30 November 2005

Jesus was a communist.

There is no evidence for a god and scientific discoveries suggest strongly there isn't one. I also believe that religion is dangerous nonsense that has been used in all sorts of nasty ways by people with ulterior motives.

John Peel sums up quite nicely my views on God and religion;

"I have to admit that I didn't really believe in God, but imagined this no bar to progress in the church of England. I secretly believe - and still do, I suppose - that no-one actually believes in God any more than they believe in the Tooth Fairy or Inspector Morse, but I have never been awfully good at defending this position in debate. But, I mean, come on...!"

But a more powerful argument to use against the evangelical religious right is that Jesus was in fact a bit of a lefty. How else could you describe someone who said and did the following;

(Matthew 1923-26; Mark 1023-27; Luke 1824-27).

"Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

(Luke 16:13).

"You cannot serve God and wealth"

(Matthew 6:19-20)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasurer is, there your heart will be also."

(Mark 10:21)

When the rich man asked Jesus how he could get into heaven, Jesus replied "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

34 comments:

  1. Can't let this pass. I'm an atheist and a scientist, but this:

    scientific discoveries suggest strongly there isn't one

    is bullshit. Which scientific discoveries, and in what way do they suggest strongly that there isn't a God?

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  2. I think Darwin went a long way to 'proving' there isn't a benign god.

    What godly purpose is the nemotode?

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  3. Who said God was benign? And it what sense did Darwin disprove His existence? Why do things need a purpose, except to mirror the glory of God?

    Sorry, Neil, but you do rationalism no favours with this sort of half-baked nonsense. I think science can do a lot of things, but disproving the existence of God is not one of them. And I speak as an atheist who finds all this God nonsense just a bit silly and pointless, remember.

    And your concept of 'proof' is decidedly shaky. It is not possible to go 'a long way to proving' something. You either prove it, or you don't, in the same way that you are either pregnant or not. There is no halfway house.

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  4. "Who said God was benign?"

    The Bible and all major religious scriptures.

    "And it what sense did Darwin disprove His existence?"

    The same way every dodgy theory has been disproved by providing evidence that contradicts the theories of god that are expounded. Evolution quite clearly contradicts religious scripture and the idea of God held by the vast majority of religious people who have ever lived.

    "And your concept of 'proof' is decidedly shaky. It is not possible to go 'a long way to proving' something. You either prove it, or you don't, in the same way that you are either pregnant or not. There is no halfway house."

    Call yourself a scientist! Go and look up the definition of 'theory'. Science is just a collection of theories. Some more 'proved' than others.

    Of course I can't disprove the existence of God, nobody can categorically prove or disprove anything, but we have basic assumptions based on logical arguments, and as you admit, using these arguments, God is effectively disproved beyond 'reasonable doubt'.

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  5. The same way every dodgy theory has been disproved by providing evidence that contradicts the theories of god that are expounded. Evolution quite clearly contradicts religious scripture and the idea of God held by the vast majority of religious people who have ever lived.

    Let me give you a tip, Neil. Using the word 'clearly' is not a substitute for logical argument, and tends to be done when the proponent of the argument is trying to brazen it out with bluff and bluster. I should know, I do it myself all the time.

    Evolution may contradict a fundamentalist view of the Bible, but it certainly doesn't contradict the existence of God, nor a metaphorical reading of the Bible. That said, evolution is a theory. It hasn't been proven, and although the evidence in favour is very strong, there are gaps in that evidence, and a better theory may yet emerge. One could also theorise that an all-powerful God could create the Universe with all of the evidence for evolution pre-built in, although it would have to be a particularly cynical God to do that. Not that you could disprove that theory by pointing to Darwin.

    Science is just a collection of theories. Some more 'proved' than others.

    No. You misunderstand the scientific method, Neil. Something cannot be 'more' proved than something else. All that science can do is to disprove that which is not true. Science is thus just an accumulation of theories that have not yet been disproven. Some may be. Some never will be. The ones that stand the test of time we approximate as being the 'truth', although this is a concept that has no place in science.

    On this point, again you demonstrate your lack of understanding of scientific proof:

    nobody can categorically prove or disprove anything

    Actually, scientifically disproving things is easy. You just find one single counter example.

    Of course I can't disprove the existence of God ... but we have basic assumptions based on logical arguments, and as you admit, using these arguments, God is effectively disproved beyond 'reasonable doubt'.

    I have admitted no such thing, and now you have attempted to move the burden of proof to a legal definition. This is inadequate, because you stated in your post that we were using a scientific basis to disprove the existence of God (actually, the phrase you used was 'scientific discoveries suggest strongly there isn't one'). In fact, scientific discoveries do nothing of the sort.

    The closest we have gotten to God in any scientific sense is in the unified theories of theoretical physics, relating to the fundamental forces of the Universe. With the latest theories, we have traced back the history of the Universe to within tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang. Nonetheless, we don't know what happened at or before the Big Bang. These questions are for philosophers and theologists, not scientists. To suggest otherwise is to misunderstand both science and religion. Science is about answering the 'How?' questions, not the 'Why?' questions.

    You like to think of yourself as a rational thinker, but you just spout the received opinions of your own tribe of militant secularists, without question or challenge to those beliefs. Really, you're no different, intellectually and scientifically speaking at least, to the preacher who stands up in church on a Sunday and talks about the glory of God, without question or challenge to those beliefs. You both have an irrational belief in the unprovable, and you're both equally dangerous because of it.

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  6. "Evolution may contradict a fundamentalist view of the Bible, but it certainly doesn't contradict the existence of God"

    It contradicts the existence of 'the God' that most religious people have expounded throughout history.

    The fact that some religious people have modified their views to take scientific discoveries onboard by thinking metaphorically and changing interpretations of their belief, demonstrates how they have been disproved in their belief. I could say I believe in a metaphorical flat earth but scientifically a flat earth has been disproved.

    Of course 'the concept of a God' can never be disproved but that is not the point I am making.

    "You like to think of yourself as a rational thinker, but you just spout the received opinions of your own tribe of militant secularists, without question or challenge to those beliefs."

    Basically we both agree that God doesn't exist, so how you can suggest that I am quoting my own tribe of secularists in this doesn't make sense. You agree with my conclusion, just not how I argue the point. Fair enough, but at the end of the day, we are both right about the conclusion.

    "Really, you're no different, intellectually and scientifically speaking at least, to the preacher who stands up in church on a Sunday and talks about the glory of God, without question or challenge to those beliefs. You both have an irrational belief in the unprovable, and you're both equally dangerous because of it."

    No, you are wrong. I am quite capable of admitting that there 'could' be a God, but it is extremely unlikely. If evidence was produced I would change my mind. Whereas the preacher is not capable of admitting there 'might not' be a God. That is why I am rational and scientific and he is not.

    It is that inability for the preacher to change his opinion that makes him dangerous. Can't you see the difference between my position and his?

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  7. "All that science can do is to disprove that which is not true. Science is thus just an accumulation of theories that have not yet been disproven."

    But that is not what science is. There is a theory, a respected one, that the speed of light is variable, but it is not a widely believed theory because the evidence for it is slight.

    There are crackpot theories and pseudo-scientific theories of supernaturalism (including God) that have not been each individually disproved but they are not a part of science that anyone takes seriously because it is quite plain they are ridiculous and experiment will quickly bury them.

    In this way my original statement;

    "Science is just a collection of theories. Some more 'proved' than others."

    Seems perfectly reasonable and accurate. The level of supporting evidence determines how respected and proven a theory is thought to be.

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  8. The fact that some religious people have modified their views to take scientific discoveries onboard by thinking metaphorically and changing interpretations of their belief, demonstrates how they have been disproved in their belief.

    Not really. It just demonstrates that as society moves on, so does religious thought. Spirituality is framed within the context of the times that it is being considered in. Or are we never allowed to develop our thoughts and move on? Your argument seems to be a bit of a rant against fundamentalists. Fine, but they're hardly representative of any religious mainstream. It's a particularly flimsy straw-man.

    Of course 'the concept of a God' can never be disproved but that is not the point I am making.

    With respect, it is:

    There is no evidence for a god and scientific discoveries suggest strongly there isn't one.

    Then what does this mean? That science has challenged a lot of the more whimsical descriptive parts of the Bible? Well, duh, Neil. It's a 2000 year old book. No doubt our ancestors in the year 4000 will be having this same argument about A Brief History of Time...

    Basically we both agree that God doesn't exist, so how you can suggest that I am quoting my own tribe of secularists in this doesn't make sense. You agree with my conclusion, just not how I argue the point. Fair enough, but at the end of the day, we are both right about the conclusion.

    No, I disagree with the fact that you even think there is an argument, or that your belief is somehow superior or correct, and that others are not. This is manifestly not true. You have no more proof that there is no God than the preacher has that there is. And nor do I. On that basis, all that either of us has is faith. The difference is that I recognise the essential shakiness of my position, whereas you do not. Indeed, you seem to think of yourself as morally and intellectually superior because you can spout some sub-Polly Toynbee anti-religious tripe on occasion. I think that you do atheists and secularists a massive disservice what that attitude. Hence this:

    we are both right about the conclusion.

    No, Neil. We both believe we are right. That isn't the same thing at all.

    No, you are wrong. I am quite capable of admitting that there 'could' be a God, but it is extremely unlikely. If evidence was produced I would change my mind. Whereas the preacher is not capable of admitting there 'might not' be a God. That is why I am rational and scientific and he is not.

    If you managed to disprove the existence of God, the preacher would be forced to admit he was wrong. Just as you would be forced to admit you were wrong if he proved the existence of God. As neither is possible, it isn't rational at all to suggest that the preacher is "not capable of admitting there 'might not' be a God". All it is is petty, bigoted prejudice on your part towards the religious. Why do you think religious people speak about 'faith', about having their faith tested, about making 'leaps of faith'? Because they recognise that all they have in the end is faith, i.e. they might be wrong.

    Can't you see the difference between my position and his?

    Actually, I can. He is generally open-minded, accepting and tolerant of your kind. You do not extend him the same courtesy. In a sense then, you are more dangerous than he is to society, because you are the more bigoted, the less tolerant, the more likely to persecute people on the basis of their beliefs.

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  9. There are crackpot theories and pseudo-scientific theories of supernaturalism (including God) that have not been each individually disproved but they are not a part of science that anyone takes seriously because it is quite plain they are ridiculous and experiment will quickly bury them.

    'Quite plain they are ridiculous' is just an assertion, Neil. All you have done is to pretend that there is a hierarchy based on social/cultural acceptance of these theories, when there is not.

    In scientific terms, a theory lacking evidence is on just as much shaky ground as any other. That said, the variable speed of light theory does have some credibility, because it explains some anomalies with experimental data, so it isn't analogous with your supernaturalism theories.

    To try to give you a concrete example, perhaps you could tell me what science says started the Big Bang? What kicked it all off?

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  10. The level of supporting evidence determines how respected and proven a theory is thought to be.

    Respect and proof are not the same thing. Einstein's theory of General Relativity is highly respected, but it has not been proven, and never will be. Indeed, we know in the limits that it does not accurately describe how the Universe works, so in that sense, it is not 'true'. It has already been disproven. Nonetheless, we find it a useful model for any non-extreme gravitational system.

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  11. "science has challenged a lot of the more whimsical descriptive parts of the Bible? Well, duh, Neil. It's a 2000 year old book. No doubt our ancestors in the year 4000 will be having this same argument about A Brief History of Time..."

    Ahh! but the difference is that the Bible is supposed to be the word of God not just mere human utterences, so it should be impossible to ridicule. The fact it is ridiculous is all the proof we need.

    "You have no more proof that there is no God than the preacher has that there is."

    The preacher has no evidence at all to prove God's existence. I have the above evidence of continuing scientific discoveries constantly disproving the claims of religion for their God. Remember a God that cannot ever be wrong according to them. On the balance of evidence, you have come to the same conclusion as me, that God is a load of nonsense.

    "If you managed to disprove the existence of God, the preacher would be forced to admit he was wrong. Just as you would be forced to admit you were wrong if he proved the existence of God. As neither is possible"

    If the preacher could provide me with the same level of evidence that supports the theory of evolution, I would consider that fairly convincing proof and would believe in God. The truth is there is no evidence at all for God and plenty to suggest its rubbish, hence you and me both believing the existence of God to be nonsense.

    "Actually, I can. He is generally open-minded, accepting and tolerant of your kind."

    Have you forgot history? Look at how religion permeates all aspects of our lives. There will never be a President of the US who could be openly atheist because of religious people's intolerance there, whereas someone like me can vote for Blair despite finding his religious faith ridiculous.

    "In scientific terms, a theory lacking evidence is on just as much shaky ground as any other."

    Not really. The theory that light speed varies has less supporting evidence than the speed of light being constant, so it is less believed (less proven).

    "Respect and proof are not the same thing."

    On this point you are right, relativity works well when tested and for this reason is respected but obviously it is built like the tower of piza.

    I think we have reached an impasse on this.

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  12. Ahh! but the difference is that the Bible is supposed to be the word of God not just mere human utterences, so it should be impossible to ridicule.

    Only in a fundamentalist view of Christianity. You are arguing a straw man case.

    On the balance of evidence, you have come to the same conclusion as me, that God is a load of nonsense.

    No, because there is no balance of evidence. There is just no evidence either way. I have taken the Occam's Razor view - that the simplest answer (no God) is probably the correct one. There is no rational justification whatsoever for my view. It just makes my life easier.

    The truth is there is no evidence at all for God and plenty to suggest its rubbish

    What evidence suggests that the existence of God is rubbish? I know of none. Sure, there is plenty of rubbishing of what is written in the Bible, but as I have said many times above, you can't only challenge a fundamentalist view of the Bible and think the job is done because it isn't Christian mainstream.

    Have you forgot history?

    Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, etc...

    Not really. The theory that light speed varies has less supporting evidence than the speed of light being constant, so it is less believed (less proven).

    No. Again, belief is not the same as proof. And there is no evidence at all that the speed of light is constant (through time), because we have only been measuring it for 100 years, which is a cosmologically insignificant period.

    On this point you are right, relativity works well when tested and for this reason is respected but obviously it is built like the tower of piza.

    Relativity works well when tested under certain conditions where we know it to be approximately correct. Under other conditions (close to a black hole), we surmise it to be untrue, but we have no evidence for this beyond the fact that it doesn't meld well with other, equally tested, theories.

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  13. "Only in a fundamentalist view of Christianity. You are arguing a straw man case"

    No. This was the orthodox opinion of Christianity until quite recently when Science proved it a load of rubbish.

    "I have taken the Occam's Razor view - that the simplest answer (no God) is probably the correct one."

    How is it simpler? If that is all your atheism is based on, then are you not taking a big risk?

    Because as Descartes points out (this is what I consider the strongest argument for God) surely it is 'safer' to believe in God, just incase you are wrong?

    I am so categorically sure that there isn't a God that I'm willing to take the risk (and besides I can't make myself believe something I consider so lacking in evidence).

    Why am I so sure? Because it doesn't make any sense and here is why;

    Surely religion 'does' have something to do with the existence of God or what is the point?

    To be religious is to believe in a benign God who will reward good behaviour after death. Any other type of God makes belief irrelevant.

    As you readily admit, religious ideas have been constantly disproved by scientific discovery; therefore, so has the existence of religion's God.

    The abstract (totally unrelated to religion), 'concept of a God' is of course (as you suggest) totally unprovable either way.

    "Have you forgot history? Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, etc..."

    History has plenty of examples of religious atrocities. But I am talking about 2005, look around the World at the number of countries where a declared atheist is effectively barred from being leader, including the most powerful nation on Earth - the USA.

    This is why religion is a threat to our way of life. Of course if a leader followed another wierd ideology like Stalin, Hitler etc did, then that has equally frightening (or in those cases) worse consequences.

    People who say they believe in God are either being dishonest or they are deluding themselves and it lessens my trust of them.

    "[the level of] belief [in a theory] is not the same as proof."

    Let me try a different tack. You said earlier that there are holes in evolution theory. If more evidence is added to the already large amount of supporting evidence (as it is all the time) has it not been 'more proved'?

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  14. Because as Descartes points out (this is what I consider the strongest argument for God) surely it is 'safer' to believe in God, just incase you are wrong?

    Actually, it was Pascal, and that is known as Pascal's wager. The obvious refutation is that an all-knowing God would know whether belief was sincere or not, which is why Pascal woke up surrounded by red-horned guys with hot pokers and baseball bats after he died...

    As you readily admit, religious ideas have been constantly disproved by scientific discovery; therefore, so has the existence of religion's God.

    No. Tony Blair's ideas have been constantly disproved by empirical testing, and yet it doesn't prove that he doesn't exist. More's the pity.

    You said earlier that there are holes in evolution theory. If more evidence is added to the already large amount of supporting evidence (as it is all the time) has it not been 'more proved'?

    No, just more respected. It has a higher probability of approximating to the truth. Scientific theories cannot be proven. They can only be disproven.

    Of course if a leader followed another wierd ideology like Stalin, Hitler etc did, then that has equally frightening (or in those cases) worse consequences.

    I'd rather a religious leader in the UK than someone of your weird brand of authoritarian secular leftism. Your ideology is far more damaging than any religious one, because you believe that anyone not sharing your opinions is inherently inferior, and because you have no underlying moral code. You admit as such with this:

    People who say they believe in God are either being dishonest or they are deluding themselves and it lessens my trust of them.

    That's just bigotry.

    As for this:

    If that is all your atheism is based on, then are you not taking a big risk?

    Don't you have faith, Neil?

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  15. At the very least, one can find God a tad more convincing than Peel's scouse accent, flowering as it did suddenly in middle age. But no matter.

    "Jesus was in fact a bit of a lefty." Indeed, he managed to anticipate the division of the French political establishment by some 18 centuries. That's how great he was. Welcome to Christianity, Neil. I might wonder about your theology, but whatever works for you.

    Of course, at no point does Christ endorse state redistribution, only that he praises charity (pretty much a Christian notion as we understand it today). That's because Jesus did not have a political programme.

    But then, as you believe that Jesus was a fraud, why do you care what he taught?

    Andrew's done some sterling work in special needs education here, but I think he's onto a lost cause. It's bleedin' obvious (right down to your laughable reference to Descartes) that you have no knowledge of the philosophy of science, and even less of the philosophy of religion. Worse still, as Andrew has pointed out, your whole thought rests on a fundamental category mistake, conflating science with religion.

    And Andrew is entirely right to point out that this:

    "People who say they believe in God are either being dishonest or they are deluding themselves and it lessens my trust of them."

    ... is naked bigotry, pure and simple. But I'll let you off, because I know you're simple and therefore can't help it. It's fairly clear you have no genuine curiosity, and want only to find trite answers. Hebrews 11:1, by the way, points to exactly what is missing in your whole outlook. Barring a discovery of a Theory of Everything, there remains and probably always will (as you yourself say, it is difficult to finally prove anything) things beyond our knowledge.

    Speaking of Descartes, Neil, you are the living proof of the opening sentence of his Discourse on Method. (Look it up.)

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  16. Barring a discovery of a Theory of Everything, there remains and probably always will (as you yourself say, it is difficult to finally prove anything) things beyond our knowledge.

    No probably about it. Godel proved about 70 years ago with his incompleteness theorem that there are certain statements that are formally unprovable, and hence questions for which there is no answer, under any system of logic. Science itself has proven that there are statements that science cannot answer. Neat, heh?

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  17. Andrew, you are playing semantic games here (as usual). For someone who has banned me from their site for having 'unreasonable' arguments, you don't seem to mind having discussions with me here. Fortunately, unlike you, I believe in free speech and wouldn't dream of banning someone (unless they were being offensive).

    "Actually, it was Pascal, and that is known as Pascal's wager."

    You are of course correct, I got mixed up between Pascal's argument and Descartes cosmological argument (They both lived the same time. Note to self: always double check facts and not rely on my memory).

    There are several of these philosophical arguments for God but they essentially all boil down to (infinity exists, we imagine God as infinite or at the end of a finite line of creation, so therefore God exists). This is an argument I consider bullshit because what we imagine is not necessarily fact in reality.

    I may have attributed Pascal's wager to the wrong person but the point I was making is valid. If you truly believe as you claim that there is only a 50:50 chance that you are right in being an atheist then surely Pascal's wager means you are risking losing eternal life for a 'simpler' life on Earth. If the odds were truly 50:50, a less simple life seems worth a 50% chance of eternal life.

    Of course you don't really believe the odds are 50:50. This 'simpler' justification you use is really evidence that has persuaded you that the chance of there being a God are so infinitessimally small to make a belief in God not worth it. I know you are not going to admit this but that is obviously why you are an atheist.

    "No, just more respected. It has a higher probability of approximating to the truth."

    Andrew, isn't that just another fancy way of saying that it is 'more proved'? It's all semantics. If you prefer we can say 'God is a less respected theory and has a lower probability of approximating to the truth'.

    "I'd rather a religious leader in the UK than someone of your weird brand of authoritarian secular leftism."

    Religion is just as wierd an ideology as the brands of authoritarian secular leftism you mentioned. I am arguing against them all. There are three types of people who scare me the most, racists, ideological communists and religious fundamentalists.

    "'People who say they believe in God are either being dishonest or they are deluding themselves and it lessens my trust of them.'
    - That's just bigotry."

    I deliberately threw that in to get your ire. We have argued this before, it is not bigotry to distrust religious people because of their bigoted views.

    It is bigoted to suppress free speech like religion does. I believe in free speech (unlike you). People can believe whatever they like but when that starts affecting my life, as religion does, expect me to criticise religion in no uncertain terms.

    You are getting dangerously close to getting me to invoke Godwins' law against you for calling me a bigot (you always seem to resort to this name calling when you've lost the argument, its so pathetic).

    "Don't you have faith, Neil?"

    I have faith in evidence.

    Blimpish: "At the very least, one can find God a tad more convincing than Peel's scouse accent"

    Oh, you are so humorous. I find someone like Peel more convincing than you. At least Peel had an open mind. You just close your mind, that's why you can believe in God and an unjustisfied hierachical ideology.

    "Of course, at no point does Christ endorse state redistribution, only that he praises charity"

    Lets get rid of the welfare state and have people starving in the street. Everybody would turn to religion then, because thats what people do when they have no hope. It would be a wonderful religious utopia for you and your friends wouldn't it?

    Jesus stated that it is impossible for a rich person to get to heaven and that they should give up all their riches. Isn't that communist?

    Explain how you (as a supposed Christian) can argue that the gap between rich and poor is irrelevant when you are supposed to follow Jesus's teachings?

    "But then, as you believe that Jesus was a fraud, why do you care what he taught?"

    I've already explained this in the post. Right wingers are using religion to justify their policies, I am pointing out how ridiculous this is.

    "Speaking of Descartes, Neil, you are the living proof of the opening sentence of his Discourse on Method. (Look it up.)"

    My motto is: knowledge is finite, ignorance is infinite. I think that was Karl Popper, he makes a bit more sense than Descartes.

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  18. Relativity works well when tested under certain conditions where we know it to be approximately correct. Under other conditions (close to a black hole)

    It also doesn't work at the quantum level, hence the search for the Holy Grail of The Unifying Equation, the closest to which we seem to have found is one of the 8 (that I know of) mathematically-proven (but, currently, physically unprovable) String Theories.

    Just for your edification...

    DK

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  19. It's all semantics.

    Nice to see that The Devil's Razor is being applied here...

    DK

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  20. "Oh, you are so humorous."

    Thank you.

    "I find someone like Peel more convincing than you."

    Neil, he's dead.

    "At least Peel had an open mind."

    Certainly, the quote you cite suggests that, doesn't it? (I actually quite liked John Peel, but he should be taken for what he was and no more.)

    "You just close your mind, that's why you can believe in God and an unjustisfied hierachical ideology."

    Unjustified? Surely, the obviously inferior intellect you display goes someway to suggesting the benefits of hierarchy.

    "Let[s]s get rid of the welfare state and have people starving in the street."

    If you prefer; personally, I prefer a welfare state for functional reasons. But then I don't seek to make it an ideological totem. Not everything has to be absolute, you know; at least for us closed-minds.

    "Everybody would turn to religion then, because thats what people do when they have no hope."

    Yes, after all Communist countries were so full of hope, weren't they?

    "It would be a wonderful religious utopia for you and your friends wouldn't it?"

    If you say so; myself, I'm sceptical. Being open-minded doesn't seem to prevent you from making massive inferences about what I want to achieve or see?

    "Jesus stated that it is impossible for a rich person to get to heaven and that they should give up all their riches."

    No he didn't; he said it was bloody difficult. He counselled charity (a Christian virtue).

    "Isn't that communist?"

    No, primarily because the point is to rise above material concerns, not to make them our obsession as communism would. You're so locked into modern categories you don't see the point. Again, oh to be open-minded.

    "Explain how you (as a supposed Christian) can argue that the gap between rich and poor is irrelevant when you are supposed to follow Jesus's teachings?"

    I don't have to; I don't believe that it is irrelevant. Again, you're imputing opinions to me without actually checking if they're accurate.

    And as for "supposed Christian," perhaps. But I don't think you have any position by which to judge that, at least not to the same extent to which I can evaluate your laughably limited intellect.

    "I've already explained this in the post. Right wingers are using religion to justify their policies, I am pointing out how ridiculous this is."

    Left-wingers used to use religion to justify their policies, with even more ridiculous (cf. the echoes of this in your post).

    But again, why do you care? All religious justifications are absurd in your eyes - they are a sham and a fraud. Given the scorn and abuse you heap on religious people, why should anybody give a shit about your analysis of how their beliefs should follow through into policy?

    "My motto is: knowledge is finite, ignorance is infinite. I think that was Karl Popper, he makes a bit more sense than Descartes."

    You do well in demonstrating the truth of that motto; myself, I try to respond to that truth.

    I assume, by your statement, that you think you follow a Popperian epistemology. You don't, as this discussion shows: you don't accept falsifiability as your guide, and if so, can you state the falsifiable proposition of God that you know is refuted? Popper (an agnostic, not an atheist) would've laughed at any such notion; for him, the question of God was a metaphysical, not a physical question. But as we well know, you can't get your brain around that rather basic epistemic distinction.

    Incidentally, Popper may be clearer than Descartes; but he's also much lighter on substance.

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  21. "Neil, he's dead."

    Exactly, and he still makes more sense than you!

    "Surely, the obviously inferior intellect you display goes someway to suggesting the benefits of hierarchy."

    And you accuse me of arrogance?

    "personally, I prefer a welfare state for functional reasons."

    At least thats some progress from the workhouse ideology you usually display.

    "No he didn't; he said [the rich getting to heaven] was bloody difficult."

    How difficult is it to get a camel through the eye of a needle? To me that is impossible.

    "I don't believe [the gap between rich and poor] is irrelevant.

    Thats news to me, but also good to hear.

    "And as for "supposed Christian," perhaps."

    So, you are not sure?

    "can you state the falsifiable proposition of God that you know is refuted?"

    Religion's version of God.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Andrew, you are playing semantic games here (as usual).

    I'm really not. You seem to have trouble with the meaning of certain words, and your imprecision means that you do not express yourself very well at all. As Blimpish said, I'm simply trying to do some special needs education. My life would be much simpler if you bought a dictionary.

    I know you are not going to admit this but that is obviously why you are an atheist.

    If you know what everyone else thinks already, Neil, why open comments on your blog?

    If you prefer we can say 'God is a less respected theory and has a lower probability of approximating to the truth'.

    Given that (from the Encyclopedia Britannica), less than 20% of the world's population claim to be atheists or non-religious, I think the statement that 'the existence of God is a less respected theory' is incorrect. I'd guess more people believe in God than those who know the theory of relativity, for example. And yet that doesn't mean there is proof for the existence of God, nor that relativity is incorrect.

    We have argued this before, it is not bigotry to distrust religious people because of their bigoted views.

    Like the principle of charity? You said in your post that Jesus was a leftie. You think that is bigoted?

    You are getting dangerously close to getting me to invoke Godwins' law against you for calling me a bigot (you always seem to resort to this name calling when you've lost the argument, its so pathetic).

    Spoken like a true zealot, Neil. I'm not indulging in name-calling by calling you what you are, Neil. Just as me calling Nick Griffin a racist wouldn't be name-calling. It is a simple statement of fact.

    It also doesn't work at the quantum level, hence the search for the Holy Grail of The Unifying Equation, the closest to which we seem to have found is one of the 8 (that I know of) mathematically-proven (but, currently, physically unprovable) String Theories.

    Just for your edification...


    Well, that is the condition of being close to a black hole, DK. As you approach the singularity, you are entering the realm of the very small, and the extreme nature of gravitational force under those conditions requires a new theory.

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  23. Andrew: "I'm simply trying to do some special needs education. My life would be much simpler if you bought a dictionary."

    Do you really think this kind of insult helps the debate at all?

    "If you know what everyone else thinks already, Neil, why open comments on your blog?"

    I don't know what people think and unlike you, I don't ban people I disagree with.

    It seems obvious to me that a self declared atheist believes the evidence for God is less than 50:50, otherwise he would be an agnostic.

    "Given that (from the Encyclopedia Britannica), less than 20% of the world's population claim to be atheists or non-religious, I think the statement that 'the existence of God is a less respected theory' is incorrect."

    Saying you believe in God and actually believing in God are two different things. We all know what happens to people in some parts of the world if they speak out against religion and a belief in god.

    I notice you don't argue against the second part of the statement -'[god] has a lower probability of approximating to the truth'.

    "You said in your post that Jesus was a leftie. You think that is bigoted?"

    That's my point, there is no evidence he was a bigot (we don't know his views on homosexuals or abortion however). But its always a bit dangerous in my opinion to listen to people who hear voices in their head.

    Look at how mainstream religion has denied people contraception, abortion, stem cell research. Look at how religion treats homosexuals and those who deny religion etc. etc. This is where the bigotry creeps in and that is why I say it is dangerous nonsense.

    On the side of those who believe religion is dangerous nonsense you have me, Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Miller. By calling me a bigot, you are calling all these people (and many many more) bigots as well.

    On your side there is Blimpish (a self admitted extreme right winger), who argues against any progressive moves, Devil's Kitchen who laughingly believes that white people are disadvantaged in this country, and you, who wants to ban abortion. Tell me which side sounds the most unreasonable?

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  24. Do you really think this kind of insult helps the debate at all?

    I'm not interested in having a debate with you, Neil. I just want to ensure that if you say something which is obvious nonsense, like the claim that scientific discoveries have suggested that there is evidence that God does not exist, then that obvious nonsense is countered and left on record. I don't much care if you change your mind at all, as long as other people reading this know that your claims are transparent rubbish. In fact, it is quite useful to have someone with your obvious charm on the other side of the political divide.

    It seems obvious to me that a self declared atheist believes the evidence for God is less than 50:50, otherwise he would be an agnostic.

    There is no evidence either way, and in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, I choose to believe otherwise. It isn't that there is a 50:50 chance, and I have flipped a coin. It is that there is a simple explanation, and a convoluted one, and I have chosen what is, for me at least, the simple one. For you to believe there is evidence that suggests that no God exists is just nonsense, but if it helps your delusion to maintain that, go right ahead.

    I don't know what people think and unlike you, I don't ban people I disagree with.

    I don't ban people I disagree with. I ban people who are sufficiently rude and obnoxious. You passed that hurdle. Well done. It's nice that you apply lesser standards to your own blog, but that's your business, not mine.

    Tell me which side sounds the most unreasonable?

    I judge each argument on its merits, not on what the proponents of that argument believe on other issues. If you really judge people by what they think on other issues, you're even more of a bigot than I originally thought.

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  25. Andrew: "I'm not interested in having a debate with you"

    No, you are just interested in insulting people. I'm going to concentrate on the issues rather than descend into playground banter. If you want to keep insulting people, that's up to you, but it's you it reflects badly on.

    "It isn't that there is a 50:50 chance, and I have flipped a coin. It is that there is a simple explanation, and a convoluted one, and I have chosen what is, for me at least, the simple one."

    Andrew, you are trying your best, but read back what you have said. You have just said there is a simple case and a convulated one. Just because you don't describe this as evidence is up to you, but it's clear you have made a decision on evidence.

    "I don't ban people I disagree with. I ban people who are sufficiently rude and obnoxious. You passed that hurdle."

    Show me an example of where I was rude and obnoxious?

    "It's nice that you apply lesser standards to your own blog, but that's your business, not mine."

    Andrew, it's good that you admit that you are rude and obnoxious and even argue for your own banning, but I'm a generous type of guy and I'm hoping you can avoid descending into insults. It is real shame you have to act like this. I just want to debate the issues.

    "I judge each argument on its merits, not on what the proponents of that argument believe on other issues."

    Andrew, you were calling me a bigot. This was an attack on my character. I was pointing out what you believe and the company you keep. That was relevant in determining who is being reasonable.

    Religion and a belief in god are a collection of ideas, a theory. How can it be bigoted to criticise a collection of ideas and those who hold them? It seems more unreasonable to call someone a bigot just for criticising a theory and those who believe that theory.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "Exactly, and [John Peel] still makes more sense than you!"

    I'm glad you accept that the ancestral has much to commend it. You're halfway to becoming a conservative. Unfortunately, your retarded intellect prevents the rest of the journey being completed.

    "And you accuse me of arrogance?"

    No, I don't accuse; I just point it out.

    "At least thats some progress from the workhouse ideology you usually display."

    Where? You just assume what people think; at no time and in no place have I displayed any kind of 'workhouse ideology', whatever the hell that means anyway. You however, have displayed stupidity and obedience to some decayed and slightly absurd ideology combining socialism (don't laugh, Andrew and DK) and a rather pathetic atheism. It's pathetic not because it's atheist, but because it rests on a complete inability to think about metaphysics.

    "How difficult is it to get a camel through the eye of a needle? To me that is impossible."

    You're displaying a biblical literalism that would make a hardcore evangelical ingenue blush. But then, your purpose is to abuse the Gospel, not to understand.

    "Thats news to me, but also good to hear."

    Again, I'll thank you not to assume what I think on the basis of your stereotyping. Bearing in mind the extent to which I'm your intellectual better, you should seek to understand what I think in the hope of gaining at least some ground on me.

    "So, you are not sure?" [in reference to being a 'supposed Christian']

    No, the point here is a fairly basic theological one (about all being sinners). But again, you betray your ignorance here. Like too many of the more egregious and aggressive atheists, you're so obsessed with hatred for Christianity that you never actually bother to learn properly about it. And that's why me and Andrew tear your to shreds.

    "Religion's version of God." [your suggestion for a Popperian falsifiable proposition on the question]

    Aside from the rather odd word "religion," as if it's a single thing rather than broad category, this is really quite pathetic. I knew you were intellectually limited; but really, this just you to be ignorant. You talk about Popper as if you know what you're talking about, but this answer shows you do not.

    Technically, I should've asked for a theory rather than a proposition, but I don't expect you to know the difference. If you had any knowledge of Popperian epistemology, you'd realise that "Religion's version of God" is patently unfalsifiable by physical scientific method. That doesn't mean it's true; simply that it is not refuted. So, your bigotry is built on sand. Thank you and good night.

    "Saying you believe in God and actually believing in God are two different things. We all know what happens to people in some parts of the world if they speak out against religion and a belief in god."

    Ah yes - you see, really, everybody's an atheist. This is a standard failing of the more bone-headed Leftist; the world is full of "good" people and "bad" people, but that "normal" people are defined so as to be generally "good;" any divergences from "good" are explained away by people being oppressed or subject to false consciousness. This is why people like Neil have a complete hissy-fit over the notion that Thatcher was elected by landslides two times - it was only because the electorate were "duped," not because they genuinely wanted any of it.

    Neil, you preen yourself on being scientific and evidence-driven, but your faith is so headbanging it makes me cringe.

    "That's my point, there is no evidence he was a bigot (we don't know his views on homosexuals or abortion however). But its always a bit dangerous in my opinion to listen to people who hear voices in their head."

    Interesting... Mt 10:33-35:

    "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."

    "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

    "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."


    'Bigotry', no. But this isn't an optional thing, y'know.

    We don't know his view on abortion, this is true (obstetrics was not well developed in first-century Jerusalem). But, he did not demur from the ethical positions set out in the Old Testament, like, for example:

    "Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15)

    As for homosexuality, again there is no demurral from the OT ethical position (e.g., Leviticus 18). But in this case, things are clearer because one of the closest apostles (St Paul) was much more explicit (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11)... And as his teaching was accepted by Jesus's "rock," St Peter, it is authoritative.

    In either case, incidentally, the question of how the ethical view translates into policy is a more open question. But the Bible cannot be taken to endorse either abortion or homosexuality; if anything, it views either as being at least potentially sinful.

    "Look at how mainstream religion has denied people contraception, abortion, stem cell research. Look at how religion treats homosexuals and those who deny religion etc. etc. This is where the bigotry creeps in and that is why I say it is dangerous nonsense."

    As you've accepted Neil, bigotry exists in atheism as much as it does in religion (most intensively in atheism, such as Soviet Russia, Cambodia, etc.). The problem is bigotry, not religion.

    (This is not to accept the premises of the argument here; what you call being 'denied abortion' probably accounts for a large number of people in the world. I prefer those people alive, and not dead. But you'd never understand that, because you're a blind and ignorant imbecile.)

    "On the side of those who believe religion is dangerous nonsense you have me, Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Miller. By calling me a bigot, you are calling all these people (and many many more) bigots as well."

    You, Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Miller.

    Bigot, bigot, bigot, semi-bigot. Where's the problem?

    "On your side there is Blimpish (a self admitted extreme right winger), who argues against any progressive moves, Devil's Kitchen who laughingly believes that white people are disadvantaged in this country, and you, who wants to ban abortion. Tell me which side sounds the most unreasonable?"

    Given you're on the other side, I think the question answers itself.

    "Show me an example of where I was rude and obnoxious?"

    This blog.

    "Religion and a belief in god are a collection of ideas, a theory. How can it be bigoted to criticise a collection of ideas and those who hold them? It seems more unreasonable to call someone a bigot just for criticising a theory and those who believe that theory."

    Because you don't criticise them as they are, but simply assert that they're wrong without providing refuting evidence; cast aspersions on the motives of anybody believing them; and ascribe all evil in the world to the theory and those who believe in them.

    Work. It. Out.

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  27. Blimpish: "Unfortunately, your retarded intellect..."

    Keep up the insults, it only reflects badly on you.

    "Bearing in mind the extent to which I'm your intellectual better"

    If there was a better example of arrogance I haven't heard it (I suppose you are going to claim its another one of your jokes).

    In contrast, I have no problem in admitting I have gained some knowledge from you, it's a shame you don't seem to have the same humility. Maybe this explains why you are able to maintain such a closed mind.

    "at no time and in no place have I displayed any kind of 'workhouse ideology', whatever the hell that means anyway."

    For someone who thinks David 'cut taxes whatever the consequences' Davis, is the nation's saviour, I would think that what I mean by 'workhouse ideology' is perfectly clear, you Thatcherite.

    "It's pathetic not because it's atheist, but because it rests on a complete inability to think about metaphysics."

    I don't live my life by the supernatural and I certainly don't want to be dictated to by people who do live their life that way.

    You believe in the supernatural if you want, but the kinds of god that all the different factions of religion have suggested have all been thoroughly discredited by science.

    Since virtually everyone who believes in God also claims to be in one or other of these religious factions, that pretty much clinches it for me.

    "This is why people like Neil have a complete hissy-fit over the notion that Thatcher was elected by landslides two times - it was only because the electorate were "duped," not because they genuinely wanted any of it."

    Well, the electoral system helped her didn't it, since the majority of voters voted for someone else. It also helps to have 75-80% of the press singing your praises every day. These are facts, just like its wrong to assume people believe in God just because they have an allegiance to a religion.

    "You're displaying a biblical literalism [Jesus saying rich can't get to heaven] that would make a hardcore evangelical ingenue blush"

    I think you are suffering from a sort of false consciousness yourself. Why bother having the bible if you're not going to believe a single word in it? (Unless its says what you want to believe of course).

    "As you've accepted Neil, bigotry exists in atheism as much as it does in religion (most intensively in atheism, such as Soviet Russia, Cambodia, etc.). The problem is bigotry, not religion."

    Stop harking to the past. Modern examples please? I have given you plenty of examples of serious current religious bigotry.

    "Because you don't criticise them [religious people] as they are, but simply assert that they're wrong without providing refuting evidence; cast aspersions on the motives of anybody believing them; and ascribe all evil in the world to the theory and those who believe in them."

    Is the current religious bigotry in the world not enough evidence?

    I'm not saying religion is responsible for 'all' of the problems in the world just 'some' of the problems.

    You haven't answered the question of why its bigoted to criticise a belief?

    I think the idea that religious belief is somehow special and beyond criticism is so deep rooted in your psyche that my criticism has shook your sensibilities.

    Open. Your. Mind.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "Keep up the insults, it only reflects badly on you."

    Neil, again, I have to point out that these aren't insults, just statements of truth...

    "In contrast, I have no problem in admitting I have gained some knowledge from you, it's a shame you don't seem to have the same humility. Maybe this explains why you are able to maintain such a closed mind."

    You have so far to go before you can be proud of gaining any knowledge, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. My mind is closed to imbecility, I confess.

    "For someone who thinks David 'cut taxes whatever the consequences' Davis, is the nation's saviour, I would think that what I mean by 'workhouse ideology' is perfectly clear, you Thatcherite."

    This is laughable. On my blog, I'm on record as being somewhat sceptical of claims to cut taxes like Davis has made; I've also been quite forthright in criticising Thatcher for her imperfections. So I don't know why you call me a Thatcherite (which is said as if it's an insult, which rather betrays your own bigotry in political discussions), except that that's what you think I am, not what I am in fact. I assume you're a Blairite? Again, I'll thank you not to think for me - you're simply not up to the job. (Oh, and while you're at it, could you learn how to use a bloody apostrophe, please?)

    "You believe in the supernatural if you want, but the kinds of god that all the different factions of religion have suggested have all been thoroughly discredited by science."

    Where? Give me citations here; don't just assert - give me hard evidence of the scientific refutations of God. How can the physical sciences refute a metaphysical conjecture? Answer: they can't. Philosophy 101, sweetheart.

    "Well, the electoral system helped [Thatcher] didn't it, since the majority of voters voted for someone else. It also helps to have 75-80% of the press singing your praises every day. These are facts, just like it[']s wrong to assume people believe in God just because they have an allegiance to a religion."

    I think this statement proves my point exactly: the victories are explained away by the electoral system or by a biased media; it couldn't actually be that the public at large were either supportive or relatively indifferent, could it? Re your last sentence there, good faith requires we take people at their word - if they say they adhere to a religion, you should have respect enough for them to assume they take it seriously, rather than condescend to your obvious betters.

    "I think you are suffering from a sort of false consciousness yourself. Why bother having the bible if you're not going to believe a single word in it? (Unless its says what you want to believe of course)."

    As we've conclusively demonstrated your utter ignorance of Christianity, we didn't need this statement to reinforce the point. Given that there is a long interpretative tradition in Christian (from the Patristic period onwards), which struggles with the limits of our understanding, I think my ground is fairly strong.

    This is a joke, right - you're not really this stupid?

    "Stop harking to the past. Modern examples please? I have given you plenty of examples of serious current religious bigotry."

    Soviet Communism only ended in the last fifteen years. Cambodia happened around the time I was born. Witch-burning happened... in the sixteenth century. Why, who's harking back to the past here?

    (But if you can't contemporary examples of enlightened atheist rule, you might look to, say, North Korea or Cuba.)

    "You haven't answered the question of why it[']s bigoted to criticise a belief?"

    (Please, again, I beg of you - learn to use an apostrophe.)

    I didn't say that it was bigoted to criticise a belief. I criticise yours all the time, and not through bigotry but through reason. But you work on the basis of infantile prejudices that could be parroted by a 14-year-old debater. You assume you know what other people think without asking them, and your attitude to things you don't understand is breathtaking arrogance.

    Neil, most of my friends are atheists (Andrew included), and I've had very open arguments or discussions with many of them about the God question. But the difference is that they, like me, start from a position of acknowledged uncertainty and inevitable limits to knowledge. I can't conclusively demonstrate the existence of God, and they can't conclusively demonstrate His non-existence; this is what makes the question one of the grand themes in the Western philosophical tradition, as it has been for 2,500 years. Yet you seem to think that you've got it all solved, probably just because you read a bit of Dawkins - a good biologist who is notorious for his embarassing excursions into philosophical territory.

    Mind you, you might've "read" Dawkins in the same way as you seem to have "read" Popper - i.e., read a paragraph about him in the Guardian one morning and decided that was all you needed.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "Neil, again, I have to point out that these aren't insults, just statements of truth..."

    To say someone is in need of special needs demonstrates your arrogance really. Even if it was true it isn't a very nice thing to say. Basically you are just demonstrating how puerile you are.

    Criticising someone for accidently missing a couple of apostrophes is equally pathetic. Haven't you heard of typos? When I'm typing quickly I sometimes miss things out. It's a force of habit with texting etc. You are being very pedantic. Probably because you are trying every debating trick you can to distract from the issue we are talking about. Just because you are good at avoidance techniques in arguing doesn't mean you know what you are talking about.

    "You have so far to go before you can be proud of gaining any knowledge"

    You are so arrogant. It isn't how much you know, but what you know and how you apply it. Until you learn an open mind, feeding your brain with all the knowledge in the world won't help you, because you don't know how to interpret information without distorting it to what you want to believe.

    "I'm on record as being somewhat sceptical of claims to cut taxes like Davis has made"

    You are also on record for saying David Davis is our nation's saviour.

    David Davis is a Thatcherite, you think David Davis is great, so therefore you must be at least a bit of a Thatcherite.

    "give me hard evidence of the scientific refutations of God."

    The scriptures and dictats of all the major religions each define a specific benign god. All of which have been discredited by scientific discovery. For example; The Bible is the word of God. According to the Bible and therefore God, the Earth was created in seven days. - No, it wasn't.

    Religious factions had several varying responses to science's challenges. Persecution of scientists they disagreed with, changing the interpretation of scriptures or finally saying it's all metaphorical anyway or even denying scientific discovery.

    The flat Earth theory has been discredited. We don't re-interprete it or say it is still possible metaphorically do we?

    Now of course, the 'concept' of a god cannot be proven or disproven. But that is not what I am talking about and it is irrelevant anyway because without a benign interventionist god it has no bearing on what our behaviour should be.

    The vast majority of people who say they believe in god, also state an allegiance to one of the main religions. As these have been discredited, so has their benign interventionist idea of God.

    There is a lot more about religion and philosophy here, it also explains my position on why I should be allowed to criticise religion and its irrationality.

    "your attitude to things you don't understand is breathtaking arrogance"

    This is coming from you?

    "Neil, most of my friends are atheists (Andrew included), and I've had very open arguments or discussions with many of them about the God question. But the difference is that they, like me, start from a position of acknowledged uncertainty and inevitable limits to knowledge"

    That must be an interesting debate considering you both agree neither of you can persuade the other of anything. What is the point?

    "Mind you, you might've "read" Dawkins in the same way as you seem to have "read" Popper - i.e., read a paragraph about him in the Guardian one morning and decided that was all you needed."

    Sometimes that is all you need for simple logical arguments like this one. It's possible to work out a lot of philosophy without having to read it. I wouldn't mind if you could actually come up with anything worthwhile to contradict what I say, but you haven't done anything but throw insults at me. I have read four books by Dawkins. I admit to only having read a few essays by Popper.

    I find it interesting that you call Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee bigots but you only dare call Jonathan Miller a 'semi-bigot'. Why is that? When Miller is just as avidly anti-religious and asks questions like 'Is it possible to be intelligent and believe in God?'.

    Are John Peel, Colin McGinn, Arthur Miller, Steven Weinburg, Daniel Dennett, AC Grayling or anyone else who states that gods do not exist, bigots?

    I'll leave the last word with AC Grayling;

    "Science and religion are direct competitors over all the great questions about the origin of the universe, the question of what it contains, the question whether it has an exogenous purpose, and the question of how it functions. Everything from the various creation myths of various religions to the logical coherence of the idea of miracles is comprehended here and the most rudimentary scientific understanding shows that belief in supernatural agencies and events is nonsense."

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  30. Sorry, sorry, sorry, hopelessly off-topic, but I couldn't let this pass:

    "You haven't answered the question of why it[']s bigoted to criticise a belief?"

    (Please, again, I beg of you - learn to use an apostrophe.)


    In this context, it's is a contraction of it is and is therefore a correct use of the apostrophe.

    Okay - carry on chaps.

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  31. Hi Longrider,

    I had missed out the apostrophe in that sentence, (it is Blimpish's insertion of the apostrophe in brackets), so Blimpish was right to point that out. The pedantic git is wrong about almost everything else though.

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  32. oop - this discussion had become so long, I missed that...

    Oh, well, never mind me, I'll shut up.

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  33. "Criticising someone for accidently missing a couple of apostrophes is equally pathetic."

    Sorry here - it's a bugbear of mine. I let it slide earlier on, but it's getting right up my nose. I do accept though that this is a hang-up.

    "You are so arrogant."

    I'm wonderful, and you know it. (Oh, the irony.)

    "It isn't how much you know, but what you know and how you apply it. Until you learn an open mind, feeding your brain with all the knowledge in the world won't help you, because you don't know how to interpret information without distorting it to what you want to believe."

    So... you accept that I'm more knowledgeable than you. Cheers.

    "David Davis is a Thatcherite, you think David Davis is great, so therefore you must be at least a bit of a Thatcherite."

    That fails on logical grounds. I'm not even sure if "Thatcherism" is a relevant term these days at all, but just as not everyone supporting Thatcher was a Thatcherite, so me supporting Davis doesn't make me a Davisite or a Thatcherite. It just means that I thought he was the best of the available options, for reasons that were not primarily doctrinal.

    "The scriptures and dictats of all the major religions each define a specific benign god."

    Not true. Judaism and Islam certainly don't posit God's being benign - God is All, rather than Good. It's only Christianity of the Abrahamic religions that focuses on God as Good, in part perhaps because of the Greek philosophic influence.

    "All of which have been discredited by scientific discovery. For example; The Bible is the word of God. According to the Bible and therefore God, the Earth was created in seven days. - No, it wasn't."

    I'm a Christian, therefore I think the Old Testament is the word of God spoken through a long intepretative tradition, and through often conflicting and confusing metaphors and symbols. This is a position that is pretty much mainstream to Christianity since, oh, the third century or something. No refutation here.

    "Religious factions had several varying responses to science's challenges. Persecution of scientists they disagreed with, changing the interpretation of scriptures or finally saying it's all metaphorical anyway or even denying scientific discovery."

    Here again, you're revealing your ignorance. Most persecutions, such as they were, reflected Greek science and Cosmology, which was accepted as truth by the Church. If (as I did above) we say "it's all metaphorical," then surely we're accepting scientific truth, aren't we? So no issue.

    "The flat Earth theory has been discredited. We don't re-interprete it or say it is still possible metaphorically do we?"

    Again, your ignorance is displayed. The Flat Earth theory wasn't supported by the Church, precisely because they did support Greek cosmology - which was wrong, but did assume the earth was spherical. Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas: all were schooled in Greek science, and all accepted this point. The notion of Flat Earthers was a later bit of historical excess rather than a reality of middle ages thought.

    "Now of course, the 'concept' of a god cannot be proven or disproven."

    Exactly. Faith pays off...

    "But that is not what I am talking about..."

    Hmmm... but you said God was disproven....

    "and it is irrelevant anyway because without a benign interventionist god it has no bearing on what our behaviour should be."

    Whether God is benign is of no matter to this debate, surely? (After all, if he's malign, we're all in deep, deep trouble too.)

    It does, though, have a bearing - if you believe that we have eternal souls beyond our physical existence, then we account to God for our actions, even if his intervention on earth is extremely spare.

    "The vast majority of people who say they believe in god, also state an allegiance to one of the main religions. As these have been discredited, so has their benign interventionist idea of God."

    We've already demonstrated that God doesn't have to be benign or actively interventionist. More important here, you reverse the logical priority - you say their religions have been discredited, and so therefore have their idea of God. But actually, it goes in reverse - and you accept that the concept of God cannot, ultimately, be refuted. So, your argument collapses.

    "That must be an interesting debate considering you both agree neither of you can persuade the other of anything. What is the point?"

    This tells me all I need to know - the purpose of conversation doesn't have to be a decisive victory for either side; it can be interesting to explore. Who's the open-minded one here?

    "Sometimes that is all you need for simple logical arguments like this one. It's possible to work out a lot of philosophy without having to read it."

    Why does this not surprise me...

    "I wouldn't mind if you could actually come up with anything worthwhile to contradict what I say, but you haven't done anything but throw insults at me. I have read four books by Dawkins. I admit to only having read a few essays by Popper."

    I think a review of the discussion shows that I've pretty much categorically refuted every argument you've put up, and moved you to have to put up some rather curious extra posts to try another tack.

    "I find it interesting that you call Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee bigots but you only dare call Jonathan Miller a 'semi-bigot'. Why is that? When Miller is just as avidly anti-religious and asks questions like 'Is it possible to be intelligent and believe in God?'."

    Soft spot for Jonathan Miller - and he at least admits that our culture (i.e., our art and literature) would be horrifically impoverished had it not been for religious tradition.

    "Are John Peel, Colin McGinn, Arthur Miller, Steven Weinburg, Daniel Dennett, AC Grayling or anyone else who states that gods do not exist, bigots?"

    No, you miss the point (as normal). It isn't atheism that is bigotry, it is the way in which it is stated, and the aggression and ignorance with which religious perspectives are dealt with. As I said, I have plenty of atheists friends who aren't bigots and there are plenty of religious people who are bigots; it is only you who here who takes the bigoted view that divides the world between "enlightened atheists" and "benighted religious."

    Excepting the case of sects and denominations claiming religious causes for physical effects, Grayling's point is crap. Some examples:

    "Science and religion are direct competitors over all the great questions about the origin of the universe."

    No they're not. Most scientists believe in the Big Bang; so do I. The religious question is over what goes on outside the Big Bang, which is the limit of our knowledge. Even if scientists could demonstrate that the universe was infinite (i.e., no Big Bang - back to the pre-Hawking view), that simply changes the range and place of the metaphysical.

    "the question of what it contains"

    Not really; again, excepting the wilder fringes, most religious people are perfectly comfortable with the statements of biology or geology on the nature of physical existence.

    "the question whether it has an exogenous purpose"

    No - science is silent on whether there is a purpose to life, because it is concerned solely with causes and effects, not whether there is a fundamental cause (or what it is).

    "the question of how it functions"

    No again - God created a universe of physical laws, which are those we seek to understand by science.

    Etc.

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  34. Blimpish: "[apostrophes are] a bugbear of mine. I let it slide earlier on, but it's getting right up my nose. I do accept though that this is a hang-up."

    I'll try not to miss apostrophes out from now on, force of habit I'm afraid - too much texting.

    "So... you accept that I'm more knowledgeable than you. Cheers."

    I'll admit you have a better grasp of language than me and probably have read more books on philosophy, but that doesn't necessarily mean you 'know' more than me on this issue.

    You may have just read a load of crap or just read all the stuff you agree with, without any serious questioning of your ideas.

    You call people like Richard Dawkins a bigot, but he probably has more understanding of science than you.

    So trying to pull rank is not a consistent argument of yours. If you have an open mind, you accept that you can learn from anyone, no matter what their level of knowledge is.

    This attraction of yours to a rigid hierachy is why you don't believe in egalitarianism.

    Ask a teacher or lecturer how much they learn from the students they teach? Dismissing someone because of their supposed lower level of knowledge demonstrates your bigotry and lack of an open mind.

    "so me supporting Davis doesn't make me a Davisite or a Thatcherite. It just means that I thought he was the best of the available options, for reasons that were not primarily doctrinal."

    I'm sure most who support Blair are not doing so for doctrinal reasons either.

    I only support him because he is the best of the available options. I certainly haven't ever described Blair as the 'saviour of the nation' like you have with Davis.

    So by your own definition I'm less of a Blairite than you are a Davisite. I consider Davis a bit of a Thatcher clone, can you tell me where they are different in fundamental belief? I just think you are playing semantic games again here.

    "Not true. Judaism and Islam certainly don't posit God's being benign - God is All, rather than Good. It's only Christianity of the Abrahamic religions that focuses on God as Good"

    This is interesting. If God is not benign, why trust him to reward you with heaven?

    If god is not benign then believing in him is irrelevant, which is precisely my point.

    Therefore I only have to disprove the benign god that is advocated by religions, to disprove any meaningful god. Science has done this to a satisfactory degree by rubbishing the claims of religion.

    If a benign god exists outside of religious definition then that is irrelevant too because there is no way of knowing how we should live our life to please him. But as nearly all those who believe in god assign themselves to a religion, all I have to do is show religious scripture and teachings as nonsense to disprove their gods.

    "I'm a Christian, therefore I think the Old Testament is the word of God spoken through a long intepretative tradition, and through often conflicting and confusing metaphors and symbols."

    And you base how you live your life on these 'conflicting and confusing metaphors and symbols'?

    It doesn't sound very sensible to me. Not only that, you have the cheek to tell other people you are right and they are bigoted for pointing out what a load of nonsense your 'ideas' are.

    "it's all metaphorical," then surely we're accepting scientific truth, aren't we? So no issue."

    But it is an issue. By aligning yourself with a religion, you are giving credence to those who do interprete religious scripture literally (like you do when it suits).

    What would be the point of me saying? 'I believe in a flat Earth'. But when questioned on the evidence, say, 'well I only believe in it metaphorically so it doesn't matter'.

    "Again, your ignorance is displayed. The Flat Earth theory wasn't supported by the Church"

    I never said it was. I was using a ridiculous non-religious example to demonstrate that interpreting a theory metaphorically is a ridiculous cop-out. I could of used fairies at the bottom of the garden or angels, it doesn't matter. Please try not to misinterpret what I'm saying.

    "the purpose of conversation doesn't have to be a decisive victory for either side; it can be interesting to explore. Who's the open-minded one here?"

    Well I am actually and I'll explain why.

    When you enter a 'god' debate with Andrew, you have both decided that your positions on belief cannot be changed.

    Whereas, I would believe in God if there was an strong enough argument (with supporting evidence) put forward. I am open minded enough to change my position if needs be, you are not.

    Science is all about healthy scepticism and doubt and only believing what the evidence supports. You put that aside when it comes to discussing god (and probably loads of other issues as well by example of your thinking on abortion etc.).

    "I think a review of the discussion shows that I've pretty much categorically refuted every argument you've put up"

    In your closed arrogant mind you have. You are not as clever as you think you are. Of that there is no doubt.

    "It isn't atheism that is bigotry, it is the way in which it is stated, and the aggression and ignorance with which religious perspectives are dealt with"

    Science is about questioning everything and testing theories against the evidence. Religion and a meaningful god just don't stand up to the evidence. How else can it be put?

    The reason religion doesn't like to be scientifically examined in this way is because it knows that it doesn't stand up to scientific enquiry. Religion has largely survived by suppressing the findings of this enquiry, which is what you are trying to do now by calling me a bigot.

    "it is only you who here who takes the bigoted view that divides the world between "enlightened atheists" and "benighted religious."

    I'm not saying that. Atheists are not necessarily enlightened as Andrew demonstrates.

    Religious people are misguided, but this is not necessarily dangerous, it just leaves them more open to bigotry (as you demonstrate). My argument is just that religion is dangerous nonsense and the world would be better off without it, just like we are better off by not believing in a flat earth.

    "The religious question is over what goes on outside the Big Bang, which is the limit of our knowledge"

    The limit of our knowledge is not fixed. As it advances, God retreats. That is why religion and science are in conflict. Religion is scared of scientific discovery and revels in mystery and ignorance. Science is the opposite.

    "excepting the wilder fringes, most religious people are perfectly comfortable with the statements of biology or geology on the nature of physical existence."

    But without religion the wilder fringes wouldn't have credibility.

    "science is silent on whether there is a purpose to life"

    It is better to be ethical without religion than with, as my Colin McGinn quote illustrates.

    "God created a universe of physical laws, which are those we seek to understand by science."

    And Scientific debate is held back by religious teachings about a god for which there is no scientific evidence and plenty of scientific doubt.

    I notice you don't answer AC Graylings most pertinent point;

    "the most rudimentary scientific understanding shows that belief in supernatural agencies and events is nonsense. A simple test demonstrates this: ask yourself what grounds we have for believing that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden; consider what tests might be supposed to test the hypothesis that such things exist; ask yourself how reasonable it would be to organise your life on the supposition that such fairies exist. The evidential basis of belief in gods and other supernatural forces is no different from this."

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