefs loudly and proudly.

    It never ceases to amaze me when people assert a “right not to be offended”. If this principle was generally adopted, any discussion could be immediately terminated by claiming that the opposing viewpoint causes me “offense”. There is a difference between attacking a person and attacking an opinion said person holds. Confounding these issues is simply ridiculous and a cheap method to stifle criticism.

    Finally, some thoughts about theistic and non-theistic morality:

    First of all, it is a common misconception that invoking a deity as a justification for moral values would provide an objective basis for them. “Objective” means “independent of personal opinion, will, desire etc.”, and that encompasses both human and divine. What we have here is a conflation between “objective” and “universal”. While the commands of an omnipotent or at least unimaginably powerful being might be universally applicable to humans and while such a being might be capable of enforcing them, they are absolutely not objective, since they are determined by this being.

    Furthermore, like any attempt at an ultimate justification it runs into the problem of ultimate regress vs. arbitrary termination via recourse to a dogma. After all, how would the theist justify that the deity´s moral commands must be obeyed? The only answer he can give is to say that they are a moral absolute and that there can not be anything more. However, this “absoluteness” is merely definitional to terminate the regress at this point.

    Regarding the non-theist, he has access both to objectivist as well as subjectivist moral theories, depending on his metaphysical commitments.

    If he does not adhere to a strict materialism, he can be an objectivist neo-Kantian or even a full-blown Platonist.

    However, successfully applicable and justifiable moral theories do not require metaphysically objective moral values at all.

    Intentionality, communication of concept s and a tendency to cooperate (which is given – as not having the latter would not be evolutionary stable at all) – that is all that is needed, and none of these is impossible to account for within materialism. So, while a strict materialist cannot be a neo-Kantian or Platonist, he can definitely be a utilitarianist, a contractualist or a consequentialist of any flavour.

    While an ethical theory from within materialism cannot employ the traditional concepts of “one morally ought to behave this way” – meaning “there is an absolute metaphysical standard which by its nature it is the right thing to do to conform to”, the words “ought”, “must” and their negatives can be employed from within the framework outlined above – coherently.

    The fact that most if not all theists think that morality is unfulfilling and useless without metaphysically objective moral values is interesting with regard to psychological and emotional needs, but naturally does not imply in any way that such things exist (and even if they did, I do not see how we would have epistemological access to them).

    And with this it is off into the weekend for me…

    Like

  31. you bypassed the point where I said “strong scientific evidence”. And it seems to me that you have not studied the field enough. Evolution provides the foundations for moral guidance. The environment and current conditions will fine tune each individual’s character -thus allowing for exceptions in the general rules. Read a bit more on the subject before rejecting a valid scientific field purely based on your theistic presumptions!

    Well is there any observed behavior that can falsifiy this theory of human behavior? And if it can’t be falsified then is it really “science?” To be honest, you can have no idea if human morality can be reduced to purely material causes. And even if God used the evolutionary process to created morally aware beings that does not precluded the objective, universal nature of moral truths. It’s not a either or…

    The teachings and example of Christ are open to huge interpretation issues and contain discrimination and violence. Regarding the neighbour it is speculated that Christ was referring to a “tribal” neighbourhood thus promoting discrimination against other groups outside the “neighbourhood”.

    That is incorrect Stavros. Christ used a samaritan as an example of a neighbor. Taught that God loved the world, that our love needs to extend to ememies (certainly that would include other tribes), that He was a light to the gentiles. And the New Testament epistles show this love to be universal, that is how the early Christians understood this.

    I think everyone would agree on such definition of good even if unconsciously. As I mentioned (but you ignored) there are many scientific studies that show exactly that people around the world, with different cultures, different environments, different conditions etc. all “agree” and act based on the fundamental principles of goodness and following moral values they might not even be able to explain why. This is true for non-religious people as well as non-Christians. And there are lots of such studies James that show this. It seems to me that Christ is completely unnecessary for the vast majority of the world’s population to realize what good is.

    I agree that most men understand these moral truths. After all we are created in the image of a moral God and all men have his law “written” on their hearts. The question is Stavros, if a man, in a godless universe, has an opposing moral opinion to yours, who is correct? Why is your opinion more valid that his?

    And it also seems evident from your posts and your ignoring of facts James, that you realize that with the advance of science there are less and less things for God to have done and be responsible for. Gaps are being filled in and the only thing you have left now is cheap philosophical tricks and irrelevant questions which I am sure you will employ again soon enough.

    First, you can assume all you want. When you show me how the universe was created, how biolgical life on earth began, why/how that early life form survived, and if you can prove that the universe is presently self sustaining – then we can talk. Until then, if you can’t, the largest, most important questions remain. So no Stavros, the God of scripture is not out of a job – not even close…

    Like

  32. James you demonstrate once again your fallacious reasoning. You ask for 100% foolproof science (which cannot be obtained) while at the same time you easily fall back to “God said so, God did it, no need to argue, no need for evidence”. This cannot work in a discussion. The fact that “large” questions remain means nothing in regards to science pushing aside God more and more.

    Second, I clearly said that the teachings of Christ are open to various interpretations (and this is a fact considering the various Christian denominations and derived belief systems) and they still contain violence no matter how *you* interpret those passages. This fact alone shows that it is impossible to take those as our moral guides (since we still need moral guidance to decide how to interpret and adopt Christ’s teachings!). Further, moral principles have evolved significantly throughout history and with the advances of society. What has religion contributed to that? I will tell you: nothing.

    Neuroscience, population studies, evolutionary psychology etc. are making huge advances in showing indeed that morality can be reduced to materialistic causes and the mind is merely part of the brain. You can deny all you want but this has been the case with other famous Christian (and other religious) claims that have been shown to be totally incorrect by science (the age of Earth, the creation, the Flood, diseases being punishment for sins and many, many more!) And no, I will not provide you page and line numbers from the Bible where it says these things. We all now it does -either explicitly or implicitly.

    Like

  33. James hits the re-set button with…”After all we are created in the image of a moral God and all men have his law “written” on their hearts. The question is Stavros, if a man, in a godless universe, has an opposing moral opinion to yours, who is correct? Why is your opinion more valid that his?”

    No.62: ARGUMENT FROM ABSOLUTE MORAL STANDARDS
    (1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
    (2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
    (3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
    (4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    James said…”First, you can assume all you want.”

    Not that you’re doing any such thing, right?
    🙂 🙂 🙂

    James waves his hands in helpless ignorance…”When you show me how the universe was created, how biolgical life on earth began, why/how that early life form survived, and if you can prove that the universe is presently self sustaining – then we can talk. Until then, if you can’t, the largest, most important questions remain.”

    God-of-the-gaps argument.
    The term God-of-the-gaps argument usually refers to an argument that assumes an act of God as the explanation for an unknown phenomenon, and is a variant of an argument from ignorance. Commonly such an argument can be reduced to the following form:

    There is a gap in scientific knowledge.
    The gap is filled by acts of a god (and therefore also proves, or helps to prove, the existence of said god).
    One example of such an argument, demonstrating how God is supposed to explain one of the gaps in biology, is as follows: “Because current science can’t figure out exactly how life started, it must be God who caused life to start.” This example is widely used in the debate of “intelligent design vs. evolution”, since the religious side of intelligent design often tries to discredit the theory of evolution for not accounting for the origin of life.

    The God-of-the-gaps argument is the target of frequent criticism, often over the fact that the so-called “explanation” it provides for unexplained phenomena is not really an explanation, but rather an argument from ignorance.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

    Jame concludes…”So no Stavros, the God of scripture is not out of a job – not even close…”

    So no Stavros, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not out of a job – not even close…”

    ……………………………………………….

    Stick to sideline questions leading nowhere, James.
    Once you try and expound on your worldview, you end up just sounding silly.
    God of the Gaps! Give me a break. That is SO intellectually bankrupt.

    (Great entertainment value for the rest of us however)

    Like

  34. James you demonstrate once again your fallacious reasoning. You ask for 100% foolproof science (which cannot be obtained) while at the same time you easily fall back to “God said so, God did it, no need to argue, no need for evidence”. This cannot work in a discussion. The fact that “large” questions remain means nothing in regards to science pushing aside God more and more.

    If the uninverse is notself generating and self sustaining – then that would be the whole ball of wax. That is everything…. Now you can say that “nature did it” but until you have conclusive evidence we will take that as your faith position…

    Second, I clearly said that the teachings of Christ are open to various interpretations (and this is a fact considering the various Christian denominations and derived belief systems) and they still contain violence no matter how *you* interpret those passages. This fact alone shows that it is impossible to take those as our moral guides (since we still need moral guidance to decide how to interpret and adopt Christ’s teachings!). Further, moral principles have evolved significantly throughout history and with the advances of society. What has religion contributed to that? I will tell you: nothing.

    First, the New Testament teaching are quite clear for any rational person – sure men (even men who claim the name of Christ) can ignore them for their own selfish ends. Second, the human rights we so enjoy came out of the Christianized west (we hold these truth to be self evident, that all men are CREATED equal). Third, moral principles have not evolved that much. Rape, murder, war, genocide, etc.. are still with us. And Christ’s teaching to love one’s neighbor is still valid to this day – unless you don’t believe that is a good moral principle?

    But again Stavros, why is your moral opinion on any subject any more vaild that an opposing opinion? Be specific please.

    Neuroscience, population studies, evolutionary psychology etc. are making huge advances in showing indeed that morality can be reduced to materialistic causes and the mind is merely part of the brain.

    Are you are joking right? Because we think morally, that precludes objective moral truths? How does that follow? BTW Stavros, we are far from proving that the mind can be reduced to mere physical processes.

    We can start with the “The hard problem of consciousness.”

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

    And I will ask again, can evolutionary psychology as a theory of human behavior be falsified? What observed human behavior can falsifiy this theory? Please present one. And if can’t be falsified how can it be rightly called science?

    And no, I will not provide you page and line numbers from the Bible where it says these things. We all now it does -either explicitly or implicitly.

    For instance, the bible never tells us the age of the earth or universe. Some read Genesis in a more literal way than others. Many Christian, going back to Augustine, long before this present debate, hold to a day age theory. This theoory does no violence to the texts or Christian beliefs in general.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-Age_creationism

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

    Like

  35. I don’t know why my last post showed up four times. Perhaps Ken can remove three of them. Thanks…

    Like

  36. Sorry about the comments hold up. For some reason many comments have been going straight to spam (despite not exceeding the maximum links). This has also happened in the past.

    Maybe it’s a problem with WordPress or Aksimet – I have sent queries to both of them,

    All I can do at this stage is check the spam queue daily and despam the comments. Hopefully the problem won’t continue. Maybe its just one of the trials one has to accept with the free blogging platform.

    Like

  37. @ Prometheus:

    This was probably just a result of the problem I have had with everybody’s comments going to the spam list.

    Like

  38. Jame concludes…”So no Stavros, the God of scripture is not out of a job – not even close…”

    If you think otherwise Cedric then simply prove that the universe is self generating and self sustaining. Or are you just going to assume that “nature did it?” Then show that what we call “natural” actually is “natural.” In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/god_of_the_gaps.html

    Like

  39. “moral principles have not evolved that much”

    James you sure live in a world of your own… There have been HUGE advances in moral principles, from the position of women, to slavery etc. etc.

    In comment #34 you still demonstrate your fallacious reasoning: you are avoiding Occam’s Razor and introducing a God to exaplina what we don’t know yet (and as Cedric has also pointed out, as well as myself in a previous thread, this God-of-the-gaps argument you keep using is really pathetic!); you do not accept that the Bible is open to interpretations (!!!); more God-of-the-gaps with the consciousness issue (as with other issues in the past); you are not accepting the huge advances in the fields I mention (out of ignorance for these advances maybe?); and you go to the grand finale with the age-of-the-earth issue which just shows that you didn’t understand some part of “the bible is open to interpretations” statement I made.

    Once again, is like talking to a brick wall…

    In any case, I can now understand why many people reply simply with ridicule (like Cedric for instance). You are immune to reason and scientific evidence. Nothing is good for you (well, except whatever starts with “God this” or “God that”). And as always: you cannot reason someone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into in the first place…

    End of this thread for me. Good night to all.

    Like

  40. @ James – November 15, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    “when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.” – this is a pathetic justification for a god, flying spaghetti monster or whatever. It starts with the conclusion and then says it must be true if you can’t prove otherwise. It leads to selecting the evidence rather than the scientific process of following the evidence.

    I am sure that if there is such a god or a flying spaghetti monster she would not want to win acceptance in such a pathetic way. That would be beneath her dignity. She would want to be discovered by an honest scientific process – surely?

    Like

  41. James demonstrates that he deserves a lump of coal in his stocking this year by saying…”Now you can say that “nature did it” but until you have conclusive evidence we will take that as your faith position…

    Who are the crowd of mental midgets that comprise this “we” business?

    Boy and girls, gather round….

    Before people understood electricity, there was Thor.
    Only Thor didn’t really exist.
    People made him up to explain the thunder and lightning.

    Somebody who is ignorant of electricity doesn’t require faith not to think Thor is responsible for lightning.
    Somebody living in a time when electricity has yet to be discovered doesn’t require faith not to think Thor is responsible for lightning.
    Duh!

    James said…”If you think otherwise Cedric then simply prove that the universe is self generating and self sustaining.”

    (rolls eyes)

    James, that doesn’t make any sense. Think about it.

    James said…”In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.”

    “In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not sustaining it all right now.”

    See? Do you get it now?
    Insert your favourite deity, rinse and repeat.
    Heck, doesn’t even have to be a deity. Santa Claus or the Sultana-flavoured Jabawocky will do nicely.

    “In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that Santa Claus is not sustaining it all right now.”

    Sound good to you?
    😮

    “In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that the Sultana-flavoured Jabawocky is not sustaining it all right now.”

    Reclaim your brain. Start thinking for a change.

    Like

  42. Stavros…”Once again, is like talking to a brick wall…

    In any case, I can now understand why many people reply simply with ridicule (like Cedric for instance). You are immune to reason and scientific evidence. Nothing is good for you (well, except whatever starts with “God this” or “God that”). And as always: you cannot reason someone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into in the first place…

    End of this thread for me. Good night to all.”

    Glad you came and pointed out James’ foolishness.
    You understand what we’ve had to put up with for the last couple of months.
    He’s always exactly like this.
    🙂

    Checked out your site. Looks good.
    You might want to go over to the pandasthumb.org and introduce yourself there. I’m sure people would be very interested in your work.

    Like

  43. It’s nice to see good, commonsense campaigns like this one. However, unless skeptics are going to be much more direct to individual believers like James, campaigns will only have limited success. Initially, we ought to be patient and firm, not mocking. I find kooky theistic construction hilarious too, but you have to pick your methods of persuasion carefully when starting a debate. Initial appeals to the Flying Spaghetti Monster will seldom get you anywhere.

    Like

  44. In comment #34 you still demonstrate your fallacious reasoning: you are avoiding Occam’s Razor and introducing a God to exaplina what we don’t know yet (and as Cedric has also pointed out, as well as myself in a previous thread, this God-of-the-gaps argument you keep using is really pathetic!); you do not accept that the Bible is open to interpretations (!!!); more God-of-the-gaps with the consciousness issue (as with other issues in the past); you are not accepting the huge advances in the fields I mention (out of ignorance for these advances maybe?); and you go to the grand finale with the age-of-the-earth issue which just shows that you didn’t understand some part of “the bible is open to interpretations” statement I made.

    With Occam’s Razor Stavros we don’t want to multiply entities beyond what is necessary. But we do not know what is necessary to create and sustain the universe. Nothing science has found precludes the God of scripture. As a matter fact we find basically the kind of ordered, understandable, fine tuned universe we would expect a rational God to create and uphold. Now you may assume that “nature did it” but that is a faith position with out evidence. And if you can’t show that nature created itself or sustains itself – then that is more than a small gap – that is the whole ball of wax.

    James you sure live in a world of your own… There have been HUGE advances in moral principles, from the position of women, to slavery etc. etc.

    You are joking right? How can there be moral “advances” in a godless universe? Why are these moral principles more advanced? According to whom? Again Stavros, why is your moral opinion more vaild or correct than an opposite opinion?

    Like

  45. “when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.” – this is a pathetic justification for a god, flying spaghetti monster or whatever. It starts with the conclusion and then says it must be true if you can’t prove otherwise. It leads to selecting the evidence rather than the scientific process of following the evidence.

    Ken, follow the evidence, I have no problem with that. But until you can prove that the universe is self generating and self sustaining (which is the whole ball of wax) your “belief” that nature did it is just that – a belief. And not once, before my last post #44, did I even suggest that God did it. My point was that science has not, in any sense, disproven the God of scripture. And you guys have no idea whether the universe is self creating or self sustaining – it is a faith position…

    Like

  46. James said…”In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.”

    That is correct Cedric, and you can not prove that “nature” did it either. Heck you can not even prove that we live in a “natural” universe. These are faith assumptions – and we all have them – even you…

    Like

  47. Matty Smith said…”Initially, we ought to be patient and firm, not mocking. I find kooky theistic construction hilarious too, but you have to pick your methods of persuasion carefully when starting a debate. Initial appeals to the Flying Spaghetti Monster will seldom get you anywhere.”

    I agree.
    However, we tried that. All of us.

    James (the one-man train wreck of bad thinking) has been with us for a couple of months now.
    Check out his previous posts!

    (Please, please, please check them out. We had to suffer.
    Therefore you shoud suffer along with the rest of us.)

    Daily spamming multiple threads with his inane questions.

    Seldom does he actually try and make an argument.
    When he does, it’s a self-evident disaster.

    We’ve gone well past the initial stages now.
    Reasoned discourse? Tried it. No effect.
    Repetition? Tried it. No effect.
    Appeals to reason and good taste not to troll? Tried it. No effect.
    So now we’ve moved on to comedy.

    If you want to try and be all adult-like and fair-minded with James, then…good luck with that.
    You will need it.
    🙂

    “My point was that science has not, in any sense, disproven the God of scripture.”

    No. 109: ARGUMENT FROM LACK OF DISPROOF
    (1) You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!
    (2) Therefore, God exists.

    James said…”In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that God is not sustaining it all right now.”

    ”In other words, when it comes to nature, prove that the nostril hairs of Ghengis Kahn are not sustaining it all right now.”

    Have you seen Ghengis Kahn? Have you? AHAH!
    Don’t know what sustains the universe? AHAHA!

    Therefore, Ghengis Kahn’s nostril hairs sustain it all right now.

    Wonderful stuff.

    Like

  48. To Matty Smith:

    (Just a quick Addendum)

    My posts No.5 and No.14 where I invoke the FSM are NOT my words.
    They are James’ words lumped together from previous posts.
    The best way to expose James as a tool is to give him back his own words verbatim.

    Just change the labels, rinse and repeat.
    Easy really.
    🙂

    Like

  49. No. 109: ARGUMENT FROM LACK OF DISPROOF
    (1) You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!
    (2) Therefore, God exists.

    Well no Cedric,It would be more like:

    1.We can explain somethings by natural processes
    2.We can therefore explain all things by natural processes.
    (of course we have no idea what “natural” actually
    means, we just make up definitions)
    3.Therefore God does not exist.

    Promissory Materialismthe claim that materialistic science will eventually be able to explain phenomena it has not so far been able to explain

    Isn’t faith wonderful?

    Like

  50. Appeals to reason and good taste not to troll? Tried it. No effect.

    And this coming from one of the more irrational people I have met on the web. Yep, that carries a lot of weight

    Like

  51. Ah, sorry. I’m new. A little digging has made things clearer. James, I… …er, pray you learn to listen. With a little patience.

    Like

  52. Ah, sorry. I’m new. A little digging has made things clearer. James, I… …er, pray you learn to listen. With a little patience.

    Like

  53. Ah, sorry. I’m new. A little digging has made things clearer. James, I… …er, pray you learn to listen. With a little patience.

    Hello Matty, I’m always (or mostly) quite patient. If you read through these posts you will see that it is primarily the atheists who get upset. But I understand, men don’t like their faith questioned…

    Like

  54. Atheists often claim that human ethics are advancing, here is a quote from a non-theist in this thread:

    There have been HUGE advances in moral principles, from the position of women, to slavery etc. etc.

    But this position is deeply irrational. One can not know if one is advancing morally unless one has an idea of moral prefection. And this ideal must be objective, independent of mere human preference. So where does this objective moral ideal live in a godless universe? And if there is not an objective ideal then calling one set of moral principles “advanced” is simply an assertion, a personal preference – no more correct or valid than an opposing moral opinion. One could rationally say that different sets of ethics are just that – different. But none are superior. As one famous atheist said – “whatever is, is right…”

    Like

  55. James babbles….

    James gets confused again withh…”Blah, blah,blah…
    Therefore God does not exist.”

    No, you cretin.
    Nobody here is saying that God does not exist.

    Do Martians exists?
    Dunno.

    The Great Snarke of Thwarggggg?
    Dunno.

    Read what people write, not what you delusionaly believe what they write.

    James bleats…”Isn’t faith wonderful?”

    Faith has got nothing to do with it.
    It’s called observation.

    Go out into the backyard.
    Stick your fingers into your ears and yell…
    “SCIENCE IS FAITH. SCIENCE IS FAITH. IT REALLY IS. I SAY IT’S SO, THAT MAKES IT SO”

    Only it doesn’t.
    (shrug)

    “And this coming from one of the more irrational people I have met on the web. Yep, that carries a lot of weight”

    Read your own posts to educated people around you.
    Watch them wince in intellectual pain.

    “And this ideal must be objective, independent of mere human preference. So where does this objective moral ideal live in a godless universe?”

    (That’s the spirit, James. Hit that re-set button.
    Maybe nobody will notice this time.)

    No.62: ARGUMENT FROM ABSOLUTE MORAL STANDARDS
    (1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
    (2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
    (3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
    (4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    ……………………………………………….

    Matty said…”Ah, sorry. I’m new. A little digging has made things clearer.”

    No problem. Do check out the threads “A naturalistic approach to human morality.” and “Belief – a curse?” and
    perhaps the funniest one “Let’s celebrate!”.

    James makes some hyterical boo-boos there.
    Once he gets talking about his own beliefs, he proceeds to shoot himself in the foot again and again and again.

    This is a man who has firmly flushed whatever critical thinking skill he may once have had firmly down the toilet. He’s a rolling sideshow of bad hackneyed arguements that is just begging for someone to shout out “Poe’s Law” and get it over and done with.

    As I’ve said before, James is our Internet version of Brother Micah.
    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=EdPaouPz2yY

    …………………………………………….

    Marty said…”James, I… …er, pray you learn to listen. With a little patience.”

    Wouldn’t happen to be a Christian perhaps?
    If you are, please feel free to gently pursuade James that he’s not doing any favours to the Home Team by trolling and making himself look foolish.
    Welcome, in any case.
    🙂

    Like

  56. Cedric, thanks for the comments (#42). I am reading pandas thumb regularly but I do not see how they would be interested. I am not writing about these stuff very often. Do you write somewhere (sorry I could not find out!)? Your username links to randi.org but I didn’t see your name in the contributors there…

    By the way, I see not much have changed in this thread since I left 🙂

    Like

  57. Cedric’s argument against theism #2

    1.I looked in my telescope and didn’t see God.
    2.I looked in my microscope and didn’t see God.
    3.Therefore God does not exist.

    Like

  58. Cedric’s argument against theism #3

    1. God never spoke to me.
    2. If God existed he most certainly would
    want to speak to me, personally.
    3. Therefore God does not exist.

    Like

  59. @ James:

    “Following the evidence” means not assuming “the universe is self generating and self sustaining,” created by a god or spaghetti monster, or whatever. I make no such faith assumptions – do you?

    As for your “God of scripture” – that means different things to different people. Proving or disproving such concepts requires formulation of a hypothesis amenable to testing. No-one really seems interested in doing this.

    This leads me to think that, in a way, gods do exist – in the minds of men and women. They serve certain psychological and social purposes (at least for some people). For that reason no-one (theist or non-theist) is really interested the existence of a god as a scientific question.

    We would be if it was a truth question.

    Like

  60. “Following the evidence” means not assuming “the universe is self generating and self sustaining,” created by a god or spaghetti monster, or whatever. I make no such faith assumptions – do you?

    That’s good to hear Ken, so you are not assuming that the universe is self generating and self sustaining. So you leave room for a Creator.

    Proving or disproving such concepts requires formulation of a hypothesis amenable to testing. No-one really seems interested in doing this.

    Well then you have never read Richard Swinburne

    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth09.html

    Besides, why would God need to be amenable to testing? Does everything have to be amenable to testing to be considered true or real?

    This leads me to think that, in a way, gods do exist – in the minds of men and women. They serve certain psychological and social purposes (at least for some people). For that reason no-one (theist or non-theist) is really interested the existence of a god as a scientific question.

    Can you prove that God only exists in the minds of men? That He doesn’t have real ontological existence?

    Like

  61. Cedric’s argument against theism #4

    1. I saw some bad stuff on TV.
    2. God shouldn’t let bad stuff happen.
    3. Therefore God does not exist.

    Like

  62. (blush of embarrassment)

    Stavros, I checked out your site and Konrads.
    Somehow I managed to blend the two together.

    (too many late nights)

    I should have posted separately.
    One to you about how I checked out your site and found it interesting.
    The other should have been to Konrad regarding his research and inviting him to mention it at the PT.
    (Sorry for the confusion.)
    I don’t have a blog myself.
    I mainly lurk at PT and check out various science related blogs.

    Like

  63. Cedric, no worries, I though it sounded a bit bizarre 🙂 And apologies to Ken for using this space for communication! Won’t happen again (hopefully).

    Like

  64. James gets desperate.
    His arguments are excreable. Everybody has pointed that out to him.
    (Still, can’t complain. It’s just more playdough for me.)

    James has nothing to say.
    So he just makes up stuff!

    Let’s have a look at the trainwreak of his logic.

    Remember boys and girls about how I explained to James that nobody here has claimed god does not exist?
    Nobody.
    Including myself?
    Remember that?
    James doesn’t.

    ( insert studio audience going “ahhh” with sympathy here)

    He’s posted three times with just pure make-believe.
    🙂

    “Therefore God does not exist.”
    “Therefore God does not exist.”
    “Therefore God does not exist.”

    I guess he feels that if he repeats it and repeats it and repeats it then it will somehow all come true.
    How pathetic. How flaccid.

    What did I say, boys and girls?
    That’s right!
    Nobody here has claimed god does not exist.

    What does James read?
    God does not exist.

    (rolls eyes in amusement)

    James, you’re being very petulant.
    Go ahead stamp your foot and repeat yourself.
    I really don’t mind.
    Your reading comprehension is dismal. You logic is non-existent.

    It’s effortless for us to refute you.
    Your arguments aren’t just wrong.
    They’re FAMOUS for being wrong.
    🙂

    Everybody recognises them. They’ve been done. Honest.
    Nobody takes you or your cookie-cutter arguments seriously.

    James said…”So you leave room for a Creator.”

    And room for the Giant Foo Burger on Pluto.
    And room for the invisible aliens in your ear canal.
    And room for Bigfoot.
    And room for Pink unicorns etc.

    It’s all up for grabs, James. Honest. Plenty of room.
    Maybe they all exist.
    Maybe science just hasn’t found them yet.

    However, nobody loses much sleep worrying over whether they exist or not.
    You want to make the claim that Bigfoot exists?
    Or pink unicorns?
    Santa?
    Zeus?
    Go ahead. Present your evidence. We’re all waiting breathlessly.
    (giggle)

    “Can you prove that God only exists in the minds of men? That He doesn’t have real ontological existence?”

    Can you prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster only exists in the minds of men? That His Noodliness doesn’t have real ontological existence?
    (shrug)

    Like

  65. Cedric’s argument against theism #5

    1. God in the Old Testament allowed slavery.
    2. Slavery gives me a bad feeling in my tummy.
    3. Feelings in my tummy tell me what’s right or wrong.
    4. Therefore the God of the bible does not exist.

    Like

  66. You’re losing it, James.

    Now you’re just talking to yourself.

    Engage in real conversation.
    Make an argument.
    🙂

    Like

  67. Cedric’s argument against theism #6

    1. If there was a God, there would be evidence.
    2. But don’t have a non-arbitrary definition for evidence.
    3. And I subjectively decided what is or isn’t evidence.
    4. Therefore I conclude there is no evidence for God.

    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth09.html

    Like

  68. @ Stavros – November 16, 2008 at 8:58 am

    “apologies to Ken for using this space for communication!” – You must be joking! This communication is of infinitely more value than the other stuff going on here at the moment.

    Like

  69. “This communication is of infinitely more value than the other stuff going on here at the moment.”

    Amen.

    Like

  70. Ken: I meant personal communication irrelevant with the thread. But then again judging by James’ repetitions of the same old vacuous “arguments” I fully accept your point 🙂

    Like

  71. Well Stavros, if my arguments are vacuous it should be easy to show that. Show logically how human morality can be considered to have advanced without on objective rule or standard for good…

    Like

  72. Engage in real conversation.Make an argument.

    Like you engage in real conversation? You make real arguments? You want evidence, then give me a non-arbitrary definition for evidence.

    But, for the sake of argument:

    Why isn’t a finite, created and fine tuned universe (fine tuned for biological life)evidence for a Creator? If it is not evidence for a Creator what is it evidence for? Accident?

    The link below lays out 34 fine tuned parameters for the Universe. That without any one of them biological life would be impossible.

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html

    Like

  73. Engage in real conversation.Make an argument.

    Like you engage in real conversation? You make real arguments? You want evidence, then give me a non-arbitrary definition for evidence.

    But, for the sake of argument:

    Why isn’t a finite, created and fine tuned universe (fine tuned for biological life)evidence for a Creator? If it is not evidence for a Creator what is it evidence for? Accident?

    The link below lays out 34 fine tuned parameters for the Universe. That without any one of them biological life would be impossible.

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html

    Like

  74. James said…”Like you engage in real conversation?”

    Yes please. Just like me.
    And Ken. And Stavros. And Iapetus. And Alison. And Heraclides.
    And Damian. And Dale. All of us.
    Start interacting like a normal person.
    Nobody else gets treated like you around here.
    Even DBT gets more respect!

    Think about that.
    DBT.
    People actually have more time for him than they have for you.
    That’s how far you have fallen.

    Stop using empty questions to derail threads.
    Stop using long-ago refuted cookie-cutter arguments that everybody knows ahead of time.
    Stop hitting the re-set button.
    Stop hitting the re-set button.
    Stop hitting the re-set button.

    James said…” You want evidence, then give me a non-arbitrary definition for evidence.”

    You see, here’s an example of what we’re talking about.
    You’re just throwing out this question because you want to go down a dead-end and take me with you.
    Not interested.
    If you want to have a conversation then do some research.
    Open a book!
    Don’t just sit there passively with your gob open waiting for me to spoon feed you like an infant.

    If you starve to death for lack of intellectual stimulus…well…sorry, but it’s not really my problem.
    (shrug)

    James said…”Why isn’t a finite, created and fine tuned universe (fine tuned for biological life)evidence for a Creator?”

    (Cookie-cutter arguments again? Ok. Have it your way.)

    No.6:TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I), a.k.a. DESIGN ARGUMENT
    (1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. Isn’t it complex?
    (2) Only God could have made them so complex.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James said…”The link below lays out 34 fine tuned parameters blah, blah, blah…”

    No.25:ARGUMENT FROM INTERNET AUTHORITY
    (1) There is a website that successfully argues for the existence of God.
    (2) Here is the URL.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    Like

  75. Cedric, I offered the evidence that you asked for. And now you balk! These are the facts, not only do we have a universe, we have a fine tuned universe with some very specific parameters. And not only do we have a fine tuned universe we have a universe fine tuned for biological life (it could just as easily been a fine tuned universe i.e. order and regularity, with out being fined tuned for life). Those are the observed facts…

    So we have two options for the genesis of this goldilox universe, as far as I can see – an intelligent source or a non-intelligent source. Which one is more plausible, and why…

    And Cedric, if you don’t interact with this argument you will expose yourself for the fraud that you are.

    Like

  76. James said…”Cedric, I offered the evidence that you asked for.”

    Huh? When?
    All you did was link to a website.

    …………………………………………………

    What happened to your question about evidence?
    Suddenly you feel that you now can launch into a conversation without bothering to define it?
    Good for you.
    That’s the spirit.

    What changed your mind?
    Did you find a non-arbitrary definition that you are now comfortable with?
    Share.
    ………………………………………………………

    James said…”We have a fine tuned universe.”

    We do?

    (sigh)

    How do you actually know this? Think about it.
    Can you come up with any possible objections to this?
    Is it possible that this is well-trodden ground and fails to impress people?

    ………………………………………………..

    James said…”Which one is more plausible, and why…”

    (…awkward silence…)
    (…the audience shuffles nervously…)

    James?
    James? Hello?
    Um….
    You’re the one that’s bringing up the topic. Not me.
    You’re the one that’s reaching for a new argument. Not me.
    Yeah?

    So, I guess you’re the right candidate to answer your own question in a reasoned and logical manner.

    Go ahead. Make an argument.
    Perhaps this time you have something interesting to say.
    I doubt it but…I’m willing to give you another chance.
    Go for it.

    Like

  77. Obviously Cedric, you are neither a serious person nor an intelligent person. All you have done was feign and bluff. Any rational person would understand the evidence I presented and why it is a valid argument/question. And if this was not a valid argument, on its face, well known atheist like Theodore Drange, Quentin Smith, and Mike Tooley would not be interacting with it.

    You can listen to some of these debate here:

    http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/rfforum/vpost?id=2703927

    You are a child Cedric, a pimpled faced child. BTW – about opening a book? I will put my recent reading list against yours any day.

    Here are references from my Alibris history over the past eleven months:

    God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Lennox

    Warranted Christian Belief. Plantinga

    Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Lewis

    Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. Plantinga,Wolterstorff

    Religion, Reason, and Revelation. Clarke

    The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Keller

    God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Haught

    The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Vox Day

    Dawkins Letters. Robertson

    Darwinism: Sorcery in the Classroom. Schroeder

    Reason for the Hope Within. Murray

    Return to Reason: a Critique of Enlightenment Evidentialism, and a Defense of Reason and Belief in God. Clark

    Knowledge of God. Plantinga ,Tooley

    The Rationality of Belief in God. Mavrodes

    Looking at Philosophy. Palmer

    Philosophy for Christian. Smith

    The Restitution of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism. Aeschliman

    The Existence of God. Swinburne

    Like

  78. James said…”Any rational person would understand the evidence I presented…”

    Evidence.
    That word again.
    What do you mean by it?

    You don’t mind me asking you this question, yeah?
    After all, you did ask me to cough up a non-arbitrary definition of the word evidence before.
    Right?
    So what’s the non-arbitrary definition of evidence that you’re comfortable with?
    (Please give a reference. There’s a good fellow.)

    “Any rational person would understand the evidence I presented…”

    Well, no. You didn’t present anything. You just posted a link.
    Oops.
    😦

    James said…”and why it is a valid argument/question.”

    Make up your mind.
    Is it an argument or are we dealing with a question here?

    James said…”And if this was not a valid argument, on its face, well known atheist like Theodore Drange, Quentin Smith, and Mike Tooley would not be interacting with it.”

    Well, when they come over to this site you’ll be ready and waiting for them, won’t you.
    (No doubt they won’t actually come because they fear your intellect.)
    🙂

    “I will put my recent reading list against yours any day.”

    (Cedric looks at list. A gentle smile spreads across his face)

    Um,…James?
    Your reading list is just a tad lop-sided, wouldn’t you say?

    For example…
    You’ve read “A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens”.

    So that Dawkins.
    Harris.
    Hitchins.

    You’ve read “Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens”.

    So that’s Dawkins again.
    Harris again.
    Hitchins again.

    Yet, and yet, Dawkins himself seems to be strangely absent from your reading list.
    Harris? Absent.
    Hitchins? Not a sausage.
    Oops.

    Why would you read criticisms of authors without reading the authors themselves?

    (You seem to want to have everything pre-digested for you.
    Spoonfeed.
    In a nice little bowl with the temperature just right.)

    Looks like you’ve got some primary source reading to do.

    Further, I couldn’t help but notice that all your books seem to be on Christian apologetics.
    None of them seem to be…well, y’know…science books.

    Considering that this is a science blog, and that you are an ignorant person about science…well…perhaps you should read some introductory literature on how science works?
    Sagan? Fenyman? They’re rather good.
    Just sayin’.

    James said…”You are a child Cedric, a pimpled faced child.”

    Ow.
    No really. Ouch!

    (…time passes…)

    (A tear starts to form from Cedric’s eyes.)

    Why did you say that, James?
    Why?
    Now my feelings are hurt. Especially about the pimples!
    How did you know that I am HIDEOUSLY DEFORMED by acne scarring?
    So much so that I have to wear a hood like in that movie “The Elephant Man”?
    Who told you?
    I feel so terrible and empty now.

    How will I go on in life?
    (sniffle)

    James? This is difficult for me to say. (sniff)
    But…
    Well I…(choke)…just want you to know that people have mentioned my pimples before.
    Ever since my own mother…(sob)…called me a human pimple plantation, I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for many years.
    I have had only my depth of character to draw upon, to sustain me through the hard times.

    (sniffle, quick nose wipe)

    When it all comes down to it, life is too precious to bear ill will to another human being.
    Not matter how mean they may be.

    James?
    (sniff)
    I…I forgive you.
    I really do.

    Peace bro.

    Like

  79. We are done bro…. You have nothing to offer, no argument, no counter, no defense. That is just about eveything…

    Like

  80. @ James – November 16, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    “Why isn’t a finite, created and fine tuned universe (fine tuned for biological life)evidence for a Creator? If it is not evidence for a Creator what is it evidence for? Accident?”
    A number of things can be discussed about the fine-tuning argument (there are some issues there about why some constants have the values they do). But a simple following of the links shows that people often use the argument dishonestly.

    For example the claim that Cosmological Constant cannot vary by more than 1 part in 10^120 for life to be possible. This is just a misuse of the facts. The actual finding is that the theoretical value of the cosmological value differs from the measured value by 10^123 times. The most extreme discrepancy between theoretical and measured values in physics!

    So desperate people looking for a “proof” for their beliefs distort this to claim 1 in 10^120 fine tuning! Hardly honest – but it’s the sort of thing that Christian apologetics seems to get caught up in..

    It just reinforces the danger of selecting evidence (actually distorting evidence) to support a preconceived belief rather than following the evidence.

    It actually does pay to check out such “evidence” before accepting it.

    Like

  81. The only reason the universe appears to be ‘fine-tuned’ is because we’re here looking at it (“Anthropic principle 101). If the parameters were slightly different some other lifeform could well be making the same argument. AFAIK very few cosmologists would agree with the anthropic principle (Guillermo Gonzales & his ilk aside).

    Like

  82. (I apologize for the confusion, had I known there was another iapetus (a.k.a. Prometheus) commentator here, I would’ve tried to differentiate between the two of us by using my name – k.k. – which I will try to remember to do from now on at the end of my comment, if I post again on this blog, my own blog happens to be named iapetus, ergo the username)

    so… now that I have spent the time required to read through the 66 comments that have been added since I last posted, I think Cedric Katesby, Ken, Stavros, Iapetus/Prometheus, Alison & even Matty Smith have all made good points, so I don’t feel the desire to do a whole lot of further expounding in response to James on my part, but-any-either-which-way, 2 + kroners:

    James #18: “Especially if selfishness serves our greater good.”

    K.K.: wtf? What greater good would that be? Selfishness describes simply that: something for oneself, not something “greater” – your rebuttal makes no sense to me

    & I don’t get why you continuously put man against man, & keep asking why my opinion or your opinion means anymore than anybody else’s opinion, this isn’t court, James, I don’t somehow fall into the same jurisdiction as you, with your god as the judge & the only opinion that counts, if I were of another religion with my own god, it’d be my “judge” versus your “judge” – now who’s the judge of the judges? as Cedric Katesby pointed out, claiming to have a higher power behind your opinion does not make it more valid than mine is despite being minus the claim to a higher power

    Ken #59: “This leads me to think that, in a way, gods do exist – in the minds of men and women. They serve certain psychological and social purposes (at least for some people). For that reason no-one (theist or non-theist) is really interested the existence of a god as a scientific question.

    We would be if it was a truth question.”

    K.K.: Ken, I think I get what you’re saying & have the same feeling too, some people seem to find strength in their belief in a higher power, & I don’t really want to take that away from them. However, I do protest when they expect that belief to be accepted as an absolute truth. I very much 2nd the notion that no-one is really interested in the existence of a god as a scientific question, cuz’ coming from the religious angle it will continue to be said that faith is beyond the scope of our comprehension & scale of our instruments, yet from the scientific angle saying that “god did it” is the ultimate cop-out of an explanation.

    getting back to the article at the top of this page,
    I’m glad the other Iapetus/Prometheus pointed this out:
    “It’s the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want, but this is insulting.””
    Translation: non-theists can believe whatever they want as long as they keep their mouths shut about it while we proclaim our beliefs loudly and proudly.”

    James, surely you don’t actually have a reason to not let the American Humanist Association have its message on a bus, or whatever? If you respect what your doctor has to say, than I would expect the same for other non-religious people.

    …k.k.

    Like

  83. James said…”You have nothing to offer…”

    Offer what?

    James said…”No argument, no counter, no defense.”

    Well, I can’t make an argument because…I’m not the one bringing up a topic.
    I’m not offering up a counter because…you haven’t brought up anything to counter.
    I’m not offering a defence because…um…I didn’t put forward an argument.

    You want to make an argument?
    Go ahead.

    You have something special and new regarding the old fine-tuning argument?
    Then present it.

    Only please make it interesting this time.
    Something that is not a cookie-cutter argument.

    ……………………………………………………

    Also I’d like an answer about the way you define evidence.

    Remember how you launched off at me with “You want evidence, then give me a non-arbitrary definition for evidence.”

    Then a little bit later you said…”Cedric, I offered the evidence that you asked for.”

    Well, how do YOU define evidence?
    Naturally, we can assume that you are comfortable using the word evidence. It must mean something to you.
    You are using it after all, right?
    And, of course, you’re not using it in an arbitrary manner, right?

    So, what is the non-arbitrary definition of the word “evidence” that you are using?
    (Reference please.)
    ………………………………………………………

    James groans out in defeat…”We are done bro….”

    No. You are done. Done to perfection.
    You blathered and ranted and made a perfect spectacle of yourself.
    It was wonderful entertainment for me.
    You’re funny,…in low-brow humour sort of way.
    (But hey, I’m into low-brow humour!)

    James said…”That is just about eveything…”

    Perish the thought. I’m sure you have lots more comedy material.
    I’m your biggest fan.
    I insist that you come back again and again and again real soon on the next thread.
    Bring it on. I have my pop-corn ready.

    Oh and…

    Peace, Bro.
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Like

  84. Alison said…”The only reason the universe appears to be ‘fine-tuned’ is because we’re here looking at it.”

    Yes indeed.
    It’s a pity James decided to flounce out.
    Had I managed to tweek out of him even a rough argument, I was rather looking forward to quoting Voltaire at him.
    Douglas Adams and his puddle is also a good one.
    Oh well, missed opportunities.

    Like

  85. @83:

    I don’t get why you continuously put man against man, & keep asking why my opinion or your opinion means anymore than anybody else’s opinion

    My own answer to that is that James is religious troll 😉 Its also the reason I haven’t bothered with this thread.

    Regards saying G-d doesn’t exist: if religious people are “allowed” to go around saying “G-d exists”, then non-religious people are equally allowed to say “Not so” 😉 Looked at from another angle, if religious people ask/demand that others respect their beliefs, then these religious people need to allow others to speak and act freely their own beliefs too. In my experience, most of the religious people that openly complain about others not respecting their beliefs, are the same people not respecting others’ belief to the point of demanding that the others change their beliefs or practices.

    Like

  86. So desperate people looking for a “proof” for their beliefs distort this to claim 1 in 10^120 fine tuning! Hardly honest – but it’s the sort of thing that Christian apologetics seems to get caught up in..

    Ken, Huge Ross is a very careful astrophysicist as far as I can tell. I’m sure he would be interested in your objection. You should e-mail him, I hear he will answer. The fact is Ken, the universe has some very specific parameters – any of which, if different, would prevent creation in the first place and biological life in the second.

    I believe it was Davies that coined the term “Goldilocks” universe just right. But I suppose he is twisting the evidence to.

    So once again Ken, what is a finely tuned universe evidence for? In other world why is there something rather than nothing?

    Like

  87. The only reason the universe appears to be ‘fine-tuned’ is because we’re here looking at it (”Anthropic principle 101). If the parameters were slightly different some other lifeform could well be making the same argument. AFAIK very few cosmologists would agree with the anthropic principle (Guillermo Gonzales & his ilk aside).

    Well no kidding Alison. But the fact is, it is still fined tuned, tuned for life – our life. And I can understand why atheists would object to the obvious conclusions – but they are bias… So back to my question – why is there something rather than nothing?

    Like

  88. K.K.: wtf? What greater good would that be? Selfishness describes simply that: something for oneself, not something “greater” – your rebuttal makes no sense to me

    Sure it makes sense. If something serves the person’s greater good. It helps him and his offspring survive better. He has a greater survival possibility.

    & I don’t get why you continuously put man against man, & keep asking why my opinion or your opinion means anymore than anybody else’s opinion, this isn’t court, James, I don’t somehow fall into the same jurisdiction as you, with your god as the judge & the only opinion that counts, if I were of another religion with my own god, it’d be my “judge” versus your “judge” – now who’s the judge of the judges? as Cedric Katesby pointed out, claiming to have a higher power behind your opinion does not make it more valid than mine is despite being minus the claim to a higher power

    That is correct as far as it goes. The fact is man continuously pits himself against man. War, murder, rape, greed, etc… are in our nature. And if you are correct then no moral opinion is more correct than any other moral opinion. “What ever is, is right.” Whether you accept my view of God or not, is immaterial – if a God does not exist then all moral considerations are reduced to mere preference. There is no objective rule or source. There is no moral “advancement” as someone here suggested – there is only difference. So when the atheist speaks of moral “advancement” he is being irrational. Expressing mere preference, a preference that is no more valid or correct than its opposite…

    Like

  89. Cedric,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I’ve been lurking at pandasthumb for a while. Trying to keep my blogging habit under control, however, as I need to get publications and such. Still, I expect to comment on something there sooner or later.

    Like

  90. Konrad…”Thanks for the kind words.”

    You are most welcome.

    Like

  91. James hits the re-set button…

    “So once again Ken, what is a finely tuned universe evidence for?”

    “But the fact is, it is still fined tuned, tuned for life – our life.”

    James? James?
    Earth to James?

    How do you actually know that the universe is fine tuned?
    (giggle)

    Oh and er…you seem to have forgotten to answer my question about your defintion of evidence, yeah?

    So…what is your non-arbitrary definition of evidence?
    After all, you brought up the topic so…
    🙂

    Like

  92. James,

    Great job! Great reading list! I’m reading you here from Brazil since “let’s count teeth” post. As a christian, despite my bias, a think it’s easy for one to see when the opposite side is not arguing, not being rational (as you said, “men don’t like their faith questioned…”). Obviously, even non-christians, when questioning the atheistic worldview, are able to see this:

    http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/13045

    Thank you for your inspiring comments! Keep on! God bless!

    Ken,

    Thanks and congratulations for your blog! Best regards!(since I’m in doubt about saying “God bless” to you to be polite).

    Like

  93. Hello Darjo, thanks for the kind words…

    Like

  94. (Cedric wonders if he should give a hint to James)

    (…time passes…)

    Nah.
    😉

    Like

  95. @ James:

    Haven’t the faintest who Huge Ross is (presumably she is someone you “trust” because she reinforces your own prejudices).

    My understanding of the cosmological constant is based on my readings of people like Brian Greene and others, and a series of lectures given by Roger Penrose (Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe), David Gross (The Search for a Theory of Fundamental Reality) and Lawrence Krauss (Einstein’s Biggest Blunder: A Cosmic Mystery Story) at Princeton University. These people are recognised experts. (Perhaps you should email them if you want to persist with your beliefs about this constant and “fine tuning”).

    My point of course is wider than the cosmological constant. It is a comment on the way that people will sometimes grab at data, select data, and distort data in an attempt to “prove” a belief. Thise is a prominent trait of Christian apologetics.

    Scientists work the other way around (whatever ‘beliefs’ or prejudices they start with). They consider all the evidence and draw their (tentative) conclusions from them. The social activity and environment of sciece refines the process This is a great way of getting a more truthful picture of reality.

    Selecting and distorting evidence may encourage you in your own prejudice, or immunise you against having to consider the truth. It’s great for reinforcing religion but it is not a way of achieving a proper understanding of reality.

    And of course the fact that you are prepared to repeat such distorted information (out by a factor of 10^123) does suggest that you aren’t interested in the truth – or even honesty.

    Like

  96. Selecting and distorting evidence may encourage you in your own prejudice, or immunise you against having to consider the truth. It’s great for reinforcing religion but it is not a way of achieving a proper understanding of reality.

    Ken, you made a serious charge against an honest man. I’m looking into that charge and will get back to you. Of course that does not change my question – what is a finely tuned, created universe, evidence of? Anything?

    Like

  97. Let’s see. Another troll joins in by posting a link to a troll thread. Such a positive contribution 🙂

    James’ reading list isn’t much use given how biased it is. (But, of course, like all good religious trolls he accuses everyone else of being biased…!) It does seem to make a lie of any suggestion he might make of considering alternative points of view, though, and certainly any claims that he has explored the science, etc. (Claims I’ve read him make in the past…) A reading list that one-sided isn’t exploring an issue, but re-enforcing and entrenching an existing position. Of course, that’s why publishers encourage them to be written in a “re-enforcing” style and why they market them the way they do. Publishers aren’t stupid, they know there is a market for self-justification. This is also applies to a fair portion of the “natural self-help” market too.

    97: See the previous paragraph. I’d say say your reading list is pretty good evidence of what Ken is saying to you, as is the way the reading list contrasts with claims in some of your previous posts. (I wrote the previous paragraph before reading post 96 and 97, by the way, i.e. its independent of them.)

    Like

  98. @ James:

    “I’m looking into that charge and will get back to you.”
    – So you do this by a query on an apologetics forum (Did Dr. Ross Fudge The Facts?)!!! Are you going to check out people like Greene, Krauss, Penrose and Gross?

    I had written a brief post in the fine tuning argument some time ago (Fine tuning argument) but may actually update it with a new post. But for now my answer to your persistent questions is:

    The specific values of physical constants (in both the cosmological and standard models) raises interesting questions. As always, my approach to answering these questions is to follow the evidence (not select or distort the evidence). Currently with many of these sort of questions this will lead you to the answer “I don’t know.”) That is OK and common in science – provided we add “Let’s find out.”) Desperately grasping for the answer “God did it” leads exactly nowhere – we have achieved no better understanding with it. (Did Newton improve his understanding of the planar orbits of the planets by attributing it to a god? No, but later scientists did find the reasons).

    I personally find it exciting that we live at a time when these sort of fundamental questions are being asked – and we see ourselves in a situation of making a start on investigating and discovering the underlying reasons.

    Now, whatever our specific religious beliefs, we can eventually discover the true reasons for “fine-tuning” by following the evidence, and only by following the evidence.

    Like

  99. Desperately grasping for the answer “God did it” leads exactly nowhere – we have achieved no better understanding with it.

    Ken, nobody is desperate. But what if God actually did do it? Wouldn’t you want to know that fact? Should we not follow the evidence where ever it leads? Even if it leads to an intelligent Creator?

    “I’m looking into that charge and will get back to you.” – So you do this by a query on an apologetics forum (Did Dr. Ross Fudge The Facts?)!!! Are you going to check out people like Greene, Krauss, Penrose and Gross?

    I also emailed them, in the past they have answered me. The point is, you accused Dr. Ross of a falsehood. I have watched this man over many years and have seen him discuss these issues with those on the other side, and I have never seen someone question his honesty. Until you…

    Like

  100. @ James:

    “what if God actually did do it?” – surely the way to answer that question is to follow the evidence – not select or distort the evidence. You know my answer to those questions – I have no prior commitment to denying or avoiding evidence to fit a preconceived idea.

    Who is the Dr Ross? I have never met him. I know nothing about him. And I have never commented on him! If he is insulted because of something on my blog or because I pointed out a mistake/distortion/lie in the website you referred to then he is pretty thin skinned.

    Are you going to check out the experts I have mentioned?

    Like

  101. Who is the Dr Ross? I have never met him. I know nothing about him. And I have never commented on him! If he is insulted because of something on my blog or because I pointed out a mistake/distortion/lie in the website you referred to then he is pretty thin skinned.

    Ken you said:

    But a simple following of the links shows that people often use the argument dishonestly.

    For example the claim that Cosmological Constant cannot vary by more than 1 part in 10^120 for life to be possible. This is just a misuse of the facts. The actual finding is that the theoretical value of the cosmological value differs from the measured value by 10^123 times. The most extreme discrepancy between theoretical and measured values in physics!

    So desperate people looking for a “proof” for their beliefs distort this to claim 1 in 10^120 fine tuning! Hardly honest – but it’s the sort of thing that Christian apologetics seems to get caught up in..

    It just reinforces the danger of selecting evidence (actually distorting evidence) to support a preconceived belief rather than following the evidence.

    The link I gave (and the one you took exception to) was to a chapter of one of Dr. Ross’ books. I don’t know how thin skinned he is, but you did accuse him of being dishonest.

    Here is his bio…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Ross_(creationist)

    Like

  102. @ James:

    I think you are confused – as I said I don’t know Ross and haven’t referred to him. The page you linked to was by Rich Deem at a site called “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God”. I guess Deem is responsible for the mistakes/distortions/lies on this page.

    Anyway, don’t divert the discussion. Are you going to check out people like Greene, Krauss, Penrose and Gross on the cosmological constant question? I don’t know who this fellow Deem is (perhaps you can enlighten us on his scientific credentials) but he certainly can’t speak with the same authority on this question as the scientists I mention – who have actually worked in this area. Don’t you agree?

    (By the way – I just looked back at your reading list [November 17, 2008 at 7:53 am]. Nothing by good scientific authors, about good science, there. Perhaps that’s your problem – you just aren’t consulting the real authorities and consequently laying yourself open to being influenced by agenda driven distortions).

    Like

  103. I think you are confused – as I said I don’t know Ross and haven’t referred to him. The page you linked to was by Rich Deem at a site called “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God”. I guess Deem is responsible for the mistakes/distortions/lies on this page.

    Deem was quoting from Ross’ book.

    Anyway, don’t divert the discussion. Are you going to check out people like Greene, Krauss, Penrose and Gross on the cosmological constant question? I don’t know who this fellow Deem is (perhaps you can enlighten us on his scientific credentials) but he certainly can’t speak with the same authority on this question as the scientists I mention – who have actually worked in this area. Don’t you agree?

    Well Ross has worked in the field, and has published for peer review,and I have read him and heard his lectures. And that was my reading list over the past eleven months. Not the past 20 years. Yes they lean towards Philosophy, but men like John Lennox, on the list, is a scientist, along with being a theologian. I have also, over the years, read Darwin, Hawkins, Sagan, et al… Never mind the online audio – I listened to most of the Beyond Belief talks that you linked. Along with on line talks by men like Neil deGrasse Tyson. So I do try and keep up.

    Like

  104. Reply to Alison,

    Of course, no respectable cosmologist would ever accept the anthropic principle! Obviously, Stephen Hawking must have a screw loose:

    “This talk will be based on work with Neil Turok and Harvey Reall. I will describe what I see as the framework for quantum cosmology, on the basis of M theory. I shall adopt the no boundary proposal, and shall argue that the Anthropic Principle is essential, if one is to pick out a solution to represent our universe, from the whole zoo of solutions allowed by M theory.”

    Physics Colloquiums – Quantum Cosmology, M-theory and the Anthropic Principle (January ’99)

    Like

  105. @ Rich Deem – November 19, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Ah, Rich. Apparently you are the person I offended by pointing out the mistake/distortion/lie on your web site (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html). Do you still stick by your claim that the cosmological constant cannot deviate by more than 1 part in 10^120 or do you accept that this was a mistake? If so, will your change that page?

    Like

  106. @ James – November 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    “Well Ross has worked in the field, and has published for peer review,and I have read him and heard his lectures.” So I guess the answer is no – you will not check out this issue by referring to people like Krauss who actually does work on this subject.

    If Ross has “worked in this field” – give us a reference to a peer-reviewed article describing his work on the cosmological constant. My search via Google Scholar gave 3 references to 3 non-reviewed articles by Ross including the term (cf 61 mostly peer-reviewed for Krauss). In 2 of Ross’s 3 cases “cosmological constant” was actually in a reference or quote to a paper of Krauss.

    So, it seems to me that Ross has not “worked in this field” of the cosmological constant. He, like me, has probably just referred to the real experts – people like Krauss. Now, my reading of Krauss (and listening to his lectures) indicates that Rich Deem has made a mistake (or otherwise distorted or lied about the work of Krauss and other experts) in making the claim he does about the cosmological constant.

    Now, James, are you prepared to revise you assertions and accept the words of people like Krauss – or are you going to insist on supporting the distortions on fine tuning from The Heavens Declare the Glory of God website?

    Like

  107. Ken said…”or are you going to insist on supporting the distortions on fine tuning from The Heavens Declare the Glory of God website?”

    What an amazing name for a web-site.
    It sounds very sciencey.
    (giggle)

    Like

  108. 107

    According to the wikipedia page that James linked:

    “He [Ross] has not published this model in peer-reviewed scientific literature…”

    I hate to say it, but that would suggest that either James hasn’t read his own source or is writing fast and loose here… Certainly James’ remark “and has published for peer review” isn’t consistent with the wikipedia entry. But if wikipedia is wrong (it often is!), James could try correcting it… Either way, I’d be interested to see James back up his remark that Ross has “has published for peer review” too.

    James:

    Your reading list doesn’t “lean towards Philosophy”, it leans towards (Christian) apologetics.

    Like

  109. James #89: “Sure it makes sense. If something serves the person’s greater good. It helps him and his offspring survive better. He has a greater survival possibility.”

    no, James, I won’t even buy that, selfishness does not serve the “greater good”, even on an individual level, we always accomplish more through cooperation, than on our own, we will always be more complete together, than alone

    “That is correct as far as it goes. The fact is man continuously pits himself against man. War, murder, rape, greed, etc… are in our nature. And if you are correct then no moral opinion is more correct than any other moral opinion. “What ever is, is right.” Whether you accept my view of God or not, is immaterial – if a God does not exist then all moral considerations are reduced to mere preference. There is no objective rule or source. There is no moral “advancement” as someone here suggested – there is only difference. So when the atheist speaks of moral “advancement” he is being irrational. Expressing mere preference, a preference that is no more valid or correct than its opposite…”

    again, no James, just no, it is not “mere preference”, it is indeed wise to be good, to help each other out, as you may have heard some time growing up, two heads think better than one, & many other such sayings, man only truly advances when he advances mankind, face it, on this planet, we’re all in this together, & to need some higher power to tell (or scare) you right from wrong is to forever remain immature, or a child..

    Like

  110. Your reading list doesn’t “lean towards Philosophy”, it leans towards (Christian) apologetics.

    Plantinga, Wolterstorff, Swinburne, Mavrodes, Tooley, Palmer, Smith, Clarke etc… are philosophers. Palmer is not a Christian as far as I know, Tooley is an atheist. And yes it does lean towards both philosophy and apologetics. Have you ever read Swinburne or Plantinga? They are quite fair and deal directly with opposing views.

    Like

  111. no, James, I won’t even buy that, selfishness does not serve the “greater good”, even on an individual level, we always accomplish more through cooperation, than on our own, we will always be more complete together, than alone

    Well yes, it may help to cooperate with others – look at these greedy bastards on Wall st. Yeah they cooperated with each other and screwed everybody else. They legally walked away with millions and my friends lost over half their 401ks. In your godless universe what did they do “wrong?”

    again, no James, just no, it is not “mere preference”, it is indeed wise to be good, to help each other out, as you may have heard some time growing up, two heads think better than one, & many other such sayings, man only truly advances when he advances mankind, face it, on this planet, we’re all in this together, & to need some higher power to tell (or scare) you right from wrong is to forever remain immature, or a child..

    Tell that to a Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or a Mao… And again, moral advancement is a subjective thing unless there is a objective standard. What you view as advancement may be different that what a Stalinist views as advancement – and your preference is no more correct than his.

    Like

  112. James, you call people philosophers who are in fact apologists, as I have pointed out to you before. You’re doing it again here.

    Like

  113. I notice you’ve avoided that you goofed again: claiming that Ross has published in the peer-review literature when others say he hasn’t. You’re welcome to prove this otherwise, but failing that, you might want to take back your earlier claim that he has. And perhaps think about how you came to make that claim.

    Like

  114. I notice you’ve avoided that you goofed again: claiming that Ross has published in the peer-review literature when others say he hasn’t. You’re welcome to prove this otherwise, but failing that, you might want to take back your earlier claim that he has. And perhaps think about how you came to make that claim.

    Who says he hasn’t Heraclides?

    ^ Ross, Hugh N., and E. R. Seaquist. “The High Frequency Radio Spectra of Secondary Standard Sources.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 170 (January 1975): pp. 115-119. NASA ADS

    ^ Lo, K. Y., R. T. Schilizzi, M. H. Cohen, and H. N. Ross. “VLBI Observations of the Compact Radio Source in the Center of the Galaxy.” The Astrophysical Journal 202 (1 December 1975): pp. L63-L65. NASA ADS

    ^ Lo, K. Y., M. H. Cohen, R. T. Schilizzi, and H. N. Ross. “An Angular Size for the Compact Radio Source at the Galactic Center.” The Astrophysical Journal 218 (15 December 1977): pp. 668-670. NASA ADS

    ^ Ross, Hugh N. “Variable Radio Source Structure on a Scale of Several Minutes of Arc.” The Astrophysical Journal 200 (15 September 1975): pp. 790-802. NASA ADS

    ^ Ross, Hugh N. “Verification of Radio Variability of the Galaxy PKS 0048-09.” Nature 226 (2 May 1970): p. 431. NASA ADS, PubMed

    ^ Ross, Hugh N., and E. R. Seaquist. “The High Frequency Radio Spectra of Secondary Standard Sources.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 170 (January 1975): pp. 115-119. NASA ADS

    ^ Lo, K. Y., R. T. Schilizzi, M. H. Cohen, and H. N. Ross. “VLBI Observations of the Compact Radio Source in the Center of the Galaxy.” The Astrophysical Journal 202 (1 December 1975): pp. L63-L65. NASA ADS

    ^ Lo, K. Y., M. H. Cohen, R. T. Schilizzi, and H. N. Ross. “An Angular Size for the Compact Radio Source at the Galactic Center.” The Astrophysical Journal 218 (15 December 1977): pp. 668-670. NASA ADS

    ^ Ross, Hugh N. “Variable Radio Source Structure on a Scale of Several Minutes of Arc.” The Astrophysical Journal 200 (15 September 1975): pp. 790-802. NASA ADS

    ^ Ross, Hugh N. “Verification of Radio Variability of the Galaxy PKS 0048-09.” Nature 226 (2 May 1970): p. 431. NASA ADS, PubMed

    Like

  115. James, you call people philosophers who are in fact apologists, as I have pointed out to you before. You’re doing it again here.

    They can be both Homer. And nobody in the field doubts that Plantinga, Wolterstorff, Swinburne, Mavrodes, etc… are real philosophers. But you have a bias…

    Like

  116. @ James – November 20, 2008 at 12:46 am

    You have just confirmed the point I made in Prostituting science. Ross has some early scientific publications but has not worked in scientific research since the 70s. You have not referred to any peer-reviewed publication of Ross discussing the cosmological constant. Your claim that he “has worked in the field, and has published for peer review” (implied the cosmological constant) is completely wrong. This is the exact prostitution of science that occurs with climate change deniers, creationists, etc., people who start with a scientific background and then, later, use their credentials to distort and misrepresent science.

    It is completely inappropriate to quote Ross as an authority on the cosmological constant. In fact – where Ross does refer to it (by reference to Krauss) he interprets Krauss incorrectly.

    An example:
    Krauss 1998 “The problem with this from a fundamental perspective is that a cosmological constant associated in modern parlance with a nonzero vacuum energy density in the universe on a scale that would be cosmologically relevant and yet still allowed today would take a value that is over 120 orders of magnitude smaller than the naive value that one might expect based on considerations of quantum mechanics and gravity (see, for example, Weinberg 1989).” In a few words the disagreement between the naive theoretical value and the measured valuer is a factor of 10^120.

    becomes

    Ross 2002: “To achieve the precise rate and timing of the cosmic slowing down and speeding up, two characteristics of the universe must be fixed with exacting precision. The mass density cannot vary by more than one part in 1060 and the space energy density cannot vary by more than one part in 10120 (that’s 120 zeroes behind the 1) (Krauss 1998).” In a few words the cosmological constant (space energy density) cannot vary by more than 1 part in 10^120 – completely wrong!!!

    Unfortunately, James, you expose yourself as someone who relies on apologetics sources for your “science” and then try to give those claims authority by referring to “peer review” and “scientific reputation.” The facts just don’t support your claims in this case. Ross has distorted the position presented by Krauss in exactly the same way as Rich Deem does on the web page you linked to.

    This is dishonest on your part – as well as both Deem and Ross being dishonest in their claim about the cosmological constant. Ross should know better having being trained in astronomy – but I guess that’s the nature of prostitution.

    Like

  117. 115:

    These aren’t publication of his theory, but other work. I was asking for evidence that he has published his model in the peer-reviewed literature. This is not it.

    Try again.

    (I’d also note all these stop in the 1970s, making him both an old man and one who hasn’t published in the science literature in many, many years. Opps, I see Ken’s already picked up on the that. OK!)

    116:

    We’ve been through this before and dismissing others with “bias” is pathetic. Apologists may use philosophy, or (try to) dress their arguments up in philosophy, but that doesn’t make them philosophers. You sometimes use science in your arguments, or try to dress your arguments up in science, but that doesn’t make you a scientist.

    Like

  118. Hey – what’s this with the “old man”. My publication record started in the 1960s!

    The key thing is that his scientific research stopped in the 70s. There’s no way people can keep their authority in science without the continuing research. The current ideas of the cosmological constant, let alone its value, just weren’t around in Ross’s time.

    Come on James. Front up on your claim of Ross having worked on the cosmological constant and having peer-reviewed publications in this area. Surely the Christian thing to do is acknowledge your mistake and apologise.

    Like

  119. I know, I know 🙂 I think the ‘and’ in my sentence needs to be made with more emphasis. If you’re isolated from the literature for too long you can drift far from what’s sensible, as you have pointed out and I agree. I’m not saying all old guys are cranks (!), but rather that the combination of age and not having worked in science proper for a long time can be troublesome (and even then, not always). I know of older guys who are still publishing in their 80s, etc., but the thing with them is that they’re still active in research on an on-going day-to-day basis, still working in (very) good institutions, with people around them, in active communication with other scientists, etc.

    Reminds me that there is one older (and very good) scientist that I keep meaning to get back in touch with.

    Like

  120. “Let’s see. Another troll joins in by posting a link to a troll thread. Such a positive contribution

    James’ reading list isn’t much use given how biased it is.”
    “…A reading list that one-sided isn’t exploring an issue, but re-enforcing and entrenching an existing position.”

    Heraclides,
    Thanks for the welcoming. Maybe you wouldn’t mind to share with us part of your own unbiased reading list. Any book from James’list? As a layman, I would really apreciate such a positive contribution.

    Like

  121. @ Darjo – November 21, 2008 at 6:25 am

    Something to go on with – have a look at my reading list for the last few years (Reading in retirement). None of the books are in common with James list – but then again I have absolutely no interest in reading Christian apologetics.

    Like

  122. 121:

    You left the smiley out of the quote, it changes the tone without with it… 😉 The link you posted was to a troll thread…

    As for listing my reading, as a practical matter it’d take too much time, so bad luck I’m afraid 🙂 Its mostly scientific papers and I get through several every day: leaving aside the textbooks, most books I read are for leisure away from the papers and are often on unrelated things or just “escapist” fun. (Unlike Ken, I’m not retired…!) For example, I read of processing of sign language in Broca’s area from the original papers when they came out several years ago, not from a popular science book.

    I do read the odd popular science book, but mostly on topics away from what I read in the original literature. (Often review articles in the original literature on topics of my main beat can be better in some ways as they are from current experts and more condensed, but they’re not always as easy to read.) I’m generally careful about putting material from that sort of reading on the ‘net, unless I know I have enough background to comfortably know where I stand on what I’m saying. By contrast James and others seem quite happy to say this, that and the other, when its quite clear that they know very little (if anything at all) about the science involved and thus have no way of judging the validity of what they are saying.

    Christian apologetics is “about” promoting the religion, not examining the religion critically, never mind looking at underlying issues (e.g. from psychology, etc.)

    Like

  123. Ken first, I never said that Ross’ field was specifically restricted to the study of the cosmological constant. Second there is a cosmological constant and it has to be precise.

    And there are other universal physical constants that have to operate within very narrow ranges.

    So even though Ross may have been wrong on this point, the argument holds. The universe has precise physical values needed for order, and precise physical values necessary for biological life.

    Like

  124. Excuse me for this, but: *adopts gentle teasing stance for a bit* –

    Gee, look at James parade out excuses 🙂

    “I never said that Ross’ field was specifically restricted to the study of the cosmological constant.”

    You did, actually, you wrote:

    “Well Ross has worked in the field, and has published for peer review”

    in reply to quoting Ken. The quote you replied to refers to the “the cosmological constant question” (i.e. not any other broader area).

    You do know that one characteristic of making excuses is that you try re-invent the past 😉 Tsk, tsk: naughty boy. Bad little Christian 😉

    “And there are other universal physical constants that have to operate within very narrow ranges.”

    Side-stepping… not trying to avoid referring to your mistake, are you? 😉

    “So even though Ross may have been wrong on this point, the argument holds.”

    I love how you shift the “blame” to Ross, rather than your presenting his argument as true. But you spoil it by trying have your cake too by making an assertion that isn’t true: you haven’t presented any new that makes your argument hold.

    C’mon, be a man 😉 Just say straight-out that you didn’t check your facts and wrote something that was wrong. Its not going to kill you.

    Like

  125. @ James – November 22, 2008 at 3:13 am

    “Ken first, I never said that Ross’ field was specifically restricted to the study of the cosmological constant. Second there is a cosmological constant and it has to be precise.”

    I think Heraclides has responded to your first point. On your second point – this from Neil de Grasse Tyson: “we can conclude that our existence limits the cosmological constant to a value between zero and a few times its actual value, while ruling out of play the infinite range of higher values.” This is hardly the precision you are claiming (1 in 10^120).

    Of course there are important constants in the standard models of cosmology and particle physics. At the moment we don’t know why they have the values they do (and yes, some of these would imply a different universe if they had different values)- but this is at the cutting edge of science and part of the future progress will be in understanding why the values are as they are. To say “god did it” is not a solution – it never is (whatever one’s religious beliefs).

    And, of course, the point of my comments has been that people like Ross, Craig and Rich Deem are using “science” in the same way a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than truth. They are selecting and distorting scientific information to “prove” their god. This just ends up with dishonest claims (as Deems web page). The question of the values of physical constants can and is being investigated without relying on bronze-age biblical myths.

    Like

  126. Well Ross has worked in the field, and has published for peer review

    I was speaking of the field astophysics, which would include studying the cosmological constant, I would assume. And I don’t know if there is a field of “cosmological constant.”

    Of course there are important constants in the standard models of cosmology and particle physics. At the moment we don’t know why they have the values they do (and yes, some of these would imply a different universe if they had different values)- but this is at the cutting edge of science and part of the future progress will be in understanding why the values are as they are. To say “god did it” is not a solution – it never is (whatever one’s religious beliefs).

    And many of these constants are precise as you know. And your belief that “nature did it” or could do it is also an unproven assumption. It is rather amazing that a non-intelligent force could create such a finely tuned universe, and a universe tuned for biological life. And then create the biological life that said universe was find tuned for. Talk about faith Ken…

    The question of the values of physical constants can and is being investigated without relying on bronze-age biblical myths.

    Well that bronze-age myth predicted that the universe would have a beginning point. Long before “science” did… It also predicted that the universe was expanded: http://www.creationists.org/Godexpandeduniverse.html

    Like

  127. “I was speaking of the field astophysics, which would include studying the cosmological constant, I would assume.” – the value of, and measurement of, the cosmological constant arose long after the time that Ross was involved in any scientific work.

    “It is rather amazing that a non-intelligent force could create such a finely tuned universe, and a universe tuned for biological life.”
    – you know the really amazing thing is that the length of my leg is exactly the distance between the floor and my thigh. And, even more amazing this is the same for all humans on this planet. Now that can’t be chance. Just imagine if the length wasn’t precisely that of the distance required human life would not be possible.
    God must be responsible!!

    Like

  128. Ken said…”you know the really amazing thing is that the length of my leg is exactly the distance between the floor and my thigh.”

    Yeah, baby, yeah!
    I just knew if I was good and patient that my Voltaire moment would arrive…

    In Chapter 5 of “Candide”, Jacques apparently drowns because Dr Pangloss prevents Candide from helping him, ‘arguing that Lisbon harbour had been created expressly so that the Anabaptist would be drowned in it’.

    http://personal.strath.ac.uk/t.furniss/philosophynew/voltaire2.html

    One more from the good Dr Pangloss…”Note that noses were made to wear spectacles; we therefore have spectacles. Legs were clearly devised to wear breeches, and we have breeches.”

    Ah, all good things come to he who waits.
    🙂

    Like

  129. “Ah, all good things come to he who waits.”
    especially if he waits with popcorn?

    Like

  130. (Cedric nods happily)

    (munch, munch, munch)

    Like

  131. Ken, science is also faith based, let me quote Paul Davies at length:

    SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

    The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

    The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

    Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

    Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

    Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?_r=3&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

    BTW- I posted this in the wrong thread. It should have been here…

    Like

  132. Along the lines of this discussion:

    Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory

    Our universe is perfectly tailored for life. That may be the work of God or the result of our universe being one of many.

    by Tim Folger

    It seems like a either/or, either a multiverse or a Creator:

    “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

    Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

    The “strong” anthropic principle makes a much bolder statement. It asserts that the laws of physics themselves are biased toward life. To quote Freeman Dyson, a renowned physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the strong anthropic principle implies that “the universe knew we were coming.”

    “If there is only one universe,” Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

    Please read the quotes in context so I’m not again accused of quote mining.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=

    Like

  133. @ James – November 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

    This is an old article of Paul Davies which I commented on here: Does science involve faith? – Perhaps you could consider my article.

    @James – November 23, 2008 at 9:53 am – Thought that article might appeal to you!

    Looking at it more objectively we can see how the “multiverse” ideas – when they get used to “explain” details of the universe without actually having any evidence for the basic proposition of a multiverse – actually have the same characteristics as a religious explanation. Saying “the multiverse did it” is then basically the same as saying “god did it”. It’s the lazy way out – avoiding the hard work involved in actually investigating and finding the reason for things.

    Like

  134. Looking at it more objectively we can see how the “multiverse” ideas – when they get used to “explain” details of the universe without actually having any evidence for the basic proposition of a multiverse – actually have the same characteristics as a religious explanation. Saying “the multiverse did it” is then basically the same as saying “god did it”. It’s the lazy way out – avoiding the hard work involved in actually investigating and finding the reason for things.

    You are right about the multiverse being the same as saying that god did it – like the article said, previous universes can never be observed – no matter how good it looks on paper it will always remain a paper theory…

    So are we left with Carr’s quote: “If there is only one universe you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

    Like

  135. Or you could give up on the lazy religious wishful thinking and adopt a scientific approach – put in the hard work, investigate, and find out the true reasons for the values of the physical constants.

    Like

  136. This is an old article of Paul Davies which I commented on here: Does science involve faith? – Perhaps you could consider my article.

    Well it’s no that old, and still quite true. But you take exception with Davies’ equating belief in God with scientific assumptions. I think he is perfectly correct.

    For instance: You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

    You can not know this, you can only trust (or have faith)it will be so tomorrow. This is Hume’s problem of induction.

    Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too.

    Here again, you would have faith. Faith that the universe was created by a previous physical force. You can not prove it, and never can – because that source could never be observed since it is outside the observable universe. Then you have the problem of this non-intelligent physical force creating this golidlocks universe – to me intelligence is much more plausible

    Like

  137. James – read my analysis of Davies article at Does science involve faith?.

    Like

  138. Or you could give up on the lazy religious wishful thinking and adopt a scientific approach – put in the hard work, investigate, and find out the true reasons for the values of the physical constants.

    If the source of these constants lie outside of the known universe then how does science discover them? It’s one thing to discover these constants and figure out how they work – but how they were created…

    Like

  139. Again Ken, you are missing the point. First, past experience of certain physical laws tell us nothing about tomorrow. It can’t. You can never know… Second, can science tell us what created the universe? If you assume a physical cause – you do it on faith without evidence. I did read you piece,twice now… Thrid, the universe is evidence for God. A rational God created created a ordered and intelligble universe. And created rational beings that can understand and interact with said universe. I’m sorry that just makes more sense than saying that a non-intelligent force created a fine tuned universe, and a universe fine tuned for biological life. Than then created the biological life that it was tuned for…

    Like

  140. Have a look at my article and if your want to pursue the discussion do it there.

    Like

  141. James said…”Thrid, the universe is evidence for God. A rational God created created a ordered and intelligble universe”

    Thrid, the universe is evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. A rational Flying Spaghetti Monster created created a ordered and intelligble universe.
    (shrug)

    “…a fine tuned universe, and a universe fine tuned for biological life.”

    How do you actually know that it’s a fine-tuned universe?

    Like

  142. Thrid, the universe is evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. A rational Flying Spaghetti Monster created created a ordered and intelligble universe..

    Even that would be more plausible than saying that a non-intelligent pyhsical force “did it.” And did it just right…

    How do you actually know that it’s a fine-tuned universe?

    Well I suspect that men like Davies are not lying. Besides I exist. Neither I or you would be here if the universe was not fine tuned for life…

    Like

  143. “Even that would be more plausible than saying that a non-intelligent pyhsical force “did it.” And did it just right…”

    This doesn’t make any sense.

    “Well I suspect that men like Davies are not lying.”

    That’s, um, nice.
    So how does he know?

    “Besides I exist.”
    So? What does that have to do with anything?

    “Neither I or you would be here if the universe was not fine tuned for life…”

    Which brings us back to…
    How do you actually know this?

    Like

  144. @ James – November 23, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    “Well I suspect that men like Davies are not lying.” No, although he is giving a personal opinion which can be, and was, debated.

    On the other hand we do know that Ross and Craig did lie about the cosmological constant – don’t we?

    Like

  145. This is a bit closer to home: Buses are sprouting messages of reason everywhere…except Australia (link to PZ’s blog). (Fixed – Ken)

    Nutshell version: Australia bus company repeatedly refuses to carry atheist slogans, despite carrying religious ones.

    Had to laugh at some of the suggestions. This one from the first comment: “God is my shepherd. Baa.”

    Like

  146. Hmm… that link is misformed (my fault). Should have been I prefer the conventional a tag which I understand! 🙂

    Like

  147. I wonder what ads would be suitable for the NZ situation (somehow I think buses may not be the appropriate place here for these sort of ads). And I wonder what a typical kiwi ad might be – something along the Tui ads – “Yeh, right”!

    Along these lines some god botherers set up a web site in response to the UK ads – There Probably Is. Now, in response there is a web site There Probably Isn’t!

    Like

  148. Has Tui already run an advert along these lines, I can’t help but think that one of them was vaguely atheist. Should try track down a website that lists them all when I find time.

    I heard about the tit-for-tat websites 🙂

    None my attempts to use the “unique” a tags for this blog are working. Goodness knows why the last one messed up, its actually swallowed some of the trailing text. I’m going to test if plain-jane conventional a tag works: Buses are sprouting messages of reason everywhere…except Australia

    Like

  149. I use the CoLT add-on in Firefox (also the Text Formatting Toolbar) which makes links so much easier.

    Like

  150. I know the standard tags well from memory. I think the trouble is the description of the tags above the comment textbox had me thinking that the a tag provided there has no end (or closing) tag. (Looking at it now they probably all have the balancing closing tags, but none of them are listed: the way they’re listed had me thinking of XML tags that don’t have balancing close tags. To be fair, they’d include a / at the end if that were the case, so I’m not right there either.) Thanks for the suggestion, though.

    Like

  151. On the other hand we do know that Ross and Craig did lie about the cosmological constant – don’t we?

    No, we don’t know that Ken. We know they were mistaken, should we assume that every time you are mistaken that you are actually lying?

    Like

  152. @ James:

    Mistaken or consciously lying – the example shows that such apologist web sites are unreliable sources of scientific information. This situation arose because they were dredging information, selecting information, to support their pre-conceived beliefs. A sure way to end up misrepresenting and distorting the information.

    And isn’t that what you are doing, James?

    The honest approach is to follow the evidence – not select and distort the evidence.

    Like

  153. Ken,

    The latest edition of Science has an editorial entitled “Science and Human Rights”. I haven’t time to read it, but you might be interested?

    Like

  154. Should add: 322(5906)1303

    Like

  155. hey James, if anyone is still looking at this thread, I just wanted to help out by relating a story of my own.
    Last night, as I was walking to my car, I saw a stranger with a cart full of things having to carry it down the stairs to her car.
    I stopped to help her even though it was a very cold night. I am an atheist. Why?
    I was not going to be rewarded aside from a “thank you” for doing this, but I did it anyway. I don’t have a scientific reason for doing so, being kind to strangers was just how I was raised. It continues to seem like a good idea, so I do it. I don’t have to read too much into it to see it as a good enough reason.
    Based on the amount of religious people convicted of violent crime, it’s quite obvious that religion has little to nothing in determining how someone acts towards others. Behavior is learned from other people, whether it be parents, siblings or others.
    And please never use Hitler or Stalin in your arguments again. It violates Godwin’s law, not to mention Hitler was a self-professed Christian. And don’t give me that “no true scotsman” fallacy either, if Hitler said he’s Christian, that’s his choice and therefore he was.
    You may have thought you are right and I am wrong, and I think you are wrong and I am right, but whoever’s position is the best is up to each individual, because when it comes down to the details, everybody’s morality is going to be a little bit different. There can be no ultimate source, because there’s a lot of people who claim they have it. Who’s right? Who knows? Who can?
    Learned behavior from others as well as the personal impulse to exercise creative control over our own actions can completely account for why people act the way they act. No god or religion needed.

    That’s what this ad campaign is all about. And if you need a god to persuade you to act kindly towards others “just because”, then I feel sorry for you.

    Like

Leave a Reply: please be polite to other commenters & no ad hominems.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s