06 December 2005

My riposte to Blimpish on God.

"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 to be 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."

4 comments:

  1. I believe it's riposte, Neil. I'm glad I keep pressing the buttons.

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

    I'll go better: Dawkins has forgotten more than I'll ever know about science. But his philosophical knowledge and his civility leave lots to be desired.

    To be fair, you asked Andrew if he thought Dawkins was a bigot for his views on religion; I accepted the invitation.

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

    Indeed. It tends to accord better with reality.

    "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."

    I think most people realised that the words 'saviour of the nation' were used somewhat archly, and without a high seriousness.

    "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 at all - not that you'd get the difference, but Davis is much more a classical liberal; I'm a conservative, a Tory. On policy issues there are some divides too. Again, you won't get this, but I don't care about doctrine in selecting a leader much at all.

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

    Not that it's my religion, but Jews and Muslims are law-based religions, where adherents follow covenanted practices as God instructs.

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

    This makes no sense; God could be benign or malign or neither, but if He is the root of existence, he's pretty bloody relevant.

    "Therefore I only have to disprove the benign god that is advocated by religions, to disprove any meaningful god."

    But as we have just seen, disproving God's being benign is not sufficient - you must disprove His existence, not his attitude.

    "Science has [disproved God's being benign] to a satisfactory degree by rubbishing the claims of religion."

    As noted, the logic here doesn't hold water at all; not that it matters therefore, but this is just assertion - when did science disprove God's being benign? Evidence, if you please.

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

    No, I try and fail to do so.

    "It doesn't sound very sensible to me."

    It probably isn't; but it seems to leave me more coherent than you, so on a less-worse basis, I'll stick with it, thank you.

    "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."

    No, I have the 'cheek' to smack you around on comments when you seek to demean those ideas without refuting them through reason. You will note, incidentally, that very little of our discussion revolves around the rights and wrongs of the Gospel, and most of it around questions of philosophy - it's just that you think only atheists have a right to claim philosophic knowledge. Which is wrong.

    "Science is all about healthy scepticism and doubt and only believing what the evidence supports."

    Agreed. And if we discuss science, that is the basis we will discuss it on. But we're not discussing science; we're discussing philosophy.

    "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.)."

    Actually, no; I just know enough of what I'm talking about that I don't make sweeping category mistakes. I don't seek physical answers to metaphysical questions. On abortion, I seem to recall you started by accusing anybody who disagrees with it of being a misogynist (I kinda' wonder - does that line get you laid?).

    "In your closed arrogant mind you have [refuted all Neil's arguments]."

    Yup, and it's great.

    "You are not as clever as you think you are."

    Undoubtedly true, but I don't think you're in any position to criticise.

    "Science is about questioning everything and testing theories against the evidence."

    The extent of this is questionable (see Kuhn for starters), but yes.

    "Religion and a meaningful god just don't stand up to the evidence. How else can it be put?"

    What evidence, Neil? Please tell me, I'm desperate to hear. You keep repeating this point, but every time I ask you for the evidence you know of, it mysteriously disappears.

    "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."

    Except for the fact that for the larger part of the last 2000 years, much of science was carried out under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, eh..? But I guess you knew that.

    And I'm not trying to suppress your 'enquiry' because there is none - you proceed by assertion, not by curiosity.

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

    On the previous thread, I pointed out that Communists' anti-religious bigotry was hardly disproven by their bigotry against atheists as well. I think you make the point admirably here, and I thank you.

    "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."

    I'm all for getting rid of bad ideas, and let's start by being rid of socialism, responsible for more immiseration than religion ever has been.

    "The limit of our knowledge is not fixed."

    I'd agree, but I'd also agree with the message you endorsed on the earlier thread: "knowledge is finite, ignorance is infinite." Which means there will always be the larger part of things that we don't know, beyond our ken.

    "As [knowledge] advances, God retreats."

    But as we agree that the rest of things still to discover remains infinite, I don't think he needs to worry. Do the logic: if our ignorance is infinite, God will never have to knowingly retreat from our knowledge.

    "That is why religion and science are in conflict."

    Your logic is not like our Earth logic.

    "Religion is scared of scientific discovery and revels in mystery and ignorance. Science is the opposite."

    Category mistakes again, Neil. Religion concerns (or should - some denominations get out of their depth) the metaphysical and science concerns the physical. There is no conflict. One can be (as, say, Isaac Newton was) a loony-tunes religious maniac and an excellent scientist at the same time.

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

    Yes, and without socialism, Communism wouldn't have found traction either. There are good arguments against socialism, but that isn't one of them.

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

    No, it argues the point, but mainly just hectors it rather than demonstrating it. I don't accept McGinn's world-beating authority here, I'm afraid. Plenty of philosophers with whom I'd violently disagree would say he's full of crap. A society lived by each man's conscience might indeed be a wonderful place; but there again, it might also mean the rule of the strong over the weak. Nietzsche teaches well here.

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

    Tell me one situation, here and now, where serious scientific research is being held back simply by religious hang-ups. You're tilting at windmills, Neil.

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

    I got bored, but if you insist...

    "the most rudimentary scientific understanding shows that belief in supernatural agencies and events is nonsense."

    This is silly. 'Supernatural' means 'beyond the natural'; the value of science is in helping to understand the natural world. If there is an interruption from outside that world, science won't cover it, will it?

    "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."

    Again, Grayling is missing the point, and condescendingly too. Belief in God is not about a belief in a physical phenomenon, but something prior to the physical world. You accept that we have an infinity of ignorance; surely infinity offers room to spare for something to exist outside our understanding.

    But I don't need to tell you this, do I? This is all just an elaborate joke to give me practice on basic logic chopping, right?

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  2. "I believe it's 'riposte'"

    Duly corrected. Thanks.

    "I'll go better: Dawkins has forgotten more than I'll ever know about science"

    I'm really impressed that a nobody like you can criticise the Oxford professor for public understanding of science, about his understanding of science. Whom do I believe? Hmm...

    "think most people realised that the words 'saviour of the nation' were used somewhat archly, and without a high seriousness."

    This is a repeat tactic of yours. Whenever you have been caught out saying something ridiculous, after repeatedly defending the statement, you later claim it was a joke. Hmm...

    "On policy issues there are some divides too. Again, you won't get this"

    Try me.

    "Not that it's my religion, but Jews and Muslims are law-based religions, where adherents follow covenanted practices as God instructs."

    This doesn't answer why we should trust a non-benign god.

    "God could be benign or malign or neither, but if He is the root of existence, he's pretty bloody relevant."

    Only if he is benign is our behaviour relevant and god meaningful. There is no point trying to impress a malign or indifferent god.

    "disproving God's being benign is not sufficient - you must disprove His existence, not his attitude."

    Not at all, as I have explained; If god does not fit religion's specific benign definitions, our behaviour and religion's rules are not relevant to our relationship with god. In that case, God is not meaningful. Therefore a meaningful god is all I have to disprove.

    "when did science disprove God's being benign? Evidence, if you please."

    You accept science over the literal meaning of scripture because the literal meaning of scripture is scientifically absurd. To have a metaphorical theory (as I have explained) is a meaningless concept.

    If a benign god lies outside of religion's definition then there is no way of knowing what behaviour would please him, therefore that is irrelevant also.

    "No, I try [and live my life by conflicting and confusing metaphors and symbols] and fail to do so"

    Not surprisingly really. I feel sorry for you.

    "It probably isn't [very sensible]"

    Too right.

    "you think only atheists have a right to claim philosophic knowledge"

    You can claim what you like, but as you admit your life is based on confusion and nonsense, don't mind if I think your beliefs are ridiculous.

    "[You are not as clever as you think you are.] Undoubtedly true"

    "much of science was carried out under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church"

    No wonder progress was so slow.

    "I pointed out that Communists' anti-religious bigotry was hardly disproven by their bigotry against atheists as well."

    And your point is? This doesn't make sense. I don't believe in that Communism so what is your point?

    People can believe in religion if they like, people can believe what they like. I just want to point out that religion is nonsense that's all.

    "I'm all for getting rid of bad ideas, and let's start by being rid of socialism, responsible for more immiseration than religion ever has been."

    Stop trying to change the subject, we are talking about how bad religion is. This is a classic diversion tactic. We can debate socialism another day.

    "What evidence, Neil? Please tell me, I'm desperate to hear"

    You keep refusing to answer the evidence I provide.

    "there will always be the larger part of things that we don't know"

    Yes, but that is outside of this debate, this debate is actually quite straightforward.

    "if our ignorance is infinite, God will never have to knowingly retreat from our knowledge."

    The argument for a meaningful god is finite. I have already acknowledged that a concept of god outside of this meaningful definition is irrelevant.

    "I don't seek physical answers to metaphysical questions"

    Religion's definition of a god can be disproven within science.

    "Belief in God is not about a belief in a physical phenomenon, but something prior to the physical world"

    I live in the physical world, you can live in your confused/conflicting metaphysical world if you like. You admit it is not sensible. I prefer to live in the real world.

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  3. "I'm really impressed that a nobody like you can criticise the Oxford professor for public understanding of science, about his understanding of science. Whom do I believe? Hmm..."

    Apologies, I obviously wasn't clear - me suggesting he'd forgotten more than I'll ever know was a complement, not an insult. It means his learning in science is extremely deep compared to mine.

    "This is a repeat tactic of yours. Whenever you have been caught out saying something ridiculous, after repeatedly defending the statement, you later claim it was a joke. Hmm..."

    Normally because it is, muppet.

    "Try me."

    Life's way too short.

    "This doesn't answer why we should trust a non-benign god."

    Again, not my religion, but I think you miss the point quite radically here. You don't have to know someone's nice to be able to do business with them.

    "Only if he is benign is our behaviour relevant and god meaningful. There is no point trying to impress a malign or indifferent god."

    This just isn't logical. If He is indifferent and omnipotent, but has told us to do things, then we would be wise to do them rather than be condemned to Hell.

    "Not at all, as I have explained; If god does not fit religion's specific benign definitions, our behaviour and religion's rules are not relevant to our relationship with god. In that case, God is not meaningful. Therefore a meaningful god is all I have to disprove."

    Again, logic is lacking here. Please see above; I really can't be arsed to repeat it all for the slow learner.

    "You accept science over the literal meaning of scripture because the literal meaning of scripture is scientifically absurd."

    Indeed, because you shouldn't read a theistic revelation as a statement of hard science. One doesn't use a Bible to find your way from Dundee to Plymouth, either.

    "To have a metaphorical theory (as I have explained) is a meaningless concept."

    It isn't a metaphorical theory, dufus. But again, I tire of explaining things.

    "And your point is? This doesn't make sense. I don't believe in that Communism so what is your point?"

    My point was that your looking askance at Andrew and me demonstrated the silliness of your previous point. It does.

    "People can believe in religion if they like, people can believe what they like. I just want to point out that religion is nonsense that's all."

    Just like I want to point out that you're intellectually subnormal, that's all. One of us is succeeding in our objective; and it ain't you.

    "Stop trying to change the subject, we are talking about how bad religion is. This is a classic diversion tactic. We can debate socialism another day."

    Who brought in the David Davis stuff? Oh, I believe that was you. Thank you and goodnight.

    "You keep refusing to answer the evidence I provide."

    The 'evidence' you provide is laughable and has accordingly been laughed at by me and Andrew and DK in these comment threads.

    "Yes, but that [the infinity of our ignorance] is outside of this debate, this debate is actually quite straightforward."

    No, the infinity of our ignorance is central to the debate. The fact that you don't see that basic point demonstrates your intellectual inadequacy for this conversation, which is why this is going to be my last post - I've got better ways to waste my remaining time on Earth than trying to teach elementary philosophy to an intellectually retarded bigot.

    "The argument for a meaningful god is finite."

    No, it's not. As someone who believes in God, I can tell ya, the whole point is that he is infinite, beyond all physical bounds. That's the point.

    "I have already acknowledged that a concept of god outside of this meaningful definition is irrelevant."

    Yes, because an infinite being of infinite knowledge and power (and, in Christianity, love) has no relevance. That makes sense...

    "Religion's definition of a god can be disproven within science."

    You keep asserting it, so I assume you believe it. But it's really about as valid a description of the universe as an Evangelical's faith in Creationist literalism. (Again, I love the infantile way you throw around "religion" as if it's a single thing.)

    "I live in the physical world, you can live in your confused/conflicting metaphysical world if you like. You admit it is not sensible. I prefer to live in the real world."

    You misunderstand, Neil. To accept the metaphysical is not a denial of the physical, but a deepening of it.

    To deny there is a metaphysical realm is to deny that there are things outside of the collision of atoms. I don't know if you've ever felt love in your life, but if you have, did you ever just dismiss it as a collection of hormonal imbalances, or did you think it was something so much more? If it is more than just a physical reaction (and romance pretty much relies on it), then we are into the realm of the metaphysical.

    Of course, if you're happy to live in such a flat and meaningless world, where there is no love and no loyalty except where hormones and convenience dictate, then you can get on with it. But I really do feel sorry for you.

    Don't bother to reply, Neil. I'm bored now.

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  4. "Don't bother to reply, Neil. I'm bored now."

    I was bored of your tired nonsense a couple of posts back but I'm going to answer your points anyway.

    "It means his learning in science is extremely deep compared to mine."

    So you call someone a bigot who you admit knows more about the subject? You criticise me for being your intellectual inferior but this doesn't count when you criticise someone else.

    "Normally because it [ridiculous statement] is [a joke], muppet.

    Not always though. Sometimes you use it as a cover for arguing the absurd, as in this case.

    "This just isn't logical. If He is indifferent and omnipotent, but has told us to do things, then we would be wise to do them rather than be condemned to Hell."

    So you always do what bad people tell you?
    Why trust someone who is indifferent or benign?
    It is your argument that is illogical, that is why you argue for the irrational and defend it by saying it is outside of rational scientific criticism.

    "Who brought in the David Davis stuff? Oh, I believe that was you"

    Only to point out your extremism.

    "No, the infinity of our ignorance is central to the debate"

    It is relevant to an abstract concept of god but not to religion's definition of God, which is finite.

    "I love the infantile way you throw around "religion" as if it's a single thing"

    Religion is a single thing, just as communism is or socialism. There are variations on interpretations and beliefs, but the relevant religions believe in a benign god. If they do not define god as such, they are irrelevant as I have explained.

    "But it's really about as valid a description of the universe as an Evangelical's faith in Creationist literalism"

    There are plenty of reputable scientists who think the same way as me. There are none who believe in Creationism.

    "To deny there is a metaphysical realm is to deny that there are things outside of the collision of atoms. I don't know if you've ever felt love in your life, but if you have, did you ever just dismiss it as a collection of hormonal imbalances?"

    Love is different to Religion. Nobody writes down 'rules of love' that we have to stick to or face penalty of eternal torment in hell. If they did, I would criticise them for doing so, just as I criticise religion.

    "Of course, if you're happy to live in such a flat and meaningless world, where there is no love and no loyalty except where hormones and convenience dictate"

    The thing is, a belief in science opens your mind to the true wonder and beauty of life, rather than the fake, flat, dangerous beliefs that you follow.

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