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10/3/08

“Galileo - A Story of a Hero of Science”

Please note that this essay has been moved to True Freethinker where it was posted at this link.

33 comments:

  1. I pulled together a quick overview of what really happened with Galileo here (Gladio Mentis), to give some additional details on what really got him in trouble.

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  2. Med-Man,

    I just read your old essay. This is a topic I have not researched, and don't know if I would agree with your interpretation of events. Everything historical, we see through a glass darkly.

    I think I would agree with your overall point, that some people have distorted the story in order to make the church look worse than it was. I wish they would cease. The true story will be bad enough.

    Also, as I have suggested elsewhere, propping up religious scientists from centuries ago as an authoritative mouthpiece for your worldview is deceptive.

    Sure, Galileo and Newton were professing theists, no question. But give those guys the benefit of 21st century scientific knowledge and no telling what they would believe.

    And another thing, have you considered what happened to people in Galileo's day who professed non-belief? Watching other people being burned alive might influence what you say in public. I would suggest any professed religious belief from that time should be viewed with a skeptical eye.

    -------------------

    Galileo's influence cannot be overstated. Aristotle's explanation of motion was The Church's (and everybody's)dogma for almost two thousand years.
    Aristotle arrived at his conclusion by common sense observation and intuition.

    But then Galileo thought to put Aristotle to the test. He built some ramps and rolled some balls.

    Guess what? A moving object will move forever and ever, for a billion years even, at the same speed in the same direction, unless a force acts on it.

    Still, to me, that sounds nuts! But of course that is as true as true can be.

    The lesson of Galileo is that authority is an unreliable source of knowledge.

    The lesson of Galileo is that common sense observation is unreliable. You must control the variables.

    The lesson of Galileo is that intuition is an unreliable source of knowledge.

    Unless you actually get in there and do some science, you just can't know. No matter what our intuition and everyday logic might suggest.

    Aristotle gave us a string of words. Those words sure seemed true for two thousand years.

    Galileo gave us something better. A method of finding things out. That method is not perfect, and cannot ever provide us with any certainty. But it gets us damn close, and provides neat toys and longer lives on the side.

    How bad or good the Pope was to Galileo is a trivial part of the story.

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  3. unBeguiled,

    I'm not sure I put much "interpretation" into the story - the chain of events and who said what when simply is what it is.

    The issue between the Pope and Galileo was the entire story. Lacking that, there's not much to tell. And Galileo didn't bestow the scientific method on us - that was birthed by prior theists who also didn't see a contradiction between honest inquiry and true religion.

    The Galileo story re-emphasizes the idea that disproving certain interpretations of a faith is very different from disproving the truth of that faith. Just as disproving Aristotle's interpretation of observations didn't invalidate the observations themselves.

    "Sure, Galileo and Newton were professing theists, no question. But give those guys the benefit of 21st century scientific knowledge and no telling what they would believe."

    I guess I could say the same about historical atheists: give them the benefit of 21st century science and "who knows what they'd believe." Learning that the universe wasn't eternal wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm or objectivity by atheism.

    It's not tough to see the point that those claiming that religion is inherently opposed to science aren't dealing in reality - historical, scientific, or otherwise.

    And, actually, I have considered what actually happened to professing non-believers in that day, and it's not the epic of slaughter and mahem that some want to believe it was (case in point about the Inquisition). Same problem - those with an axe to grind want to rewrite history to demean religion.

    But since you brought it up - would you then agree that there would probably be more scientists "professing" theistic beliefs if there wasn't such a culture of hostility towards them in their working community?

    I think Galileo would say that which authority you depend on makes the difference between whether the information is reliable or not. Did you note his comments on the Bible?

    On the same note, who do you get your information from? Scientific...authorities? No one is an expert in every possible category - at some point you have to decide to rely on the expertise of someone else.

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  4. I'm not sure I put much "interpretation" into the story - the chain of events and who said what when simply is what it is.

    History is viewed from a distance. Of course the chain of events was what it was, but we just do not have access to that information. We should not pretend to know things we don't.

    And Galileo didn't bestow the scientific method on us

    Most historians of science place the birth of modern science with Galileo. You are free to disagree. This sort of demarcation is inherently somewhat arbitrary as I'm sure you know. We both need to be careful not commit a reification fallacy here.

    I guess I could say the same about historical atheists: give them the benefit of 21st century science and "who knows what they'd believe."

    You could say that. I do say it.

    It's not tough to see the point that those claiming that religion is inherently opposed to science aren't dealing in reality - historical, scientific, or otherwise.

    I agree in general. Religion and science both suffer from the demarcation problem. I think we would agree that some religions are inherently opposed to some science. But that's not saying much.

    would you then agree that there would probably be more scientists "professing" theistic beliefs if there wasn't such a culture of hostility towards them in their working community?

    Yes.

    No one is an expert in every possible category

    Quite right. I rely on authorities as much as anyone. But there is a subtle difference here. I am likely to believe what Brian Cox says about Higgs bosons because he is an expert that uses methods I believe are reliable.

    You are free to believe what The Pope says if you wish. I personally doubt the validity of the pope's epistemology.

    But, hey, I might be wrong. This is where worldviews collide.

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  5. Couldn't read it all- need more time. However, the reason we focus on Galileo and not Copurnicus is that the man died before his book was published... and his theory was wrong. You see, Copurnicus readopted unifrom circular motion, making his model no more exact than Ptolomey.

    As it is, Kepler is the one who made the correct model. Of course, he was also an astrologer. So it goes...

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  6. I'd also say that we need to distinguish between an expert speaking within their field and an expert trying to talk over his head.

    The reason I don't take Dawkins or Harris seriously on matters of faith, philosophy, or religion is the same reason I don't take Robertson or Graham seriously on matters of biology or physics. Or Kent Hovind on anything (sorry, couldn't resist). It's not their area of expertise - and it shows.

    I'll hang on Dawkin's every word about biological systems - until he starts telling me things that have nothing to do with biological knowledge. Harris...well, maybe that's a bad example. I don't know of anything he knows enough about to really pay attention to, but you get the point. When a preacher starts telling me how biology really works, I tune out.

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  7. Med-man,

    I agree with you about people traipsing where they don't belong. I read The God Delusion when it first came out 3 years ago. I seem to recall that Dawkins up front admitted he was going after low hanging fruit, like Hovind and his ilk.

    I also recall he predicted that philosophers and sophisticated theologians would come after him.
    My reading of the book was that it was not intended as high minded philosophy. Rather, he was just preaching to the choir and trying to piss-off other people.

    I think he succeeded. I also think his attitude needs adjusting.

    Harris gets many things wrong and many things right.

    Overall, all of those books (Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkin) have one major unifying theme:

    The gloves are off. For too long has religion been given a free pass from public criticism. You may believe what you want, but if your beliefs are ridiculous, expect to be ridiculed.

    I keep waffling on this issue. I'm leaning more toward just leaving believers in peace.

    Except when I'm attacked, as this blog is attempting to do. If I get kicked, I'll kick back. I just don't kick first.

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  8. unBeguiled,

    I'd be willing to continue, but I just got done noting your "Theism can't think" remarks from the other post. If you think that you're being attacked because the theists here actually expect you to give rational, logical, supportable defenses for your views, then I must wonder what kind of "science" you're involved in that such expectations are foreign to you. If you think that you're not going to be overtly challenged for being condescending or snide...you lived a charmed life.

    If you truly think that (theism or theists can't think), then you clearly have no knowledge of history or science itself. My natural inclination would be to give a more aggressive response to that level of idiocy, but I don't see the need. It won't change your mind, and I think a reasonable person reading such comments from you wouldn't need help recognizing them as laughably bigoted.

    ReplyDelete
  9. don't post this


    just remove your comment above, you misunderstood me, forget it

    ReplyDelete
  10. unBeguiled,

    Oh, no no no. The last time I deleted two short comments of yours, after you ignored a fair warning, I had to hear the whining about you being "banned". The other contributors admonished me to let you air whatever silly thing you wanted to say in public. So be it. I've let everything you've said through, including the recent bull. I won't give you or anyone else cause to pretend that you'd somehow been silenced for disagreeing with me.

    As I said over in the "Silly Walks" comments, you've done plenty to give the impression that you're being snide, deliberately or otherwise. On top of that, in the "silly walks" comments, you first said you meant no harm, then came back and said you did.

    I'm not going to handle you with "kid gloves", as you put it, but that doesn't mean I have to waste my time getting into a deep debate with someone who acts as you have. It'd be as useful as arguing about calculus with a smart-aleck ten-year-old who doesn't get algebra yet. Why sink to that level?

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  11. I was suggesting that you remove the comment for YOUR OWN SAKE.

    The more you harp on this, the sillier you look. Why not just grab a bullhorn. But hey, this is your show, whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that unbeguiled feels that this blog is attempting to attack him because it is called "Atheism is Dead" and is an offensive attack on atheism rather than a defensive support of theism.

    Medicineman, you missed his point that he does not necessarily agree with the "new atheists" that we should confront people about their faith. He is here to support and defend his own beliefs much more than to tear down the beliefs of others.

    I would guess that he, like me, doesn't spend a lot of time on Christian or Muslim blogs challenging that community. And I would guess that he, like me, isn't a moderator on a site called "Christianity is Rotten" or something like that.

    Sorry, unbeguiled, if I'm being presumptuous.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "I'd also say that we need to distinguish between an expert speaking within their field and an expert trying to talk over his head.

    The reason I don't take Dawkins or Harris seriously on matters of faith, philosophy, or religion is the same reason I don't take Robertson or Graham seriously on matters of biology or physics. Or Kent Hovind on anything (sorry, couldn't resist). It's not their area of expertise - and it shows."

    And this is why I don't take people like you seriously. Theology is the study of God. As such it has no relevance whatsoever to the question "does God exist".

    Let me be blunt- you are arguing from authority. While many things require expertise in science, it is possible for the experts to show results! It is possible for scientists to show that they have actual expertise.

    And what does theology show us? Nothing. We have people arguing that God is uncaused as part of his nature... and ignoring the entire idea of evidence.

    To put it simply, theologians need EVIDENCE. They have NONE.

    As for faith... define what it means. And why can't we talk authoritatively on it? Harris is in neurobiology- presumably that would fall in his expertise.

    Honestly, this sounds like the classic "poisoning the well"-we won't listen to our opponents because of x. This ignores the entire idea of actually showing you are right! Otherwise you are simply not adding anything but claiming you are right... because you are right.

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  14. Thank you for your insight, Sam. I'm poisoning the well because I choose to take the opinion of an expert (within their area of expertise) over that of the non-expert. Glad we got that sorted out.

    I have to wonder, though, if you don't think "theology" has anything to do with whether or not God exists, what discipline does? And there is no "evidence" for many of the alternatives to God that have been discussed, such as alternate universes and so forth.

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  15. kuhlman,

    I doubt unBeguiled thinks this site is a personal attack, since there's a distinction between a person and what a person believes. I wouldn't have chosen to work with a blog called "Atheists are Stupid."

    My cynicism towards unBeguiled started when he began adding personal attacks, or insinuations of such, into his comments...and he wasn't defending his own beliefs nearly so much as questioning mine. Only the derision concerns me, though I do expect a person to be able to answer as much as they ask.

    We'll undoubtedly knock heads again, and that cynicism may or may not fade.

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  16. And I would guess that he, like me, isn't a moderator on a site called "Christianity is Rotten" or something like that.

    Sorry, unbeguiled, if I'm being presumptuous.


    Not at all kuhlmann, you summarized my position accurately.

    Some of the above comments don't make much sense as they are a spill-over from another thread, and hence out of context.

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  17. "Overall, all of those books (Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkin) have one major unifying theme:

    The gloves are off. For too long has religion been given a free pass from public criticism. You may believe what you want, but if your beliefs are ridiculous, expect to be ridiculed."

    I agree that this is one of the major underlying themes of these books. The problem to me is that "ridiculous beliefs" is purely subjective. A belief that I personally think is ridiculous, someone else could believe to be perfectly rational, and vice versa. This way, everyone is free to ridicule everyone... and I'm very skeptical that much progress (if any) could be made with this sort of mentality.

    If someone thinks that certain beliefs are inherently harmful, are a hindrance on society, and wants to get people to abandon these beliefs for the good of mankind, I think there are a couple different ways they can go about it.

    One way is to antagonize, ridicule and belittle. Make claims that anyone who holds certain beliefs are delusional and irrational, and only hold said beliefs because of wishful thinking, or because they were brainwashed as children, or because they are just, well, idiots.

    Another way is to very calmly and in a respectful tone lay out these beliefs, and then begin to give reasons - sans ridicule - why people should reassess their beliefs, and/or give evidence why other beliefs are more plausible.

    To me, if someone's first priority really was to get people to abandon certain beliefs in favor of others, they would have much more success with the second option.

    Dawkins may not agree with some of the beliefs of men like Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig, Ward, Alston, Polkinghorne and Van Inwagen to name a few, but these men are hardly a bunch of basket cases who have never examined their own worldviews with a critical eye.

    This is also why I have a difficult time believing that the existence of God is just as probable as the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or pink elephants, or any number of things I constantly read or hear about. If the existence of God really is just as likely as the existence of the FSM, then how do you explain the obvious discrepancy between the number of philosophers and scientists who believe in the former but not the latter?

    Also, I find it slightly ironic how these writers talk about how inherently dangerous religious believers are, yet they don't seem to be the least bit worried about pissing these people off. If I thought that a group of people were dangerous, the last thing I would want to do is to antagonize them. To me this is just another obvious reason why my second approach would be the more productive.

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  18. and I'm very skeptical that much progress (if any) could be made with this sort of mentality.

    Yes, I agree with you.

    This is also why I have a difficult time believing that the existence of God is just as probable as the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or pink elephants

    Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is more traditional than the elephant. The IPU is described with the paradoxical characteristics of being both pink and invisible.

    This is done to mirror what seems to be the contradictory nature of some described deities.

    If the existence of God really is just as likely as the existence of the FSM, then how do you explain the obvious discrepancy between the number of philosophers and scientists who believe in the former but not the latter?

    You may be joking here, I will assume that you are not.

    Of course, NOBODY believes in the FSM or IPU.

    The point is that there is just as much evidence for for those goofy beings as there is for anybody's god.

    It's a simple concept. I thought so anyway.

    Just because a lot of smart guys believe something is no evidence that that belief is true. Everybody used to believe in the luminiferous aether, you recall.

    I find it slightly ironic how these writers talk about how inherently dangerous religious believers are, yet they don't seem to be the least bit worried about pissing these people off.

    They are worried. This type of behavior is called bravery, and occurs in people who believe in things more important than themselves.

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  19. "Just because a lot of smart guys believe something is no evidence that that belief is true. Everybody used to believe in the luminiferous aether, you recall."

    I'm not claiming that, because a bunch of smart guys believe in God, then He must exist, QED. If you think that was what I was claiming, with all due respect I think you missed my point. I'm not making an appeal to authority here. What I'm saying is, if the amount of evidence for the existence of God is the same amount as for the existence as the FSM or IPU, then to me it would seem reasonable to expect at least *some* people to believe in the FSM, just as there are some people who believe in God.

    The fact that there is much debate regarding the existence of God, and that the existence of God is at least taken seriously in academic circles, coupled with the fact that I have yet to encounter a single valid philosophical argument defending the existence of spaghetti monsters leads me to believe that the former seems obviously more plausible than the latter.

    I'll put it another way. I'm well aware that there are many people whose intellects dwarf my own believe in atheism or naturalism. To me, *this fact alone* leads me to believe that there is a better chance of atheism being true than pink unicorns being real.

    If the chances of flying spaghetti monsters being real is the same as the chances of God being real, then why do we not see philosophers debating the existence of flying spaghetti monsters?

    There is debate regarding the existence of God. There is not regarding the existence of invisible pink unicorns. To me the obvious explanation for this very simple fact is that there is more evidence for God than there is for invisible pink unicorns.

    "They are worried. This type of behavior is called bravery, and occurs in people who believe in things more important than themselves."

    Sure. But bravery isn't always a good thing. Japanese Kamikaze pilots could be considered brave, as could terrorists. They are willing to die for a belief or ideal they consider more important than their own lives. If terrorists weren't so brave, I think many people would be alive today who are not.

    Also though, again please refer to the 2 options I gave regarding people who want to get other people to abandon their potentially dangerous beliefs.

    Let's say there is a group of violent religious extremists with, just for the sake of argument, obviously false beliefs. These people are a threat to anyone who do not share their beliefs. If I want to get them to discard their beliefs for the benefit of mankind, I would not try to provoke them by telling them what fools they are for having their beliefs.

    If I used this antagonistic approach with them, there would be a greater chance of violent retaliation from them than if I had tried to use a more respectful approach.

    So to me, I find it an extreme contradiction when someone like Dawkins claims he wants to get people to abandon their religious beliefs *for the well-being of humanity,* and yet he uses the antagonistic approach for dealing with religious believers. With this approach there is greater chance of violent backlash than if he was more respectful... but if the well-being of humanity was truly his greatest priority, he would be trying to *minimize* the chances of violent backlash!!

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  20. Logan,

    You’re going to find that the “evidence” concept is just not fruitful to pursue with certain skeptics. You’re right, of course. If there was absolutely no evidence, of any kind, in any way, then no would actually believe in God, just like no one actually believes in the FSM or the IPU. The skeptics will claim that they mean, “no valid”, or “no acceptable” evidence, but as you probably noted they still make a direct equivalency between the quantity and quality of the two when they mention the FSM. It’s an irrational position, but it makes it easier for a skeptic to blow off consideration of real evidence, or the actual properties of God that are being espoused.

    “There’s no evidence at all” is as silly as “atheists all know God is real, they just don’t want to admit it,” but it’s an argument that’s never going to go away. It’s especially ironic that it’s being discussed in a thread about Galileo. Of all of the people to accuse (by association) of believing with no evidence, he’s a bad choice.

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  21. but it’s an argument that’s never going to go away.

    Yes. And I think that this is part of the idea behind the FSU and IPU rhetorical ploy.

    It's commonly an argument against people who resort to fideism.

    ----------------

    Med-man is right that what is or is not "evidence" suffers a demarcation problem.

    As I have tried to point out elsewhere, we all draw lines, whether it is about what we find beautiful or what constitutes sufficient evidence.

    ----------------

    It’s especially ironic that it’s being discussed in a thread about Galileo. Of all of the people to accuse (by association) of believing with no evidence, he’s a bad choice.

    I don't know what the underpinning of his beliefs were. I will say that prior to 1859, the teleological argument was persuasive.

    ----------------

    "There’s no evidence at all” is as silly as “atheists all know God is real, they just don’t want to admit it."

    And the corollary to that is Daniel Dennett's claim that most people don't really believe in God, rather, they believe in "belief in God".

    How would he possibly know that?

    Were I a theist, and someone asked me what evidence I had for God, my answer would be:
    that there is anything at all.

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  22. If the chances of flying spaghetti monsters being real is the same as the chances of God being real, then why do we not see philosophers debating the existence of flying spaghetti monsters?

    But in some sense, we do. At least from my perspective.

    With apologies to Med-man, this is where Sam Harris swings a big stick. This is his assessment about a big important meeting of Bishops or something for the purpose of debating infants and purgatory:

    Can we conceive of a project more intellectually forlorn than this? Just imagine what these deliberations must be like. Is there the slightest possibility that someone will present evidence indicating the eternal fate of unbaptized children after death? How can any educated person think this anything but a hilarious, terrifying, and unconscionable waste of time? When one considers the fact that this is the very institution that has produced and sheltered an elite army of child molesters, the whole enterprise begins to exude a truly diabolical aura of misspent human energy.

    No, Mr Harris, I cannot conceive of a project more intellectually forlorn.

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  23. unBeguiled,

    No apologies desired, of course (though I might regret this), but the only stick Harris knows how to swing is a fungo bat. He's fine with the easy pop-ups, but the high heat is not his specialty. Like Hitchens, he's also adept at picking and choosing bits of diverse belief systems as though all religions had identically generated views of the universe.

    Catholic debate over purgatory may well be laughably pointless, and the RCC has itself to blame for it. But any attempt to compare the quantity, quality, or compelling nature of evidence for God to a made-up-rhetorical device is just silly.

    I get the same feeling when people make such comparisons as I do when a person says, "there's as much evidence for evolution as there is for bigfoot."

    And, many would argue that the teleological argument is still persuasive, right up to and including the very assumptions of modern science. Recall that conversation here of late has been mostly about ultimate causes, etc. Plus, there are great number of theists who don't think that an explanation of "how" removes all possible room for a "who." I call that the "mechanism fallacy".

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  24. Med-Man,

    OK, I will agree with you that there is an intellectual difference between arguing about angels on pin-heads and asking and trying to answer questions such as "why is there something rather than nothing".

    That is a legitimate question to ask.

    I think the question is non-nonsensical for two reason, but those reasons are complex, so please don't demand that I get into that just now.

    But if I were to grant that the question did make sense, it seems overwhelmingly obvious that the honest person can give only one answer:

    I don't know.

    I realize that you disagree.
    ---------------
    I'm putting a short audio clip on my otherwise blank blog. Perhaps you will find it something worthy to link to.

    ReplyDelete
  25. unBeguiled,

    No, a subject like that's better broached in a thread more aligned with that topic.

    I'll check out the audio.

    (There were two identical comments from you in the queue, I don't know if there was a difference I missed, but I sent through the latter one, since I didn't think you intended to say the same thing twice.)

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  26. Sorry about the double submission.

    I meant "nonsensical", not the double negative I wrote.

    Right, my purpose was not to start something new, rather to just make clear that I do think certain "big questions" are legitimate.

    -----------------

    A Prayer to the FSM

    May my memories of yesterday
    be true and not due to you,
    mixing them about any which way.

    When tomorrow comes then
    I wish to be me you see
    and not to be
    a bowl of daffodils.

    rAmen.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "Thank you for your insight, Sam. I'm poisoning the well because I choose to take the opinion of an expert (within their area of expertise) over that of the non-expert. Glad we got that sorted out."

    It is perfectly valid to take the opinion of an expert... but they MUST show expertise first. For example, I can claim that I am an engineer who graduated from MIT and hence knows all about complex systems and the likely hood of yadda, yadda, yadda.

    So what do you do? You ask me questions to see if I really am an expert in the field I claim to cover!

    So why doesn't this apply to theology? Because the only people who can judge if you are a good theologian... are other theologian! Unlike ANY of the other sciences were you can check them against reality, you CAN'T do that with theology.

    As such there is NO reason to believe that the field is valid at all!

    "I have to wonder, though, if you don't think "theology" has anything to do with whether or not God exists, what discipline does? And there is no "evidence" for many of the alternatives to God that have been discussed, such as alternate universes and so forth."

    Science as a whole. As for alternatives, you don't need them- arguing from ignorance is a fallacy, remember? I don't know how the universe began.

    "I agree that this is one of the major underlying themes of these books. The problem to me is that "ridiculous beliefs" is purely subjective. A belief that I personally think is ridiculous, someone else could believe to be perfectly rational, and vice versa. This way, everyone is free to ridicule everyone... and I'm very skeptical that much progress (if any) could be made with this sort of mentality."

    Uh, no. The entire point of reason is that it ISN'T subjective. As it is, it is ridiculous to believe things that are patently untrue.

    "Another way is to very calmly and in a respectful tone lay out these beliefs, and then begin to give reasons - sans ridicule - why people should reassess their beliefs, and/or give evidence why other beliefs are more plausible."

    ... yes, it isn't like that is what atheists have been doing the last 2 millenia.

    "
    This is also why I have a difficult time believing that the existence of God is just as probable as the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or pink elephants, or any number of things I constantly read or hear about. If the existence of God really is just as likely as the existence of the FSM, then how do you explain the obvious discrepancy between the number of philosophers and scientists who believe in the former but not the latter?"

    ... appeal to popularity is ANOTHER logical fallacy.

    "Also, I find it slightly ironic how these writers talk about how inherently dangerous religious believers are, yet they don't seem to be the least bit worried about pissing these people off."

    Nothing worth doing is safe.

    "The fact that there is much debate regarding the existence of God, and that the existence of God is at least taken seriously in academic circles, coupled with the fact that I have yet to encounter a single valid philosophical argument defending the existence of spaghetti monsters leads me to believe that the former seems obviously more plausible than the latter."

    Obviously if you declare all the arguments for the FSM ridiculous in advance you are never going to find a serious one.

    "There is debate regarding the existence of God. There is not regarding the existence of invisible pink unicorns. To me the obvious explanation for this very simple fact is that there is more evidence for God than there is for invisible pink unicorns."

    People once seriously argued over the existence of fairies. As it is, there isn't any money to do work on IPU. However, you can find sites devoted to her glory. As an aside, you can find a site devoted to ice cream man from Star Wars.
    http://www.geocities.com/ocb75/

    Hell, I once saw an argument on rule 34 over the proper spelling of the Lloth! What people consider
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SeriousBusiness
    is NOT a good indication of validity.

    "Sure. But bravery isn't always a good thing. Japanese Kamikaze pilots could be considered brave, as could terrorists. They are willing to die for a belief or ideal they consider more important than their own lives. If terrorists weren't so brave, I think many people would be alive today who are not."

    Sure- it is bravery to kill yourself and wake up in heaven... uh no. It is bravery to die, knowing you have but ONE life to give! Bravery is a good thing is your beliefs about reality are true - the examples you gave were for people who used faith.

    "If I used this antagonistic approach with them, there would be a greater chance of violent retaliation from them than if I had tried to use a more respectful approach."

    Because being respectful works really we for deconverting people from cults... uh no.

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  28. Samuel,

    "...arguing from ignorance is a fallacy, remember?"

    Does this make everything you say a fallacy, ha ha? :) [Sam and I have 'conversed' many times on several blogs.]

    You've demonstrated a pretty considerable, literal ignorance of Christian teachings, scientific progress, and philosophical concepts in the past. While I might disagree with others here on interpretations or specific facts, I can say with confidence that you, of all people, should watch how loudly you tout your concept of 'expertise'.

    Much of what is being discussed is a bit beyond "show-and-tell". You still have to trust other experts to tell you if that person is being accurate or inaccurate, and even those opinions are subject to interpretations. Like it or not, there is a limit to what any one person can legitimately understand, and so faith (yes, the f-word) in someone else's knowledge is inescapable.

    The most uninformed and closed-minded people in the world are those who think that anything they can't understand isn't understandable.

    We can quibble about different kinds of "bravery" all day long, but I strongly object to that term being applied to the big-name New Atheists.

    'Brave' is holding a Bible study in a basement in Afghanistan, knowing there's a chance that someone will cut your head off for talking about the Bible. 'Brave' is blowing the whistle on your embezzling boss when you're up to your ears in debt.

    A celebrity atheist, making mad cash from a bestselling book, touring the talk show circuit in safe first-world countries, and still holding down an academic position, knowing it never had a chance of hurting his career isn't 'brave'. I'll take 'determined', 'resolute', etc. but calling someone like Richard Dawkins "brave" is a bit much.

    Samuel also brought to mind a point about atheism in culture. The "religion has gotten a pass, it's time to question religion" business is historically bogus. Sam Harris was not the first fearless soul to dare criticize religion or belief in public. Nor was he the first to do so in strident, even derogatory terms.

    You cannot take even a glance at history without noting men like Nietzsche, Hume, Kant, Marx, Huxley, Kierkegaard, Rousseau, Camus, Paine, Voltaire, and even Jefferson or Wilde, and still rationally pretend that religion has always been a sacred cow that no one ever dared question 'till now.

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  29. The reasons to mention that the top scientists of their day, and those who established the very fields and methods of science, were Christians or theists in general, is that arguments such as Prof. Richard Dawkins’ statements about how believing that God is creator brings an end to science is stunningly illogical and historically bankrupt.

    This is a fallacious atheist argument form progression. These scientists were at the very top of their fields but modernists say that we know more now and presume that they would agree that science, which does not deal with the supernatural, disproves the supernatural. These fallacious assertions can be made in each and every generation since each generation acquires more information.

    If only Charles Bradlaugh, Paul-Henri Thiry, Voltaire, Hume, Sartre, Schopenhauer, Freurbach, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, et al, had been alive today knowing what we know about DNA, the universe’s fine-tuning, and that the only “explanations” for life’s origins are that lightning struck a swamp, and or luck, and or panspermist-Johnny-alien-seeds there is no telling what they would believe.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  30. "The reasons to mention that the top scientists of their day, and those who established the very fields and methods of science, were Christians or theists in general, is that arguments such as Prof. Richard Dawkins’ statements about how believing that God is creator brings an end to science is stunningly illogical and historically bankrupt."

    What?

    In the west, the methods of science and philosophy were being developed by "pagan" polytheists more than 500 years before Christianity existed. Their free-thinking ideas (Aristarchus, Leucippus, Democritus, Eratosthenes, the Ionian tradition etc) were to be suppressed during the establishment of Christianity in the tradition of Constantine and Justinian, with the blessing of weighty scholars like Augustine and Aquinas, and only rediscovered in medieval times by the influence of Persian and Arab scholars like Avicenna and Averroes. The only reason that Plato and Aristotle survived the purge (and later the Index) was that they became reinterpreted and invoked, pagan though they originally were, as forerunners of the Gospels, just like other elements that the Christian forefathers approved of (e.g. Ptolemy's geocentric cosmology based on Aristotelian philosophy). This suppression continued all the way past the Renaissance with for instance the Index of prohibited books, when with the rise of science and literacy (which become more than just reciting scripture), and the emergence of free press, the Index was gradually rendered obsolete.

    Sure looks to me like Christianity, rather than "establishing the very fields and methods of science," set the development back for more than a thousand years, and is still working hard to accomplish the same. But I'm happy to note that the end to this suppression was crafted from within, by the likes of Aquinas, Scotus and Occam who, although they thought they were serving Christianity, could not foresee the implications of setting up the epistemic distinction between faith and reason, of understanding as ratio and understanding as intellectus, which "freed reason for the exploration of the natural world on its own restricted terms." They had "breached the unity of faith and reason too far for others not to widen it."

    And that's where we're at. You are never going to put Humpty back together again, it is a thousand years too late for that, and science has long surpassed theism. You should never have taught us how to read; that was the beginning of theism's journey toward obsolescence.

    Regarding your abiogenesis denial, we've heard your lament often. Did you even read the recent Nowak article that I linked to, several times now? Well why bother - since you have made up your mind that nothing short of new life from peanut butter happening right before your eyes would constitute proof of abiogenesis (and in such case it would anyway be a miracle from God), why bother learning anything.

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  31. You should never have taught us how to read; that was the beginning of theism's journey toward obsolescence.

    Enforced ignorance is required for fundamentalist religion to survive. We see this in the Muslim world, and we see it here with the growth of home schooling.

    To quote Steven Weinberg:

    A very devout Muslim was trying to bring science into the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because they felt that science would be corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it... and damn it, I think they were right.

    It is corrosive of religious belief, and it's a good thing too.


    We see the same fear of science in this country. It's called Intelligent Design.

    And damn it, I think they are right. They should fear modern biology. It is corrosive to their deeply held beliefs. And that's a good thing too.

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  32. Yup because biology definately shows religion is wrong.

    Yeah right lol

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