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July 11, 2010

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Religion is not "proved" or "disproved," nor was the Scientific method (a latecomer in human symbolic systems)developed to investigate religion.

Science exists to answer descriptive questions about the observable universe. It rails against religion so often because religion often makes unsubstantiated claims about the universe, and just as often claims that some hypothetical part of the universe must be unobservable because religion says so.

Religion, per se, is not limited to proof texts selected in splendid isolation from this or that text, but is an integral aspect of human functioning.

Then how can some people, like me, be non-religious?

[Religion] is prior to science, even the Ionians. It is a "claim to truth" as is science. It addresses questions of human meaning, which are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity, but instead address issues of social purpose, which I contend is a bit more complex than the social purpose of an ant colony. While science can enlighten us regarding specific aspects of human psychology (lit. soul study) or social/political functioning, it cannot explain everything.

And why is religion granted this special privilege? Any non-religious person can assign meaning and purpose.

On the other hand, M theory does envision accounting for everything.

I doubt M Theorists would argue they're immune to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. If M Theory does pan out, it'll just explain more of our universe (and possibly others), not "everything."

Religion is not fundamentalism, friends. It is something one needs to study, just like one has to apply oneself to learn anything properly.

I just said to Eric that I know not all religious people are literalist fundies. We aren't accusing you of being such. I'd only accuse you of being a believer in fluffy nothings.

Science and religion today happen to have at least one effort in common: answering the age-old Valentinian gnostic questions: Where did we come from? Into what were we thrown? Whither do we go?

Those are all scientific questions, last I checked. People are a part of the observable universe, hence descriptions of our history, our present, and our future are a part of science.

Oh, and if you start the tired refrain of "religion answers why we're here!" I'll again ask why religion is granted this special privilege over secular answers.

Let me now pose a question to those who set up a binary opposition between "religion" (their straw definition) and "science" (note: setting up things this way is an example of employing the human cognitive tendency towards radical dualism, BTW).

You're really fond of throwing up your own straw men. I don't see anyone posing such a belief except for possibly EricR and you.

Oh, and just so you know: We usually use the word "dualism" to refer to the idea that there are "natural" and "supernatural" materials that make up the universe. I am a monist/naturalist: I reject that separation.

The "dualism" you're talking about is something we like to call "black and white thinking," and that's something most of us routinely have to rail against.

Is science served best by destroying the (religious) art, or by curbing the mining and preserving the symbols?

Science is just knowledge. What do you value? The knowledge about the history and beliefs about the people who made the art, about knowledge that can be gained by mining those minerals? Of course, my preferred answer would be using science to figure out how to best preserve the art while still obtaining the minerals. Since I doubt the mining involves terribly rare materials and more likely involves simple industry, I'd rather preserve the art if the researchers couldn't find a way to do both. Art, even if it is religious, has cultural value.

I see nowhere for religion to get involved in my answer.

Sorry you took that interpretation. That's not what I meant. They key word is "about". I was replying to your conclusion that "religion isn't about truth" by trying to explain that religion is intended to be about the pursuit of truth. It is humans trying to understand truth. I'm not saying that religion itself is truth. So my statement extracted above means that you only can think that religion does not pursue truth if you think that life has no meaning beyond physical survival because that is the meaning that religion mainly pursues and tries to address (I mean "you" the general sense, as in "one", not you Bronze Dog per se). So if you/one thinks there's no truth to meaning beyond physical survival then it follows that religion's intention is not to pursue truth.

Religion may have started as an attempt to pursue truth, but it's so easily corrupted. I don't see any mechanism for self-correction or even verification.

In that case, I don't see what this aside to a hypothetical survivalist is supposed to accomplish. There are methods outside of religion to assign value and meaning. I simply don't see why you're singling out religion, and I don't see what that has to do with science or the nature of consciousness.

Sofie:

Two points: The article that got this thread started stated that the author did not know what Robinson was alluding to in her "ants...cosmos" comment. I supplied her reference, which demonstrates that she has read Wilson and is dealing with the intellectual limits of reductionism.

No you didn’t. You merely named EO Wilson, you provided no reference we could look at, nor explained what Wilson had claimed, nor justified the “proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos” statement. Admittedly you did more than Robinson. Regardless, EO Wilson and “proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos” is hardly representative of science.

Secondly, religion needs no defense when the attacker presumes to define the entire subject.

Talk about straw man arguments. No one her is doing that. We read religious arguments and claims all the time.

Religion is prior to science, has been seriously studied as proto-science, by Malinowski initially, and is perhaps the most fertile soil for law, civics, philosophy, ethics, and civilization. Science had to propose things like phlogiston before it progressed.

So what?

A religious person today is one who is "ultimately concerned." By that inclusive and analytical definition, the people on this blog who attack religion and defend "science" are acting religiously.

By that definition anything one feels strongly is religious. It’s a vacuous definition – if everything is religious then nothing is.

[Religion] is prior to science, even the Ionians. It is a "claim to truth" as is science. It addresses questions of human meaning, which are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity,

Then how do you know if they are true? And how do you decide between competing religious claims?

but instead address issues of social purpose, which I contend is a bit more complex than the social purpose of an ant colony. While science can enlighten us regarding specific aspects of human psychology (lit. soul study) or social/political functioning, it cannot explain everything.

We know that. So no need to beat up that straw man again. The question is, how can religion explain anything correctly? How do you know?

Religion is, actually, the object studied by a social science, albeit one little known in the U.S. and developed over time in Europe, carried to the U. of Chicago; and its practioners have their own methodology, called phenomenonlogy, which seeks to define the object of study without giving in to any theological bias.

That’s not the way most religious believers think about their religions. So who, really, is straw manning the definition of religion here?

Bronze Dog: It was just a response to your assertion that religion wasn't about truth. I was saying that religion is about truth because because it is trying to make sense of our existence. That's not to say it succeeds or doesn't. Religion seems to me to be an exercise in intuitive understanding, and as such it's susceptible to all kinds of delusions and corruptions. Science is subject to much much less of this and is a method of understanding that I trust far more. But science has a really hard time tackling philosophical questions like whether there's a higher purpose to our existence beyond just happening to be here. How can you test for that? So I don't give any special priority to religion in looking into such questions. I'd really prefer not to. But it's not the kind of thing science tries to deal with (at least not the science I'm familar with). So do I get any insights from religion? Very few so far. But looking into myself on my own and trying to come to and awareness of what my consciousness is, observing social and psychological themes and patterns that come up in relationships and situations in life, I have come to some ideas of my own about possible deeper meanings or purposes to life. And sometimes I see these also expressed in some way by mystics, philosophers, or religious ideas from one tradition or another.

"The widely pervasive theme of giving up material gain/comfort/pleasure/success for a higher spiritual reward that comes about thru self-discipline and denial of the parts of oneself that desires more immediate material things."

The Popester lives in a palace. As does the head of the Anglicans. The Popester is a party to:

"The Murphy commission had found that the "maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets" weighed more in the minds of church officials than justice for the victims."
- http://www.suite101.com/content/catholic-priest-abuse-revelations-by-wikileaks-a320073

More local to me, the former head of a public utility recently sued because she felt her severance of $25K PER MONTH wasn't up to her now 'priestly' standards.

That's right, after being tossed for inappropriate use of our money she became an ordained Anglican making $40-$50K a year.

God hasn't smiled on her enough and she wants $33,000 A MONTH. Limos for the kids are expensive...

Your thinking isn't really outside the box if you're invoking religion texts as a means to answer "What is consciousness?".

As has been mentioned many times, these holy tomes do not answer any of the questions you've posed here.

BTW, my good lady wife and I were married in a Presbyterian church by a guy busted four years later for diddling three kids...

I have no idea if he were passed around spreading the word, and cheeks, before he was caught.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is cold comfort to all the victims over the centuries.

Is science served best by destroying the (religious) art, or by curbing the mining and preserving the symbols?

This question was answered by the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile in 1960 with the moving of The Great Temple of Abu Simbel.

So the people of Egypt were best served by science providing hydro power and the means to preserve some of the history without destroying it

It was just a response to your assertion that religion wasn't about truth. I was saying that religion is about truth because because it is trying to make sense of our existence.

1. Meaning and truth are different things. Facts objectively exist and we assign meaning to them.

2. Why are you giving religion this special privileged position, instead of any other secular pursuit?

So I don't give any special priority to religion in looking into such questions.

Then why are you talking about religion specifically, and not culture in general?

But science has a really hard time tackling philosophical questions like whether there's a higher purpose to our existence beyond just happening to be here. How can you test for that?

No one is proposing that science answers questions of values.

How is one purpose "higher" than another? What reason do you have for believing some other entity might have a purpose for us?

I'd rather have some say into my purpose, rather than leaving it up to something or someone else.

So do I get any insights from religion? Very few so far.

Then it shouldn't take long for you to tell us about them.

But looking into myself on my own and trying to come to and awareness of what my consciousness is, observing social and psychological themes and patterns that come up in relationships and situations in life, I have come to some ideas of my own about possible deeper meanings or purposes to life.

Congratulations. It sounds to me like you don't need religion, then.

And sometimes I see these also expressed in some way by mystics, philosophers, or religious ideas from one tradition or another.

Usually, I find those ideas are perfectly secular ones that get co-opted by religion. Just because some person labels himself "religious" comes to agree with such ideas doesn't mean that they are inherently religious.

Ryan W: what you've all heard a million times is probably people looking at things in much more paradigmatic and inside-the-box ways than I do. I doubt that what you think I'm talking about is really what I'm talking about.

Then why are you using the same "paradigmatic and inside-the-box" arguments everyone else does?

How about this: state your position in 50 words or less.

Yojimbo: How do you know that the experience is the electromagnetic activity of your brain?

Wrong question. What evidence do you have that there is any more involved? We know that there is electrochemical activity. Do you have any evidence there is anything else going on, or do you just believe there is?

How does electromagnetic activity have a conscious experience?

I didn't suggest that. I said that electrochemical activity is conscious experience. At least, it is when organized as it is in a living brain. Again, if you have any evidence there is anything else involved I'd love to hear it.

The E.O. Wilson book Robinson was referencing was, I believe, _Consilience_, which I read and enjoyed greatly. Interestingly, Wilson respects religion, although he is not a believer. He would never call sincere believers (as was the family he came from in the South)"idiots" or "stupid" or attempt to reduce their religion to his talking points, put it under his methodology, and declare it a fantasy. Perhaps there is a part of Wilson who recognizes what Emile Durkheim did. The founder (French) of sociology, a positivist pursuit, discovered that all over the world all kinds of societies are held together by religion. One of the root words for religion, which actually is a fairly new word in anyone's lexicon, means "to bind."

Just as the authors of _The Grand Design_ acknowledge that we are creatures of the Newtonian rules and that we live and create our habitats by mastering and employing those rules, but they allow us to ignore that we are living in a partial reality--since our perception is that of the analogical goldfish in the bowl, so those who observe religion are able to participate in a nation/a people/a collective that synergizes work and production for a larger group, thus potentiating survival. We live in partial reality and partial illusion. "Maya" is the Buddhist word for the "real world." Now this is a "religion" that worships no god and that leaves open the possibility of the observable world as illusory and that does not observe the "Holiness Code," of the Hebrew Torah. Actually, as I pointed out before, neither do modern Jews. We are free to create our own societies and to interpret our traditions.

So, it is all a mixed bag, and mutual respect is due when we look at the functionality of religion and science. Both go horribly awry when they depart from a sense of collective responsibility. I need furnish no examples of rogue "scientific" endeavors, nor of religious violence.

As for coming under the spell of a sectarian group, we are often seduced by others who develop internally consistent sets of ideas that we experience as compelling. Growing up means growing through and beyond such experiences. Thank-fully many of us do that, as did Mohandas Gandhi, who as a teenager was attracted to a friend's idea of committing suicide. Gandhi, a Jain, used his religious tradition to employ a type of resistance that resulted in national independence without violence, an achievement otherwise probably impossible.

gmcevoy: Your pointing out the depravities of priests and popes does nothing to discount anything I said. I am not trying to defend religion in any general sense that includes everything under the heading of that term. I've already made it plainly clear how much I think religion, especially of the fundamentalist sort, is full of problems. One person studies scripture and meditates and gets the inspiration to "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you" and lives a life full of love and service to others. Another person reads the same scripture and interprets it differently to try and justify gaining power over others. One person uses advances in scientific knowledge to help cure sick people. Another person uses them to make biological weapons. What's your point?

Jesus T.F. Christ Sofie:

Interestingly, Wilson respects religion, although he is not a believer. He would never call sincere believers (as was the family he came from in the South)"idiots" or "stupid" or attempt to reduce their religion to his talking points, put it under his methodology, and declare it a fantasy.

Are you insinuating either the blog author or any of the people commenting on this article did this?

How about you provide some damn evidence for once or withdraw the claim.

Talk about straw men, you're pretty good at them.

...but they allow us to ignore that we are living in a partial reality...

1. Which part, and how do you know this? With evidence, please.

2. What other parts of reality are there, and how do you know they exist without being able to perceive them? With evidence, please.

...so those who observe religion are able to participate in a nation/a people/a collective that synergizes work and production for a larger group, thus potentiating survival.

3. So how is it non-religious folk like me accomplish the same thing?

So, it is all a mixed bag, and mutual respect is due when we look at the functionality of religion and science. Both go horribly awry when they depart from a sense of collective responsibility.

It's been pointed out to you that many of us can perform the functions you attribute to religious belief sans said belief. In your earlier point, you reduce religion down to a ruse to get people to behave in society. If that's all it is, then it's pretty worthless.

Sofie, some questions:

  1. In what way have I misrepresented religion?
  2. What “claims to truth” can religion provide that cannot be provided by secular means?
  3. How do you tell if religious “claims to truth” are true, if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?
  4. how do you decide between competing and contradictory religious “claims to truth” if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?
  5. Bonus question (optional):

  6. How does EO Wilson’s work support anything Robinson said?

Ryan W: My point in 50 words or less?

Robinson made sense when she asserted that the compatibility of science and religion depends on the quality of the science or religion. i.e., not all scientists are hardline materialists and not all practictioners of religion are literal fundamentalists. As a related point, scientists have not been able to explain consciousness- only the physical mechanisms associated with it. But those mechanisms are not consciousness itself. Meditation can help make you aware of this fact. Once you have come to this awareness, you can see more easily how science and spiritual inquiry don't have to be mutually exclusive.

here's a little analogy (please keep in mind that it's just an analogy and nothing more):

Becoming aware of your consciousness is sort of like looking at one of those pictures they sell at science stores/gift shops that looks like a bunch of fuzzy dots at first, but when your eyes focus in a certain way you can see the 3-D image of the dinosaur that's imbedded in it. If you just walk up to that picture and don't really bother to try, you'll just insist that it's a bunch of fuzzy dots and nothing more. If you really focus, your eyes will eventually readjust and be able to see the 3D image. Becoming aware of consciousness is harder though. At least for most people, you have to meditate regularly for a few months before it starts to become clear.

Yojimbo: If electromagnetic activity organized as it is in the brain is consciousness, then the ink of a pen organized as it is on the pages of Hamlet is the meaning and ideas of that work of literature. Which it isn't.

Yojimbo again: Okay, maybe what I just said is just an analogy. But if these physical processes of the brain should be able to spontaneously produce experience as we experience it, then a bunch of words on a page should be able to spontaneously produce meaning. I mean, you're kind of saying the same thing. You want me to prove that brain activity isn't consciousness, but how on earth can you prove that it is? I think you need to try meditating to become aware of what your consciousness is, because I'm seeing that you guys on this board apparently have not reached this awareness, which for me is as plain and obvious as daylight.

EricR's first post methinks the goalposts have moved:

So when she says it depends on the quality/type of religion, I think Robinson is talking about the difference between fundamentalist literal interpretations versus interpretations that see scripture as more allegorical or symbolic. If that's the case, what she is saying makes sense and is not stupid at all, but the author of this blog post seems to be presuming otherwise.

The things I've mentioned do call into question:

"The widely pervasive theme of giving up material gain/comfort/pleasure/success for a higher spiritual reward that comes about thru self-discipline and denial of the parts of oneself that desires more immediate material things."

I've no doubt the Dalai Lama lives comfortably - at least as so as Mother Theresa, who told people to accept their poverty as it were the will of mighty bog in heaven as her soon to be canonized self flitted aboot in a private jet. The depravities are those of mainstream religion, not extremist fundamentalism.

You speak as if these things have no bearing, meaning or existence and are easily explained away by pretty things or ignored.

The people using scientific knowledge to gain advantage over others often claim, like GWBush et al, to have divine inspiration and were all too eager to take advantage of the knowledge of those, like Heron of Alexandria, to cement and extend their control over the mob...

But if these physical processes of the brain should be able to spontaneously produce experience as we experience it, then a bunch of words on a page should be able to spontaneously produce meaning.

green exists without the physical processes of the brain to define it, perhaps as 'tim'

words on a page do not

the ink of a pen organized as it is on the pages of Hamlet is the meaning and ideas of that work of literature. Which it isn't.

actually, it is. just as the pixels, organized as they are on this site, represent meaning and ideas

organized differently, a la Ms. Robinson, they are "It was a dark and stormy night..."

As a related point, scientists have not been able to explain consciousness...

So rather than 'a dinna ken', it's 'goddidit'

I think you need to try meditating to become aware of what your consciousness is, because I'm seeing that you guys on this board apparently have not reached this awareness, which for me is as plain and obvious as daylight.

How could you possibly know that your consciousness was anything other than your brain activity? Sorry, but your assertion that it is "plain and obvious" doesn't bring much to the party. There are people to whom it is plain and obvious that we never landed on the moon, and they have evidence. Crappy evidence, true, but at least they're not emptyhanded.

BTW - I did a lot of meditation when I was young, during my "finding the meaning of life" phase, but I got better.

gmcevoy:
Here's what I said:

I am not trying to defend religion in any general sense that includes everything under the heading of that term. I've already made it plainly clear how much I think religion, especially of the fundamentalist sort, is full of problems.

Here's what you said:
The depravities are those of mainstream religion, not extremist fundamentalism. You speak as if these things have no bearing, meaning or existence and are easily explained away by pretty things or ignored.

Where did I say that the depravities were only of extremist fundamentalism? And where do you get the idea that I'm defending mainstream religion? I tend to find myself at odds with mainstream anything. And I don't think the depravities of some religious figures have no meaning or bearing. Why would you say that? Just because I'm pointing out that not every religious person is depraved?

As for people using scientific advances for evil purposes, you point out that they are often driven by religious ideas. Good point. It's true. But is it necessarily the religion that caused them to have evil intents? Or did they merely seize on religion to find justifications to act on their fears or thirst for power that they already had? I can see it working both ways.

Yojimbo:
How do you know that there's a 3D image of a dinosaur in one of those pictures with the fuzzy dots?

gmceyoy:
An edition to that last question I posed:
"merely seize upon some lines of scripture or some religious beliefs to find justifications"

Because I don't think the whole of religion, nor the whole Bible, nor the whole Koran, etc. serves as a source for such justifications.

Yojimbo:
If my brain's activity is consciousness, why don't robots with computer brains and video camera eyes, which are programmed to learn from input and produce reactions, have consciousness? And if they said they did, how would we really know we could trust them and that it's there? And how do I know that you have consciousness? Just because you say you do? How can you prove it to me?

If my brain's activity is consciousness, why don't robots with computer brains and video camera eyes, which are programmed to learn from input and produce reactions, have consciousness?

Because those computer brains are not yet as massively complex as the human brain. 

And how do I know that you have consciousness? Just because you say you do? How can you prove it to me?

You can’t prove it, Eric, but there is a reason to believe other people do have consciousness. There is evidence. Where is your evidence that consciousness derives from something other than the brain?

Skeptico:

Because those computer brains are not yet as massively complex as the human brain.
That's just an assumption you're making. You don't know for sure that that's what's causing consciousness to occur; just supposing so. Can you think of any elements that an organic brain has which a complex computer-brained robot doesn't have that might account for consciousness?

Why is there reason to believe that other people have consciousness if you can't believe that I am aware that my conscious experience is not the same thing as the physical processes of my brain (even though it's itimately related with them)? Yojimbo asked me to prove how I know that, so I'm saying how can someone prove that they're having any conscious exerience or awareness? If you ask someone to tell you what they see, they might be able to identify the same thing you see, but you don't know if they're really experiencing it. They could be just like an unconcious robot- a machine that just answers your questions. So why would you trust their word any more than my word that I'm aware that my consciousness is not my brain's electrical activity? I'm just as aware of that fact as the blue pen I'm looking at right now. Just because you guys aren't aware of it doesn't mean it isn't a fact. A lot of other people besides me have this awareness too. We're all looking at the dinosaur popping out from the fuzzy dots on the picture, but you guys don't see it because you refuse to look at the picture and try. Or maybe you're not capbable. Maybe not everyone is; I don't know.

Where is your evidence that consciousness derives from something other than the brain?
I don't know if it does. I haven't investigated that yet. I know that my consciousness is itself not my brain, but it may well completely exude from and derive from my brain. I know that there is anecdotal evidence collected from doctors and nurses about NDE's in which patients saw and heard things in the hospital room that they shouldn't have been able to see and hear, so maybe there is a way for consciousness exist without the brain functioning, but I don't know how, and I don't know how sure these hospital staff are of their accounts. So I have no reason to believe that's true.

That's just an assumption you're making. You don't know for sure that that's what's causing consciousness to occur

You just moved the goalposts Eric.  You asked why don't robots with computer brains have consciousness. That’s the reason. I’m not assuming anything. If consciousness derives from the brain, and the brain is massively complex, there is no reason to think that less complex “brains” would also necessarily be conscious.

Can you think of any elements that an organic brain has which a complex computer-brained robot doesn't have that might account for consciousness?

It’s not organic v computer, it’s highly complex and massively parallel and a constant feedback loop (human) v not so much (computer). That’s the difference.

Why is there reason to believe that other people have consciousness

We know we all evolved from a common ancestor, with essentially the same DNA and body parts.  We all behave for the most part in similar ways, favoring family groups, acting selfishly, behaving the same way following similar stimulations. We give birth to offspring who have our genes, whose bodies are built the same way, who go on to act the same way. The extraordinary claim would be that no one else was conscious.

if you can't believe that I am aware that my conscious experience is not the same thing as the physical processes of my brain (even though it's itimately related with them)?

Correction: you think you are aware of that. Where is your evidence that it is true?

Yojimbo asked me to prove how I know that, so I'm saying how can someone prove that they're having any conscious exerience or awareness?

Yes, Yojimbo asked you to prove something and so you changed the subject.

If you ask someone to tell you what they see, they might be able to identify the same thing you see, but you don't know if they're really experiencing it. They could be just like an unconcious robot- a machine that just answers your questions. So why would you trust their word any more than my word that I'm aware that my consciousness is not my brain's electrical activity? I'm just as aware of that fact as the blue pen I'm looking at right now.

Why would you trust your “awareness” that’s based on.. what exactly? What you just think might be true?

Just because you guys aren't aware of it doesn't mean it isn't a fact.

Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it is a fact. You’re the one making the claim that you can’t support with anything other than your unsupported opinion.

A lot of other people besides me have this awareness too. We're all looking at the dinosaur popping out from the fuzzy dots on the picture, but you guys don't see it because you refuse to look at the picture and try. Or maybe you're not capbable. Maybe not everyone is; I don't know.

The difference is the dinosaur is actually in the picture.  You can look at the picture and see dinosaur. You write down “dinosaur” on a piece of paper. I see it and also write down “dinosaur”.  An independent observer compares all these pieces of paper from numerous people and concludes the dinosaur really exists in the picture. Where is the equivalent experiment with this “awareness” you place so much store upon? One that tells u something new, rather than just wishful thinking.

I don't know if [consciousness derives from something other than the brain]. I haven't investigated that yet. I know that my consciousness is itself not my brain, but it may well completely exude from and derive from my brain.

How can it exude from and derive from the brain and yet not be just brain activity? Where is it and how does it get there?  What makes you think it is somewhere else?

Skeptico:

Maybe conciousness derives from the brain, maybe it doesn't. You don't know enough to know that. You can't point to where in the brain consciousness occurs or what physical processes have to occur to make it happen or why we have a unified sense of self and where in the brain that stems from or anything. It's all conjecture at this point. You presume it to derive from the brain because you don't know how else to explain it, and you presume that all reality is material and don't accept the possibility of it being any other way. You think all this even though carbon doesn't think, lipids don't think, cells don't think, tissues don't think, and material in general doesn't think until somehow consciousness just spontaneously pops out of a properly-arranged structure of these non-thinking entities, and you can't explain how that happens nor even put into words a hypothesis of how it might happen.

Meanwhile you assume it to be true and accept no other possibility.

Scientific?

And I should add: That's not even the point I was making in the first place (whether or not consciousness derives from the brain). The fact that we can shut down consciousness by affecting the brain is pretty good evidence that it does. But even so that doesn't mean that consciousness IS the brain just because it exudes from the brain.

Maybe conciousness derives from the brain, maybe it doesn't. You don't know enough to know that.

Never said I knew anything. I’m just asking for a reason to think there is something other than the brain involved. Asking, and you can’t answer. But you still think it’s something else. For no reason you have been able to articulate.

You can't point to where in the brain consciousness occurs or what physical processes have to occur to make it happen or why we have a unified sense of self and where in the brain that stems from or anything. It's all conjecture at this point.

And you don’t know either. The difference is that you insist that there is something other than the brain at work. You insist this without one shred of evidence to back it up. You are using our current lack of knowledge to try to make a case that there is something other than the brain. Your error is drawing a conclusion based on this lack of knowledge. That is a logical fallacy known as argument from ignorance: we don’t know for sure (ie are ignorant of) how consciousness works, therefore you conclude it must be due to  ________________ (and here you insert your fantasy explanation). But you can’t do that. If we don’t know then we don’t know. But the difference is that we do know that the brain exists, and that it does our thinking, and therefore it is a reasonable working assumption that consciousness derives in the brain. Rather than somewhere else that no one has even shown exists.

You presume it to derive from the brain because you don't know how else to explain it

No – see above. I don’t presume; I work with what we know. Nor do I make stuff up like you do. You want to use our lack of complete knowledge to insert your made up explanation.

, and you presume that all reality is material and don't accept the possibility of it being any other way.

Again, no, I presume no such thing. But I currently see no reason to invoke non material (ie magic) explanations that you have absolutely no evidence for.

You think all this even though carbon doesn't think, lipids don't think, cells don't think, tissues don't think, and material in general doesn't think until somehow consciousness just spontaneously pops out of a properly-arranged structure of these non-thinking entities,

Clearly our brains do think, as do those of other animals, so your premise is wrong.

and you can't explain how that happens

So what? Neither can you. The difference (one more time) is that you use this lack of explanation to insert your fantasy explanation.

nor even put into words a hypothesis of how it might happen.

Not at all true.  Read The Global Workspace – Consciousness Explained? – a Neurologist summarizes some actual science.  You see, some reasonable hypotheses do exist of you care to embrace reality for a while.

Meanwhile you assume it to be true and accept no other possibility.

Clearly false

Scientific?

Yes. Scientific means you don’t make up non testable magic explanations, but proceed from what is known to test new hypotheses. You should try it.

Skeptico:
You thought I was trying to dodge Yojimbo's question by asking another question of him instead of answering his question with the proof he seeks. But that's not my purpose actually. I can't offer him proof of what I'm perceiving any more than he can offer me proof that he's conscious (or that his perception of green looks like my perception of green) without us getting inside each other's heads. Therefore I'm just trying to find a different tack, a different way of posing questions or analogies that might help him come to see what I'm perceiving by seeing it within himself. The only way I know of that you can come to this awareness is to look within and really contemplate it. I understand that people also arrive at this thru meditation, but that's not how it came to me, so whatever works for you.

This is not a debate for me that I'm trying to win. I don't feel a need to prove this to anyone cause I already am aware of it, but I'd like to be able to discuss it with others cause it's perplexing and interesting. That's why I'm still trying. But if you're not really interested in trying to see it, then maybe I shouldn't bother.

Sorry about my recent post that came more out of frustration than careful thinking. Yes, i realized right after I posted it that it's certainly possible to form a hypothesis of that nature and there's plenty of evidence and reason to believe consciousness is produced by brain activity. I will read that hypothesis link you sent me next. But I'm still aware of my consciousness as a reality of its own once its been created even if it exudes from the brain. Another non-material hypothesis I can come up with is that consciousness is not created by the brain but needs the brain to perceive material reality the way a person needs a TV set to see the image of the show being broadcast as digital data thru a cable to his house. If the signal is cut, the image disappears, but the man is still there. Anyway, I don't know any of this. It's all speculative.

Don waded in and asked:

Reading through this conversation I keep seeing this claim here. EricR, what are some of these specific insights that theology offers? Not vague "areas" where theology might offer an insight; what are some of the specific insights you think it offers?

EricR replied:

Without getting into specific literature and citations, let me try to give an example of a contribution to understanding of life made by religion: The widely pervasive theme of giving up material gain/comfort/pleasure/success for a higher spiritual reward that comes about thru self-discipline and denial of the parts of oneself that desires more immediate material things. Various religions have different ways of trying to put this into practice. When done in an enlightened and reasonable way (not extremist), this leads to better-lived lives, more communal cooperation and cohesion, happier people who have a sense of purpose, stonger social bonds, more stability to relationships, etc etc.

You've been differentiating between fundie religion and soft&fuzzy religion all along because the latter apparently is where one goes for the answers science doesn't provide, like what is green?

EricR also said:

Your pointing out the depravities of priests and popes does nothing to discount anything I said. I am not trying to defend religion in any general sense that includes everything under the heading of that term. I've already made it plainly clear how much I think religion, especially of the fundamentalist sort, is full of problems.

Surely, the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Buddhist examples do fly in the face of "this leads to better-lived lives, more communal cooperation and cohesion, happier people who have a sense of purpose, stonger social bonds, more stability to relationships, etc etc."

Especially the Catholic Child Rape Ring where the organization aided and abetted pedos. For decades, if not centuries given that the power of the 'Mater Kirk' rises the further into history one peers.

It's very hard to see something that hasn't been well articulated, nor has any evidence to back it up beyond repeated calls to religion (not fundamentalism) and philosophy.

Funny, in an article aboot the avaricious Anglican the author finished with a quote from Jesus regarding wealth. Of course, the hoary ol' camel through a needle trick.

Why are the these verses from Luke always overlooked?

Luke 14:26-33 & 18:18-22

Eric:

Another non-material hypothesis I can come up with is that consciousness is not created by the brain but needs the brain to perceive material reality the way a person needs a TV set to see the image of the show being broadcast as digital data thru a cable to his house. If the signal is cut, the image disappears, but the man is still there.

Yes, but what reason do you have to propose such a thing? What observations do we make that we need an additional “something” outside of the brain to explain what we observe? What phenomenon can only be explained by consciousness not being created by the brain? If you can’t think of anything, then you are just making up additional entities for no reason. That violates what’s known as Occam’s Razor. Read that link – you’re proposing the milk fairy.

But even ignoring Occam’s razor, your TV set analogy fails.  In fact, if anything the analogy demonstrates that consciousness is not like the TV signal.  We know that if you damage part of the brain, the functions associated with the damaged sections of the brain will be reduced or disappear altogether. This is not like a TV at all.  If you damage part of your TV set you won’t find that you now only get the commercials but not the programs, or that you get game shows but not documentaries.  That would be a true analog of what happens when the brain is damaged. If you damage your TV set, either it still works (you didn’t damage anything significant) or it stops working altogether.  (For the most part, anyway.)  And if you disrupt the signal, by disconnecting the cable box, or by shielding the aerial, again the TV again stops working completely.  You don’t find that you now get the programs but the remote doesn’t work any more. If there were analogous observations you could make about consciousness when the brain was damaged or shielded somehow from this “other thing” that causes consciousness, then you might have a reason to propose what you are suggesting. Do you have anything like that?

EricR

But if you're not really interested in trying to see it, then maybe I shouldn't bother.

Does not everyone with a claim and no evidence fall back on this, that you have to want to believe and suddenly all will become clear? Every peddler of Jebus sings the same tune, you have to rise above those material demands for evidence, open your self to his light and simply believe. Said because they well know that based on evidence they haven't a leg to stand on.

EricR

But I'm still aware of my consciousness as a reality of its own once its been created even if it exudes from the brain.

You can certainly declare this, don't lend it any form of reality though. Given that there are good hypotheses for consciousness arising from the brain, of which you state you are aware. To carry on insisting that your subjective feelings hold greater weight is engaging in wishful thinking. It's maintaining a faith in your initial premise no matter what else comes along. Now I'm not trying to imply that you are a creationist, but they do a roughly similar thing by ignoring the scientific evidence in order to maintain that which they feel to be true.

EricR

Another non-material hypothesis I can come up with is that consciousness is not created by the brain but needs the brain to perceive material reality the way a person needs a TV set to see the image of the show being broadcast as digital data thru a cable to his house. If the signal is cut, the image disappears, but the man is still there. Anyway, I don't know any of this. It's all speculative.

The homonculus notion? So how does this 'man' watching the TV brain see what he sees? This just leads to an endless series of watchers within watchers.

Of course this also raises questions such as how this ephemeral watcher interacts with the material brain. Where is the interface, by what mechanism does it work, if it acts on a material object then it is detectable so where is it? How can brain damage cause substantial change to the injured's personality?

A good essay I've read that covers some similar ground is over on Ebon Musings, A Ghost in the Machine.

Darth:
But I'm not believing in anything or trying to peddle anything. I'm not suggesting you try to believe anything either. I'm suggesting you try contemplating the nature of your consciousness by looking within and really trying to get a grip on what its nature is in a way that just comes down to perception. It may help to consider the kinds of questions I've put forth about green. It may help to meditate. I don't know what would work for you. I have no Jesus or any other belief system to sell you. I'm not trying to fill the gap with any inserted explanations.

Creationists make an assessment about the outside objective world based on their feelings and faith. I'm just telling you what I can perceive inside my own self.

Of course this also raises questions such as how this ephemeral watcher interacts with the material brain. Where is the interface, by what mechanism does it work, if it acts on a material object then it is detectable so where is it? How can brain damage cause substantial change to the injured's personality?

Great questions. This is the type of conceptual thinking I enjoy. These are the fun mysteries to contemplate. I'm aware within my own consciousness that there is a sort of disconnect, a sort of gap, in my ability to comprehend what this interface is. I think that's where the danger lies of someone with a specific religious explanation they want to believe in coming and inserting it there. I don't like doing that because i think it's silly, and I can't manage to make myself believe in something just cause I want to either.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to address that last question about the injured brain. My understanding of my own consciousness leads me to the perception that personality is part of the brain--that it is not of the non-material consciousness I perceive. Damage to the brain should be able to change personality. Okay, I'm going back to reading The Ghost in the Machine now.

Hey Eric,

First, thank you for presenting your argument as I requested. I appreciate it, and it takes some balls to put that out in front of us heathen skeptics :)

But I'd really like you to examine the argument from ignorance or the argument to incredulity. What is wrong with saying "we don't know" rather than making assertions that have no evidence?

Ryan,
Thanks. I agree: saying "we don't know" or "I don't know" is the best thing to do when there's a lack of evidence or proof. So why doesn't it follow then that you guys on here don't know if consciousness experience is a tangible physical entity? I concede that there is lots of evidence that physical brain activity results in conscious experience, so I'm not about to assume otherwise (even though I hold out the remote possibility since the NDE studies are perplexing). But that still doesn't mean that conscious experience IS itself the physical activity that quite probably gives rise to it. I don't see how that makes any logical sense. You can't pour yourself a glass of conscious experience or catch it in a box. Or even measure it mathematically as far as I know. So in what way is it physical?

I said:

scientists have not been able to explain consciousness- only the physical mechanisms associated with it. But those mechanisms are not consciousness itself.

For me, this is a only matter of thinking logically and conceptually, not about believing in anything. You still don't see what I'm saying?

Garth,
I finished reading The Ghost in the Machine. Very compelling. Thanks for sharing that with me. The findings about Alien Hand Syndrome and other disruptions to the corpus callosum strongly support arguments that consciousness derives from physical activity in the brain. It still doesn't change my contention that such physical processes and conscious experience are different entities, even if one is created by the other. One is physical matter and the other is a sort of etherial effect. Also see what I just wrote to Ryan above.

One is physical matter and electricity, that is. The other is, well who knows? But i don't see how it's physical. It's apparently an effect of something physical.

The other is, well who knows? But i don't see how it's physical.

Put simply, "Who knows?" is where you should stop that. If you think there is a mystery and the mystery is unsolved, then it is unsolved; you don't get to both say "who knows" and "I know, and it's a non-physical, ethereal entity." That's the same route that UFO believers use to get from "I don't know what that thing in the sky is" to "It must, therefore, be an alien spacecraft." When something is unknown, it's unknown, and it's okay to say that.

"I don't see how it's physical" is a simple argument from incredulity, as others have already pointed out. That you can't conceive of the concept of consciousness as an emergent property of purely physical processes doesn't meant there must be something else going on. You need, as Skeptico has repeatedly pointed out, positive evidence of your assertion.

Wait a second here, Don. "emergent property"? What is that supposed to mean? I'm sorry, but although I don't know how to describe, define, or explain the reality of conscious experience, I know it's not a physical entity. You call it an "emergent property". What is that? Can you put it in a can and ship it to a lab and have it tested? Where's your evidence that it's physical?

Assuming, the idea is correct and our thoughts are separate from our gloop, but need the gloop to perceive (interact with?) a very tangible material reality, raises a few questions.

Since His Birthday approacheth, where was the seemingly ephemeral consciousness of Isaac Newton afore his Pappy put his wee-wee in his Mamma's yoohoodilly?

Where was His Ephemeral Self when He was just an undifferentiated handful of cells? A blastocyst?

Whence did His thoughts go when His gloop lost it's glimmer and ceased to be?

My understanding of my own consciousness leads me to the perception that personality is part of the brain--that it is not of the non-material consciousness I perceive.

Interesting ramifications for His Thoughts without their gloop.

I agree: saying "we don't know" or "I don't know" is the best thing to do when there's a lack of evidence or proof. So why doesn't it follow then that you guys on here don't know if consciousness experience is a tangible physical entity?

Eric, I did explain this before, but I’ll try again.

We don’t know exactly how consciousness works. But we do know the brain exists and that it does our thinking, and therefore it is a reasonable working assumption that consciousness derives in the brain. Rather than somewhere else that no one has even shown exists.

If you read some more of Neurologist Steven Novella’s blog that I cited before, you would find that he has a list of predictions that would be true if consciousness is completely a product of the material function of the brain:

  • There will be no mental phenomena without brain function.
  • As brain function is altered, the mind will be altered.
  • If the brain is damaged, then mental function will be damaged.
  • Brain development will correlate with mental development.
  • We will be able to correlate brain activity with mental activity – no matter how we choose to look at it.

So far, all of these predictions have been shown to be true. My question for you is, what different observations would we be able to make with test subjects if consciousness did exist outside the brain? If you can’t think of any, then why would you propose that consciousness is outside the brain?

If consciousness is not material, you have to invent a non-material “thing” that is conscious, and then you have to explain how the brain and this non-material thing communicate with each other. So you have to invent at least these two new hypotheses. Hypotheses that are not necessary – hypotheses that make no different predictions compared with what we would see if consciousness is a property of the brain. Why do you want to invent these two, new, unproven things? Why does that follow? Read Occam’s Razor, please. You are the one who has to justify why consciousness is not material and exists in some new unknown and unproven place; no one has to justify why it isn’t. Our current lack of complete knowledge does not justify inserting a magical answer

I'm sorry, but although I don't know how to describe, define, or explain the reality of conscious experience, I know it's not a physical entity.

Sorry Eric, but you simply do not know that. This is exactly where your thinking is going wrong. Just because you can’t “put it in a can” that doesn’t mean it’s not physical. I know you think it makes logical sense but that’s because you start from the assumption that it’s not physical. You don’t have a shred of evidence than your thoughts, your consciousness, your mind, are anything other than physical. The brain processes information, receives sensory input, and communicates with and activates itself, actively participating in a self-generating feedback loop of receiving and manipulating information. The result is what we call an "emergent property" of the brain.  It exists in the electrical activity between neurons.  It can’t be “put in a can” the way the pure neurons can, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just a very complex physical process.

And if that isn’t enough, as I wrote before, there is some positive evidence that consciousness is a property of the brain. Again, read The Global Workspace – Consciousness Explained? Read the description of the experiment on inattention blindness, specifically this result:

In both cases for 270 milliseconds the streams of letters resulted in the same neuronal activity (as measured by a 128 lead EEG). In the case when the subjects perceived the second string this initial activity was followed by a synchronized burst of activity in parts of the brain (frontal and parietal lobes) thought to be part of the global workplace. In cases where the subjects did not consciously perceive the letters there was no such activity

How do you explain the additional activity in the frontal and parietal lobes of the subjects experiencing conscious awareness? They both experienced (unconscious) brain activity when the second stream of numbers was presented, but only those experiencing the numbers consciously experienced the second string of brain activity. Why would this be, if consciousness is not a property of the brain?

EricR,

I just want to clarify that I was speaking specifically to your personal statement of "I don't know." Since you claim not to know what consciousness is, you, therefore, cannot make the leap to then proclaiming what it is: some sort of non-physical entity.

I don't think, though, that any of us here is claiming not to know what consciousness is and then filling that gap with "a purepy physical process." Speaking for myself, as a science dork who follows new developments and keeps up on the research, I believe, for reasons Skeptico said above and many other that have or have not been mentioned here, that the hypothesis of dualism has been falsified sufficiently to be roundly rejected. I'm saying that science does know, with some level of certainty, that consciousness is a property of the physical brain and the physical brain alone. This may be false, but you've yet, as far as I can tell, to provide compelling reason to abandon it and reconsider dualism. No scientific tests support the dualistic hypothesis and religion/theology are not methodologically robust in generating accurate statements about reality, so they can be dismissed unless and until their claims are verified through a robust methodology, i.e. the scientific method.

Which, incidentally, is essentially my reply to your response regarding religion providing values for better living (to paraphrase). My reply got lost somewhere, I think because I forgot to fill out the captcha before I closed the browser window, but in a nutshell, I pointed out that it took social science to examine the claims that religions made about the positive benefits of engaging; the religions themselves did not provide compelling reasons to believe them as neither religious tradition nor theology are reliable generators of accurate statements about reality. Until science came along to look at their claims, they were essentially stabbing in the dark as they do not have a reliable method of making accurate claims.

It also bears pointing out that the social benefits of religion are generally obtained by any sort of long-term social engagement; the religious aspect of it isn't actually necessary. Nor, in the end, is it necessary to coming up with the idea that social engagement is good for you. That could have just as easily been posited by a non-religious person or group.

Hi everyone,

I don't know the answers to those gmcevoy's questions about Newton (of course). I've brought up the analogy of the guy watching the TV, but that doesn't mean I subscribe to it as an actual explanation for things or that I believe in the soul. I do have some intuitive sense of being a soul, but I recognize that's it's just an intuition and could be an illusion of my brain wiring (I'll get into that more below).

What I've been saying that I do know is not a belief in the soul per se but just what seems to me a clear and logical observation that a conscious experience is not a physical entity itself but an "emergent phenomenon" (as Don put it) of a physical entity interacting with physical process in the brain. This to me seems quite logical and obvious, yet you guys on here have not seemed to agree, and that has led me to surmise that perhaps some people don't perceive this inately as I do.

But since disussing it more and more (not just with you guys but with others I know), I've become more open to the possibility that this is an illusion of some sort and that the experience itself has no reality other than the physical processes causing it. This seems quite illogical and counter-intuitive to me, not least because we can even talk about the two things as separate phenomena, using different terms for each of them (brain processes and conscious experience).

For me, personally, this mystery has been enough to open up the doors for me to consider the possibility of the existence of a facet of reality that is non-material or spiritual in some way, but not enough to try to insert in that gap of knowledge any particular belief system or explanation. Quite simply, like yourselves, I don't believe in things easily.

But perhaps more importantly, this whole debate has led me to a speculation that the brains of naturally linear thinkers may be wired differently from those of naturally intuitive thinkers in a way that makes positivism much easier for the former to accept and live with and much harder for the latter.

The ebon musings site that Darth linked me to had an essay about how atheism shouldn't have to lead one to a depressing sense of a life without purpose. I've read arguments like it before by people sincerely trying to help others psychologically (Irving Yalom). But to me these arguments just don't resonate. They might work for a linear thinker like my friend Joseph (and apparently most or all of you guys on this forum), but not for someone like me. Ever since I was a small child I've had a sense that material reality and the immediate moment are meaningless and ultimately unsatisfying on their own. I have an inate sense of a divine presence about me/within me that's always been there, and I feel a natural compulsion to address it in some way. It's possible I'm just wired like that. My friend Joseph doesn't feel this. He's perfectly comfortable with the idea that there's no divine intelligence and finds the wonders of the natural world exciting enough to satisfy him just as they are. Fortunately, I also have a pretty logical and skeptical mind, so I haven't been easily pulled into any viewpoints not based on proof. But this still leaves me feeling a bit unfulfilled. I suspect that if I'm on to something, atheism may never be able to offer people whose brains are wired like mine enough to be satisfied. But at least there can be ways of appealing to our reason enough to steer us away from the kind of thinking that so many religious people have which you guys on here are so rightly wary of.

correction: exchange "positivism" with "atheism" in the sentence above that says "makes positivism easier to accept for the former..."

"I have an inate sense of a divine presence about me/within me that's always been there, and I feel a natural compulsion to address it in some way."

and there it is

Fortunately, I also have a pretty logical and skeptical mind, so I haven't been easily pulled into any viewpoints not based on proof.

Fe-y meter at 11 when combined with the idea of the mind and brain being separate - except for 'personality' and 'the need for a deity to be satisfied'. These two things are part of the hardware.

You have an idea that isn't terribly original, and like those before you, you've no evidence beyond your feelings that it is so.

Rather than consider the idea to be suspect, it is those pointing out the flaws whose minds aren't open enough or wired properly...

atheism may never be able to offer people whose brains are wired like mine enough to be satisfied.

Hi Eric - You may be correct that some brains are "wired for" religion or spirituality. Do please consider, though, that much of our "wiring", probably most of it, comes through experience - it isn't built in.

As for your categories of "naturally linear" and "naturally intuitive" thinkers, I suspect that this is a false dichotomy. I doubt that anyone is simply linear or intuitive. We all occupy points somewhere along a continuum.

gmcevoy, I hope you're not talking about me in that last sentence, because I've said nothing to suggest that I think your mind is not wired properly. If anything I'm saying that a person whose mind is wired to search for mysticism may have an inherent delusion to satisfy. I'm critiquing myself if anything. My notions of conscious experience don't derive from reading Descartes or from following any religion. They come from looking within myself and noting a difference between the brain's activity and a phenomenon that (apparently) emerges from it. And I've expressed some wonder about possible ramifications of this, but I haven't commited myself to any of them. The only thing I've commited myself to is my own observation of a distinction between physical entities and the experience thereof. But I've even been willing to consider the possibility that that's an illusion. So what are you objecting to?

Yojimbo, good point. Clearly most people have a combination of those tendencies, but I sense that I am much more on the intuitive side while Joseph is more on the linear side. I actually find linear thinking quite challenging. I struggle a lot to follow movie plot lines, relationships among people, game directions, puzzles. And I think I was born this way because I've been that way as long as I can remember.

EricR: I hate to break this to you, but you are an atheist and don't even know it. There is nothing wrong with wanting greater meaning in your life, or contending that the existence of God cannot be disproven beyond all reasonable and unreasonable doubt, or recognizing that there are philosophical questions that don't have a satisfying answer. The important question is whether these ultimate truths should matter in your life. You can admit to yourself that any of your feelings on these subjects may just be "illusion" and yet you continue to live your life. That's healthy skepticism.

Skeptico,
Great link! (Global Workspace - posted several comments above for anyone who's interested). Really fascinating research and theories. There's apparently quite a bit more progress in that area than I had been aware of. I especially enjoyed reading the comments below the article. One of the guys (David, I believe) was sort of arguing my angle but doing a more coherent job of it.

Well, I guess I don't have to be afraid of death anymore since "I" am just an illusion. Or am I? What about free will?

BKsea:
Thanks for welcoming me into the fold. But wouldn't I be more of an agnostic than an atheist? I would think most atheists would think it highly unlikely that they'll ever discover that there's anything like a soul, whilst I am still quite open to the possibility, even though I've seen no convincing evidence yet, just lots of interesting testimonies.

If anything I'm saying that a person whose mind is wired to search for mysticism may have an inherent delusion to satisfy.

EricR, if the above is what you meant to say by saying there are people who are wired properly for the understanding of the concept you are trying to convey and those who are not such as Joseph, it doesn't really negate the implication of having to have the proper wiring to search for mysticism.

I only object to your premise and the way you've tried to support it

I appreciate your patience and calm, most people would have left by now

The bit I quoted of you above has been expressed before as what you call a 'linear thinker' having broken wiring.

or from following any religion.

Yes, you keep saying things like the above but, then you'll say

I have an inate sense of a divine presence about me/within me that's always been there, and I feel a natural compulsion to address it in some way.

Which really isn't any different in my book, from religion.

EricR: "wouldn't I be more of an agnostic than an atheist?"

I think you can call yourself whatever you want. My point was that your views are really not far off from what a lot of us scary atheists would say. Maybe there is a God, maybe not. Maybe there is a soul, maybe not. BUT ... until I see some evidence, I am going to behave as if there is not. That is to me the key thing that divides atheists from non-atheists.

EricR:

Just a quick correction for a common misconception: atheist and agnostic are not two different categories on a continuum of God-belief. They represent, respectively, belief and knowledge, which are orthogonal to each other in this sort of context. One can be an agnostic and an atheist, and indeed most atheists fall under that heading of agnostic atheist: they don't claim absolute knowledge of the lack of a deity, but they certainly don't believe in one. Most theists, in my experience, are agnostic theists: they don't claim to know for sure that God exists, but they do believe in him.

Then you have gnostic atheists and theists, which, as far as I can tell, are pretty light on the ground. These are the people that claim both absolute knowledge as well as their position regarding their belief in a deity.

I'm a bit pedantic on that point, but it's because it's a pretty common error that does credit to neither atheists or self-styled "agnostics," most of whom are actually atheists as well because while they claim a lack of knowledge of God, they also lack a belief in him.

Like BKsea said, though, you can call yourself whatever you like. I just think the conception of atheism and agnosticism as orthogonal to each other more accurately represents the situation.

gmcevoy,
I think there's a definite difference between feeling the sense of a divine presence and following a religion for 2 main reasons: First, feeling that way doesn't necessarily mean you believe it's really a divine presence and not just a sensation (I've thought about this all my life and never come to a conclusion)*.
Second, even if I believe it's something real, that doesn't mean I'm going to insert a specific religion or relgious belief in there to try to explain or define what it is.

As for the former issue, I don't think it's a matter anybody lacking anything. It seems to me more like just two different kinds of wiring, and that a given person can have more of one or the other in them. I don't think one is suprerior to the other.

*What I have been arguing that I "know" about consciousness is not a commitment to any idea about divinity; just a perception of the difference between a physical process and a subjective experience generated by it. Plenty of non-theists bring up this idea too without ascribing anything spiritual to it.

BKsea: Sounds good.

First, feeling that way doesn't necessarily mean you believe it's really a divine presence and not just a sensation (I've thought about this all my life and never come to a conclusion)*.
Second, even if I believe it's something real, that doesn't mean I'm going to insert a specific religion or relgious belief in there to try to explain or define what it is.

Apparently, you've had a sensation all your life and you've seriously thought about it and not come to a conclusion.

And yet, you very recently introduced this concept and initially announced this sensation is a divine presence - WARNING - Religious Belief Has Been Inserted!! - WARNING and a conclusion reached.

NOW, you're waffling and the divine presence has become just a sensation that may or may not be divine.

As for the former issue, I don't think it's a matter anybody lacking anything. It seems to me more like just two different kinds of wiring, and that a given person can have more of one or the other in them. I don't think one is suprerior to the other.

If I'm not wired like you, I lack the physical connections in my noggin to more easily grasp your concept.

That my noggin ain't properly wired is the implication of your wiring analogy

"this whole debate has led me to a speculation that the brains of naturally linear thinkers may be wired differently"

The above also implies I'm unable to think outside the box, but would be able to better grasp your concept if I were properly wired for it.

Apparently, it was scientists who concluded we're hard wired for "mighty bog in heaven" and that atheists brains are broken.

Science doesn't smile on atheists

My humbling comes at the hands of people I’d intuitively expect to have on my side: scientists. Let the word go out from the prophets of cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology: Atheists’ brains are broken. - Patchen Barss

"After at least twenty-five hundred years in which some of the keenest human minds have established the extreme unlikelihood of the major religious tenets ? that God exists; that human beings are made in the image of God; that the ‘soul’ is immaterial and immortal; that God is guiding the human race in some particular direction ? the great majority of the human populace continues to embrace these views with blind and unthinking tenacity, and even those who claim a more reasoned ‘faith’ are unwilling to abandon them in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary." - Sunand Tryambak Joshi

BTW, still an Epic Fail pour Monsieur Stewart

Regarding definitions:

Websters is not the ultimate source of definition. Science (scientia i.e. 'knowledge') is. The science of studying religion as it appears in actual cases gives rise to provisional conclusions that are helpful in creating models and paradigms with their fact-based definitions.

Webster's definition will give you a culture-bound definition of religion that applies to English speakers. It will not come close to an inductively derived defintion.

The term "ultimate concern" was first used by theologian Paul Tillich who observed the breakdown of civilization induced by World War II and Soviet/Chinese mass murders. Yes, friends, theologians can and do think logically as social philosophers. The ultimate concern definition was then "tested" in its application (i.e., power to explain puzzling phenomena) to cases that could not otherwise be explained, such as why people at Jonestown did not walk away when Jim Jones told them to drink poisoned fruit ade. No, friends, Jim Jones did not "brainwash" these people. Some of them did walk away and some of them questioned him. But they gave him their allegiance willingly and they drank the ade because they bought into his view of reality.

They were "ultimately concerned" about the wrong things--if you define "wrong" as leading to actions against human survival.

All human beings who are functional are ultimately concerned. In other words, "religion" or "acting religiously" is hard wired into human behavior.

Sorry, but no attachment to experimental science is going to will this away or eradicate religion. Science may become the new religion, but questions of meaning, purpose, and ultimacy will not disappear.

So we might as well study this major aspect of human functioning. To do so, one cannot simply stop at Websters or some narrow slice of fundamentalism and think they really have covered the vast subject of human religion.

Read the Gita (Baghavad-Gita), Job (a book in the biblical library) that was derived from a more ancient culture, Gilgamesh, and other timeless stories of human experience. Caveat: These texts require knowledgeable teachers to walk you through them smartly.

Eric is correct. Matters of experience cannot be reduced to measurements or quantitative methods. Some things are irreducible, which is not the same thing as "impossible" or "immutable" or "eternal."

Something ephemeral can be of greater worth or importance than something permanent. Something irreducible is bedrock, or, if you prefer, a "constant." There are constants that are not measurable and that are nevertheless essential to human survival. Without them some humans prefer to commit suicide. That's a pretty powerful verification for the necessity of "religion" (ultimate concern).

Very nice Sofie, but you still haven’t answered my questions:

  1. In what way have I misrepresented religion?
  2. What “claims to truth” can religion provide that cannot be provided by secular means?
  3. How do you tell if religious “claims to truth” are true, if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?
  4. How do you decide between competing and contradictory religious “claims to truth” if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?

    Bonus question (optional):


  5. How does EO Wilson’s work support anything Robinson said?

(btw the last question is “optional” because I really don’t care that much, but Sofie did imply that she had somehow justified Robinson’s “ants” criticism of science, although she didn’t. So Sofie, if you want, you can justify – with an explanation and a link – that Wilson really did “proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos” and then you can then justify why this is valid as a critique of science in general. If you want. Or leave it unjustified. Up to you.)

Very nice Sofie, but you still haven’t answered my questions:

1.In what way have I misrepresented religion?

2.What “claims to truth” can religion provide that cannot be provided by secular means?


3.How do you tell if religious “claims to truth” are true, if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?


4.How do you decide between competing and contradictory religious “claims to truth” if religious claims are not subject to experimental designs of truth or falsity?

Bonus question (optional):

5.How does EO Wilson’s work support anything Robinson said

Sceptico:
1. Don't believe I said you misrepresented religion.
2. A "claim to truth" is what social scientist observe people saying all over the world regarding their mythologies. Nothing more, nothing less. Shouldn't we take note of how they regard their ideas, too?
3. Because "truth" is not only what is subject to experiment. Because "truth" has other meanings that are utilized by human beings. Reading of any tradition of wisdom literature will illustrate what I am saying.
One cannot reduce religion to a scientific endeavor, because it is not and never will be.
4. See #3. You need to go outside the boundaries of the scientific method to understand the phenomenon of religion, or do you simply choose not to understand it on its own terms and consign it to "illusion." It is an "illusion" that perhaps determines more of human history than any other factor and it is prior to any other factor, as far a social scientists who take religion as their object of study can determine.
5. It does not "support" her; I merely interpreted what she was referencing for you, since you asked. Also, she was not referencing his ant studies, but his claim to truth in _Consilience_, which is pretty much what most Sceptico bloggers agree with, viz., that all phenomenon can be best explained by the scientific method. I think she is right in questioning that claim to truth. And need I point out that making a claim to truth is part of the religious endeavor of human beings.

As far as my "straw argument" is concerned, which many bloggers have mentioned: Sorry, but my findings on religion were derived from inductive study, not from opinion, and not only from my inductive studies. Most people do not know that there are analysts of religion, as well as analysts of mathematical properties of matter. One would not prefer Websters and conventional wisdom, I hope, to the findings of those who study the mathematical properties of matter, would they?

Any method of explanations should be suited to the phenomenon investigated. There is just a bad fit between experimental methodology and religious claims to truth. One needs to understand what symbolism is and what it intends to provide to the experience of being human and not to be threatened by symbolic expressions, because we all indulge in them, as have many people on this list who have tried to explain where they are coming from.

As for atheists, yes they too can be and often are "religious." It's OK. Nothing I have said undermines science or its methodology.

And for the words, "stupid" and "idiot," I did not employ them, I just copied them from the original article above and from bloggers who were bloviating a bit.

Have a nice holiday ("Holy day" = set apart from ordinary routine days).

1. Don't believe I said you misrepresented religion.

OK, thanks.You must have been referring to someone else then.  

2. A "claim to truth" is what social scientist observe people saying all over the world regarding their mythologies. Nothing more, nothing less. Shouldn't we take note of how they regard their ideas, too?

I think you’re saying that religious “claims to truth” are what people claim their myths are. I’m not sure how these are religious “claims to truth” since a secular person can study and reports what mythologies are. Regardless, social scientists observing what people are saying regarding their mythologies is not a truth claim in any but the most trivial sense (ie it is true that people do really believe certain myths), and so you’re really saying that religion doesn’t offer any truth claims that a secular person couldn’t also come up with. In which case, what is the point of all your comments? What is the point of this study of religion that you keep talking about? Any why should science take any notice of it (in any but the trivial sense other than it’s interesting to know what some people believe)?

Unless that isn’t what you meant, in which case you need to explain what you meant.

3. Because "truth" is not only what is subject to experiment. Because "truth" has other meanings that are utilized by human beings. Reading of any tradition of wisdom literature will illustrate what I am saying.

You’re really equivocating on the meaning of the word “truth” here. Regardless, I note that you haven’t shown how we would choose between differing religious claims. Or how we know if any of them are true. Which is, of course, the problem with religious claims, and why they are basically useless. And why scientific knowledge, by contrast, is far superior.

But since I think you’re agreed earlier that religious claims to truth are really just trivial, and nothing that a secular person couldn’t also come up with anyway, it probably doesn’t matter.

One cannot reduce religion to a scientific endeavor, because it is not and never will be.

Well, I agree with that. It’s mostly just made up nonsense.

4. See #3. You need to go outside the boundaries of the scientific method to understand the phenomenon of religion, or do you simply choose not to understand it on its own terms and consign it to "illusion."

You can’t answer the question then, can you? And again, that is another problem with religious claims – different religions make competing claims. They can’t all be right and yet adherents all believe their own claims are.

It is an "illusion" that perhaps determines more of human history than any other factor and it is prior to any other factor, as far a social scientists who take religion as their object of study can determine.

So what?

5. It does not "support" her; I merely interpreted what she was referencing for you, since you asked.

No you didn’t, you merely gave Wilson’s name. You didn’t interpret anything.

Also, she was not referencing his ant studies,

Really?  “I don’t think frankly that it’s scientific to proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos” was not referencing ant studies? Really? Then she really was talking crap then, wasn’t she?

but his claim to truth in _Consilience_, which is pretty much what most Sceptico bloggers agree with, viz., that all phenomenon can be best explained by the scientific method. I think she is right in questioning that claim to truth.

Except you haven’t shown why we should question the scientific claim to be the most reliable method to arrive at the truth. You have demonstrated that religious claims to truth are nothing more than claims about what religious people believe. What other method do you have, and why is it better?

And need I point out that making a claim to truth is part of the religious endeavor of human beings.

Agreed – religious people do make claims to truth. The trouble is, they are just made up claims with no reason for us to suppose they are true.

Any method of explanations should be suited to the phenomenon investigated. There is just a bad fit between experimental methodology and religious claims to truth.

I disagree. It’s a very good fit. The problem is that religious claims to truth have a very bad fit with the actual truth.

Merry Christmas one and all

Caveat: These texts require knowledgeable teachers to walk you through them smartly.

Job is a pawn in a wager twixt a god and a demi-god.

Please walk us through Deut 28 as you have a Merry Christmas

What are these ephemeral constants essential to human life you speak of?

Hi gmcevoy,
Hope you're enjoying the holidays. Sorry for my delay; I've been busy with family. I'll respond in more detail as soon as I can, but for now I just wanted to make clear that this notion of not having sufficient wiring for something is not my perspective. I have no reason to think that way. It is just a conjecture that I came to on my own that people who think more linearly seem to be more comfortable with an atheist perspective than I do. I think I'm much more of an intuitive or holistic type of thinker and find it very hard to focus on one line of detailed thought. I admire that ability in people like my friend Joseph or my father. I have a really hard time with it. What I do better is see big general patterns in things. It seems to me there are advantages to both kinds of brain wiring for different reasons.

And, yes it also seems possible that people who tend to think more intuitively than linearly have a predisposition to find divine meaning in things, but not being a psychologist and not having looked into what's been written on this, I want to reaffirm that it's just an idea. It came to me while talking to my friend Joseph the other day and thinking about how I used to feel as a kid looking at nature compared to how Joseph saw things.

To say that the brain is hard wired for religion is to make a long and unacknowledged leap. The brain seems to be hard wired for things like representational thought, making images, some kind of individual identity, etc. But all those elements are not bundled together in a form that leads inexorably to "religion". And it's pushing it even further to suggest that the modern theological conception of religion is the same "religion" which is supposedly hard wired.

(As Dan Dennett argues in "Breaking the Spell" modern religion is a bit like a parasite on the hard wired aspects of human psychology.)

By claiming religion is hardwired into us, the claimant is kidnapping all those elements en masse and sticking the label "religion" onto the bundle. Then of course, they claim that atheists lack or reject all these qualities.

Artists draw on many of those elements too, not jus the religious, but theres no great conflict between artists and scientists, because art operates happily in the realm of creative fantasy and subjective experience. Art deals in belief (if you don't believe in the plot, there's no fun) but because makes no claim of objective truth, its worth is measured by other values.

People have learned how to deal sensibly with art. We believe for as long as the movie is playing, feel all the feelings, relate it to our lives, and then walk happily out of the cinema. People don't start hurling abuse at the projectionist when the credits roll because we have learned how to believe and then let go of the belief.

Some people are so taken with a particular film that they keep the memory of it alive by buying the poster or the dvd or whatever. I would suggest people who are enamored of religious imagery to do the same. Keep it private and try not to let it ruin your life or anyone else's. Those who seek support from science for it should have learned to by now to expect trouble.

Merry Christmas Eric and you're still sayin all the things you're tryin really hard not to say

If it isn't your perspective that some people aren't wired like you - THEN STOP SAYING IT

but for now I just wanted to make clear that this notion of not having sufficient wiring for something is not my perspective. I have no reason to think that way.

Yet apparently you do

It is just a conjecture that I came to on my own that people who think more linearly seem to be more comfortable with an atheist perspective than I do. I think I'm much more of an intuitive or holistic type of thinker...

And, yes it also seems possible that people who tend to think more intuitively than linearly have a predisposition to find divine meaning in things,...

OOOPS you said it again

not to be threatened by symbolic expressions, - Sofie

laughed out loud

Deuteronomy 28 is of concern to a miniscule set of religious people on earth. Choosing one verse in the biblical library is engaging in fundamentalist "proof texting." It is exactly the opposite kind of argument that a logical sceptic should employ.

Religion is not what you think it is. Religion and science have always been co-determinate in establishing human functional societies. For example, a calendar is a joint product of science (astronomy) and religion (setting aside anniversaries). The Sabbath rest holy day is the anchor of the western calendar.

Even without calendars, humans function religiously and scientifically to orient themselves as a society. Australian aborigines painted their bodies with abstract symbols denoting both world creation myth and the geography of their territories. Mayan priests were also astronomers.

The false dichotomy set up on Sceptico between religion and science is a well-meaning backlash instigated by the peculiar fundamentalist religion of the American bible belt, which, in turn, is in the larger scheme of religions an anomaly. When Bishop Ussher argued that the bible says the world was created in 5000+ years, or a Christian Reconstructionist like Mike Huckabee wants to institute "theonomy" (biblical rule in the court system or legislatures), then we need to push back hard against what is a retreat to the cave. But you set up a straw target when you equate this part to the varied and myriad and universal behavior that is called religious (by experts in the social science that studies religions).

However, as a-theists you share non-belief in a god with hundreds of millions of Buddhists, who are religious. Christmas is a Winter Solstice celebration dating back thousands of years, originating in the fear that the sun would not return and symbolically expelling the darkness (internal and external) by exhibiting lights and its correlate, joy. The Christmas tree originated in Germanic paganism and predates Christianity again by thousands of years. More important, Christmas celebrates the values of giving, love, and family. It is a "warm" holy day set apart from "cold" ordinary time and it brings people together.

Fundamentalists are reductionists. I cannot defend their odd ideas, but I can let them be. Rational thinking does not set up radical, reductionist dualities; it explores phenomena widely and deeply and notes the paradox in knowing. There is seldom closure in the work of thinking rationally.

I have read The Grand Design and celebrate its great mythology of M-theory. (I regard myth as any grand design elaborated by creative humans.) M-theory is full of paradox. It, too, is a labor of religion and science. I have also read Consilience and I admire E.O. Wilson's ability to write clearly and beautifully about his notion of a grand design that unifies all knowledge via the scientific method, alone. But Wilson (ironically, a former fundamentalist) still thinks like one in being reductionist. I prefer Hawking's and (especially) Feynman's view.

As I have argued here, a-theists also act religiously. But it is important to also think rationally, not to employ proof texts (like Deut. 28) or define the other's set of knowledge reductively, not to regard one's view as a finished product, and to accept that any provisional set of conclusions are liable to adjustment.

One can no more understand human religious experience (such as wonder, as one blogger admitted to in the face of a night sky) by
simply picking up the Qur'an or the Bible or the Gita or the Enuma Elish and reading it like a popular novel than one can understand any branch of science without instruction.

Sophie

gmcevoy,
Let's get on the same page here. Apparently we're not arguing with each other here--I'm just misunderstanding your choice of words. You've said things like "proper wiring" and "lack" that gave me the impression that you think I'm accusing you of lacking something that I have. All I'm trying to do here is make it clear that I don't think one person's wiring is superior to another's. I don't think that intuitive/divergent brains have some extra bit of hardware that linear/convergent brains lack. (That is, I have no reason to assume so). What it intutively seems like to me is just a different arrangement of the wiring. If that's what you meant by "lacking proper wiring", then we agree.

Sofie/Jean:
Very good points although I honestly think what people on this blog mean by "religion" is only a subset of what you yourself are embracing under that title. I would tend to find my notion of "religion" broader than theirs but not quite as broad as yours. That's just my impression though, since I'm not an expert on religion.

First to Don,
Thanks for your explanation about the difference between agnosticism and atheism. That's good to know. And I have a new word to look up: orthogonal. :)

Now back again to gmcevoy,

First, just to finish off my last entry, I mean "then we agree" about what it was I was trying to say, not about the content of my ideas.

Now to your other comment:

And yet, you very recently introduced this concept and initially announced this sensation is a divine presence - WARNING - Religious Belief Has Been Inserted!! - WARNING and a conclusion reached. NOW, you're waffling and the divine presence has become just a sensation that may or may not be divine.

When I first wrote on this blog, I claimed that the experience of the color green is a non-material phenomenon that either results from or is very closely associated with the physical processes of the brain interacting with a specific wavelength range of light. That is not to say there is anything divine about it. I did not ascribe any divine meaning to that per se, but I did suggest that it leaves me open to consider ideas of spirituality and the possibility of a spiritual realm or facet of reality that may be somehow akin to that experiential reality that can't be described in words to a blind person who's never seen green.

I also told you more recently that I've always felt an inate sense of divinity or spirituality to address somehow, but I'm also skeptical and unable to believe in something just because I want to, so I haven't inserted any particular belief in there. It's just a sensation I have but not a belief or commitment to any belief. In this sense I'm atheist but very open to considering and thinking about spiritual ideas.

The only thing I've "waffled" about is to consider the possibility that consciousness is no more than an illusion. This was after reading and seriously considering the ideas in the articles that skeptico referred me to. I'm trying to be as open-minded as possible and consider that I might be wrong. That's not a weakness like waffling; It's being a responsible seeker of truth who is prepared to reconsider his ideas or conclusions. But I don't think the illusion idea of consciousness is likely. It makes little logical sense to me even if I'm willing to consider it as a possibility.

So that's what I think, and If there's been any miscommunication or misunderstanding , hopefully that clears it up.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas /Winter Soltice Festival.

Sofie

Deut 28 isn't a verse. It's a chapter of the book. It has many verses. 68 actually.

Regardless of whom you think it addresses, it is part and parcel of the Bible and cannot be simply waved away as "fundie proof texting".

And like any chapter in any book, it can be examined singularly within the context of the whole.

I was told by a person, most definitely not a fundie, that Deut 28 is "what could happen to you if you become destitute." I was implored to read the whole chapter because the Bible isn't an instruction book.

My friend was responding to verse 53 of the chapter. It had been singled out, along with various other verses from other books, as grand examples of Bronze Age Wisdom.

Please, walk us through it.

BTW, that was me gaping in awe at the night sky's immensely immense beauty.

Also curiously, how does one hold a holistic view of anything without understanding the constituent bits?

Eric, calling this sensation a "divine presence" IS inserting religious belief and isn't atheism. They way you repeatedly describe this indicates you've already concluded so.

No you aren't EXPLICITLY stating people are not properly wired. Your statements IMPLY it.

I don't think that intuitive/divergent brains have some extra bit of hardware that linear/convergent brains lack. (That is, I have no reason to assume so). What it intutively seems like to me is just a different arrangement of the wiring.

Those statements in bold contradict one another and still imply we lack the wiring you think you have.

It's interesting how the idea of the mind being separate from the brain relies so much on the architecture of the brain for the idea to exist.

People have learned how to deal sensibly with art. We believe for as long as the movie is playing, feel all the feelings, relate it to our lives, and then walk happily out of the cinema.

Except for the two people I used to work with who think Harry Potter actually teaches witchcraft.

Sofie, Sophie, Jeane:

Whatever makes you think that you can decide that Deuteronomy 28 is not important and can be ignored? On what basis do you decide that some parts of the bible are of no concern while other parts of the bible are important and real? You have no way to decide, do you, apart from by using secular reasoning? That’s the point – that’s why something like Deuteronomy 28 is relevant. Sorry Sofie, but you are the one engaging in "proof texting" if you decide which bits you can ignore and which bits you need to pay attention to, just so it suits your argument. You don’t get to insist that we can only use the weakest arguments against religion.

Also, all of us here know that religious people can appreciate science or even be scientists. We know. That isn’t the point, as you would know if you had bothered to follow the arguments actually put forward by atheists on numerous blogs and popular books or even in my original post that you are responding to. Go on – scroll up and read my post again. I’ll save you the effort - here it is:

Yes, we know that some scientists can be religious. That is because human beings are very good at rationalizing incompatible information. It does not alter the fact that science has proven many of the claims of numerous religions to be completely wrong, which means that science and religion are in many instances, incompatible.

The point once again (that you have still made no attempt to address) is that science and religion are fundamentally different ways of knowing in principle – science is based on experiment and observation, and it changes when new information appears; religion is based on authority and the writings of ignorant ancients, and only changes when dragged kicking and screaming towards reality by new knowledge gained through science. That’s not a false dichotomy, it’s an actual and fundamental difference – simply repeating that it is a false dichotomy, or that my arguments are “a straw target” (without justifying why) doesn’t make it so no matter how many times you parrot it out. (Straw target - funny, I thought you just said you didn’t believe you said I misrepresented religion – changed your tune again.)

And atheists act religiously? Wow, brilliant argument!  Actually no it’s not, it’s sophistry. Not very clever, ultimately meaningless wordplay that we’ve all heard before. Does that kind of argument really impress anyone? Maybe at your freshman philosophy class, but it won’t impress anyone here. We’ve heard it and refuted it all numerous times already. Lame.

And religion is not what we think it is? What arrogant nonsense. Tell that to the millions who practice religion in the US, in Muslim countries and elsewhere. Tell them it’s just what some social scientists say it is. It’s not just US fundamentalists. Haven’t you heard of what goes on in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Pakistan? Indonesia? What about Jewish fundamentalists in Israel? What about Christians being persecuted recently by Hindus in India? Just US fundamentalists? How stupid even to suggest such an idiotic thing. An “anomaly”? Bullshit. Religion is what millions of people believe and practice, and what is preached by their clerics, not what your social scientists say it is.

You may think your posts are erudite and lettered, but I’m afraid they are just vacuous long-winded drivel dressed up as profundity. You have written nothing that refutes a single word I wrote in my original post. What a complete waste of time.

Dear Skeptico and Gmcevoy,

OK. You want to engage with Deut. 28? You chose it as your one "proof text," while I framed it against an immense backdrop of human symbolic expressions, without which our lives would be far more drab and conventional, such as Gilgamesh and the Gita. Have you read them, BTW? What about Job? It is in the same library as Deut. 28; why not flip a few pages and get to know this pre-biblical story?

First of all, you are right, it is not a "verse," but it is miniscule in terms of # of words compared to the entire biblical library.
Second, are you sure you are not referring to Leviticus 18, which speaks of carnality and the "abominations" of sexual sins? The so-called "Holiness Code" is in Leviticus, which is part of the Torah and is an ancient code of laws that helped organize a new polity. These ancient laws read as very extreme to us, but thousands of years ago, they were an enlightened code. We need to see things in a comparative, as well as evolving, perspective.

Deuteronomy is largely the later retelling of the founding of the Israelite nation out of migrating tribes, and especially, of their chosenness. This was a way of explaining why a bunch of (probably) ethnically diverse, slaves in Egypt were able to conquer a land of cities and commerce between two imperial powers and found a (briefly united) kingdom.

The Book of Deuteronomy, however, was likely composed centuries later than the Book of Exodus, after Babylonia threatened Israel's southern kingdom (it had split in two by that time and the Assyrians destroyed the northern half), and it was read out as a warning to Israelites that if their kings ignored God's laws, they would be destroyed (which they were a hundred years or less later).

So Deuteronomy, while part of the Torah (the ancient 5 books) was likely composed a thousand years or so after Exodus and retells the story with a moral attached. I bet you are referring not to Deuteronomy, but to the Holiness Code in Leviticus. That is the standard fare in the current dialogue of science v. religion.

Anyway, Jews now have female rabbis and homosexuals are accepted and the sins of Lev. 18 are common practice among observant Jews today. It is fundies that froth at the mouth about them.

Now, Skeptico. If you are rational and not "rationalizing," why do you keep using pejorative language to characterize your targets? (It is axiomatic that when one cannot field a better logical argument, one attacks or seeks to diminish the other party.) Such words as, "completely wrong," "ignorant ancients," "Bronze Age," "sophistry," "meaningless wordplay," "lame," "arrogant nonsense, "idiotic thing," "Bullshit,(capitalized, no less!), "vacuous long-winded drivel dressed up as profundity" (actually, that scans pretty well as almost poetry), and so forth. If I delete these rhetorical fillers, then what exactly are you arguing?

That religion has kept science down for too long and that it is still responsible for injustice and violence the world over.

No argument that some of that is fact. But scapegoating all religions for all human violence and inhumanity, is a way to avoid really thinking about individual instances and categories of behaviors. I argue back that religion is here to stay, because humans continue to act religiously, because they choose to, and they choose to because it must have some positive payoffs for human collectives, as Emile Durkheim (a scientist) discovered and validated in his field work. In fact, religion has contributed calendars, legal codes, ethics, architecture, art, and in partnership with science (as I mentioned previously without any response from anyone else on the blog), civilization.

As for "straw" arguments, when you decide, like the Mad Hatter--that a word means exactly what you say it means--and that that "religion" means only, e.g., Deut. 28; and that science does not include social science and that the experimental method is the only methodology for finding "truth," and that somehow Quantum mechanics, Newtonian laws, and string theory or M-theory all cohere and add up to one "factual" picture of reality, then you are not expanding your knowledge base. It may be doctrinally comfortable to argue that your limited views prevail, but it does not suffice. You are simply standing pat, and that is not really a "scientific" approach to finding answers. It is as hidebound as you consider priestcraft to be.

Now, back to my question about aboriginal petroglyphs and mining companies? One person sort of responded in an ambiguous way, but oh so briefly. Should the mining company destroy a site of 20,000 to 40,000 year old scratches on rocks that depict aboriginal myths, religion, (and who knows what else) for the sake of providing the contemporary world with a needed material substance?

OK. You want to engage with Deut. 28? You chose it as your one "proof text,"

Straw man. Did no such thing. It was just one example, not our “one” proof or any other kind of text.

while I framed it against an immense backdrop of human symbolic expressions,

No you didn’t, you called it “proof texting” as a way to ignore the implications of what many old religious documents actually say. So that would be moving the goalposts.

Second, are you sure you are not referring to Leviticus 18,

Another good example.

which speaks of carnality and the "abominations" of sexual sins? The so-called "Holiness Code" is in Leviticus, which is part of the Torah and is an ancient code of laws that helped organize a new polity. These ancient laws read as very extreme to us, but thousands of years ago, they were an enlightened code. We need to see things in a comparative, as well as evolving, perspective.

But how did they evolve?  Did religion (divine revelation, discovery of other sacred texts) cause it to evolve? No – it evolved through secular means.

Anyway, Jews now have female rabbis and homosexuals are accepted and the sins of Lev. 18 are common practice among observant Jews today. It is fundies that froth at the mouth about them.

Again, why did this change? Did religion (divine revelation, discovery of other sacred texts) cause it to change? No – it changed through secular means.

Now, Skeptico. If you are rational and not "rationalizing," why do you keep using pejorative language to characterize your targets?

I don’t. I use it to describe your arguments. So another straw man.

(It is axiomatic that when one cannot field a better logical argument, one attacks or seeks to diminish the other party.) Such words as, "completely wrong," "ignorant ancients," "Bronze Age," "sophistry," "meaningless wordplay," "lame," "arrogant nonsense, "idiotic thing," "Bullshit,(capitalized, no less!), "vacuous long-winded drivel dressed up as profundity" (actually, that scans pretty well as almost poetry), and so forth. If I delete these rhetorical fillers, then what exactly are you arguing?

That your arguments are sophistry, meaningless wordplay, etc. Stop using empty arguments based on wordplay, such as ‘atheists act religiously.’  Refute my argument that religious and scientific ways of evaluating truth claims are completely different, rather than just parroting that this is a false dichotomy. Come up with some actual arguments instead of the vacuous drivel you’ve been filling up this thread with.

But scapegoating all religions for all human violence and inhumanity,

Another straw man. Go and find where I said that religions are responsible for all human violence and inhumanity.

is a way to avoid really thinking about individual instances and categories of behaviors. I argue back that religion is here to stay, because humans continue to act religiously, because they choose to, and they choose to because it must have some positive payoffs for human collectives, as Emile Durkheim (a scientist) discovered and validated in his field work. In fact, religion has contributed calendars, legal codes, ethics, architecture, art, and in partnership with science (as I mentioned previously without any response from anyone else on the blog), civilization.

What has it contributed that could not be contributed by secular means?

I asked that one in my original post, btw. You still chose to ignore it

As for "straw" arguments, when you decide, like the Mad Hatter--that a word means exactly what you say it means--and that that "religion" means only, e.g., Deut. 28; and that science does not include social science and that the experimental method is the only methodology for finding "truth," and that somehow Quantum mechanics, Newtonian laws, and string theory or M-theory all cohere and add up to one "factual" picture of reality, then you are not expanding your knowledge base.

Another straw man. And pretty funny, since you are the one arguing that religion only means what you say it does (more correctly what you say social scientists say it means). I am pointing out that religious people have their own meanings.

It may be doctrinally comfortable to argue that your limited views prevail, but it does not suffice. You are simply standing pat, and that is not really a "scientific" approach to finding answers. It is as hidebound as you consider priestcraft to be.

Pot / Kettle.

Now, back to my question about aboriginal petroglyphs and mining companies? One person sort of responded in an ambiguous way, but oh so briefly. Should the mining company destroy a site of 20,000 to 40,000 year old scratches on rocks that depict aboriginal myths, religion, (and who knows what else) for the sake of providing the contemporary world with a needed material substance?

Actually, that wasn’t your original question. You actually asked, “is science served best by destroying the (religious) art…” [my emphasis] Shifted the goalposts again didn’t you?  Instead of “science” we now have “providing the contemporary world with a needed material substance.”

Well, science isn’t served by destroying the work of ancient peoples. As for the mining company and commerce – you are proposing a false dilemma. I would suggest the mining company find a way of mining without destroying the ancient artworks. It’s been done before.

Now to a question from me. Can you refute anything I wrote in my original post? Yes or no?

gmcevoy said:

Eric, calling this sensation a "divine presence" IS inserting religious belief and isn't atheism. They way you repeatedly describe this indicates you've already concluded so.

If I said it "IS" a divine presence, then yes, that would be inserting religious belief. But I said it was a "SENSE" of a divine presence that I never commited any particular belief to. I've also gotten a sense that the squirrel in my backyard was laughing at me, but that doesn't mean I believed he really was.

Yakaru:
No argument from me. I and other (if not all) humans may have a hardwired tendency to ascribe consciousness to objects in nature or to think superstitiously or even to intuitively search for a god-like presence in nature, but I'm not about to assume I'm correct. For now it's just a subjective perception of mine. Also no argument about your comments on art vs. religion. I agree with you there, but I think sometimes a movie or a religious text can touch on something truly insightful that resonates with you beyond the theater.

Skeptico:
Not everything Sofie says that doesn't hit your arguments dead on with perfect acuracy means she's creating a "straw man". I think you're overapplying that term. For example when she mentioned your use of pejorative language against your "targets", she never said your targets were anything more than the arguments you are refuting, yet you assumed she was saying your targets were the people holding those arguments. As far as I can see she never said that.

Eric:

It is axiomatic that when one cannot field a better logical argument, one attacks or seeks to diminish the other party.

I don’t see how “the other party” can be “arguments.” I seek to diminish (actually to refute) arguments, not the other party (ie the person), per se.

Okay, I stand corrected. I didn't see that line of hers. But then again, this line of yours does actually come pretty close to a personal attack:

Just US fundamentalists? How stupid even to suggest such an idiotic thing.

I mean, you might be able to argue that's not technically a personal attack, but it's close. I still think it's a stretch for you to apply the straw man argument here.

Sofie have you read the Bible? You speak to us like we haven't.

I gave you the specific verse from Deut. mon ami reacted to by saying I should read the whole chapter. So, I re-read it. Still the same Bronze Age Wisdom it was loooong ago when I originally read the whole thing.

Deuteronomy is largely the later retelling of the founding of the Israelite nation out of migrating tribes, and especially, of their chosenness.

A book written by a member of one's own tribe proclaiming that tribe to be favoured by The Great Maker is hardly evidence of anything other than arrogance, much less a divine presence.

The Book of Deuteronomy... was read out as a warning to Israelites that if their kings ignored God's laws, they would be destroyed (which they were a hundred years or less later)

Ah, so it is a book of rules to follow or be punished.

We agree, who knew?

Apparently, this is some kind of gotcha question:

Now, back to my question about aboriginal petroglyphs and mining companies? One person sort of responded in an ambiguous way, but oh so briefly.

Again, me aboot 1/2 an hour after you FIRST posed the question:

industry is served by destroying the rock art due to a lack of imagination regarding preservation

Science is preserved by using the same destructive technology to first cut the images from the rock faces without damaging them - a la Aswan Damn

And then again the next day.

This question was answered by the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile in 1960 with the moving of The Great Temple of Abu Simbel.

So the people of Egypt were best served by science providing hydro power and the means to preserve some of the history without destroying it

Brief, yes. Ambiguous? No. Waste of Time? Yes.

Humpty Dumpty (not the Mad Hatter).

The Lone Pedant rides again!

Gmcevoy,
For what it's worth I noticed your reply to that question when you first posted it, but Sofie apparently missed it. Not a waste of time from my perspective. Hopefully she'll see that soon, but in the mean time, I'd like to say thank you for your patience with us all-embracing hippy dandelion chasers.

Oh well, I guess that concludes it all. Nice debating and thinking out loud with all of yous. Maybe more to come on a new topic at some point :)

Yes Eric, I think Sofie has concluded her discussion here. Sofie seemed quite intelligent and was certainly well educated, but she gave me the impression that her arguments had never before been submitted to critical scrutiny by someone who disagreed with her. Following some fairly mild criticisms of her arguments she retreated to a list of straw man arguments and moving of goalposts. She was also pretty confused about what her own position actually was. For example, she said we were using the wrong definition of religion but also wrote “[I d]on't believe I said you misrepresented religion.”  And then again, she seemed to think that only her definition of religion was the one that should be considered but also accused me of arguing like Humpty Dumpty (thanks Yojimbo) who only wants to use his definition of things. And finally, when asked if she could refute anything I wrote in my original post, she had no reply. So thanks Sofie, my original post still looks pretty good.

Well it's polite human nature to try to find common ground with the person you are speaking to and I think the comment you refer to was a flip callous remark. I'm not sure you can say one fears the other any more than the field of archetecture fears the field of mechanics. But I take the point. I dare say he would attempt to be polite to a climate change skeptic and say something equally silly. I'll judge him on the jokes not his science knowledge.

Since we're here, perhaps Jon might make the argument, as would I, that M-theory and all we know about the nature of reality in a scientifically rigourous sense is that we know we live in a multi-dimensional universe because we observe and measure things which could not be explained in any other way. This goes a long way to explain a lot that has so far been difficult to measure or explain such as ESP etc. I just think the field of science and religion, while overlapping and in some cases conflicting, are manifestations of human beings trying to measure different things. Frankly, while believing in strict scientific principles and adhering to the multi-dimensional theory of the universe, I also think I partially "get" religion to some degree. I don't think you can argue "religion" is wrong, merely specific testable claims. I think it's very fair to say science starts looking more and more like religion in some cases. We now know we a;; have one mother and one father, Adam and Eve if you like. Not sure if they are from the same millenium but it seems almost poetic that science often goes a long way to partially confirming the general ideas in The Bible. It works both ways. Much of the new medical science teaches us once esoteric concepts like happiness and love can have physical consequences. I have personally used thought to lower the temperature of one hand. I don't care if someone interprets one event as a miracle and another as inexplicable or even if people have completely different interpretations for what they find in their reality. No single field, science or religion, is ever going to completely describe the whole. The whole is more than all forms of matter and energy. It involves things like love and respect and trust. One day science might quantify and measure those but in the meantime, you can't argue that they don't exist. The entirety of existence is not all science nor is it all religion. It is, by definition, all of it. Whatever all of it means.

Darren:

This goes a long way to explain a lot that has so far been difficult to measure or explain such as ESP etc.

Why should ESP be difficult to measure? Those that claim it exists or that they have it need only state what it does and demonstrate it under controlled conditions (ie removing bias and the ability to cheat). Let's prove it exists first, then worry about explaining it.

We now know we a;; have one mother and one father, Adam and Eve if you like. Not sure if they are from the same millenium but it seems almost poetic that science often goes a long way to partially confirming the general ideas in The Bible.

I'm...not sure why I have to point this out, but I'm fairly certain that whomever wrote Genesis knew they had one mother and one father. I'm also fairly certain that mankind has known for nearly the entirety of it's existence that it takes a mommy and a daddy to make a baby.

Much of the new medical science teaches us once esoteric concepts like happiness and love can have physical consequences.

Again, I'm fairly certain the link between emotional and physical well-being has been known for longer than you give mankind credit for.

I don't think you can argue "religion" is wrong...

No one has argued that "'religion' is wrong". So if you are going to defend that position, you are doing so against a made-up opponent.

It involves things like love and respect and trust. One day science might quantify and measure those but in the meantime, you can't argue that they don't exist.

All those things can be quantified scientifically if we can all agree on a definition and what observable effects they produce.

The entirety of existence is not all science nor is it all religion. It is, by definition, all of it.

Again, I hope this is directed at a made-up opponent, because no one here has argued that existence is "all science" or "all religion".

Jon might make the argument, as would I, that M-theory and all we know about the nature of reality in a scientifically rigourous sense is that we know we live in a multi-dimensional universe because we observe and measure things which could not be explained in any other way.

That sounds erudite and insightful, but it isn't. I know I live in a multidimensional universe because I can walk right and left, back and forth and jump up and down. Oh, and I get a little older every day. This knowledge predates science and the possibly spurious M-theory (which isn't a theory at all, but a description of what some kind of overarching superstring theory might be like if we had one).

This goes a long way to explain a lot that has so far been difficult to measure or explain such as ESP etc.

Nonsense. If you can't measure it, it's a conjecture at best. But even for a conjecture you need some evidence. As far as I'm concerned, if something like telekinesis exists and it affects real, solid, physical matter, they can be measured by real, hard, physical measuring instruments.

I just think the field of science and religion, while overlapping and in some cases conflicting, are manifestations of human beings trying to measure different things.

Science says "I don't know. I want to find out." Religion says, "I already know all the answers and I'm not listening to anyone who says otherwise." They have absolutely zip in common.

Frankly, while believing in strict scientific principles and adhering to the multi-dimensional theory of the universe, I also think I partially "get" religion to some degree.

You keep going on about this "multi-dimensional theory of the universe" thing, but it isn't a theory at all. We live in a universe with at least three spatial dimensions and one time dimension: that much ins incontestable. The fact that superstring theory could provide a (much-needed) quantum theory of gravity, but it requires an uncertain number of unseen, unseeable, squashed-up dimensions to do so, doesn't really seem to fit the bill as a smoking gun for the Almighty.

In fact, it raises the issue of why the dimensions we can sense are so out of step with the majority, if superstring theory is correct. It may be, but the jury are still very much out.

I don't think you can argue "religion" is wrong, merely specific testable claims.

WHat I can say is I haven't seen any testable claims that have passed the test for religion. Therefore, I don't see why anyone should believe in it.

I think it's very fair to say science starts looking more and more like religion in some cases.

Only when it claims to know all the answers already: and no scientist worth his salt claims that or even WANTS that. The day it was proved that science knew everything, scientists would be flinging themselves from tall buildings by the score.

We now know we a;; have one mother and one father, Adam and Eve if you like.

That's been known for a long time before the Adam and Eve myth even existed. What is true is the fact that we know why now. And that information didn't come from a blinding religious insight.

Not sure if they are from the same millenium

??? Mine are even from the same century.

but it seems almost poetic that science often goes a long way to partially confirming the general ideas in The Bible.

Such as what? Please name one scientific theory that proves that the world was made in six days, or that the first woman was made from a rib, or that people can walk across parted seas, or even the big one, namely that God exists.

Or any other proof of your choice.

It works both ways. Much of the new medical science teaches us once esoteric concepts like happiness and love can have physical consequences.

That doesn't prove any religious claim of which I'm aware.

I have personally used thought to lower the temperature of one hand.

But no doubt that can be proved with a very real, physical thermometer rather than an ethereal religious insight.

I don't care if someone interprets one event as a miracle and another as inexplicable or even if people have completely different interpretations for what they find in their reality.

I find that really quite disturbing.

No single field, science or religion, is ever going to completely describe the whole.

Religion says it already does.

The whole is more than all forms of matter and energy. It involves things like love and respect and trust.

All manifested by critters like us made of matter and enrgy.

One day science might quantify and measure those but in the meantime, you can't argue that they don't exist.

Straw man argument. I'm not aware of any scientist claiming that they don't exist. However, we now know a lot about the physiological processes involved, and we got that from science.

The entirety of existence is not all science nor is it all religion. It is, by definition, all of it. Whatever all of it means.

The inability of science to explain some things at present does not prove that religion must provide the answers it lacks. Religion explains nothing because it says it knows everything, but it can't give you the proof. Indeed, just to ask for proof is evil.

Science isn't a belief system. It's a way of asking questions to get meaningful answers.

"The correct answer is that religion fears science – because science, bit by bit, has proved the various claims of religion to be totally wrong."

What was that about logical infallibility? or the straw man of science proving the non-existence of God? Perhaps your wording was a bit sloppy or generalized, but if you're going to make such generalizations, you might want to be a bit more gentle with television commentators for their own rhetorical generalizations about ant research and cosmology.

You might also want to go over the part of your site that deals with controlling for bias. Your post is dripping with it.

It's all too common to come to a "Skeptical" site and find that the owner isn't applying true skepticism, but just using the concept as a cover for a materialist-secularist worldview.

Obviously, it's certainly anyone's right to argue from that or any other perspective, but it's not a "skeptical" approach per say, because there's a very clear assumptive worldview that you're working from, and one that you never seem (in the few posts I've read, at least) to get around to applying to your own position.

For example, the bit in the site intro about climate change denialists. Which is more denialist of the phenomenon of climate change, to argue that the only way a 1 degree change over a hundred years could possibly occur is through human intervention, or to argue that such change is part of the natural cycle of the climate and that attempts to correlate carbon output and temperature increases are simplistic?

Full disclosure, I'm a pretty traditional Christian who remains unimpressed by the standard lines on atheism and the more liberal branches of Christianity. I also don't believe in the traditional concept of "ghosts" (The Holy One aside, of course), reincarnation (although there's a very serious materialist argument for the phenomenon along the lines of human consciousness) and other such arcania. I also don't have a problem with evolution in general (just not the purely materialist version) though as a theory of biogenesis in particular, it's far weaker than as a means for explaining biological diversity.

Beeeeeep!

Error! Error! This post exceeds maximum allowable fallacies. Error! Error!

I'm going to be hopeful and go with it being an April Fools post.

Oh? So you're an optimistic cynic, eh? :)

I sometimes like to try and imagine the best, I expect I'll be disappointed in the end ;)

describe the color red to a person who has never had sight.

Why?

Wow! This thread just won't die, will it?

I smell Jeebus in the building!

describe the color red to a person who has never had sight.

Oh, never seen that one before.

The fact is, I can't describe the colour red to anyone in the world. I can say, "It's the same colour as a ripe tomato", but a blind person or a person with colourblindness won't get that.

Nobody in the world can "describe" a colour. Always, always, one has to reference it to something tangible or perceptible in the real world.

However, I'm prepared to admit if I am wrong. Please tell me how religion would better explain the colour red to a blind man.

On the other hand, I could tell a person blind from birth that a red object reflected electromagnetic waves with a wavelength between 620nm and 750nm. Armed with suitable instruments and a ripe tomato, he or she could tell me that the vegetable was red. Time and again, with all kinds of red things.

Could a priest give that person a better definition, or even one as good?

After fruitlessly (ha!) describing apples, tomatoes, fire-engines, stop signs, sunsets and rubies, he'd be pretty much finished.

Science can at least explain red to a blind person. Religion can't even do that.

So how does science being unable to describe red to a blind person prove the existence of God?

Does the Bible explain the smell of farts in a way that makes a (fortunate) woman without the sense of smell grin, slap her head and say "of course!"?

There are of course simple, crude, physical physical instruments that can at least reliably detect and identify the odour to even that person.

All the evidence says that if it's there, science can find a way of demonstrating it.

Religion says it's there and that's all there is, and nasty things will happen to you if you don't believe.

Religion not only tells you nasty things will happen to you - as often as not it ensures it by doing them to you.

Absolutely, Yojimbo! He's a loving father - but find attractive a young woman who happens to have a metal band around the third finger of he left hand, just before a bus hits you, and He will make you frickin' BURN. For ever and ever and ever!

No parole. No excuses.

Alternatively, you may feed all the poor people you meet, give all your money to charity, look like a hawk for injustice and eradicate it utterly, cure cancer and every other disease, stop war, abolish crime by making all criminals in the world finally see the grave error of their ways...

But in your altruistic industry, you forgot to tell the Big Guy Upstairs how fantastically, unbelievably great He is, every single moment of your busy life.

You don't get a slightly lesser punishment than a thief, a mass murderer or a child abuser - you get exactly the same, agonising, unending, unyielding brutality.

If a thief, mass murderer or child abuser says "sorry" and means it, seconds before he dies, he gets eternal bliss instead of the sulphurous flames.

Yes, religion teaches some serious morality you just cannot get from any secular book or teacher.

I like reading you guys it's so funny how you try to achieve dominance over others with critical thinking and the process of skeptical thinking. Nerd fight! Now the thing is I doubt Jon Stewart will ever read this or the one he was interviewing. They may never know the shortcomings that you have judge them with. Who did you do this for ? Yourself ? for me?Does it make you feel superior to Stewart or the one being interviewed? I've been hovering this site reading the articles and post and it reminds me a lot of X-project paranormal forum that I once visited a lot. it too was basically a hilarious nerd fight between the "bleevers "as some called them and the so called "damned and hell bound" as other side called them . Both sides nerd fighting for superiority. As for me I have learned that everyone has the right to be wrong and I shall not trespass that right nor is it for me to tell you what to think, how to think, or who to worship.

As for the meaning of life it's obvious . But just because it is obvious it is overlooked by theist and skeptical thinker.

All you guys are great and you keep me entertained keep up the nerd fight er I mean good work. I'll try not to post a lot because I'm hammering out this horrid sloppy post on the iPad

Posted by: Nerdspectator

Damn! That's 30 seconds of my life wasted :(

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