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6/21/08

GREETINGS!

Sup good people! I'm Netlosh, but my mother calls me Shelton.

I'm honored, excited, and a bit nervous about having been asked to contribute. Nervous only because I'm not all that sure how I'll approach this yet, but I'm confident we'll think of something.

As some of you may be aware, previously I could've been found dropping in and mixing it up with a few atheist around here and AS (and some 'Christians' too come to think of it), so I'm not a total stranger around these parts. I did, however, want to formally introduce myself, and make explicit a few things that may (or may not, who knows?) have been missed or overlooked in the 'heat of battle'.

+/-


I am the 3rd child, 2nd son of a Pastor (I have 4 brother's and 3 sister's all by the same parents). I am African-American (or just Black). I am a Christian and I absolutely love God and people. In my regular day to day I have pretty consistently exhibited the apparently unusual ability to get along with a wide variety of people of various persuasions and backgrounds, all without yielding any ground in my own convictions. Politically, I consider myself an independent with conservative values (which basically means I'll vote for whomever I agree with the most, despite their party affiliations).

I do like to read a bit. I'm a pretty big fan of Kant, Burke, and Weber. Niall Ferguson, Paul Johnson, David Landes, and Thomas Sowell are among the few authors that I'd spend my last 20 bucks on. I pray for the day's when I'll have the time to pour through the articles of J.P. Holding and Glen Miller (my personal two favorite internet apologist). Among the many theologians I do enjoy from time to time, I've personally been the most challenged, enlightened, and generally enriched by the writings Charles Finney(even though some have called him a heretic). None of these people I agree with 100%, but life has taught me to either chew the meat and spit out the bones, or be prepared to starve...

I don't hold to convictions I don't believe I can defend, and will NOT defend stuff I don't believe in. I like to keep things as simple and unpretentious as possible, but I insist on being thoroughly sound both logically and factually. I endeavor to remain pretty easy going throughout it all.

When soundly corrected I'm pretty quick to adjust accordingly. I can NOT stand being wrong, and therefore whenever driven to realize that I am, you'll find that I won't waste time in any vain attempts to save face. Charles Finney said, "True Christian consistency consists, not in stereotyping our opinions and views and in refusing to make any improvement in knowledge lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter, and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast as we can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency because this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian profession implies the profession of candor and of a disposition to know and to obey all truth."

Thank you M for the invite. I look forward to seeing where we all go from here.

Agape'

25 comments:

  1. Enjoy your stay and best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Welcome Netlosh,

    To get a sense of the way you think and what you believe, I thought I'd ask a few questions that on the surface may be a bit silly but have important issues at their core. If you have the time, I would be interested to hear your answers.

    From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

    How is the immense suffering of animals in the wild compatible with an all-powerful, just, loving god?

    Why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kuhlmann,

    Noting that I have little time on my hands and other responses to get to, I wanted to jump on this real quick:


    From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

    No one.

    How is the immense suffering of animals in the wild compatible with an all-powerful, just, loving god?

    Animals don't interpret pain in the light of "suffering" or "lack of justice". They just do. Humans interpret it as such. Does this justify humans hurting animals? No. We are told not to hurt wildlife in this manner as it is evil on our part.


    Why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?


    A.) Most people aren't Atheists.

    B.) Most people in jail convert to Theism in jail.

    C.) Noting what you are trying to imply by this question let me ask you something...

    Most people in jail are minorities as well. They are mostly of the African-American population. I presume that you mean to say then that white skin color is better because of this.

    Just wondering.

    ReplyDelete
  4. From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

    Believe it or not, I actually don't have direct knowledge concerning the modus operandi of this, or any other, supernatural occurrences. Such knowledge is naturally beyond our limited capacities. No worries though, it's on my list of things to ask God when I see Him face to face... And I'm truly hoping to catch up with you for further discussion of the matter...

    How is the immense suffering of animals in the wild compatible with an all-powerful, just, loving god?

    As far as the all- powerful part goes, I'd say as the sole Self-Existent Being on which all other's depend for their existence (whether at peace or in turmoil).

    As far as how His being 'just' and 'loving' are compatible with the 'immense suffering of animals in the wild' goes, I must admit that I've never considered the plight of the animal kingdom as a determining factor where it concerns the character/attributes of God. Even simpler put, its never crossed my mind to measure the 'love' of God against the distress of the gazelle that fails to out run the pursuing cheetah...I'll be sure to give a bit more thought to that though.

    In the mean time, I wonder whether or not you consider yourself an even slightly just, and loving guy (though not of the infinite variety)? If so I'd love to know what do you tell yourself at night to assuage your own troubled heart concerning these immensely suffering creatures? Can you share?

    *Careful* Your not the only one capable of rigging a question with a few booby traps...

    Why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?

    They make up far less of the population.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kuhlmann,

    What do you think is incompatible about animal suffering and an omni-god? What do you perceive the uneasiness to be?

    I'm familiar with William Rowe's evidentialist argument and the "horrendous evils" sub-argument, but they proceed differently than you have.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Netlosh,

    I wasn't trying to lay down any traps. I was just asking some questions that I thought might spark some interesting conversation.

    Neither you nor anyone else here seems too interested in the Y chromosome thing, so we can skip that one.

    I think the animal suffering question is an important one, though. Human suffering is too easily justified by original sin or free will. You can even, with some handwaving, defend natural disasters. But I find it really difficult to understand why animals would need to suffer when they are incapable of sin. Does god enjoy watching them suffer? Does he think the world is more just if they do suffer? Is he incapable of stopping their suffering?

    In the mean time, I wonder whether or not you consider yourself an even slightly just, and loving guy (though not of the infinite variety)? If so I'd love to know what do you tell yourself at night to assuage your own troubled heart concerning these immensely suffering creatures? Can you share?

    Yes, I'm pretty just and loving, I guess. All varieties of suffering trouble me, but there is only so much a mere mortal like myself can do about it. I do not consume any animal products, such as meat, dairy, leather, fur, etc. And while it makes me feel good that I may be, in some small way, assuaging overall suffering, there is still so much I cannot change, at least without disrupting the entire ecosystem and causing more suffering. I would love to live in a world in which beings need not die so that others may survive. It is easy to conceive of such a world. For instance, all creatures could photosynthesize. Or maybe, humans are the only living things. Humans could still suffer and exercise free will. If you think that such a world is impossible, I'd say that you're lacking in imagination. So god must have chosen to make animals suffer for some reason. Or maybe the world looks exactly as you'd expect if there were no caring force behind it.

    In the prison question, by "underrepresented" I meant in proportion to their population. I did not at all mean to imply that theism causes criminal behavior, only that people who according to this blog have no basis for their morality, seem to behave better than average.

    At the very least, this fact makes it difficult to claim that atheists are motivated by a desire to escape accountability. It also makes it harder to knock atheists for lacking an objective basis for their morality. While I think that secular arguments for objective morality can be made, the point isn't particularly important if people get along just fine following subjective notions of right and wrong. It may still be a fun philosophical exercise, but the answer may be culturally irrelevant.

    In rejecting the atheist worldview, theists often quote Dostoevsky, "When there is no god, all is permitted." But that just doesn't seem like the case, now does it? At least people don't act like it. Should we worry that Sweden may become a giant orgy of vile behavior because of their atheism? Or should we just admit that people don't need god to tell right from wrong?

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  7. kuhlmann said,
    From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

    How does this disprove the existence of a first cause? How do you know he had one? Do you have Jesus' blood? DNA? Hair sample maybe? Cheek swab? This is a "when did you stop beating your wife" fallacy.

    How is the immense suffering of animals in the wild compatible with an all-powerful, just, loving god?

    How do your demands of the performance of a deity disprove that deity's existence? A performance review of a deity is an absurdity. If there is a deity he does not answer to your or my demands to perform to my or your specifications. This is a category error fallacy in that no human can answer regarding the motives of a diety and that no human can force a deity to behave in the manner that the human prescribes. Deities and humans are two different categories; your demands of a deity are trivial in the mathematical sense, =0.

    Why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?

    (a)I seriously doubt that they are; however,
    (b)How does that data disprove the existence of a deity?

    Since Atheists generally reject morality, it is illogical to invoke morality as a case for Atheism. Instead of morality, Atheists create personal ethical constructs by which they judge other people (and deities). There are too many Atheists and therefore too many ethical constructs for any one person to adhere to without contradictory behaviors being involved. The moral Atheist is therefore a paradoxical, self-refuting self-contradiction. It is a logical fallacy.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A common Red Herring fallacy is to create the unanswerable question, then pretend that a refutation has occurred if it is not answered.

    For instance, "can your omnipotent god create a rock so big that even he can't lift it?" These absurdities are exercises in self-contradiction, posed as actual possibilities. (again category error fallacies)

    In other words, if your god can do everything, can he be a paradox, can he perform self-contradictory jobs at my behest? If not then he is not omnipotent is he?

    The question demands that god be a paradox in order to perform paradoxical jobs for the skeptic. But paradox is a definition of irrational. God is not irrational, but the skeptic is quite free to be so. The question is irrational and requires no answer beyond that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

    As [the other] Stan said, this question is pointless. I appreciate the attempt at beffuddling the apologist, but only if the attempt is worthwhile. This one, unfortunately, is in vain.

    The question regarding the compatibility of assumed divine attributes with observed natural phenomena, however, does not fit Stan's response below:

    How do your demands of the performance of a deity disprove that deity's existence? A performance review of a deity is an absurdity.

    The question is not a performance review, it pertains to the mutually incompatible attributes assigned to god (in the question, at least), and the observable fact of suffering en masse, in the animal kingdom. As such, your response is as meaningless as the 'Y-chromosome' question.

    Of course, rather than dance around the issue, the question should be restated as asking how Netlosh answers the Problem of Evil.

    Why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?

    (a)I seriously doubt that they are; however,
    (b)How does that data disprove the existence of a deity?


    In the case of (a), I agree, but only in the technical sense. I am well aware that the vast majority of prison inmates profess a religion of some kind, to the point that the professing atheist population of prisons is underrepresented with respect to the general non-prison population, but this belies a key truth: Inmates want to be freed, and they recognize that one way to hasten their freedom (by "good behavior" or parole) is to show themselves to be devout religionists, especially in a socially acceptable religion, and especially then in one which promotes repentance.

    It is not unlike church attendance by Basic Combat Trainees -- they attend church not so much for their abject piety, but for an escape from the duties that would be required of them if they didn't attend church.

    So yes, I agree that the data suggest atheists to be underrepresented in prisons, but I also agree that this data is skewed by the inmate's desire to appear pious, so as to avoid harsher conditions, or prolonged incarceration.

    As to (b), the contention that the question is irrelevant to the existence of a deity, this contention is nowhere opposed. The question is not intended to question the existence of a deity, but instead to question the source of morality and/or ethics.

    As my own answer to (a) noted, the contention is weak due to the reliability of the data, but if it were reliable, then the question would indeed be interesting to pose. Of course, we recognize that the data isn't reliable, so the question again becomes moot, but not because it attempts to dismiss a deity based on the professed religious affiliations of prison inmates.

    But there you go again, asserting general attributes of atheists without merit or argument. You claim that atheists "reject morality", but this is hardly the case. There are, in fact, two quite distinct camps in the atheist community, who hold either to Moral Relativism, or to Moral Absolutism, but (obviously) in neither case is the source of morality attributed to any deity.

    There are too many Atheists and therefore too many ethical constructs for any one person to adhere to without contradictory behaviors being involved.

    This statement is easily shown to be absurd, and even counter-productive to your point, if one merely replaces the term "Atheists" with the term "Theists", or, better yet, with the phrase "denominations of Christianity". Moreover, if you back up one category, and replace "Atheists" with "humans", the absurdity of your position becomes absolutely clear (if you will permit the pun): You claim an Absolute Morality, yet you recognize the subjectiveness of ethical constructs.

    Which is it?

    You are truly amusing, [other] Stan. You bandy about logical terminology, despite your inability to recognize your own continued use of those on which you harp the most. You draw the wrong conclusions, but for the right reasons, and you likewise draw the right conclusions, but for the wrong reasons. Not quite paradoxical, though, I would instead classify you as a walking (typing?) oxymoron.

    --
    Stan

    ReplyDelete
  10. "How does this disprove the existence of a first cause?"
    No, but God's DNA must be pretty, um, pretty, what with its supernaturalness and all.

    "How do you know he had one? Do you have Jesus' blood?"
    I almost got some, but my Catholic neighbour told me to stop poking him in the tummy after he came back from Mass. He was quite insistent on that point. Eventually, he took away my stick.

    "This is a category error fallacy in that no human can answer regarding the motives of a diety and that no human can force a deity to behave in the manner that the human prescribes. Deities and humans are two different categories; your demands of a deity are trivial in the mathematical sense, =0."
    So, we can't say whether God is good or not either, right?

    "Since Atheists generally reject morality, it is illogical to invoke morality as a case for Atheism."
    ...really? Absolute morality, perhaps. Supernaturally revealed, most probably. But all morality?

    "There are too many Atheists and therefore too many ethical constructs for any one person to adhere to without contradictory behaviors being involved."
    Cross out "Atheists", then put in "atheists" (we don't capitalize it. We decided that at our last meeting). Then, cross out "atheists" and put in "humanity". We (including you) are still figuring out what works. This is why you and a Conquistador probably wouldn't see eye to eye. Luckily, they're all dead, which makes the language barrier less problematic, even if the conversations suffer due to the lack of replies on their part.

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  11. "How do you know he had one? Do you have Jesus' blood?"

    I almost got some, but my Catholic neighbour told me to stop poking him in the tummy after he came back from Mass. He was quite insistent on that point. Eventually, he took away my stick.


    modusoperandi, you beat me it. Transubstantiation-- it's good stuff.

    Now, stan...

    Right from the first sentence, you commit the Blackburne Gambit fallacy. A bold move, but don't think that I didn't catch it. Your response to question #2 is a textbook example of the Hokey Pokey fallacy. Either put it in or take it out, you can't have it both ways. And finally, the stuff about "paradoxical, self-refuting, blah blah"-- nothing but the Fallacious Phallus Fellatio fallacy.

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  12. Kuhlmann,

    Sorry bout the delayed response. I hadn't noticed (until now) that you did in fact respond to me. Anyways, without further delay here it goes:

    Neither you nor anyone else here seems too interested in the Y chromosome thing, so we can skip that one.

    It seems to me that both M and I directly addressed your question (to the best of our abilities anyhow) in addition to both the Stan's leveling charges of it being nothing more than a 'vain' and 'pointless' effort to 'befuddling the apologist' (STHTT) thats built on fallacious reasonings (Stan the contributor). Any aspersions cast by your last statement which (intentional or otherwise) may insinuate that myself and others have recoiled from the supposed force of the question should be dismissed...

    Human suffering is too easily justified by original sin or free will.

    'Original sin' and 'free will' are not meant to be 'justifications' for human suffering.

    But I find it really difficult to understand why animals would need to suffer when they are incapable of sin.

    I can only assume that you are referring to the suffering animals that are hunted and eaten by other animals. This happens so that the other animals and their young won't starve to death...
    ---------------------------------

    I said: In the mean time, I wonder whether or not you consider yourself an even slightly just, and loving guy (though not of the infinite variety)? If so I'd love to know what do you tell yourself at night to assuage your own troubled heart concerning these immensely suffering creatures? Can you share?

    To which you responded:

    Yes, I'm pretty just and loving..I do not consume any animal products, such as meat, dairy, leather, fur, etc. And while it makes me feel good that I may be, in some small way, assuaging overall suffering, there is still so much I cannot change, at least without disrupting the entire ecosystem and causing more suffering.

    My question wasn't about your efforts to 'assuage the overall suffering' but about how do you, who purports to be at least somewhat 'just' and 'loving' all the while these animals are yet suffering immensely despite your *best* efforts, 'assuage your own troubled heart'.

    I don't see how 'goodness' or 'justice' are dependent on the state of affairs of the gazelle. Perhaps if you could make that connection for me then we could move this discussion further along. For example, are you good/just because of your efforts to 'assuage the overall suffering'(or vice versa even). Can you be good/just in spite it all?

    I would love to live in a world in which beings need not die so that others may survive. It is easy to conceive of such a world. For instance, all creatures could photosynthesize. Or maybe, humans are the only living things. Humans could still suffer and exercise free will. If you think that such a world is impossible, I'd say that you're lacking in imagination. So god must have chosen to make animals suffer for some reason.

    'Impossible' isn't the word I would call it, though I duly note your attempt to anticipate my response. 'Irrelevant' is how I'd actually describe it(all the while preserving the integrity of my imagination). We live in this world, as it is...

    Or maybe the world looks exactly as you'd expect if there were no caring force behind it.

    Because the animals are suffering immensely? If this is the yard-stick, then it seems to me we wouldn't be able to say that there is any caring force that exist within the world either. The fact that random acts of unnecessary (and in some cases arguably undeserved) kindness DO occur concurrently with and despite the 'immense suffering' of these animals serve to undermine the very integrity of your line of argument, IMHO...
    ----------------------------

    In the prison question, by "underrepresented" I meant in proportion to their population. I did not at all mean to imply that theism causes criminal behavior, only that people who according to this blog have no basis for their morality, seem to behave better than average.

    Your use stats here is illegitimate. Societies are a lot more complex than the argument you've laid out. Atheist are 'underrepresented' in prisons because they make up far less of the populations.

    *sidenote*

    Can anyone please tell me why the CIA world-book profile on Sweden doesn't reflect a nation of 'atheist'? It has the religion figures at "Lutheran 87%, other (includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) 13%". I'm wondering if this is suppose to just be he figures for the entire population or just the part that claims to be religious in some form or another..

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  13. "Can anyone please tell me why the CIA world-book profile on Sweden doesn't reflect a nation of 'atheist'? It has the religion figures at "Lutheran 87%, other (includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) 13%". I'm wondering if this is suppose to just be he figures for the entire population or just the part that claims to be religious in some form or another.."

    I don't know anything about the CIA world book, but you can look here and here for some stats. One reason for confusion is probably this (from the second link):

    "Today about 78%[citation needed] of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, but the number is decreasing by about one per cent every year, and Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population).[3] The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of their parents were a member. Since 1996, all children that are baptised become members."

    I believe I am still formally a member of the church of Sweden, since I have never explicitly asked to resign from it. It's not something I ever think about - most swedes don't think much about religion at all. That's all in the past, for most of us.

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  14. Adonais,

    Thanks for the info. After having read them, it seems obvious to me that the stat is based on the question of 'church attendance' as opposed to what people actually believe.

    Kuhlmann,

    The problem for how you seem to have interpreted this (I'm going on the stats that Adonais shared) is the fact that many people don't go to church for various reasons that have nothing to do with the question of whether or not they believe God exist. Taking this record of 'church attendance' as *anything* more than just a indicator of church going habits is not wise.

    Come to think of it, the fact that here in the US, where most people are said to be 'religious', there is no such thing as 'rush hour traffic' on Sunday mornings, stand as a strong contradiction to such a sweeping interpretation, again IMHO... Given the fact that the stats for atheism (4%) here are lower than the stats for unemployment (5% as as of May 08), we should expect to see a lot more traffic jams than we do...

    Also in my own experience, most people (and I grew up in the 'hood') I personally know that are imprisoned (and I only say this in the interest of staying relevant to the question posed) didn't attend church regularly (if at all). But if you asked them whether they believed in God prior to their incarceration, they would unhesitatingly reply yes...

    I realize this is a separate issue from the one pose in the original question so I'll refrain from yapping on about it for now. My point is to simply say that one (church attendance) has nothing to do with the other (a belief that no god exist)...

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  15. Hi Netlosh,

    It seems to me that both M and I directly addressed your question (to the best of our abilities anyhow)...

    Ok. I apologize for being dismissive when you actually wanted to talk about this. I just didn't think that responses like "No one" and 'I don't know-- I'll God ask when I die' showed a lot of interest. But I'll take your word for it.

    It is clear from your responses that you, M and Stan all believe that Jesus was actually born of a virgin. Not all people who call themselves Christians believe so. Why not? Because it's a pretty outlandish claim to just about anyone who knows where babies come from.

    You've never met me. You don't have any samples of my blood or hair, but I bet that you can say with near certainty where my Y chromosome came from, just from the knowledge that I am a man.

    Also, many liberal theologians interpret the virgin birth of Jesus as mythological-- a nice story, but not based on fact. You can interpret the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus metaphorically and retain many of the teachings of Christianity while not having to believe that the laws of physics are locally violated by god's will. Maybe you don't mind believing such things, but for me, as long as "It's a miracle!" counts as a valid explanation, it would become difficult to doubt any claim.

    I don't see how 'goodness' or 'justice' are dependent on the state of affairs of the gazelle. Perhaps if you could make that connection for me then we could move this discussion further along. For example, are you good/just because of your efforts to 'assuage the overall suffering'(or vice versa even). Can you be good/just in spite it all?

    I really do think that this is an important question, so I'll try to press it further.

    My education in science caused me to see god as an insufficient and unnecessary explanation for how we got here, and probably played the largest role in my conversion from Christianity. However, the first seeds of my disbelief were sown by my inability to reconcile my understanding of god as just and loving with the evil and suffering I saw around me.

    Why would a god with the ability to create the world in any way he wanted, choose to fill it with such awfulness? Christianity's explanation is that evil was not created by god but is the result of humans exercising their free will to act in opposition to god. But this does not explain why animals should have to suffer. Millions of animals die slow painful deaths from starvation, and dehydration. Why would a god worthy of being called "good" choose to make animals suffer?

    The question is relevant to whether or not the world we see is likely to have an all-loving, all-powerful, just creator behind it.

    At least one of these statements must be wrong:
    1) God is all-powerful
    2) God created this world
    3) God does not do evil
    4) It is evil to allow an innocent being to suffer when you have the ability to prevent it at no personal expense
    5) Preventing animal suffering would come at no personal expense to god
    6) There is a world conceivable by us (and therefore easily conceivable by god) in which innocent animals do not suffer.

    "This is the world we've got" is not a satisfactory response. God is under no requirements to create only this kind of universe. As I've said, there are plenty of ways in which the universe could have been created in which humans would have free will and yet there would be no animal suffering.

    Also, the presence of random acts of kindness does not at all undermine my argument. My worldview can account for both animal suffering and human altruism, while yours can only account for the latter.

    What is my worldview? Animals suffer because the development of negative feedback mechanisms improved their ability to avoid potentially fatal situations. There is no power making sure that only good and just things happen. Why do we feel animal suffering is wrong? Because we've evolved the ability to empathize. This is important for carrying out complex social interactions, which has been one of the key reasons why the human species has been so successful. As for altruism, Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, does a better job of explaining it than I ever could. Natural selection has selected for traits conducive to social cooperation many times, in many different species. If you're a selfish bastard and the group decides to cooperate with everyone but you, you're not going to last very long.

    So I hope now that you understand why I feel that animal suffering is incompatible with an all-powerful, loving god and why, when I look at the world, I don't get the sense that someone is looking out for this world.

    Atheist are 'underrepresented' in prisons because they make up far less of the populations.

    I still don't understand the math behind your argument that the small size of the atheist population explains their *proportional* underrepresentation in prisons. But this probably was a bad way to ask my question, anyway. I was mainly just interested in your take on the necessity of belief in god for moral behavior.

    As for Sweden, this survey is probably more informative than churchgoing stats:

    http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_225_report_en.pdf

    On pg. 9, in response to the question, "Which of these statements comes closest to your beliefs?", Sweden (SE), responded:

    23%: I believe there is a God
    53%: I believe there is some sort of spirit or life force
    23%: I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force

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  16. Kulmann,

    As usual, I'm going to try keeping my responses as short and to the point as I can muster...

    Ok. I apologize for being dismissive when you actually wanted to talk about this. I just didn't think that responses like "No one" and 'I don't know-- I'll God ask when I die' showed a lot of interest.

    Actually what I said was "I actually don't have direct knowledge concerning the modus operandi of this, or any other, supernatural occurrences. Such knowledge is naturally beyond our limited capacities".

    This mean I see this as nothing less than a miracle. I took your question to be at worst (as STHTT stated previously) a 'vain' and 'pointless' attempt to befuddle the apologist, and at best an indirect argument against miracles. I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt while reserving the right to lack interest in any 'vain' and 'pointless' arguments.

    It is clear from your responses that you, M and Stan all believe that Jesus was actually born of a virgin.

    Well I do. Lets let the others speak for themselves if they choose to address this with you...

    Not all people who call themselves Christians believe so.

    Yea, and some people who call themselves 'Christians' like to dance around with snakes. Nevertheless, this is irrelevant to what you asked me...

    Because it's a pretty outlandish claim to just about anyone who knows where babies come from

    Supernatural occurrences tend to have that characteristic a bit.

    You've never met me. You don't have any samples of my blood or hair, but I bet that you can say with near certainty where my Y chromosome came from, just from the knowledge that I am a man.

    So? We're not talking about you...

    Also, many liberal theologians interpret the virgin birth of Jesus as mythological-- a nice story, but not based on fact.

    I'm fully aware of that and I disagree with them every chance I get...

    You can interpret the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus metaphorically and retain many of the teachings of Christianity while not having to believe that the laws of physics are locally violated by god's will.

    At least that's what a lot of these 'liberal' theologians say anyhow. I think its pretty obvious I don't agree.

    Maybe you don't mind believing such things, but for me, as long as "It's a miracle!" counts as a valid explanation, it would become difficult to doubt any claim.

    Come to think of it, I really don't mind believing 'such things'. Fyi, no parts of my statements that you may reasonably equate with your 'it's a miracle' bit, were meant to be an 'explanation' but a descriptor. I explicitly stated that I believed such knowledge to be beyond our capacities...
    --------------------------------

    I had said: I don't see how 'goodness' or 'justice' are dependent on the state of affairs of the gazelle. Perhaps if you could make that connection for me then we could move this discussion further along. For example, are you good/just because of your efforts to 'assuage the overall suffering'(or vice versa even). Can you be good/just in spite it all?

    Then you said: I really do think that this is an important question, so I'll try to press it further.

    Which question, mine (if so which one) or your's?

    My education in science caused me to see god as an insufficient and unnecessary explanation for how we got here, and probably played the largest role in my conversion from Christianity. However, the first seeds of my disbelief were sown by my inability to reconcile my understanding of god as just and loving with the evil and suffering I saw around me. Why would a god with the ability to create the world in any way he wanted, choose to fill it with such awfulness?

    Who said God created the world as it is? Not me, nor the Bible...

    Anyways this is the typical 'problem of evil' question apologist have been dealing with for centuries now. The question never changes and neither does the answer. If this was truly troubling you so, I don't see how an educated person such as yourself (what was that again, 'science'?) wouldn't avail yourself of the means to ease your troubled mind...Again, thats if you were truly interested... So there be no mistake, I'm questioning your sincerity here...

    Christianity's explanation is that evil was not created by god but is the result of humans exercising their free will to act in opposition to god. But this does not explain why animals should have to suffer. Millions of animals die slow painful deaths from starvation, and dehydration.

    Christianity goes on to explain that the time man fell from his original state, he had already been given dominion over the earth and everything within it. Short story even shorter, at the same time men were cursed for 'exercising their free will to act in opposition to god', everything else was cursed also. You should recall from your Sunday School lessons...

    Why would a god worthy of being called "good" choose to make animals suffer?

    My considerations of God worthiness of being called 'good' isn't at all based upon the state of affairs of any animals...

    The question is relevant to whether or not the world we see is likely to have an all-loving, all-powerful, just creator behind it.

    There is a certain utility for getting the answers you seek by actually asking the questions you mean to....There's no difference between what you say here and what you stated earlier so I'll just refer you to my previous response to this.

    At least one of these statements must be wrong:
    1) God is all-powerful
    2) God created this world
    3) God does not do evil
    4) It is evil to allow an innocent being to suffer when you have the ability to prevent it at no personal expense
    5) Preventing animal suffering would come at no personal expense to god
    6) There is a world conceivable by us (and therefore easily conceivable by god) in which innocent animals do not suffer.


    They are all true... Your turn!

    "This is the world we've got" is not a satisfactory response.

    It's not a satisfactory response to what?

    God is under no requirements to create only this kind of universe. As I've said, there are plenty of ways in which the universe could have been created in which humans would have free will and yet there would be no animal suffering.

    God isn't under any requirement to do anything. I too possess quite an imagination. But when it comes to imagining what it's like to actually be god and creating a universe, with free will beings running around, my fantasies are always qualified by the fact that I don't really know what I'm talking about.

    Also, the presence of random acts of kindness does not at all undermine my argument.

    Yes it does. It undermines the thought that the 'goodness' of God, yourself, or anyone else are in anyway dependent on the state of affair of 'immensely suffering animals in the wild'.

    My worldview can account for both animal suffering and human altruism, while yours can only account for the latter. What is my worldview?

    Atheism, duh...

    Animals suffer because the development of negative feedback mechanisms improved their ability to avoid potentially fatal situations.

    At least I finally know what you told yourself to ease your oh so troubled heart. But here's the thing, having been enlightened by your 'worldview', one (i.e. me) would think that you too would find troubling describing this as 'suffering'. Is it somehow not true that the actual appropriate term for what you've described here would be called 'surviving'?

    After having been through such duress, to the point of nothing less than the conversion of your worldview, all to discover that what you'd interpreted to be 'suffering', was the very survival mechanism of these animals! Too bad you didn't know M back then...

    There is no power making sure that only good and just things happen. Why do we feel animal suffering is wrong? Because we've evolved the ability to empathize. This is important for carrying out complex social interactions, which has been one of the key reasons why the human species has been so successful.

    We don't carry out 'complex social interactions' with animals. Any empathy humans feel concerning the plight of animals are usually(assuming these folks are are sane) qualified with common sense notions like that inherent in the response M gave you on this. And then of course the whole 'negative feedback mechanisms' stuff is always good for a good night of rest for the heavy heart...

    As for altruism, Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, does a better job of explaining it than I ever could. Natural selection has selected for traits conducive to social cooperation many times, in many different species. If you're a selfish bastard and the group decides to cooperate with everyone but you, you're not going to last very long.

    What planet have you guys been living on? Last time I check there are plenty 'selfish bastards' that have done and are doing just fine. You should probably just say it you way next time...

    The problem with Dawkins is his chronic proclivity towards yapping on well beyond the scope of his actual expertise(religion, anthropology, sociology, ect...), all the while illegitimately feigning an authority on such matters based upon his expertise in his actual field (biology). The problem with people like you is your proclivity to listen and parrot whatever he says uncritically...

    So I hope now that you understand why I feel that animal suffering is incompatible with an all-powerful, loving god and why, when I look at the world, I don't get the sense that someone is looking out for this world.

    I do...We'll see if you have the ability to understand anything I've said without using that procrustean bed of yours...
    .................................

    I had saidAtheist are 'underrepresented' in prisons because they make up far less of the populations.

    You replied I still don't understand the math behind your argument that the small size of the atheist population explains their *proportional* underrepresentation in prisons.

    Its really not that difficult to get. Starting from the assumption that atheist are no more, or less, prone to criminal behavior by their nature than anyone else. If, then, there are vastly more non-atheist than atheist in the US (which there are as you know), then the fact that there are more non-atheist in the prison system isn't strange at all (in fact it's what you'd expect)...It's really not very difficult...

    But this probably was a bad way to ask my question, anyway. I was mainly just interested in your take on the necessity of belief in god for moral behavior.

    As I said before, there is a certain utility for getting the answers you seek by actually asking the questions you mean to ... My take is that you don't have to believe in God to behave morally any more that you do so to breath clean air (i.e.'He causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust'). Can morality been justified apart from God? Absolutely not... Do atheist have a reason for morality? No you don't. Is a 'reason' for morality necessary? Yes. Is there a reason why atheist are able to behave morally (somewhat anyhow) even though they have no 'reason' for it? Yes...

    As for Sweden, this survey is probably more informative than churchgoing stats

    Thanks for that. What is the 'informative' data relevant to our little discussion here that should I be taking from this again? Until you clarify I stand by what I said previously on this matter...

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  17. "What planet have you guys been living on? Last time I check there are plenty 'selfish bastards' that have done and are doing just fine."

    If you have read The Selfish Gene you should recall that a mixed population of reciprocal altruists and moral cheaters is an evolutionarily stable strategy (or a Nash equilibrium, for the mathematically inclined). The fact that there are clusters of selfish bastards thriving within a dominantly altruistic population is entirely consistent with predictions from evolutionary dynamics.

    A population of only defectors (in game theory parlance) would have trouble forging the kind of cooperative society we have today, while a population of unconditional cooperators will always be vulnerable to invasion by defectors. However, a mixed population of conditional cooperators (reciprocal altruism) and defectors (selfish bastards) can settle in a stable equilibrium is somewhere in-between.

    "The problem with Dawkins is his chronic proclivity towards yapping on well beyond the scope of his actual expertise(religion, anthropology, sociology, ect...)"

    Well, at least concerning reciprocal altruism, you should also recall that Dawkins in The Selfish Gene was merely reporting on the results by Hamilton, Trivers, Maynard Smith and others, and presenting it in the context of selfish gene theory.

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  18. Thanks for your detailed response. Sadly, though, you miss some of my general ideas by making point-by-point rebuttals of statements taken out of context.

    Example:

    Me:
    Not all people who call themselves Christians believe so.

    You:
    Yea, and some people who call themselves 'Christians' like to dance around with snakes. Nevertheless, this is irrelevant to what you asked me...


    If you read the first four paragraphs of my comment as a whole, then you would see that that sentence was part of my explanation of what I was trying to find out by asking the question about the Y chromosome. I was simply saying that I couldn't assume you would answer in any particular way just from knowing that you are a Christian. Based on your response I was able to learn that you are a special type of Christian-- one who believes that miracle stories such as the virgin birth are literally true. My intention was to inform you that I was now aware of that and to explain why it could not be assumed.

    At the same time, I wanted to call you out for believing a ridiculous thing-- something clearly contradicted by science: that someone could be born of a virgin. You say that you are perfectly happy believing in miracles because they are beyond our capacity to understand. But knowing where babies come from-- all babies-- is well within our capacity to understand.

    As for the question of evil, yes, apologists have been dealing with it in one form or another for centuries. But that doesn't mean that there has ever been a satisfactory answer. You can say that I only remained unconvinced because I never made a sincere effort to seek a satisfying answer. And you can say that things may have turned out differently if only I had a better Sunday school teacher, but I don't think so. "God put a curse on the aminals" isn't exactly a brilliant response. If only I was better at parroting my religious instructors uncritically.

    I really don't understand your accusation that I'm using my knowledge of how pain mechanisms evolved to somehow 'ease my troubled heart'. My heart is not at ease. I am aware of pain's utility in propagating genes, but my heart is still troubled by the suffering that animals go through.

    What planet have you guys been living on?

    The theory of natural selection does not predict that selfish behavior will be eradicated. There are plenty of cases (maybe even most cases) in which being selfish pays off. The point is only that it sometimes pays to cooperate as well, and that is why limited cooperation has evolved. We've developed moral intuitions, which are like shortcuts that lead us to better personal utility in the long run. Those shortcuts don't go away just because in some particular situation the shortcut wouldn't benefit us. We follow them anyway, which leads to what appears to be a random act of kindness.

    Your statement, though, is really about today's fitness landscape and how it would not make it difficult for selfish people to reproduce. I think you're right. However, modern civilization is a tiny blip on an evolutionary timescale. To evaluate theories of cooperation evolution, you should look at the way in which our ancestors lived for the past few million years, not the past 4000. For an approximation, look at the social structures of chimpanzees and bonobos and ask yourself how long an individual would survive if they were NEVER kind to others.

    I'm not just spouting Dawkins here. There are many scientists working on understanding this stuff. I have analyzed it critically and I recommend you do the same.

    As for the prison stuff, I now see the problem. We are using different definitions of "underrepresented" and "proportional". I say that atheists are underrepresented in prison in the way that people say that blacks are underrepresented in engineering schools-- not that blacks make up less than 50% of engineering students, but that they make up less than 14% of engineering students, which is their percentage of the overall population. Let's say that out of 100 people, 90 were theist and 10 atheist. If 20 of them were in prison and of those, only 1 was atheist, then atheists would be underrepresented: 1/20 < 10/90. But if 5 out of the 20 were atheist, then atheists would be overrepresented: 5/20 > 10/90. So, now I hope that you can see why, by my definition of "underrepresented", the fact that atheists are a minority cannot explain why they are underrepresented in prisons.

    What is the 'informative' data relevant to our little discussion here that should I be taking from this again?

    It's not particularly relevant. It was just a response to your direct question:

    Can anyone please tell me why the CIA world-book profile on Sweden doesn't reflect a nation of 'atheist'?

    Atheism is defined by whether or not you believe in god, not whether or not you go to church. So I thought that this survey would elucidate why Sweden is considered to be pretty strongly atheist while at the same time this fact is not reflected by their religious affiliations in the CIA world factbook. If you don't find this information useful then ignore it. I was just trying to be helpful.

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  19. Adonais said: If you have read The Selfish Gene you should recall that a mixed population of reciprocal altruists and moral cheaters is an evolutionarily stable strategy (or a Nash equilibrium, for the mathematically inclined). The fact that there are clusters of selfish bastards thriving within a dominantly altruistic population is entirely consistent with predictions from evolutionary dynamics.

    I haven't read it. I assumed that since Kuhlmann brought it up, then he actually read it himself (or listens attentively to someone who did)and his descriptions of what the book said was accurate, hence my response. I do take from your response that between the two of you, at least one of you guys are only pretending to have read it.

    A population of only defectors (in game theory parlance) would have trouble forging the kind of cooperative society we have today, while a population of unconditional cooperators will always be vulnerable to invasion by defectors. However, a mixed population of conditional cooperators (reciprocal altruism) and defectors (selfish bastards) can settle in a stable equilibrium is somewhere in-between.

    Assuming that you actually read the book and actually know what your talking about, I would take issue with all parts of the theory, due to several unsubstantiated assumption.

    I'm going to refrain from harping on on this, because I'm not sure if your just attempting to 'set the record straight' on what Dawkins actually said. If so, fair enough...

    I said: "The problem with Dawkins is his chronic proclivity towards yapping on well beyond the scope of his actual expertise(religion, anthropology, sociology, ect...)"

    Well, at least concerning reciprocal altruism, you should also recall that Dawkins in The Selfish Gene was merely reporting on the results by Hamilton, Trivers, Maynard Smith and others, and presenting it in the context of selfish gene theory.

    I don't recall because I didn't read it, but I take you word for it... At least until I come upon a reason to dispute it further...

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  20. As I admitted from the start, The Selfish Gene does a better job of responding to the apparent paradox between survival of the fittest and altruism than I ever could. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that I was unable to convey the complex ideas of the book to your satisfaction in a single sentence. Also, as adonais clarified, these ideas were not originally Dawkins'. The Selfish Gene is a "popular science" book, which takes the work of many scientists from different fields and puts it into a digestible form. I have read the book, and you've inspired me to read it again. Also, this discussion has shown me that I need to be more careful in the future and avoid summarizing scientific theories in a sentence or two. Doing so is a disservice to the ideas I'm trying to defend. So let me just say this. I believe that animals suffer and at the same time people perform random acts of kindness. These ideas are compatible with each other, consistent with science, and consistent with the a world without a god. I see the suffering of animals as inconsistent with the Christian worldview. I am truly interested in hearing the best that apologists have to offer on this subject. I assume that "God cursed the aminals" does not do justice to the sophistication of their argument, so I would appreciate a reference. If you are interested in what science has to say on the topic, I can suggest Chapter 12 of The Selfish Gene, Chapters 16 and 17 of Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Dennett, or the NY Times article: "The Moral Instinct" by Steven Pinker. As I said, I really am interested in getting a reference from you or anyone else here about how Christians explain why innocents suffer.

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  21. Kuhlmann said: As I admitted from the start, The Selfish Gene does a better job of responding to the apparent paradox between survival of the fittest and altruism than I ever could. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that I was unable to convey the complex ideas of the book to your satisfaction in a single sentence.

    The problem wasn't your failure to convey the 'complex ideas' to any supposed 'satisfaction' of mine. In fact, I had no means of judging your competence to do so one way or the other, seeing as I've never read the book. The problem is that your conveyance of these 'complex ideas' was just plain old inaccurate (much like your assessment of the 'problem' here).

    It really doesn't matter to me which one of y'all actually know what y'all are talking about (and I note that your last post to seems to be conceding that to be Adonais), I don't agree the 'complex ideas' anyhow. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with the accuracy of you guys little book report here, but because of the ideas themselves. If you want to carry the discussion from there I'm good with that.

    Also, if you'd like to take ownership of your ill-informed description of Dawkins position, as actually reflecting your own thoughts on the subject at hand, that would be fine. Right or wrong as far as it relates to Dawkins position, at the very least, you thought enough of these ideas to present it here. I've challenged the your position, so defend it if you can...

    Also, as adonais clarified, these ideas were not originally Dawkins'. The Selfish Gene is a "popular science" book, which takes the work of many scientists from different fields and puts it into a digestible form. I have read the book, and you've inspired me to read it again.

    Should I take this to mean that what you conveyed doesn't accurately reflect the position of your 'world-view'? Shall we shelve this conversation till such time as you can return to the feet your priest to get clarity on what your suppose to say and think on this?

    Also, this discussion has shown me that I need to be more careful in the future and avoid summarizing scientific theories in a sentence or two. Doing so is a disservice to the ideas I'm trying to defend.

    You have a demonstrable proclivity to reductionism in general and not just with 'scientific theories'. If you work on that I'm sure you won't be given to making the same type of error again. Until then...

    So let me just say this. I believe that animals suffer and at the same time people perform random acts of kindness. These ideas are compatible with each other, consistent with science, and consistent with the a world without a god.

    I heard you the first time you said it, no need to repeat yourself...

    I see the suffering of animals as inconsistent with the Christian worldview.

    I think I'm probably a bit more versed on the Christian worldview than you are. Far be it for me to advise you, but I really think you'd do well to abandon any hubris notions to the contrary and spend more time evaluating and clarifying your own position, as oppose to wasting your time on 'vain' and 'pointless' attempts at ambushing the ill-prepared theist.

    Also, there are several issues to come out of this question that I brought up that you seem to have recoiled from addressing. Whats up with that? I believe you said your intent was to 'spark some interesting conversation.'

    I am truly interested in hearing the best that apologists have to offer on this subject... I really am interested in getting a reference from you or anyone else here about how Christians explain why innocents suffer.

    I recommend Glen Millers articles on both the 'problem of evil' (http://www.christian-thinktank.com/gr5part1.html), and the issue concerning the 'immense suffering of animals in the wild' (http://www.christian-thinktank.com/predator.html)? Sorry I don't know how to do the hyper-link thing yet. There are others, but I've always found Glen Miller's approach to be very candid, lucid, and thorough. His articles are always sourced very well...

    I assume that "God cursed the animals" does not do justice to the sophistication of their argument, so I would appreciate a reference.

    This is just one more example of your reductionist tendencies at work. You should take something for that...

    If you are interested in what science has to say on the topic, I can suggest Chapter 12 of The Selfish Gene, Chapters 16 and 17 of Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Dennett, or the NY Times article: "The Moral Instinct" by Steven Pinker.

    Do you mean 'science' as in that which is the product of the 'scientific method'? Perhaps we should get into a conversation about the awful habit a lot of you guys have with equivocating what ever these good gentlemen say as the voice of Science itself.

    Thanks for the references though. I'll check them out when I get a chance.

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  22. Kuhlmann I thought I'd responded to this post already. However it seems you have a bit more in it than I recall and my response is strangely missing. No worries though I'm up for going at it once more.

    Thanks for your detailed response. Sadly, though, you miss some of my general ideas by making point-by-point rebuttals of statements taken out of context.

    Example:

    Me:Not all people who call themselves Christians believe so.

    You:Yea, and some people who call themselves 'Christians' like to dance around with snakes. Nevertheless, this is irrelevant to what you asked me...

    If you read the first four paragraphs of my comment as a whole, then you would see that that sentence was part of my explanation of what I was trying to find out by asking the question about the Y chromosome. I was simply saying that I couldn't assume you would answer in any particular way just from knowing that you are a Christian.


    I read you entire post as a whole and responded appropriately given the actual context.

    'Based on your response I was able to learn that you are a special type of Christian-- one who believes that miracle stories such as the virgin birth are literally true'

    Actually it's common knowledge that most Christians aren't in the habit of denying the virgin birth. There's simply nothing new or phenomenal about it...

    My intention was to inform you that I was now aware of that and to explain why it could not be assumed.At the same time, I wanted to call you out for believing a ridiculous thing-- something clearly contradicted by science: that someone could be born of a virgin.

    No 'science' hasn't and it can't..m.

    You say that you are perfectly happy believing in miracles because they are beyond our capacity to understand.

    No I didn't...

    But knowing where babies come from-- all babies-- is well within our capacity to understand.

    True. This wasn't just any child though, and no ones making the case that virgin births are normal. That's why we call them 'miracles'...

    As for the question of evil, yes, apologists have been dealing with it in one form or another for centuries. But that doesn't mean that there has ever been a satisfactory answer.

    Whether your satisfied with the answers or not is irrelevant. I'm not satisfied with you criteria for a supposed sound argument. That being the oh so elusive 'satisfactory' response from theist...

    You can say that I only remained unconvinced because I never made a sincere effort to seek a satisfying answer. And you can say that things may have turned out differently if only I had a better Sunday school teacher, but I don't think so.

    I could, but I haven't.

    "God put a curse on the animals" isn't exactly a brilliant response.

    What's even more important is that it isn't my response either.

    If only I was better at parroting my religious instructors uncritically.

    You parrot just fine. :^)

    I really don't understand your accusation that I'm using my knowledge of how pain mechanisms evolved to somehow 'ease my troubled heart'. My heart is not at ease. I am aware of pain's utility in propagating genes, but my heart is still troubled by the suffering that animals go through.

    So how do you settle yourself down enough to sleep despite all that immense suffering?

    The theory of natural selection does not predict that selfish behavior will be eradicated.

    I wasn't aware that it was a behavioral theory to begin with. In fact I'm pretty sure it's not!

    There are plenty of cases (maybe even most cases) in which being selfish pays off. The point is only that it sometimes pays to cooperate as well, and that is why limited cooperation has evolved. We've developed moral intuitions, which are like shortcuts that lead us to better personal utility in the long run. Those shortcuts don't go away just because in some particular situation the shortcut wouldn't benefit us. We follow them anyway, which leads to what appears to be a random act of kindness statement, though, is really about today's fitness landscape and how it would not make it difficult for selfish people to reproduce. I think you're right. However, modern civilization is a tiny blip on an evolutionary timescale. To evaluate theories of cooperation evolution, you should look at the way in which our ancestors lived for the past few million years, not the past 4000. For an approximation, look at the social structures of chimpanzees and bonobos and ask yourself how long an individual would survive if they were NEVER kind to others.I'm not just spouting Dawkins here. There are many scientists working on understanding this stuff.

    I don't have a clue as to why your rabbling on in such a manner. Is all this to support your claim that you worldview account for 'altruism'(which was off topic as well)?

    I have analyzed it critically and I recommend you do the same.

    What is the 'it' your referring to here?

    As for the prison stuff, I now see the problem. We are using different definitions of "under represented" and "proportional". I say that atheists are underrepresented in prison in the way that people say that blacks are underrepresented in engineering schools-- not that blacks make up less than 50% of engineering students, but that they make up less than 14% of engineering students, which is their percentage of the overall population.

    Oh okay, that clears it all up! *scoff*

    Let's say that out of 100 people, 90 were theist and 10 atheist. If 20 of them were in prison and of those, only 1 was atheist, then atheists would be underrepresented: 1/20 < 10/90. But if 5 out of the 20 were atheist, then atheists would be overrepresented: 5/20 > 10/90. So, now I hope that you can see why, by my definition of "underrepresented", the fact that atheists are a minority cannot explain why they are underrepresented in prisons.

    Your definition of underepresentation wasn't lost on me. My answer in 'light' of such remains the same. I see no challenge in a single word you've have yet to say to give me reason to change it...

    It's not particularly relevant. It was just a response to your direct question:Can anyone please tell me why the CIA world-book profile on Sweden doesn't reflect a nation of 'atheist'?

    What is it with you and keeping your story straight? You brought it up because I said the other stat Adonais shared was based on 'church attendance' patterns as opposed to directly concerning the worldviews of people...

    Atheism is defined by whether or not you believe in god, not whether or not you go to church. So I thought that this survey would elucidate why Sweden is considered to be pretty strongly atheist while at the same time this fact is not reflected by their religious affiliations in the CIA world factbook. If you don't find this information useful then ignore it. I was just trying to be helpful.

    Seems like pretty weak grounds, Imho. In that survey atheist were still a pretty clear minority so I don't get the victory dance around Sweden (not that I really care anyhow). God only knows what people mean when they say they believe in some 'spirit or force' or why some often say stuff like this when they actually do believe in God or really don't... Your stat doesn't necessarily contradict the CIA one. Thanks thoough if I hadn't said it before...

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  23. Netlosh,

    I beg your patience as I summarize part of our discussion to this point. I find it helpful in weeding out misunderstandings.

    You claimed that the occurrence of random acts of kindness in the world undermined my argument that a world with a loving, just god would not allow animals to suffer. I then claimed that my worldview could account for both of these occurrences simultaneously, while yours could only account for the 'kindness' part. I then gave a very coarse summary of how sociobiologists explain the evolution of altruism. You responded by saying that this was a poor explanation because there are selfish people all around us who get away with it. I then gave a slightly more detailed description of the theory and explained why the selective pressures involved in the development of altruism are very different from those present today. For this reason, your rebuttal does no damage to the theory. You may have other reasons for believing that the models developed by sociobiologists fail to adequately account for the presence of altruism, and if so, I'd like to hear them. And come to think of it, I bet that the journals Nature and Science would be interested as well.

    An unfortunate thread in our conversation has been your accusations that I am bowing at the feet of my savior Richard Dawkins, simply because I admitted that he is more knowledgeable and eloquent than I am regarding the theories of sociobiology and because even my own understanding would be difficult to condense to the size of a comment box. When I attempted to communicate my understanding, you said that I was 'rambling'.

    But I think that this raises an important point. Our scientific understanding of the world is growing far too rapidly for any individual to keep up. We accept the conclusions of scientists not because we have personally repeated their experiments, or even understand the details of their theories, but because we trust the method by which their conclusions were found and reviewed. Some dismiss this as 'faith' but it is far from being belief without evidence. I could not do justice to a complete defense of science in this comment, but there are many reasons why it makes sense to trust the conclusions of science, while at the same time recognizing that our understanding is revised frequently.

    And I'm sympathetic to those who think that some scientists overstep their bounds. I agree that with The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins takes unfair advantage of his reputation as a scientist to give credence to even his nonscientific claims. And even though I agree with much of what he says about religion (I haven't read TGD but I've seen him speak on the topic many times), I understand the frustration by those who dedicate their lives to philosophy to see a relative amateur like Dawkins receive so much attention. That's probably why I haven't read The God Delusion. I don't expect that there is anything new or brilliant in it, even though his scientific books like The Selfish Gene and The Ancestor's Tale are brilliant.

    And so to conclude my point, I think that it is perfectly reasonable in a blog comment to point to a scientific reference in response to a scientific question and it would be unfair to say that this demonstrates a weak understanding of one's own worldview. Likewise, I'm willing to accept pointers to theological references in response to theological questions. Thanks for the Glen Miller references. I promise not to accuse you of being on shaky ground because of your inability to summarize this work in your comments. At the same time, if I disagree with something he says, I will feel entitled to raise my disagreement with you. Feel free to do the same if you disagree with statements made in the references that I gave.

    Sorry if I'm rambling again, but sometimes being verbose can prevent misunderstandings.

    So how do you settle yourself down enough to sleep despite all that immense suffering?

    I assume that this is some kind of trap and I'm anxious to fall into it because I'm really curious to see where this is going. So if I fail to fall in, please give me a hint so I can do a better job next time.

    The suffering of animals in the wild is only one example of the suffering that exists in the world. When you actually try to put all of the suffering in your head at once, it is overwhelming and I do believe it would cause me insomnia.

    But I've learned that thinking about suffering all the time doesn't do any good; I have to take action. And while contributing here and there may help me feel good enough to sleep at night, I understand that there is so much more that I could do. With the limited resources at my disposal, I have to choose my battles. This is a universal feeling. We all struggle with the fact that we have limited time and resources to achieve our goals.

    If you want to know why I haven't taken on the battle of eliminating the suffering of a hornworm as parasitic wasp larvae eat it from the inside, it is because I can't think of anything that I could do about it that wouldn't cause an increase in the overall suffering.

    God, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    the courage to change the things I can;
    and the wisdom to know the difference.


    Our prison population misunderstanding has turned from frustrating to comical. I figured that we would disagree about a lot of things, but I didn't think that we'd disagree about math. :)

    I find the Sweden stuff equally comical. I use Sweden as an example country with a lot of atheists. You raise the "sidenote" (your word) about Sweden's stats in the CIA world factbook. Adonais gives one answer, which you didn't like. I give another, which I thought addressed your problem with his. You ask "Why is this relevant again?" I say that it isn't particularly, and that it was a response to the sidenote that you began. You accuse me of not being able to keep my story straight. Hi-larious.

    It makes me wonder if it's possible for people to ever really do anything but talk past each other in forums like this one. It may be the case that people are willfully misunderstanding to score points, but I'd like to think that we're all doing the best we can and we really just can't seem to communicate in this high latency, low bandwidth medium. Oh well.

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  24. Kuhlmann,

    You started this conversation by asking me a series of question: 1)From where or whom did Jesus get his Y chromosome, 2)how is the immense suffering of animals in the wild compatible with an all-powerful, just, loving god, and 3)why do you think atheists are underrepresented in U.S. prisons?

    This has been the context of everything I've addressed with you. I felt it necessary bring this up here so you may come to understand something about me that you've missed (having read your response here). Whenever it seems that you've taken advantage of the fact you have my attention to proceed mounting your little soap box concerning matters that are beyond anything actually relevant to the context, then yes, I do consider this as 'rambling'. Particularly if it occurs while your addressing my response to your question. This conversation could be a lot more productive if you could manage to actually stay on subject.

    I noted that you stated your intent in rendering your latest comment was to 'weed out misunderstandings'. It is to that noble effort that I render the following:
    --------------------------------------

    I beg your patience as I summarize part of our discussion to this point. I find it helpful in weeding out misunderstandings. You claimed that the occurrence of random acts of kindness in the world undermined my argument that a world with a loving, just god would not allow animals to suffer.

    This is a strawman of your own making. In actuality, from the start my contention has always been that God's 'goodness' (nor anyones) isn't in any way dependent on the plight of animals whether they be in immense turmoil or at peace. At one point I even told you that my estimations of God worthiness of being called 'good' were in no way dependent on such.

    I then claimed that my worldview could account for both of these occurrences simultaneously, while yours could only account for the 'kindness' part. I then gave a very coarse summary of how sociobiologists explain the evolution of altruism. You responded by saying that this was a poor explanation because there are selfish people all around us who get away with it.

    Not true! When lauding your worldview's account of altruism "Natural selection has selected for traits conducive to social cooperation many times, in many different species. If you're a selfish bastard and the group decides to cooperate with everyone but you, you're not going to last very long."

    The whole 'selfish people wouldn't last very long' thing is what I rebutted without further challenge...

    I then gave a slightly more detailed description of the theory and explained why the selective pressures involved in the development of altruism are very different from those present today. For this reason, your rebuttal does no damage to the theory.

    Your supposed 'slightly more detailed description' basically amounted to a full back pedal, only minus the intellectual honesty to at the very least, refrain from any pretenses that I failed to understand you.

    You may have other reasons for believing that the models developed by sociobiologists fail to adequately account for the presence of altruism, and if so, I'd like to hear them.

    I do, it's called "reality". I don't consider it a grand revelation to point out any issues concerning how the assumptions of sociobiology (as a science) proceed from a fundemently flawed effort to reconcile human behavior with natural selection. It is no news that sociobiology(as a science) has been ridicule for tending to break down at the scientific methodological level by a 'experts' from all sides of the evolutionary fence. I have nothing new to add to the subject beyond whats already been stated.

    And come to think of it, I bet that the journals Nature and Science would be interested as well.

    I do note your shameless though nonetheless fallacious appeal to authority here. However, I really think that the ear full that folks like Stephen Jay Gould and Alfie Kohn gave the scientific community on the whole 'sociobiology' thing suffices.

    The fact is I'm not interested in whether you can cite as a reference your position (is there really any position on any topic that citations can't be gathered for), but rather your own display of an ability to actually think critically yourself (or not). Collect the data wherever/however you must, I don't care. I'm more interested in seeing a demonstration of your own ability to critically examined the subject matter.

    An unfortunate thread in our conversation has been your accusations that I am bowing at the feet of my savior Richard Dawkins, simply because I admitted that he is more knowledgeable and eloquent than I am regarding the theories of sociobiology and because even my own understanding would be difficult to condense to the size of a comment box.

    This is another strawman of your's. I see nothing wrong with knowing your own limits in comparison to another. However I absolutely refuse to accept this as an excuse for not thinking critically. It was your proclivity to uncritically parroting Dawkins (and the sort) that I ridiculed you on. I also should take note that the fallacious nature of arguments that attempt to justify themselves by merely 'appealing to authority' seems to have eluded you consideration...

    When I attempted to communicate my understanding, you said that I was 'rambling'.

    Thats because you were rambling. I never asked you about your worldview's ability to account for altruism. We were talking about the immense suffering of animals in the wild when you chose to wander off topic...
    -----------------------------------

    But I think that this raises an important point. Our scientific understanding of the world is growing far too rapidly for any individual to keep up. We accept the conclusions of scientists not because we have personally repeated their experiments, or even understand the details of their theories, but because we trust the method by which their conclusions were found and reviewed. Some dismiss this as 'faith' but it is far from being belief without evidence. I could not do justice to a complete defense of science in this comment, but there are many reasons why it makes sense to trust the conclusions of science, while at the same time recognizing that our understanding is revised frequently.

    I think anytime you take it upon yourself to come to such a forum as the one here on AiD, and dogmatically assert a position as fact which you're merely parroting from another, it is reasonable that you should expect others will assume that you know what you speak of well enough to defend it if challenged. If you can't, then you should attach a bit more humility to your pronouncements. After all, positions do get revised, and even totally abandoned, once critical thinking has exposed the latent flaws that may not have been immediately apparent to the 'scientist' at the time he rendered his position. Speak of an important point to be raised!

    And so to conclude my point, I think that it is perfectly reasonable in a blog comment to point to a scientific reference in response to a scientific question and it would be unfair to say that this demonstrates a weak understanding of one's own worldview.

    This is a strawman of your own making. Actually, I consider the demonstration of a weak understanding of your position to be exhibited in your original mangling of the supposed account of altruism you were attempting to laud. And NOT because you chose to reference anybody, but because I don't agree with these 'complex ideas' anyhow.

    I note your attempt to change the subject to the non-issue concerning your use of references, as oppose to discussing these ideas themselves. The most I said was that you misrepresented the ideas of Dawkins (and it appears that you did)...
    ------------------------------------

    Likewise, I'm willing to accept pointers to theological references in response to theological questions. Thanks for the Glen Miller references.

    You made a request for them.

    I promise not to accuse you of being on shaky ground because of your inability to summarize this work in your comments.

    You didn't ask me to do so, just like I didn't ask you about anything Dawkins had to say about altruism...

    At the same time, if I disagree with something he says, I will feel entitled to raise my disagreement with you. Feel free to do the same if you disagree with statements made in the references that I gave.

    Nothing personal, but I think I'd rather find an atheist who both shares your position and is a bit more given to critical thought to address any concerns I may have...

    I had said: So how do you settle yourself down enough to sleep despite all that immense suffering?

    Then you said: I've learned that thinking about suffering all the time doesn't do any good; I have to take action. And while contributing here and there may help me feel good enough to sleep at night, I understand that there is so much more that I could do. With the limited resources at my disposal, I have to choose my battles. This is a universal feeling. We all struggle with the fact that we have limited time and resources to achieve our goals.

    If you want to know why I haven't taken on the battle of eliminating the suffering of a hornworm as parasitic wasp larvae eat it from the inside, it is because I can't think of anything that I could do about it that wouldn't cause an increase in the overall suffering.

    God, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    the courage to change the things I can;
    and the wisdom to know the difference.


    Fair enough for now...
    -----------------------------------

    Our prison population misunderstanding has turned from frustrating to comical. I figured that we would disagree about a lot of things, but I didn't think that we'd disagree about math. :)

    You mean like 2+2=4 'math'? I wasn't aware we were in such a dispute. This is a misnomer. Our disagreement is about the statistics and what they tell us.

    I find the Sweden stuff equally comical. I use Sweden as an example country with a lot of atheists. You raise the "sidenote" (your word) about Sweden's stats in the CIA world factbook.

    I'd use the word 'sidenote' to acknowledge the fact that I was bringing up a separate (though related) issue. I've heard the thing about Sweden being the supposed 'land of the atheist' several times and a while ago assumed, based on the fact that I've heard it stated to be so often, that there must be some stat that corroborate that claim. When I looked at the CIA worldbook stats on Sweden, it didn't reflect that. I thought that was odd because they tend to be pretty thorough with that type of stuff. My original thought was that the way they collected their data might have been different from those uses to get the stats that corroborate the claim concerning Sweden. Since I didn't know (and don't still), I asked... But fyi, if I wanted to use the CIA stat to debunk this claim concerning Sweden, I'd do so outright...

    Adonais gives one answer, which you didn't like.

    Adonais provided two other stats, not an 'answer'. I didn't have a problem with the stats he provided but with the assertion they were being cited to substantiate (seeing as they were 'church going' stats)

    I give another, which I thought addressed your problem with his.

    Again, my problem wasn't with his stats. And you seem to have forgotten that I actually addressed you with my concern not Adonias. You effectively conceded the veracity of my concern when you provided your own stats. You even introduced it saying " this survey is probably more informative than churchgoing stats". I find it to be an illuminating coincidence that I can point to such words of your own, given the way your describing how this whole thing played out...

    Get your story straight sir!

    You ask "Why is this relevant again?" I say that it isn't particularly, and that it was a response to the sidenote that you began. You accuse me of not being able to keep my story straight. Hi-larious

    Yea but your the punch line...How it is you actually think those stats somehow explained the discrepancy between the notion that Sweden is this supposed atheist nation, and the stats seen in the CIA worldbook, has yet to be articulated.

    It makes me wonder if it's possible for people to ever really do anything but talk past each other in forums like this one. It may be the case that people are willfully misunderstanding to score points, but I'd like to think that we're all doing the best we can and we really just can't seem to communicate in this high latency, low bandwidth medium. Oh well.

    How ironic that you say so!

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