May 16 2014

Preaching Against Skepticism

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423 responses so far

423 Responses to “Preaching Against Skepticism”

  1. mumadaddon 16 May 2014 at 8:52 am

    Sweet. I love it when Steve posts about religion or god. Cue 400 plus comment thread…

  2. BillyJoe7on 16 May 2014 at 9:59 am

    I suppose it depends on how much you’ve suffered at the hands of religion, but I find it difficult to respect anyone who has religious faith, and I find it difficult not to admire people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne (even though I am semi-banned from his blog commentary) who spare nothing in their attack on religion. I don’t care to have a nuanced approach to religion, no more than I care to have a nuanced approach to bigfoot. And it’s totally and utterly embarrassing to hear otherwise intelligent people talk about their religious beliefs. When your sewerage system overflows, you don’t speak in platitudes about human excrement till it’s swilling around your neck and spilling over your lips, you unblock the sewerage and clean up your house.

  3. mumadaddon 16 May 2014 at 10:17 am

    BJ7,

    Me neither. I cannot see why it’s given some special exemption from honest incredulity. To me it all seems like a huge cop-out; I can’t be bothered to think about the origins of existence, morality, purpose etc. so I’m just going to believe this comforting fluff, despite the overwhelming internal contradictions of most (well, at least the Abrahamic) religious belief systems and the fact that scientific enquiry, the best tool we’ve ever come up with for understanding reality, directly undermines so much of it.

  4. Ori Vandewalleon 16 May 2014 at 10:40 am

    I’ve run into this before because I frequent a discussion forum with a fair number of religious followers. The view I see most often is that doubt is a tool for strengthening your faith. And when I look at it that way, it’s easy for me to see similarities between that worldview and the skeptical one.

    To a skeptic, doubt is a tool for arriving at the truth through science (or scientific processes).

    To a theist, doubt is a tool for arriving at the truth through faith.

    In both cases, doubt is generally not used to question the underlying assumptions of one’s worldview. A theist doubts not to disprove God, but to strengthen the belief in God. Similarly, a skeptic doubts not to find a method other than the scientific one, but to be empowered by the scientific method.

    I should caution that I think the similarities pretty much end there. I’m not making the argument that atheism is a religion, too, or anything like that. The only argument I’m making is that most of us apply our doubt selectively, which to me means that the religious perspective is not quite as diametrically opposed to the skeptical one as some believe it to be.

    You can make the argument that the True Scottish Skeptic doubts everything, even doubt itself, but I submit that that’s a rare breed.

  5. elmer mccurdyon 16 May 2014 at 11:20 am

    Hitchens quite deliberately fanned the flames both of war against the Muslim world and of hate for Muslims. The two are not unconnected. He was evil.

  6. Hosson 16 May 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I find that religion contains several mechanism to reenforce belief and to protect belief from honest inquiry. Unfortunately, faith is a very effective mechanism. I hate how religious ideologies frame faith as a virtue with the most faithful devotes being “justly” rewarded.

    Usually when faith is brought up by religious people in conversation, I will explain why faith is a logical fallacy, and I also give several examples of applying faith to different beliefs to demonstrate the error in reasoning. The results are usually quite poor(denial, anger, etc…), but after a while of talking to people like this, I’m at least able slightly alter how they think. Their language tends to change slightly(now containing fallacies, biases, etc..).

    I do find religious ideology and religious institutions to be major foes of reason and free inquiry, and I will always speak out to limit its influence.

    On a side note, earlier this week I finished listening to ‘god is not Great’ on audible. The book contain a lot of information about religion i was unaware of. And to listen to Hitchens reading his very eloquent book was simply….amazing.

  7. Ekkoon 16 May 2014 at 12:53 pm

    @Ori,
    “To a skeptic, doubt is a tool for arriving at the truth through science (or scientific processes).

    To a theist, doubt is a tool for arriving at the truth through faith.

    In both cases, doubt is generally not used to question the underlying assumptions of one’s worldview.”

    I disagree that doubt is used similarly in these cases – and that a skeptic uses doubt in a way that doesn’t question underlying assumptions, but only reinforces. The whole point to a genuine doubtful, skeptical approach is to question assumptions.

  8. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 1:41 pm

    StevenNovella: “In brief, I think that faith is a personal choice that needs to be kept outside the realm of science and is not a legitimate basis for public policy in a free and pluralistic society….I see no reason to gratuitously attack faith or religious belief itself, as long as it stays in its corner and doesn’t bother with science or other people’s freedom…Your duty to your faith trumps freedom of inquiry; it is the ‘greater obligation.’” “There is an undeniable clash here of world views – faith vs critical thinking and intellectual openness and inquiry.”

    But, of course religion teaches that: “Faith trumps science…You do not and cannot understand God or his miracles, but don’t let your lack of understanding bother you. Faith is comforting, so just stop doubting, stop thinking, relax and just believe.”

    We should “contain” faith? “Wall it off?” Are you nuts? Why not just avoid thinking about it if you don’t want to? Why not let people continue to have faith and belief in a God and leave them alone?

    Atheistic arrogance is so predictable. You know, if religion or faith is a PERSONAL choice outside the realm of science and if religion or faith “doesn’t bother with science,” then what the hell do you care if people have religious beliefs? Why does it offend you? Why do you consider it your obligation to enlist the choir in meaningless rah-rah torch-burning? Let religious people do what they want without your sniping and you do what you want and neither bothers the other.

  9. The Other John Mcon 16 May 2014 at 2:04 pm

    mumadadd: 400+ comments here we come!

  10. Ekkoon 16 May 2014 at 2:24 pm

    DrJoeinCA,
    Either you are trolling or you are somehow blissfully unaware of the myriad ways that religion does, unfortunately, interfere with the functioning of modern society.
    A few obvious ones:
    Birth control/reproductive rights
    School curricula
    Equal rights for women and LGBT

    So “avoiding thinking about it” isn’t a good choice if you care about the potential negative impact religion has on these things.

  11. Hosson 16 May 2014 at 2:25 pm

    DrJoeinCA
    Can you please point out any fallacies in Novella’s argument or is your disagreement value based?

    I don’t understand why you would ask why should bad reasoning be corrected. I’ll put it in terms you are less likely to disagree with. Within the context of a religious point of view, some people try help others attain salvation, while others just stand on the side line condemning people to hell. Freeing a mind and saving a soul are ethically equivalent in the sense of helping others.

    I find the reasoning in your questions supporting pragmatic apathy to be quite poor.

  12. elmer mccurdyon 16 May 2014 at 2:32 pm

    No doubt Hitchens was extraordinarily eloquent and effective at arguing for the cause of hating and slaughtering Muslims. That’s why he got paid the big bucks.

  13. The Other John Mcon 16 May 2014 at 2:35 pm

    McTurdy, if you could point out where Hitchens actually said he hates and advocates the murder of anyone, let alone Muslims, please do so.

  14. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Ekko: SN was talking about “faith,” not religion. It’s certainly valid to question some of the political stances of organized religion. My question to him was why this bothers him so much that people have faith and beliefs.

    Hoss: It’s faith, not reason or science. Which “bad reasoning” was SN trying to correct? And what’s his argument for “containing” and walling off faith? My objection is that he says faith is a personal choice, then goes on to rail about it. What’s the point?

  15. Ekkoon 16 May 2014 at 3:04 pm

    SN wasn’t “railing” against anything. He was just pointing out the vacuity of the way religions counsel people to employ doubt. He did say that as long as faith and religion stay in their corner and don’t bother people or science, then fine. The trouble is that they don’t do that.

  16. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Joe – I don’t care what people believe.
    Further, I stated quite clearly what my problem with faith is. It seems pretty clear that faith is the enemy of doubt, and doubt is fairly central to science and critical thinking. I gave several example from different religions of attacks on doubt because it is perceived as the enemy of faith.

    But I also go out of my way to state that if you can maintain a personal faith, without having it infringe upon critical thinking or science, (and I gave the specific example of deism), then I don’t care.

    Perhaps you should read the article again.

  17. Hosson 16 May 2014 at 3:12 pm

    DrJoeinCA
    “It’s faith, not reason or science.”
    I agree. Faith is not rational nor is it based in science.

    “Which “bad reasoning” was SN trying to correct?”
    Did you not read what Novella wrote?

    “And what’s his argument for “containing” and walling off faith?”
    Reread that paragraph because its in plain sight.

    “My objection is that he says faith is a personal choice, then goes on to rail about it. What’s the point?”
    Again did you not fully read the article? The answer you seek is near the beginning of the article.

    You should expected to get bust for criticizing an article you just skimmed through.

  18. RickKon 16 May 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Ori – your two versions of doubt are different, I think.

    The scientific method, when applied correctly, is essentially a constant search for facts that don’t fit a model – thereby eliminating bad models or refining good ones. That’s “doubt” in the scientific or rationalist sense. Doubt triggers investigation, which often leads the doubter to change their starting assumptions or position or model.

    “Doubt” in a religious sense is a test that works like this: there is a fact or a feeling that makes me doubt some element of my faith. How can I rationalize it away so that I don’t have to change?

    Or, as is often the case, a believer when faced with a fact that contradicts a religious belief simply makes a mental decision to ignore the fact, thus strengthening their commitment to their belief. Young Earth Creationists are highly adept at this.

    Science doesn’t reward the refusal to face and deal with facts. Ignoring facts and suppressing doubt don’t make science grow stronger. But they do appear to make faith grow stronger.

  19. mumadaddon 16 May 2014 at 3:48 pm

    (not a) Dr Joe

    “Atheistic arrogance is so predictable.”

    Seriously? The arrogance of rejecting extraordinary claims due to lack of evidence? Or perhaps the arrogance of admitting that we don’t know the origin of existence, that we probably aren’t the ultimate purpose of the universe, that there is no supreme being that loves us and that when we die, we probably aren’t going to spend eternity in either eternal bliss or eternal agony and suffering.

    Those humble theists must have it right then. They KNOW how reality began, KNOW the mind of the Lord or all creation, KNOW what ritualistic behaviours will buy eternal salvation.

    Glad you set me straight then.

  20. RickKon 16 May 2014 at 4:02 pm

    DrJoeinCA,

    Please read the quote from the LDS literature Steve cited.

    Clearly it is promoting the idea that “doubt” – any sort of ideas that conflict with a previously-established belief – can and should just be suppressed. The suppression of doubts, of conflicting ideas or facts, is a virtuous act.

    Do you believe it is a virtuous act?

    Is it a virtuous act for a doctor or a parent or a political leader, when faced with some facts that make them doubt their decisions, to simply suppress those facts and stay the course?

    Is it virtuous for the member of a trial jury to stick to their initial impressions and to refuse to allow any of the evidence and testimony to raise doubt of their conclusions?

    When someone says they know something is true because their faith tells them so, do they actually know something? If I say I have unshakeable faith that the touch of my hands can cure cancer, that I can fly or that the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard answers my prayers, am I correct? Do you accept my faith in these statements as sufficient for you to believe they are true?

    Or do you not believe me? Am I just using “faith” as a way of claiming knowledge that I don’t actually have?

    Is faith in the face of contradictory evidence a virtue, or is it a character flaw?

    Finally, is it arrogant to ask questions like these?

  21. Paulzon 16 May 2014 at 4:47 pm

    So this is the process by which a person ossifies in their old age. If they live with faith and defeat all comers that challenge them with doubt, they get to the point where the cognitive dissonance of doubt no longer troubles them. Their armor of faith is so unassailable that original thought itself becomes nigh-impossible.

  22. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Novella: The article you cited spoke to what a person of faith should do when they have doubts about their faith or when they find something that makes them doubt their faith. It had nothing at all to do with science. So your “faith is the enemy of doubt” has no relevance here.

    Faith does not clash with intellectual openness or critical thinking. One can be intellectually open and think critically and still believe there is a God and be religious.

    I guess what bothers me is your superior attitude as expressed by: “At best faith can be contained, walled off in a tiny corner (such as deism).” It’s as if you have the high ground and anyone who has faith needs to be isolated. You’re the thinker and a person of faith is intellectually inferior. Grant them their little corner or put them on the little yellow bus, and let us scientific geniuses run things. That’s just annoyingly arrogant, and I wonder why you do that.

    People of faith are intellectuals and thinkers and scientists, and their faith does nothing to reduce their intellectual credentials except in the minds of think they have the answers.

  23. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 5:21 pm

    RickK: If you read the article to which SN referred, it was clearly speaking to people who might have doubts about their faith. It was not meant to address how people should act when they are members of juries or physicians treating patients or politicians.

    That’s what bothered me so much about SN’s opinion, that he thought that this article which was addressed to people of faith was somehow meant to imply that people of faith could not “doubt” things scientifically or intellectually. I don’t think the article said that at all.

  24. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Mumadadd: Yeah, you and BJ7 find it difficult to “respect anyone who has religious faith.” That, my friend, is arrogance.

    You and BJ7 can reject faith and God and all that, but disrespecting people who have chosen to live their lives in a faith-centered, God-fearing way is truly arrogant. Like YOU have the answer and these dolts don’t.

    They believe in A, and you don’t. Why are you so bothered by that? Why are atheists so condescending to people who believe other than they do? I dunno.

  25. RickKon 16 May 2014 at 5:55 pm

    DrJoeinCA,

    You said: “It was not meant to address how people should act when they are members of juries or physicians treating patients or politicians.”

    I see – so you believe the LDS believer should “contain” their faith and not let it bleed into other facets of their life – like in their jobs, or when serving on a jury. How is that different than what Steve said?

    As for your claim of arrogance – let’s explore that.

    If I claim with smiling confidence that your life is meaningless if you don’t cast out your body thetans, would you consider me arrogant? If I tell you that no matter how successful you may be, how generous, how studious or educated you may be, you simply have not achieved a meaningful life because you are still burdened with body thetans, would that be arrogant on my part? If you reject my conclusions and challenge the existence of body thetans, is that arrogant of you?

    Which is more arrogant – claiming knowledge for which there is no basis (purely on faith), or rejecting such knowledge as baseless?

  26. Hosson 16 May 2014 at 6:01 pm

    DrJoeinCA
    “I guess what bothers me is your superior attitude as expressed by: “At best faith can be contained, walled off in a tiny corner (such as deism).” It’s as if you have the high ground and anyone who has faith needs to be isolated. You’re the thinker and a person of faith is intellectually inferior. Grant them their little corner or put them on the little yellow bus, and let us scientific geniuses run things. That’s just annoyingly arrogant, and I wonder why you do that.”

    It wouldn’t seem arrogant if you didn’t straw man the argument. You appear to be projecting your bigotry against atheist.

    All you are doing is asserting the conclusion is wrong. Do you need a reminder how arguments work? I guess you do. If the conclusion is wrong then there is necessarily a false premise or a logical fallacy – attack the premise or the reasoning.

    Steven wrote a damn good article. The least you can do, if your going to criticize it, is to understand the arguments being made. You keep demonstrating that your bias keeps you from understanding.

  27. steve12on 16 May 2014 at 6:08 pm

    “Atheistic arrogance is so predictable. You know, if religion or faith is a PERSONAL choice outside the realm of science and if religion or faith “doesn’t bother with science,” then what the hell do you care if people have religious beliefs? ”

    Atheists are arrogant for questioning religion. Religious people aren’t arrogant for claiming to have solved all the mysteries of the universe. Go figure that one out.

    And why don’t you mind you OWN business. Did someone burst through the door of your place of worship to tell you this? No. You went on a private blog and read it.

    It’s so funny. I’ve been called every name in the book for being an atheist. Evil and immoral, on and on.
    But if you so much as say anything about faith, they get offended immediately. Even if your point is that faith is irrational. And it is! Faith is believeing something w/o evidence because you feel a certain way. That’s the definition of irrational!

  28. steve12on 16 May 2014 at 6:15 pm

    “I guess what bothers me is your superior attitude”

    WHAT??? Religious people (most in the US anyway) tell me that because I don’t believe in their God, I’m going to burn for eternity in Hell while they’re living it up in Heaven.

    But we have a superior attitude for questioning religion?

  29. Teaseron 16 May 2014 at 7:20 pm

    A person who believes in the literal truth of any religion needs a timeout in the reality box. A person who considers the Bible as a literal historical/factual document simply has not performed their due diligence. Religious leaders who willingly mislead their “flock” are little more than narcissistic cultists. Adherents to any doctrinal fundamentalism are flat out dangerous.

    Religion is the supreme example of organized confirmation bias. Maybe that’s why religion is so big on Confirmation ceremonies.

    That said, human beings are social-tribal creatures and it is easy to see religion as an outgrowth of that innate human characteristic. I think it is true that humans enjoy, maybe even require rituals.

    This discussion is similar to those regarding sports teams seeking public funds to build a new stadium. One side professes economic prosperity for all and the other is unwilling to pay their money to a business expecting to make a buck at taxpayer expense – “Privatize the profit, socialize the cost.”

  30. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 7:54 pm

    RickK: “Which is more arrogant – claiming knowledge for which there is no basis (purely on faith), or rejecting such knowledge as baseless?” The more arrogant stance is disrespecting the people who hold views contrary to yours.

    Hoss: Stop sucking up. Bigoted, straw man, biased. All the buzz words. It’s not an argument that I’m putting forward. What I’m trying to understand from Novella is why he is acting so superior and condescending to people of faith, so much so that he walls them off and puts them in a corner as if they are contagious. (Somewhat similar argument, as I remember, to not wanting people to attend chiropractic care lest they be exposed to erroneous beliefs. But that’s another story.)

    Steve12: I’m not saying that some religious people don’t act preachy and don’t pity you for your ignorance about the afterlife. I’m saying that it’s arrogant and condescending for Novella to want to isolate these people for their beliefs as if they are sort of in the way of true scientific bliss. And it’s the same for BJ7 and others who disrespect people of faith for having those beliefs. I’m not saying you cannot “question religion.” I’m saying that disrespecting the people who profess religion on the basis that they are unscientific and therefore imperfect and are therefore to be sat in the corner like wayward children is wrong — and arrogant.

  31. Bronze Dogon 16 May 2014 at 8:23 pm

    It sounds like Joe is trying to say arguing is inherently arrogant without saying arguing is inherently arrogant and that we should argue in a fashion that doesn’t make people like him infer arrogance.

  32. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Bronze: It’s not an argument. Novella said people of faith should be contained and walled off, and I wondered why he adopted that superior, arrogant attitude toward them.

  33. grabulaon 16 May 2014 at 9:50 pm

    @JoeinCa

    “It’s as if you have the high ground and anyone who has faith needs to be isolated. You’re the thinker and a person of faith is intellectually inferior”

    I can agree with this on the basis that for whatever reason, they’re intellect fell short when they came to face the magical thinking that is faith in religion or deities. while their actual intelligence may be no different, their ability to reason has some shortcomings.

    Take, oh just as an example, someone who has faith in say uh, acupuncture. Their faith prevents them from seeing there’s no evidence to support it, and their faith prevents them from seeing where the harm in refering patients to it is…just an example.

    “Like YOU have the answer and these dolts don’t. ”

    Not only will an honest skeptic tell you we don’t have the answer, we won’t insist we do as those with faith certainly will, in god, gods, of their faith.

    On arrogance…hmm, I’ve never insisted that if YOU don’t follow gods word you will burn for eternity. I’ve also never insisted that the entire universe was created soley as the playground for humanity.

    “(Somewhat similar argument, as I remember, to not wanting people to attend chiropractic care lest they be exposed to erroneous beliefs. But that’s another story.)”

    and the pin finally drops…

  34. grabulaon 16 May 2014 at 9:52 pm

    @Joe

    Here bud, no reason you should have to read the whole article right? I’ll past the pertinent section to answer you ongoing head hammering wall question:

    “There is an undeniable clash here of world views – faith vs critical thinking and intellectual openness and inquiry. Religious scholars often try to pretend that the two can be reconciled, but it is they who acknowledge the inherent irreconcilability. At best faith can be contained, walled off in a tiny corner (such as deism).

    It’s inherent incompatibility with critical thinking, however, seems unavoidable.”

  35. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Grabula: You do realize we are talking about religious faith, don’t you? Not acupuncture.

    “I’ve never insisted that if YOU don’t follow gods word you will burn for eternity. I’ve also never insisted that the entire universe was created soley as the playground for humanity.” But what SN did recommend was that we isolate and wall off those people of faith who don’t think with the profundity that we do in a tiny corner of the universe so we can get on with the business of critical thinking and intellectual openness and inquiry.

    Some think that faith and critical thinking “clash,” as if one cannot be a person of faith and still be a critical thinker. That’s pretty arrogant, don’t ya think?

  36. grabulaon 16 May 2014 at 10:14 pm

    @Joe

    “You do realize we are talking about religious faith, don’t you? Not acupuncture.”

    What’s the difference? Both irrationally defy the evidence, plug their ears and yell nanananana when shown things aren’t exactly as they thought.

    “Some think that faith and critical thinking “clash,” as if one cannot be a person of faith and still be a critical thinker. That’s pretty arrogant, don’t ya think?”

    I’ve already answered that question but I’ll try again. No, Faith is generally irrational. Reason is where it’s at.

  37. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Grabula: It’s RELIGIOUS faith. Jeez, really? Observation that acupuncture works is not “faith.”

    So then let’s isolate all the people of faith, ban them from the scientific professions, from holding political office, from voting, from juries, from breeding perhaps. Is that your point? That people of faith are so inherently irrational that they cannot be trusted to critically think and make rational decisions?

  38. grabulaon 16 May 2014 at 10:29 pm

    @Joe

    “Observation that acupuncture works is not “faith.””

    It certainly is when the evidence is stacked highly against you. Evidence shows it doesn’t so as the faithful are told to do, you ignore the evidence and press on anyway. That’s not hubris?

    “So then let’s isolate all the people of faith, ban them from the scientific professions, from holding political office, from voting, from juries….”

    There, fixed it. At least your suggestion would certainly fix some serious issues with this country.

  39. DrJoeinCAon 16 May 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Grabula: Sure, that fixes serious issues with the country. Just have the atheists/scientists run the country. Good plan.

  40. hardnoseon 16 May 2014 at 11:19 pm

    If you feel pretty certain that you understand life, the universe, etc., then you are a follower of one ideology or another.

    Every ideology is irrational, because it is not rational to feel certainty about these things. All ideologies contain fragments of truth, along with mountains of irrational mythology.

    Materialism/atheism is a modern ideology, complete with irrational mythology.

    Steve Novella claims to be an agnostic atheist, but I know from his posts that he is absolutely certain that all spiritual and experiences are illusions or hallucinations.

    A real agnostic believes that the human intellect is not capable of answering the big questions. Novella is the opposite of an agnostic.

  41. grabulaon 16 May 2014 at 11:37 pm

    @Joe

    “Just have the atheists/scientists run the country.”

    They’re as fallible as anyone but atleast you take one irrational aspect out of it right?

    @Hardnose

    “Materialism/atheism is a modern ideology, complete with irrational mythology.”

    And you were doing so well…

    “A real agnostic believes that the human intellect is not capable of answering the big questions.”

    Are you really so obtuse? What are the “big” questions hardnose? We’ve answered some pretty big ones already.

  42. ccbowerson 17 May 2014 at 12:29 am

    “Every ideology is irrational, because it is not rational to feel certainty about these things. All ideologies contain fragments of truth, along with mountains of irrational mythology.”

    I agree that ideological commitments are problematic, but you are attempting a false equivalence across ideologies. Clearly, they are not all equally problematic, irrational or harmful, and I think your use of the term is far too broad to the point that it loses its meaning. It is a worthy goal to expose ideological motivations, but you are not doing so here…

    “Materialism/atheism is a modern ideology, complete with irrational mythology.”

    Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. This does not require ideology. Also, for some reason your use of “/” implies that you think atheism and materialism are the same thing, yet they have distinct meanings. People do not generally use materialism as an ideology. To frame it that way is absurd, but it appears that some people like to frame things that way in order to create a false equivalence, and to be able to create strawman arguments. Which brings me to your next strawman…

    “Steve Novella claims to be an agnostic atheist, but I know from his posts that he is absolutely certain that all spiritual and experiences are illusions or hallucinations.”

    So, you deny his description of himself, and offer as evidence your interpretation of his posts reagarding other people’s experiences. Pretty weak. It is more likely that it is not an ideology you are seeing, but a person having an appropriate skepticism to an extrordinary claim with weak evidence. I find your approach a common tactic (attributing characteristics to others to change the argument) for those interested in impugning others. I don’t get the motivation- is it for the attention or does your mind just work that way?

    “A real agnostic believes that the human intellect is not capable of answering the big questions.”

    I’m surprised you didn’t use the phrase ‘no true agnostic…’ but perhaps that is because that is too close to the name of your fallacious reasoning. The use of agnostic before atheist just inserts a clarification that his atheism is not with absolute certainty, but based upon a lack of evidence. So it is used to temper implications of certainty, but does not mean that he thinks it’s a 50/50 proposition.

    You are asserting that the human intellect is incapable of answering big question. Really? Why do you say that? Perhaps it allows you to maintain whatever beliefs you want while denying any threats against it.

  43. BillyJoe7on 17 May 2014 at 4:19 am

    DrJoe,

    “Why not let people continue to have faith and belief in a God and leave them alone?”

    Because they won’t leave us alone…
    This is some of what we have to put up with: “in god we trust” on US banknotes, prayers before parliament, presidents and prime ministers invoking god at every opportunity, restrictions on abortion, restrictions on stem cell research, relentless efforts to have creationism taught in public schools, religious monuments on public land, blasphemy laws, discrimination against women and homosexuals….

    And because they won’t leave their children alone…
    Their children are indoctrinated into accepting female genital mutilation, sexual repression, homophobia, misogyny, burkas, suicide bombing etc etc. It’s a form of child abuse that we can have no effect on except by tearing down the religious views of the parents, so that their children can see there is another view that can break the cycle of religious heritage from generation to generation.

    “Atheistic arrogance is so predictable”

    What? As opposed to religion? You have a lot to learn about arrogance my friend.

    “You know, if religion or faith is a PERSONAL choice outside the realm of science and if religion or faith “doesn’t bother with science,” then what the hell do you care if people have religious beliefs?”

    Because their religious belief is never just personal. It has to be proselytised. It has to be written into law. And because I don’t want my freedom restricted by someone else’s religious beliefs. And because they have children that suffer their indoctrination.

    “Why does it offend you?”

    Why does clitoridectomy offend me?
    Why does homophobia offend me?
    Why does misogyny offend me?
    Really?

    “Why do you consider it your obligation to enlist the choir in meaningless rah-rah torch-burning?”

    My friend, the push back by the non-religious against the abuse by religious of their own women, children, and homosexuals amongst their congregations is no meaningless rah rah torch burning.

    “Let religious people do what they want without your sniping and you do what you want and neither bothers the other”

    Let religious people do what they want?
    Let me tell you that if it wasn’t for the push back against religion back by the non-religious, this society would not be worth living in.

    “My objection is that he says faith is a personal choice, then goes on to rail about it. What’s the point?”

    The point is that Steven Novella wants to ensure that their faith does remain just personal.
    My point, on the other hand, is that it is impossible for a religious person to keep his faith personal. At the very least he’s going to be indoctrinating his children.

    “One can be intellectually open and think critically and still believe there is a God and be religious”

    Only if you don’t apply your intellectual openness and critical thinking to your god and your religion.

    “I guess what bothers me is your superior attitude”

    His superior attitude? What? As opposed to the superior attitude of religion? A religion that indoctrinates people from cradle to grave and seeks to restrict the freedom on those who do not believe. That’s what bothers me.

    “People of faith are intellectuals and thinkers and scientists, and their faith does nothing to reduce their intellectual credentials except….”

    Except where their faith is concerned. Then their critical thinking skills seem to desert them entirely.

    “That’s what bothered me so much about SN’s opinion, that he thought that this article which was addressed to people of faith was somehow meant to imply that people of faith could not “doubt” things scientifically or intellectually. I don’t think the article said that at all.”

    Not only that, but SN did not say that either.
    Read the article again please.
    What bothered you so much was an opinion that was not even stated!

    “Yeah, you and BJ7 find it difficult to “respect anyone who has religious faith.” That, my friend, is arrogance”

    I don’t respect anyone who has religious faith because they have either unquestioningly accepted everything they were told, or abandoned the hard task of following through their doubts with critical thinking. And I said I find it “difficult” to respect anyone who has religious faith. My own father was very religious and I know that he had doubts just like I did. He didn’t face up to the hard task of critically evaluating his doubts and simply fell back into un-critical belief. He once told me not to think too much, which is how he dealt with his doubts. I loved my father, but I find it difficult to respect him for his back pedalling on his religion.

    “You and BJ7 can reject faith and God and all that, but disrespecting people who have chosen to live their lives in a faith-centered, God-fearing way is truly arrogant. Like YOU have the answer and these dolts don’t”

    Well, I chose my words carefully. I didn’t say I disrespect people of faith, I said I find it difficult to respect them. I hope you can see the difference. But, yes, I know I’ve found the answer, and I know that have failed to find it. Possibly they were more effectively indoctrinated than I was. Perhaps their life circumstances were such that they found religion soothing. Perhaps death frightens them too much.

    “They believe in A, and you don’t. Why are you so bothered by that? Why are atheists so condescending to people who believe other than they do? I dunno”

    I truly hope you do know now.
    Except for the word “condescending”. I was one of those believers once, so I understand, at least to some extent, the chains that bind them.

    “Some think that faith and critical thinking “clash,” as if one cannot be a person of faith and still be a critical thinker. That’s pretty arrogant, don’t ya think?”

    It’s not arrogant. It’s true. You cannot be a person of faith AND be a critical thinker where matters of faith are concerned. That are mutually incompatible. Either you accept faith and ignoring the evidence or you think critically about the evidence.

    “So then let’s isolate all the people of faith, ban them from the scientific professions, from holding political office, from voting, from juries, from breeding perhaps”

    Why do you insist on arguing against positions no one holds. No one, including SN, has argued that religious people cannot have critical thinking skills as far as their professional or political activities are concerned. However, their critical thinking skills seem to desert them as far as their religion is concerned. Therefore they need to isolate their non- critical religious views from their professional and political activities. I hope you understand this now.

  44. grabulaon 17 May 2014 at 4:46 am

    @BJ7

    Excellent points all…

    “It has to be proselytised. It has to be written into law”

    In fact, quite a few religions REQUIRE this.

  45. mumadaddon 17 May 2014 at 6:05 am

    Joe,

    “But what SN did recommend was that we isolate and wall off those people of faith”

    No, he didn’t. He talked about walling off the faith itself, not the faithful. It’s not a good idea to let religious ideology inform social policy or science.

    It’s the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph; for some reason my phone won’t let me paste it here. Will you admit that you’ve been arguing against a strawman? Or will you accuse me of “sucking up” and blithely continue?

  46. Bruceon 17 May 2014 at 6:53 am

    DrJoe seems to be unable to actually read or comprehend what other people write. It is a very common theme of all his ramblings.

  47. RickKon 17 May 2014 at 7:09 am

    DrJoeinCA – you avoided answering pretty much all of my questions. Your one response was: “The more arrogant stance is disrespecting the people who hold views contrary to yours.”

    Did Steve say “religious people are stupid”, or did he criticize religious thinking? Did he Edwards, or did he contradict what Edwards was saying? Did Steve say PEOPLE of faith must be contained or walled off? Or did he say their ideas (“faith”) can be contained?

    And didn’t you yourself say that people must themselves prevent their “faith” from affecting other parts of their lives, like jury duty or science?

    Do you understand that this country is built on the right to freely and vigorously criticize ideas?

    Do you really think it is arrogant to speak out against ideas with which you disagree?

    A large portion of this country believes:
    (1) in deities and magic and superstition and zombies,
    (2) that these magical beliefs should directly influence public policy and be used as the basis to judge other people’s behavior;
    (3) that such matters of “faith” do not require any validation through testing or proof; and
    (4) that these magical beliefs should be “respected” to the point of being beyond challenge or question – that it is impolite to criticize them.

    DrJoeinCA – Can you see how that stance might be considered arrogant? Or do you feel some ideas should never be questioned or criticized?

    You are equating “criticism of faith” as “criticism of people of faith”, and trying to use that stance to limit criticism of “faith”. Since we see what you are doing, and since it is an invalid approach, may we humbly ask you to stop?

    Finally, often people who are on the wrong side of an argument, whose facts are weaker, whose position is weaker, will view the advocates of the winning side of the argument as “arrogant”. It’s human nature.

    Do you think it is just possible that this may be influencing your reaction?

  48. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2014 at 7:21 am

    DrJoe – I did not say that. You really need to read the article again (if you even read it the first time).

    I did not say people of faith need to be walled off – I said that faith, at best, can be walled off (faith itself, not people of faith). Meaning that people of faith keep their faith separate from their scientific and critical thinking. This is worth pointing out because this mostly does not happen. People use faith to inform their empirical beliefs about the world, and (as in the many examples I gave here) to limit their critical thinking.

    You said that faith is not the enemy of doubt, but I quoted an article saying exactly that – that faith and doubt cannot coexist, as one will banish the other. I am responding to that claim.

    You said faith has nothing to do with science, but I was addressing the quoted claim that faith should trump science.

    Really, you’re embarrassing yourself. Read the article.

  49. RickKon 17 May 2014 at 7:22 am

    hardnose said: “A real agnostic believes that the human intellect is not capable of answering the big questions. Novella is the opposite of an agnostic.”

    What are the stars?

    Why is drinking from a cold stream safer than drinking from a warm stagnant pool?

    Why are some babies born with deformities?

    Why can I only see in the daytime?

    Why does the earth shake and mountains erupt?

    What is stuff made of?

    These were all once big questions, hardnose. You wouldn’t be here enjoying the leisure to debate the limits of human intellect if it weren’t for human intellect’s ability to answer big questions. In fact, the current inventory of “big questions” has been completely shaped and defined by human intellect.

    I think it is arrogant for someone to claim knowledge they don’t have. Is it any less arrogant to claim ignorance they don’t have? Does the fact that human intellect might answer some of the current set of “big questions” bother you in some way? Do you think science ruins mystery?

    Suddenly I feel the need to quote Tim Minchin, so I’ll stop now.

  50. mumadaddon 17 May 2014 at 7:30 am

    Joe,

    “We should “contain” faith? “Wall it off?” ”

    Oh, so you did read it then? Two comments later:

    “I guess what bothers me is your superior attitude as expressed by: “At best faith can be contained, walled off in a tiny corner (such as deism).””

    Yes, obviously you did; you even quoted it. Two comments later:

    “is why he is acting so superior and condescending to people of faith, so much so that he walls them off and puts them in a corner as if they are contagious.”

    Ah, there you go, nice little sleight of hand and twisting of the meaning of what was actually said. Well done, sir.

    Did anyone notice? Did get away with it? I think so! Next comment:

    ” Novella said people of faith should be contained and walled off, and I wondered why he adopted that superior, arrogant attitude toward them.”

  51. sonicon 17 May 2014 at 10:54 am

    I think it’s called Tu quoque when one attempts to turn an attack against the attacker– as in “No, the religious people are arrogant…”
    Tu quoque– is that the correct usage?

    The OtherJohn Mc-
    In reply to question to elmer Re: Hitchens and muslim genocide-
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/14/ffrf-recap/
    (starts about paragraph 8) and includes-
    “Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.”

    I don’t know if PZ Myers is a credible source on this or not.

    I’m not sure about the designation ‘agnostic atheist’. Many English speakers would agree with this quote-
    “An agnostic position is one that leaves open the question whether there exists a god or gods, professing to find such a question unanswered or unanswerable. For the atheist, the question has been answered, and in the negative.”
    Jaroslav Pelikan

  52. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 11:37 am

    I think that all things should be open to questioning. Such as: Why does the word ‘doubt’ have the letter ‘b’ in it?
    Should I just accept that spelling on faith?

  53. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Novella: Lemme be clear on this. Faith is incompatible with critical thinking, right? And yet, people of faith can be critical thinkers, right? So someone whose faith is important to them, whose faith guides their day-to-day behavior and provides a moral foundation to their lives, this person can still be a critical thinker, right?

    But when this person has a doubt about his faith and his religious elders advise him how to deal with that doubt by non-critical thinking means, you have a problem with that, right? Why does this offend you? Why wouldn’t you think that the person of faith would continue to rely on their faith through moments of doubt?

    You criticize “faith” as irrational. Are you not making a judgment about people who have that faith?

    It’s one thing to say — in one sentence — that people of faith should keep their faith out of situations such as science that require critical thinking. I agree with that. Perhaps you were trying to say this when you said faith can be “contained” and “walled off.” Maybe I haven’t read enough of your writing to appreciate when you are less than exact.

  54. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 12:09 pm

    BJ7: So much personal stuff there. You’re equating faith with religion with all kinds of messed up behavior including child abuse, homophobia, misogyny. No way to respond to all that other than to say that’s messed up behavior.

  55. Bronze Dogon 17 May 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Context is extremely important, and people like Joe often do their best to downplay it.

    There was a time on an Armored Core forum when a troll came in to express his hatred of the game and how stupid we are for talking so much about mech parts. We asked him if he hated the game so much, why did he come to the forum? We could honestly ask that question because Armored Core is a video game. It was an innocent hobby we did in our own homes, and had a forum specifically made for talking about the game. We had no reason to believe the troll was significantly affected by our decision to play the game, and to our knowledge, no one was intrusively insisting that he had to like the game. Armored Core is very much a niche series, so it’s not like it was advertised excessively, either.

    If religion was merely a private hobby and people kept their faith largely to themselves, we wouldn’t feel such an urgent need to talk about it. The problem is that the faithful generally don’t keep it to themselves. It’s commonplace for people to insert religious thinking and blind faith into matters that concern other people. Business. Politics. Culture. Education. They’ve controlled the dialogue to make atheism a bad word and demonize atheists as soulless, heartless, or otherwise sub-human, and thus a target for bigotry. Faith is also used to justify many other forms of bigotry against women, other races, other religions, sexual orientations, and gender identity. I don’t see a corresponding benefit to keep faith around that can’t be obtained through secular means.

    Questioning faith’s value is one of the few ethical ways we can push back against religion’s excessive and unethical intrusions into our public lives. If they’re so uncomfortable with arguing about the topic, why is it not equally taboo for people to make declarations of faith as it is to question those declarations? It’s also commonplace for any disadvantaged group to have their concerns dismissed as inflated as well as dismissed for having a vulgar or militant tone no matter how politely they express their view or how moderate their position actually is.

    An important matter to bring up is that most atheists I know don’t consider people of faith to be inherently mentally deficient. I prefer to disassociate myself with those that do. If we seriously thought it was an inherent deficiency, we wouldn’t be advocating discussion as a useful undertaking. We think the problem comes from non-inherent features like fallacious modes of thought, false premises, and ignorance. In principle, these are all things that can be fixed by convincing arguments. If we’re wrong, they should try to understand what we actually think so they can correct our mistakes.

    Another important issue I want to elaborate on is the common inability to separate ideas from the people that hold them. I can respect a person even if they have some wrong ideas. The problem comes when people take criticism of their ideas too personally. The open-mindedness and rationality that allow you change your mind if you’re given good evidence should be things you take pride in. Critical thinking includes the ability to recognize what constitutes good evidence. Good evidence requires rigorous efforts to minimize the chance of self-deception and positing coherent hypotheses that make testable, falsifiable predictions instead of personally appealing hypotheses that can be ad hocked into uselessness. If you make a mistake because good but incomplete evidence pointed you the wrong way, it’s not an insult to your character if new evidence changes the direction. You don’t need to have been right, you need the ability to become right by correcting your position.

    Faith seems to be the opposite, working to create the illusion of having been right, presuming that new evidence will eventually vindicate the faith, rather than be willing to change as new evidence comes in. It defines good evidence as that which agrees with the faith and reinforces the arrogant assumption of correctness and bad evidence as that which brings doubt. Faith makes humility and open-mindedness into vices instead of virtues.

    One trope that annoys me is the assertion that a group is only interested in patting themselves on the back and feeling superior. Well, I think everyone is guilty of that to some degree. In principle, I think back-patting is only a problem if it causes a neglect for the real discussion. In practice, I’ve found that complaints about back-patting are usually an excuse to avoid that discussion by diverting time and effort onto irrelevancies. I’d rather go through the evidence and logic to see who’s got the more accurate explanation of reality.

  56. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Joe – I was not less than exact. You simply misinterpreted what I wrote. Everyone else seemed to have no problem.

    What you are describing above – having faith and being a critical thinker in other areas – is called compartmentalization. That is another way of saying – walling off your faith so that it does not intrude into other intellectual areas.

    Faith is incompatible with critical thinking in that they cannot occupy the same intellectual sphere – and I quoted multiple advocates of faith who are advocating this position.

    This does not mean you cannot have faith in one domain, and be a critical thinker in another. I never said that. That is why people compartmentalize or “wall off” their faith.

    Many people, of course, don’t.

    And I am not “offended.” You are introducing emotional terminology here. Perhaps that is just how you understand such issues. What I am concerned about is the pernicious effects of advocating for turning off critical thinking in favor of faith in any sphere, because it is unlikely to be contained (and there are countless examples of this).

    Also, when I say faith is irrational, I am quoting my Catholic education. Advocates of faith acknowledge that faith is fundamentally irrational – it is belief without logic and evidence. By definition.

  57. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Bronze also brings up a good point – this blog is about science and critical thinking. Discussing the relationship between faith and critical thinking is pretty much in the sweet spot of what I write about and what my readers come her to read about and discuss. It is absurd to criticize the fact that I am discussing aspects of critical thinking.

  58. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Novella: As a Catholic then, you would appreciate the teachings of some who do not agree that reason and faith are incompatible. That’s YOUR conclusion. But that’s beside the point.

    Again, in your critique of the article you cited, you seemed to me to be offended by the fact that people of faith resort to their faith when they have doubts about their faith. As if they should turn to scientific/critical thinking to address a crisis of faith. I don’t get why this bothers you that people of faith stay in the faith realm.

    You want people to compartmentalize/wall off their faith, keep it separate from science. This is what they are doing when they have doubts about their faith. You talk this down as if this shows “faith trumps science.” It doesn’t show that at all.

    They don’t try to bother you when they deal internally with their faith. They don’t intrude upon your scientific realm. I just think you went out of your way to make this a faith vs reason situation when it really isn’t.

  59. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 2:02 pm

    A good example of faith intruding on science,critical thinking and massively stepping on other people’s toes is the climate change issue. We have public figures in positions of power and influence telling us that AGW is not a problem,because only god controls what happens to us not man’s contribution of CO2 (which only we can control) ,and that if we have faith in god’s power,then that is all the action necessary.
    This is a case where it indeed would be useful for people of faith to keep that safely walled off from the critical thinking parts of their brain.

    http://youtu.be/_7h08RDYA5E

    http://youtu.be/lGR6ezl0-Dw

  60. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 2:30 pm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq4Bc2WCsdE

    tmac57: Oh, come on. There are scientists, real scientists, who believe that the emergency that is climate change is a farce. No God involvement. This is not a faith thing. That’s like attributing homophobia and misogyny to “faith.”

  61. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 2:39 pm

    tmac: And lest we forget Penn and Teller…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v4Q9Wv10Ho&noredirect=1

  62. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 2:56 pm

    “Novella: As a Catholic then, you would appreciate the teachings of some who do not agree that reason and faith are incompatible. That’s YOUR conclusion. But that’s beside the point.”

    Sorry Joe, this is just wrong. I’m also Catholic educated, and took an interest in science from a young age. Every priest told me the exact same thing whenI tried to break faith down logically, as a young kid does. Faith isn’t subject to rational examination – it’s an emotion that instills a belief without physical evidence. It’s definitional.

    Now I realize what they were saying is obvious. Not a put-down of faith but a clarification of what faith is: faith is an emotional reaction that God is real regardless of the physical evidence. Faith isn’t arrived at via logical processes, so the faithful have to compartmentalize.

    This is obvious to the faithful AND scientists. It might be why scientists end up rejecting faith (as I did), but that doesn’t change the nature of what faith is.

  63. hardnoseon 17 May 2014 at 2:58 pm

    “Faith is incompatible with critical thinking in that they cannot occupy the same intellectual sphere”

    If a person has experiences with things that are not part of our “physical” world, they may be convinced their experiences are real. If the majority of our species, in all times and places, have had similar experiences, then it is not irrational to think the experiences may have some basis in “reality.”

    The materialist mythology says that anything that can’t be perceived with our senses or technological devices must be hallucinations or delusions.

    That is an automatic argument against any kind of religious/mystical reality. That argument is applied in every debate on these topics, and of course it was used in the afterlife debate.

    The logic is:
    We know that sometimes people have hallucinations and delusions. We know that sometimes people have religious experiences. Therefore religious experiences are caused by hallucinations or delusions.

    Now, can we call that “critical thinking” when it disobeys the most fundamental rules of logic?

    I am not saying religious experiences, NDEs and so on, are real. I have no opinion. I am saying that this example of materialist “reasoning” is blatantly defective.

  64. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Cartoons and Penn & Teller don’t think AGW is real? Well, I’m convinced.

    Don’t you think it’s sort of funny that when you use political affiliation to predict views on global warming, you get responses that fall right in line with the politics. When you use scientific training (especially specific to the field) you get an overwhelming consensus that it’s real. Hmmmm, who to trust? A bunch of politicos, or scientists trained to answer the question?

    And I love the Libertarian propoganda from Penn. Libertarian models of the world can’t accommodate shared problems, so when you come up against one you just simply ignore all the evidence and go on with your Ideological Model Pretend World! Yay!

    I remembering probing Joe for what he knows about geophysics when he was first here because he was saying AGW wasn’t real. He knows nothing about it, BUT knows that all of the scientists who have been studying it are wrong because it’s unknowable. Catch that? He knows nothing about it except that it isn’t known. One would think you would need some knowledge or training to make that determination, especially considering the scientific consensus. Not so much I guess.

  65. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 3:25 pm

    “The materialist mythology says that anything that can’t be perceived with our senses or technological devices must be hallucinations or delusions.

    But if we can’t measure them in any way, how do you know that they are there?

    “That is an automatic argument against any kind of religious/mystical reality. That argument is applied in every debate on these topics, and of course it was used in the afterlife debate.”

    Well then the these non-material entities ARE being perceived by our senses. You’ve already contradicted yourself. And I want to know: what are they?

    You tell me, I guess: What is a supernatural event? Can it be studied? What would it mean to NOT assume materialism in our research? Be open to a non-ordered universe? How can science study a capricious universe that doesn’t follow rules? Or do you want to say that these phenomena DO in fact follow rules? But if they do, aren’t they back in the material world? If not, why not?

    We’ve measured the world with materialist assumptions (it is an assumption not a flawed logical conclusion as you say) with fantastic success. You want us to believe that there are also other-than-material processes, but you cannot specific what they are, where they are, or how they differ from the material world – nothing.

    Who has the flawed logic again? I don’t really think you or any of the people at the after-life thread have REALLY thought about these issues, and that’s the real problem. Becasue if you answer the questions I’ve posed above, you see that we have to make material assumptions to study the universe with science.

  66. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2014 at 3:37 pm

    hardnose is completely off base, and Steve12 already pointed out some contradictions.

    That is not materialist logic – that is a straw man. Science allows for inference. Things don’t have to be directly measured. But science does follow methodological naturalism, because it has to. It doesn’t work otherwise.

    hardnose also doesn’t seem to understand what faith is, which he falsely equated believing in the paranormal, and then tried to argue – but what if there is a good reason to believe in the paranormal. So many problems with this argument.

    Faith, by definition, is belief in excess of what can be argued from logic and evidence. I think this is an inherently flawed approach, as I argued above.

    Further, scientists following methodological naturalism don’t dismiss paranormal claims out of hand as he suggests. Rather, if they were genuine anomalies, that could be demonstrated reliably. The problem with paranormal beliefs is that the evidence for them are terrible.

    Finally, his cartoon of “materialist” logic exists only in the minds of believers falsely criticizing scientists and skeptics. A better way to state the actual logic is this – before you invent new physics or change the fundamental nature of reality, let’s rule out known phenomena that can explain the available evidence. See the difference?

  67. RickKon 17 May 2014 at 3:40 pm

    hardnose said: “The materialist mythology says that anything that can’t be perceived with our senses or technological devices must be hallucinations or delusions.”

    Natural phenomena have natural causes. If you do not believe that, hardnose, please provide examples that violate that simple rule.

    Materialists believe that:

    1) All evidence to date indicates that only material (natural) causes have any effect on the material (natural) world.

    2) A supernatural or immaterial being/force/cause that has no impact on the material/natural world is indistinguishable from a being/force/cause that doesn’t exist.

  68. ccbowerson 17 May 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Steve says:

    “And I am not “offended.” You are introducing emotional terminology here. Perhaps that is just how you understand such issues.”

    Then DrJoe responds

    “Again, in your critique of the article you cited, you seemed to me to be offended by the fact that people of faith resort to their faith when they have doubts about their faith.”

    Really? Either you didn’t read what Steve wrote or you can’t help yourself from projecting emotions and misunderstanding the arguments onto others. Many of your statements stem from your misunderstanding and arguments that you attribute to others.

  69. ccbowerson 17 May 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Bringing up Penn and Teller only demonstrates that there are other ideologies that can lead to motivated reasoning.

    No one is arguing that religious motivations are the only types of motivating ideologies, although they are particularly powerful and pervasive ones. In the Penn and Teller example, you have libertarianism as the driver of the motivated reasoning with regards to climate change.

    Different ideologies will have effects on the intellectual and emotional motivations with regards to each topic. For climate change, libertarianism and capitalism are probably most motivating, although some religious beliefs seem to play a role. For many social issues discussed above (sexual orientation, abortion, women’s rights, etc), religious ideologies are more relevant, at least in the U.S.

    Bringing up other ideologies doesn’t invalidate the role of religious ideologies on a given topic. These are not mutually exclusive effects.

  70. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 4:25 pm

    DrJoe- ccbowers answered the Penn and Teller aspect quite well,but regarding the ‘real scientists that don’t accept AGW’,that isn’t even the point that I was making,since they are making a (flawed and or spurious in my opinion) science case for their position,while the politicians,religious leaders,pundits et al that I am referring to,are making their case based on the faith that god alone controls weather and the universe,and can halt any calamity that besets us if we only just believe and worship him. If one has faith in such a proposition,then they would totally feel fine about continuing to pollute our atmosphere with ever growing amounts of greenhouse gasses without consequence,and vote against anyone who attempted to caution otherwise. That is real harm based on a faith position alone,not science based.

  71. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Steve12: Not to dispute your memory of what you were taught, but my experience was different. Just to look it up a bit:

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

    I bring up Penn and Teller as skeptics. They are not sure we’re causing climate change, not sure if we can fix it, and not sure that we know how to fix it.

    Novella: See above. Some people don’t think that reason and faith are incompatible. Fancy that. It may be what you would call a difference of opinion.

    ccbowers: “Bringing up other ideologies doesn’t invalidate the role of religious ideologies on a given topic.” But hopefully what it disputes is the idea that “religious ideologies” “intrude” on such heavy issues as climate change. A couple of people preaching that God will make everything better is no worse that people thinking that AlGore is a prophet.

    Not really sure about religious ideologies and “women’s rights.” I do know that the Catholic Church intrudes on the issue of abortion because it teaches that it is the taking of a human life. When I read discussions from people who cannot even explain what life is and when it begins and yet think it’s ok for that “thing” to be snuffed out, and I compare that to the CC’s taking the side of the unborn, I guess I’m not that sorry that there is another side to the debate.

  72. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 4:46 pm

    tmac57: But my point is that there are other non-religious deniers or doubters of climate change. To hook it onto people who believe in God is inaccurate, other than that there is a fringe which believes that what happens is God’s punishment for our misdeeds. I’m sure there are many religious people who believe in climate change and think we have to do something about it.

  73. hardnoseon 17 May 2014 at 5:26 pm

    “before you invent new physics or change the fundamental nature of reality, let’s rule out known phenomena that can explain the available evidence.”

    You don’t have to invent new physics or change the fundamental nature of reality to accept that some “paranormal” experiences could have some validity. I am not saying they do, I am saying that it would not contradict anything that science already knows.

    If there were ESP, for example, that would mean information can be received from a remote source, with no “physical” contact. We already know that is possible, since we all get remote information on our cell phones. (And we used to get it on our TVs and radios as well).

    Let’s assume that not all types of fields have already been discovered, since we have no reason to think all have been discovered. Then it seems possible that information can be transmitted and received by living things with no “physical” contact.

    We already know that we can perceive distant objects by receiving electromagnetic information (visible light) that bounces off them.

    Just consider the possibility that this sort of thing occurs in ways we do not yet understand. ESP might be a quite ordinary phenomenon, which just happens to be beyond our current knowledge of nature.

    No laws of physics need to be changed or broken. New understandings would have to be added, but that is to be expected in science, as it evolves.

    Try not to be stuck in what is already known.

    As for the evidence for ESP being terrible — that is definitely open for debate. If you actually read the literature carefully you will see it can’t all be discounted.

  74. RickKon 17 May 2014 at 5:27 pm

    steve12 said: “We’ve measured the world with materialist assumptions (it is an assumption not a flawed logical conclusion as you say)”

    Correct. But it is also important to remember that the “materialist assumption” was not dreamed up, de novo, by some secret band of Atheists Templar and foisted upon a bunch of innocent theists.

    The “materialist assumption” that hardnose hates so much was developed almost entirely by devout theists who over centuries were dragged, kicking and screaming, to the unavoidable conclusion that natural phenomena have natural causes. In all their myriad attempts to find evidence of the direct hand of God pushing some element of the natural world they failed. So many of those divine and magical explanations have been discarded by history. Do we remember Newton for his alchemy or his explanation of God’s hand in setting the planets in motion? No, we remember only his God-free explanations of gravity and light and mathematics.

    Human knowledge was never advanced by those who refused to relinquish their faith in magical causation. It has only been advanced by those who were honest enough to follow the evidence wherever it led and brave enough to face the implications of what it told them.

    hardnose lacks (or refuses to admit) any historical perspective.

  75. RickKon 17 May 2014 at 5:43 pm

    hardnose, you want us to “accept that some “paranormal” experiences could have some validity. ”

    Have paranormal claims gone untested? Is there no forum for testing them? Is there no reward to the person who successfully proves such powers exist? No fame awaits? No television coverage? No movie deal? Is there insufficient incentive for all these people with superpowers to come forward?

    And you said: “ESP might be a quite ordinary phenomenon, which just happens to be beyond our current knowledge of nature.”

    Why do you start with the assumption that ESP is real? Do you assume alien UFO abductions are real? Do you assume reports of demons, fairies or the living Elvis are real? How do you brush away centuries of hoax-busters and failed experiments and just jump to the conclusion that ESP is a physical phenomenon that requires explanation?

    500 years ago, the vast majority of the population of Europe KNEW that witchcraft and dark magic influenced their lives and/or the lives of people around them. There were MILLIONS of claims. Except to a doubtful few, the idea that witchcraft was nothing more than popular delusion was unthinkable.

    And yet here you are, armed with MUCH less supporting evidence, jumping happily to the starting assumption that paranormal powers are real and need more investigation than the endless testing that they’ve already failed.

    And you do this while criticizing others for being ideologically driven. How do you block the cognitive dissonance? Perhaps you are just exercising impressive powers of faith?

  76. elmer mccurdyon 17 May 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I haven’t read the whole thread mainly because it’s such a trivial subject (and also because the best commenters here – the ones with bona fide scientific and medical expertise – seem to have been largely driven away by one thing or another, and also because I really don’t like you people); however, as one who had arrived at the commonsense conclusion that the notion of God was a bit silly by the time I entered elementary school, my response to the many otherwise intelligent and admirable people who persist in believing in the dude is with a shrug. As far as I know, there exists religion of one sort or another in pretty much every society in, even where there have been attempts to eradicate it , and I tend to take this as evidence that this sort of belief is probably instinctual. But who knows, there are a lot of things going on in our brains that I suspect will be a matter of speculation forever.

    In any case, I’ve seen enough debates about Hitler and Stalin vs. the Taiping Rebellion and the Inquisition (etc.) to say that the practical consequences of religion vs. atheism are probably a wash in the aggregate. I also think that, for individuals, religion can have psychological benefits – happiness, courage, kindness – as long as one keeps it intellectually compartmentalized, as many are able to do. And as I’ve said before, Hitchens is a really good example of the negative real-world consequences of atheist evangelism.

    Speaking of which, there used to be a very useful online analysis of that Lancet study of the human costs of the Iraq was, but it seems to have disappeared. Apparently the author has better things to do. Oh well.

  77. elmer mccurdyon 17 May 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I swear, I really thought I’d caught all the typos in that.

  78. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 6:32 pm

    # RickKon 17 May 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for clarifying this point. I sort of left it hanging!

  79. The Street Epistomelogiston 17 May 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I hope anyone who currently accepts the claim that ESP is real has the time to thoughtfully consider the questions in Ricks post above.

  80. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 6:44 pm

    “Steve12: Not to dispute your memory of what you were taught, but my experience was different. Just to look it up a bit:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fides_et_Ratio

    1998 came after my catholic education was over – I’m feeling old.

    This document seems interesting – if for no other reason than it also seems to take postmodernism to task, which I like. Ulitimately, though, I disagree with the thesis.

    You’d have to make the a rationale case for believing God exists. For example, I don’t believe because I have this emotional feeling of the presence of God (obviously irrational), but because I did an experiment and people who pray to God X got what they prayed for, while people who prayed to God Y did not (rational). Now, however, it wouldn’t be faith any more – you’d have evidence.

    Do you see the difference? The definition of faith is believing for no reason beyond a feeling.

  81. hardnoseon 17 May 2014 at 6:48 pm

    [“The materialist mythology says that anything that can’t be perceived with our senses or technological devices must be hallucinations or delusions.

    Steve12: But if we can’t measure them in any way, how do you know that they are there?]

    I don’t know if they are there or not. I can’t just take for granted that they are NOT there, simply because we don’t know how to perceive them.

  82. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 7:45 pm

    tmac57: But my point is that there are other non-religious deniers or doubters of climate change. To hook it onto people who believe in God is inaccurate, other than that there is a fringe which believes that what happens is God’s punishment for our misdeeds. I’m sure there are many religious people who believe in climate change and think we have to do something about it.

    Sigh! Reading for content does not seem to be your strong suit Joe. I did not “hook” climate change denial onto believers. In fact I know of one high profile devote Christian who is a climate scientist who absolutely accepts AGW and speaks out about it publicly and often. She does this because she understands that her ‘god’ will not intervene no matter how bad things get,and that we are the ones who need to take action. Contrast that with those high profile people who basically say “don’t worry,because god has our back” like James Inholfe,John Shimkus, Joe Barton,and Rick Santorum.
    Those people may be fringe elements in your mind,but they are elected officials with REAL power,not some random person on the internet or street corner. Their faith needs to be walled off from their decision making in order for them to make rational decisions on matters that require scientific data and facts,not for it to intrude and make them suspicious that AGW and evolution are “lies from the pit of hell”,and that they really don’t need to know more than “god will protect us” in order to do their civic duty for the benefit and safety of ALL of their constituents.

  83. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Steve12: Yeah, that whole God thing is sort of necessary.

    John Paul: “Faith intervenes not to abolish reason’s autonomy nor to reduce its scope for action, but solely to bring the human being to understand that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts. Thus the world and the events of history cannot be understood in depth without professing faith in the God who is at work in them.”

    “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (16:9). This is to say that with the light of reason human beings can know which path to take, but they can follow that path to its end, quickly and unhindered, only if with a rightly tuned spirit they search for it within the horizon of faith. Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.”

    “When [the human being] claims that “God does not exist” (cf. Ps 14:1), he shows with absolute clarity just how deficient his knowledge is and just how far he is from the full truth of things, their origin and their destiny.”

    Sorry to break that to you.

  84. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 7:54 pm

    tmac57: “The politicians,religious leaders,pundits et al that I am referring to,are making their case based on the faith that god alone controls weather and the universe,and can halt any calamity that besets us if we only just believe and worship him.”

    I can’t specifically speak to which of the four you named actually thinks out loud (“makes the case”) that “God alone controls the weather.” But there are those who question the science behind climate change, not from a God perspective, but from a scientific one.

  85. steve12on 17 May 2014 at 8:02 pm

    “I don’t know if they are there or not. I can’t just take for granted that they are NOT there, simply because we don’t know how to perceive them.”

    Hardnose, I asked a series of Qs that I think you need to actually respond to if you really want to question one of the foundational assumptions of all of science:

    What would it mean to NOT assume materialism in our research? Be open to a non-ordered universe?

    How can science study a capricious universe that doesn’t follow rules? Or do you want to say that these phenomena DO in fact follow rules?

    But if they do follow rules, aren’t they back in the material world? If not, why not?

  86. ccbowerson 17 May 2014 at 8:31 pm

    “I don’t know if they are there or not. I can’t just take for granted that they are NOT there, simply because we don’t know how to perceive them.”

    That is the lesson of Russell’s teapot. It is an obvious lesson that appears lost on you. If someone says something exists with no evidence, the burden is not on me to prove that it is isn’t there, but the burden is on them to show otherwise.

    Yes, there could exist any number of things if our only limit is the human imagination, but why should we take any assertion seriously that has no evidence to support it?

    The answer is we shouldn’t, but you seem to think otherwise. You also seem to put supernatural explanations on par with natural ones, even though no supernatural events have ever been demonstrated to exist under close scrutiny. Somehow they tend to have occured in the past, or while very few people are looking. With cameras aplenty in our current world, we should be seeing a huge increase in documented supernatural events (to the extent that they interact with the natural world).

  87. grabulaon 17 May 2014 at 9:15 pm

    @Sonic

    “I don’t know if PZ Myers is a credible source on this or not.”

    As Myers has got older he’s got over the top crotchety. I can’t even handle reading his blog these days because his opinions have become more extreme and narrow minded. To be fair, I’m sure Hitchens would have liked to see the eradication of all religion, but not necessarily in the extreme way Myers implies. I don’t think Hitchens was completely against going to war to fight religion but it’s a big leap to genocide, especially when you consider we’re talking about a religion and not a race or people.

    @Joe

    “whose faith guides their day-to-day behavior and provides a moral foundation to their lives, this person can still be a critical thinker, right?”

    No, if faith is what guides your day to day life you live an irrational life. You make decisions based on irrational beliefs, requiring no evidence but whatever you can create to rationalize it.

    “You criticize “faith” as irrational. Are you not making a judgment about people who have that faith?”

    Yes, that judgement is that they choose to follow irrational belief over rational thought. It doesn’t mean they can’t make rational decisions, however they’re reasoning is always suspect.

    “No way to respond to all that other than to say that’s messed up behavior.”

    All irrational behaviour based around faith in religion.

    “you seemed to me to be offended”

    Seemed…it’s already been pointed out you’re perception was wrong, why can’t you let it go?

    “You talk this down as if this shows “faith trumps science.””

    Didn’t teach you reading comprehension at the woo school you attended? That’s exactly the point of the article, that some of faith advocate leaving behind rational thinking for faith. Seriously dude, read the frickin article.

    “They don’t intrude upon your scientific realm.”

    Nice strawman by the way Joe. We’re not just talking science here, though it’s an issue. We’re talking all aspects of life. I’m ok with you believeing what you want in your homes or in your churches and sunday schools. It’s when you insist that I should live by your faith that it becomes an issue, regardless of the domain, be it politics, science, etc..

    “That’s like attributing homophobia and misogyny to “faith.””

    And generally they are, or do you live under a rug. You’re being especially obtuse this time aroud Joe.

    “They are not sure we’re causing climate change, not sure if we can fix it, and not sure that we know how to fix it. ”

    That’s a healthy skeptical attitude. Most of us have accepted it’s happening, the evidence is overwhelming, the other two are still up in the air.

  88. grabulaon 17 May 2014 at 9:16 pm

    @hardnose

    “If a person has experiences with things that are not part of our “physical” world”

    Stop trying to build this false dichotomy between a natural world and a suprnatural world. You can’t support a rational argument with irrationality.

    “The materialist mythology says that anything that can’t be perceived with our senses or technological devices must be hallucinations or delusions. ”

    wrong, wrong and wrong. First, material mythology, really. The woo is strong in this one. If you can’t percieve it, it’s not dismissed by science (that’s probably the word you’re looking for instead of materialist mythos) out of hand. It’s plausibility is explored, a hypothesis is established and evidence is sought out. If the evidence fails to support, science, unlike woo, moves on. Refer to all the woo you want but if it has no foundation in science and no evidence to show us its plausible then you’re not doing yourself any favors by bringing it up here.

    “Therefore religious experiences are caused by hallucinations or delusions.”

    See, hardnose, now you’re starting to get it!

    “I am not saying religious experiences, NDEs and so on, are real.”

    That’s bull and you know it. You’ve argued for every form of woo, and against every rational thought since you started commenting on this blog.

    “Let’s assume that not all types of fields have already been discovered, since we have no reason to think all have been discovered.”

    We also don’t assume anything. If evidence for more fields presents itself then we can follow the evidence.

    “Try not to be stuck in what is already known.”

    Ah yes, the classic open your mind gambit, but hardnose’ mind has already left the building…

  89. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Grabula: So if someone’s faith “guides their day-to-day behavior and provides a moral foundation to their lives” that’s an “irrational” life? I wonder whether you consider this a bad thing that someone of faith acts according to the teaching of their faith. Or maybe you are just making a scientific observation that their life is “irrational,” whatever that means.

    The messed up behavior you mentioned is NOT a function of religion or of someone who leads a life based on faith.

    Whether Novella says he is not “offended” or not, his post made it seem as if he took offense at how someone addressed problems with their faith. It’s an observation.

    I read the frickin article and it talked about what people of faith should do if they have doubts about their faith. It did not have any bearing at all upon “science” or decisions made which require scientific thinking. It was purely advice to people about their faith. Which is why I wondered what part of this innocuous article which was addressed to people of faith and that had no bearing at all upon science set Novella off, offended him. And the fact that he morphed it into a faith versus science discussion — which it wasn’t — is also kind of interesting. Why did it bother him that the elders of a church would write to the members of that church and advise them on matters of faith?

    Oh, so it’s ok with you if I restrict my religious belief and faith to somewhere indoors and non-public? As long as I don’t take it outside and maybe let it affect my behavior or my decision making about important stuff like abortion, huh? That’s damn white of you. Where are you getting this garbage? You think you have a right to tell anyone how they should behave and how they should make decisions because you are a “scientist” and an atheist and your decision-making is somehow “better?” Get real. You can make decisions about abortion that affect people, and I can’t because I’m religious? There’s another example of arrogance.

    Homophobia and misogyny are products of “faith?” Where are you getting this babble?

  90. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Dr Joe- Here are the first two sentences of Steve’s post

    I strive to have a fairly nuanced approach to religion in this blog and my other skeptical outreach. In brief, I think that faith is a personal choice that needs to be kept outside the realm of science and is not a legitimate basis for public policy in a free and pluralistic society.

    How does that square with your “It did not have any bearing at all upon “science” or decisions made which require scientific thinking.”?

    Again, reading comprehension fail.

  91. tmac57on 17 May 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Oops,I left out the second cut and paste from the article to contrast what Steve posted:

    I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it’” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord,” New Era, Feb. 2001, 9).

    If science has no way to dispel,or cause someone to question a faith held belief that comes into conflict with science (evolution,genesis etc.) then how can that not have any bearing on scientific thinking? Once you put faith above science,then any scientific discovery that contradicts a teaching of that faith would have to be denied…no?

  92. DrJoeinCAon 17 May 2014 at 11:32 pm

    tmac57: The article to which he was referring was an intra-church article meant to address how a member should address questions of their faith. It had no bearing on science or decisions made which require scientific thinking. He made it into a science vs faith riff.

    Novella believes that faith and reason/science are incompatible. The Catholic Church, for one, does not believe that is so. In any event, having found that faith and science are incompatible, he discusses an article which relates ONLY to faith. In the article, the church elders did not say that a member with doubt about their faith should turn to science for resolution of those doubts. They gave ways for the member to reinforce that faith within the framework of the church.

    As an example not in the article, perhaps a church member would question why God would permit evil to exist, why God would permit innocent children to die of horrible diseases. Do you think that the church would ask the member to turn to science for answers to these questions of faith? The answer is no, of course not. The church would recommend that the member turn to the church for answers. That’s the point of the article that was cited.

    So, if that is the point of the article as I think it was, what, I ask again, got Novella’s panties in a bunch about it?

  93. grabulaon 18 May 2014 at 12:10 am

    @Joe

    You’re prone to repeating yourself ad nauseum and ignoring the answers we give you, for example:

    “So if someone’s faith “guides their day-to-day behavior and provides a moral foundation to their lives” that’s an “irrational” life?”

    Yes, I’ve said this already. There’s nothing rational about faith, what are you not getting about this? You’re problem is you’re trying to turn it into a moral judgement. I don’t care what they believe, as long as it does not affect me. The problem inevitably is that it does.

    “The messed up behavior you mentioned is NOT a function of religion or of someone who leads a life based on faith. ”

    It’s a function of the darker parts of the human psyche, religion provides the excuse. I’m ok with eliminating as many excuses as possible for terrible behaviour.

    “Whether Novella says he is not “offended” or not, his post made it seem as if he took offense at how someone addressed problems with their faith. It’s an observation.”

    No, it’s an assumption, one you continue to make no matter how many times he tells you you are wrong in that assumption. Spinning wheels much?

    “It was purely advice to people about their faith.”

    Novellas article was about how some of faith view thier approach to rational thinking – that when you can’t explain something outside of your faith it’s better to choose an irrational path and assume your faith will cover it. YOU turned it into a faith versus science discussion.

    “You can make decisions about abortion that affect people, and I can’t because I’m religious? There’s another example of arrogance”

    Here’s where your ignorance works against you Joe. I am firmly for an argument on such things as abortion from a secular point of view. My leaning is pro-life though I understand the rational arguments for abortion, and can in some cases agree. In a perfect world all babies would be born all the time, but that’s not the case and people of faith tend to view it such black and white terms, which is naive and ignorant. Mindless adherence to a system of beliefs base on magical thinking is the problem, don’t mistake that for rational discourse.

    “Homophobia and misogyny are products of “faith?” Where are you getting this babble?”

    Stop with the strawmen already. No one here is claiming they are products of faith, but they are indeed popular with those of faith, who have no issue forcing those views on the public. My homosexual uncle can’t marry another man because God says it’s evil, you’re even more obtuse than I know you are if you think there’s something else behind that movement.

    “So, if that is the point of the article as I think it was, what, I ask again, got Novella’s panties in a bunch about it?”

    You do realize Dr. Novella’s blog post is STILL providing you with that answer, though you’re missing it again, and probably forever.

  94. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 12:51 am

    Grabula: “Novellas article was about how some of faith view thier approach to rational thinking – that when you can’t explain something outside of your faith it’s better to choose an irrational path and assume your faith will cover it. YOU turned it into a faith versus science discussion.” Read the article he wrote about. It had nothing to do with inability to explain something outside of one’s faith. Nothing at all.

    Would you like to define “irrational life?” Tell me how someone who believes in God and is religious and who believes their faith gives them a moral grounding and guides their daily behavior is “irrational.”

    “[messed up behavior] is a function of the darker parts of the human psyche, religion provides the excuse.” “No one here is claiming they are products of faith, but they are indeed popular with those of faith, who have no issue forcing those views on the public.” Seriously, where are you getting this crap?

    Me: “That’s like attributing homophobia and misogyny to “faith.”” You: “And generally they are, or do you live under a rug.”

    Your heterosexual uncle can’t marry his own daughter either, and that’s not because God says it’s evil.

    You claim that people of faith “force” their views on the public. What about forcing people of faith to finance abortions when they consider it murder? Does that count? See anything wrong with that? See anything wrong with people of faith defending the fetus from abortion at 24+ weeks because the mom changes her mind? People of faith have a philosophical and religious definition of when life begins. Scientists — those who lead rational lives — can’t decide what life is or when it begins. See anything wrong with people of faith jumping into the void and taking a stand?

    Nope, sorry. Still no answer to why Novella picked up an intra-church document and went all preachy about a conflict of science and faith.

  95. grabulaon 18 May 2014 at 12:58 am

    @Joe,

    cripes Joe, I’m not going to continue to answer your questions over and over again, especially since they have been answered by multiple people on this thread.

    “Seriously, where are you getting this crap? ”

    Watch the news? Read the interwebs? open your eyes once in a while?

    “Your heterosexual uncle can’t marry his own daughter either, and that’s not because God says it’s evil.”

    Actually this is also true. Probably try again with another more apt comparison. I see you’re a Christian though, thanks for showing us that. You might as well have said can’t marry an animal or inanimate object – those are also popular arguments of your faith to hide your homophobia and misogyny.

    “See anything wrong with people of faith jumping into the void and taking a stand?”

    Yes, the hubris you people show in “knowing” what is right and wrong, delivered to you in a book you can’t settle on an interpretation for and can’t provide even solid evidence for the people who wrote it (never mind that it’s the direct word of God).

    You’re a religious wingnut Joe, I’m only curious how you rationalize you’re devil-originated woo practice with your fear of gay people and your hatred of women and children?

  96. Ekkoon 18 May 2014 at 1:01 am

    Abortion and incest non sequitur comments by #93.
    On track for 400+, check.

  97. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 1:21 am

    Grabula: Now I’m a religious wing nut who hates women and children and fears gay people. Wow! Amazing how a rational thinker can infer all that information from posts. You must be one of the really bright ones too if you can form those conclusions with so little information. And you probably vote, which is really the scary part.

    So now we have a rational thinker whose arguments are reduced to invective. When in doubt, play the sex/race card.

    “you people” is another expression I like to hear from “rational” thinkers. As in, you people of faith who think that fetuses shouldn’t be killed because a woman is having a bad hair day.

    I tell you, you don’t take your medication for yourself. You take it for other people. And it helps you stay focused. And makes the voices not as loud.

  98. Ekkoon 18 May 2014 at 1:36 am

    ” As in, you people of faith who think that fetuses shouldn’t be killed because a woman is having a bad hair day. ”
    Lol – that characterization sounds legit…
    Work it Joe work it!

  99. grabulaon 18 May 2014 at 1:36 am

    @Joe

    I’m ok making those assumptions Joe, you’ve shown nothing but ignorance and naiveté in every post you participate in. You fail to read the pertinent blog entry, then ask the same questions over and over and over again without bothering to actually listen to what’s being explained to you, in my opinion way too patiently. All of these accusations you fling at me are certainly committed by you in every thread you participate in and I’m not beneath a little turnabout.

    You’re arguments are full of breaks with logic and the rational and there’s no point in you even being here since you’re input is next to worthless. You literally add nothing to an argument, and you support yourself with spurious thinking. There’s nothing about your style of discussion that’s worth the effort we put in here, because you continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

    Answer me this Joe, why are you too busy to read the above posts to get the answers you are supposedly looking for? Why do you bother coming here, when in every thread you know you irrationality and woo think is going to be torn to its very foundations. Keep in mind you ignoring that fact doesn’t make it any less true.

    You are definitely a religious wingnut. How you can bring together your obvious interest in woo with your Christian beliefs I can’t understand but then when you are one of the irrational faithful, I guess it doesn’t have to make sense yes?

  100. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 2:24 am

    Grabula: I was attracted to the site for the opportunity to engage in lively discussions with superior intellects such as yours. I mean where else can one find the level of intelligence on display here. It’s overwhelming even to a moderately educated Christian such as I.

    Where else can one ask questions of one person and have four other people answer them and raise questions of their own while the first questions go wafting into the ether unanswered? Where else can one anticipate with some accuracy that after about six posts the invective will appear?

    The most appealing thing is the absolute choir-like fawning towards the host. Hey, Novella is a bright guy, a very bright guy. You guys think he’s the cat’s ass. He often talks about stuff that is way way over my head, and I don’t comment on that. There are times when he talks about stuff that I just don’t care about, and I don’t comment on that. But there are times when he oversteps, when he gets on the acupuncture or CAM kick, or in the present case talks about a conflict between faith and reason and speaks about it as it the matter is settled. And none of the choir calls him on it. It’s like members of a pride hanging around the big guy and roaring with the big guy and just waiting until an antelope comes by so they can all pounce. Just let someone challenge him and see how the members of the pride spring to his defense. It’s quite National Geographic.

    I think a lot of the condescending geniuses here are so used to not being challenged that they actually assume they are right because they agree with the big guy. Look at the first 5 or 6 posts after every Novella post. There’s everything there but the pom-poms. They mistake agreement for accuracy. The only excitement the geniuses get is trying to pounce on a non-believer.

    Well, I personally think that a lot of things are not settled. I know acupuncture and chiropractic work. Novella thinks it doesn’t. So what? I would even suggest that the chances are that some of Novella’s migraine patients use acupuncture and find benefit from it. Maybe he doesn’t know about it. How about that?

    I think it’s ok to believe in God and be religious and not have to constantly defend the beliefs. How about that? How about just accepting that someone believes in God and uses that as foundation for their life and yet can still contribute intelligent insights into some discussions without being called irrational? Would that work for you?

    Notice how it’s only the rational geniuses who use name-calling?

    As far as your last post, the “answer” I’m looking for is: what made Novella pick this intra-church article to write a faith/reason/science blog when the article has nothing to do with reason or science or the choice between faith and reason and is not written as such? But I’m spending so much time responding to your idiotic comments about my beliefs, my misogyny, my hatred of children and gays that it’s distracting. If you hadn’t made those idiotic comments, I wouldn’t have had to respond to them.

  101. grabulaon 18 May 2014 at 2:36 am

    @Joe

    I’m having a hard time believing you. You’ve shown no inclination to engage in honest discussion. You commit just about every fallacy in the book, way too consistently. You ignore important details, you ignore when people answer you. You are evasive and disingenuous. You assume we all believe Dr. Novellas’ what was it, the cats ass? He’s certainly a great example of how to be an effective skeptic, you should take a lesson from that. You make absolute statements about what you think we believe or are saying, then turn around and make absolute statements about what you know.

    How do you propose to have a conversation of any import based on your attitude?

  102. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 3:01 am

    DrJoe,

    “You claim that people of faith “force” their views on the public”
    It’s not a claim. It’s a fact. In god we trust. Prayers before parliament. Restrictions on abortion. Laws prohibiting gay marriage.

    “What about forcing people of faith to finance abortions when they consider it murder?”
    You don’t. You just pay taxes. The people decide via their political representatives where it is spent.

    “Does that count?”
    No. Bad argument. Do I get not to pay taxes because I disagree with subsidies to faith based schools?

    “See anything wrong with that?”
    Yes. Imagine the mess if everyone decided where their tax dollars go.

    “See anything wrong with people of faith defending the fetus from abortion at 24+ weeks because the mom changes her mind?”
    Firstly, she is not a mother. She is a pregnant woman. And, to answer your loaded question with a question: what about the psychological need for an abortion for a woman 8 weeks pregnant after she was raped by a stranger. If you don’t want an abortion in those circumstances, then don’t have one! But don’t force your religious views on others. That is the point you are missing.

    “People of faith have a philosophical and religious definition of when life begins”
    Pull the middle one.

    “Scientists — those who lead rational lives — can’t decide what life is or when it begins”
    What a bull$#!+ argument. Can you tell me the exact date that you stopped being an adolescent and became an adult?
    Hey, wait…

    “See anything wrong with people of faith jumping into the void and taking a stand?”
    Into the void? Taking a stand?
    You call forcing people, with well thought out rational views of their own, to adhere to your religious commands predicated on a two thousand year old amoral book jumping into the void and taking a stand?

  103. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 3:10 am

    “The most appealing thing is the absolute choir-like fawning towards the host”

    What a load of crap.
    I, for one, have specifically disagreed with the host’s opinion on this thread.
    And on a number of occasions in other threads.
    Others have done likewise.

    (Go to Jerry Coyne’s blog if you want to see fawning – and see how long you last before your posts are deep sixed)

  104. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 3:55 am

    ” Look at the first 5 or 6 posts after every Novella post”

    He can’t help it that he is right most of the time! (:

    Actually he can. He’s being studying it for decades. He even has 24 half hour lectures on “medical myths: lies, and half truths ; and another 24 half hour lectures on “your deceptive mind: a scientific guide to critical thinking skills” in “The Great Courses” series. You should avail your self of the latter at the very least.

    But look at this post, the second and third comments both disagree with some of what he said. And not one of them could be characterised as fawning.

  105. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 4:01 am

    “I know acupuncture and chiropractic work”

    No you don’t.

    You THINK you know they work. Listen to “Your Deceptive Mind” (see above) for some instruction on how your mind works to convince you things work that demonstrably do not work. Or read again the relevant thread on this blog. And this time try to understand what is being said instead of reflexly defending your deceptive mind.

  106. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 4:06 am

    “I think it’s ok to believe in God and be religious and not have to constantly defend the beliefs”

    It’s not okay, if your religion requires you to indoctrinate your children, to proselytise to the wider community, and to force your views on others through the enactment of laws based on your religious beliefs.

    I don’t want MY freedom compromised by YOUR religious views.

  107. mumadaddon 18 May 2014 at 5:38 am

    Joe,

    Why do you think religion should be immune to criticism? Do you sincerely think that an ideology that seeks to inform how we live, who we can and cannot love, how and when we procreate, when we can work or not; declares that it has the answers to questions such as universal origins, the ultimate truth and purpose of existence, eternal reward or punishment and how they are attained, should be insulated from dissent and questioning? For real? We should accept this bronze age ideology without question?

  108. grabulaon 18 May 2014 at 6:02 am

    mumadadd, Joe seems to think all his sacred cows should be immune to criticism, it’s the pattern he’s shown here anyway. Faith? Don’t go there. Acupuncture, no thanks. Evidence? Never heard of it.

  109. Bruceon 18 May 2014 at 6:25 am

    Oh, Joe likes evidence, but only if it backs up his world view, the quality of it is neither here nor there.

  110. Lukas Xavieron 18 May 2014 at 7:07 am

    “If you find that a question isn’t that important, set it aside in your mental “To Be Answered Later” file.”

    I think this is a great idea. I would just add one small addition: Keep an actual file of these questions. Don’t just stick to it as a mental exercise, but actually write down your questions and place them in a real, physical folder. Every now and again, check if any of the questions have been answered.

    I you do, I think you’ll notice that the file keeps growing and growing. More and more questions go into the folder, but very few ever come out. The answers that are supposed to come later never seem to show up. Religion promises answers, but rarely delivers anything but platitudes or outright nonsense.

  111. RickKon 18 May 2014 at 7:07 am

    Joe said: “How about just accepting that someone believes in God and uses that as foundation for their life and yet can still contribute intelligent insights into some discussions without being called irrational? Would that work for you?”

    Replace “God” with “UFOs” or “body thetans” or “midichlorians” in that sentence and it still holds true.

    So.

    Exactly what intelligent insights are because of the faith, and which are in spite of it?

    Joe said: “what made Novella pick this intra-church article to write a faith/reason/science blog when the article has nothing to do with reason or science or the choice between faith and reason and is not written as such? ”

    The article in question included: ” I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.’”

    Joe – How can you say this as anything other than directing the reader to choose faith over science and reason?

    I think you and Steve actually agree on much more than you’ll admit. Steve says that such faith-based thinking should be walled off from other parts of life, and you agree with him. You don’t think an evolutionary biologist should hang a sign in their lab saying “I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it.” Nor should decisions made in a jury box be based on faith regardless of the evidence.

    I’m curious – in which parts of life do you think decisions SHOULD be made on faith and not on evidence and reason? And do you think that your answer would agree with the answers given by a Jehovah’s Witness, a Scientologist or an elder of the FLDS? How would you decide if their faith decisions are better or worse than your faith decisions?

    You never answered my earlier question – is faith a virtue? If you believe so, why?

  112. Steven Novellaon 18 May 2014 at 7:30 am

    Hardnose – you persist if a few incorrect premises.

    First – I never claimed that ESP does not exist or that I can prove it doesn’t exist. My position is that there is insufficient scientific evidence to warrant the conclusion that it does exist. The burden of proof is squarely on those who claim that it does, and they have not met that burden.

    I have read the literature carefully and thoroughly and find it unconvincing. In fact I think it is dramatically compatible with a phenomenon that is not real – no consistency, not replicable, results that are within the noise of research, very low signal to noise ratio, etc.

    You also contradicted yourself. I wrote “before you invent new physics” and then you said that all we have to do is discover a new fundamental energy, something that has escaped all of scientific research so far. That is inventing new physics.

    As an aside, I think you underestimate how profound it would be if the current model of physics were missing such a major piece that it would allow for human brains to transmit and/or receive information in a way that is otherwise completely undetectable and outside of our current models to explain.

    I am not saying that it is impossible or disproven, just that it would be a massive discovery. You can’t support a massive discovery with weak and inconsistent evidence. The evidence for ESP would have to be orders of magnitude more compelling in order to be convincing, given what is being proposed.

  113. mumadaddon 18 May 2014 at 7:59 am

    Joe,

    “I think it’s ok to believe in God and be religious and not have to constantly defend the beliefs”

    Is this really a fair assessment of the situation? You’ve actively sought out the argument after all. If you’re in the US, you’re also in the majority when it comes to adherence to faith, so most of the time you probably aren’t asked to defend that faith. In my experience it’s usually atheists who are challenged on their *lack* of faith, as though it’s an ideology in itself when in fact it’s simply and only the rejection of specific claims about a god or gods.

    People arrive at atheism through various routes; some question their faith and go through the difficult process of realigning their beliefs with the evidence; the lucky ones just aren’t raised religious and are able to evaluate religious claims dispassionately without being indoctrinated into them. The single biggest determinant of religiosity is whether or not your parents were religious. This should at at least give you pause.

    It’s entirely reasonable to ‘wall off’ faith from governance, social policy and science. How would you feel if Muslims were able to implement Sharia law in the US? Pretty aggrieved I would think. Just because your faith is the majority position where you live, does not exempt it from this principle.

  114. ccbowerson 18 May 2014 at 8:39 am

    “Whether Novella says he is not “offended” or not, his post made it seem as if he took offense at how someone addressed problems with their faith. It’s an observation…
    Which is why I wondered what part of this innocuous article which was addressed to people of faith and that had no bearing at all upon science set Novella off, offended him”

    When you insist on an ‘observation’ that is not apparent to other observers, and is is an emotion denied by that person, you are not even trying to be reasonable. You are acting like a jerk.

    “The most appealing thing is the absolute choir-like fawning towards the host. Hey, Novella is a bright guy, a very bright guy. You guys think he’s the cat’s ass.”

    This blatantly untrue. I assume that most of the regulars here look forward to disagreement. I certainly do enjoy in engaging in reasonable arguments with informed and intellegent people. I would never comment here if I didn’t – I hope to learn something. I try not to engage too much with the unreasonable, but I also don’t want nonsense to dominate, and I like to understand how others think, to the extent that it’s sincere. As an aside, I find it odd that you use cat’s ass with a positive connotation. I have the opposite reaction to that thought.

    “Just let someone challenge him and see how the members of the pride spring to his defense. It’s quite National Geographic. ”

    See previous quote and response. If someone has poor arguments, it is an opportunity to discuss an issue. You are projecting something that isn’t there. Nearly every time I have read a post I disagreed with, I have commented saying so. It just doesn’t happen often. I find it interesting how often this accusation is put forth by people who have poor arguments. I guess it is rationalizing and distracts from the real discussion. Perhaps that is the goal.

    “I would even suggest that the chances are that some of Novella’s migraine patients use acupuncture and find benefit from it. Maybe he doesn’t know about it. How about that?”

    You can suppose all sorts of things, but without evidence it is not worth anyone’s time here.

    “I think it’s ok to believe in God and be religious and not have to constantly defend the beliefs.”

    Oh, are you the persectuted majority? The poor guy who doesn’t always get his way, unquestioned? Please. To the entend that your beliefs affect what you do and how you do it, that matters in a pluralistic society.

    You are not necessarily just defending your beliefs but defending your actions, which stem from your beliefs. You don’t get a free pass just because you believe something. No one should. Everything should be open to discourse and discussions, at appropriate times and places of course.

  115. hardnoseon 18 May 2014 at 1:09 pm

    “You also contradicted yourself. I wrote “before you invent new physics” and then you said that all we have to do is discover a new fundamental energy, something that has escaped all of scientific research so far. That is inventing new physics.”

    Steve N,

    All right it might seem like I contradicted myself. But inventing new physics is not the same as discovering something you didn’t know about before.

    At every stage in the history of science, someone has declared that science has finished discovering new things. And then something new is discovered.

  116. Johnnyon 18 May 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I recall a Sunni Islamic forum from many years ago. Non-Muslims (mostly Christians and atheists) were allowed to ask questions, but not to question the answers given, no matter how asinine they were. Advocacy of Shia Islamic positions was explicitly forbidden and would result in banning.

    Interesting how we don’t see such moderation on skeptic forums…

  117. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 1:22 pm

    BJ7:“You claim that people of faith “force” their views on the public. It’s not a claim. It’s a fact. In god we trust. Prayers before parliament. Restrictions on abortion. Laws prohibiting gay marriage.” The fact is that people of faith happen to be the majority. What’s written on the currency or done before parliament or Congress is what the people want. Restrictions on abortion are meant not to restrict someone’s right to kill a living being, but to protect the living being. As to gay marriage, while there is of course religious opposition to this, the views of the majority are changing and gay marriage is becoming a fact of life.

    Forcing people to pay for abortions? Why would you think that people of faith who consider abortion the killing of a living being would roll over when this is done, when their tax money is going to fund abortions or when they are forced to pay health insurance premiums for policies which pay for abortions? The people of faith consider that life begins at a certain point. The pro-abortion group does not even address this — science doesn’t know what life is and when it begins — and falls back on the “right” of the woman to kill whatever she wants at any point in its life. Any point. See the problem there? If you want to engage people on the philosophical question about what life is and when it begins, then be honest about it. But disregarding the question and falling back on the “right” of the woman is BS. I ask you about 24+ weeks abortion and you come back with 8 week pregnancy as a result of rape.

    Yep, I know that acupuncture and chiropractic work.

    “I don’t want MY freedom compromised by YOUR religious views.” And I don’t want my religious views compromised by you. My religious views tell me that I should not contribute to or participate in the taking of a human life. You agree that I have this right not to participate or contribute to abortion? Do you agree that if this is my view that it would be hypocritical of me not to defend it or to oppose efforts to require me to pay for it? Is that ok with you? We are talking about life and death here, right?

    Mumadadd: I’m not saying that religion should be immune from criticism. I think religion is a personal thing that has an important role to play in society. I think reason and faith are in fact compatible, or at least their compatibility is philosophically arguable. But to sort of reach into the writings of the faith, the writings of faith between and among people of faith, and use those writings to say, see how faith is an enemy of doubt/science/reason, is a cheap shot.

    RickK: “How can you say this as anything other than directing the reader to choose faith over science and reason?” Again, I’ll restate my point. This article was written to people of faith advising them what to do what they have doubts about their faith. The example I gave is a common one, where a person of faith is presented with a situation — the death of a child, evil in the world — and the person questions his faith. He wonders how God would permit something like this to happen. His co-faithful then talk to him about his faith and how he can continue to have faith despite what he is seeing. Do you see that? Do you see that telling this person with a crisis of faith to consult science to get the answers is not helpful to that person? That’s my reading of the article.

    “In which parts of life do you think decisions SHOULD be made on faith and not on evidence and reason?” My opinion is that faith is a very personal thing that provides a moral foundation for behavior, how you treat other people, how you act in your daily life. It doesn’t provide answers to scientific questions or to questions requiring reasoning. But it is important as a foundation for behavior. Again, I think that reason and faith are not incompatible. One can be both a believer and be a scientist. Render unto Caesar and all that.

    Is faith a virtue? Yes, in general, as it provides the moral foundation that people seem to require. Having said that, there are certain religions that preach what I consider immoral actions such as killing the non-faithful or the blasphemer. That way of looking at the world is incompatible with my faith.

    Interestingly, my experience is that people of faith regard the non-faithful with a mixture of pity and generally little interest. On the other hand, atheists, in my experience, are quite dogmatic, dismissive, often arrogant and superior towards people of faith. There’s this whole “don’t intrude in my world” attitude which I think is not there from the other side. Just an observation.

    ccbowers: No one is asking for a free pass. It’s just that the attitude “oh, you’re a Christian! Well that explains a lot” gets old.

  118. Dr. Curmudgeonon 18 May 2014 at 1:44 pm

    The problem, of course is that faith and religion never have and never will, “stay in their corner.” The second problem is that once the children have been brainwashed to disregard and disparage logic, they are so much more susceptible to other non-evidenciary myths, like “who will build the roads?”

  119. hardnoseon 18 May 2014 at 2:03 pm

    ” I think you underestimate how profound it would be if the current model of physics were missing such a major piece that it would allow for human brains to transmit and/or receive information in a way that is otherwise completely undetectable and outside of our current models to explain.”

    Steve N,

    Well it seems that birds can, so why not us?
    http://www.physicscentral.com/explore/action/pia-entanglement.cfm

  120. hardnoseon 18 May 2014 at 2:18 pm

    http://www.physicscentral.com/explore/action/pia-entanglement.cfm

    So we know that at least some animals can detect invisible electromagnetic fields. And we know that our brains generate electromagnetic fields.

    Therefore, WHY do you think it would be extraordinary if our brains had some wireless capabilities?

    There are lots of new ideas around, which I really think you materialists should become aware of.

  121. hardnoseon 18 May 2014 at 2:24 pm

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

  122. RickKon 18 May 2014 at 6:16 pm

    hardnose – before you put forward theories to explain extra sensory powers, first you must demonstrate that they actually exist.

    How is your behavior different than that of a guy promoting his perpetual motion machine by explaining an arcane theory about how it could work by harnessing the power of magnets?

    First you have to demonstrate it actually works.

    ESP has all the hallmarks of a non-existent effect – the more carefully it is measured, the more it retreats into the background noise if random events.

    At the moment you’re no better than a Star Wars fan speculating on the physics of midichlorians. First you have to show us somebody who can lift a table without touching it, THEN we can talk about midichlorians.

  123. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2014 at 6:35 pm

    DrJoe,

    You make statements. I provide refutations. Then you simply repeat your statements. This means you have no arguments to back up those statements and no valid reasons to hold them are being true. I hope you understand that.

    So it’s pretty much a waste of time, despite which….

    Acupuncture:°
    Acupuncture does not work and see previous thread for reasons already supplied.
    There are reasons why your mind has been fooled into thinking it does work and see previously referenced lecture series.

    Please do not simply repeat that acupuncture works because it displays your continuing ignorance.

    Abortion funding:
    How do you propose this should work. This was the point I made and you have completely failed to address it. Do you demand a tax refund? What about someone who doesn’t want his taxes going to fund faith based schools and charities? See how unworkable this is. Maybe the taxman could send you a letter stating that none of your particular tax dollars went into funding abortion. Would that satisfy you?

    Please do not simply repeat that you don’t want your taxes going to fund abortions.

    Religious beliefs written into law:
    You have just confirmed that you agree that people’s religious convictions have been written into law. So much for keeping religion private! In other words, you have just conceded our whole point in this thread! The minority have rights as well. And that includes the right not to have their freedom restrained by the religious beliefs of others. It might be a good exercise for you to consider your predicament if Islam became the dominant religion in your country and sharia law was forced on you. Death for apostasy. Death for blasphemy. Stoning to death for marrying and having sex with someone who is not a Muslim.

    Science and life:
    Of course science knows what life is and when it begins. But not all questions have answers. That was the point of me asking you on what date you stopped being an adolescent and became an adult. Science has a pretty good idea what life is. But is a virus life? Is a prion life? When and how in evolutionary history did life arise from non life? These questions do not have answers just like there is no answer to the question of when you stopped being an adolescent and became an adult.

  124. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 8:40 pm

    BJ: You know, you keep repeating acupuncture does not work and I keep repeating that it does. Tie game. I am free to use it successfully, and you are free to not use it and rely upon whatever you want.

    Abortion funding: The government should not fund abortion. How about that? That would preserve the religious rights of the faithful. And the government should not fund faith-based charities. That would preserve your rights. Case solved.

    Religious beliefs written into law: Putting “in God we trust” on a coin is not writing religion into law. It is acknowledging that the majority of people believe in God. That does not impact the non-religious one whit other than the lawyers who make money off lawsuits or the morons who cross the phrase off their dollar bills. Ditto with the prayer before Parliament or Congress. Those who chose not to take part do not need to. It costs them nothing and costs the taxpayers nothing.

    I already stated my distaste for religions that punish people for non-adherence.

    No, science does not know when human life (which is what we are dealing with) begins. Otherwise, the argument about abortion would not be about so-called “women’s rights” but instead taking the life of the fetus. You tell me what “science” says about when human life begins.

  125. DrJoeinCAon 18 May 2014 at 8:42 pm

    BJ7; Lest we get sidetracked unnecessarily, I mean when does science say that an INDIVIDUAL life begins? No reason to go into evolution when we’re dealing with killing an individual.

  126. Emilyon 18 May 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Steve-
    You rightly call out those with faith that believe doubt is a terrible thing and that critical thinking needs to be quelled. It is possible, at least in my opinion and my own experience, to have both faith and doubt. Paul Tillich, the existentialist Christian philosopher/theologian stated that “doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith”. That is the position that I and some other Christians take. I also believe that critical thinking and faith can co-exist. Critical thinking is partly what led to my belief in God. Others would say the same thing. If there was no logic behind my belief then I could not be a person of faith. I am not someone who can just accept whatever because it feels good or appears right; I need sound reasoning and evidence. Some people can do without this but I cannot. Now this does not mean that I think there is absolute evidence for God without any doubt. Obviously this is not the case whatsoever. It may have an upside, however, because if there was irrefutable proof of God, it might interfere with humanity’s free will.

    I also believe that God can be believed in without using Him as a cop-out. The many scientists who believe in a higher being may attest to this. I am sure that many compartmentalize faith and science but I know that not every one of them does this; I’ve seen this firsthand with people like my brother-in-law who is getting his PhD in physics and integrates faith and science. I have known other people as well, specifically some professors in college, who found science and religion compatible without having to compartmentalize the two. In my mind, as well, science and faith can be synthesized. My belief is that theology is an imperfect discipline that is distinct from absolute truth. If science finds something that is true, which conflicts with theology, then the theology needs to be reevaluated since truth cannot be self-contradictory. In this way, faith does not have to trump science if one understands that theology is an imperfect discipline subject to errors. Anyways, my experience has been one where I have not felt the need to do away with science/reason because of faith. Many other great thinkers of history have also come to this conclusion. This does not mean that my position is accurate, as that might be something like the fallacy of appealing to tradition. I think that it is worth noting, however, that I am not alone or unique in my position. Though, not every Christian sees these things the way I do. There are a number of us, however, that do. I also find that science is a way to probe how God created. I say, bring it all on science….I want to know everything it discovers. I fear nothing that science has to say about the origins of the universe/life. I believe in evolution and the big bang and all that crazy good stuff…and yet I am a Christian.

    In sum, (and in my opinion) science gives the answers about empirical reality while my religious beliefs deal with non-empirical reality. Additionally, while logic and reasoning have led to your conclusion and stance as an agnostic atheist, logic and reasoning have led me down a different path towards Christianity. Could I be all wrong? Absolutely. There is definitely some agnosticism in me. But, like the quote by Tillich stated above conveys, doubt is a part of my faith, not the enemy of it.

  127. ccbowerson 18 May 2014 at 10:24 pm

    “Therefore, WHY do you think it would be extraordinary if our brains had some wireless capabilities?”

    It’s not so much that it is extraordinary as much as they have not been shown to exist. When blinded, people who claim to suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity fail to be able to distinguish their presence. This combined with the vague nature of symptoms suggests that there are other causes of their symptoms and that confirmation bias being a contributor to their attribution of the symptoms to electromagnetic fields.

    Why are you trying to think of mechanisms of effects that you have not established? This seems to be a theme of some commenters on this blog lately, putting the cart before the horse, because you really like the cart.

    “There are lots of new ideas around, which I really think you materialists should become aware of.”

    Yeah, yeah. There are some pretty old ideas with which you should familiarize yourself. Your smugness doesn’t even make sense here. Where does materialism come into play on this topic…what are you suggesting with regards to electromagnetic that is outside of materialism? You’re are just trying to take a shot. At least make sense.

  128. BillyJoe7on 19 May 2014 at 7:31 am

    DrJoe,

    “You know, you keep repeating acupuncture does not work and I keep repeating that it does. Tie game.”

    Nope.
    Systematic reviews show no effect beyond placebo from acupuncture for any condition for which it is used. No effect beyond placebo means it doesn’t work.
    No chi. No meridians. Nothing special about acupuncture points.
    It doesn’t matter where you put the needles or how deep you penetrate the skin or if you don’t penetrate the skin or if you simply prick the skin with toothpicks.
    Nothing.
    And good reasons why people can be fooled about what they believe works.

    “The government should not fund abortion…That would preserve the religious rights of the faithful”

    What about the rights of the non-religious? How about we not restrict the freedom of the non-religious because of the beliefs of the religious. You don’t have to access abortion funding because of your beliefs and I don’t have to access faith based schools and charities because of my non belief.

    “Putting “in God we trust” on a coin is not writing religion into law”

    It pisses me of when posters start lying.
    Please point out where I said this.
    It is a separate issue – another example of where (so called) private religious beliefs impose themselves on the public sphere.

    “That does not impact the non-religious one whit”

    Thanks for telling me how I feel about coins stamped “In God we trust”
    Consider the effect if would have on you as a Christian if Islam became the majority religion and coins were stamped with “Allah (peace be upon him)”, or if atheist became the majority and coins were stamped “life you life. There is no other”.
    No impact? Pull the other one.

    “Ditto with the prayer before Parliament or Congress. Those who chose not to take part do not need to”

    It marginalises all those who do not subscribe to the Christian religion. That includes the non religious, atheists, Muslims, and Jews. Say your prayers at home and respect those who do not share your views. Parliament is for everyone, not just for the majority who just happens to be Christian at this point in time. And why the pre-eminence of religion. What would your reaction be if the Collingwood football club song was sung before parliament because more people support Collingwood than any other football club. It would be ridiculous. But somehow it’s okay to say Christian prayers!

    “I already stated my distaste for religions that punish people for non-adherence”

    You missed the point. Deliberately I think.
    The point is: what would your reaction be if Islam became the dominant religion and Islamic chants were sung before parliament and sharia law became the law of the land? So, how do think the non religious feel about prayers before parliament and Christian slogans on coins.

    “No, science does not know when human life begins”

    Yes it does. A new life begins at conception – at the fertilisation of the an ovum by a sperm. The moment the gametes combine to form a zygote a new life is produced.

    “Otherwise, the argument about abortion would not be about so-called “women’s rights” but instead taking the life of the fetus”

    The argument is about whether a non sentient form of life (the foetus) has any rights at all, especially when set against the rights of a sentient life on which it is completely dependent (the pregnant woman). The special status attributed to the foetus by the religious is based on the concept of a soul. There is no evidence for the existence of souls. It is a non-evidence based belief of the religious and that non-evidence based belief is being imposed on the non-religious who do not believe in a soul.
    Maybe you can tell me when a soul enters a zygote or foetus.

  129. Steven Novellaon 19 May 2014 at 9:54 am

    hardnose – you did not follow my argument, and you are mixing your own.

    If the claim is that human brains can wireless communicate through EM waves, that can be tested in multiple ways. First, there is no demonstrable ESP. Second, the brain produces electrical and magnetic fields that can be measured, but they are weak, they are vastly attenuated by the skull, and they would be a very poor candidate for wireless communication. (Even theoretically, this would have a very short range.) Third, we have not discovered any EM receivers in human brains.

    But – you were talking about new forms of remote communication, and that is what I was referring to in my most recent comment. That would entail new physics, and we don’t even have a theoreticaly construct for what that would entail.

    So – EM, essentially ruled out by what we already know about the brain. EM signals are also easily detectable by instruments, so we would not be missing any candidate signals.

    Signals based on something other than EM would require new physics which are inherently implausible.

  130. Mlemaon 19 May 2014 at 11:13 am

    “… I see no reason to gratuitously attack faith or religious belief itself…”

    …but people who believe in God are irrational and must use psychological defense mechanisms like compartmentalization in order to do good work as doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, and yes, even scientists. :)

    Hmm. So much for nuanced. What is the evidence that people who believe in God have mental irregularities? Faith is irrational. So is love, hope, charity, pets, picnics, The Three Stooges and Hershey chocolate bars.

    Thinking according to these lines, atheists would have to compartmentalize their denial in order to accomplish anything humanitarian at all, since self-sacrifice is irrational. It may not feel good to let others suffer when helping them would require sacrifice, but letting them suffer is the rational thing to do, and no self-respecting logical person would do otherwise.

    See how that feels? Deniers KNOW that they are as self-sacrificing as the next person, just like believers KNOW they aren’t irrational.

    Let’s stop making broad generalizations about “them”. It reads like bigotry.

    There’s no doubt that certain religious rules would violate individual human and civil rights if enforced in our society. Let reasonable people of faith and of skepticism fight against those injustices. Let’s respect each others rationality, and criticize each others muddled thinking. People of faith aren’t mentally different from people of doubt. There aren’t “intellectual spheres” in the brain. Doctor Novella is using that terminology inappropriately. Intellectual spheres exist in society.

  131. Bill Openthalton 19 May 2014 at 11:19 am

    Emily –

    Your religion is constrained by science — if science contradicts theology, theology loses. Even though you might call yourself a christian, you are a deist, as the interventionist, personal god of christianity is all but impossible in today’s scientific worldview.

    In addition, a god that by definition eludes irrefutable proof to ensure humanity’s free will has to be an interventionist, perverse god. In effect, it proposes a world that apparently runs on rules (as discovered by science), but where it intervenes to hide its existence. In other words, your god speaks to you, but through a channel humans can never detect. Your god intervenes in human affairs, but modifies our memories and recorded history to avoid being discovered. You could just as well be a last-thursdayist.

  132. Steven Novellaon 19 May 2014 at 11:33 am

    Mlema – I disagree with your premise that charity is irrational. It actually makes perfect sense to help others. Also, acknowledging the social nature of humans is not irrational. So your example does not work.

    I also never said that people of faith have “mental irregularities” or that intellectual spheres were “in the brain.” I don’t know where you got that.

    My discussion was entirely of intellectual process. Some advocates of faith argue that doubt is bad, and that doubt should be banished, and should only lead to stronger faith. In this way, faith is a closed belief system. I think that closed belief systems are inherently problematic, because they must place themselves beyond reason. If they could be justified with logic and reason, then faith would not be required.

    I also think that it is inappropriate to bring up bigotry. That is a cheap shot. I am discussing intellectual strategies, and went out of my way to acknowledge respect for individual freedom.

  133. Bill Openthalton 19 May 2014 at 11:36 am

    Mlema –

    People of faith aren’t mentally different from people of doubt. There aren’t “intellectual spheres” in the brain.

    It would appear there are people who believe what they cannot prove, and those who want to be able to verify what they accept as knowledge (even if they do accept information from trusted parties who use the same protocols without verifying it themselves).

    There are two categories of information — information that can be verified scientifically, and information that cannot, but is accepted (as the Romans noted: de gustibus coloribusque non disputandum). Anyone is free to believe in a god, but cannot prove its existence scientifically. You can prefer Verdi over Meatloaf, but you cannot prove Verdi is better. Absent an irrefutable proof of their god, humans cannot impose their god, and the rules they think it lays down, on other people. Others are free to join a belief system, but nothing that stems from that belief system should be imposed on non-believers, or believers in another system.

    What we’re arguing here is that the only objective information, information you cannot reject, is scientific information, because you can, if you wish, ascertain it is correct. It is not correct because someone (no matter how eminent) says so, but because anyone can verify it. Religious information, on the other hand, expects me to trust humans who claim to know the thoughts of their god. I am not that credulous.

  134. DrJoeinCAon 19 May 2014 at 11:41 am

    BJ7: “What about the rights of the non-religious? How about we not restrict the freedom of the non-religious because of the beliefs of the religious. You don’t have to access abortion funding because of your beliefs and I don’t have to access faith based schools and charities because of my non belief.” The non-religious have a right to get an abortion up to a certain time of pregnancy. They do not have the right to have an abortion paid for with the tax money of the religious for whom this procedure is murder. The religious should not have to pay for murder.

    “what would your reaction be if Islam became the dominant religion and Islamic chants were sung before parliament and sharia law became the law of the land? So, how do think the non religious feel about prayers before parliament and Christian slogans on coins.” My reaction would be that Islam and sharia law teach that “blasphemers” should be eliminated, women should be subject to their men, etc. This is antithetical to my belief system and to the system upon which the US was founded and survives. That’s why there is a difference between religions. Personally, it doesn’t mean anything to me what’s written on a coin or whether people pray before public events. If I don’t want to pray, I don’t pray. If I want to spend a dollar, I spend it regardless of what is written on the bill. Yes, religion is pre-eminent at this point in the history of the world. That’s reality.

    If life begins at the two cell stage, if this is now a living being, then when is it ok to terminate that life? When does the “life” have the right to not be killed?

  135. The Other John Mcon 19 May 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Sagan’s take on this, from a few decades ago, still worth a read:
    http://www.2think.org/abortion.shtml

  136. hardnoseon 19 May 2014 at 12:10 pm

    “So – EM, essentially ruled out by what we already know about the brain.”

    Steven Novella,

    You must have not read the article I linked about bird migration. They seem to be detecting EM signals using quantum entanglement.

  137. The Other John Mcon 19 May 2014 at 12:21 pm

    hardnose, humans detect EM signals all the time: visible light is an electro-magnetic wave, you know, science 101 stuff? What do you think bird migration proves about human telekinetic abilities, exactly?

  138. Bill Openthalton 19 May 2014 at 12:26 pm

    hardnose –

    They seem to be detecting EM signals using quantum entanglement.

    Indeed – it’s about birds detecting variations in the Earth’s magnetic field, using better detectors than we’ve been able to make using (standard) electronic components.

    But there have to be fields to be detected first, and the brain doesn’t produce them (hint — the variations the birds detect we also detect with our current generation detectors).

    You’re barking up the wrong tree because you’re grasping at straws :) .

  139. hardnoseon 19 May 2014 at 1:00 pm

    “hardnose, humans detect EM signals all the time: visible light is an electro-magnetic wave, you know, science 101 stuff? What do you think bird migration proves about human telekinetic abilities, exactly?”

    I already said that we can detect remote objects with ordinary vision.

    The bird migration article shows that quantum entanglement can be involved in sensing non-visible electromagnetism.

    There could be things like that going on in the brains of other animals, including ourselves.

  140. hardnoseon 19 May 2014 at 1:05 pm

    “But there have to be fields to be detected first, and the brain doesn’t produce them”

    Of course the brain produces electromagnetic fields.

  141. steve12on 19 May 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Might be a big statement, but Hardnose is the WORST re: selective Q answering…

    “The bird migration article shows that quantum entanglement can be involved in sensing non-visible electromagnetism.”

    Maybe someone already pointed this out to you – but how would this undermine materialism?

  142. hardnoseon 19 May 2014 at 1:09 pm

    There is nothing extraordinary about the idea that our brains could have wireless capabilities. As I said previously, ordinary vision is wireless. And other animals seem to be able to sense non-visual EMFs using quantum entanglement.

    We have absolutely no idea what undiscovered capabilities brains of various animals might have.

    If you have to insist that everything of any importance has already been discovered, then you are coming from a materialist ideology, with no real understanding of science.

  143. leo100on 19 May 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Exactly Hardnose, there is a lot of stuff we still do not understand.

  144. mumadaddon 19 May 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Hardnose,

    “If you have to insist that everything of any importance has already been discovered,”

    Who said that? When?

    How does birds detecting EM undermine materialism?

    Try this: what is your best evidence of a non materialistic phenomenon?

    That there are things we currently lack a deep understanding of does not call into question foundational principles that fit all the evidence to date and all the branching scientific theories, tested and verified, that follow this assumption.

  145. steve12on 19 May 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I say Hardnose only answers what he wants, then ask a siple Q:

    “how would this undermine materialism?”

    And HN won’t answer. Really HN? Really? But to switch gears…

    “If you have to insist that everything of any importance has already been discovered”

    What??? WHO SAID THIS HN???? NO ONE!!!! Do you know what s straw man is?

    Steve et al. have gone out of their way to say that we’re not saying it’s not real, but we’re not swayed by the evidence. Burden of proof and all. And you simply pretend no one said it! How do you do that?

    And think of the logic! Proposition X is true becasue, hey, we haven’t discovered everything yet.

    Again HN, really? I think the Grateful Dead bears are supernatural spirit bears. Haven’t discovered everything yet, so it must be true!

  146. steve12on 19 May 2014 at 1:28 pm

    No I await for HN to answer only those tiny snippets of my response that are easiest to address, while ignoring all of the important stuff.

  147. mumadaddon 19 May 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Leo,

    Your ‘arguments’, if you can call them that, are completely devoid of logic or even coherence. You haven’t even come up with a sound premise, let along applied valid logic, and people here have painstakingly laid out the problems with what you are asserting, but to no avail.

    Try constructing a pared back, simple argument so we can tell what it is you’re actually trying to say. You can fill in the blanks or cite evidence later if necessary.

  148. Bronze Dogon 19 May 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Quantum mechanics is a part of “materialist” science, as is the electromagnetic force. Most people don’t understand QM or EM physics, so many use their weirdness as “justification” for believing whatever they want. It’s an ongoing trope in woo and science fiction, to speak of their pet hypotheses or plot devices as being based in the current hot topic of science to make it look more plausible.

    Yes, there’s a lot we still don’t understand, but rigorous science is our best method for learning about the unknown. The problem I usually see is that a lot of the “weird” stuff used as evidence for the supernatural or whatever is actually quite mundane if you know enough about current theories, the human capacity for self-deception, and the difference between good and bad experimental design.

  149. The Other John Mcon 19 May 2014 at 1:52 pm

    BD I think you nailed the trifecta of avoiding 99% of woo!

    (1) knowledge (and understanding) of current theories
    (2) understanding and accounting for the human capacity at self-deception
    (3) knowing and being able to spot the (most obvious) differences between good and bad experiments

  150. hardnoseon 19 May 2014 at 2:10 pm

    “How does birds detecting EM undermine materialism?”

    Materialism is not defined, and we don’t know what matter is. I never said anything about undermining it, just that the concept doesn’t make sense.

    When people claim to be materialists, it usually means they deny the existence of anything that can’t be perceived with the 5 physical senses, or with existing technological devices.

    I had said that I think it’s possible our brains have some kind of wireless capabilities (in addition to vision). And Steve N said no they don’t.

    Then I showed an article about birds being able to sense non-visible EMFs using quantum entanglement. This is a wireless capability, and does not use any of the 5 previously known physical senses.

    There could be many other ways of wireless sensing, used by other