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There’s Probably No God? Fisking Atheist Billboards

July 12th, 2010 by Matt

On the way back from Bloggers drinks we drove past one of the controversial atheist advertising billboards, put up by NZ Atheist Campaign, The Humanist Society and NZARH, which have appeared around Auckland. This appears to have come on the back of the Richard Dawkins inspired bus advertising that made headlines earlier this year. It is worth fisking them a bit.

Here is a pic of the first one.

Good Without God? Over One Million Kiwis Are.

Here we are told one million kiwis are good without God because the census says so. This, however, is fallacious. What the census shows is not that one million kiwis are good without God, it shows that one million kiwis are good (although this is granting a lot for the sake of argument) without believing in the existence God. But to say one can be good without believing in God is not the same as saying one can be good without God. Many people throughout history have been able to live and breath without believing in the existence of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, it does not follow that they could live without water.

Moreover, it is hard to tell what the point of this sociological fact is anyway. Why does the fact that people do not need to believe in something to do good deeds mean that the belief is false? For centuries people have done good deeds and lived good lives without believing in evolutionary theory or quantum mechanics, should we conclude that these theories are therefore ‘probably false’? Surely these atheists are not suggesting that our beliefs should be based on what is useful or helpful as opposed to what is true or false?

Perhaps the atheists here mean to convey something else. Some Christian thinkers such as William Lane Craig, Robert Adams, Stephen Layman, Alvin Plantinga, John Hare, Philip Quinn have argued that moral properties such as right and wrong depend on God for their existence. Atheist writers such as Paul Kurtz and Christopher Hitchens retort that this claim is falsified by the existence of morally upright atheists. I suspect something like this is behind the slogan on the billboard, it repeats Hitchens and Kurtz’s retorts as though they said something insightful or clever.

The problem is, as any one familiar with this discussion should know, this retort misses the point (as I pointed out in On a Common Equivocation). Craig, Adams, et al are not claiming that one needs to believe in God to be good (a point made several times in the literature and particularly made so many times to Kurtz that it beggars belief that he keeps repeating it) rather their claim is that moral properties, such as right and wrong, depend on God for their existence.

This is a fairly basic and elementary distinction in the literature. How exactly expressing a common philosophical confusion counts as reason for thinking “there probably is no God” is hard to see.

Let’s look at the next one.

In the Beginning, Man Created God.

What is asserted here? That man created God. This, however, is clearly absurd. God is typically defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing, immaterial, necessarily-existent being who created the world. Now if one is going to claim that humans actually created an all-powerful, all-knowing, immaterial, necessarily-existent who created the world, then they are contradicting themselves.

Humans are part of the world and therefore cannot have created the being that created the world – otherwise humans would have to exist prior to their own existence.

Similarly, one cannot create a necessary being, this would entail it is possible for a necessary being to not exist, in which case it would not be a necessary being. Taken in a straight-forward, literal manner (the way freethinkers are so fond of taking every passage in the Bible) this billboard simply asserts contradictions.

Of course, the authors of this billboard probably do not mean to say humans actually created God, they do not think he exists after all. Their claim is that humans created the idea or concept of God and developed it. This is undoubtedly true. Of course, humans also invented the idea or concept of atoms as well, ancient Greek philosophers came up the basics of this concept millennium ago. This trivial fact tells us nothing about whether or not the idea or concept humans developed actually corresponds to anything in reality. To assume that it tells us something about whether the idea or concept is true or false is a fairly obvious case of the genetic fallacy.

So the second billboard either asserts a contradiction or it is a clear case of a logical fallacy.

The last one is my favourite.

We are all atheists about most gods. Some of us just go one god further.

I am inclined to think the argument on this sign is invalid. To see why let’s take out the term “God” in the sign and replace it with some other term such as “non-Christian perspective.” When we do this we get: “We all reject most non-Christian perspectives, some of us just reject one more.” This argument has true premises, do we now have, a knock-down argument for Christianity?

Similarly, an analogous argument form with true premises gives us an argument for nihilism, the total denial of the existence of morality. “We are all nihilists about some conceptions of morality, some of us are just nihilistic about one more.”

The same argument for also furnishes a refutation of secularism, “we all reject some secular perspectives on reality, some of us just reject one more.” I could go on.

Taking a stand on any issue of philosophical substance, whether by affirming, denying or simply being sceptical of it, is to put oneself in opposition to any number of other people and groups who take a contrary stance. That is life. Such pluralism hardly provides a reason for thinking “there probably is no God” any more than it gives us a reason to doubt any other perspective on the world.

So what do the atheist billboards do? Well the first one tells us that some atheist groups conflate basic philosophical distinctions and don’t really understand the debate they are contributing to. The second shows us that these groups think contradictions and obvious fallacies are some how savvy and smart. The last shows us that they think that invalid argument forms, forms from which you could infer the denial of anything and everything by substituting one true premise with another, are avant-garde.

All in all, pretty accurate advertising for these groups.

Hat tip: MCAS

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428 responses so far ↓

  • What I want to see is somebody making billboards like this about Global Warming: “There’s probably no man-made global warming, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Kinda catchy.

  • “Of course, the authors of this billboard probably do not mean to say humans actually created God, they do not think he exists after all.”

    Really??? Wow! I thought they meant that humans had created Gos in a lab. Glad I read this as I would sure have sounded stupid otherwise.

  • And where on earth are you seeing a logical fallacy?

  • Any attempt to enjoy life by forgetting God can only at best be a shallow and temporary excuse to be your own God and focus on Carnal pleasures. This appeals to the ‘Old Tim’ very much yet having been born again, the ‘New Tim’ despises his own carnality and cannot be Happy without the knowledge of God as anyone with brains knows atheism leads to nihilism and ultimately to despair. Without God Death appears as either a trap door into the black abyss, or an escape hatch from moral responsibility. What sort of person desires a Godless reality?
    These signs say more about the base psychology of atheists than about God. (They cant stand it that Theists point a judging finger at them!…they prefer the non-judgmental Abyss!)
    I ask what sort of person can be happy under the delusion that they are the product of meaningless materialism? Even the honest Atheists admit this is depressing! They then attempt to justify their sad position by saying to believe that life has meaning is but a pipe dream.
    I say faith in the Good God is essential to the happiness of humanity.

  • I find the “atheists have a psychological disorder” about as reasonable as the “Christians have a psychological disorder” arguments Tim.

    It is SO much easier to say, basically, minus all the weasel words “they think that because they are mad” than to actually listen to what other people are saying. In my experience neither Christians nor atheists are psychologically depraved, and neither forms their beliefs because of some psychological need (which is invisible to them but of course CLEARLY visible to their opponents).

    As Ever Tim you sink into the worse and pettiest kind of rhetoric. For shame.

  • How can you not believe in God, when we have all witnessed the mighty works of Paul the Octopus?

  • Maxanon.
    I am no stranger to the psychological forces that underpin atheism. It is hard work existing in a moral universe. Satan forever whispers to me…Forget about God! To hell with morality!
    Do what thou wilt!
    I know he whispers this in your ears too!
    You either take displeasure in being exposed as someone who has given in to this temptation or else simply don’t like admitting Psychology plays a big part in the popularity of atheism as it does in theism, and since the subject was ‘Happiness’. I was asking what caliber of person prefers an meaningless life to a meaningful one? Clearly those who prefer the latter have a healthier and more spiritually ‘human’ psyche than those who prefer the former.
    Atheism is the religion of an ape.

  • Anonymous II wrote “And where on earth are you seeing a logical fallacy?”

    RAFLOL

    Read the post (and while you are at it pick up a copy of Logical Fallacies for Dummies).

    Dawkins said it, it must be logical… Spare me!

  • My point Madalien, without ROFFLOOLOLOLing back at you is that a statement like “In the Beginning man created God” is not an argument of ANY kind… and so can’t (by definition) be a fallacy of any kind. It is a statement of faith if you like… it was never meant to be an argument… so the joke in on you sister.

  • “Satan forever whispers to me…Forget about God! To hell with morality!”

    OK – I guess there are SOME examples of people who hold their beliefs due to psychological imbalance… hmmm.

    But they are the exception ;)

  • Deane I take it you missed Matt’s Fairies, Leprechauns, Golden Tea Cups & Spaghetti Monsters? You are repeating the same tired old flawed analogy of simply asserting that your opponents position is on par with Paul the Octopus.

    Read the literature, just a little bit.

    There are arguments out there offered by atheist scholars who *can* reason you know.

  • You of course Maxanon are pure math.

  • did you mean pure meth?

  • Madeleline,

    You have tried to find the message behind each of the three billboards and I don’t believe you have succeeded with any of them. Other supporters of the billboards may have different versions, but here at least are the messages I would hope viewers of the boards take away with them:

    1) “Good Without God? One million Kiwis are.”

    Two different ones here: One, the secular community is a lot bigger than most people think. Two, You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be a good or happy person. If you look at the data you will find there is a significant correlation between the countries in the world which have a bigger secular population and the ones which are happier.

    2) “In the beginning Man created God”

    I don’t believe for a second you actually thought there was a chance this was claiming Man literally created God. You’re reading a little too deep into this one. It’s just a tongue-in-cheek factual claim that Man created the concept of a god that doesn’t exist, nothing more. Whether it corresponds to reality is an elaboration that isn’t exactly convenient to fit on a billboard.

    3) “Some of us go one God further”

    The idea here is that anyone that believes in a personal god really has the odds stacked against them. Hundreds, thousands of gods have come and gone throughout history and they all have failed to stand the test of time. All of them that is, except the one that you happen to believe in. All atheists are doing is extending that obvious pattern one step further.

    I found the potshot you chose to end your blog entry with to be very condescending. Your attitude struck me as the kind that wanted to just refute the messages behind the billboards at all costs rather than someone who wants to engage in a meaningful and honest discussion.

  • Lydia – that’s an idea.

    Given all the investigations and conclusions over the last 6 months perhaps we should be putting up billboards declaring.

    “Climategate was a hoax
    So stop believing the lies – get on with your life.”

    Unfortunately none of the conservative press/media/blogs has apologised for promoting these lies. Which says something about their moral postions.

    And only a few of the mainstream media have have been ethical enough to withdraw and apologise for the lies they printed.

    Perhaps we need billboards to get the message across.

  • I do like the second billboard, as far as I am concerned it is an irrefutable statement of fact.

  • Jan,
    You said, “You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be a good or happy person. If you look at the data you will find there is a significant correlation between the countries in the world which have a bigger secular population and the ones which are happier.”

    The first point is obviously true. There are plenty of happy, good secular people. Matt says this very clearly in the article. You can be good without believing in God and you can be good without God are completely different statements as Matt makes clear.

    As for the other data, it isn’t as clear. For instance, assuming you are thinking of Zuckerman/Paul’s work, then you hopefully know why they have been heavily criticized by other sociologists for not using all the data (China/North Korea are missing for instance), and for shaping other data that is supportive to their cause (for instance, they equate informal surveys by secular organizations in Scandinavia with major surveys by non-biased professional pollsters).

    The other glaring problem is that almost all of these nations showing this correlation have other similarities:

    1. They have higher wealth on the whole
    2. They are in locations more immune to natural disasters
    3. They are historically European (or colonized by Europeans)
    4. They are consistently in low-population per capita areas

    There are a ton more. It’s pretty clear that only those sociologists who have an agenda consider the correlation worthwhile. These other factors obviously affect their happiness.

    Of course, another similarity between these nations is that they are post-Christian. These “happier” (primarily Scandanavian) countries are not post-Buddhist, Islamic or anything else. And their status as post-Christian is fairly recent whereas their societal happiness does not seem as recent. If anything, it seems that they have benefited from the Christian ideals that led to the surprising rise of science, public health, public education, public assistance for those in poverty, etc. that were not as common or actively suppressed in non-Christian nations.

  • Big Bruv,
    You said, “I do like the second billboard, as far as I am concerned it is an irrefutable statement of fact.”

    Since it is an irrefutable statement of fact, I would like for you to give some evidence to support it. All your comment says is “I agree,” or more accurately, “I will assert it more strongly for rhetorical effect without actually giving any reasons why it is true.”

  • Murph – Paul the Octopus is no fairy or leprechaun. He is the earthly incarnation of the almighty deity of the universe. By his amazing works he is known.

  • Ranger,

    I didn’t have any particular study in mind. There are many out there. For example, Forbes just published a “Happiest Countries” list recently. That one also shows the same correlation.

    I would never suggest that secularism is the *only* property that correlates with happiness. I am saying however that the data shows that it is *one* of them.

  • Also, does anyone else find it ironic that natural disasters – “Acts of God” you may want to call them – occur more often in places where more people tend to believe in Him? :)

  • Hay, Matt. This post is a joke, right? Come on, you are not serious.

    Have you sunk so low that you are doing theological unpacking of bill board advertisements?

    Come off it. It thought it was pretty silly to critique a consciousness raising book like “The God Delusion” as if it were a theological treatise. But billboard adverts?

    Still you should get your history right. The UK Bus ads were not “inspired by Richard Dawkins” (Yes I know your demonisation of him knows no bounds so you automatically assume he is the guilty party).

    They were initiated by Arian Sherine with her Guardian article Atheists – gimme five.

    She was responding to a Christian bus advert which lead to the message:

    “accept the word of Jesus on the cross”: “You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)” (Matthew 25:41).”

    Naturally she thought “if they can do it, why can’t we.” And she probably added: “lets not be so spiteful and extreme.”

    She needed donations of £11000. Dawkins came to the rescue by pledging to donate pound for pound up to a maximum of £5500. And the rest is history. Money poured in and the campaign got many times the required amount.

    A similar history in NZ with an oversubscribed campaign.

    The whole thing has been very successful – as I think your time spent on the post must acknowledge.

    Even if it is meant as a joke.

  • Hey Madeline, I saw your comment on the NO GOD website with regard to the atheist billboard ads, so I visited your M&M page and I do have to say that as your partner Matt is heading to the USA to speak at what appears to be a large collection of Intelligent Design & Creationists, many of whom are linked to the controversial Discovery Institute, of which the Federal Court and the majority of Scientific organisations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say “the Discovery Institute has and continues to attempt to promote a false perception that evolution is “a theory in crisis” in order to further their argument for the teaching of IP and Creationism within US State Schools”. Then I would have to say you are the one with extremely poor reasoning and incoherent claims! Just a thought, what’s your take on the theory of a flat earth!!! Actually, don’t bother answering, I think I can guess!!!

  • Jan,
    The Forbes list is a great example, but it doesn’t really help your position in either the strong or weaker forms you’ve presented. A lack of belief in God isn’t an apparent indicator when considering the data:

    1. Denmark (Eurobarometer – 32% personal God, 49% universal life force or spirit, 19% agnostic/atheist)
    2. Finland (41%, 41%, 16%)
    3. Netherlands (34%, 37%, 27%)
    4. Sweden (23%, 53%, 23%)
    5. Ireland (73%, 22%, 4%)
    6. Canada (census stats – 16% claim no religion, but even doubling that number only gets you to 1/3rd of the population)
    7. Switzerland (48%, 39%, 9%)
    8. New Zealand (2008 Massey University Survey – 72% believe in God, 15% agnostic, 13% atheist)
    9. Norway (32%, 47%, 17%)
    10. Belgium (43%, 29%, 27%)

    Of course, the Eurobarometer poll has been criticized, but not toward the atheist/agnostic position. The questioning was confusing in differentiating between a personal God and spirit, since Christians believe that God is spirit and thus confused the results in many of these nations where catechizing children is still very common (Heidelberg, Catholic Church and Westminster all say that “God is a spirit”).

    So when you look at the actual evidence, five of these nations have a majority who believe in a personal God and all but the Netherlands and Belgium have over 3/4th of the population who believe in either a personal God or a “universal life force or spirit.”

    Every one of these nations has a Christian heritage, and I’m not sure, but I believe all of them have a state church. Other indicators seem more realistic of their happiness though. Consider that they all have low population per size, high wealth per capita, a strong welfare state (no one would deny this is due to their heritage), they are all either European or colonized by Europeans…but IMO the clear indicator is that only Switzerland is landlocked, and obviously fresh seafood leads to a happier lifestyle ;-)

    On the other end of the Forbes survey you have plenty of atheist/secularist nations as well such as North Korea, China and Vietnam. It always amuses me how some internet apologists for secularism want to include China and Vietnam in their total population stats (so that they can at least come close to having 1 billion atheists/agnostics worldwide), but shy away from them when discussing just about any other factor of atheist society. Having lived for a few years in China, and experienced the government oppression on various group that they deem “counter-cultural,” I understand why they avoid the topic.

    So in reality, the data seems to suggest that a lack of belief in God isn’t nearly the factor that many proponents of this view want people to believe. The other factors that seem to directly correlate seem a more obvious reason for the subjective category of “happiness.”

  • Paul,
    A non-sequitor is a logical fallacy where a conclusion doesn’t logically follow from the premises.

    Your comment which I outline below is an example of this fallacy:
    1. Madeliene posted about the logical fallacies in these advertisements
    2. Madeliene is married to Matt.
    3. Matt is speaking at a conference that includes some ID theorists (as well as many non-ID theorists)
    4. The US government and a large percentage of scientists have claimed that ID is false
    5. Therefore, Madeliene is “the one with extremely poor reasoning and incoherent claims”

    Do you see how this argument doesn’t logically follow? Here are some reasons why it doesn’t logically follow:

    1. Madeliene isn’t making claims about ID or Creationism, so that is irrelevant to the discussion.
    2. She could disagree with her husband on this subject.
    3. Matt could disagree with those who are pro-ID at the conference (which isn’t even a conference about ID or Creationism)
    4. The scientific concensus could be wrong, and the court ruling based on the concensus would thus be faulty.

    If any of these (as well as other factors) are true, then your “argument” falls apart because it’s not based on a logical deduction. Let me restate it using another topic so you can see the fallaciousness.

    1. Stephen Jay Gould taught at Harvard
    2. Kurt Wise (creationist) did a Ph.D. under Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard
    3. Kurt Wise uses his Ph.D. to speak to conferences that many believe are anti-science
    4. Therefore, Stephen Jay Gould must have been anti-science

  • Hi Paul, Not sure I see your point. It seems to be this: I am going to the US to a conference in one particular subject , and some other people are attending the same conference, and some of those other people are affiliated with an institute, and some other organizations which specializes in a completely different subject says this institute is wrong in their subject, so therefore my arguments above are contradictory.

    Is that it?

  • “So when you look at the actual evidence, five of these nations have a majority who believe in a personal God and all but the Netherlands and Belgium have over 3/4th of the population who believe in either a personal God or a “universal life force or spirit.”

    Correlation isn’t measured by comparing to “the majority”. Only half of the nations in the Top 10 list have a majority of believers in a personal god. Far more than half of countries in the world have such a majority. There’s your positive correlation.

  • Ranger that was just beautiful!

    Ken next you’ll be telling us that the billboards were not making any theological claims or that the atheists were not seriously trying to convey anything – they just spent thousands of dollars on billboards for fun.

  • Ranger

    “I would like for you to give some evidence to support it.”

    How can I prove a negative?, you want me to prove that a non existent god does not exist?

    How about you provide me with irrefutable truth that there is a God and then I might believe you.

  • Big Bruv

    How can I prove a negative?,

    Easily, I can prove that no six sided triangles exist and that no married bachelors exist.

    you want me to prove that a non existent god does not exist?

    I see so because God does not exist its inappropriate to try and justify this claim. That sounds like a circular argument.

    How about you provide me with irrefutable truth that there is a God and then I might believe you.

    Do you accept then the following claim: Its rational only to believe a positive claim if it can be irrefutably proven. ?

    If so I’ll simply point out that it is a positive claim.

  • Big Bruv,
    You’re changing the topic. Your claim was that the second billboard was irrefutable fact. The second billboard says, “In the beginning, man created God.” I asked for you to show how this is an irrefutable fact, not for you to prove a negative, but to give evidential support the positive claim of the billboard.

    Jan,
    “Far more than half of countries in the world have such a majority. ”

    Really? From a theistic perspective that would be good news, but unfortunately it’s simply not the case. Take the ten largest nations in the world by population (China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia, Japan). Of these five, the top two have majorities holding to religious systems that do not believe in a personal God…neither do either rank anywhere near the top of the “happiness” list.

    The next six on the list all hold to a personal God (although my Muslim friends might disagree in that God is so utterly transcendent in Islam that personal isn’t a comfortable category for them).

    The bottom two are interesting, because one had an enforced atheism for many years, but recent polling indicates that only about 15% now consider themselves agnostic or atheists significantly down from previous statistics (freedom to believe makes people more open to admitting their belief of course). The other nation, Japan, holds to a system that rejects belief in a Creator God. These ten nations alone make up well over half of the world’s population. None of these are in the top 10 list of the happiness index by Forbes with the US coming closest. China and India both rank near the bottom.

    In other words it’s a mixed bag, but does happiness directly correlate to population?

    In the University of Michigan survey on national happiness, Nigeria came first with Mexico (11th in population) and other smaller countries. Nigeria and Mexico are both among the most theistic and religious nations in the world. Third was Venezuela. All three have populations where over 95% of the people hold to some theistic belief.

    One thing is clear. The correlation you are attempting to show simply isn’t there, or if a slight correlation remains, it’s way down the list of reasons for subjective happiness.

    Maybe we’ll have to just agree to disagree on this one. I’ve got more to do today and this has taken too much time already! Have a great day.

  • No, Madeleine, next I’ll be telling you that Matt’s silly preoccupation with a billboard (bloody hell I keep getting an image of Don Quixote charging a billboard instead of a windmill) is contributing to the success of the atheist advert campaign.

    Think about it.

    1: The idea is floated in a Guardian article. It gets huge publicity. Donations start coming in and criticism from Christian bigots provides further free publicity.

    2: The campaign is launched, ads prepared and plans put into action.

    3: Reaction from Christian bigots provides more free publicity as does their attempts to prevent bus companies accepting ads.

    4: Ads go up on buses. More press coverage. More complaining by bigots provides more free publicity.

    5: Extremist Christian organizations complain to advertising standards council. More free publicity. Complaint rejected, more free publicity and lots of public comments sympathetic to atheists. Many Christians accept that it is a human rights issue and support ads.

    6: Extremist Christian groups start putting their own ads on buses. Modeled on the atheist ads this only reinforces the atheist message.

    7: But this provides some public humor (the war if the bus ads) and atheists laugh at all the publicity and sympathetic support they have got from little outlay because of Christian intolerance.

    8: Atheist bus ads spread internationally. The USA. Europe, Australia and NZ.

    9: The UK performance is repeated here. A tremendous amount of favorable comments including some from Christians ensues.

    10: Christian bigots here put private pressure on bus company. This cowardly act is successful.

    11: Public outpouring of support for ads, criticism of bus company and Christian bigots. Atheists skillfully play the downtrodden card.

    12: Atheists promote the human rights angle successfully and maintain publicity by exploring legal possibilities.

    13: These clever atheists don’t get sidetracked. They use half the money for billboard ads.

    14: This results in more publicity, ably assisted by Christian bigots making public criticisms and behaving spitefully on their blogs.

    15: Atheists take advantage of free publicity to raise more money for ads in other cities.

    16: Atheists get a public image as calm, reasonable and open minded people. Christians are seen as spiteful, undemocratic, sneaky and opposed to free speech.

    Well, I could go on. The whole thing seems to have been a self reinforcing chain reaction. Atheism has got a huge amount io free or very cheap publicity.

    NZers are becoming more aware that it is OK to be an atheist. It is no longer a bad word. More and more people are openly saying they are atheist.

    Meanwhile, roll on 2011 when we have a census. I think we might see quite a jump in the numbers prepared to tick the “no religion” box.

    So Madeleine and Matt. As a NZ atheist let me say thank you for your help.

  • “Far more than half of countries in the world have such a majority. ”

    Really? From a theistic perspective that would be good news, but unfortunately it’s simply not the case.”

    Well, of course that’s the case. Give me any reasonable estimate of how many people in the world believe in god. Whatever number you give, it’s going to be a significant minority. After realizing that, it’s not hard to see that a majority of the nations of the world must necessarily contain a majority of believers.

    You will forgive me for questioning the methodology of a survey that concludes that counts Nigeria as the happiest country in the world. :)

  • oops, “significant minority” should read “significant majority”. You get the idea :)

  • All the comments here are essays! I think that the billboards are sad, – a sad indictment on what was once a richly Christian nation. Funny, that the country is now in a tailspin on many fronts, but especially econmically and morally. Just look at the crime rate, for starters.I believe that it will get to the point here where outspoken Christians will be openly persecuted, and the govt will turn a blind eye. It’s also of interest that these billboards state the word ‘probably”- not so convinced in the no-God theory, deep down?

  • Ah, Ken leads the way for atheists here: If something, in retrospect, was stupid, then just claim that it wasn’t really serious. Dawkins wasn’t *really* talking about theological or philosophical ideas. He was just raising consciousness by discussing…. um… something else (but definitely not theology or philosophy).

    The billboards don’t need to be intellectually defensible. Who cares if they make absurd comments or imply hoipeless arguments. They just raise consciousness (you know, because making silly claims and implying faulty arguments raises consciousness – just not consciousness of the sort of facts you really want people to discover).

    And Jan: Good grief, did you actually read the blog post? Matt’s very point was that of course atheists can be good, and you can be good without believing in God – but he noted that this is not really the issue. The issue is whether or not there can be any such *thing* as moral goodness without God.

    If this is the way the Billboards defenders want the campaign to be remembered, Christians everywhere have another reason to smile.

  • What’s also interesting is that the first billboard assumes that everyone is good. It gets a figure of over a million Kiwis being atheists from the census, and then directly infers that there are over a million Kiwis who are good and who are atheists.

    I wonder what sort of character evaluation test they used.

  • Glenn,
    It’s also amusing because they not only assume that they are all “good,” but that all who claim “no religion” on the census (1,297,104 people in 2006) are “without God,” and then cite the Census as their source. Anyone who has even briefly looked at statistics for non-religious people knows that good-sized groups believe in God.

    So where does the 1 million “without God” number come from? The ISSP 2008 poll showed that 72% of Kiwis believed in God compared to 13% atheists and 15% agnostics (who likewise said “there is no way to find out” either way). I guess if you include all of the 28% you are around 1 million. Over one million? That’s stretching the data a little. The problem is that this data doesn’t come from the census, but from a completely different source (much smaller in scale).

    In America it’s even worse, because various polls have shown that some of those who even self-profess as “atheist” will say that they believe in God when asked in the very same survey, haha. A 2008 Pew Survey showed that 55% of self-identified agnostics claimed to believe in God (combined personal God and impersonal force) and 21% of self-identified atheists.

  • “And Jan: Good grief, did you actually read the blog post? Matt’s very point was that of course atheists can be good, and you can be good without believing in God – but he noted that this is not really the issue. The issue is whether or not there can be any such *thing* as moral goodness without God.”

    No argument there. Please note when I said that that it wasn’t in any sort of contradictory or argumentative context; I was simply trying to give my version of what the message behind that particular board was and Matt happens to agree. No problem.

    As to the “real issue”, I am happy to argue that with fervour. I find it an absurd claim that there can be no moral goodness without God. One of the first things I noticed on this site was the Sunday Study post “Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?”. Are you serious? The bible is supposed to be your ultimate authority on moral issues and you need a 2000-word essay to figure out which side of the fence it comes down on this? I could have told you the right moral answer to that question in half a second with just ounce of common sense. Without any reference to any “holy scripture” or man-made deity.

  • Jan, and I am fairly certain I could tell you in half a second how much time you’ve invested studying the allegation about the bible and rape victims. It’s a nice round figure….

    But you seem to be assuming that Christians don’t make moral decisions (as in the case of rape) without first consulting the bible. if that’s your view, then I’m pleased to be the one to tell you that all this time you’ve been worried about a straw man. This isn’t what Christians do or think.

    More importantly, you’ve entirely dodged the issue again. Telling people that you are able to recognise moral truths without being religious is not at all the same as saying that there can be moral facts if God doesn’t exist.

    Why are you continuing to confuse these different issues?

  • Matt & Madeline, what I was attempting to show, was from both your stated perspectives, “Reformed evangelical leanings” as you state on your site, and also the stance you have taken in a lot of your other posts, you give the impression that you support both Intelligent Design and Creationism. Of course if you don’t, feel free to tell us where you do stand on these perspectives?

  • Bloody hell! Sorry, I just can’t help it.

    With Glenn’s entry into the fray I now see Sancho Panza on his donkey accompanying Don Quixote charging an advertising billboard.

  • “But you seem to be assuming that Christians don’t make moral decisions (as in the case of rape) without first consulting the bible. if that’s your view, then I’m pleased to be the one to tell you that all this time you’ve been worried about a straw man. This isn’t what Christians do or think.”

    Then why was that post so concerned about reconciling moral values with what’s written in the bible? Why not just say: “The bible is not of any guidance in this issue. This is the obvious correct moral answer and let’s just move on.”?

    “Telling people that you are able to recognise moral truths without being religious is not at all the same as saying that there can be moral facts if God doesn’t exist.”

    Actually, it strikes me there is a lot of overlap with those two claims. “Recognize moral truths” and “saying there can be moral facts” are similar phrases. “Without being religious” and “God doesn’t exist” also imply very similar sentiments. I really have no idea what point you are trying to imply here.

  • I, too, would be very interested to hear what Matt’s and/or Madeleine’s opinions are on Creationism and Intelligent Design.

  • Read more about Mao Zedong, and one would realised the true potential of atheism. To me, Mao has got to be the most honest atheist in history and was very consistent (for six decades).

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/10/all_the_presidents_mao.html

  • Jan, as with your previous comments, you seem not to be able to see the logical implications of statements.

    Saying that a Christian doesn’t check the Bible every time they need to make a moral decision is not the same as saying “The bible is not of any guidance in this issue.”

    Do you realise that?

    As for the rest: Do you undwerstand the difference between these two statements:

    1) Atheists cannot recognise any moral facts at all.

    2) If atheism were true, then there would be no moral facts.

    Do you see that neither one of these statements implies the other? Don’t get tripped up over the fact that they contain some similar words. Lots of sentences do.

  • Thought I’d share. You never know you might learn something!!!

  • Ooops! Second try! This one should be correct!!
    Thought I’d share. You never know you might learn something!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg

    Yes it works!!! Feel free to view and comment!!!

  • [...] observations from Matt Flannagan over at M and M reminded me of the existence of the atheist campaign to evangelise the world through billboards. In [...]

  • Glenn,

    You seem to want to make a point but you don’t seem to want to explain it. No, the first set of statements don’t say the exact same thing. No, the second set of statements don’t imply each other. It remains that Christians claim that the bible is supposed to be our guide to moral values yet apparently, much time and effort needs to be taken to figure out what it has to say about obvious issues such as rape and slavery.

    Wouldn’t you think that the ultimate guide to human morals should be a lot clearer so as to render these types of discussions moot?

  • MATT:

    “Easily, I can prove that no six sided triangles exist ”

    Go on then. Let’s see your proof:

  • QUOTE OF THE DAY:

    “I keep getting an image of Don Quixote charging a billboard instead of a windmill”

    nice one.

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  • Why do we need to comment on our position on the method of creation in a thread about billboards?

    Is that so you can try to create some smoke and mirrors and get away from the fact that these billboards are full of shonky reasoning?

    The whole ‘are you a creationist’ is the contemporary version of are you a witch?

    Matt and I could believe that the world was square, the universe stopped at our galaxy and the moon was made of green cheese but being wrong about those things does not change the merits of the arguments contained in this post.

    Of course it is unsurprising that those who think that an expert in zoology should be taken seriously for their work in philosophy of religion despite them having no peer reviewed credibility in that field at all might make the mistake that failure to have credibility in the scientific field ipso facto means one’s arguments in theology, religion or ethics are flawed.

    For the record Matt and I are somewhat agnostic on the method of creation. The earth is clearly very old, clearly some forms of evolution occurred, we don’t really have an opinion on this controversy (as we have stated ad nauseum every time one of these modern day atheist witch-hunts pops up).

  • Intelligent Design:

    Perhaps those who continually ridicule ID should actually read something about this issue.

    You could start with this atheist philosophy professor here:

    http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/

  • Jan you write “Then why was that post so concerned about reconciling moral values with what’s written in the bible? Why not just say: “The bible is not of any guidance in this issue. This is the obvious correct moral answer and let’s just move on.”?

    If you read the post you’ll see, I wrote it not to figure out what the right answer to the issue of rape is Christians and Jews have known that for thousands of years. I wrote to rebut claims by various atheists who write lengthy posts asserting the bible and Christianity endorse rape etc. Its them not me who are trying to confuse the issue.

    I would also reiterated Glenn’s point , I don’t and Christians don’t claim you need to go to the Bible to figure out whether rape is wrong, one knows that immediately via ones God given conscience, you do how ever have to carefully go through and rebut the arguments of people like Michael Martin and others who try and claim the bible supports rape.

    Actually, it strikes me there is a lot of overlap with those two claims. “Recognize moral truths” and “saying there can be moral facts” are similar phrases. “Without being religious” and “God doesn’t exist” also imply very similar sentiments. I really have no idea what point you are trying to imply here

    Well if you don’t understand the basic distinctions involved in a question such as the distinction between moral ontology and moral epistemology, then perhaps you and other atheists should not comment on the issue. :- )

    I’ll try and explain: The following two statements

    1. Someone (my child, 14 century peasant etc) can recognize a cup of water without believing in hydrogen and oxygen

    2. Water is constituted by H20

    Both can be true at the same time. The fact that water is H20 does not mean a person has to believe in modern chemistry to recognize the sea or a stream or a cup of water.

    Now consider the following analogous distinction.

    1. Someone ( an atheist) can recognize a wrong action without believing in Gods commands

    2. The right and wrong are constituted by conformity to and being contrary to God commands.

    The cases are on par, saying A depends on B for its existence, does not mean a person needs to believe in A or in order to recognize B.

    Now almost every discussion in the literature on God and morality makes this very distinction. Its in fact usually a central point of almost every definitive defense of divine command theory. Why then do so many atheists repeatedly keep ignoring it?

    If someone were to comment on say evolutionary theory when they did not understand basic distinctions in the subject I am sure the secular community would justifiably critical. Ignorance does not become avant garde just because you agree with the conclusions.

    I take it that if creationists put up pictures of chimps saying “this is not my grandfather” you would not consider it nonsense, after all its merely advertising, the statement is clearly true ( chimps are cousins not ancestors), the fact they of course display a fundamental misunderstanding of evolutionary theory does not matter right, its just there to promote consciousness raising. And of course if it was outside a public school, the tolerant secular community Ken goes on about would not complain I am sure.

  • Rob you are quite correct, that was part of the point i was making.

    The philosophical issues about ID are not always the same as the scientific ones. The fact that a body of scientists therefore condemns ID does not mean Philosophers who take up the philosophical questions and come to conclusions that there is philosophical merit to ID are academically sub par.

    The same is true of the legal issues, the questions of the legal status of ID is a legal not a scientific question and the question of whether it should be taught in schools is a public policy question of social ethics, political and educational philosophy and so on, people with knowledge in these fields can competently contribute and should not be anathematized simply because the scientific community desires a particular legal or political outcomes.

    Scientists have no expertise qua scientists in these fields papers in these fields are determined by the peer review process and within these fields.

  • This is mainly for Matt, but could also apply to Glenn, looking at his Bio:
    Firstly, the term “fisking”, or “to fisk”, is blogosphere slang describing a point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement or article.
    The technique has its critics, Andrew Orlowski in The Register commented that “Many of today’s debaters prefer ‘Fisking’—line-by-line rebuttals where facts are dropped like radar-chaff, as opposed to rational debate or building a coherent argument.”
    —————————————————————————————————————
    I Thought the above statements made for an interesting perspective, given that your original intention was to “Fisk the atheist billboards”, as I feel it reflects how much of what you are saying misses the point of this campaign.
    I can’t help feeling that you are an example of those classic “Academics in ivory towers” who have taken the art of debate to an increasingly higher and higher level, so divorced from the real world and in particular real people, that your arguments become almost meaningless.
    In fact one of the main reasons that Richard Dawkins has become so popoular/unpopular (depending on your personal perspective) is that he has managed to take some complex concepts and ideas and presented them in a very understandable form.
    The problem you face is that this increasingly popular, easy to understand message appeals hugely to the large number of people who do not believe in god, and also are increasingly cynical about the role of organised religion in modern life, especially when extremists such as Al Quada and the Pro-Life Activists are quite prepared to take their own and others lives to further their personal theistic perspective.
    Don’t get me wrong, I can see from your bio and the site that you obviously are intelligent individuals, who have developed some great skills with regard to arguing the case for your personal perspectives, but at the end of the day, for the vast majority of people, your arguments are irrelevant!
    Now, no doubt, you will embark on a line-by-line dissection of my argument, but it actually wont matter, as Software engineering writer Joel Spolsky has commented, that fisking is the same as the “line-by-line nitpick” reply style common on Usenet and not a new phenomenon, also writing “It’s fun for the nitpicker but never worth reading so most people will ignore what you have to say anyway!!!” Couldn’t have put it better myself!!!

  • “If you read the post you’ll see, I wrote it not to figure out what the right answer to the issue of rape is Christians and Jews have known that for thousands of years. I wrote to rebut claims by various atheists who write lengthy posts asserting the bible and Christianity endorse rape etc. Its them not me who are trying to confuse the issue.”

    My point still remains: why are these confusions so rampant and why does it take the inordinate amount of effort for you to refute them? It took you 2000 words to show that the bible does not condone rape!

    I don’t understand why the bible is not absolutely crystal clear in these cases. The confusion is so abundant that if you go into google and try to type in “does the bible condone slavery” it actually completes the phrase for you, since it is such a popular search. Other options google returns for that phrase include “war”, “polygamy”, “genocide” and “killing”.

    All this inquiry is not a conspiracy. People are legitimately confused. I won’t bother quoting various passages that generate this confusion as I’m sure you’ve seen them all before. But it sure seems the bible has lots of room for improvement before it can claim status as the authority on human morality.

  • Re: Your analogies, I don’t find them to be valid. The chemical composition of water can be demonstrably shown or proven. That God gives moral commands cannot. Once someone recognizes you can be moral without God there doesn’t really seem to be much point in going further.

    So yes, I would complain about the pictures of the chimps and point out it contradicts a scientifically proven fact. You unfortunately do not have the same luxury with your claims about God.

  • “Once someone recognizes you can be moral without God”

    You can not be moral without God, but you can be moral without believing in God.

  • To Matt again, I’ve added the following for your entertainment, I’ve taken it from: Tom Flynn the editor of FREE INQUIRY and The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (Prometheus Books, 2007). Republished from Free Inquiry APRIL/MAY 2010. No doubt you’ll re-buff, but that will not change the reality of what is taking place with regard to atheism at present.

    “Those individuals familiar with nineteenth- and twentieth-century freethought literature—which, of course, most people aren’t—knew that everything the Horsemen (Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hitchens) are being praised and condemned for, had been done before. Well. Many times at least.

    Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, articulate writers had declared religion untrue, faith a social evil, and the archetypal stories told by the world’s great creeds nothing but clumsy legends.

    Names from Robert Green Ingersoll to Matilda Joslyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Bertrand Russell, Chapman Cohen, Joseph McCabe, and Joseph Lewis come to mind, and I’m only scratching the surface (McCabe in particular drew from the best science of his day, tools with which to bludgeon faith no less effectively than Dawkins or Stenger in our own).

    Then there’s Paul Kurtz’s 1987 The Transcendental Temptation, a rigorous deconstruction of (among other things) the Abrahamic traditions that can stand alongside anything the Horsemen wrote.

    The difference is that when “movement” material came from publishers like Watts and Company, the Rationalist Press Association, the J.P. Mendum Company, the Truth Seeker Company, and to a degree even Haldeman-Julius and present-day Prometheus Books, it tended to stay within the movement.

    The triumph of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hitchens was to take arguments against religion that were long familiar to insiders, brilliantly repackage them, and expose them to millions who would never otherwise pick up an atheist book.”

    That’s what I believe you truly fear, is that they are gaining a mass audience that previously did not exist in the relatively polite academic forums in which such discussions took place previously.

    Where this will all lead to is the interesting part! I certainly don’t know the answer, as I’m sure you don’t either, but I’m just glad that it’s taking place.

  • To Jan
    I am no expert but I dont think these “confusions” are particularly rampant at least not from a Christian POV. It seems to me that most of these “confusions” come about because people who oppose the Bible as a moral guide actively seek out and promote apparent problems/inconsistancies without studying context. I am sure you know that anything can be twisted or misapplied when taken out of context.
    I would like to ask you how you define “moral” and consquently against what do you reference right and wrong or good and bad?

  • “In fact one of the main reasons that Richard Dawkins has become so popoular/unpopular (depending on your personal perspective) is that he has managed to take some complex concepts and ideas and presented them in a very understandable form.”

    Paul,
    This is exactly the problem. They are very complex ideas, and they were too complex for Dawkins. I don’t mean to say that they were too complex for him to potentially understand, but that at the time of writing TGD he didn’t understand them and wrote a book acting like he did. Anyone with a basic degree in philosophy or theology knows that Dawkins doesn’t understand the majority of what he criticizes. A clear example comes in his discussion of Aquinas which not only shows that he doesn’t understand what Aquinas actually said (he misstates him), but that he doesn’t understand the content of what Aquinas was saying either.

    As you know, Dawkins ignores criticism, even when his critics are fellow agnostic/atheists who are publishing their critiques in professional journals of the fields he criticizes. You surely know that he just writes them off as “fleas” and moves on as if he hasn’t been debunked.

    Do you see how such a strategy doesn’t actually raise consciousness, but spreads misunderstandings and ignorance?

    As I’m sure you’ve picked up in this thread there are a lot of responses that try to change the subject (i.e. “Let’s talk ID” or “These billboards weren’t serious, we shouldn’t be talking seriously about what they advertise”) or they are totally fallacious (see my comment on non-sequitors above). Even the discussion about “atheists being moral” is attempting to change the subject, because that’s an ontological discussion and not the epistemological discussion of that Matt discusses above.

    Instead of hanging on to the misunderstandings and “consciousness raising” of Dawkins and others in that camp, why not begin taking the time and effort to understand philosophy and theology to see where it takes you. I have two close friends who decided to take this latter route of education over ignorance. One, a mid-thirties businessman, became a Christian and understands both sides well now (so be warned that the road doesn’t always lead where you expect). The other, a mid-twenties literature student, remained an atheist, but now understands the issues much better and can talk without talking past his opponents. He can actually discuss the issues at hand, and not change subjects or attack strawmen. Shouldn’t we value this latter group who are seeking to understand and propagate accurate information and discussions?

  • “You can not be moral without God”

    I find it surprising that it even occurs to a theist to imagine a universe without God, something which should be instinctively impossible according to their beliefs.

    Anyways, this assertion is not demonstrable, so its persuasive power is virtually zero to anyone who doesn’t already believe it.

  • And to Paul
    You are quite right, Dawkins et al, have done an amazingly good job of presenting their positions in a non complex and populist manner. The trouble is not that they have achieved this but rather that they so often caricature/ misrepresent the positions they are arguing against. This makes for entertaining books, tv shows, stage shows and corresponding income streams. Trying to make a carefully thought out and articulate response is all ways going to be comparitively “boring”. Novels outsell textbooks every day of the week.

  • @Jeremy “I would like to ask you how you define “moral” and consquently against what do you reference right and wrong or good and bad?”

    Not an easy question an certainly not one I could give a complete answer to on this space. The short answer is that I believe much (most?) of my morality is hard-wired into my brain as traits my ancestors carried and helped them reproduce and pass on those same traits to me.

    As a possible and very simplistic example, a kind and generous father may have been more likely to attract a mate bear children with her than a cruel one. Those “kind and generous genes” therefore tend to get passed on whereas the “cruel genes” die and don’t.

  • Jan wrote:

    “… if you go into google and try to type in “does the bible condone slavery” it actually completes the phrase for you, since it is such a popular search. ”

    Part of the problem Jan, is that the New Testament was written at a time when slavery was a huge part of the Roman empire. Many Christian converts were slaves, and some were slave masters. And further, slavery back then did not mean the same thing as many images of modern slavery convey.

    So is slavery wrong per se? No. In fact, in many instances, such as being a slave in the house of a kindly slave-master could be quite satisfying. You could be fed, watered, married, and generally well looked after.

  • Jan wrote:

    “…Not an easy question an certainly not one I could give a complete answer to on this space. The short answer is that I believe much (most?) of my morality is hard-wired into my brain as traits my ancestors carried and helped them reproduce and pass on those same traits to me.”

    Yes, and Hitler’s morality was hard wired into his brain too.

    And according to atheism’s Darwinian foundations, my ancestors got here because they managed to struggle and survive, tooth and claw, over against all those who died. Wow, what a great prototypical evolved morality to base modern morality upon!

    So this is where atheism leads to. It must. Atheists cannot legitimately criticize Hitler he was just dancing to his DNA. Also, you must argue from an “is” to an “ought” (the world IS like this, therefore we OUGHT to behave like that), but atoms in motion have no “oughts” except to obey the physical laws.

    So Jan, let your atoms be honest with you and admit to yourself that all morality is an illusion that exists only between your ears.

  • Jan wrote:

    “As a possible and very simplistic example, a kind and generous father may have been more likely to attract a mate bear children with her than a cruel one. Those “kind and generous genes” therefore tend to get passed on whereas the “cruel genes” die and don’t.”

    Jan, do you have any evidence whatsoever that “kind and generous genes” are passed on? If so, could you please cite it for us? Or is this just another atheist fairy story?

    Also, my experience is 180 degrees in the other direction. For example, I have several friends who are unmarried. They are the nicest guys I know, but are typically quiet and shy. They just ain’t chic magnets.

    On the other hand, forward, aggressive, strong-willed people often do “spread their seed” because, well, they are forward, aggressive, and strong-willed.

  • @ Rob “Part of the problem Jan, is that the New Testament was written at a time when slavery was a huge part of the Roman empire.”

    I would argue that not only is it part of the problem, it is most of the problem! The bible was written by man in a time and context that is no longer relevant today. That’s a big problem.

    “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” (Ex 21:20-1)

    I find your explanation and defense of slavery in the bible to be unsatisfactory, to say the least.

  • “Yes, and Hitler’s morality was hard wired into his brain too.”

    I truly find it incredible that people can – with a straight face – continue to cite Hitler as an example of why religion is good. Hitler murdered more people on the basis of religion than anyone in history!

    You may not like it, but yes, much of our behaviour is hard-wired in our brains. As a person of reason, I do not believe in something because it makes me feel better about myself or the world around me. I believe it because the evidence around me has convinced me that it’s true.

  • “Jan, do you have any evidence whatsoever that “kind and generous genes” are passed on? If so, could you please cite it for us? Or is this just another atheist fairy story?”

    I am in no position to be able to give a lecture on evolutionary principles in this space. There is plenty of literature out there that could explain why altruistic traits have evolved in humans (also in many other species) much better than I ever could.

  • What do the atheist billboards do? Simple. They (like the 4 Horsemen) raise consciousness about the patent absurdity of religious irrationality with an audience that has largely been spoon fed with religion since birth.

    I sensed a breath of intellectual fresh air when Madeleine wrote: “For the record Matt and I are somewhat agnostic on the method of creation. The earth is clearly very old, clearly some forms of evolution occurred, we don’t really have an opinion on this controversy (as we have stated ad nauseum every time one of these modern day atheist witch-hunts pops up).” Of course the earth is clearly very old. The authors of this blog have considered the evidence in this regard and have arrived at the most sensible solution. Why they refuse to employ the same common sense approach to claims of a 2000 year old zombie myth fascinates me. Hume nailed this over 250 years ago in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding :

    Upon the whole, then, it appears, that no testimony for any kind of miracle has ever amounted to a probability, much less to a proof; and that, even supposing it amounted to a proof, it would be opposed by another proof; derived from the very nature of the fact, which it would endeavour to establish. It is experience only, which gives authority to human testimony; and it is the same experience, which assures us of the laws of nature. When, therefore, these two kinds of experience are contrary, we have nothing to do but subtract the one from the other, and embrace an opinion, either on one side or the other, with that assurance which arises from the remainder. But according to the principle here explained, this subtraction, with regard to all popular religions, amounts to an entire annihilation; and therefore we may establish it as a maxim, that no human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle, and make it a just foundation for any such system of religion.

  • Paul I am well aware the arguments Dawkins at el cite are simply repackaging in popular form older ones. Thats the point theys imply recite often poorer versions of athiest arguments from the 19 and early 20th century, most of those arguments are well known to philosophers of religion a feild which has come a long way in the last 50 years and few would find those arguments compelling any more given the critiques they have repeatedly been subjected to.

    I suppose if someone repackages 19th century creationist arguments in a real popular untechnical form then you will consider that a excellent brillant peice of work.

  • Athiest missonary. I don’t employ Humes 17 century argument because it has been refuted hundreds of times. In fact Earman an athiest in a book length discussion of this argument called it Hume’s abject failure. My friend Tim Mcgrew for example has recently written an article for the Stanford Encyclopedia where he gives an over view of the issues.

    It might shock you and your colleagues to know that some of us actually have studied some philosophy and we have heard of the arguments you cite. We are also however aware of the rebuttals.

  • Matt, Rob, Madeleine and Glenn. I don’t know why you just don’t front up and admit your opposition to evolutionary science. There is something about the honest creationists that deserves more respect than the theological wishy washy humming and haaing before finally admitting “Yes” you do oppose the science.

    And this hiding behind “philosophy:”

    ” The fact that a body of scientists therefore condemns ID does not mean Philosophers who take up the philosophical questions and come to conclusions that there is philosophical merit to ID are academically sub par.”

    Matt, you know as well as we do that there is not one “philosophy” There is good philosophy and there is bad philosophy. I place any philosophy which denies reality into the bad basket. And creationism denies reality.

    So yes, I do think any philosophy that argues for creationism/intelligent design (or creainteligentdesign propoentstionism) are “sub par.”

    And I think any lawyer who participates in attempts to prevent teaching of evolutionary and other science to science classes and attempts to impose religion/creationism on science classes has huge ethical problems.

    Reality is reality. You can’t change it so:
    Accept it and stop worrying about life.”

    By the Way – Don Quixote and Sancho Panza – when are you going to widen your attack.

    There must be some more billboards out there advertising, say, weetbix, or cosmetics, or liquor. Surely they are full of theological mkjsitakes.

    Or even have a look at the billboards outside some of those churches. It’s well known that the church understanding of religion differs markedly from the theologian’s.

    I am sure you could find plenty of theological mistakes to attack amongst that lot.

    Thanks again for the free publicity.

    It’s a lovely image!

  • “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” (Ex 21:20-1)

    I find your explanation and defense of slavery in the bible to be unsatisfactory, to say the least

    Actually the word punished in that context means execute, beating of slaves is cited as a punishable a few verses latter. The previous verse, context and language make this clear.

    Of course I could quote you out of context and make you say terrible things too, its an easy game to play.

  • So Ken are you saying that Larry Laudan a former professor of philosophy of science at Princeton University one of the leading philosophers of science in the world is incompetent because he critised the philosophy of science arguments of the court cases that banned Creationism from schools. All the hundreds of editoral boards and publishing companies that published his works, Princeton University, and the large number of philosophy of science anthologies that publish his works are all mistaken in there assesemnt of his scholarship because a soil scientists in NZ doesn’t like his conclusions.

    Or perhaps you are suggesting Bradley Morton from University of Colorado is a quack.

    Sorry that needs to be backed up rather than simply asserted.

    Winning a political argument by character assanating your opponents is not terribly scientific and when I see it done it does raise questions to me as to wether science or politics is involved in the debate.

  • Jan,
    Responding to ““You can not be moral without God””

    You say, “I find it surprising that it even occurs to a theist to imagine a universe without God, something which should be instinctively impossible according to their beliefs.”

    If it’s instinctively impossible according to their beliefs for them to imagine a universe without God, then why do you find it surprising?

    You continue, “Anyways, this assertion is not demonstrable, so its persuasive power is virtually zero to anyone who doesn’t already believe it.”

    Which assertion is not demonstrable? “You cannot be moral without God?” It still seems that you are missing the distinction between epistemology and ontology, and the context of the comment by anon clearly shows that she/he is attempting to make this distinction.

    Nobody is saying that you can not act morally, or be a moral person without a belief in God. What we are saying is that a fully coherent ethical system requires God for proper grounding, and this is why atheistic ethical systems are either utilitarian (and thus flawed by the subjective interpretations of utility which are almost always determined by the state with the most power), relativistic or altogether illusory.

    The best way for you to prove this claim wrong is not to write it off, but instead to show a coherent atheistic ethical system. If you could do such a thing you would shut us all up, be on topic with the post (since this discusses the first billboard) and get yourself published. Why do I say that it would get you published? Simply because the best of atheistic philosophers, whether Mackie in analytic philosophy, Rorty in postmodern philosophy or Satre in continental philosophy have argued that moral nihilism is the only possible outcome “without God.”

    In a morally nihilistic world, there is still the possibility of people living “morally” (although the distinction “moral” holds little value outside of subjective preference), and there is a possibility of the State enforcing a seemingly good moral order. BUT, there no longer remains the option for one State standing against the immorality of another State.

    If my State were to desire to stand up for the rights of women against a State that denied their freedom, in a morally nihilistic system, what self-evident right would the State actually have?

    The problem is not whether or not I find their actions wrong, but by what transcendent standard do I hold my actions to be right and theirs to be wrong. Even a simple phrase like “harming others is wrong” struggles to find anything more than a utilitarian value in such a world.

    I hope this is clear and that it helps you see the distinction between knowing why something is right or wrong, and whether or not someone acts in a right or wrong manner.

    You go on in another comment to say, “You may not like it, but yes, much of our behaviour is hard-wired in our brains. As a person of reason, I do not believe in something because it makes me feel better about myself or the world around me. I believe it because the evidence around me has convinced me that it’s true.”

    Do you distinguish between which actions are hardwired and which are not? If so, which actions are non-determined? How do you differentiate between determined and non-determined actions?

    If all of the evidence points to our decisions being hard-wired (as most naturalists claim and you seem to at least accept in part), then how do we “reason” at all? Since evolution lacks the possibility for selection based on truth value, instead opting for group survival value, which may or may not be in line with truth, and we are determined by our brains, then in what way can someone be “reasonable” since this involves selection based on truth value over survival value? Furthermore, how could we even determine whether or not someones brain was functioning “properly?” Do we arbitrarily decide what “proper” means or do we decide based on survival value (and thus undercut truth value)? How can someone be “convinced” in any meaningful way in such a closed system if it is not possible that it could have been otherwise?

    Honestly, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions, because I’ve read a lot of books on nontheistic epistemology from neuroscientists and philosophers (such as Dennett, Sober, Kim and Fodor) and they seem as clueless as I am in figuring out how such a thing would work. Consider this quote by Kim on the difficulties of successfully arguing for a naturalized epistemology:

    “The implicit requirement has been that the stated conditions must constitute ‘criteria’ of justified belief, and for this it is necessary that the conditions be stated without the use of epistemic terms. Thus, formulating conditions of justified belief in terms such as ‘adequate evidence’, ‘sufficient ground’, ‘good reason’, ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, and so on, would be merely to issue a promissory note redeemable only when these epistemic terms are themselves explained in a way that accords with the requirement.” (Jaegwon Kim in ‘What is “Naturalized Epistemology?”)

    These problems (along with the ones about morality and many others) are not easy, and the reason many of us think it’s so difficult is that it goes against the very fabric of our theistic universe.

    By the way, I’m done. I’ll read your responses and hope you all continue the fine discussion, but it’s taken too much of my time. Peace.

  • One last question and I’m really gone for good. Why do atheists always have to bring the discussion around to evolution? Why is it so difficult to stay on task and discuss the topics at hand? This post has nothing to do with ID, Creationism, TE or anything else. It’s totally irrelevant to the critiques offered above…why not attempt to defend your atheistic perspectives instead of trying to change the topic altogether?

  • “why not attempt to defend your atheistic perspectives instead of trying to change the topic altogether?”

    I did that in my very first post. No one responded so I followed the direction the thread ended up taking.

    There seems little point in responding if you have no desire to continue the discussion. Although you’ve changed your mind twice on that already so maybe there’s still hope :)

  • Hi Jan,

    Here’s your first post

    “One, the secular community is a lot bigger than most people think. Two, You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be a good or happy person. If you look at the data you will find there is a significant correlation between the countries in the world which have a bigger secular population and the ones which are happier.”

    One: not relevant unless you believe in morality by majority view?

    Two: I think pretty much everyone here agree. But later on you sidetracked from “You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be” (which most/all theists here agree) to “Once someone recognizes you can be moral without God”

    … you can’t be that idiot to not see the significant shift!

    Three: being happy is not the same as being moral. In fact being moral often means you sacrifice your happiness (and life).

    And that is probably one of the biggest differences between theists and atheists, atheists put happiness above ‘morality’ (whatever that means to atheist), while theists put morality above happiness.

  • “Actually the word punished in that context means execute, beating of slaves is cited as a punishable a few verses latter. The previous verse, context and language make this clear.”

    Here is the previous verse:

    “the one who struck the blow will not be held responsible if the other gets up and walks around outside with his staff; however, he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time and see that he is completely healed.” (Ex 21:19)

    How on earth does verse context or language “make clear” that the word “punishable” means “execute”??

    I’m sorry, but I find anyone’s attempt in this thread at an explanation and/or defense of slavery in the bible woefully inadequate. Apparently the beating of slaves is common enough in the bible as to induce a rule that mandates some kind of punishment. If the slave “gets up” after a “day or two” (which is it?) then this punishment no longer applies since he is considered property. How can this assertion possibly be taken out of context as to not be a truly barbaric and immoral principle?

  • I agree, Matt, Bradley Morton is “a quack” based on stuff of his I have heard and read. That material has been rather pathetic I am afraid.

    As for Larry Laudan I am not familiar with him so, as is my usual policy, I couldn’t possibly comment.

    But I repeat any “philosopher” who denies reality is a poor philosopher (and yes I know there are plenty around.).

    What do you think? Do you respect philosophers who deny reality? Who deny established facts? Would you respect a philosopher that argued the sun orbited the earth (or that there was no way of deciding between a heliocentric and geocentric universe)? Would you respect a philosopher that argued via mental gymnastics that the holocaust didn’t happen? Or that it was OK to own slaves, beat children and partners? Or that there never was a Roman civilisation?

    Do you respect philosophers who argue that science is not a good way of understanding the world? Do you respect philosophers who deny evolutionary science?

    And, actually Matt, when it comes to evolutionary science you are a theologian who denies reality – aren’t you?

    I think refusal to answer simple questions is a sign of cowardice.

    And you have ignored some very important questions:

    When are you and your offsider going to get stuck into those other billboards? – Especially the ones outside churches. Great pickings for anyone looking for theological errors.

  • To Jan
    “I truly find it incredible that people can – with a straight face – continue to cite Hitler as an example of why religion is good. Hitler murdered more people on the basis of religion than anyone in history!”

    This may be true but you are twisting truth, Hilter murdered people on the basis of their religon not because of his. Neither does this actually cite religion as good but rather points to the fact that “hard-wiring” can be seriously evil.
    Maybe it points to man being fundamentally amoral and needing an external standard to define right and wrong.

  • to jan
    sorry not trying to be anonymous, just not very familiar with posting

  • @Anon

    First of all, let me first comment that posting as “Anon” and trying to carrying on a discussion at the same time a little irksome. Throw me a bone and give a name, any name will do. It’ll at least give me a better feeling that I’m talking to an actual person :) (and also avoid confusion if some other “Anon” wants to make a comment)

    “One: not relevant unless you believe in morality by majority view?”

    I find this to be “Us vs Them” mentality that only hurts discussions like this. Why can’t you and I share similar moral values despite belonging to different religious classes? Taking you logic to the extreme, NO ONE on earth has proper morals since no one belongs to a worldwide religious majority.

    “you can’t be that idiot to not see the significant shift!”

    It’s not a shift. Those are two separate beliefs I hold. As an aside, why do you have to call me an idiot in order to make your point?

    “Three: being happy is not the same as being moral. In fact being moral often means you sacrifice your happiness (and life).

    And that is probably one of the biggest differences between theists and atheists, atheists put happiness above ‘morality’ (whatever that means to atheist), while theists put morality above happiness.”

    You say this with no evidence, continuing your insulting tactics by simply implying I’m a bad person. I’m kind of regretting at this point giving you the respect of taking the time to thoughtfully respond to your post, but I’ve already written it so I might as well post it.

  • Matt, in reply to your statement: “I suppose if someone repackages 19th century creationist arguments in a real popular untechnical form then you will consider that an excellent, brilliant piece of work.” I’d have to say no, as a large part of the recent arguments put forward by theistic philosophers is exactly that and as Ken stated:

    But I repeat any “philosopher” who denies reality is a poor philosopher (and yes I know there are plenty around.).

    What do you think? Do you respect philosophers who deny reality? Who deny established facts? Would you respect a philosopher that argued the sun orbited the earth (or that there was no way of deciding between a heliocentric and geocentric universe)? Would you respect a philosopher that argued via mental gymnastics that the holocaust didn’t happen? Or that it was OK to own slaves, beat children and partners? Or that there never was a Roman civilisation?

    Do you respect philosophers who argue that science is not a good way of understanding the world? Do you respect philosophers who deny evolutionary science?

    And, actually Matt, when it comes to evolutionary science you are a theologian who denies reality – aren’t you?

    As I said earlier, couldn’t have put it better myself!!!

  • Jan continues:

    “I truly find it incredible that people can – with a straight face – continue to cite Hitler as an example of why religion is good. Hitler murdered more people on the basis of religion than anyone in history!”

    And I find it incredible that you could so misread my comment. Hitler does NOT prove that “religion is good”. Nor would I personally want to advocate such. Hitler just shows if people are simply animals, not made in God’s image, then they have no intrinsic worth.

    I would agree.

    Atheists ought to own up to the blatant fact that, given their own beloved system, we are just worthless animals, sacks of carbon, a random cosmic accident, and that life has no ultimate meaning.

    I was raised with this worldview, and still have no problem seeing how consistent it is with utter meaninglessness.

    Of course, this does NOT prove Christianity to be true, and I am not arguing that.

  • Jan wrote:

    “…as a person of reason…”

    If you are the by-product of survival of the fittest, blood, tooth and claw survival, why should you think that your evolved reasoning is going to lead you to any valid conclusions? If your brain evolved primarily for survival, why should you trust if to make sense of love for example?

    On the other hand, if you were created on God’s image, with God’s reasoning stamped into your very nature, at least you would now have a basis for your argument.

  • Jan continues:

    “I am in no position to be able to give a lecture on evolutionary principles in this space. There is plenty of literature out there that could explain why altruistic traits have evolved in humans (also in many other species) much better than I ever could.”

    Well, given your worldview, it MUST have evolved, right? I mean, how else could it have got here?

    Does “unfalsifiable” ring any bells?

    See, you are just as closed minded as me :-)

  • @Jeremy

    Thx for the Anon clarification, esp. in light of my ensuing comment:)

    I have a quote for you:

    “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    This is quoted directly from Mein Kampf. I sincerely hope that this is enough evidence for you or anyone else reading this to never again cite Hitler as evidence for evil committed under the banner of atheism.

  • Rob – this is naive and silly:

    “If you are the by-product of survival of the fittest, blood, tooth and claw survival, why should you think that your evolved reasoning is going to lead you to any valid conclusions? If your brain evolved primarily for survival, why should you trust if to make sense of love for example?

    On the other hand, if you were created on God’s image, with God’s reasoning stamped into your very nature, at least you would now have a basis for your argument.”

    Have a bit of respect for the intelligence of others who are commenting here.

    Evolutionary science has developed quote a good understanding of the evolution of morality, cooperation, – even love for our neighbors. (Even back in the 70s Dawkins “Selfish Gene” provided insights in this area). Science has also developed a really good understanding of the evolution of religion and the “god belief.”

    You should put your creationist tracts aside for a while a read a bit of current evolutionary science.

  • @Rob

    “If your brain evolved primarily for survival, why should you trust if to make sense of love for example?”

    I am way too out-of-breath at this point to elaborate but my short answer is: because love helps survival! Why do “happiness” and “instinct for survival” necessarily need to be mutually exclusive traits? I would argue there is significant overlap between the two.

    I can’t think of anything that I wrote that should suggest to you I think we are “worthless animals”. I think life is beautiful and am constantly amazed and inspired by the things I see and learn about the world. I wish you believed me and I wish you believed that I feel this way without any sort of influence from a supernatural force.

  • Jan wrote:

    ““I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.””

    Words are cheap Jan. Hitler was a politician and spoke by his actions. And his actions are anything but Christian.

    Feel free to prove me wrong… just quote chapter and verse.

  • Ken wrote:

    “You should put your creationist tracts aside for a while a read a bit of current evolutionary science.”

    Does watching Sam Harris on stage count? Honestly Ken, I was expecting him to make some good solid arguments when he spoke on morality, but honestly…

  • Ken wrote:

    “Evolutionary science has developed quote a good understanding of the evolution of morality, cooperation, – even love for our neighbors.”

    Could you explain some of the scientific proof you have for this Ken. How could we test it? How could it be falsified? What are the cold hard facts? Or is this just another evolutionary question-begging fairy story?

  • To Jan
    Doesnt really invalidate my point, no Biblical support for Hilters actions can be found, if Hitler claimed he was doing the Lord’s work then he was doing so against the clear teachings of scripture [being your brothers keeper/ do unto others etc] rather than with their approval. Hilter and Nazism better known for the possibility of occult weirdness than anything resembling Christianity. While we are on the subject how about the 20th C experience with atheistic politics USSR, China and Cambodia killed more people in the cause of getting rid of religion/ state supremacy than all the so called”religious” wars in history combined. Take religion away nothing improves, these problems are with the nature and character of man.

  • “Words are cheap Jan. Hitler was a politician and spoke by his actions.”

    So your argument is that he said these words but he didn’t believe them? He was raised as a Catholic! Are you really comfortable here claiming to have insight into Hitler’s private thoughts and know he was lying when he said that?

    Yes, he spoke by his actions and his actions conform exactly to his intentions that he implied in that quote. There is no evidence to believe he wasn’t telling the truth when he spoke those words.

  • @Jeremy

    “Take religion away nothing improves, these problems are with the nature and character of man.”

    I guess I am getting a little personal here, but I hope you are aware you are basically insulting me to my face here. I am completely empty of religion and share most if not all the same moral values as you. Unless you don’t believe that, and unless you don’t believe there are millions of other like me in the world, you are facing a mountain of evidence out there that directly contradicts your claim.

  • Rob – I can highly recommend to you John Teehan’s new book In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence.

    It is excellent. Provides quite a thorough summary of the work that has been done and a good bibliography. You could use that as an entry point.

    There is actually quite an extensive literature. Teehan comments that we are “living in the midst of the greatest period of discovery in history of religion.”

    I am currently writing a review of the book for Open Parachute – should be up within the week.

    Interesting you raise questions like: “How could it be falsified? What are the cold hard facts?”

    Well, we do that in science, don’t we. Have you ever tried it with the world view you are promoting?

  • Proven facts;
    1. There is no God of any sort-atheists are correct.
    2. Hitler was a Christian and this was one of the reasons he killed the Jews-Christians hate Jews (still do).
    3. We are creatures who have evolved but there is moral facts and the need to be moral still exist.
    4. Religion (and Christianity in particular) has been responsible for the deaths of millions of people from the very beginings of time to the modern era.
    5. People who do not recognise these self evident truths are stupid and living a life made up of lies.

  • @Richard

    “Proven facts;
    1. There is no God of any sort-atheists are correct.”

    This is not at all “proven”. In fact, it is not provable.

    “5. People who do not recognise these self evident truths are stupid”

    Also neither provable nor true.

    You’re not helping. Please just read.

  • to Jan
    with reference to my earlier comment on quoting out of context, your quote from Hitler needs to be put in the context of the following
    http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_hitler.html
    [sorry i dont know how to link this properly]

    this includes a lot of other quotes including

    “Amongst the accusations which are directed against Germany in the so called democracies is the charge that the National Socialist State is hostile to religion. In answer to that charge I should like to make before the German people the following solemn declaration:
    1. No one in Germany has in the past been persecuted because of his religious views, nor will anyone in the future be so persecuted…”

    and

    Night of 11th-12th July, 1941

    “National Socialism and religion cannot exist together….
    “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity….
    “Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things.” (p 6 & 7)

    you make take from these what you will but they certainly put the idea tha Hitler believed he was doing the Lord’s work in a slightly different light.

    Probably a typical case of some one using whatever justification they can to do what they want to do rather than divine guidance.

  • Not trying to insult you Jan or make any comment about your personal behaviour, just pointing out that people can be just as bad or even worse in the absence of religion. The common denominator is mankind, sometimes they use one excuse sometimes another, sometimes they use the name of God to try and give legitimacy to their actions, sometimes they claim its for the common good, sometimes there is no pretence and they just do it because they can. This is the nature of people, some are better some are worse but blaming externalities be they religion or poverty or lack of education or opportunity will not change this, people are still people.

  • “Matt, Rob, Madeleine and Glenn. I don’t know why you just don’t front up and admit your opposition to evolutionary science.”

    Ummm, what? I chime in on how silly the defence of this billboard is, and for some reason it’s all about evolution?

    You’re very strange, Ken.

  • Jan, “You seem to want to make a point but you don’t seem to want to explain it.”

    It’s OK to admit that you didn’t understand me, but it’s not OK to suggest that I didn’t tell you what I meant.

  • @Jeremy

    I have no problem believing that conclusion of that link you posted is possible. Maybe Hitler was neither a atheist nor a Christian. The problem I have is that people constantly point to him as an example of how the absence of religion causes so much harm. He targeted and murdered millions of people based solely on their religion! What kind of an example is that?

    And this is the point that also bugs me about the other standard examples: Stalin, Mao, et al. Yes, they were absent of religion but was it really that characteristic about them that motivated their actions? Did they really commit murder under the banner of atheism? No. Their motivations had nothing to do with the principle of wanting to believe things based on evidence or any other kind of reasoning-based thought. They actually operated regimes based on dogma principles that I would argue many religious institutions also follow.

    Here’s my challenge to you: can you think of any one moral action that you would do which is motivated by your religion that you would be surprised to see I or any other non-religious person also do?

    Conversely, I can think of many harmful and evil actions that I would never think of doing (e.g. murder, female genital mutilation) that are indeed done in the name of religion …

  • @Glenn

    “It’s OK to admit that you didn’t understand me, but it’s not OK to suggest that I didn’t tell you what I meant.”

    I find your attitude very condescending. Maybe you are indeed smarter than me but I don’t think the gap is all that big. If you don’t feel like elaborating then just let it go.

  • Don’t worry Jan – he isn’t

  • Jan wrote:

    “I guess I am getting a little personal here, but I hope you are aware you are basically insulting me to my face here. I am completely empty of religion and share most if not all the same moral values as you. Unless you don’t believe that, and unless you don’t believe there are millions of other like me in the world, you are facing a mountain of evidence out there that directly contradicts your claim.”

    Jan, no one is trying to insult you. No one is questioning your morality. The question that is continually being asked, and that atheists seem unable to grasp, is what is the BASIS of morality.

    Try hard to think of an atheistic world. It is made only of matter, energy, space and time. There cannot be objective morality because morality is not made of any of these things. Any morality that you believe exists MUST be made of one of these things if it actually exists.

    For Christians it is different. Because God exists, and God is the source of morality, therefore morality exists whether we exist of not — e.g. morality is objective.

    I’m sure Matt and Glenn can do better than my effort, so perhaps they would like to continue this…

  • @ Jan
    I will give that some thought, it will take some time, and i might even end up agreeing with you. I think there is a basic reason why i might have some difficulty providing an example.
    As best as i can tell we are both products of the “western” cultural environment we were raised in and the moral norms of the western cultural environ are essentially Christian in origin.
    Equality, individual worth, the worth and individuality of women and children, sanctity of life, almost everything we believe to be “good” have all been heavily influenced by Christian belief. Even Ken’s beloved science has developed from the belief in a rational God, leading to the expectation of a rational reasonable and understandable universe. If you have trouble accepting this just cf cultural outcomes where Christianity has had less or no real influence than Western society. I am not saying “western” is perfect, just that your own “moral” position is far more influenced by Christian thought than you may realise and yes there have been individual exceptions but i am talking about the historical flavour of our society as a whole.
    I guess you dont believe women and children are chattels or that individuals have no particular value or apparently in the moral nihlism that logically proceeds from evolution as philosophy rather than as science, I hope you believe “you are your brothers keeper” and in “doing unto others as you would have them do to you”.. You may be atheist and I am Christian but i bet we have more in common than different if you believe yourself to be a “moral” person. This may even bring us back to one of the original questions being asked on this post, ie is it possible to be moral without there being a God cf is it possible to be moral without believing in that God?

    Any way I”ll get back to you later, work calls.

    Regards
    Jeremy

  • Well done Jan, rebutting Richard. What a stoopid load of ignoramus — I’m almost lost for words.

    Come then Richard … you made the claims, so you bear the burden of proof.

    We’re all waiting…

  • @Rob

    “Because God exists”

    This is our gap. You appear to want to argue in logical steps yet you are happy to assume this premise which you are not entitled to introduce based on those same logical rules.

    Under those rules you simply cannot use this statement as a fact.

  • @Jeremy

    “Any way I”ll get back to you later, work calls.”

    Don’t blame you one bit. I have always found internet posts and forums very clumsy and time-consuming for these kind of discussions. I live in Nelson. Please feel free to contact me at jansuchanek1967 at gmail dot com if you ever have the urge to meet up for what I am sure would be a much more fruitful exchange face-to-face than we could ever produce here.

  • @Jan
    Is prayer, worship, obedience to the Lord and other religious actions not moral? If the theistic worldview is correct then they are among the most moral actions possible.

    It seems like your question is, “From within my worldview is there anything that a theist can do morally that an atheist cannot?”

  • Thanks Ken, I’ll take a look at your review when it’s available.

    In the meantime, you wrote:

    “Interesting you raise questions like: “How could it be falsified? What are the cold hard facts?”

    Well, we do that in science, don’t we. Have you ever tried it with the world view you are promoting?”

    The answer is yes Ken. If you could convince me that the world made itself from nothing, that the almost infinitely-incredible cosmological fine tuning is accidental, that macro-evolution is remotely possible, that there is a better explanation for the origins of Christianity than the resurrection, that morality is truly an illusion, and explain my subjective conversion experience from atheism to Christianity, then I would concede. No problems there for me. Like yourself however, it would be very hard to falsify such a web of beliefs.

    That aside, I see that you did a nice dodge of my question, so perhaps I should repeat it for you, especially since you have just read a book on the subject.

    So I restate my earlier question:

    Ken wrote:

    “Evolutionary science has developed quote a good understanding of the evolution of morality, cooperation, – even love for our neighbors.”

    Could you explain some of the scientific proof you have for this Ken. How could we test it? How could it be falsified? What are the cold hard facts? Or is this just another evolutionary question-begging fairy story?

  • No, Glenn, it wasn’t about evolution, it was about fronting up. You have already done so on your own blog. You outer yourself admitting you didn’t accept evolutionary science – after quite a few attempts to dodge and jelly wrestle. Rob is clearly a creationist. I think Matt is clearly one too – but I am sure he will do his best to confuse the issue. I don’t know about Madeleine but she also displays avoidance tactics. I think it is cowardly not to simple acknowledge your beliefs and get it over and done with. As I said, I have more respect for the naive open creationist.

  • Jan wrote:

    ““Because God exists”

    This is our gap. You appear to want to argue in logical steps yet you are happy to assume this premise which you are not entitled to introduce based on those same logical rules.

    Under those rules you simply cannot use this statement as a fact.”

    Rob replies:

    Oh, so you want to default to atheism, but I cannot default to God.

    No, I don’t grant you your axiom. Creation screams teleology — Dawkins says life has the appearance of design, but of course it’s not designed. Cosmological fine tuning is beyond incredible. Read John Lennox, or just observe the dodge being made via parallel universes. You admit moral values exist, yet deny they exist outside you neurons.

    Ultimately Jan we all begin with axioms that cannot be justified, but rather have to be taken on faith. All of us. Even Ken :-)

  • @Rob

    “Try hard to think of an atheistic world. It is made only of matter, energy, space and time. There cannot be objective morality because morality is not made of any of these things.”

    Why can’t morality be made of these things?

    For example, my stomach is empty. Neurons in my brain fire and cause me behave in such a way that I should search for food. I doubt this will fall under our category or “morality” but hear me out.

    Now, say I’ve found some food. I’ve found a LOT of food, so much food that it will spoil before I get a chance to eat it. So I eat what will satisfy me but from these same neurons I have an urge to share with my fellow homo sapiens. Next time, this will hopefully encourage them to share their excess food with me. Everyone benefits from this “moral” course of action which we today would label as “sharing”.

    So yes, I would argue that just from that one example, what we define as “morality” can indeed be made of “these things”.

  • Read the book Rob. And then go to the primary sources for the details. These are of course various and you will have to look at the specific studies. They involve fields of anthropology, psychology, social sociology, and so on. Getting back to you. Of course you have rejected other worldviews, or at least the straw man versions. But have you, for example, ever tested your claim of an existing god given morality? Or the existence if an objective god? No, of course not. You seem to base your worldview on hostility to others. One of the negative results of religion.

  • Ken wrote:

    “…Rob is clearly a creationist. I think Matt is clearly one too – but I am sure he will do his best to confuse the issue. I don’t know about Madeleine but she also displays avoidance tactics. I think it is cowardly not to simple acknowledge your beliefs and get it over and done with. As I said, I have more respect for the naive open creationist.”

    Yes Ken, I am a creationist, whatever that means to you, but I am also an evolutionist because “evolutionist” has such a wide array of meanings.

    The problem is that many on your side are basically dishonest. I mean, the continual stupid and devious labeling of ID as creationism, never mind that the ID movement is filled with agnostics, Catholics, Evangelicals, Moonies, and even atheists, seems to make no difference.

    This dirty tactic is nothing more than the blatant well poisoning fallacy, and you know it Ken.

    Comments like:

    “I agree, Matt, Bradley Morton is “a quack” based on stuff of his I have heard and read. That material has been rather pathetic I am afraid.”

    …really ruin your credibility and show that something other than your intellect is driving you. Biblically speaking, it is the evil in your heart, as I think most Christians would recognize from within their own lives.

    I realize there is little chance you will answer this Ken, but have you read Monton’s book? Or even any of his many published papers? Or even some of his blog posts? The blog posts really are worth a read — he has lots and lots of Q and A on there — and would dismiss stupid comments like your one above.

  • Jan,

    Sure, you have described a situation. The situation re your stomach and the pile of food IS like this or that or whatever.

    How we OUGHT to behave with regard to the food supply is different.

    You CANNOT logically argue from an IS to an OUGHT. This is logically fallacious. It is a logical fallacy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#Is-Ought

    Is-Ought
    The is-ought fallacy occurs when a conclusion expressing what ought to be so is inferred from premises expressing only what is so, in which it is supposed that no implicit or explicit ought-premises are need. There is controversy in the philosophical literature regarding whether this type of inference is always fallacious.

    Example:

    He’s torturing the cat.
    So, he shouldn’t do that.

  • Yes. Ron. I have read blog posts and articles by Bradley Morton. I have also listened to several interviews . One at least on the DI site. I have not read his book – I requested a review copy and was ignored. Incidentally this often happens with I’D material – they try to control who reviews their material. Same thing happened with Stephen Myers book. And Rob, I would not have formed an opinion of the guy without that reading and listening. As I said you need to respect the commanders here a bit more. My association of I’D with creationism us common. After all the Dover trial revealed how they had altered references to creationism in one of their books to I’D. (creaintelligent design proponentstionists). I have analyzed the DI anti-Darwin petition – this revealed that everyone I could find information on was an active religionist leading to a reasonable conclusion that this was their reason for rejecting the science.

  • Rob replies:

    “Oh, so you want to default to atheism, but I cannot default to God.”

    Oh yeah, I very much do want this. And yes, you cannot do same :) I also believe I have good reason for this.

    I hate the term “atheism” so much, you have no idea :) Along with the belief in the non-divinity of Jesus, I also believe non-existence of pink elephants. Is the burden of proof on me to prove there are no pink elephants or is the burden of proof on the pink-elephant-believer to prove they exist?

    The reason I don’t like the term “atheist” is that it defines me by what I don’t believe in. You and I don’t believe in many specific premises that we could think up together but we don’t have any urge to identify ourselves by them. Why don’t you have the urge to label yourself a “non-astrologist”? Or say, a “non-racist”?

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The burden of proof is on the one making that claim. That is why I claim what everyone defines as “atheism” should be the default category, unless proven otherwise.

  • Sure Ken, once I am retired I may have time to read all your references, but science being science, it will probably have moved on a few times by then and there will be a new set of theories.

    So again, when asked for some simple evidence, you have some up short. Come on, 100 words would be fine. Just the best evidence…

    One last time Ken… put a chink in my worldview :-)

    Ken wrote:

    “Evolutionary science has developed quote a good understanding of the evolution of morality, cooperation, – even love for our neighbors.”

    Could you explain some of the scientific proof you have for this Ken. How could we test it? How could it be falsified? What are the cold hard facts? Or is this just another evolutionary question-begging fairy story?

    Ken’s last post:

    “Of course you have rejected other worldviews, or at least the straw man versions. But have you, for example, ever tested your claim of an existing god given morality? Or the existence if an objective god? No, of course not. You seem to base your worldview on hostility to others. One of the negative results of religion.”

    But Ken, we all reject worldviews. I have just rejected one more than you :-)

    And “hostility” ……. o — k …

    But seriously Ken, I cannot prove the basic foundations of my beliefs any more than you can prove the foundational beliefs that you have. You just seem to (incorrectly) assume the presumption of atheism. I’m sure Matt could quote Plantinga re proper function to show that you, as an atheist, are not functioning as your creator desires, thus you have become irrational, staring the evidence in the face yet attributing it to chance and time.

    Nothing personal Ken. I’m sure I’d like you over a pint of Guinness.

    Blessings, Rob

  • “You CANNOT logically argue from an IS to an OUGHT. This is logically fallacious. It is a logical fallacy.”

    Stating this three times is no more forceful than staing it once. :)

    You can do this if you think about wants and desires. You and I want and desire for humans to be happy. Humans tend to be happier if they love each other and share. Therefore, loving and sharing are good.*

    *No supernatural forces or divinity required in the making of this argument. :)

  • Jan wrote:

    “Is the burden of proof on me to prove there are no pink elephants or is the burden of proof on the pink-elephant-believer to prove they exist?”

    This is a silly argument for this reason.

    There IS no evidence for pink elephants. None. It is easy to make up silly entities that none of us would even believe in — well, most of us.

    However, there is PILES of evidence for God’s existence. For example: consider — why is there something instead of nothing. Why should there be anything, anywhere, ever. What could possibly have made matter. Matter cannot beget matter can it? Nor can swirling imaginary numbers beget matter. Why are there stars instead of no stars. The more I think about this, the more absurd it seems to believe that stuff can exist in space-time without an external cause.

    Read up on cosmic fine tuning. Parallel universes are in vogue because of the implications of fine tuning.

    Atheists were forced against their wills to bow the knee to Big Bang cosmology and its theistic implications.

    Biological design by chemical evolution is evidently (in spite of Ken’s cries to the contrary) becoming less and less tenable. Some recent stuff on molecular machinery is simply amazing.

    Morality…

    Basis of reasoning…

    The resurrection … something happened … the resurrection seems a reasonable explanation of the data. The Bible reports it as such. The early church saw it and believed it. The burden of proof is on your dude, not me. And yes there have been academic debates on this topic (look up Gary Habermas).

    This is my last comment on this thread — I have work to do.

    Blessings Jan and other,

    Rob

  • VERY LOUD NOISES COMING FROM VERY STUPID CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT TRUTH OR REALITY.

  • Seeing as a number of the theists within this debate appear to like neatly packaged evidence that does not require them having to read through any reference material, the following may prove helpful, especially with the argument regarding moral values.

    It’s worth watching right through to the end as there is a brief Q&A after the presentation that adds some food for thought as well.

    Enjoy! It goes without saying that you’ll let me know what you think, although having said that, very little has been said with regard to the other link I posted earlier in the debate regarding why we believe in god.

    Oh well, here’s hoping!

  • @Rob

    “However, there is PILES of evidence for God’s existence”

    I think you are going out on a bit of a limb here. Even most of your brothers-in-arms freely admit you can’t prove God’s existence.

    If you want to go down the road of presenting evidence to prove the existence of God then I think you are facing quite an uphill battle. If I wanted to prove to you I found a pink elephant, at the very least I would need to produce a photograph :)

  • Hey Matt & Madeline, bet your glad you made this post!

    At this point it has received 132 responses so far, which is amazing given that your previous 10 posts have collectively only received 93 comments in total, with the 7th post about the ACC getting the most at 27!

    Just goes to show how successful the atheist NO GOD campaign has been.

    And before you say it, I know a number of us, myself included, have multiple comments, but then again so do the theists!!!

  • I’ve re-posted the link with regard to why we believe in god, that I mentioned in my second to last post!

    So, as Ken says, your mind is like a parachute. It works best when it’s open! You never know you might learn something!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg

    Feel free to view and comment!!! You know you want to!!!

  • @Rob

    “The more I think about this, the more absurd it seems to believe that stuff can exist in space-time without an external cause.”

    I admit this line of thinking is tempting. I will even submit to it and start down the path beside you.

    Now I have another problem. I believe in this new external cause, but this new cause is certainly “something”, rather than “nothing”. How can something spring into existance out of nothing?

    There must be another cause. But now I’m back where I started. You get the idea.

    Why is it so hard to answer these same questions we are all interested in with a simple “I don’t know” and just try to make the best of things?

  • “VERY LOUD NOISES COMING FROM VERY STUPID CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT TRUTH OR REALITY.”

    VERY LOUD NOISES COMING FROM ABUSIVE ATHEIST WHO HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO FORMULATE ARGUMENTS AND CAN ONLY RESORT TO WEAK PERSONAL ATTACKS.

  • Rob wrote: “However, there is PILES of evidence for God’s existence.” You have indeed gone out on a limb here. Please state just one piee of evidence – the best piece of evidence you rely on. I understand that you likely rely on the cumulative force of several things but I would like to know numero uno.

    After making this statement, you continue with “why is there something instead of nothing?” Please don’t tell me that this is your best piece of evidence. The philosophers reading this thread would be shaking their heads that that is evidence of anything.

  • Ken, I’m not even sure that I’ve ever posted on whether or not evolutionary science is true. Are you up to your old fairy tale telling tricks again?

    And Jan: You did not give an arguement for loving and giving being good. You just gave an explanation of why you desire loving and giving – namely, it gets the end you want.

  • T.A.M.: “The philosophers reading this thread would be shaking their heads that that is evidence of anything.”

    You haven’t read much philosophy it seems, if you think that the contingency argument is so bad that philosophers would all shake their heads at it. It’s probably best in future if you don’t speak for philosophers. We’ll do it ourselves, should the need arise :)

  • “And Jan: You did not give an arguement for loving and giving being good. ”

    I absolutely did give an argument why giving is good in my example where I had too much food to eat.

  • Jan,

    “You can do this if you think about wants and desires. You and I want and desire for humans to be happy. Humans tend to be happier if they love each other and share. Therefore, loving and sharing are good.*”

    But what if I want to do that, because of secret selfish reasons, like building good PR or building future networks for dating/sponsorship purposes.. I won’t love and share anymore if there are no longer any perceived benefits of doing superficial kind acts (e.g. the good cause isn’t popular anymore or we’ve maximized our PR capital, no need to commit further)

    Plus happiness in itself is subjective as an end-goal. People have done a lots of stuff considered horrible and absurd and have found joy in doing it. (e.g. Dylan and Klebold, the Jackass people, Marquis de Sade) its the characteristic expected of a godless or worldy point of view, its not the only one. you are right there are philosophies that are beneficient that don’t incorporate deities, but its not fair to state that the life-affirming godless tenets ARE superior to amongst all the differing and ever expanding personal philosophies of the irreligioius be they indifferent or deceptive…(e.g. the Enron scandal) since all of them are legitimate expressions of atheistic philosophy

    Think Eutyphro but sub out God for Man.

    Then you’re going to respond what about (insert false christianity here…)? and the No True Scotsman fallacy to counter, That subject has been dealt before by competent people who know what the true tenets of Christianity is all about vs the false theologies. I’m not going to go into detail into this, but it safe to say that definitions of what a christian is should be answered by a theologian and not an atheist skeptic, who isn’t proficient in biblical exegesis

    let’s leave it at that

  • Can you believe it Dawkins is a Christian see here for evidence:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1100842/Why-I-celebrate-Christmas-worlds-famous-atheist.html

    He likes traditional Christian christmas carols and was once a choir boy in church, so the old boy’s a theist after all! He might idolize Mussolini, il duce himself who confessed that he is an atheist but was baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church. So Jan by your logic, Richard Dawkins is a christian and so is Benito Mussolini who claimed to be an Atheist, because of past and current associations with Christianity

    What’s wrong with this picture

  • Here’s more and its official
    Richard Dawkins is indeed a Christian, because he confessed to be one. lookie here:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7136682.stm

    So Jan, if hitler was a catholic, Dawkins is a christian by your standards, interesting …..very interesting…

  • Just pull you up on this, Glenn:

    “Ken, I’m not even sure that I’ve ever posted on whether or not evolutionary science is true. Are you up to your old fairy tale telling tricks again?”

    I notice it is an attempt at muddying a simple issue. You guys are so afraid of saying yes or no, aren’t you?

    Here is a comment of yours made, eventually, in May after persistent pressing, and your persistent avoiding, of the question:

    “As far as “modern evolutionary science” goes, don’t believe it”

    Sure – it’s in a comment on your blog rather than a separate post. But it is there in black and white.

    So whose telling fairy tales now?

    And why are you so afraid to be up front?

  • “So Jan, if hitler was a catholic, Dawkins is a christian by your standards, interesting …..very interesting…”

    So because Dawkins likes to sing Christmas carols, Hitler was not motivated by religion. Is that the link you are trying to show here?

    Look guys, you have to let go of this Hitler argument. The man openly stated his religion and his intentions based on his religion. He then backed those words up with his actions, murdering 6 million people based on one thing and one thing only: their religion. It was the biggest religious murder campaign in human history!

    I mean, if you can take that event and somehow spin that into an example of how being non-religious is harmful, then congratulations, you can pretty much take any piece of evidence and show that it means anything you like. Just don’t be surprised when rational people don’t take you seriously and end up dismissing your arguments.

  • Ken the reason I don’t say yes or no is because I don’t know. I am an agnostic that is what the agnostic position is.

  • Jan, Hitler said a lot of things in public its called propaganda he also said other things in private, you can find all kinds of inconsistent views from him.

    But I’ll respond with four words Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot.

    Now do you want to discuss something that actually addresses the issues instead of irrelevant issues such as

    person X in history claimed to be y and did Z therefore everyone who claims top be Y is some how implicated, responsible, complicit in, Z

  • Jan I note you say heaps of time is needed to figure out what the bible says on obvious issues such as rape and slavery. Two things.

    First, if certain issues such as the wrongness of rape is obvious to human beings then it actually makes sense that the bible would not say much on it, one would already know its wrong and not much need a special revelation revealing.

    Second as I pointed out Christians don’t tend to struggle much with the question of whether rape is wrong, one only needs to use the arguments I mentioned when someone else argues the opposite.

    Third, you talk of the morality of slavery being obvious, two things here: first, its obvious to 21st century westerners, largely because their thinking has been shaped by Christian theology, it is not obvious to most people throughout history. Second you seem to assume that with slavery there is either a yes or no answer either one is for it or against it. The problem is the issue is not this simple, there are different types of servitude, they are not all the same, moreover one can take various in between stances, for example opposing some types outright, tolerating others providing they do not have certain features and so on. Which approach in practice is likely to be the best overall can depend on the culture which one is working in and how slavery functions in that culture. (Is the whole societies economy based on slavery for example so that an outright abolition overnight would destroy the economy and result in either greater suffering and so) When one puts these distinctions into the open its not “obvious” which is the correct answer.

  • Matt, I heard the comment many years ago that an agnostic is an atheist in a top hat. And that’s how I have understood it ever since. Someone who is afraid of social pressure and won’t therefore admit a belief. The point is, of course, to call oneself an agnostic about objective facts is to not accept the facts. To not accept evolutionary science. And you do that, Matt, for reasons of peer pressure and theological adherence. You ignore the established facts. I just don’t think people can be agnostic about something as so well established as evolutionary science . It’s like being agnostic about the holocaust. In this area you are either for or against – I count you as against on previous performance.

    We remember you have written posts opposing the teaching of evolutionary science in schools.

  • Hi Jan , there is another quiet moment at work so Im back. The benefits of self-underemployment!!!
    Holding someone elses religion against them is not the same as being motivated by religious beliefs yourself. I think it is a gross distortion to to claim that Hitlers murdering of the Jews was religiously motivation. He used their religion as an excuse to act against them but he did similar things against the Roma, homosexuals, handicapped and all sorts who didnt fit in with his Aryan Supremicist Third Reich plans. None of these had anything to do woth relgion and everything to do with the fact that he was a power crazed nutter and initially a least a rather adept politician who used whatever means at hand to divert the german population and cover his own aquisition of near total power.
    Is Sam Harris religiously motivated because he spends so much time attacking Christianity and Islam? He would claim to be completely free and devoid of religious impulse.
    So many people just look at the most easily identified target, the most obvious differences. Take the Balkans for example on the surface it appears to be Orthodox vs Islam but really this is just the public excuse for territorial and power aquisition and not a very good one [because no Orthodox doctrine ever teaches murder and genocide] but it panders to the fear of the different. Once again we see the character of men coming through and any excuse will do.

  • Jeremy, this argument about the role of religion in wars and atrocities is a bit of a diversion. These problems are inherent in humanity’s evolved intuitions. We all fall trap to the in-group/out-group division. Secular as well as religious. Just look at the hysteria on this blog yesterday – the way people lined up.

    But religion has played an important role in promoting and defining in-group/out-group division. It enabled humans to develop social cohesion as society developed beyond the kin, clan and tribal size (the in-group).

    And apparently the invention of god concepts played a role in this – providing a social guide and punisher to enforce cooperation.

    This is why religion has been so entwined with morality – the encouragement and enforcement of social cohesion and order.

    The other side of the coin is that its role in defining in-group/out-group boundaries meant it became an important way of promoting violence. Not the only one but probably the most important. People fought (and still do) for god, king and country. A mixture of religious and secular uniters – but with a strong religious component.

    The thing is today we can modify this dangerous side of religion by stressing what unites us rather than what divides us. By educating children to see that their culture/religion is not the only one and by no means necessarily the right one.

    And, especially today, secular groups, institutions and movement have possibly a greater role in advancing morality and social cohesion than the religious ones do. We are effectively living in a post-religious society. But it is still a pluralist society.

    I think we have to break down the religion/atheist boundary – it is shaping up to be another dangerous in-group/out-group conflict. Pope Bennie has been organising campaigns against atheism , even secularism, and cooperating with Islamic leaders on this. That is inhuman and dangerous.

    Part of breaking through this boundary is to establish the right for atheists to exist in our modern pluralist society. And to stop this dangerous demonising of them that is advanced. I think the silly reactions here and elsewhere against the atheist ads is just one form of this dangerous demonising.

    These ads are not provocative (to rational people anyway) they are not meant to be divisive. They are just establishing the fact that there are a lot of non-religious in our society.

    There is no attempt to destroy religion. No attempt to inhibit human rights – just extend them to all.

    So I wish people would stop trying to attribute blame on Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Their actions are a blemish on humanity – religious and non-religious. They indicate what can happen when our evolved intuitions for in-group/out-group hatred is given free reign. And the fact is that ideologies and religions can promote that.

    No-one has the right to be sanctimonious about this. We all have the duty to overcome those negative aspects of our nature. To blame Stalin on atheism is just a way of avoiding understanding the real causes of his terror.

    So get over it. If you don’t like the ads – ignore them. They are just a feature of a passing moment in history when the non-religious are asserting their right to exist and to have their own views. They are not a threat to anyone with different views. Compare them to the situation with the feminist movement back in the 70s. It will pass.

    Like the problem with gender discrimination, we will move past this and, I believe, end up with a much better, more liberal and accepting pluralist society. There will not be any need for such ads then.

    Just let people be.

  • Ken you write Matt, I heard the comment many years ago that an agnostic is an atheist in a top hat. And that’s how I have understood it ever since. Someone who is afraid of social pressure and won’t therefore admit a belief.

    Thats a false definition of an agnostic, an atheist claims God does not exist, the theist claims he does, the agnostic does not know either way he neither affirms or denies it,

    The point is, of course, to call oneself an agnostic about objective facts is to not accept the facts. To not accept evolutionary science. And you do that, Matt, for reasons of peer pressure and theological adherence. You ignore the established facts.

    Sorry simply asserting bad motives to a person does not esthablish anything. I do not accept evolutionary theory because I am not convinced it is an esthablished fact. I am also not convinced it is not an esthablished fact either. I do accept that it may be the best current scientific explanation of the origin of species, but thats not the same thing as saying its a fact. Newtonian science was in its time the best scientific explanation of certian phenomena in its time it was however not a fact.

    I just don’t think people can be agnostic about something as so well established as evolutionary science . It’s like being agnostic about the holocaust.

    That Dawkineque claim is just silly the epistemic situation for these is very different. The holocaust occured only 60 years or so ago, there are people alive today who saw it and witnessed it first hand. Human Evolution occurred billions of years ago, our evidence for it is based on inferences to the best explanation from various phenomena, some of it very incomplete no one directly saw or recorded it.

    In this area you are either for or against – I count you as against on previous performance.

    Well that’s a false dichotomy you do not have to be for or against you can refuse to play the game. I note however that once again you decide to attribute a position to someone they have repeatedly stated they do not hold.

    We remember you have written posts opposing the teaching of evolutionary science in schools.

    Actually Ken as I have repeatedly told you I did not oppose the “teaching of evolutionary science in schools” I actually said it should be taught as the best current scientific theory, I actually was turned down for lucrative employment a few years ago for this stance due to the pressure of creationists who were appalled I would allow Christian students to be taught evolution as the best current scientific theory.

    What I did say was that there were moral issues around teaching it as the truth in public schools with significant religious pluralism. I also said students should be taught the philosophical questions about epistemology and philosophy of science.

    Moreover as I pointed out this had nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the theory it was an ethical question, I pointed out that even if evolution was true and even if it was empirically esthablished as true, the moral questions still applied.

    By your logic I must be opposed to Christianity after all I believe Christianity should not be taught as the true religion, in public schools.

    So Ken all we have from you, as Glenn points out, is you repeatedly choosing to attribute positions to people they do not hold.

  • Glenn, the contigency argument isn’t an argument – it is the definition of special pleading. What do you rely on to say that the first cause is the Judeo-Christian god any more than 1000 fairies spinning in unison? Why is your first cause immune from having a cause?

    I have almost made my way through all of your podcasts/sermons and how you maintain your belief in the Christian zombie substitutionary atonement myth is beyond me. However, I encourage you to make more frequent visits to the new world – there are plenty of employment opportunities over here for people as bright as you who advance reason in defence of religious irrationality.

  • @Ken
    You said, “Part of breaking through this boundary is to establish the right for atheists to exist in our modern pluralist society. And to stop this dangerous demonising of them that is advanced. I think the silly reactions here and elsewhere against the atheist ads is just one form of this dangerous demonising.”

    So a post and comments dedicated to showing the logical fallacies and misstatements of fact in these advertisements has now been equated with “dangerous demonising?” Methinks someone has a persecution complex.

  • With regard to Evolution of morality, this documentary titled Nice Guys Finish First quite clearly explains it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6rgWzYRXiI

    Morality is little more than a system for social cohesion through cooperation. There is a maximum amount of violence and theft and incest and rape that a society can tolerate before going extinct. We justify our moral actions in terms of minimising avoidable harm to others, and in debating how our actions would affect wider society.

  • I would suggest to many contributors to this important debate that they try to get hold of an old but wonderful little book called Language and the Pursuit of Truth, by British philosopher John Wilson. He distinguishes between three common kinds of statement, empirical, value and metaphysical, showing that the tests for verification of these have to be quite different. In the light of Wilson’s helpful criteria, the two statements “God exists” and “pink elephants exist” can not fairly be compared, as one is an empirical statement, and the other a metaphysical one.

  • Athiest missionary, while I am not an advocate of the contingency argument I get tired of people who misunderstand it and dismiss it on the basis of misunderstanding

    As to your questions

    1. the first cause is not immune from the need for a cause because its not contingent. The contingency argument does not say everything needs a cause, it says contingent beings do. Non contingent beings by definition have no beginning and cannot not exist so asking why they do is moot. Its like asking why a triangle has three sides or why blue is a colour.

    2.. Anything that explains why contingent beings exist must (a) be non contingent (b) be capable of bringing non contingent beings into existence.

    Fairies spinning in unison would be beings who occupy space and time and are physical, these are all features of contingent beings. Its hard to come up with any plausible item that meets these criteria other than something like God. Other proposed necessary beings such as numbers and properties are causally inert.

    For the record defenders of the contingency argument do not claim that it proves the existence of the Judeo Christian God. They usually claim it is one line of argument which when conjoined with others make the existence of this God more probable than not.

    Try reading arguments before you dismiss them.

  • I’m finding it difficult to comment on this. I really don’t want to make a condescending remark, but frankly, your reasoning is appalling. I would say the majority of my friends are Christian, even if only nominally, but any of them could make a better, more reasoned argument than what I can only assume is the wilful misunderstanding you’ve displayed here in a desperate effort to drum up some traffic.

    And Lydia, you’re not helping your side either. You can judge the merits of a cause by it’s enemies, and you are clearly an enemy of reason and intellect.

  • @Colin
    I hope you realize that all you have done is insulted Matt. This may constitute a worthwhile argument from your perspective, or help you feel better about yourself or be an off-handed way to encourage your Christian friends…I’m not sure, but no matter the reason it doesn’t profit the discussion.

    Instead of simply insulting Matt, why not try to show us why his reasoning is “appaling?”

  • “Human Evolution occurred billions of years ago”

    LMAO

    No one this ignorant should be allowed into any serious discussion regarding human history.

  • I am afraid, Matt, every time you comment on evolutionary science you provide information for my conclusion.

    The evidence for the holocaust is excellent. Anyone who referred to it as the “best available scientific theory” rather than a fact would be suspect.

    The evidence for evolution is, if anything, actually better. And this includes direct observations. The thing about well established ideas is that although we can adopt a pure philosophical approach to the knowledge it is in normal parlance quite silly to deny they are factual. The effects of gravity on you are a fact, although purists can claim our knowledge is incomplete, only scientific. People would laugh at you taking such a relativist stand on gravity or the daily occurrence of sunrise. You only get away with this silly attitude to evolution because many of your peers, your coreligionists, are hostile to science.

    This hostility obviously leads you to misrepresent the science – even getting the simple numbers wrong. Are you so loose with your billions because in your heart you prefer thousands?

  • “I would say the majority of my friends are Christian, even if only nominally, but any of them could make a better, more reasoned argument than what I can only assume is the wilful misunderstanding you’ve displayed here in a desperate effort to drum up some traffic.”

    I also have begun to smell the real motivations of this site’s owners. I became aware of it because Madeleine posted a link over at nogod.co.nz. She posted a link to the same essay twice (to advertise two sites instead of one) and declined to comment on the reaction. Over here I see the owners paying very close attention to the monthly rankings of NZ Christian blogs.

    I don’t regret the time I took to contribute to this site but I can’t help feeling the motivations of its owners are more focused on maximizing their exposure rather than engaging in honest discussion.

  • Ken – it is pure religion to make claims about things that happened trillions of years ago. How can you possible prove that a monkey instantly turned into a scientist at the big bang. Evolution makes no sense.

  • Anonymous – I love it. Could be condensed down into a slogan suitable for a billboard. Outside a church, perhaps.
    But would Don Quixote and Sancho charge that one? Would they bother analyzing it’s theology? Would they bother with any if the rich pickings available to them on church billboards. Crazy statements at that.

  • Ken, my wife had a teacher at high school that survived the holocaust. I have yet to see anyone who was a first hand witness to evolution, the reason is that evolution takes billions of years. The reality is that the two cases are not on par epistemically and the insistence they are is exaggerated.

    I take it that what one directly can observe is epistemically different to what we know from arguments to the best explanation.

    the effects of gravity on you are a fact, although purists can claim our knowledge is incomplete, only scientific.

    I agree the “effects” of gravity are a fact we can directly observe them. Similarly we directly observe the sun rising. We do not directly observe evolution in the sense you are talking about.

    People would laugh at you taking such a relativist stand on gravity or the daily occurrence of sunrise.

    I don’t take a relativist stance,
    but there are respectable anti-realist views on laws of nature. Some empiricists argue that reference to “laws of gravity” are useful tools for explaining and predicting observable phenomena but in reality their is no such thing.

    You only get away with this silly attitude to evolution because many of your peers, your coreligionists, are hostile to science.

    We have been through this crap before. Scientism is not science.

    As to your reference to a “relativism” position. I don’t take a relativist position

    I am not a relativist, I am sympathetic to anti realism but that’s different to relativism. And people do take anti-realism seriously outside of evolution is a rather common view in other areas.

  • Ernest, I agree I don’t know much about evolutionary theory, which is why don’t have an opinion on it and try not to comment on it.

    I wish science buffs (like Ken) would do the same thing regarding theology and philosophy . The number of claims on this thread for example which clearly show almost no understanding of the issues and yet are backed up with certainty and confident bluster is rather staggering.

    But I note your comment nicely evades my point. That the epistemic situation viz a viz the Holocaust is different to that of evolution. The holocaust is something that people living today observed and can remember observing. Evolutionary theory is not like this, its an inference to the best explanation from various observable facts.

  • Yeah Rob, you really need to learn a bit about science, perhaps you should go to university and do a higher degree in science or something LOL.

  • Ranger you’ll note that almost no-one has actually responded to the arguments I made in my post. There has been dissection of motives, discussing of wether I support ID or creationism, insults, exhortations telling me my writing style is not popular and simple like Dawkins, talks about wether Hitler was a Christian, talks about whether atheism makes you happy and so on. Every distraction under the sun.

    Odd how the science and reason brigade display such obviously fallacious reasoning when there beliefs are challenged.

  • Hey Matt & Madeline, I hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve been back over your last 86 posts from your blog archives, that took me back to the 1st of January of this year. I totalled up all your comments and I have to say, your running an average of 13.8 comments per post!

    I also noted that your highest number of responses was 148 while your second highest was for a post about Richard Dawkins – God Delusion on May the 6th at 139 responses. You had one other post to reach three figures at 124. You had 44 double digit hits, 35 single figure ones and 6 that didn’t get any response at all.

    Now, while I was doing all this accounting, I also noticed that you guys take the position of your blog in the world wide biblio-blog league table very seriously, as shown by your post on January the 4th, when you advertised the fact that you were in 2nd position I believe!

    Now, If I was partial to conspiracy theories, of which I’m not, I might conclude that the real reason you initially posted an obviously antagonistic post on the NO GOD website regarding the atheist bill-boards, with a very handy link to your own M&M Biblio-Blog, was no more than a ruse to inflate your blog hit traffic, or whatever the technical term is for how these things are calculated.

    This post alone has gained you an additional 170 comments! 1-7-0!!! That’s your highest number for this year! Well Done You!!! (By the way, I left that total out of my math, as I felt it was akin to match fixing in sport, as they say or an under arm bowl from an OZ criketer!!!)

    Now, seeing as Matt is about to talk about morals in the debate to be held on the 2nd of August, I will have to ask him, during the allotted questions from the floor session, to clarify his moralistic perspective involved in this deception, which appears to have been nothing but a desperate effort to drum up some traffic. I look forward to your answer on the night!

    And you guys have spent so much effort justifying how immoral us atheists must be!!!

  • Your analogies, I don’t find them to be valid. The chemical composition of water can be demonstrably shown or proven.

    That might be relevant if I was arguing that they both were analogous in that they both can be “proven” but i wasn’t

    What I was saying was that the example of h20 and water show there is a distinction between
    1. saying A depends on B for its existence and

    2. saying you need to believe in B in order to know A.

    The water is h2o case does demonstrate this distinction. Water depends on h2o for its existence. But a person does not need to believe in h20 to recognize a body of water.

    The analogy is not “mine” by the way. It’s actually a fairly fundamental point used in secular meta-ethics. Its also an important example used in early 20th century philosophy of language and the discussion of identity.

    That God gives moral commands cannot.

    True one cannot empircially prove that right and wrong are constituted by divine commands. Nor for that matter can any secular ethical theory be empirically proved. meta-ethics, whether secular or theistic does not proceed by the empirical methods of science.

    Once someone recognizes you can be moral without God there doesn’t really seem to be much point in going further.

    Recognizing that people can be could even if they do not believe in God does not answer the important questions about whether right and wrong can exist without God.

  • @Paul
    You may not be aware of this, but using separate indicators (Alexa, Quantcast, etc.) this site ranks amount the top 200-500 heavily trafficed sites in New Zealand. I’m pretty sure they weren’t using the popularity of the NO GOD site to get traffic (since that site ranks about 9000 among New Zealand websites according to Alexa).

    What’s more likely was that M&M wanted to make some of the sponsors of the billboards aware of some of the critiques to which their cliched advertisements fall prey.

  • Ranger, then how do you explain the figures I posted?

    Feel free to add them up yourself, maybe I forgot to carry the one or something!!! LOL!!!

  • I am becoming more and more convinced that theological training is aimed at creating confusion, arguing around a point and avoiding clarity. Matt you demonstrate all that. You claim to be ignorant if evolution and therefore don’t comment. Yet you comment (always negatively) and always misrepresent it. But then again the reason for lack of clarity in theology is lack of honesty. Look at what it is based on.

    Now there is direct evidence for evolution particularly and probably most revealingly in molecular biological analysis of DNA . And of course evolution is constant , happening all the time. And I thought you would have learned to avoid billions by now. We can observe evolutionary changes in laboratory experiments and even in natural populations over relatively small time periods (10s of years not billions).

    You are rather weird to complain of others commenting on theology and philosophy without your training yet here you are making “authoritative” statements on evolutionary science and your mistakes reveal your ignorance every time. Perhaps the advantage you get from your theological training is arrogance , and you think it is authority.

  • Matt, thank-you for the tutorial on the contingency argument. My comments were intended to refer to the Judeo-Christian god and I understand that many apologists conjoin other aguments with this one.

    I am new to this site and, obviously, not a philosopher. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by philosophical issues and (contrary to your suggestion) read extensively in this area. What I find most illuminating about both this site and Say Hello to my Little Friend is how both you and Glenn apply rapier like reason to almost all topics except your Jesus hypothesis. I have previously referred Glenn to an excellent article by Edmund Standing from the journal Think entitled “Against Mythicism: A Case for the Plausibility of a Historical Jesus”. If you are looking for a good blog post topic, I would be interested to see you dissect that one and explain why it is more likely that Jesus of Nazareth was a deity than Haile Sellassie.

    If I can boil the problem with Christian apologetics to a nutshell, it’s this: the same people who argue that Jesus is/was a god would laugh if I walked across water and suggested that I was the second coming of Christ. Why? Because they would apply their own natural sense of skepticism and look for an alternate explanation to a supernatural one, just like they do in all other facets of their lives except their religious beliefs. If I apply their reasoning, I should believe the Indian rope trick which has been attested to by thousands of eyewitnesses throughout history.

    Note to Ken – Matt is preparing to attend ETS, EPS and SBP conferences/meetings. It would be most unwise to admit on a public blog that evolution is a fact. Just imagine his reception at these conferences if he admitted that Intelligent Design is nothing but a shill for creationism!

  • Ken says, “I am afraid, Matt” – Oh please, will someone just hug the guy and maybe he’ll go to sleep.

  • T.A.M., that’s funny. I’ve posted careful and well xplained arguments int he past about how various arguments for the mythical status of Jesus fail, and you didn’t comment on them (probably because you hadn’t even discovered my blog or podcast), yet now you confidently declare that I’m not applying my reasoning skills to that issue.

    I find that presumptuous.

  • Ken, this post was not about evolution, I commented reluctantly only because you repeatedly asked me ( and distorted my position) now you complain that I am commenting about something I don’t know. I agree I don’t know that was what I repeatedly said.

    Moreover, contrary to what you say I have not “commented on evolution” I have posted on whether certain ,i>philosophical arguments from evolution prove the existence of God. I have commented on whether certain epistemological debates around methodological naturalism, and I have commented on ethical questions about what should be taught in schools. I also have commented on how one should interpret Genesis (and what i said was fairly anti creationist). None of these involved me commenting on scientific matters But I have never commented on evolution per se nor have I commented on scientific matters.

    I find this all very rich from a soil scientist who has a blog on philosophy and religion.

    As to your comments about observation you say We can observe evolutionary changes in laboratory experiments and even in natural populations over relatively small time periods (10s of years not billions).

    This misunderstands my point, I was not denying we can observe small evolutionary changes ( even Creationists accept that) my point is this: there are people alive today who witnessed the holocaust it was a short event in history observed by people who are alive today. No one however has witnessed the evolutionary process which took billions of years. What people do ( as you note) is infer it as an explanation for traits like a common genetic code and so on.

    You can ignore it all you want Ken but what people observe directly is in a different epistemological position to what people infer to explain what they observe. The claim that evolution is as certain as the holocaust is I think false, and it sound more like an attempt to make Creationists appear like Nazi’s than a sensible argument.

    I have little time for the kind of demonising people as nazis or creationist witch hunts hating that is involved in this, just as much as I dislike the kind of witch hunts against theistic evolutionists that creationists engage in from time to time ( and I have been on the end of more than once)

    I am quite willing to accept that the empirical evidence supports the claim human beings evolved over billions of years from previous life forms from a common ancestor, I really have no theological objections to this at all . But don’t tell me you know it the same way as a person who observes an event happening because you clearly do not.

  • TAM,

    Why? Because they would apply their own natural sense of skepticism and look for an alternate explanation to a supernatural one, just like they do in all other facets of their lives except their religious beliefs. If I apply their reasoning, I should believe the Indian rope trick which has been attested to by thousands of eyewitnesses throughout history.

    Actually this is mistaken, you suggest that people are naturalists towards everything except there own religion. I beg to differ, I would advocate adopting the same theistic stance to all of them. Of course because Thiesm does not affirm that miracles happen all the time and theism affirms that nature exists and laws of nature exist etc on many issues it will be functionally equivalent to naturalism but that’s not to say I am a naturalist towards some and a theist towards others.

  • “I am becoming more and more convinced that theological training is aimed at creating confusion, arguing around a point and avoiding clarity. Matt you demonstrate all that. ”

    Ken: Don’t confuse theology with apologetics (which is what you find largely on this blog). Apologetics really does decide on the answer first, and then go searching (sometimes desperately) for evidence to support the decided upon conclusions.

    Not all theologians work in this backward manner.

  • @Paul
    Simple: The number of comments on a post usually are little indication of the actual readership of a blog. You may have four or five active readers who post frequently. You may have a more academic type blog that doesn’t garner as many responses. There are all sorts of reasons…but the fact of the matter is that many, many more people visit this blog than the other so I find your conspiracy theory rather dubious.

  • “there are people alive today who witnessed the holocaust it was a short event in history observed by people who are alive today…”

    But lets think about this… no one person has actually observed “The Holocaust”… people have observed things like being rounded up and being put in a camp, or being starved, or watching a loved on being shot, or seeing people marched off to be executed, or seeing the remains of bodies, etc etc. And by a combination of all of this data from many sources a picture of the Holocaust as a whole can be arrived at.

    No…. no one has observed “Evolution” but people have observed…. fill in the blanks.

  • As I have tried to explain ad nauseaum in the other post Paul is talking about this numbers thing in, hits to a post are a far more accurate metric than comments and the way to check that on this blog is to look at the popular posts widget in our sidebare.

    As for do we try to attract visitors – I will say it again YES! We are bloggers, we blog because we want people to read us (otherwise we’d write out thoughts down in a journal).

    Did we plot and scheme to attract visitors with this particular post? NO the idea was handy thanks to a friend suggesting it so we ran with it.

    Did the timing turn out to be useful? Very much so.

    Are we happy with the response? Well the hits are good, though in all honesty we’d prefer a smaller volume of comments that were more reasoned than a large pile that were largely rant, missing the point, red herring diversions, etc which has effectively made it harder to find the well reasoned and thought provoking comments.

    As for the I’ve run the numbers thing – re-read what I said, higher than most other blogs comment numbers is not unusual for MandM, it just has not been the case lately because we have not blogged so much this year, particularly the last 2-3 months.

    Anyway, I have just gone to our email account and pulled out the email exchange that gave us the idea for this post. It begins 6 July and states:

    “Did u guys see the atheist billboard photos I sent thru? The guy behind them is on the MCAS website arguing his position.”

    [Note a Matthew Holloway from NoGod was on the MCAS blog arguing about the billboards with Christians - follow the hat tip link above - anyone would think he was trying to amp up the discussion, get people to follow him back to his blog.]

    I answered:
    “I did not see the photos you refer to, I think I may have seen the billboard though at least I drove past one the other day in Grey Lyn and immediately thought that it should be blogged on. Send them through again if you have them handy.”

    My friend wrote:
    “Try this link:

    http://manawatu.christian-apologetics.org/good-news-controversial-atheism-campaign-to-hit-billboards/

    The 3 pictures are linked in Matthew’s first comment.”

    I then wrote on 7 July:
    “The second billboard was the one I have driven past a few times. Definitely worth thinking about a blog post for it.”

    A few days later, late at night, I said to Matt we need a blog post,…

  • Ranger is not wrong, many more people visit MandM than NoGod.

    Compare the Alexa figures:
    MandM 198,977 most visited website in the world
    NoGod 1,520,092 most visited website in the world

    Compare the google page rank:
    MandM 5
    NoGod 4

    Compare the rankings on HalfDone:
    MandM 5th in the country http://halfdone.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/may-halfdone-nz-blog-stats/
    NoGod not there

    Compare the rankings on No Parachute:
    MandM 16th in the country http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=r7QHzRhQHjUaGUuXLMDAkyw&single=true&gid=2&output=html
    NoGod – not there

  • “Ranger you’ll note that almost no-one has actually responded to the arguments I made in my post. There has been … every distraction under the sun.”

    I find this complaint highly disingenuous. As I have already pointed out once, my first post here was a direct response to your blog post and neither you nor Madeleine showed any interest in responding.

  • “No one however has witnessed the evolutionary process which took billions of years.”

    This is false. The peppered moth is one such case. Google “observable evolution” for many others.

  • I would like to defend MandM against charges of self promotion etc.

    I think its only natural for blogs to do a bit of promotion and after all presenting your own data in the best light is pretty minor compared with the immoral claims being made about knowledge, evolution and gods. So take them up on that if you must. But look at the whole picture.

    Mand M is one of the few Christian/creationist/conservative blogs which doesn’t control comments. My experience has been in commenting on such blogs most of them will eventually ban me, alter the content of my comments and delete comments. Recently I commented on the billboard/science issue at Liturgy. Bosco climbed out of his tree, indulged in personal attacks, deleted a comment and told me I was not welcome (apparently I was contaminating his blog). All to avoid the issues.

    It is to MandM’s credit that that don’t go in for such undemocratic and childish behaviour. There are a couple of other Christian blogs locally who allow comments properly – but they are few and far between. I suspect that within the Christian propaganda co0mmunity MandM is critcised for not controlling comments and not preventing contamination.

    I respect MandM for taking this basic democratic stand.

  • On the blog ranking issue. It seems that MandM is no longer promoting a ranking of NZ Chrsitian blogs. I guess this is because Halfdone is not longer producing a ranking and Tumeke has cut back to quarterly.

    However I am still doing a monthly ranking (see eg June ’10 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking) and have an automatically updating daily average visits ranking at NZ Blog ranking.

    I hope Madeleine will consider using either of these for her Christian blog rankings.

    Personally I believe these provide more realistic rankings because they are based on actual visit statistics. Ranger, Alexa and Technorati are notoriously unreliable. Try installing the Alex toolbar and see how it effects your Alexa ranking. Then delete the toolbar and see how your ranking drops.

    Currently I have over 200 NZ blogs on the daily average ranking database. It of course relies on blogs enabling public access to their stats – and not many Christian blogs do. If Madeliene encouraged those blogs on her list to enable their stats she would have a reliable and easily accessible set of data she could use.

    By the way, the daily average visits ranking is quite useful because it responds fairly quickly (averaged over 7 days). So one can see the effect this particular discussion has had.

    MandM’s July monthly ranking was 34th. The daily average places it currently at 16th. Of course that will drop as this discussion disappears – maybe though there will be a longer lasting residue.

    So I encourage Madeleine to consider using the visits stats, encouraging other blogs in her stable to make their stats available, and for commenters with blogs to do the same.

  • Thanks Ken. We appreciate that you engage in the same practice at Open Parachute.

    Though I should correct you on one point, we do moderate the odd comment here at MandM, the ones that personally attack our kids, unless our kids strongly want them left up and present a good reason as to why, and the ones that are defamatory.

    I have found that different blogs have different moderation policies for different reasons. Some are only interested in fostering the conversation amongst other like minded people and will routinely shut entire conversations down or remove comments that are at odds with the agenda – No Right Turn blog springs to mind, Red Alert has been caught doing it to. Others only want high quality thoughtful comments that contribute to the conversation and state they do not believe blogging is about comments – Maverick Philosopher is an obvious example. Some vet all comments to ensure not a single abusive or unwanted comment gets through e.g. Cactus Kate who probably also has the reason that she does not want to be publicly identified. These practices are not restricted to Christian blogs and the motives vary.

    At the end of the day a blog is someone’s property, it represents hours of their time and often some money – as with our homes or any other property we own a blog owner has the right to control who uses it and how. If they want to do that arbitrarily or in a manner different to how I do it with my blog that is their choice – I may not always agree with their policy or their motives but it is their blog.

  • Ken we did stop doing the rankings this year due to Tim Selwyn stopping his rankings (I did not realise he was still doing them but just quarterly) and then of course HalfDone has stopped too.

    The problem with your rankings Ken is that not enough blogs are on them and some of the blogs that are not on them are significant – I could not see WhaleOil on them last night. I am not really so interested now though. It was interesting to me to do the Christian rankings but then my life got crazy busy this year and we have barely been blogging but for the past couple of weeks. Matt and I are now more interested in how we rank globally than just in New Zealand so I doubt we will be paying much attention to the NZ blog rankings going forward.

    I bet you find though that your own site’s hits and trackbacks are upped solely because you do blog rankings? Tim, ScrubOne and we found that this was the case. A nice benefit for the time it takes to do rankings I guess.

  • I must say one thing in defence of Alexa though, the 3 month Alexa stats are considered to be much more reliable and accurate – this is the metric the Biblioblogs use – the day to day Alexa rank is considered less so.

  • Jan, all you did was repeat the arguments I responded to in my post. I did not see the need to repeat the replies I had already made.

    That man created the concept of God does not provide grounds for saying God does not exist, any more than the fact that man created the concept of atoms means atoms don’t exist.

    Re the many gods thing, the odds are stacked in the same way against any position including all known secular positions for the same reasons, large numbers of other people hold other diverse views of the world which contradict them. As I pointed out in my post

    Ranger also responded rather adequately to your statisical claims

    I also have repeatedly pointed out that your comments about “people being good without believing in God” does not really address the issue, because it fails to note a basic distinction between two separate questions. 1. Whether a person can live a good life without believing in God and 2. whether the existence of moral properties such as right and wrong can be explained if God exists.

    Forgive me if I do not respond to the 100+ posts that have been placed here.

    My point however stands, much of the discussion in here has been as I said, and some of it has turned into motive attacking etc and speculation about my views etc.

  • Jan, I agree people have observed the pepper moth. Try reading the whole comment I made in context. I agree that small incremental changes can be observed. Even Creationists ( which I am not despite Ken’s continual assertions to the contrary) accept that Evolutionary theory however asserts much more than this, it postulates that every creature evolved by natural selection, genetic drift ( and other mechanisms ) from a common ancestor and the process took billions of years, most of it at a time when humans did not exist and hence could not have observed it.

    This is mostly based on inferences to the best explanation. The claim all animals evolved from a common ancestor explains, various features we do observe, such as a common genetic code, and various other features, and because of its explanatory power is accepted. Hence my claim that evolution is the best scientific explanation currently available for this phenomena. Of course if in the future scientists adopted a better explanation that explained the data better then the theory would be abandoned. This is my point, evolutionary theory is not observed its an inference to the best explanation.

    Its not about filling in small gaps in our observation of the past. What we have observed ourselves in our life time is a minute period of evolutionary history and the observations of the human race, only go back as far as writing which is several thousand years.

    The holocaust on the other hand was actually observed by human beings within a generation of those of us living today.

    I am quite willing to accept that evolution is true, I accept the holocaust is true. But I do not accept the claim that evolution is in the epistemic situation as the holocaust.

  • Matt, any specific observation of the holocaust by an individual relates to limited specific events. We can build up a theory of the complete Holocaust, its history, its overall actions, reasons for launching it, its effects etc by the normal scientific procedure. This will lead us to considering the holocaust to be a fact. However, our account is not the exact truth. It gets closer to the truth as we accumulate more evidence etc.

    Same with evolution. Creationist attempts to divide evolution into micro and macro- evolution is like saying yes we can find evidence that a particular atrocity was perpetrate in Byelorussia or Poland. That a particular camp existed, or that certain individuals observed certain things. But that this doesn’t prove there was a Holocaust! That the German government and leaders had a policy to eradicate Jews, Homosexuals, Russians and Communists.

    That’s just denial – straw clutching.

    In that sense evolution is a fact just as much as the Holocaust and arguably there is more evidence for evolution than for the holocaust.

    Your perception of how scientific theories change is naive. Very rarely does one theory replace another. Most usually our theories improve – they become closer and closer to an exact description of reality.

    Einsteinian mechanics did not displace Newtonian mechanics, However it gives a more complete description of reality. For most purposes Newtonian mechanics suffices. It has not been replaced.

    Same with evolutionary science. Our theories in this area are coming closer and closer to the true reality – an infinite process. We are finding new details, new aspects and new mechanisms all the time. There is enthusiastic debate among scientists. But we are not abandoning basic concepts of natural selection, etc. There is absolutely no reason to. Certain basic characteristics of a theory are maintained as it improves.

    In contrast concepts of special creation were abandoned long ago. They were shown to be wrong, could not describe reality as we knew it and know it now.

    You are just denying human knowledge to attempt to place a well established theory explaining huge numbers of converging facts (about the past as well as the present) on the same level as a myth-based concept explaining nothing which was discredited over 100 years ago.

    And it is unethical to suggest that we should deny children access to modern science because of the objection of a few fundamentalist Christians.

    Completely unethical. And abusive to the children.

  • ‘“No one however has witnessed the evolutionary process which took billions of years.”

    This is false. The peppered moth is one such case. Google “observable evolution” for many others.’

    Really; the peppered moth is an example of observable evolution?

    I am interesteing to know what about the peppered moth evolved. Both melanic allele and non-melanic allele were present in the original population, both were present in the “altered” population (at different percentages) and both alleles are present in the current (similar to the original) population.

    The percentages of dominant and recessive alleles changed, that is a fact and thus the population showed evidence of a process called natural selection. Fair enough, all that is obvious.

    Where however is the evolution?

  • To Ranger and Madeline,

    I was not attempting to say that the NO GOD site was more popular than the M&M site, I was referring to the honesty of your intention to promote your blog through the use of a controversial post.

    Having read some of the responses I now believe that it was just a coincidence, even if a very lucky one!!! Divine intervention perhaps!!!

    To Matt, your view that only those qualified to talk about something should be given credability, eg: Dawkins is a Biologist so shouldn’t be viewed as a valid source to comment on god and the like seems a little unfair, when a huge part of christian belief is built on the opinions and actions of a carpenter!!! Not to criticise carpenters in general that is!!!

    In fact one aspect that Jesus took exception to was the religous establishment of the day, who supposedly were the most qualified to speak about all things spiritual at the time.

    So, it seems perfectly fair for anyone to have an opinion that is actually sound, however much you may disagree with them. I mean the Church of Scientology has grown up around the perspectives of a Sci-Fi author! Not to knock authors either.

    Anyway, I’m also learning that those involved with both blogging, especially biblio-blogs appear to have all the sense of humour of a Customs Officer. Namely none!!!

    So in the words of Richard Dawkins, “What if your wrong?”

  • Ken, it is unethical to repeatedly lie about people. I have never said children should be denied access to science because of fundamentalist parents. I actually said evolution should be taught as the best scientific theory.

    What I said was we should not teach that the best scientific theories are ipso facto true, even if they contradict certain theological doctrines. This latter claim is a philosophical claim about science, not a claim of modern science.

    I actually rebutted the argument you give in the post you talk about. I also have rebutted it repeatedly since repeating it does not verfiy it.

    Your argument is that because evolution is true ( which I don’t contest) it should be taught as true. My argument is that even if it is true, it should not necessarily be taught as such.

    This is quite easy to show, suppose Christianity is in fact true, should athiest parents be forced to subsidise Christian schools and should the state teach Christianity in state schools. ?

    If Islam is in fact true, does that mean that Jews and Christians are not having there civil rights violated if their kids are indoctrinated in Islam without there consent. ?

    If athiesm is true, would it be just to use public schools to deconvert them?

    I have not heard your answer to these questions, if you think that the mere fact that something is true means children should be taught it, despite the religious sensitivities of their parents then you have to answer yes to the above.

  • Ken, re: getting kicked off christian blogs.

    On the Liturgy thread, Bosco describes your (normal) style to a T, (http://www.liturgy.co.nz/blog/man-created-god/3565#comment-5979) you respond:

    “Bosco, I will ignore your little lecture as I am well aware that people feign anger to manipulate discussion.”

    It’s those sort of petty and quite unnecessary passive-aggressive attacks that get you kicked off blogs. Most people you’ve crossed swords with have made similarity observations to Bosco’s.

    The sad thing is, once you actually stop with the “indignant scientist” act, you’re quite capable of engaging in a normal discussion. I have a sneaking suspicion that you could be quite effective in your goal if you could just debate up front the ideas on the table.

  • @Matt

    “That man created the concept of God does not provide grounds for saying God does not exist, any more than the fact that man created the concept of atoms means atoms don’t exist.”

    But the board isn’t saying “In the beginning Man created God, therefore, God doesn’t exist”. It simply said “In the beginning, Man created God.”

    It’s just making a simple declarative statement. It was put up to create awareness, that’s all. You went on to assume that’s what it meant in order to claim some sort of logical fallacy but you can’t derive a logical fallacy from one single factual claim.

    “Re the many gods thing, the odds are stacked in the same way against any position including all known secular positions for the same reasons, large numbers of other people hold other diverse views of the world which contradict them.”

    This is exactly why I do not like the label “atheist”. Atheism has no content. You can’t compare it to religion claims in the way that you are doing here because there are no claims to compare with (except maybe that in order to think rationally you should have good evidence for what you believe in)

    Your god is as likely to die one day in the same way all the others have done. I have no similar god at risk. That’s all the board is trying to point out.

  • Er Madeline, you may wont to check your figures again!!!

    You said ;

    Ranger is not wrong, many more people visit MandM than NoGod.

    Compare the Alexa figures:
    MandM 198,977 most visited website in the world
    NoGod 1,520,092 most visited website in the world

    As I said my math may not be my strongest, but doesn’t

    1, 520,092 (For NO GOD)
    – 198.977 (For M&M)
    = 1321115 More for the NO GOD site – Using your figures!!!

    Excuse me for stating the obvious, but that makes the NO GOD site clearly more popular than yours!!! But what do I know!!!

  • For anyone to answer the question “Is there a God?” we first need to establish the definition of ‘God’.

    So why not take the $1,000 I have on offer, by answering what should be a fairly simple question for the people who hang around here.

    “What is God?”

    To rob me and my family simply go to:
    http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-god-challenge.html

    Surely there must be one believer on the planet that can answer this question in a succinct fashion and for their trouble pick-up a grand for his/her favourite charity??

    Good luck.

    Paul.

  • Jan, the biilboard has a statement, in the beginning man created God and then has under that there probably is no God. That on the face of it is a statement and conclusion. Hence an argument. But in any way you don’t derive fallacies, and not all fallacies involve arguments, the appeal to inappropriate authority is a fallacy involving authoratative statements.

    Atheism is the belief that there is no God, to say it is simply an absence of belief would mean a brickwall is an atheist as it has no beliefs either.

    But even if atheism is not a belief but a stance, the same argument applies. The stance you take towards the existence of God, contradicts the stance millions of other people take and have taken towards it. I could state “we all reject other non Christian stances towards God, some of us just reject one more”

    Finally, your comments about “past gods” prove to much. The ancients also had a wide variety of views about reality, morality, ethics, politics, and science all of which have died. So by the same reasoning you apply to God, it seems you should reject all contemporary scientific, political and moral beliefs, and if you do this, you cannot be moral without believing in God because you will not have any moral beliefs.

    So my arguments stand.

  • Thanks Madeline,

    I’m not a blogger so didn’t know.

    While I’m responding though, Paul “The Canterbury Atheist” is offering $1000 to anyone who can tell him “What is god?”

    You should get Matt to give it a go, as I see your still $1700 short of his costs for the US trip. Should be easy money for a man of his calibre don’t you think?

  • Actually, Paul, the Alexa figures are ranks, not visit numbers. Consequently the lower number indicates a higher rank.

    However, it is easy to manipulate this ranking – as I said before just pout one of the Alexa badges on your site or install a Alexa Toolbar and your will see your rank shoot up (number decrease).

    They are also well out of date, no indication of current or recent traffic.

    Unfortunately I don’t have access to the nogod blogs stats so there is no real way to compare.

    But don’t be fooled by numbers. A site can be promoting rubbish and still get good visit numbers – as you can surely see. Best to go for quality rather than quantity – pays in the long run.

    By the way, Madeleine – Alexa also suffers from not including all blogs. That is why Half done had a long list of blogs he couldn’t rank – including some important ones like the individual sciblogs blogs.

    As for effort – hardly any on my part. I have set it up to be automatic. Only intervene to add or delete blogs. There is some effort in formatting tables for the monthly post.

    As for traffic – very little accrues to me. The daily average is on a google spreadsheet so doesn’t involve any visits to me. However, every month I do get a few inquiries about the ranking and some new blogs so there is a small amount of interest. Not as much as you might think.

  • Scrubone – you are hardly objective here. The little comment of ine you quote is an indication of refusal to get into Bosco’s mudslinging match.

    I took him up on the inappropriate use of LeMaitre’s role in big bang theory to make a silly comment about atheists – one that LeMaitre himself had commented at the time as silly in his comment to the then pope.

    Instead of discussing the science he had distorted Bosco climbed out of his tree and made personal attacks. He say my critique of his distortion of the science as a personal attack on him. he is obviously not used to normal scientific debate, let alone blog discussion.

    Perhaps you should have intervened to give him some moral support so that he didn’t feel so personal about my critique.

  • Sorry Paul but the figures didnt quite mean that.
    mandm the 197000th most frequently visited website
    nogod the 1500000th most frequently visited website, meaning mandm visited approx 7 times more often the nogod

  • Matt – what about teaching children about the Holocaust? You say on evolution:

    “My argument is that even if it is true, it should not necessarily be taught as such. ”

    Would you say that about the Holocaust – seeing the balance of evidence is quite similar?

    Would you argue that children should not be taught about the Holocaust becuase some parent claimed volubly that it hadn’t occurred?

    Would you argue that Holocaust deniers be given equal time and access to children on the subject?

    We are talking about scientific facts – not beliefs.

  • “Jan, the biilboard has a statement, in the beginning man created God and then has under that there probably is no God. That on the face of it is a statement and conclusion.”

    Maybe on the face of it. But from seeing the same phrase on the other boards you know very well it is not meant as a conclusion. In the same way you know very well the board didn’t mean that Man literally created a God, yet you went ahead with a 3-paragraph blurb down that road anyway.

    I find your argumentative style frustrating. You tend to create implications and situations which are not disprovable but which suit your beliefs and then present them as evidence (ironic given that’s the style of thinking you need to have to believe in religion). Despite all evidence, his words and actions that conform to those words, the fact that religion was the one and only quality shared by millions of people he killed, you still claim Hitler’s wasn’t motivated by religion because you have access to his private thoughts and conversations, something which I can’t disprove but we both still know is not true.

    “But even if atheism is not a belief but a stance, the same argument applies. The stance you take towards the existence of God, contradicts the stance millions of other people take and have taken towards it. I could state “we all reject other non Christian stances towards God, some of us just reject one more”

    Again, in different words, as plain as possible, the billboard is not about STANCES. It is about GODS. Our respective stances can be argued in another forum. The board is simply saying that by examining and extrapolating historical patterns, your god is very likely to die one day.

  • Ken your answer there shows up the real issue. You consider theology to be beliefs, science to be facts. You also seem to think that fundamentalists are analogous to neo nazis.

    In otherwords its not science that is really driving the debate. Its scientism: the claim that science is really the only source of knowledge we have and also the belief that fundmentalists are really evil intolerant bigots. These are pillars of a certain type of secular philosophy prevalent in our culture.

    I think both these views are dubious, one is dubious epistemology the other is simply prejudice and stero- typing.

  • Jan

    The fact that other Billboards had the same statement doesn’t really establish anything. I take it the point of all of them was to promote the claim that “there probably is no God” and hence that was the conclusion of all of them. The fact the used different statements (all statements which are rather commonly used by various free thinker organisations in NZ as arguments in other contexts) does not really address this.

    As to your claim about me knowing they did not mean to claim man literally created God. You fail to note the context here. The mistake in the reasoning here ( as well as in the morality one) is the failure to distinguish truths about a belief and truths about what the belief refers to. I suspect people often mistakenly equivocate between these and come to erroneous conclusions. The way to show this is to disambiguate them and show what follows from each one. That’s not “religious” argument its a common line of argument where ever distinctions like this are conflated.

    Again, in different words, as plain as possible, the billboard is not about STANCES. It is about GODS. Our respective stances can be argued in another forum. The board is simply saying that by examining and extrapolating historical patterns, your god is very likely to die one day.

    This misses my point, the argument form is the same, the same form of argument used with regard to beliefs yields a contradictory stance when applied to stances. This shows the form is invalid.

    Even if I am wrong however, In my reply to you I did give a second example which involved beliefs, moral, political, scientific.

    Like many skeptics you seem to want to subject religious beliefs to a certain skeptical standard by then exclude your own philosophical commitments, often the ones that motivate the skepticism in the first place from the same standard.

    As to your claims that religion was what Hitlers victims shared. I think this is false. The category “jew” is both a “religious” and an “ethnic” category. A person can be a jew in the ethnic sense and yet be an atheist and non religious. Karl Marx is an example ( one Hitler particularly loathed). Einstein was a Jew yet its not clear he was a religious Jew and he fled Germany. It seems to me that what Hitler’s victims shared was there ethnic jewishness. Jews who were atheists also went to the gas chambers.

  • Matt – this is silly and insulting:

    “You also seem to think that fundamentalists are analogous to neo nazis.”

    We are all in denial about something – that doesn’t make us Nazis.

    But the pointed you guys continually ignore is that evolutionary science is as well established, factual, as something like the Holocaust. We would not teach our children that was “only a theory” or deny them the right to have that knowledge.

    But that is exactly what you guys are recommending regarding evolutionary science.

    You may disguise it by fine points like “teaching as the truth”. But that is just a naive evasion and doesn’t fool anyone. You don’t have the courage to say that the holocaust should not be taught “as the truth.”

    All you are doing with this evasion is putting your theological jelly wresting skill into play. You can see why some of us say that theology (or is it apologetics) is not an honest subject.

  • “I take it the point of all of them was to promote the claim that “there probably is no God” and hence that was the conclusion of all of them.”

    Your “hence” does not follow at all. Yes, they were meant to promote the claim. No, they were not meant as syllogistic conclusions. What is stopping you from believing this? I mean, did you really think that the first board was trying to prove the non-existence of God simply based on the evidence that 25% of Kiwis don’t believe in Him?

    You see my frustration now. Wanting to believe they were meant as conclusions to an argument fits perfectly with what you are trying to argue, so you just assert that’s what they are and run with it. You can prove anything using these kind of tactics, even claims like there can be no morality without God.

  • “This misses my point, the argument form is the same, the same form of argument used with regard to beliefs yields a contradictory stance when applied to stances.”

    For the purposes of talking about the board, who cares? We are not talking about other stances! We are talking about the board! Again you are trying to twist/divert from the message of the board into some other form of argument that has nothing to do with what the board is trying to say. I’ve already restated that message as clear as I possibly could, so I’ll spare your readers from making another stab at it.

  • Jan, if the argument form is invalid when applied to other cases “such as stances” it is invalid when applied to god. An argument does not cease to be invalid or fallacious just because the word god is in the premise instead of something else.

    As to whether I believe an argument was being made, yes I think implicitly it was, I have actually heard NZARH make arguments like this all the time, the one about one more God has come up time and time again in discussion with NZ atheists I have witnessed. The many people who are atheists are moral is used by Paul Kurtz repeatedly in a recent book on God and Morality and is made by people like Hitchens.

  • “you can’t derive a logical fallacy from one single factual claim.”

    This is perfectly correct.

    “Jan, the biilboard has a statement, in the beginning man created God and then has under that there probably is no God. That on the face of it is a statement and conclusion. Hence an argument. ”

    Poor Matt! Is this what you have been thinking all along! Didn’t the fact that every billboard has this written in exactly the same place, in exactly the same way alert you to the fact that this is their catchphrase/logo? I can see why you are so confused now – but Matt – it really isn’t meant to be an argument. Each billboard has two statements (i) the BIG one in green which differs from billboard to billboard and (ii) the *little* bitsy one in red which is the same on each billboard. Its sad that you did not notice this and thought that they were trying to put an argument on the board. Look a little more closely at the design next time. Never mind.

  • Ken,

    I agree denying something does not make one a Nazi. However, the abhorence people feel about respecting holocaust denying parents is not due to the fact that they have some facts wrong. People reject it because holocaust denial is tied up anti-semitic racist political agendas. The analogy therefore only works if you view fundamentalists as like Nazis.

    Ken seeing you believe atheism is true I asked you if you believe children of Jews, Muslims and Christians should be indoctrinated into athiesm at school, should the teachers tell them their beliefs are mythical and to abandon them?

    Ken you state evolution is an esthablished fact, esthablished by what? Science I take it. So your argument assumes that

    (a) science is the only a reliable way of gaining information about the origins of the human race .

    The problem is that (a) is not an established facts. It is a philosophical claim. So why can children be taught (a)?

  • Yeah I see Max, there is no implict argument because of the colour of the writing.

    A lot of advertising involved implict arguments despite being marketed in slogans. Brush your teeth with this tooth brush and you’ll kiss well. Put on this creame and you’ll look sexy, eternity smoking or non smoking, etc and so on.

    I don’t share the view that because something is done in an advertisment or on a movie or in popular culture one can’t analyse the implicit argument and offer commentary. I think that an important thing to do in fact.

  • Max the last one clearly is an argument I have heard it used over and over. moreover Jan is actually defending a line of reasoning to the effect in this post. I noted the second one is also a common argument in some atheist literature.

    Odd is it not that their “slogans” which were not arguments are so similar to things they say which clearly are arguments isn’t it.

  • At the VERY MOST Matt – what you have is a slogan which is a reference to an argument which is out there some place.. and this is at the VERY MOST. But you are not dealing with an argument on the billboard – you are dealing with an argument of your own creation which only exists echoing around in your own skull.

    And, yes, the color is important. You need to realize that there is more than one way to communicate than in a syllogism. There are perhaps subtleties which are going over your head.

  • Matt – you continually avoid the question.

    Would you advocate that the holocaust not be taught to children as true – only a scientific theory? The theory of evolution is as well, if not more so, established as the Holocaust. To focus on gaps of knowledge or debates on details is disingenuous.

    Your question about education of religion has been asked of me by you before – and answered.

    My policy is that all religions and life stances (including atheism, humanism, etc) should be taught to children. Comparative religions I think they call it. This is definitely NOT indoctrination. Nor is it criticism of the beliefs of the families the children belong to.

    It is not a matter of indoctrination – no schools should do that. But the beliefs of a religion are facts of that religion and it is quite appropriate to educate children about them. Children today are growing up to live in a pluralist society and must be able to interact with people of other beliefs and cultures.

    In fact I think comparative religious education it is essential. Religious indoctrination (and this happens through religious instruction – the current approach – and through churches and families ) promote the in -group/out-group division which is dangerous. It is the prime cause of religious violence and we need to stop it.

    Religious indoctrination is inevitable to some extent within families – some are worse than others. But if kids get the chance to appreciate that there are other views, other beliefs, other religions, other cultures, before they reach an age where they have been indoctrinated into the “one true faith’ then there is some hope for humanity.

    Your denial of the power of science to discover reality is a philosophical stance – but it is a bad philosophical stance. Not all philosophies are good and I certainly oppose the sort that denies reality. You talk about other reliable ways of knowing, investigating, origins of humans. But you don’t describe them (you guys never do) you don’t do anything to justify them. You don’t give even a hint as to why you think they are better than the well established methods humans have developed. And of course you don’t produce any findings produced by your alternative method.

    You don’t allow scrutiny. Pontificating may be OK for theologians but its no good for understanding reality.

    In my post yesterday Ways of not knowing I quoted Jerry Coyne:

    “Religion is not a way of knowing because it doesn’t have a way of knowing that it is wrong. And without that, you don’t know if you’re right. That’s why science makes progress in understanding the world while religion is still mired in medieval theology.”

    Religion is not a way of knowing, discovering, origins or the facts of the evolution of life and humans. Because it does not have any way of knowing it is wrong. There is no check against reality.

    Such bad philosophical arguments are bad enough alone – but when they are used to attempt to limit a child’s access to knowledge or impose on them mythical ideas disguised as factual science they are disgusting. A form of child abuse.

  • “Jan, if the argument form is invalid when applied to other cases “such as stances” it is invalid when applied to god. An argument does not cease to be invalid or fallacious just because the word god is in the premise instead of something else.”

    You are making a bad analogy here, as I’ve already pointed out once. All “stances” are not created equal. A stance which asserts that something specific exists has the burden of proof attached to it. In other words, the default belief in the existence of something is “non-belief”, unless proven otherwise.

    OTOH, all gods *are* created equal in one respect: they are all formed on the beliefs of the believer without adequate evidence. This is why they eventually die (which returns us to the point that the board is implying).

  • Matt, if you were really going to run with the premise that “There probably is no God” claim was a conclusion, why didn’t you just use the first one?

    “25% of Kiwis don’t believe in a God, therefore there probably is no God.”

    That’s a slam dunk to refute compared to the others, don’t you think? :)

    At any rate, we are hopefully making some progress on the whole point of Matt’s post. It appears he was under the impression that the signatures were meant to be taken as conclusions to some kind of syllogistic argument. As I hope is now clear, this was not the case. In light of this hopefully it is also now clear the refutations in his post are no longer written with the proper context.

  • I think you are wrong Jan. The atheist stance is no more “neutral” or simple than the theist stance.

    Theism is NOT Atheism + God (which too many philosophers seem to assume)

    There is a complete worldview outlined by each stance, so neither is the default…

    Think of it this way. Either (i) matter is the basic underlying brute fact and after a long period eventually mind emerges out of this matter (which atheists tend to believe) or (ii) mind (call this God if you like) is the brute fact and out of this matter emerges. Neither of these is a simpler version of the other – and both to my mind seem to require the same burden of proof as the other.

  • “There is a complete worldview outlined by each stance, so neither is the default…”

    I disagree that atheism provides anything close to resembling a “complete overview”. It seems you and I have very different definitions of what atheism is.

    Atheism to me is simply the non-belief of a personal god due to the lack of evidence for one. That’s it. The logical jump from “the belief in a personal god is unjustified based on the evidence” to “matter is the basic underlying brute fact and after a long period eventually mind emerges out of this matter” is not an obvious one for to me to make, to say the least.

  • Ken
    1.I actually addressed the Holocaust denial question in the original post, if you read it, I also pointed out above that its a bad analogy, the holocaust case is different because there are other moral issues over and above merely the question of factuality, and the abhorence of allowing holocaust denial in schools stems more from these moral concerns than factual ones.

    2. I did not say science is not a reliable way of knowing about reality. I denied it was the only reliable way of knowing about reality.

    3. Simply asserting that religions do not give knowledge does not make it so, though it does show your propensity to assert highly controversial philosophical and theological claims as though they were just given.

    4. Your reasons for this don’t seem cogent either. You claim religions can’t test themselves against reality. I have noted this is false before.

    (a) religions can test themselves against reality, the claim that there was a world wide flood 4000 years ago for example is a religious claim that can be tested.

    (b) numerous philosophers of science have pointed out not all scientific claims can be tested empirically. Scientific theories can but isolated scientific claims cannot.

    (c) The reference to testing against “reality” begs the question as to what is real. If God exists then religions have been tested against reality and passed secularism has failed.

    Quoting one philosopher ( with no particular competence in religious epistemology) and then calling the work of others who have pioneered the feild ( Plantinga, Alston for example) poor and silly, is simply politics not argument.

    5. Your stance on religious ed actually does not address my point. Remember I said evolution should be taught as the best theory from a scientific epistemic base, but not as true. I cited respect for religious pluralism as the reason. You rejected this because evolution is true and truth trumps respect for others religion.

    Now, you are saying that although you are an atheist, you don’t think any perspective like this should be taught as true, to do so would be to be to disrespect religious pluralism in schools, instead we should teach comparitive religion whereby people understand the different without necessarily endorsing them.

    In otherwords the very reasoning you reject as silly and child abuse when applied to evolutionary science, is suddenly tolerant and sensible when its not evolutionary science. Thats called special pleading Ken.

    I take it then I can call you a child abuser who would deny children access to important religious and philosophical facts merely because their parents object, after all, in all other contexts where religious questions come up, you accept Plantinga’s reasoning.

  • Jan, the reason is that normally the grounds one gives for not believing in a person God would apply to any other supernatural entity as well.

    By the way do you think walls are atheists, they after all lack a belief in God? Atheism is the belief there is no God, you are offering a non standard definition to escape having to meet the evidential demands you make on others.

  • “By the way do you think walls are atheists, they after all lack a belief in God?”

    Seriously? Was there really anything I said that led you to believe that my definition of an atheist included non-living objects that weren’t capable of having beliefs in the first place? Would it have really changed my argument to include that trivial qualifier in my definition?

    “Atheism is the belief there is no God, you are offering a non standard definition”

    My definition is completely consistent and virtually identical with the one you are stating here.

  • I agree with Jan “belief” and “non-belief” are synonymous ;-)

    They are almost word for word identical.

  • “I agree with Jan “belief” and “non-belief” are synonymous ;-)

    They are almost word for word identical.”

    You obviously don’t believe that I agree with this. Funny joke, but you are only derailing the discussion. Feel free to elaborate.

  • Jan – you are not getting it. Your attitude is that the default world is one without a God, and you must look for evidence to add a God to this default world. This is what you believe… in other words you believe in a certain sort of world existing (one which could exist without a God).

    You believe a lot more than you think when you make statements like “i see no evidence for a God”

  • Matt, you really are away with the birds. I haven’t referred to any philosopher. None at all. Let alone an incompetent one (defined by you of course). I am not stuck in this authority mode which you keep falling back on. I quoted Jerry only because his description was succinct and apt . Perhaps because as the author of the best selling book “Why Evolution is True” and the blog by the same name he has excellent writing skills. But the essence of what he write is well understood by scientists and I have no need for authorities to promote it.

    You refer to a religious claim that a specific flood occurred 4000 years ago as “proof” that religions check themselves against reality. Well, come on them tell us how they did it. What was their way of knowing?

    Seems to me that, just as with the Turin shroud, this is a task for science but your claim is that a religious method, not a scientific one was used. Please share that with us.

    The same goes for origins of life. Any checking against reality is done by science, not religion.

    Your own feeble attempts to argue against the facts of evolution were specifically presentations of scientific claims ( humans evolved billions if years ago). Wrong claims but scientific ones. It’s true of all the arguments against evolution. They rely on misrepresentation or distortion of scientific claims. Never is there anything revealed by “another method of knowing.”

    You are a fraud. Matt. You cannot describe your other method of knowing, one that validated against reality, because you don’t have one.

    You are just piss and wind, I am afraid. 

  • “Jan – you are not getting it. Your attitude is that the default world is one without a God, and you must look for evidence to add a God to this default world. This is what you believe… in other words you believe in a certain sort of world existing (one which could exist without a God).

    You believe a lot more than you think when you make statements like “i see no evidence for a God”

    What I believe is that in order to believe something you need evidence.

    Replace “God” your above quote with any non-nonsensical object you want, such as “purple dragons”. Read the resulting passage to yourself. It’s silly. You would never think to make the same argument for purple dragons as you would for God.

    Why?

  • that really does demonstrate that you don’t get the debate Jan! Please reread what i said a few posts ago and you will realize how silly what you just said is!

  • “that really does demonstrate that you don’t get the debate Jan! Please reread what i said a few posts ago and you will realize how silly what you just said is!”

    that really does demonstrate that you don’t get the debate Maxanon! Please reread what i said a few posts ago and you will realize how silly what you just said is!

  • Easy to mock. But i thought I outlined clearly what my view was – and it is not comparable to your strawman adda Purple Dragon to the world idea. Either address what I actually said or… well don’t. But don’t put stupid words into my mouth.

  • “Easy to mock.”

    Very, and with good reason. By quoting and responding to you I thought I was countering your points just fine.

    In my experience with these kinds of exchanges I’ve found that when I think participants are just talking past each other without any more hope for progress, it’s best to just let it drop rather than just trying to get the last word in.

  • you are right Jan – we are talking past each other. I don’t quite get the “Purple Dragon” comparison. What is a purple dragon… some object which exists in the universe… why pick a purple dragon? Why not, say, a field mouse? So what it seems you are saying is that believing that the nature of the universe is such that an eternal mind is the ultimate reality from which physical matter flows, is basically the same as believing that there is a mouse in the cupboard. This is so retarded that I don’t know how not to talk past you.

  • The Last Word – Yeah Right!!!

    Well, it only took 238 posts started at 8.02am on July the 12th to 8.50pm on July the 15th for the atheists, theists and whoever else decided to take part, to run out of things to say to each other. (I’m not counting my post by the way!!!)

    What did we learn from this process? Well it appears that we really don’t seem to be able to agree on much at all and we do have some very, very, very strong opinions on the matter!!!

    Not a very surprising conclusion, but speaking from an atheist perspective I do take some comfort from the fact that as published in todays New Zealand Herald:

    Massey University religious historian Peter Lineham said the proportion of New Zealanders describing themselves as Christian fell from 90 per cent to 52 per cent in the 50 years to 2006.

    A further 5 per cent now follow non-Christian religions and only 32 per cent say they have no religion.

    His Source: 2006 New Zealand Census

    So, using that as a guide, by 2056, there should only be approximately 14 per cent of the population identifying as Christian left.

    It is harder to judge what may happen to the other religions, but at least my children’s children should at least be able to look forward to a society hopefully based on a more humanist perspective. Here’s hoping!!!

    I’d like to say that this will be the last word, but I have a horrible feeling that this post will be dissected in the same way all the others have been and start the whole thing off again! Oh well!! Good night & god bless!!! Even if I don’t believe in him/ her / it / whatever!!!!!!!

  • @Paul
    “I’d like to say that this will be the last word, but I have a horrible feeling that this post will be dissected in the same way all the others have been and start the whole thing off again!”

    It’s crazy how we Christians like to critically analyse statements (especially those made quickly without much thought) to see if they are logically sound ;-)

    I’m not going to take the time to do it right now though, as I have no time. I might suggest you read up on sociological trends before predicting where society will be in fifty years though. Futurists rarely, nay never, extrapolate trends so cleanly over periods as long as fifty years.

    @Everyone Else (especially Glenn if he’s out there)
    I wanted to go back and listen to your podcast on Sam Harris and his Scientific “Morality” earlier today and noticed that it wouldn’t let me download it on iTunes. All of the links seemed broken, so I deleted the podcast from iTunes and when I attempted to readd it, it said it couldn’t be found.

    Of course, I went to your site and found that it was down as well.

    Now I’m sure you’re already aware of this, but just in case, this is to let you know that for some reason your site and podcast archives are totally offline.

  • @ Ranger,

    Just a thought, do you think that before the sermon on the mount, Jesus took the time to study all the appropriate supporting academic literature, made certain that his argument was logically sound and ensured he covered all the key points that he had outlined in several brainstorming sessions prior to the event or just possibly, and I realise I’m going out on a limb here, perhaps he did an impromptu!!! (Not sure if they had cue cards then or whatever it is you high academics use these days!!!)

    I don’t doubt you’ll tell me your opinion!!!!!!!!!

  • What I believe is that in order to believe something you need evidence.

    Ok so until you provide me with evidence for this statement, I should not believe it.

  • OK I have posted images of a numnebr of church signs – Christian billboards – in dire need of theological critique (Theological critiques of billboards required). In contrast to the three signs in Matt’s post these are written by people who claim a theological allegiance and surely it is Matt’s (and Glenn’s) duty to apply their immense theological skills to them.

    After all, if these church signs are not theological correct they will only attract ridicule, wont they?

  • Actually Ken – the fundies have written blog posts about at least two of your church signs… the one’s from St Matts. in Auckland.

  • Maxanon – and the fundies include our heroes Don Quixtoe and Sancho Panzas, do they?

    Yes I am aware criticisms of the the NZ signs were made here and on Glenn’s blog – but I am interested in their deep theological analysis. Something along the standards of this post.

  • Excuse me, but what’s happened to Glenn Peoples’ site over at wherever-it-is?

    Cheers’n love

    Martin (non-Kiwi non-Christian theist)

  • [...] (and hence offended) bloggers who make a theological criticism of the slogans (see man created God, There’s Probably No God? Fisking Atheist Billboards,  More Billboard Fun and Stop [...]

  • I find the billboard slogan confusing.

    “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

    Who is is supposed to be worried by God’s existence?
    Theists or atheists?

  • Ken writes on the Open Parachute link he posted above:
    “Then, inevitably, there are the religious critics. Inevitable because their collective noses are obviously out of joint over this little bit of democratic voicing of opinion – something they just aren’t used to”

    Ah yes, the ‘Christians are anti-free speech’ line and the ‘Christians have no idea what it feels like to have their voices shut out of the public square’ line. Do some history and smell the roses Ken.

    Then he adds:
    “What I have found rather amusing is the efforts of some of the theologically inclined (and hence offended) bloggers who make a theological criticism of the slogans (see … [MandM]).”

    It does not follow that if a blogger is theologically inclined that he or she is therefore offended by the slogans.

    I mean, read the post, Ken.

    Matt is not calling for the billboards to come down or be banned neither is he offended by them; he finds them ironic, irrational, inconsistent and funny but not offensive – no where does he say this.

  • Yeah – I find it odd too. I was going to get a T-Shirt printed saying:

    “There probably IS a God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

    But that shop next to the bog that prints T-shirts seems to have vanished…

  • @Ken
    There is definitely a need for theological critiquing of church billboards, and sites like Unreasonable Faith, Stuff Christians Like and others are already doing a good job of that. And yes, atheist critiques are inherently theological, so UF can do this…as can you!

    I was a little offended by one of the ones you posted from St. Matthew-in-the-City…after perusing through their site about what they believe and don’t believe, I’m not sure why anyone in their situation would even still call themselves Christian. After all, one of their beliefs is that “you cherish the God experience,” but “reject theism.” The most amusing part was that they literally hold to full relativism, i.e. “other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.” Usually people parody such a view, assuming that nobody actually believes it that extremely, but they actually include it in their statement of beliefs!

    They should just embrace one of the many, nice secular humanist groups and if they enjoy ritualism they should make some new secular humanist rituals…but don’t trick people by saying you are Christian, yet only say the creeds “metaphorically.”

    So yeah, if I had a blog I would probably theologically critique their whole “church,” and not just the billboards.

  • I note that two of MandM’s most popular posts are on Billboards, this post on an atheist Billboard is currently in slot 2 and slot 7 is taken up with a critique on one of the Christian Billboards that Ken linked to.

    Ken obviously did not do his homework at all before writing that post.

  • Murph, can’t quite understand. I am asking that our heroes apply the same level of theological critique to a few church signs (I gave a range they could pick from). Seems hypocritical to apply their immense skill in this area to atheist slogans while ignoring those which do claim theological authority.

    Unfortunately Matt and Glenn have gone uncharacteristically quiet. Not that I am complaining – such theological analyses are hardly inspiring, are they?

  • I think Murph’s point Ken was that Matt has done a thorough critique of one of your Christian signs (and in fact did it prior to publishing this atheist sign post). See Popular Post number 7 in our side-bar.

    As for why Matt has gone uncharacteristically quiet today – check our calendar in the side-bar – he is speaking at the Clearing the Air forum and is not able to get online.

  • Thanks, Madeleine. I look forward to Matt having a go at some of the more ridiculous signs when he has the time.

    By the way, I hope there is some good coverage of this “Clearing the Air” meeting. There are some idiots speaking but also some good science input. Whether the meeting can come to a consensus will depend on the attendees though. However, now that “climategate” has been exposed for the hoax it was there is a popular feeling that we should get on with solving this global problem. If this meeting can’t come up with a similar consensus it will make Christians appear reactionary about an important problem we all face.

  • “What I believe is that in order to believe something you need evidence.

    Ok so until you provide me with evidence for this statement, I should not believe it.”

    Yes. Until someone convinces you this axiom is rather self-evident, I agree you should not believe that you need good evidence to justify your beliefs.

    I sincerely hope that day arrives. In the meantime, I will point out to all your readers that you are on record of doubting the claim that you need evidence to justify your beliefs.

  • Matt. The comments regarding atheism and happiness were relevant to the bill boards themselves rather than your arguements…They say “There probably is no god so stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
    There is a revelation of the atheist mindset here…their need to forget God so they can Do what they like!
    I think that is most essential to note.

  • Ken said…”I am becoming more and more convinced that theological training is aimed at creating confusion, arguing around a point and avoiding clarity.”
    You have my sympathy Ken…but it is the product of modern secularism…the age of uncertainty!

  • Ken said…” And of course evolution is constant , happening all the time….We can observe evolutionary changes in laboratory experiments and even in natural populations over relatively small time periods (10s of years not billions).”

    What BS! Tell that to Archie the frog!

  • Cj_nza said…”Really; the peppered moth is an example of observable evolution?…”+

    Though we are going sidways here You have made the best comment here yet!
    Both Ken and Matt should study every word you wrote!…Copy it, and put it above their beds!…they may learn some real science!
    You Da Man!

  • Matt said… Ken, this post was not about evolution,

    Be fair Matt. This post IS about Dawkinism!

  • Jan I was pointing out that the claim “you should not believe something until you have evidence for it” is such that if it is true, one cannot believe it unless you provide evidence for it.

    You have provided none, therefore your position refutes itself.

    Your only response is to state

    Yes. Until someone convinces you this axiom is rather self-evident, I agree you should not believe that you need good evidence to justify your beliefs

    Fine then I’ll say that belief in God is self evident, if you can escape the need to provide evidence by asserting the claim is self evidence I can escape the need to provide evidence by asserting that God is self evident.

    In the meantime, I will point out to all your readers that you are on record of doubting the claim that you need evidence to justify your beliefs.

    Actually most philosophers who have studied the question ( secular or Christian) accept this for obvious reasons. If I justify A on the basis of evidence B, then I have to believe B, but then I have to justify B on the basis of C, but then I need to believe C and so on for ever. If all beliefs need to be justified with evidence it goes on for ever and none are ever justified

    Aristotle pointed this out nearly 2000 years ago. Its ironic that you take an obviously flawed position assert it as self evident and then denigrate me for not accepting it.

  • Matt said…” If I justify A on the basis of evidence B, then I have to believe B, but then I have to justify B on the basis of C, but then I need to believe C and so on for ever. If all beliefs need to be justified with evidence it goes on for ever and none are ever justified…”
    And this is where I step up and say Yes!!!!…there is a limit to what is called healthy skepticism Matt. Skepticism can be very unhealthy too! It can be intellectually defeating.
    The Bible calls you to make a stand…not dither around with the lost humanists!
    You seem to think God and the scriptures must forever provide justifications for Himself.
    whereas I say Have Faith Dude! Don’t you already have sufficient proof to trust in the Lord with all thine heart?
    My position is not one that has no grounding in reasoned investigation…ie I man no irrational superstitious fool, But a believer who has enough evidence to now walk in faith!
    Without faith it is impossible to please God!
    His ways are past finding out!
    This means that for the Mature Christian your apologetics ought to be guided by Faith not skepticism. Get it. That shows your intellectual /spiritual maturity because you know the atheist are fools for needing reason upon reason upon reason …perpetual doubt…never faith Never conviction of truth!
    Don’t you see that the position of Faith is grounded in the ultimate reason over and above the pettiness of atheist doubt?
    Scrutinize everything by all means yet don’t fall into the fools trap Matt yourself Matt of need in proof upon proof, and yet still remaining an agnostic!
    Believe the scriptures Matt! They are your unassailable house upon the rock!
    That is the high ground! Defend that rock!
    That is using you God given talents as God wills.

  • Matt…Why fear taking a stand against evolution?
    If it later proves to be true you can simply admit you were wrong and change your position accordingly. There is no shame in that.

    I do not “fear taking a stand against evolution”, I simply do not have a position on it.

  • I am curious Jan, if you still are tracking comments
    what type of Atheist are you?

    Are you the secular humanist kind?
    Personally I am a Deist

  • As I mentioned earlier, I do not like the label “atheist” and do not have the urge to describe myself as one, in a similar way that I do not have the need to call myself a “non-astrologist”, or a “non-racist”. I find it more natural to define myself by the things I do believe in, rather than the ones I don’t. There exists no term to describe a person who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. Why?

    I simply try to observe the world around me and make sense of it based on the evidence of those observations. This is the basis of any rational person’s attempt to learn and believe things about reality. Or another way to put it: I don’t consider anyone that *doesn’t* require evidence before believing in something to be a rational person.

  • Here are some more proven facts that I need to share to get this debate going somewhere decent;
    1. There is nothing at all going for the Christian paradigm. No evidence, no methods of reasoning-nothing at all, just a bunch of very stupid people.
    2. Christians oppose abortion as they want more people to share their stupid worldview (they need more children for this). I won’t go into the real reasons Catholic priests oppose abortion as that material is not suitable for a media source that is viewable by younger people.
    3. The universe and evolution happened without the help from a god.
    4. Christianity has been of no help to our society and in fact has only every been (and will always be) a hinderance. A very strong example of this is all the Christians starting the Second World War and all the murders committed during this conflict. Many Christians alive today wish that these people had completed the job and also targeted atheists.

    If anyone would like to try and argue against these points I have just shown everyone please do. They should be prepared to be proven wrong though-very wrong.

  • Richard, unfortunately what you give is a string of assertions and claim they are “proven”. Perhaps you can point me to the peer reviewed studies where these things have been demonstrated conclusively and we can talk further.

  • Jan I just provided an argument ( that is evidence, proof) that its not the case that a rational person approaches all questions this way.

  • @Richard
    Welcome back…I see that you still have nothing to offer or bring to the discussion that offers any proof, evidence, argument or anything more than mere assertion. Maybe in your next comment, you can suggest what a “fact” is in your understanding and how one comes to know a fact?

  • This us slightly off topic but there has been some scientific discussion so some readers may be interested. Currently Lord Christopher Monckton is carrying out a campaign pressuring a university to silence John Abraham who did a very thorough debunking of Monckton’s distortion of climate science. There is an international campaign supporting Abraham. To learn more and/or add your supprort to the campaign go to Support John Abraham at Hot Topic (http://hot-topic.co.nz/support-john-abraham/).

  • “argument ( that is evidence, proof)”

    I think this thought process by you is rather revealing. You equate these three things. However, evidence is not the same as an argument (some arguments present evidence, some don’t). Proof is not the same as evidence (some evidence is valid, some isn’t).

    You make the jump from argument to evidence to proof far too easily. Rational people sometimes hesitate to make these jumps when they feel they are not warranted.

  • Jan I did not equate all three, I said I offered an argument that was all three. Saying one argument is all three is to say all are.

    I note you are still avoiding the issue, you stated a rational person only accepts a position if there is evidence for it. I provided evidence that this is false. Its self refuting and also leads to an infinite regress.

    You continue to repeat your claim. If its true however I have given you ( by your own criteria) reasons to reject it.

    Do you believe in following evidence or not?

  • Happy or not
    I don’t think for this discussion that whether believers or non believers are happier is really important as it does not have any bearing on the legitimacy or not of the belief. Trying argue that on side is more content and therefore more likely to be right is ill founded.

    Here is an example,extreme I admit, but I am making a point. One might be more content and happy to NOT discover that their recently deceased father that they loved actually secretly raped four women over the course of his life. Happy and content with the belief that ones father with a great man. But believing he was a great man does not make it so and discovering the truth does not necessarily make you happier.

  • “I note you are still avoiding the issue, you stated a rational person only accepts a position if there is evidence for it. I provided evidence that this is false.”

    Actually, you provided an argument, not evidence. I really don’t think the two of us share the same definitions when it comes to those terms, possibly one reason we are not really getting anywhere here.

    The infinite regress argument would hold only if our beliefs are fully 100% justified. They are not. There exists (or should exist, I would argue) some doubt in every belief you hold. Once you reach an assertion where the doubt you have is so little as to satisfy your requirements for a belief, the regress stops.

  • Matt said He does not have a position on evolution.

    Well then I question the value of all your wisdom if it has kneecapped you from taking a position on such an important issue.
    I have more respect for Ken to have the balls to take a posion, even if i think Its the wrong one.
    Fence sitting is Tragic at best…conniving at worst.
    You must fit in the Tragic Box.

  • “Do you believe in following evidence or not?”

    I find your thinking too “black-and-white” for my tastes, for lack of a better term. You constantly try to force your opponents into a corner with strict “If A than B” type thinking when in reality, the answer to most of the questions and arguments you put forth is “it depends”, as is the case with this one.

    I find talking with people that think like this exhausting and rarely fruitful. I get the feeling their goal is to be “the victor” rather than take a honest examination of the issues and see where it leads. That’s at least the impression I got here.

  • Sorry for the accidental Pun Ken…I meant Position not Poison…haha.

  • “Matt said He does not have a position on evolution.”

    Is this really true? I skimmed most of the comments on that subject. Anyone today that has no position on evolution should be as embarrassed as anyone who doesn’t have a position on the Theory of Gravity or The Copernican principle.

    Even the Catholic Church is on board with evolution. Really, if you are trailing the Catholic Church in matters of science you really need to catch up a little … :)

  • I retract my comment about you being tragic Matt.
    You are a Battler! I respect you. I struggle to understand your sort of honnest convictions. Sorry.

  • Jan, I see so a person does not always need to have evidence for something to rationally believe it, it depends on the situation.

    Great, The problem is this means you cannot object to belief in God on the alleged basis that there is no evidence, unless you can give a reason why this situation requires it and other situations ( such as the situation where you claim belief in God is only rational if it meets some standard of proof) do not.

    Simply asserting a standard is correct when the topic is God and then denying it when the basis for your rejection of God is under question is inconsistent. By the way the black and white thinking you refer to is called logic. There is this thing called the law of non contradiction which says that A and not A cannot be both true.

    Jan I also noted that I accept evolution is the best current scientific theory, so its not the science that I am “behind in” its the philosophical question as to whether the best scientific explanation is automatically the true explanation.

    I know most people in our culture assume this, but its not actually clear its correct at all. Debates like this occur in Philosophy of Science all the time, which is one reason I think the public should be made aware of the issues.

    As to laws of gravity, there is substantial debate as to wether its actually true that laws of nature exist or wether this is simply a useful explanatory model for what we observe. Bas Van Frassen for example, one of the worlds leading Philosophers of Science argues laws of nature do not really exist and scientific theories involving them are aim at empirical adequacy not truth.

  • “Jan, I see so a person does not always need to have evidence for something to rationally believe it, it depends on the situation.”

    No. You twist and you twist. This is also a good example of how your tendency to apply black-and-white-type thinking handcuffs you.

    Nothing I said should lead you to the possibility that a person can believe something without evidence. A person should *always* have some amount of evidence for any given belief. The question, on a case-by-case basis, should be *how much* evidence is enough before the person accepts the premise as a belief.

  • Matt:

    “As to laws of gravity, there is substantial debate as to wether its actually true that laws of nature exist or wether this is simply a useful explanatory model for what we observe. Bas Van Frassen for example, one of the worlds leading Philosophers of Science argues laws of nature do not really exist and scientific theories involving them are aim at empirical adequacy not truth.”

    I see no reason for debate. Clearly the laws of gravity have no objective existence in themselves. They exist on paper or in people’s minds, etc. They don’t exist independently of our species and its society (at least in this part of the universe).

    So of course they are not “true” – they are an attempt to describe reality as far as we have been able to interact with it. There is a possibility in the near future that the “laws of gravity” will be refined. (Gravity is a strange force and would be better explained if the so called “laws of gravity” were not correct).

    However, these laws represent our best attempt to describe the relationships and interactions of objectively existing bodies. Those bodies, their interactions and relationships exist objectively. No “laws” are required. Nor any minds to hold the concepts of these laws.

  • On a sidenote, I have realized after my latest post that for some reason my ability to edit and/or delete my comment within 5 minutes of posting is no longer available to me.

  • jan you sayNothing I said should lead you to the possibility that a person can believe something without evidence. A person should *always* have some amount of evidence for any given belief.

    But I provided evidence for the claim that this is false.

    The twisting is being done by you. When its the existence of God you demand evidence, when its your basis for rejecting God, you refuse to give evidence and keep making assertions even when evidence is provided for thinking the opposite.

    This is not a rational rejection of theism its self contradiction.

  • It’s not a rugby problem, it’s a problem of manhood, womanhood and morality…

    … when atheists erect billboards in Auckland telling us that ‘There is probably is no God’, they aren’t just inviting us to reject faith … Instead they are actually inviting us to reject a life that seeks the good of the other, in order to embrace …

  • To Semper Vita,

    I read the piece: It’s not a rugby problem, it’s a problem of manhood, womanhood and morality on your Catholic blog.

    It was thought provoking, but at the end of that article you say, with regard to the NO GOD atheist advertising that:

    … when atheists erect billboards in Auckland telling us that ‘There is probably is no God’, they aren’t just inviting us to reject faith … Instead they are actually inviting us to reject a life that seeks the good of the other, in order to embrace …

    I wonder then how you justify both the Pope and the Vaticans moral stance with regard to the recent pedophilia scandals that have rocked the catholic Church.

    As it would appear that they are rejecting their moral responsibilities in order to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church in general, over the rights of the unfortunate victims who suffered at the hands of their priests.

    Please read through the UK Guardian Newspaper article in regard to this very issue.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/13/pope-prosecution-dawkins

    I await your response.

  • To Richard, below… (I have just discovered this blog, and I feel the need to comment on your comments.)

    “2. Christians oppose abortion as they want more people to share their stupid worldview (they need more children for this). I won’t go into the real reasons Catholic priests oppose abortion as that material is not suitable for a media source that is viewable by younger people.”
    Wow, that’s not just low, it’s unprovable and improbable! I oppose abortion. I am a Protestant, a woman and a single mother! There are a million good reasons to oppose abortion that have nothing to do with religion..

    “3. The universe and evolution happened without the help from a god.”
    If that’s so, and it might not be, theistic evolution might be more correct – so what?
    “4. Christianity has been of no help to our society and in fact has only every been (and will always be) a hinderance. A very strong example of this is all the Christians starting the Second World War and all the murders committed during this conflict. Many Christians alive today wish that these people had completed the job and also targeted atheists.”
    Christians started World War II? That would come as surprise to my parents who were alive and atheist at the time, and to every history lecturer and teacher I have ever had! It’s a bizarre assertion..
    Deb

  • “I wonder then how you justify both the Pope and the Vaticans moral stance with regard to the recent pedophilia scandals that have rocked the catholic Church.”

    I don’t think it’s justifiable. The difference is that those people did what they did against the teaching of Christianity.

  • I wonder then how you justify both the Pope and the Vaticans moral stance with regard to the recent pedophilia scandals that have rocked the catholic Church.

    Yeah and some teachers who had sexual indiscretions with there students have been given name supression. That means the whole public school system is evil, has never done anyone any good, and everything taught by teachers is false.

    Oh yeah and some Police officers had name suppression to prevent them being condemned for rape. So I guess the police never ever provide any benefit we should reject the entire police force and every law the police aim to comply obedience with is false.

  • I guess its safe to say that a kind of nominalism is happening in atheism where lay unbelievers simply don’t believe because they were raised by ungodly parents or by emphasizing irrational generalizations about the abusiveness of religion. Sure, christianity and other religions have always had people who believe in a fideistic sense or as a cultural norm. But I wouldn’t expect atheism to have followers who are in this category especially with its tradition of skepticism. It proves that atheism is a religion and that people believe in it because of emotive or majority appeal rather than intellectual reasoning.

    The movie Agora is an example, an amateur historian who is a confessed atheist even debated on his blog atheistic feminists who believed in the premise of the movie, despite the fact, that on his blog he criticized the director in misconstruing the true facts of history for a polemicized version of faith vs science line again..

    There are even reports of blog posts of atheists commentators wanting to blow up churches or having desires of shooting Christians for their stupidity. One wonders if a secular inquisition is necessary to curb what unbelievers think about their unbelief…

  • @ Matt

    I think there is a huge difference between granting teachers name suppression, which is most often done in the interest of protecting the privacy of the victims not them, especially in smaller schools and communities, where once the teacher is identified it can often be easy for other members of the community to also identify the pupils involved.

    Also name suppression rules with regard to Police Officers, is not the same as being allowed to dodge prosecution by moving priests from one place to another, at which point they would often reoffend again.

    The 2004 John Jay Report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states that 6,700 were investigated and substantiated against 1,872 priests.
    The remaining 3,300 allegations were not investigated because the priests involved had died by the time the allegations were made. Around 81% of the victims were male; 51% between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27% between the ages to 15 to 17 years.
    The John Jay report identified the following factors as contributing to the sexual abuse problem:
    Failure by the hierarchy to grasp the seriousness of the problem
    Overemphasis on the need to avoid a scandal
    Use of unqualified treatment centers
    Misguided willingness to forgive
    Insufficient accountability

    Why then is the church allowed to be judge in its own case and enabled in effect to run private courts where gross and evil offenders end up being “forgiven”?

    This question obviously bothered Cardinal Law’s own mind, because in December of that year he left Boston just hours before state troopers arrived with a subpoena seeking his grand-jury testimony.

    Where did he go? To Rome, where he later voted in the election of Pope Benedict XVI and now presides over the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as several Vatican subcommittees.

  • @ Alvin

    Just how aggressive and “in your face” should atheists be? Well even the relatively moderate amount of assertiveness shown thus far has led to accusations of militancy, violence, and fundamentalism.

    This is despite the fact that atheists are far less aggressive than either religious groups have traditionally been or most issue-advocacy groups tend to be. More “in your face” tactics could bring more negative press, but less will probably result in the same, wouldn’t it?

    Being less assertive and more submissive is no way to promote change and there’s absolutely no reason to think that it would make the situation for atheists any better.

    This is surely why all those who insist that atheists need to be less assertive never even try to offer any empirical evidence that a change in tactics would have positive benefits.

    It’s not a reality-based position or suggestion — it’s ideological, i.e. it stems from their ideological goals and furthers their ideological goals. Since their ideology doesn’t involve strengthening secularism or improving the situation for atheists, we have to conclude that their suggestions are aimed at undermining what atheists are trying to do.

    So if being less “in your face” isn’t an option, does this mean that being more assertive or even aggressive is a good idea? I certainly think so.

  • Paul,

    Negative Secularism in itself wants to suppress religious opinions for being considered as a policy device, by keeping such beliefs to yourself and dying the death of insignificance, its the same method used by Elizabeth I to suppress Catholic belief in England… That’s simply unfair and biased as shown by the reasonings that this post offers (e.g. Wolterstorff et al)

    Positive Secularism on the other hand, considers the religious beliefs of their constituencies and admits that its part of the process of how electors choose who to vote and what laws to upheld, this is the more American formulation than European, and the one I tend to support. Which do you root for Paul?

    Also, one group of atheist ideology (such as yours) never claimed to be the ultimate source of authority overall godless ideologies, why condemn these atheists or say that they undermine what atheism stands for? their ideology and convictions is just as equal as yours. I’m putting the standard that skeptics judge Christians whether racist, anti-semite or pacifists versions of it to atheists and say that the same standard applies. Atheism in itself has become fragmentary, divisive and extreme and its in its nature to be that way, McVeigh’s act of terrorism as well as Klebold and Dylan’s columbine massacre’s are just as legitimate in expressing their godlessness as does your skepticism Paul

  • I hope this hasn’t already been raised, i was scrolling down, saw this from Matt:

    “Evolution occurred billions of years ago, our evidence for it is based on inferences to the best explanation from various phenomena, some of it very incomplete no one directly saw or recorded it.”

    My religious education finished with school, so I can’t claim to be up to date/all knowing etc, but my understanding was that the bible was written collaboratively over a long time, including by – if not exclusively by – people who did not directly see or talk to God or even those who claimed to be his messengers. (same for the others of course, but the list of gods, beliefs systems and writings feels almost inexhaustable – so excuse the catchall used here – i apply this to buddism, taoism, occultism etc etc etc… etc).

    So, really, how can anyone ever be anything but agnostic about religion?

    I’ll include science and it’s theories in that too. It would make no more sense than to pick up a science textbook from the 50’s filled with ridiculous statements about race (disproven – there is as much variation within as between so called ‘racial groups’) and say ‘well – this is it – it was the beliefs of the day, and we can’t argue that’.

    Surely it’s conceiveable that what was written was done so with the tone of what was accepted beliefs by those in power at the time. Otherwise shouldn’t there be references to the internet, mobile phones, new countries that have been established as new boundaries are drawn up? It, like the hypothetical textbook, is surely only a reflection of the values at the time it was written. The world was around for a long time before it, a long time after it, and there have been several ‘species’ of humans before ours. They wrote about the issues, with the attitudes of, the day. Same as the hypothetical science teacher did when writing the hypothetical textbook.

    Key values and morals expressed in Christianity are not unique to it, nor the first time those values/moral were seen. I take the point that belief does not automatically link to existence. I can belive there is a monster in the wardrobe – doesn’t mean it’s there – and vice versa – just raising it. Afterall, maybe god/s exist to embody the morals that we developed from envolution.

    There’s just so much possibility and things unknown – how can there be an alternative to the state often referred to as agnostic? (potenially also known as ‘still learning’ if you want to be a little kinder).

  • More on the NZ Atheist Billboards…

    in his post, Dr. Flannagan demonstrates a breathtaking naiveté regarding the billboard slogans put forward by the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign. … Snark, flame and knee-jerk reactions reign over a nuanced and considered representation of the opposition’s …

  • Seems to me they think people can be good simply by nature. Well, if they are looking at nature, they are still without excuse for acknowledging God. Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” So, if people can be good without God, to what are they comparing the goodness to? God’s character, revealed through His Word, is the absolute standard of goodness. They are rejecting God by looking to the created rather than the Creator who is revealed in all things. Secular thinking is that goodness is all relative to each individual’s set of values. This moral relativism is destroying society and the world as we know it. Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

    What really cracks me up is that the billboards say, “There’s probably no God.” Boy does that show courage of their convictions! They’re afraid to stick their neck out there and just outright deny God, so they leave open the possibility.

  • @ Carl

    Firstly, “Good Without God? One million Kiwis are.”
    Can, I feel, also be interpreted in two different ways here:

    One, the secular community is a lot bigger than most people think.

    Two, You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be a good or happy person. If you look at the data you will find there is a significant correlation between the countries in the world which have a bigger secular population and the ones which are happier.

    Secondly, you question the use of only “probably” no god?

    The NZ no-god campaign decided to stick with the original UK campaign’s message and design. Quite simply, theye like it and want to support it.

    The UK Campaign used “probably” for two reasons. The first was for legal reasons associated with the use of “probably” in other public advertising campaigns, such as the famous Carlsberg ads – “probably the best lager in the world”. Here “probably” helped to ensure the ads didn’t breach advertising codes in the UK.

    The second reason, and the more interesting one, is that “probably” is actually a great word. The use of a modifier such as probably supports the view that although there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist – just as it is impossible to prove anything doesn’t exist.

    As Richard Dawkins states in The God Delusion, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position. He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”.

    His choice of words in the book is “almost certainly”; but while this is closer to what most atheists believe, “probably” is shorter and sweeter, which is helpful for advertising.

    Hope that clarifies things for you.

  • @ Carl (Again)

    In addition to my last comment with regard to the use of the word “Probably”, the following may be of interest to you.

    The UK Advertising Standards Authority released its annual report and it showed, as we already knew, that some people complained about the Atheist Bus Campaign. In fact it was in the “top 10″ most complained about ads for last year.

    But guess what else? A lot more people complained about one of the Christian bus ads that were run as a counter-response. And when I say a lot, I mean more than any other non-broadcast advert, ever.

    The Christian Party bus ad, which parodied the Atheist Bus Slogan with the message “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life” provoked the public ire.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but considering you state that:

    What really cracks me up is that the billboards say, “There’s probably no God.” Boy does that show courage of their convictions! They’re afraid to stick their neck out there and just outright deny God, so they leave open the possibility.

    Then what really cracks me up, is that an ad that sees the theists sticking their collective neck out, is, metaphorically speaking, cut off by more complaints than for any other non-broadcast ad ever!

  • No Position, where does it say that the Christian position on morality has to be unique in order to be true?
    It seems to me, that if human beings were the product of a creator who was concerned with such things, then there would be large scale agreement on such points, and that the Christian position would have concordance with our highest impulses.

    Divine Command Theory does not say that people can’t be good without believing in God. It says that without God (in the sense of a transcendant lawgiver) then the word “good” doesn’t any real meaning.

    Personally I like the idea of a spoof billboard “Good without God? 50% of prison inmates are. Sourse 2007 prison statistics.” The statistics are true, and atheists can’t deny them without gutting their own assertions.

    I’m amazed this thread has managed to keep going this long. But then never underestimate the power of social autists to keep arguing long after they’re defeated. That’s why I don’t usually waste my time on them.

  • So front up with God and end all doubt….how hard can it be….?

  • James when did you stop beating your wife? No evasions please just front up and answer the question.

  • Matt, just s reminder that I had posed you a couple of questions in the discussion on my blog.

    So, could you answer them? Or are you walking out if that discussion also?

  • Sorry, Matt, that was me. The discussion was at Open Parachute.
    Got led astray by commenting from another app.

  • Hot dog, now there’s a good fisking. Much appreciated

  • Ummmmm… Has everyone missed the obvious mistake the atheists have made on these billboards? They are using one million kiwis out of four million to build a probability argument – it’s easy to refute! Here goes…

    “three out of four million kiwis are good WITH God. So there probably IS a God!”

    So I say: “Stop worrying, go out and enjoy the life He has given you!”

  • @ Ben,

    Ummmmm… Has everyone missed the obvious mistake that Ben has made on his comment?

    But which god? Jehovah? Yewah? Allah? Buddha? Zeus? Etc?

  • Check out this website to help you decide WHO actually created God, how, where, when and WHY he created God:
    moralmovement.com

  • Steve how could Moses have invented something that already existed? Akhenaten insisted on a form of monotheism generations before Moses.

  • Actually, Paul, that fails to address Ben’s argument at all, which is that any argument along the lines of 1 in 4 think X therefore X, is invalid. And its invalid regardless of wether X is atheism, Buddism, Christianity, Islam or whatever, it doesn’t matter what X is, if the argument for X is that 1,000,000 people think X then the argument is invalid.

  • “What is asserted here? That man created God. ”

    Obviously, what IS being asserted is that we thought up God(or gods) to explain phenomena that we didn’t understand. These phenomena include, the sky, the weather, biology and ourselves.

    “This, however, is clearly absurd.”

    Yes it is absurd to assert that God DOES exist and it’s only because we MADE HIM, isn’t it? I think it’s obvious that the poster is not asserting that at all.

    ” God is typically defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing, immaterial, necessarily-existent being who created the world.”

    This Jedi-mind trick definition doesn’t work on everyone though. “This is not the non-necessarily-existent god you’re looking for.”

    ” Now if one is going to claim that humans actually created an all-powerful, all-knowing, immaterial, necessarily-existent who created the world, then they are contradicting themselves.”

    You, Matt, are not a stupid man. You don’t believe that atheists are claiming to have brought into being a being of this description, now do you?

  • Obviously, what IS being asserted is that we thought up God(or gods) to explain phenomena that we didn’t understand. These phenomena include, the sky, the weather, biology and ourselves.

    No that would mean God’s existence was inferred via an adbuctive argument it would mean the author was saying

    In the beginning Humans have come up with arguments for Gods existence.

    There almost probably is no God.

    and that would be an even more ridiculous billboard. It seems to me the author is trying to assert there is no God, that God is a fictional entity invented by humans no more no less.

    ” God is typically defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing, immaterial, necessarily-existent being who created the world.”

    This Jedi-mind trick definition doesn’t work on everyone though.

    Sorry how does citing quotes from star wars and saying my position is a mind trick constitute a reason or argument for its falsity.

    “You, Matt, are not a stupid man. You don’t believe that atheists are claiming to have brought into being a being of this description, now do you?” No I think in this case they are equivocating, they are confusing two different ideas in the same term, people do not do this deliberately, and so are not typically aware of it.

  • The book “The man who created God” at moralmovement.com does not suggest that Moses created an actual thing that is God.
    It suggests and proves that Moses created the concept of God, the god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
    God is merely a concept, not an actual being. The concept of gods have existed since man has had the intellect to question, but has not had the intellect to answer those questions. Thus the Chinese came up with hundreds of gods, the Russians scores of gods, the Greeks and Romans scores of gods, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and many others hundreds of gods.

    Monotheism did not necessarily originate from Moses, however the god concept as defined by Moses, and the qualities that his god were given by Moses, has been the most successful god of all time, proven by the following of over 3 billion people on this earth.
    Check it out

  • This Jedi-mind trick definition doesn’t work on everyone though. “This is not the non-necessarily-existent god you’re looking for.”

    I thought the ‘mind trick’ part, the, “This is not the non-necessarily-existent god you’re looking for.”, neatly explained the idea that simply adding ‘necessarilly-existent’ as part of a definition of God doesn’t mean that it’s absurd to say, “God does not exist.” Obviously atheists don’t include that in their definition and/or are not willing to contrain themselves to this wordplay, since God cannot be ‘necessarilly-existent’ if there are no Gods, isn’t that right?

  • Being able to trace the first writings on the concept of God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam back to Moses is not the same thing as proving Moses created them. Did Newton create gravity? Did Capernicus make the earth go around the sun? Did the Ancient Greeks invent atoms?The genetic fallacy is not proof, neither is simply stating that “God is merely a concept, not an actual being.”

  • @ Steve
    if a pretty much all men at all times throughout history have come up with the concept of God[s], the big question is why? Why do we always look for something greater than ourselves?
    What a strange adaption, to need to believe a lie.

  • “Why do we always look for something greater than ourselves?”

    Here’s a ‘Matt type answer.

    “I don’t. Checkmate.”

    Here’s what I think though. People look to others to see what is right and what is permissible.The idea that the world is a mysterious place designed by an all-powerful creator who we can appeal to for protection is as natural as believing we have a father and mother who we can appeal to for our protection.

    Why don’t all of us want to believe such things? We grow up.

  • pboyfloyd, you are childish, I am so much smarter and more mature than you are, nah nah nuh-na nah…..

    I take it this refutes athiesm?

  • Madeleine, I challenge you to read the book before you rubbish anything. I challenge to to open your mind. Your website claims that you have an LLB, so I assume that you are a lawyer.
    I know that you can debate, that’s what lawyers are usually trained to do.
    As a lawyer, however, you should check out the evidence, something that you don’t seem to be prepared to do.
    I can see that you are attempting to go off on a tangent so as to lead the discussion away from the essence of the debate, which is that by analysing the contents of the religious texts, “The man who created God” proves that God was a construct of Moses.
    Newton and Capernicus were observers of real things.
    Hans Christian Anderson and Moses, on the other hand were fictional writers. But whilst Hans Christian Anderson simply wanted to sell his stories, Moses had an agenda. So successful was his indoctrination of his people, so self serving was his god, that Jesus and Mohammed followed his construct and beliefs. Jesus’ stories seem to have claimed your mind like it has claimed the minds of billions of others.
    I hope that you can think for yourself one day.
    Love and best wishes,
    Steve

  • Yes I am trained as a lawyer, btw Google tells me you are trained as an Optometrist.

    As someone trained and qualified in law, I am in a very good position to be able to check the chain of evidence for the establishment of motive, intent and action. I know that these things are very difficult to prove where one lacks slam dunk evidence, e.g. a confession, video footage or several reliable eye witnesess; conclusive proof must be inferred from conduct, words and other evidence.

    To correctly infer to a conclusion one must first of all identify and handle correctly the evidentiary sources by calling on the skills of preferably more than one properly qualified, independent expert who not only can make your factual claims for you but who can accommodate properly and plausibly any competing factual claims made by any other properly qualified experts.

    Facts are one thing, reasoning to conclusions are another. This is the realm of the analytic philosopher. You are unlikely to find a piece of evidence in the nature of the slam dunk sort I mentioned above in a case so old so what you have to do is piece together the evidence that you do have and properly reason from it to a plausible conclusion – this is the only way to maintain the chain of evidence from the fact to the conclusion.

    The problem you have in convincing me to spend the money and time reading your book is that:
    a) many scholars who are not optometrists, who hold PhDs in Theology, Philosophy, Ancient Near Eastern History, Ancient Languages and Interpretations methods, whom I have heard of because they get paid to research and publish in their fields because they are really good at what they do, have argued the opposite of you, whom I have not heard of and if Google is correct, are writing well outside your field;
    b) you have committed several fallacies of reasoning on this blog in your comments so I do not hold a lot of confidence in your ability to make your case from the facts to the conclusions coherently;
    c) the first sentence of your book states “The following chapter analyses the first book of Moses, Genesis, and seeks to prove that its contents are fiction rather than fact” – the choice of the two types of genre to contrast, fiction and fact, shows a very simplistic understanding of Ancient Near Eastern genres from the get go.

    I do have to admit that the fourth sentence of your book is compelling. It states ” It will become increasingly apparent through this book that Moses would gain from godly endorsement”. I find this compelling as I really want to see how you make this case, Moses gave up his cushy life amongst royalty to go become a fugitive and live among poor people who were outlaws on the run from the law in the desert eating the same food day in day out for 40 years; he died never having gotten to see the land he was seeking. He had to put up with grumbling, acting out people, a large number of whom refused to listen to him and questioned his leadership. He died never having a clue that he would go on to be famous, certainly with no clue that he would this very moment be being written about on a blog called MandM. Surely from his perspective, he would have thought he would gain more from staying in the palace.

    Irrespective of this, assuming you can make your case, it is a species of ad hominem to argue that a claim is false because you can prove the author had certain motives or stood to gain from writing. A massive quantity of texts have been written by people who stand to gain from their writings and actions, it does not follow that every single one of them is a charlatan and is spouting rubbish.

    Here is another example of your shoddy reasoning:
    “Newton and Capernicus were observers of real things.
    Hans Christian Anderson and Moses, on the other hand were fictional writers.”

    Completely missing my point about the genetic fallacy (even if Moses was a fraud with an agenda it does not follow that God does not exist) you are reasoning to your proof by engaging in conclusion classification! Circular in the extreme! (And not very good classification – ask any expert in genre what they think of your grouping Hans Christian Anderson with Genesis.)

    Tell me of fan of Newton’s observations, how doe we know that is gravity a “real thing”? Can you touch it, see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, put it in a test tube? Or do you have to deduce its existence from your experience of other things?

    “But whilst Hans Christian Anderson simply wanted to sell his stories, Moses had an agenda.”

    More ad hominem assertions.

    “Jesus’ stories seem to have claimed your mind like it has claimed the minds of billions of others.”

    Actually it was my personal experience of God that guides me.

    “I hope that you can think for yourself one day.”

    And I hope you can learn a little about avoiding logical fallacies and actually arguing for your position one day.

    Let me know if you ever publish in your field, optometry looks really interesting, I’d love to read more about it.

  • Steve

    1. Given your comments I take it you have read all the philosophical works discussing the ontological, moral, cosmological, teleological arguments and so in the literature, after all until you have read all of them its close minded to claim that God does not exist.

    2. You simply repeat the fallacy Madeliene refered to in your comments. You state you can prove that “God” was a construct created by Moses. The problem is that even if this is true it does not tell us that God does not exist that commits the genetic fallacy. The question is whether the construct corresponds to something in reality, not on the motives behind its origin.

    3. Your comments seem to be that Moses wrote “fiction” and had an “agenda”. Lots could be said here:

    First, the Genre of the penteteach does not fit Genre of fiction. The parallels between Genesis and Egyptian, and Bablyonian, creation stories, king lists and flood stories suggest these share the same basic literary form, and these writings could not plausibly be called “fiction” second the structure of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are the same Genre as ANE covenant treaties and legal texts of which we have several, none of these would plausibly be classified as fiction.

    Second, your argument seems to be a version of the ad hominen, Moses had an agenda ergo he wrote fiction. Unfortunately this proves to much, after all almost all royal historians had an agenda, so did the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Assyrians and so forth, yet their records are not “fiction”

    Third, the really odd thing is that your argument seems to assume (a) there was a historical person Moses (b) you have enough information about him, his motives, his goals etc to draw the conclusion you do. The problem here is that, the penteuach is really our only source of information of the existence of Moses, hence to validate (a) and (b) you have to assume the Pentateuch is historically reliable to a large extent and not fiction. If the penteauch is fiction, then there is no basis for saying Moses exists and had the motives you attribute to him. If the penteauch is reliable in its historical details then its either not fiction or is some form of historical fiction, and historical fiction is often quiet accurate.

    Fourth you seem to equate fiction with untrue. But that’s mistaken. Consider for example Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Or the fictional novels of Rousseau, or the philosophical novels of Sartre or Kierkegaard. These are fiction yet the authors were using them to communicate what they took to be truth, and whether these books teach truth or not stands or falls on the merits of what they affirmed not on the fact that the books Genre is fiction.

    4. I see in the end you resort to the “I am open minded and able to think unlike you are” line which to put it frankly is simply arrogant and tiresome. Some of us have in fact spent years studying and thinking about these questions, and we come to different conclusions to you. The suggestion that everyone who has done so is some how just to gullible to see is implausible.

  • An Optometrist?

    If a plumber wrote a book on how to rewire your house yourself and the fly-cover indicated the book made claims that flew in the face of books published by expert electricians would you try it before rubbishing it or would you err on the side of caution and buy a book written by an electrician?

  • 7 billion people on this earth, and somehow you claim that you have personally experienced God. Unknown billions of stars, planets and moons in the universe and somehow God interacts with you. How direct was he/she/it, or was your interlude with the same ambiguity and vagueness of others? Was it your emotion, your imagination? How self centred are you to think that you are so special as to have this inter-galactic being interact with you?
    Why hasn’t he interacted with me? I guess that you must be much better than me, so much more important than me. God apparently spoke with Moses and a handful of others, not obviously in the presence of everyone, but covertly, one on one.
    If he is so great, so all pervasive, why would he go around invisibly, so elusively, asking people to believe in him on the basis of ambiguous, unproveable heresay? It doesn’t make sense.
    How you can claim deficiency in anyone’s logic when you can make a statement like “Actually it was my personal experience of God that guides me.”
    Have you asked that god why he has innocent babies born with defects, why he gives people such varied starting points in their lives only to judge them on unequal life experiences? Why if he exists, he allowed, indeed caused the deaths of millions of people in wars, plagues and famines, why he has allowed people to suffer so interminably, so often?

    Love and best wishes,
    Steve

  • The majority of the 7 billion people on this planet claim to have had religious experience; how arrogant are the tiny number of atheists to claim that the rest of us are wrong just because they have not experienced something?

  • Good night Madeleine.
    Have a good life.
    Best wishes,
    Steve

  • “How you can claim deficiency in anyone’s logic when you can make a statement like “Actually it was my personal experience of God that guides me.”

    Because when a person argues X is false because 3000 years ago someone originated the idea of X and had an agenda. Is a fallacy. Believing X because on has experienced X is not.

    I believe that this computer exists right now because I experience it ( I see it) no one else is here right now to see it.. Am I illogical in believing this computer exists right now?

  • “7 billion people on this earth, and somehow you claim that you have personally experienced God. ”

    What’s wrong with this? There are seven billion people on earth and I claim to have personally experienced riding a bike too. I don’t get how this argument is supposed to work.

    Is this the point where Christians say “7 billion people on earth and you say most of them are wrong about whether or not God exists”?

    If this is the kind of argument from numbers that atheist optometrists are fond of, then they should stick to eyes.

  • Actually, Matt,

    Firstly, I wasn’t attempting to address Ben’s original argument at all, what I was trying to be was ironic, given that the vast majority of theists who post here tend to be christian!

    Secondly, as far as probability goes, that was never the original intent of the two different statements we see being used.

    Firstly, “Good Without God? One million Kiwis are.”
    Can, I feel, also be interpreted in two different ways here:

    One, the secular community is a lot bigger in NZ than most people think. So it’s more a message for other atheists than anything else.

    Two, You do not need to believe in a personal God for you to be a good or happy person. If you look at the data you will find there is a significant correlation between the countries in the world which have a bigger secular population and the ones which are happier.

    Finally, the use of “probably” no god?

    The NZ no-god campaign decided to stick with the original UK campaign’s message and design. Quite simply, theye like it and want to support it.

    The UK Campaign used “probably” for two reasons. The first was for legal reasons associated with the use of “probably” in other public advertising campaigns, such as the famous Carlsberg ads – “probably the best lager in the world”. Here “probably” helped to ensure the ads didn’t breach advertising codes in the UK.

    The second reason, and the more interesting one, is that “probably” is actually a great word. The use of a modifier such as probably supports the view that although there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist – just as it is impossible to prove anything doesn’t exist.

    As Richard Dawkins states in The God Delusion, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position. He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”.

    His choice of words in the book is “almost certainly”; but while this is closer to what most atheists believe, “probably” is shorter and sweeter, which is helpful for advertising.

    Hope that clarifies things for you and you should now see that Ben’s original argument was flawed because he hadn’t taken the time to simply view the FAQ section on the “No god” site, that would have explained this all to him.

  • Madeleine – have you any evidence to back up this claim: “The majority of the 7 billion people on this planet claim to have had religious experience”

    Can you provide anything to indicate that over 3.5 billion people “claim” a “religious experience.”? Is it something as vague as a claim without any description for instance (as appeared around here). And > 3.5 million of such vagaries?

    Or what about this from an email to me from “your typical Christian who claims to have met the creator personally.” I asked for a description of this experience.

    And the answer: “Have you ever been given something out of the blue that you didn’t deserve, just someone being gracious to you? I hope you have. Well times that by a million and you’re starting to get close to what it’s like to meet the creator of the universe”.

    This seems to be all that people can produce in the way of a “religious experience.” But >3.5 millions such “testimonies”. Where do you get that from?

    Not that any such “testimony” is at all convincing.

  • From Glenno ‘I claim to have personally experienced riding a bike too.’ Lol, I would like to see you in action!

  • Ken read the numerous studies on religious experience, they answer your questions. They show that a large percentage of people claim to experience the divine and they also show descriptions of what they experience to be quite similar. There really is no excuse for saying there is only “vague” descriptions. In fact William James gave fairly detailed accounts over 100 years ago.

    You also are probably familar with the evolutionary Pscology literature which suggests that there is an evolved capacity to believe in gods common to human beings.

  • Matt, Madeleine is quite specific. More than 3.5 billion people have made a claim of a religious experience. Considering the immensity if this claim your reply is not adequate. Suggesting that in fact you can’t even relate one genuine religious experience, let alone 3.5 billion.

    Of course we have an evolved ability to believe in gods. Also fairies, aliens, etc. As we have an evolved abilty fir deludions. Honestly, I don’t think you want to go there. Anthropologists and cognitive psychologists understand well our propensity for god beliefs. That is a point I have often made – gods exist in people’s minds – and that is the best place to study them.

    But the fact remains, Madeleine refers to > 3.5 billion religious experiences but describes none. Not at all convincing.

  • Ricko, I rode a bike just yesterday.

  • Ken:

    “Of course we have an evolved ability to believe in gods.”

    Would you say we’ve also evolved the ability to have religious experiences?

  • Provisionally, yes, Glenn – although no one seems to want to describe the religious experience claimed by > 3.5 million people that Madeleine refers to.

    Bit suspect isn’t it?

    But this sort of thing has been studied by anthropologists and congnitive psychologists. They seem to make a better job if describing such experiences than Matt, Madeleine or you. Even my email correspondent has done far better – although he hasn’t convinced me of his claim to have actually met his god.

  • “Provisionally, yes, Glenn”

    Ken – so you want Mads to provide evidence for something you already believe?

  • And Ken – isn’t it rather out of the blue and rather silly in fact to suddenly state that cognitive scientists do a better job than I do of describing religious experiences?

    Where did I even attempt to offer such a description? That was really left field, Ken.

    But yes, I’m well aware that recent work in the cognitive science of religion indicates that religious beliefs are “minimally counterintuitive concepts,” which resonate with and are supported by “completely normal mental tools working in common natural and social contexts.” *

    But what’s your point in continually alluding to people who do such research?

    * Justin L. Barrett, Why Would Anyone Believe in God? Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2004, pp. 21–30.

  • No, Glenn. I want her to describe the experiences she is referring to (no one seems prepared to do so except my email correspondent) and to provide some evidence for her specific claim that > 3.5 billion have had this experience.

    You guys love being vague, don’t you?

  • Ken if a pile of people polled claim to have had a religious experience then why on earth do I need to be able to describe each person’s personal experience before we accept the poll results?!? We do not treat other polls like that.

    As for evidence use google, you’ll find that atheists and agnostics are in the minority of the worlds beliefs, the majority profess a religious faith – sure the percentages are disputed but even the most ambitious atheist sites don’t claim more than 20% of the world to be in their camp.

  • Ken, she claimed that they had had religious experiences. Your initial reply was:

    Can you provide anything to indicate that over 3.5 billion people “claim” a “religious experience.”?

    Now when you’ve realise how silly this was, you want her to be able to give a description of those experiences?

    Ah, the ol’ sliding goalpost. You love being duplicitous don’t you?

  • Madeleine – OK progress. What poll was this? Where can i find a report of the results?

    I am curious to see evidence that more that 3.5 billion people have had what you call a religiois experience.

    And I am stll waiting for an indication of what you meann by a “religious experience”? Perhaps the pollsters defined their criteria ? – point me in their direction.

    But sorry – can’t help being cynical after my email correspondent claimed to have personally met his god – and his description turned out so tame. Perhaps yours will too? If I ever get to hear it which I very much doubt.

    You guys seem to be somewhat ashamed of your “religious experiences.”

  • Ken, in your very next sentence, please quote where Madeleine claimed there had been a poll.

    If she didn’t make that claim, please admit it at once. As a person of integrity, I’m sure you’d do so.

    Thanks for your honesty.

  • Glenn, Madeleine claimed:

    “a pile of people polled claim to have had a religious experience.”

    What about allowing her to clarify. It’s patronsing to speak for her.

  • Ken, as always, you’ve lapsed into mere lying. You’ve done this to me before, and you’re at it again with Madeleine. You deliberately chopped words out of her sentence:

    “Ken if a pile of people polled claim to have had a religious experience then why on earth do I need to be able to describe each person’s personal experience before we accept the poll results?!?”

    Now, try being slightly honest this time and admit the screamingly obvious: Madeleine never said there was a poll conducted. it’s not like she said some murky mysterious thing that needs to be “clarified.”

    You are so arrogant that you won’t admit you got it wrong. You’ve even resorted, again, to lying in order to avoid the admission. What a waste of cyberspace your comments are, Ken.

  • Glenno, I never said that you have not riden a bike. I was sure that you have, since you are a white male New Zealander and the chances of someone in that demographic having never ridden a bike are very very low. I merely said that I would like to see you ride one. With all that hair flying everywhere and deep philosophical thoughts entering your mind the whole time I imagine it could be a very entertaining sight. How about a blog post over at Say Hello to My Little Friend on this activity? Or since you are a Christian you can only devote time to discussing either abortion or homosexuality or trying to show atheists that your god really is real?

  • Matt, Maddy and Glenno, how does Ken managed to suck you in each time? It is obvious that you don’t have much time for his philosophies yet you get bogged down in huge discussions with the dude.

  • Ricko, he has no “philosophies” apart from “Ken is right.”

    The concern is not his philosophy, it’s his duplicity and willingness to string words and flase claims together in a haphazard way just if the conclusion is “therefore religion is stupid and Ken is right.”

    I don’t think it’s any more complex than that, Ricko. Although I do note, Ricko, that you didn’t note the curious fact that in spite of the fact that you really do nothing more than hang around and act like a rude jerk, people still reply to you, too.

  • As I said, Glenn. Don’t patronize Madeleine. Let her clarify her own comments.

    I don’t think there was a poll either. And I don’t think she had any justification for claiming > 3.5 billion people have had a religious experience. And I don’t think she is prepared to explain what she means by a religious experience. (She is probably ashamed about such “experiences”).

    I think she has just been typically loose with her claims.

    But surely she should be able to speak for herself. She doesn’t need windmill hunters charging in to confuse things.

    By all means make a contribution if you have anything of substance to add. But let Madeleine clarify her own cock ups, please.

  • So I take you will never be keen to go on a bike ride with me? Ever?

  • How am I a ‘rude jerk’ anyway?

  • @Ken

    ” (She is probably ashamed about such “experiences”).

    I think she has just been typically loose with her claims.”

    i find the proximity of these two statements ever so slightly ironic, first a claim concerning the emotional/moral state of another person stating a position you can have no way of knowing let alone how likely, second an accusation that the other person is loose in the claims she make.

    Wow, did you realise what you wrote and how you juxtaposed it?

  • Ken, let me get this straight:

    1) I am patronising Madeleine by noting that you are fabricating claims about what she said, when the evidence shows that she never said it.

    2) You are not patronising Madeleine by playing armchair psychiatrist (yet again, what a shock) and telling us all that even though she won’t admit it, she is probably ashamed by this talk of religious experience?

    Transparently stupid Ken, that’s what that is. Good night.

  • Madeleine, just a reminder of my questions:

    1: What is the specific evidence that > 3.5 billion people have had a “religious experience”?;

    2: What are examples of such an experience – how do we define a “religious experience?

    Good to keep the questions on mind. Your mates are busing trying to lay down confusing diversions – they must learn such tactics at theology school. 

    Silly, really. Far simpler to provide clear and honest answers.

  • Ah Ken, that’s right. Just brush off and ignore the fact that you were caught – yet once again – accusing other people of tactics that you were guilty of. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

    Remember that you’ve already agreed with Mads and others that humans naturally have religious experiences.

    Let’s not lose sight of that Ken. It’s telling that you’re downplaying it.

  • Ken

    “Madeleine is quite specific. More than 3.5 billion people have made a claim of a religious experience. Considering the immensity if this claim your reply is not adequate. Suggesting that in fact you can’t even relate one genuine religious experience, let alone 3.5 billion.”

    actually refered you to several studies which do relate religious experiences. James’s famous “The variety of religious experiences” is an obvious example. Rudolph Otto gave an analysis of the phenomenology of such experiences in “the idea of the Holy” in fact if you were familiar with the most important discussion of the epistemology of religious experience, something you love to talk about but appear to have never looked into. William Alston’s Perceiving God cites several studies which give quite specific descriptions noting the work of Wrianwright, Stace and numerous others. So your suggest not one was related is simply false, I refered you to studies where several are related. If you have never seen a description of such an experience that’s because you have ignored the studies, that’s your fault not Madeleine’s.

    Of course we have an evolved ability to believe in gods.
    Ok so here you concede Madeliene’s points, humans have a natural instinctive tendency to perceive supernatural beings in the world around them. So apparently there is evidence for Madeleine’s claim.

    ” Also fairies, aliens, etc. As we have an evolved abilty fir deludions. Honestly, I don’t think you want to go there. Anthropologists and cognitive psychologists understand well our propensity for god beliefs. That is a point I have often made – gods exist in people’s minds – and that is the best place to study them.”

    Ok here you change the subject, you asked for evidence for a claim when its provided you decide you don’t want to talk about that and so now talk about wether these experiences are reliable. But that was no the question, it was wether most people in the world have or have had religious experiences.

    But your comments on the reliability of such dispositions are unsound. To show a belief disposition is unreliable its not enough to note that sometimes people have other unreliable dispositions, nor is it enough to show that its evolved (all belief dispositions are based on evolved tendencies), these arguments would if valid discount every belief disposition we have and destroy all knowledge humans posses.

    We have after all an evolved capacity to discern the existence of other peoples when perceiving certain behavioural actions. We have an evolved capacity to recognise rules of logic, we have an evolved capacity to believe in the existence of objects other than ourselves and so on. Your arguments would undercut pretty much everything we believe.

    ”But the fact remains, Madeleine refers to > 3.5 billion religious experiences but describes none. Not at all convincing.”

    Sorry Madeliene refuted this argument, it assume that if a unless someone can recount and describe in detail an experience it follows we can’t accept there claim they did. This is patently false for the reason she provided.

    Here is another, suppose John is born blind, he Bill tells him he sees a red car. John asks him to describe what red is. I doubt Bill would be able to say much beyond “its red” in fact given John is blind and has no experience of colour its not clear Bill will be able to provide any description that John would understand. By your reasoning we should therefore conclude that John does not see colours.
    After all John hasn’t seen it, no one can describe what colours look like to him, and no one can prove to him empirically colours exist, extra ordinary things like colours require extra ordinary evidence, finally he knows some people have claimed to see fairies in the garden so he can’t trust claims to have seen things. Consequently blindness is the only rational position, perhaps John should right “the Colour Delusion” and be praised by epistemologically ignorant scientists everywhere for his insight.

    But even if your assumption were sound, which its not, I pointed out to you the numerous studies where these experiences are recounted in detail.

    So ken address the issue, there is evidence most people percieve the existence of God. Several studies have been made of these experiences where they are recounted in detail, and the standard silly arguments about fairies do not show these dispositions are unreliable. A simple perusal of the literature would show you that. What you have said is mistaken.

    No doubt you will repeat your self, make comments about my motives, change the subject, talk about how bad philosophy or theology is and so on. None of it addresses the fact that you here and elsewhere continually make claims about subjects you have minimal understanding of and make claims that are clearly false.

  • Matt – you are a bit of a whopper, aren’t you?

    My questions were:
    1: What is the specific evidence that > 3.5 billion people have had a “religious experience”?;

    2: What are examples of such an experience – how do we define a “religious experience?

    So – again no specific evidence. Madeleine had referred to a poll. Is there one? Was that a slip of the pen?

    I see not evidence that more than 50% of the planet’s population have had a “religious experience.”

    However, the out of course is how one defines :”religious experience.” Hence the reason for my second question.

    If one defines the feeling of gratitude as a “religious experience” then we have probably all had them, including me – frequently. But it rather debases the concept, doesn’t it?

    Is that how you define a religious experience? or is it a specific vision? tears or blood on a statue? faith healing? Come on, surely you can answer?

    You are unwilling to bring any precision to your claims – either in numbers or definitions.

    And, Matt – I know its that time of the year. But really – you equate an “evolved ability to believe in gods, fairies, aliens, and to be deluded” with perception of “supernatural beings”!!

    That is incredible. And desperate.

    What do they teach you in theology these days?

    Oh, I know. Diversionary tactics. Refer vaguely to books and references, never provide direct answers, Micky Mouse “logic” (also crap in crap out logic).

    Christ, the effort you guys put into avoiding simple questions.

    It would be far simpler to simply provide a brief answer.

  • Ken,

    No Ken the “whooper” as usual is you state

    So – again no specific evidence. Madeleine had referred to a poll. Is there one? Was that a slip of the pen?

    No as Glenn pointed out, it was actually you snipping the first words from her comments so as to take it out of context.
    This of course was pointed out to you.

    ”I see not evidence that more than 50% of the planet’s population have had a “religious experience.”

    Except in the thread above I pointed out evidence from evolutionary Psychology which suggests people do naturally form such beliefs. Sorry Ken repeating false claims does not make them correct.

    You respond to this with

    ”And, Matt – I know its that time of the year. But really – you equate an “evolved ability to believe in gods, fairies, aliens, and to be deluded” with perception of “supernatural beings”!!

    No its you who wants to call other people deluded with no evidence or basis whatsoever. I never attempted to dismiss a serious philosophical argument like the argument from religious experience by calling people deluded.

    As I understand it evolutionary Pshcyology or at least certain prominent forms of it argues we have a natural disposition to believe in gods much like we have a natural disposition to believe in other minds. Some theorists actually link religious beliefs to belief in other minds, as a kind of agency detector.
    These types of belief forming mechanisms (such as belief in other minds) are typically non inferential beliefs and so broadly based in experience. I don’t infer other people exist from observations of peoples behaviour such inferences are invalid, rather I perceive immediately that other people exist, when I observe certain behaviour. Such beliefs are typically grounded in an experiential “seeming” this is noted by Richard Swinburne’s principle of credulity and Michael Heumer’s phenomenological conservativism.

    The reason I equated believing in this context with experiencing or perceiving is because that’s a fairly normal way of construing non inferential belief about other minds and the studies suggest this is a non inferential belief of this sort.

    However, the out of course is how one defines :”religious experience.” Hence the reason for my second questionf one defines the feeling of gratitude as a “religious experience” then we have probably all had them, including me – frequently. But it rather debases the concept, doesn’t it? Is that how you define a religious experience? or is it a specific vision? tears or blood on a statue? faith healing? Come on, surely you can answer?

    These comments Ken show quite clearly you have never read any studies on the matter and rely highly on caricatures.

    Religious experience in this context would be an experience of God. Often the term more broadly refers to an experiential awareness of some sort of a supernatural being. But again a simple reading of the literature would tell you this.

    Moreover people who have vivid experiences of God often give quite similar descriptions of the phenomenology. William James noted this, as do the studies I mentioned.

    Your ignorance is your problem not mine, the fact you choose to be ignorant hardly reflects on me.

    That is incredible. And desperate.
    Oh, I know. Diversionary tactics. Refer vaguely to books and references, never provide direct answers, Micky Mouse “logic” (also crap in crap out logic).

    I see so referring to actual studies and peer reviewed works is a diversion, dismissing a position without argument is “crap” and “desperate” and “incredible” or mickey mouse is de rigor.
    Perhaps you need to stop imbibing Ken and perhaps do a 1st year course in critical thinking or logic. So you know the difference between a legitimate appeal to authority and ad hominen Waikato University has a good one I used to teach, I can recommend you to the faculty if you want a reference.

    Christ, the effort you guys put into avoiding simple questions.
    It would be far simpler to simply provide a brief answer.

    No it would be simpler if you didn’t repeat questions that have been answered, change subjects, dismiss peoples positions with name calling, distort what others have said, and actually understood and knew something about a topic before you write on it.

  • OK, it’s a pity Madeleine won’t front to clear up the confusion but I guess we can take from your comment, Matt, that her claim was not based on any poll or objective survey. That being the case there is absolutely no way she should have claimed with confidence that more than 50% of the current world population had a “religious experience.” She just has no evidence.

    I was therefore correct to see this statement of hers as just a sloppy assertion.

    As for your equation of “god belief” with “religious experience” which leads you to claim as evidence that scientific studies “suggests people do naturally form such beliefs” – I am surprised you cannot see the problem with that. The fact that an individual may be cognitively biased to falsely detect agency and extrapolate her own dream experiences to a belief in a spirit world is not the same thing as a “religious experience” unless you use a very vague definition.

    You yourself are defining it this way “an experience of God. Often the term more broadly refers to an experiential awareness of some sort of a supernatural being.” This implies far more than belief – a propensity to “explain away” ones environment using bush spirits – but an actual experience. Earthquakes, lightening, thunder while being a source of ones (mistaken) religious beliefs would not be “religious experiences.”

    Your definition would reject my correspondent’s claim that he had met his god because he had a feeling of overwhelming gratitude.

    However, I find that when I do persist in getting people to describe to me a claimed “religious experience” this is the sort of result I inevitably get. A strong subjective feeling – the sort of thing we can all relate to – no actual real or imagined observation.

    So, as you describe it, this is simply a case of Madeleine making sloppy assertions to support her arguments for the objective existence of something she strongly desires. Given what we know about human propensity for delusion and the fact that we aren’t a rational species by any means this doesn’t count as evidence.

  • Ken,
    If you use a broader definition of experience that I do then we do have evidence that majority of the worlds population “experience” God. So your claim of no evidence is not correct.
    As to your objection to my definition you claim that “experiential awareness “ is more than just belief. I agree I did not say it was just a belief, I refered to the phenomena of something “seeming” to be the case. Some examples
    When I consider the inference rule If A then B, A therefore B, it seems to be to be true. I have the experience of it seeing it to be correct.

    When I remember eating breakfast this morning it seems to me that I ate cornflakes, in a way different to the belief that I ate chocolate case which does not have this phenomenology.
    Similarly, it “seems” utterly obvious to me that other people exist and have minds, this appearsseeming obvious.
    There are some descriptions of this idea here http://home.earthlink.net/~owl232/5.htm (see the second on phenomenal conservatism)
    One can actually have the “seeming” experience without belief. When I look ahead on the road on the hot day sunny it seems there is a puddle ahead. I don’t however believe there is one. In certain optical illusions it appears to me that two lines are the same length, yet I don’t believe they are I know they are not. This type of seeming experience is different from believing and is an important part of our knowledge.
    Its also incorrect to suggest this definition can’t rule out merely feeling gratitude. Feeling gratitude is different from something “seeming to be true” entirely. Similarly, its incorrect to suggest that I saying that
    Earthquakes, lightening, thunder are “religious experiences.” When I experience a certain flash and sound are perceptual phenomena, it appears to be there was a flash of lightning, but this appearance is not the lightening itself, in hallucinations one can have the appearance when there is no lightening at all.

    However, I find that when I do persist in getting people to describe to me a claimed “religious experience” this is the sort of result I inevitably get. A strong subjective feeling – the sort of thing we can all relate to – no actual real or imagined observation. If you mean by observation you mean “sensory perception” then your correct, but then again when I seem to remember writing the first line of this its not by sensory perception neither is the experience of it appearing to be true that other people exist or basic logical inferences are valid. So if this is your objection one would have to discount all these cases of obvious rational belief as well, all of them are basic on a non sensory perceptual experience of something “seeming” or appearing to be true. If this is subjective in the religious case its subjective in these other cases.
    ”So, as you describe it, this is simply a case of Madeleine making sloppy assertions to support her arguments for the objective existence of something she strongly desires.”
    No that’s how you choose to describe it. But even if this were her position I am not sure your argument works. I believe rape is wrong, I do so because when I imagine a women being raped appears intuitively obvious to me that this is wrong, I also desire to believe that rape is wrong, the thought of a world where its not wrong for someone to rape my daughter or wife is undesirable to me. I can’t prove with science alone that rape is wrong. Does it follow then that my belief that rape is wrong is a “sloppy” delusion or irrational?

  • Matt – really can’t see you point about your breakfast and rape (why do you guys keep reverting to examples of sex, for Christs sake? Is it something to do with the common “religious experiences” little kids seem to get a the evil hands of their priests?).

    And I am not prepared to take anyone’s claim of a religious experience or belief in an experience or an actual experience of gratitude as real evidence for an objectively exiting entity. It would be unscientific to do so. They are phenomena that are of interest to psychologists and anthropologists – nothing more. And these studies are very useful and are making valuable progress in our understanding of religious beliefs and experience and their origins.

    The fact remains that Madeleine’s language was sloppy. She has no basis to claim the > 3.5 billion people today have “religious experiences.” And she was remiss in not attempting to actually define what she means by “religious experience.”

  • Ken, I appreciate that you don’t understand the epistemological distinctions I made. I just ask you appreciate that they can be and have been made in the literature on epistemology and religious experience. People have a certain phenomenological experience of something seeming or appearing to be true the examples I cited were all examples of this phenomena.
    I also think responding to some distinctions you don’t understand with insinuations about child abuse is really rather low. Why do you have to start making nasty character attacks against people and speculate evil motives merely because you are unfamiliar with a subject? Nethertheless the fact that this ad hominen is the only response you gave suggests you don’t really have a response to the epistemological issues I raised.
    You write “And I am not prepared to take anyone’s claim of a religious experience or belief in an experience or an actual experience of gratitude as real evidence for an objectively exiting entity. It would be unscientific to do so. They are phenomena that are of interest to psychologists and anthropologists – nothing more.”
    Two things here first, I did not say “gratitude” was real evidence for an objectively existing object. I was quite clear about this in my previous response. Second, your suggestion that its unscientific to take a persons “experience” as reliable grounds for somethings existence is simply mistaken. In a court case we ask a witness did you see the offender at the scene of the crime. The witness says “yes” and we take this as evidence that the offender was at the scene of the crime. Here we base our conclusion on the fact that the witness has a perceptual experience he saw something. You take the fact that you have a visual experience of seeing a computer in front of you as evidence that there is one and so on.
    Scientists do this all the time professor P performs an experiment, he observes certain things happening, that is he has a visual perceptual experience which makes it appear to him such and such has occurred and he judges its occurred, he writes his results in a journal, professor Q reads the study and concludes it confirms some theory. In this instance science proceeds by relying on peoples claims to have “seen” such and such occurring.
    The fact remains that Madeleine’s language was sloppy. She has no basis to claim the > 3.5 billion people today have “religious experiences.” And she was remiss in not attempting to actually define what she means by “religious experience.”
    Sorry Ken, but I have responded to both claims above. (i)I have pointed to evidence that majority of people have religious experiences this is quite plausible if you understand evidence in a broad way epistemologists often do. (ii) I also provided a definition of what was probably mean’t above. (iii) I also pointed out your implict suggestion that she needed to provide a definition or detailed description was flawed.(iv) I pointed you to studies of religious experience which describe quite clearly the phenomenology. Each point then has been addressed more than once.
    Your sole response was to mischaracterise, when I pointed this out it was to make comments about child-molestation. When these irrational tactics fail you simply restate the position I have refuted with the words “the fact is”. And try and claim the name “scientific” for your method. None of that establishes anything except perhaps that you are wedded to a position based on ignorance and will continue repeat it in the face of counter evidence.
    I really find it hard to understand why someone trained in the sciences thinks this counts as a rational response to anything.

  • Matt – its not a matter of misunderstanding (yes I realise that was a cheap dig on your part) its a matter of thinking your points were irrelevant. And you must admit you guys do seem to get obsessed with sex and rape – more than is healthy in my opinion.

    Your claim the “majority of people have religious experiences this is quite plausible if you understand evidence in a broad way” remains unsubstantiated. Although I realise I probably have a stricter evidential requirement than you do. You have done absolutely nothing to indicate a quantitative study. Let alone such a quantitative conclusion. It is sloppy advocacy (and irrelevant I might add. The majority of people on this planet may have many delusions about reality – this doesn’t’ make them right.).

    You reject my example of “religious experience” – immense gratitude. Well, OK but it is the one given to me most recently as evidence that my friend had a “religious experience” That he had met his creator!

    It is typical of every presented “religious experience” I have come across. And let’s face it you and Madeleine refuse to give any other examples. Nothing. Zilch.

    So what “evidence” do I have from you. Sloppy advocacy claiming > 3.5 billion people have had an experience you refuse to describe or give an example of. And why confidently claim a quantitative knowledge you obviously don’t have? And a refusal to provide even a single example of what you would define as a “religious experience”?

    I find you examples of a court witness and a professor P naive in the extreme. We all know that the majority of court evidence is not acceptable. People are very unreliable witnesses. That’s why we don’t simply accept what people say and courts have complex procedures to get at what is most probably true. And in principle that goes for “professors P and Q”. That is why things in science are never as naively simple as you describe them. Ideas and observations are tested against reality, not individual wishes or biases. And they are not accepted just because of sloppy advocacy.

    Our species is not rational. We build models in our brain which don’t correspond with reality anywhere near accurately or completely. We probably all have delusions – and no doubt our concept of reality is really an illusion. Science can mitigate this situation because of its methodology. But this is not done by those claiming a “religious experience’ by any means.

    I can appreciate that behind your naive epistemology is a desire to conclude more from these “religious experiences” than is warranted. Specifically you wish to use them as evidence of the objective existence of your god.

    But they are no more than evidence of god beliefs and supernatural beliefs. No more. And understood that way they are perfectly natural.

  • Ken, still unable to grasp basic epistemic points I see.
    So what “evidence” do I have from you. Sloppy advocacy claiming > 3.5 billion people have had an experience you refuse to describe or give an example of. And why confidently claim a quantitative knowledge you obviously don’t have? And a refusal to provide even a single example of what you would define as a “religious experience”? Actually I did provide evidence in my threads above, several times. I also pointed you to studies of examples religious experience, described what I meant by it. I also pointed out why your claim that you need to give a detailed description is invalid anyway. Again all we have is repetition of claims I have already addressed along with claims I am obessed with sex. Like I have said repeating a claim over and over is not an argument.
    As to your other claims, first, in fact our practise is to accept what other people say is reliable unless we have reasons to the contrary. I have spelt this out in more detail here http://www.mandm.org.nz/2010/07/epistemology-101-science-faith-and-authority-part-ii.html. If we adopted your approach then we should not believe anything, that read in a text book, hear in a lecture, are taught by our parents, are taught in school or university, our spouse tells us, our friends tell us, our kids tell us and so on until they had substantianted it. This would in fact destroy almost everything we know and learning as we know it. As to your claim that in science “Ideas and observations are tested against reality, not individual wishes or bias” actually in science testing is empirical, that is its based on experience. We do not have access to reality except through our minds and our senses. So we test our theories an experience against other experiences.
    if you start off assuming your brain is unreliable then you can’t get to reality at all, any thing you use to test will also be mediated through your brain and senses and hence be unreliable. You seem to want to say that our brains are unreliable our senses are unreliable we can’t trust them and then suggest we can prove they are in certain cases with science. The problem is that all scientific theorising and testing is done with and through the brain, try doing any science without a brain. Once you discounted a source as unreliable you can’t then use this source to establish its own reliability. That’s why the kind of naïve Cartesian epistemology you expound has been abandoned centuries ago.

  • @Ken

    “Our species is not rational. We build models in our brain which don’t correspond with reality anywhere near accurately or completely. We probably all have delusions – and no doubt our concept of reality is really an illusion. Science can mitigate this situation because of its methodology.”

    I am wondering if you actually know what you wrote.
    Assuming you understood what you said then you have just said that science is potentially a delusion of the human mind and its methodology equally so.
    Given your statement above , what evidence do you have that your science and methodology, even your mind, is anything other than one more delusion in an illusory reality.

    HONESTLY KEN !!!!

  • Matt, you have not provided any evidence at all for your claim that > 3.5 billion people today have “religious experiences.” None.

    Nor have you provided a single example of what such experiences are. (Come on – I am not asking for a detailed report – stop diverting with porkies).

    I think you are being delusional – and your belief that I have specifically accused you of sexual
    obsession may perhaps be clinical evidence of such a persecution complex.

    Of course we use our brains to perceive reality but anyone who suggests such perception in itself is necessarily accurate is really unaware of current knowledge in the area.

    Whatever, quite apart from your different standard of evidence you are delusional to think that common “religious experiences” are evidence for objective existence of gods. And desperate.

    Jeremy, I seriously question that you actually understand, or perhaps have sufficient objectivity to understand, what I wrote. I stand by it and suggest that only ill motivation could enable one to draw the unwarranted conclusion you have.

    You are not seriously engaging.

  • Ok so if we ignore simple assertions, repetitions and veiled insults all we have by way of argument is here

    “Of course we use our brains to perceive reality but anyone who suggests such perception in itself is necessarily accurate is really unaware of current knowledge in the area.”

    The problem is no one said perception is necessarily accurate. What I said was we are rational in starting with the default position that what we perceive is accurate until we have reasons to the contrary.

    So for example when you look at a computer screen and see a computer you assume there is one unless you have reasons for thinking either that there is no one or the perceptual experience in this case is inaccurate.

    When you look at a computer screen and see a computer you don’t automatically assume this as an illusion and hallucination and refuse to believe there are computers one until someone provides scientific proof of computers. That would be pathological. Yet its precisely the stance skeptics take towards religious experience.

    This position s quite compatible with the claim that our minds do on various occasions get it wrong. Sometimes we have evidence to the contrary. The problem is if you decide to never trust your experience because sometimes it goes wrong, you will find your self very quickly unable to know anything. This has been shown over and over again in the history of discussions of this topic,

    You write about people being unaware of current knowledge in the area the irony is this applies to you here because the distinctions above are standard on the literature on the epistemology of experience.

    Try reading on a topic before you comment in future it may shock you but having a PhD in soil science does not make you an authority on everything.

  • Matt, you yourself have a perception problem. My PhD in soil science is absolute news to me. I have pointed out to you several times I have no formal qualifications in soil science (or dirt science as your mate Pancho alleges).

    But this is an example of how our brain fills in gaps so that people get a very imperfect, and biased, picture of reality. ( I won’t speculate as to how your mind works in this case – just that it is clearly wrong).

    Now just imagine if we extrapolate from an apparently straightforward situation like this to a “religious experience.” You are bound to be mistaken about any conclusions you draw from such experiences.

    If you can make such a big mistake over my qualifications (a very straightforward situation where you have been provided with the evidence) just imagine how much more unreliable your conclusions derived from ephemeral “religious experience” is going to be.

    I think you have proved my point.

  • “Of course we use our brains to perceive reality but anyone who suggests such perception in itself is necessarily accurate is really unaware of current knowledge in the area”

    “Our species is not rational. We build models in our brain which don’t correspond with reality anywhere near accurately or completely. We probably all have delusions – and no doubt our concept of reality is really an illusion. Science can mitigate this situation because of its methodology”

    These are your words Ken, not mine, so i stand by my question

    ” what evidence do you have that your science and methodology, even your mind, is anything other than one more delusion in an illusory reality.”

    Maybe i dont understand, but you answering the question could surely help my understanding. Unless of course you cant……

  • I feel bound to point out Ken, that you are always saying the strength of science is that it validates against reality.

    Now you are saying “our concept of reality is really an illusion.”

    I am seriously confused. Which illusion should i validate against, yours, mine, some hopheads?

  • Hi Ken, I applaud your persistence.
    Be aware however, that you are dealing with people who are indoctrinated into their religious beliefs, their minds are caged. Their emotions take hold of their reasoning.
    And in the end, their site is for promulgating their fiction.
    Unlike Muslims and the ancient Jews, they cannot stone you to death as we live in a free society in which we have free speech. The inquisitions of yesteryear are no longer possible for the Christians of today.
    That said, the churches are the most powerful institutions on the planet. They will employ every means possible in their multi-billion dollar business to fight you and me.

  • Jeremy, map your ideas against reality – not against the illusion of reality.

    You can see how Matt has been mapping his ideas about me against his own illusion, a model where his brain has filled in the gaps incorrectly. And his reasoning is so sloppy he can’t tell the difference between reality and his illusion.

    So he makes mistakes. Such an approach is if course not acceptable in science. Every effort has to be made to avoid the illusion and access the true reality. Not always easy of course but at least we do our best.

  • Ken so let me be clear here, because I made a mistake about your qualifications in science, it follows my views on another topic religious epistemology are incorrect.

    If anything this massive non sequitur demonstrates my point. the fact I am mistaken on X means only I am mistaken on X nothing more.

    By this reasoning one could refute any scientific theory by demonstrating the theoretical made a mistake about some other subject.

    And Steve, I see you think accusing people of being brainwashed , emotional, going on about stonings and Inquisitions, and other sterotypes actually constitutes a reasoned response to the arguments I made.

    Let me know when you guys have an actual reasoned defense of your position.

    Ken gave some questions I answered them, he changed the subject to expound some discredited views of epistemology , views which if true undercut all knowledge including science, When he is called on it inevitably we get name calling and sterotyping.

    That speaks for itself.

  • Matt,
    You gave your mind to theology years ago. Your mind was already influenced, however you gave it over to further indoctrination.
    You now defend your position fervently as for you to think things through would entail a change of your mind, a seismic shift for you. You won’t let that happen because you can’t turn to a reality without a fictitious character.
    Whilst you might need fictitious characters, many people do not.
    I had a religious experience today, it must have been God. Someone gave me a gift. Actually, Matt, it wasn’t God who gave me a gift, it was a person. Not a God fearing person, just a loving person who was grateful for something that I did. I gave him the gift of sight. Matt it was me, not God. If God actually existed, then he was a callous thug to have taken this person’s sight away, just as he has blinded millions of people on this earth.
    Its Ok Matt. I understand you. Maybe one day you will grow out of your need for fantasies. Till then, have a happy New Year.

  • Don’t take it personally Matt. The fact of your mistake illustrates that we all make mistakes. We all “fill in the gaps” without realizing it. In other words we all have an illusory model of reality. That is the way our brain works and there are good evolutionary reasons got that.

    Scientific methodology works to mitigate against this problem. But of course in normal discourse we don’t bother. That is why in this discussion you and Madeleine have made some obviously incorrect, or at least unsubstantiated, claims. It is the normal sloppy, unscientific, methodology of such discussions.

    My point us that you are at least as likely to be wrong about your claims on “religious experiences” as you are on my qualifications. In the absence if any scientific verification your views have no reliability.

    Yet as part of the illusion (or delusion in this case) you continued to make claims of having proved a quantitative fact that you clearly hadn’t and refused to provide even one example of what you understood by “religious experience.”

    And yet you insisted on using such sloppy assertions to “prove” the existence of an entity which you are emotionally committed to. And resent anyone telling you that such biased thinking is faulty.

  • Steve

    Sorry simply using a string of terms like illusion, fantasy, fiction, indoctrination and so on to describe anothers position and telling emotional stories are not actual reasoned arguments.

    Its odd that people trained in the sciences medical or physical seem to think it is.

    Like I said when you have an argument let me know,

  • Ken, here are some social science results on the incidence of religious experiences:

    Stark (1965) in an early rigorous study found 71.6 of respondents had had a religious experience.

    Wuthnow (1978) found 50%

    Religious Experience Research Unit (RERU) in Oxford, England, (1976)36.4%

    Andrew Greeley (1975) 35%

    National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago 39%

    British Gallup Poll (1987) 48%.

    Andrezej Kokoszka of the Copernicus School of Medicine in Krakow found that 54% of poles reported a mystical or religious experience.

    Ipsos (2006) found 47%

    Pew forum (2009) 49%.

  • Thats on a narrower understanding of experience, if one uses the broader definition I used then the numbers are obviously higher.

  • Steve seeing you are a rational scientific person perhaps you can provide scientific verfication for the claim

    If God exists then no one would be blind

    We can’t believe fictious illusions that are not scientifically proven can we?

  • “If God exists then no one would be blind”

    (to which you answered)
    “We can’t believe fictious illusions that are not scientifically proven can we?”

    Hilarious as this may be, Matt, I think your answer illustrates the point that God does NOT show up in real life.

    How would a ‘fictitious illusion’ differ from a ‘real illusion’, btw?

    I think it’s safe to say that ‘we look to other to see what is right and what is permissible’, covers all your morality claims. You Matt, for example, have been part of different groups at different times which no doubt had their unique morality. You looked to the group to see what was right and what was permissible.

    Seems to me that the ‘right’ thing to do in your group here covers any challenger being refered to as ‘fleas’ and such. Just not the time to be ‘turning that other cheek’, if it ever is, right?

    The ‘right thing’ includes pitting the ‘hated science’ against itself whenever possible. Seems to me at least a tacit admission that science, given time and peer judgement, eliminating authoritative claims, will describe this material world.

    And it will continue describing this material world without resort to any immaterial entity behind some spiritual curtain.

    Your in-group can harrumph all they want, playing with meanings of words, ‘man CREATED God’ for example, and so on but this means nothing more than you ARE an in-group looking to each other to tell what is ‘right’ and what is permissible.

    You can deny that rhetoricians such as yourself are the foundation upon which religious zealots base their vicious attacks on ‘the world’ if you wish, but that is surely only because of ingroup support looking to each other to determine what is permissible, and not any ‘Holy Spirit guiding you’ at all.

  • Thanks Matt for the references. Christ knows why it should take such an effort to get such things out of you though. Blood and stones comes to mind once again.

    A few points:

    1: They appear to be culturally limited. I certainly don’t think they warrant Madeleine’s claim that more than half of the people in the world today have had a religious experience. One could say the studies are suggestive – but again it does raise the whole issue of what the term “experience” means across cultures.

    2: Polls are obviously involved – as one would naturally expect for any study producing quantitative data. So much for Glenn and you attempting to jump on me for asking Madeleine about a polls she appeared to refer to.

    3: I will just take the Pew Forum 2009 study. This was restricted to the US.

    3a: The relevant question on “religious experience” asked “Would you say that you have ever had a ‘religious or mystical experience’– that is, a moment of sudden religious insight or awakening?”

    This is pretty vague and open. You want to actually broaden the definition – I can’t see how it could be made any broader.

    3b: My friend who claimed to have met his god and gave as his evidence a feeling of immense gratitude would surely be included. (Yet you rejected his “experience.”)

    3c: My experience with seeing the Wellington Cable Car appear through the brick wall would also be included as a “mystical experience” – I would answer yes. And I could relate other experiences which would be in this classification. Insights and awakenings have not been completely unknown in my life.

    3d: This point is underlined by the fact that in this survey 18% of “self-described atheists, agnostics and the “secular unaffiliated”” also answered yes.

    4: This illustrates the vagueness of these sort of questions and the limited value of such survey results. They certainly show that it is common for people to have “mystical” experiences (as I said this hardened old atheist can relate a few).

    5: This tells us something about the subjectivity of our experience, the fact that our personal model of reality may to a large extent be an illusion.

    It tells us exactly nothing about the objective existence of gods. And it is rather desperate of Madeleine to claim that it does.

  • @Ken

    “5: This tells us something about the subjectivity of our experience, the fact that our personal model of reality may to a large extent be an illusion.”

    Yours maybe too, how do you know its not. Can you provide evidence?
    So far you keep avoiding this question.

  • Jeremy, of course I don’t exclude myself. This is something scientific experience does bring home to one. Many times I have had to adjust my view of reality because when I make objective measurements, or otherwise react with reality I get new data.

    Clearly in this example – my interpretation of Matt’s quoted result from the Pew Forum changed when I looked into it, read the report and the questionnaire.

    It’s all quite normal. It’s always worth looking deeper.

  • When you have proof of a god, any god, let me know.

  • BTW, you acuse me of using emotional stories.
    What do you think Madeleine’s godly experience was other than an emotion. All the godly religious experiences are emotion.
    The fact that I gave a man sight, and it wasn’t God or Jesus that gave him sight is too much for you to bear.
    Whose sight, or hearing or lungs or heart did you ever fix?
    To quote from what you probably consider to be “the good book”:

    “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” Exodus 4:11

    It was, (if as you claim that he really exists) the pathetic sadistic, immoral GOD who caused every human deficiency.

    Some people can see, but you are still blind, blinded by religious indoctrination, no other words can describe you.

  • Ken,

    Madeliene did not refer to a poll that was you taking things out of context as I noted. Of course there have been polls done but thats a different issue.

    These polls have been done in different cultures, Poland Australia, UK, US.

    Many are more rigorous than what you say, some for example were much more specific than the example you cite.

    None of this however addresses the point that the word “experience” is broader than the kind of mystical numinous experience mentioned here, and evolutionary Psycology suggests a tendency to immediately experience God in the natural phenomena around one is part of human nature and hence obviously very widespread.

    Its not hard to find both studies like this as well as detailed descriptions of such experiences in the literature. You seem to think its my job to find these for you, actually if you want to write on something its your job to go beyond sterotypes and look yourself.

  • Sorry Pboyfloyd all I was doing was holding the beliefs Steve uses to reject God to the standard he himself has demanded others meet?
    Either he can do this or he can’t.
    If he can’t then its apparent that his position is incoherent.

  • Steve
    If I have to offer proof for my claims before they are rational then you need to offer a similar rigorous argument for yours seeing you haven’t I am rational in rejecting your views as delusional and fictious.
    If you can’t reject what I say on the basis of emotional stories then I can reject yours on the same ground and there is nothing problematic about me doing so and your objection collapses.
    Decide which it is.

  • I can no more prove that there is no god than I can prove there are no tooth fairies. I can’t prove that there is no cup and saucer flying around earth or Jupiter. I can;t prove that there aren’t invisible, intangible, inaudible flying elephants in the room either.
    You claim to be a theologian, yet you can’t prove there is a god. Come now.
    If you can’t prove there is a god, why do you and your ilk claim various godly interferences, why do religious leaders ask, indeed demand certain God directed behaviours.
    Sorry Matt, I don’t know why I bother with you. You don’t make sense. I guess that it keeps you entertained, and that is a good thing for you.
    Happy New Year

  • Stev, if you have no strong evidence that God does not exist then why not just be agnostic?

  • @Steve
    “It was, (if as you claim that he really exists) the pathetic sadistic, immoral GOD who caused every human deficiency.”

    In what way would the existance of God mean that He was in any way responsible for Human failings and deficiencies.
    I dont know of any theistic religion that posits Humans as being mere automatons without self will or responsibility.
    Given that you deny His very existance why is it that you atheists can only ever conceive of God as being unable to create us free?
    Ultimately i would have to agree with you, if God was as small and incapable as you conceive Him, i wouldnt think He was God either.
    Seems to me your problem is that you cant or dont want to acknowledge that there might be something greater than yourself.

  • OK Matt I appreciate you now wish to avoid my conclusions. But I think the point has been made. I am happy to leave consideration if such surveys there.

    I will take issue with this claim of yours though:

    ” Psycology suggests a tendency to immediately experience God in the natural phenomena around one is part of human nature and hence obviously very widespread.

    It does nothing of the sort. That would mean it presumed the existence of your god which it doesn’t.

    But evolutionary psychology, anthropology and cognitive science do see beliefs in spirits, gods, ancestors, etc. as a natural phenomenon. This has nothing to do with their objective existence – just that it is natural for such beliefs to arise and also for them to be incorporated into cultural behaviors, rituals and religious behaviors.

    These beliefs (and they are by no means limited to your god or any that you may recognize) are widespread because they arise naturally out of our sorts of brains and experiences. They are not always present and in modern society they are nowhere as widespread as they used to be. Partly because we now have a far better way of learning about our surroundings and ourselves.

    Such beliefs and superstitions, even if widespread, are not evidence for the objective existence of wood spirits, taniwha, ghosts, ancestor spirits, ghosts, gods or faries.

  • Ken if the fact that people naturally believe in supernatural beings provides no objective evidence for their existence.

    Then the fact people naturally believe in other minds provides no objective evidence for other minds.

    The fact people naturally reject sollipism is not evidence against sollipism.

    The fact people naturally believe certain rules of logic are valid is not evidence they are valid

    The fact people naturally find it self evident that killing children for fun is wrong does not provide grounds for thinking its wrong and so on.

    and so forth.

    If you reject that our natural belief forming dispositions are rational and can’t be prima facie trusted, then you actually fall into a skepticism about everything. Every thing you believe, every method you utilse involves you using the belief forming mechanisms nature has given you, if you can’t trust them, then you start with nothing reliable.

    At the end of the day you are left repeating the false epistemological mantras I have already addressed.

  • Ken, the points I make are even more pertinent when one considers Justin Barretts work which suggests our belief in God is produced by the same disposition that produces belief in other minds.

    If this disposition is to be assumed unreliable, then we can’t rationally believe other people exist without first proving they do and the arguments for other people are even less compelling than the arguments for Gods existence.

    If on the other hand we are justified in accepting as reliable our natural disposition to believe in other people, you can’t then claim the same disposition is unreliable when it comes to belief in God.

  • Matt – your comments are really naive. I deserve something better than that as a response.

    I stand by this:

    “Such beliefs and superstitions, even if widespread, are not evidence for the objective existence of wood spirits, taniwha, ghosts, ancestor spirits, ghosts, gods or fairies.”

    As you say: “the fact people naturally believe in other minds provides no objective evidence for other minds.”

    Perfectly true – we have plenty of objective evidence for this – we don’t rely on simple superstition.

    Do really think that because a large number of people in this country believe in taniwha that this provides objective evidence for their existence? Or Santa Claus? Come off it.

    Now just substitute your god for their taniwha.

  • Ken
    1. You are simply mistaken that we have “objective” evidence for the existence of other minds independent of our natural disposition to believe this. The arguments for other minds have faired far worse in the literature than belief in God has.

    2. Your last comment is a straw man, I never said the mere fact a large number of people believe something entails it exists. What I said was that if we have a natural disposition to believe X, then in the absence of evidence to the contrary we are rational in believing X. If you don’t start off trusting your natural belief dispositions you will not be able to know anything at all.

    Take for example your Santa Claus example, people don’t have a natural disposition to believe in Santa Claus it’s a belief based on testimony, second adults have strong evidence to the contrary, we know that we put the presents under the tree we know the North Pole does not contain Santa’s hose, we know that this is a story our parents told us and so on.
    On the other hand if we naturally found believe in Santa obvious, like we do the belief that other people exist, and we had no reasons for doubting this belief. Things would be different but they are not.

  • We have a “natural disposition” to believe in ghosts, ancestral spirits, wood spirits, etc. And yes taniwha – just a local manifestation.

    But humanity has come a long way and such superstition is no longer a justification in the real world. Although some people fo their best to defend it by avoiding lessons from our experience. Getting stuck with deductive logic is one manifestation of that.

  • Ken,

    First, your points do not address my position, my position was not that anything we have a natural disposition to believe is in fact justified. But rather that we are justified in assuming our natural dispositions are reliable in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

    Second, your claim about this being a “local” manifestation can apply to other practises like sensory perception. I have a disposition to believe I am seeing a star when I look up in the sky, ancient babylonains had a disposition to see holes in the firmament. No one would consider this proof that our sensory perception is just a delusive illusion. So neither should the fact that some people have a disposition to see wood spirts another to see that the wood was created by a holy spirt they called God, mean that the disposition to see such beings is unreliable.

    Third, you talk about, learning lessons from experience, however on your own position this is impossible. To learn from experience one has to consider our experiences reliable sources we can learn from. If they are not we can’t learn from experience. Here you are being arbitrary and selective, your rejecting arguments from experience as naïve and then turn around and appeal to experience to defend your own claim.

    Finally you really have not addressed by point, according to Barett the disposition by which we form beliefs about God is the same disposition via we form beliefs about other minds, if your going to dismiss belief in God as superstitious because this disposition has allegedly lead some to believe in Taniwha, then one can claim belief in other minds is superstitious for the same reason.

    Claiming we can’t immediately tell other people exist, or that we need to scientifically prove say my wife exists before I believe in her certifies one for a mental hospital. Yet this is the implication of your method.

  • “..according to Barett the disposition by which we form beliefs about God is the same disposition via we form beliefs about other minds..”

    But no-one really believes this, right? Isn’t it tantamount to believing in ‘invisible friends’, or even Ghengis Khan.

    I can read some person’s ‘history of Ghengis Khan’ and it matters not one whit to me if there actually was a person by that name.

    Seems to me you need more evidence than you have to believe what you say you believe. Surely silly word-games involving imagining ‘the greatest being’ and such are nonsense?

  • But no-one really believes this, right? Isn’t it tantamount to believing in ‘invisible friends’, or even Ghengis Khan.

    Thats right dismiss arguments and empirical research with name calling.

  • “Claiming we can’t immediately tell other people exist, or that we need to scientifically prove say my wife exists before I believe in her certifies one for a mental hospital. Yet this is the implication of your method.”

    Actually this is nonsense. Many philosophers (amateur and professional) hold and defend such views, and will never be placed in a “mental hospital.” People are usually places in mental hospitals because they present a danger to others, but more often a danger to themselves. In actual fact I believe (perhaps Madeleine can confirm this) that in New Zealand people are specifically protected from being deemed mentally ill due to their religious/political/philosophical beliefs.

    Now I know you used this term as a throw away comment – but it is a thoughtless one – and possibly insulting to some people suffering from mental illness and sometimes in need of medical help. Using “mentally ill” as a throw away substitute for “has stupid ideas” is both ignorant and insulting…. a bit like calling things “gay” if you don’t like them etc. etc.

  • Matt, I realise you epistemology (rahter desperately, I believe) does not allow you to see “a disposition to see wood spirts another to see that the wood was created by a holy spirt they called God, [as] unreliable.”

    But strangely the record of human progress in understanding our environment does lead us to see that disposition as unreliable. It may have helped us get by in our primitive surroundings but it is absolutely useless in helping us to understand the real world. (We evolved to survive – not understand the real world). And it has been that understanding which has provided us with all the advantages our society has today.

    You cannot see the difference between a primitive experience and a scientific experience. A process enabling us to bypass, to a large extent, our mental foibles, ghosts, gods, spirits, etc. By continuous application of the empirical experience. By testing and validating against reality.

    So you end up in the ridiculous position of saying: “you talk about, learning lessons from experience, however on your own position this is impossible. To learn from experience one has to consider our experiences reliable sources we can learn from. If they are not we can’t learn from experience.”

    Unfortunately because you wish to stick with a primitive experience, avoid continuing that experience in to testing and validation (science) you get stuck with an incorrect view of reality. (holes in the firmament, gods and taniwha).

    By the way – some people do have the experience that their wife does not exist – or that she is an impostor. it would be sad to accept that at face value and leave them suffering from such a delusion, wouldn’t it?

  • [...] me of the local theologian who painstakingly did  in-depth theological analyses of the local Atheist billboards. You know those with simple slogan like “Good Without God;” “In the Beginning Man [...]

  • [...] me of the local theologian who painstakingly did  in-depth theological analyses of the local Atheist billboards. You know those with simple slogan like “Good Without God;” “In the Beginning Man [...]

  • [...] me of the local theologian who painstakingly did  in-depth theological analyses of the local Atheist billboards. You know those with simple slogan like “Good Without God;” “In the Beginning Man [...]

  • [...] see these billboards and a critique of the messages by a theist Dr Matthew Flannagan, go to:http://www.mandm.org.nz/2010/07/theres-probably-no-god-fisking-atheist-billboards.htmlThe NZARH website states:“NZ Atheist Bus Campaign was formed to put advertising messages on buses [...]

  • Christians choose their morality by selecting the religion they deem as loving and good according to it’s cherry-picked beliefs. They are good people who choose the religion they think it good. Not the other way around. Man chooses his morality, it isn’t granted by an invisible monster in the cosmos. There is NO god. Wake up from these delusions.

  • Charles, actually your comment displays the confusion I mentioned in the post above and which I spelt out in the post On a Common Equivocation which I link to in the article above.

    I suggest you read the post above, understand the arguments, and then respond, rather than simply repeating the very arguments I have already addressed and shown to be fallacious

  • good without God?’

    Makes perfect sense because the atheist holds there is no God.

    For centuries people have done good deeds and lived good lives without believing in evolutionary theory or quantum mechanics, should we conclude that these theories are therefore ‘probably false’?

    You are twisting things around. The implication of the notice is obviously not that leading a good life disproves God in any way shape or form. Rather it is that disbelief in God does not preclude one from leading a moral and fulfilling and meaningful life. This point needs to be made because Christians and other theists think they have the high ground in this respect. The “there is probably no God” line obviously cannot be supported by “Good without God” alone, but who said that it was supposed to – the signs are these to get people thinking and interested, not to offer a complete theological and philosophical treatise.

    The “Man created God” sign is also perfectly OK. Obviously it stands to say that God is a figment of the imagination.

    Then you offer this absurd statement:
    Of course, humans also invented the idea or concept of atoms as well, ancient Greek philosophers came up the basics of this concept millennium ago. This trivial fact tells us nothing about whether or not the idea or concept humans developed actually corresponds to anything in reality. To assume that it tells us something about whether the idea or concept is true or false is a fairly obvious case of the genetic fallacy.

    The difference is that the concept of atoms has only been accepted to correspond with reality because of copious scientific evidence and experiments. Whereas your concept of God is simply that…. a concept in ones own mind, without any external corroborating evidence —at least evidence anywhere close to what would be accepted by the scientific community as conclusive. As for the ‘genetic fallacy’ —-don’t be ridiculous—–these billboards are there to get a couple of punchy lines out and get people interested. Not to have a complete defense of the ideas conveyed.

    The third sign is also perfectly OK —-it is not meant to constitute a knockdown argument for God…..it is a billboard to stir things up, and probably to stimulate further conversation…..obviously……..

    If some advertiser gave you an opportunity for billboards to promote the Christian faith in a couple of sentences, you would hardly be expected to do better than these atheists…..you don;’t put your whole doctorate up there…..ffs!

  • Religion is by far the stupidest thing humanity has ever invented… Yeah maybe there is something like god or not, we will not know until we die. Who cares, it’s useless to think about it. To many people died just because oft this irrelevant shit.
    Stop the show and get your life as long as you have it…

  • Van Pryccen, when you actually have something rational to say rather than a string of insults and assertions let me know.

  • The difference is that the concept of atoms has only been accepted to correspond with reality because of copious scientific evidence and experiments. Whereas your concept of God is simply that…. a concept in ones own mind, without any external corroborating evidence —at least evidence anywhere close to what would be accepted by the scientific community as conclusive.

    Firstly When the idea of an atom was first conceived there would not have been evidence “close to what would be accepted by the [modern] scientific community as conclusive”, but that didn’t mean the idea didn’t have any truth. The establishment of evidence for the atom didn’t affect whether the atom existed or not. The problem is that the billboard carries the (false) implication that man’s conception of the idea of God entails that God is just an idea, which is fallacious, whether there is evidence or not.

    Secondly, what is your evidence for the truth of the position that we should only consider evidence which is accepted by the scientific community as conclusive? Good luck with providing that without running around in a circle.

    As for the ‘genetic fallacy’ —-don’t be ridiculous—–these billboards are there to get a couple of punchy lines out and get people interested. Not to have a complete defense of the ideas conveyed.

    No but as it can be the shown the message is deceptive in how it’s worded, as the intended conclusion is rather obvious but the logical pathway there is fallacious, and most people will not see that.

  • Hugh, you have got yourself in a knot with your motivated reasoning.
    The billboard is a simple assertion of belief – valid in today’s pluralist society, surely?
    You are welcome to assert that the billboard’s claim that main created gods, as ideas, is fallacious. But then you are obliged to show there is something more to that idea – that there is evidence of an underlying reality. Otherwise your claim of fallaciousness is itself fallacious.
    You object to Hugh’s comment that the god idea is “without any external corroborating evidence —at least evidence anywhere close to what would be accepted by the scientific community as conclusive.” Not because you think Wayne is wrong – you actually don’t claim that. But because you want evidence – not accepted by the scientific community – to be acceptable. Again, if you have evidence not yet considered by the scientific community, or indeed rejected by that community, then you are obligated to produce and argue for that evidence.
    You do neither.
    I am intrigued to know what evidence, not accepted by the scientific community, you think would support such a crazy idea as a god. Why don’t you front up with it?

  • “Otherwise your claim of fallaciousness is itself fallacious.”

  • So Ken and Wayne, are you suggesting that the genetic fallacy is not a fallacy?
    Perhaps we can have scientific proof of that claim.

  • Matt you didn’t read what I wrote did you – I made no mention of any genetic fallacy.

    So to your question “So Ken and Wayne, are you suggesting that the genetic fallacy is not a fallacy?” The answer was – I didn’t even mention it. That is just a silly red herring.

    And WTF is this about “scientific proof?” Another red herring?

  • Ken, you did not explictly mention the genetic fallacy, but if you read the post of Hugh’s you were responding to you’ll see he was refering to the genetic fallacy. You suggested he was mistaken in saying this was fallacious. Perhaps instead of insulting people who should follow the discussion a bit more carefully.

    And WTF is this about “scientific proof?” Another red herring?

    You tell me you mentioned it, note carefully what you said above:

    I am intrigued to know what evidence, not accepted by the scientific community, you think would support such a crazy idea as a god. Why don’t you front up with it?

    I agree that is a total red herring because the question is wether a given argument commits a logical fallacy. Not wether God can be scientifically proven.

    Again can you answer my question do you think the genetic fallacy is a fallacy?

  • Come on Matt – your seem to be rather rusty. Of course a fallacy is a fallacy – by definition. But of course the charge of a fallacy may be completely inappropriate or misnamed – that’s a separate matter.

    My reference to Hugh’s confusion was his claim that “the billboard carries the (false) implication that man’s conception of the idea of God entails that God is just an idea, which is fallacious, whether there is evidence or not.”

    In fact the billboard simply claimed that the idea of gods are inventions of humanity. A simple and valid claim, correct or not (although the balance of current scientific understanding supports it).

    But Hugh firstly claim the assertion is false (hence making a claim which requires some sort of supporting evidence) and then (rather confusingly) declares the claim “fallacious” (because he has declared it “false” I guess) and surprising declares his charge of “fallaciousness” does not require any support (“whether there is evidence or not”)!

    You agree with me that the reference to “scientific evidence” is a red herring but attribute it to me – I was simply repeating the quote Hugh used – and you would have realised that it you had paid attention.

    And you little attempt at a dig (“Perhaps we can have scientific proof of that claim.”) indicates you yourself have a hangup about science somewhere as you raise it.

    The facts remain that you guys are upset about a simple billboard statement claiming that gods are human inventions, Wayne’s support of it by pointing out the lack of any evidence which would be considered convincing to a community of scientists, and Hugh’s rejection of Wayne’s argument by questioning if evidence acceptable to scientific standards is really a good criteria of “truth.”

    I think Hugh really needed to justify his position, instead of simply declaring it. And, considering your similar dig about “scientific proof” (indicating a basic lack of understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge) your own position needs some sort of support or clarification.

  • Matt’s thinks that if something can be shown to not be logically impossible, then it is believable.

    So of course because it is not logically impossible that of 100 people having a religious experience, that only one of these (the Christian’s) is valid, then it is plausible to believe this is the case.

    That is the argument that Matt comes up with.

    But there is a huge difference between something that is simply logically possible and something that is plausible.

    It is not logically impossible that Hitler would turn into a little lamb in a matter of days, if given the opportunity to recant, —but of course it is not plausible.

    Matt thinks that so long as he can show that something is not logically impossible, he has won the argument. This is deluded thinking.

    And it does his faith no favours whatsoever.

  • that the genetic fallacy is not a fallacy?

    Again….Matt’s deluded thinking.

    Of course it is a fallacy – a logical one, because it is not logically impossible that

    But the so called genetic fallacy is something we employ in real life all the time. I am more likely to trust the word of or give credence to moral teachings of someone like Mother Theresa over Clayton Weatherston.

    I will trust a doctors opinion on any health issue I have over that of a faith healer – simply based on their respective qualifications.

    While the genetic fallacy maybe used perhaps to defeat an argument logically, basing the likelihood or probability of the correctness of an opinion or religious viewpoint on its source can be a perfectly sensible thing to do —particularly if one has other things to do in life.

  • You touch on a key point there, Wayne, with “Matt’s thinks that if something can be shown to not be logically impossible, then it is believable.” This s a common tactic Matt uses and I have pointed this out to him before.

    Mind you, as a theologian, isn’t he trained to do just that? Isn’t this why he can’t understand the nature of scientific knowledge?

  • Mind you, as a theologian, isn’t he trained to do just that? Isn’t this why he can’t understand the nature of scientific knowledge?

    Reading theology spins my head and turns it into mush. There is so much fascinating reading out there, on complex topics —by authors such as Hawking, Dawkins, Pinker, and then there are those who have studied physics, chemistry, mathematics, mechanics.

    One would think that theology would be a rather easy subject compared to the subject matter of some of the above. Yet whereas one can even explain advanced mathematics in clear language, and Hawking does not too bad a job on relativity, Matt’s defense of divine command theory is the most convoluted, complicated,abstruse article I have read in a long while. And his seems to be typical of theological writing.

    Matt —if Hawking, Dawkins, and Coyne can explain difficult science topics with such lucidity and without the need for jargon, I simply cannot see any excuse for why you cannot defend ‘divine command theory’ with similar lucidity —-or is it all just smoke and mirrors and a way of comforting believers by putting one’s hand up and saying ‘I’m a believer too, and I’m smart because I use big words and most people have trouble understanding what I am saying”

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  • Ken says:

    “You touch on a key point there, Wayne, with “Matt’s thinks that if something can be shown to not be logically impossible, then it is believable.” This s a common tactic Matt uses and I have pointed this out to him before.

    Mind you, as a theologian, isn’t he trained to do just that? Isn’t this why he can’t understand the nature of scientific knowledge?”

    Yes Ken. However Matt also uses the following argument, seemingly with no embarrassment:

    “Matt’s thinks that if something can be shown to be possibly false, then it is unbelievable.”

    ie. the flip side of the tactic you mention. He will just use whichever one suits his present argument best at the time. I refer to this as “selective skepticism” where he turns his skepticism on full-throttle when confronting other people’s ideas, then turns it off completely when examining his own ideas. This is a form of MASSIVE intellectual dishonesty.

  • actually the argument was not that if something is possible its plausible. It was that if its possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false the argument is invalid. All thats needed to demonstrate invalidity is possibility of truth given the premises.

    Ken and Bob by mocking this show again there ignorance, thats not Theology its the standard pretty much uncontested definition of logical validity, in logic.

  • It is not logical to say:

    If X is possibly true then X is true.

    NOR is it logical to say:

    If X might be false then X is false.

    You commit both of these fallacies constantly in your blog posts and replies. I would suggest you go brush up on the logic a little.

    Just by the by, most science does not operate on a binary nature, but works in terms of probabilities. Your simplistic binary way of thinking is a major handicap when it comes to understanding science.

  • Interestingly I was reading the rest of the posts on here and came across this:

    *MATT:
    *
    *“Easily, I can prove that no six sided triangles exist ”
    *
    *Go on then. Let’s see your proof:

    I see that Matt never did get around to proving that no six sided triangles exist. Can we see your logical/mathematical proof of this please Matt.. afterall you did say it was “easy”

  • “I see that Matt never did get around to proving that no six sided triangles exist. Can we see your logical/mathematical proof of this please Matt.. afterall you did say it was “easy”

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • “Don’t feed the troll.”

    Translation: That question was too hard so I will ignore it.

    Matthew insists that it is possible to prove a negative, and states a few examples he is able to prove, but when challenged does not come up with the proofs…. this is pretty conclusive.