?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Are You There God? It's Me, Richard - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

[ Website | Edifice Rex Online ]
[ Info | livejournal userinfo ]
[ Archive | journal archive ]

Links
[Links:| EdificeRex Online ]

Are You There God? It's Me, Richard [Feb. 24th, 2007|08:19 pm]
Young Geoffrey
[Tags|, , , , , ]



The God Delusion

by Richard Dawkins

Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 406 pages, $35.95
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can become desensitized to their horror. A naif blessed with the perspective of innocence has a clearer perception. Winston Churchill's son Randolph somehow contrived to remain ignorant of scripture until Evelyn Waugh and a brother officer, in a vain attempt to keep Churchill quiet when they were posted together during the war, bet him he couldn't read the entire Bible in a fortnight: 'Unhappily it has not had the result we hoped. He has never read any of it before and is hideously excited; keeps reading quotations aloud "I say I bet you didn't know this came in the Bible..." or merely slapping his side & chortling "God, isn't God a shit!"' Thomas Jefferson - better read - was of a similar opinion: 'The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.' (The God Delusion, page 31.)

Some years ago an old friend - call him John - offered to lend me the money for a new computer; he didn't want me paying the usurious interest putting the purchase on my VISA would have entailed. I knew his financial position was such that two grand would impose no hardship on him, so I gratefully accepted his offer. In due course, he sent me a contract and a cheque, the former specifying a repayment schedule and a variable interest rate of Prime plus two percent. I signed the contract and endorsed the cheque, intending to deposit it the following day.

But when I checked my email, there was note from John, asking me not to deposit the cheque, for reasons - he said - he would explain later., though he never did.

John is a very serious and thoughtful Christian and one of the few religious people I have been close to. Around that time, we had been discussing his faith and comparing it to my lack of same. A couple of weeks earlier he had suggested I check out a usenet discussion group he frequented, one dedicated to his particular brand of Christianity.

And so I spent some time reading posts concerning Church policies and debates over the meaning of biblical passages, among other arcana. This was clearly an intelligent and thoughtful group of people, but they were discussing in depth a subject that interested me only as it might an amateur anthropologist. Moreover, the basic belief - or faith, to be strictly accurate - behind all of the discussions going on was one something I could not, in all honesty, take seriously. I was bored senseless and soon gave up reading the newsgroup.

When John asked for my thoughts, I gave. We had argued politics, philosophy, literature and even, sometimes, religion since grade seven, and our friendship - with a few angry breaks - had somehow endured our disagreements. Unfortunately, my sense of diplomacy failed me and I chose to respond in a way that was, at very best, insensitive. I told him that reading the group was "like listening to two 10 year-olds arguing who would win a fight between Batman and Spiderman.

Though, as I said, John never told me why he'd withdrawn the loan, his terse email arrived the day after I had sent him the rude one. The timing alone was enough to convince me there was probably a connection. After a few months, our friendship recovered, but I had learned a lesson about matters of faith - believers take their beliefs very seriously; some may be willing to have their faith questioned, but even unintentional mockery is something else entirely.

The foregoing is, in part, intended to disclose that I came to Richard Dawkins' most recent book, The God Delusion, fully expecting to enjoy it, and to agree with it. I was raised without religion, I have never believed in God and have been self-consciously an atheist since I was no more than 10 years old.

</a>

I most likely would not have read it all were it not for the reviews I had read. These implied the book was too shrill, that Dawkins was too angry and too one-sided. What about the evils committed by atheists, they wondered; don't the crimes committed by the likes of Stalin or Mao prove that religion is no cause of evil? And wasn't Dawkins' militant atheism just as "religious" as the faith of the believers? After all, you can't disprove God, can you?

Those arguments - that since atheists can be monsters, therefore there is nothing inherently wrong with religion; that the impossibility of disproving the existence of God means there is no reason not to believe in "Him" - are sophistic, of course, but I was curious about the actual tone Dawkins took, and whether his book did, in fact, fail as an attempt to convince his readers that perhaps there is nothing supernatural behind existence.

As a good scientist, Dawkins' primary focus is on facts and evidence, on how the world really is, not on how he might wish it to be. As a very good writer and rhetorician, he makes his case logically and carefully. And it needs to be said: he is sometimes very funny, as well. The God Delusion is no dry academic treatise, nor is it a wild rant by a raging atheist unbalanced by an anti-deistic chip on his shoulder. Yet there is no denying that Dawkins takes his subject seriously and that his belief that atheism is, in fact, superior to any religion-based understanding of the world is deeply-felt on his part. Any reader approaching The God Delusion as a believer is going feel uncomfortable at best, and probably insulted or scandalized, as well. Dawkins has taken the gloves off.

The God Delusion is broken up into 10 chapters. The first, "A Deeply Religious Non-Believer", explores the connections and the discontinuities between religious belief and a spiritual sense of wonder about the universe and our place within it. "A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists. It has no connection with supernatural belief."

Dawkins also here defines his terms and sets out the broad outlines of his argument, insisting especially on a strict definition of the word, God: "...if the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is 'appropriate for us to worship'."

The second chapter explores "the god hypothesis" itself, as well Dawkins' own counter-hypothesis, which deserves to be quoted length.

"[T]here exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us. This book will advocate an alternative view: any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution. Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it. God, in the sense defined, is a delusion; and, as later chapters will show, a pernicious delusion." [The italics are Dawkins'.]

In this chapter, Dawkins explores the differences between monotheism, polytheism, agnosticism and atheism, and frankly acknowledges the impossibility of disproving a negative, which leads to amusing encounters with both Bertrand Russell's cosmic teapot and the more recent Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. More seriously, he explains the scientific method and the importance of evidence in relation to making conclusions about what is, about what might be and about what probably isn't.

The third chapter directly addresses arguments for the existence of god and - to this admittedly prejudiced reader, at least - rebuts them all quite nicely, from the ostensibly imposing thoughts of people such as Saint Thomas Aquinas to the patently ludicrous (not to mention intellectually dishonest) claptrap of "Intelligent Design Theory".

Chapter four, "Why There Almost Certainly Is No God", explores the lack of any empirical evidence for supernatural forces which interfere in the workings of the cosmos. Dawkins explains clearly and convincingly how science has explained many things once reserved as mysteries explicable only by divine revelation, and why those things which remain mysterious do not provide any logical reason to conclude, "Well, God did it." One example is the fact that science cannot (yet) explain the precise mechanism of how life began in the first place. Yet this lack of knowledge is no (logical) reason to (a) assume that we never will or (b) to decide that "God did it". I don't know specifically where my neighbour got her dogs - should I therefore conclude they were a gift from God?

The middle chapters look into the roots of religion and of morality. Of religion, he explores its possible evolutionary survival value, as well as the possibility it developed as a side effect of something else entirely (contrary to popular belief, not every trait that evolved did so because it was necessarily a good thing for an organism's long-term survival. Some traits evolve due to specific conditions, others arise at random - ie, they are mutations which neither help nor hinder survival and so spread through a given population simply because nothing weeds them out - while still others were side-effects. The ability to walk erect almost certainly had survival-value for early hominids; the resulting propensity to suffer lower back problems certainly did not). He further explores the origins and evolution of religion(s) itself, and so comes to chapter 8, "What's Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?"

Colleagues who agree that there is no God, who agree that we do not need religion to be moral, and agree that we can explain the roots of religion and of morality in non-religious terms, nevertheless come back at me in gentle puzzlement. Why are you so hostile? What is actually wrong with religion? Does it really do so much harm that we should actively fight against it? Why not live and let live, as one does with Taurus and Scorpio, crystal energy and ley lines? Isn't it all just harmless nonsense? I might retort that such hostility as I or other atheists occasionally voice towards religion is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement. But my interlocutor usually doesn't leave it at that. He may go on to say something like this: 'Doesn't your hostility mark you out as a fundamentalist atheist, just as fundamentalist in your own way as the wingnuts of the Bible Belt in theirs?'

Dawkins answer is essentially that his atheism is based upon evidence and reason, not upon the ravings "revelations" ostensibly given to some holy man hundreds or thousands of years in the past. "Books about evolution are believed not because they are holy. They are believed because they present overwhelming quantities of mutually buttressed evidence. In principle, any reader can go and check the evidence. When a science book is wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent books. That conspicuously doesn't happen with holy books."

He argues - and argues very well - that religious belief itself is not only intellectually stupefying to the individual, but to society as well. And further argues that "moderate" religion lay the groundwork for the fundamentalists who hate those who don't believe in their particular "truth." (Note how often the bloodiest and most brutal civil wars - that going on now in Iraq is a prime example - occur between different sects of the same religion.)

In the penultimate chapter, "Childhood, Abuse and the Escape From Religion", Dawkins makes what is probably his most "offensive" and certainly his most radical contention. That (and leaving aside the insanity of the idea that a 5 year-old can be said to "have" a religious "faith" at all) raising a child in any religion is a form of child abuse. On a personal level, he notes a relatively minor incident of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a teacher as a child, and compares it with the words of an woman raised as a Roman Catholic. He paraphrases most of her letter to him, including this pertinent section.

At the age of seven, she told me, two unpleasant things had happened to her. She was sexually abused by her parish priest in his car. And, around the same time, a little schoolfriend of hers, who had tragically died, went to hell because she was a Protestant...She wrote:
Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as 'yucky' while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest - but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would to go Hell. It gave me nightmares.
Dawkins is a passionate, engaging, humane and sometimes very funny writer. But I wonder how many of those readers he hopes to reach are likely to be swayed.
If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism! Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature (whether by evolution or design). Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan. But I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take', or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it. Such free spirits should need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether. At the very least, I hope that nobody who reads this book will be able to say, 'I didn't know I could.'

If you are an atheist or an agnostic, you will almost certainly enjoy The God Delusion. It will strengthen your conviction (or weaken your lack of any conviction at all), will provoke more thought than you probably expect, and will certainly add an argument or two to your arsenal that you didn't have the last time a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses come calling.

I am not so sure it will do much to accomplish Dawkins' stated aim, however. I fear that even open-minded believers will find their faith so challenged, their cherished beliefs so shaken, that few will be able to finish the book. If they are willing to test their faith in the first place.

But I hope I am wrong about that. Our world needs less faith and more thought; fewer answers and more questions. Richard Dawkins has written an important, powerful book, one that should change many minds in a very good way.

</b>

For those of you who have read this far and want to see more of my work, please visit my site, Edifice Rex Online.

linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-25 02:55 am (UTC)
Reading is for dorks and reviewing what you read is like advertising your unfuckability. Do you have any beer at your place? Also, I need help making 40 origami roses.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-25 03:20 am (UTC)

Learn to Use the Subject Line

What little beer I have needs to last me until payday; I am exhausted; I need to work tomorrow (more writing, but this time of the even more geeky "Here is how to use our services" kind; and I can't help but imagine that making origami roses will make me even less fuckable than I already am.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-25 03:36 am (UTC)

Re: Learn to Use the Subject Line

On the contrary, being able to make origami roses blows your fuckability off the charts. All you have to do is sit there in bars and make them absent-mindedly, even despite your handicap of reading comic books, and the first girl who looks at you with curiosity, you offer it to her. That slight olfactory shift in the air just moments later is the scent of her wanting to fuck you right on the table.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-25 03:38 am (UTC)

Re: Learn to Use the Subject Line

I find your delusions contention interesting and would like to subscribe to your news letter. When did you last get your ashes hauled, anyway?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-25 04:45 am (UTC)

Re: Learn to Use the Subject Line

I'm not a good benchmark. I'm too emo for sex.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-25 05:55 am (UTC)
Being bored, beerless and all my fingers stained with the blood of countless origami roses, I actually did get around to reading your review, and mostly it just reminded me of why I hate books like the one you're reviewing -- because they have a habit of making me angry that I can't argue with the author for being such a poor logician.

"...if the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is 'appropriate for us to worship'."

This definition is useless and if this is the definition of God he is arguing against, he has already made his whole argument useless. He's not arguing against the existence of the conceptual God, he's arguing against the existence of a God with his own specific, amended qualifiers.

The two qualifiers he has added are, "appropriate" and "to worship".

Why must a definition of an intelligent creator of the universe require that He is "appropriate" to worship; or that He must or should be worshipped at all? Does that mean a God that created the universe brick by brick all on His own but is "inappropriate to worship" is not really God? And a God who is not worthy of worship also can't have created the universe?

Why is he confusing two concepts and then using deductive processes against one to disprove the other? Is he stupid?


Chapter four, "Why There Almost Certainly Is No God", explores the lack of any empirical evidence for supernatural forces which interfere in the workings of the cosmos. Dawkins explains clearly and convincingly how science has explained many things once reserved as mysteries explicable only by divine revelation, and why those things which remain mysterious do not provide any logical reason to conclude, "Well, God did it." One example is the fact that science cannot (yet) explain the precise mechanism of how life began in the first place. Yet this lack of knowledge is no (logical) reason to (a) assume that we never will or (b) to decide that "God did it". I don't know specifically where my neighbour got her dogs - should I therefore conclude they were a gift from God?


This was enough to make me hate the book and the author.

A lack of empirical evidence is in no way a supporting argument against the existence of a God/creator. It is an argument against hastily ascribing science to God, but again, either he or your paraphrasing makes it appear as though the author uses "proof" that so many past mysteries that were attributed to God have been scientifically explained is a proof that God does not exist. But logically, that's not an argument against the existence of God, it's an argument against the people who did the attributing.

If I go around my apartment and one by one ascribe everything I can't explain to God's will, and a scientist follows me around and one by one explains the science behind each thing until 100% of the things in my apartment are accounted for -- all that is evidence of is my poor understanding of my apartment. Yet this Dawson guy seems to think that cumulatively, the more things sciences explains -- the more things a scientist follows me around my apartment and explains to me -- that once this number gets past some particular threshold, the evidence starts to be attributable not only against me, but by some kind of negative-association, the thing I am arguing for.

If I go around ascribing the existence of everything in my apartment to Wal-Mart, and the same scientist follows me around with my reciepts and shows that actually, nothing in my apartment comes from Wal-Mart... by yours, and this dork's reasoning... this is evidence that Wal-Mart doesn't exist. That once some magical number of things can be shown not attributable to Wal-Mart that I had hitherto thought I bought there, that with enough of my mistaken memory, some point is passed where the quantity of my mistakes transcends a logical boundary and becomes not only evidence of my poor memory, but evidence against the very existence of the thing I misremembered.

To make that logical mistake is ... well... unforgiveable.

Great. I don't know when the last time was that I hit an LJ character count limit. God fucking damn it.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-25 08:13 am (UTC)
In a sense, the author is looking at God through the wrong end of a telescope.

To use his own evidentiary processes:

My DNA is proof that a larger organism exists. I flake DNA off all the time. I left some at the pizza place half an hour ago. My DNA at the pizza place is evidence of the existence of me. Without me existing first, that strand of DNA I left on the counter would not and could not exist to be left there -- and yet, now, that strand of DNA is out there all alone, impossible for it to ever rejoin the being that spawned it, impossible for it to ever even detect its progenitor, and yet... here I am, bored, beerless and writing shitty LJ messages.

So the inept logician who wrote the book that I've already forgotten the title of, by his own evidentiary processes, seems to believe that if a strand of my DNA exists at the pizza place, for me to also exist, that strand of DNA must be able to witness me. If that strand of DNA, using every ability at its disposal, every power it possesses, cannot detect me... this makes it probable that I don't exist. And yet -- by a science that you and the author would swear by -- the existence of that strand of DNA on the pizza counter not only makes it probable that I exist, it mandates it.

How come you're able to look down your microscope and see my DNA on the pizza counter that is even now furiously trying to replicate itself into an image of its progenitor, and accept that the existence of that DNA strand is proof of the probable existence of me -- yet it's impossible for you to conceptualize the vista from the other direction? That humanity, because it does not possess the faculties to empirically detect its own progenitor, is instead proof that the progenitor doesn't exist?

What rationale that isn't pure cheese-logic can you possibly have that for the Creator to exist, the Creation must be able to detect Him?

I would suggest that the people who are in the habit of making that logical misstep are the ones who are, in fact, secretly the most desirous to have God in their lives. All of your desire to have a divine Father to make meaning out of your sense of bewilderment is expressed in this lavish, wishful fantasy that it would be logical that the Creation can identify and measure the Creator.

A more accurate logical statement about the creator/creation relationship is this:

For a Creator to exist logically, the Creation does not have to be able to detect him. For a Creator to exist, all that is logically required is for the Creator to be able to detect the Creation.

No amount of non-detection from the Creation speaks to the logical existence of its Creator. There are very few things that you would be able to create that would be able to detect or recognize you as their creator, and yet you will still exist whether they know it or not.

Essentially your logical fallacy is a very human and touching one. You have anthropomorphized God. The one thing that you would be able to create that could detect and recognize you as its creator is a child; and it is easier for you to conceive of no-God than a God who, all-powerful but with human characteristics and motivations, could choose to create something that cannot recognize him, because you, as a human, would never wish for a child who has no senses, who cannot see or hear or touch you, who has no ability at all to know when you are speaking to him, nurturing him, feeding him or loving him.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-25 05:37 pm (UTC)

DNA, God and SCK

So the inept logician who wrote the book...by his own evidentiary processes, seems to believe that if a strand of my DNA exists at the pizza place, for me to also exist, that strand of DNA must be able to witness me.

What? I have no clue how you came to that conclusion about either the book or my review. Neither of us wrote any such thing.

That humanity, because it does not possess the faculties to empirically detect its own progenitor, is instead proof that the progenitor doesn't exist?

Again, neither Dawkins nor Dow is arguing there is "proof that the progenitor doesn't exist". He - and I - are arguing there is no evidence the progenitor does exist.

What rationale that isn't pure cheese-logic can you possibly have that for the Creator to exist, the Creation must be able to detect Him? [&ct ad lengthy nauseum]

Again, you are attacking an argument I didn't make and that Dawkins didn't make.

I can conceive of a god. I simply don't think it is a concept likely to be true - and one for which there certainly is no evidence.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-26 06:01 am (UTC)

Re: DNA, God and SCK

Again, you are attacking an argument I didn't make and that Dawkins didn't make.

Haha, well, yes, I do have a habit of that. But I think that the argument is implicit because most of the phraseology was geared towards the non-existence of God, not towards the non-existence of supporting evidence of God.

I can conceive of a god. I simply don't think it is a concept likely to be true - and one for which there certainly is no evidence.

Tsk tsk, how utterly biased. "No evidence"? There's tons of evidence -- it just happens to be all circumstantial. Aside from the great leaping shiteloads of circumstantial evidence, hearsay and eye witness testimony, there is also the historical model that nothing else can be shown to have no creator... which, while not empirically reliable evidence either, supports the circumstantial evidence.

Why would you allow yourself to dismiss the circumstantial evidence of a woman seeing God in a burrito in Tijuana, perhaps as a pychological manifestation of her desire to see God in her burrito; and yet no psychological scrutiny is applied to your own willingness to accept a model of the universe with no physical precedent? Because, try as I might, I can see no distinction at all -- they both look like wings & prayers to me.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-26 10:12 am (UTC)

Re: DNA, God and SCK

Aside from the great leaping shiteloads of circumstantial evidence, hearsay and eye witness testimony, there is also the historical model that nothing else can be shown to have no creator...

I find it interesting you can't offer any of that alleged evidence, other than the ravings of a mythical Mexican (why Mexican?) woman who claims to see God (sic - I think you mean Jesus) in a burrito.

Lots of people have all sorts of delusions. To paraphrase someone Dawkins quoted in his book, when one person has a delusion we call him insane; when lots of people share a delusion we call it "religion".

...and yet no psychological scrutiny is applied to your own willingness to accept a model of the universe with no physical precedent? Because, try as I might, I can see no distinction at all...

"[N]o physical precedent" or a "creator"? Those are two different concepts. The latter is the one which I (and, I believe) Dawkins are attacking.

As for your (false) allegation I have applied no scrutiny to my own psyche, I won't bother to answer that here. I am making no claim that I do know the answer to the origin of the universe, only that I see no good reason to accept your claim that you do.

You're the one making the extraordinary claim. I am saying, "We don't know how it all started; let's keep investigating the matter."
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-26 05:41 pm (UTC)

Re: DNA, God and SCK

I find it interesting you can't offer any of that alleged evidence, other than the ravings of a mythical Mexican (why Mexican?) woman who claims to see God (sic - I think you mean Jesus) in a burrito.

I didn't think it was necessary since it's all around you and you can't escape it even walking down the street. The bible is evidence. The thousands of churches/mosques/synagogues are evidence. The millions of people who claim to have witnessed and experienced God in some form is evidence. It's all circumstantial evidence, but it's evidence nonetheless. It's not semen scraped out of the inside of a condom and DNA-matched to a hair follicle, but it is a near-sighted hooker who insists she saw the guy climbing down the fire-escape.

The flaw is that you only accept as evidence the types of evidence that your own preferred answer proscribes. Science must have scientific evidence. I don't know how you can be more biased.


You're the one making the extraordinary claim. I am saying, "We don't know how it all started; let's keep investigating the matter."

You're not saying that, because if you were, you would hold some form of God as an equal, as opposed to lesser, possibility. What you are saying is: let's keep investigating in the direction of my preferred suspicion, and discard all evidence that does not meet our own evidentiary standards for quality.

This is exactly what the God-people do as well, except they use different language and have different evidentiary standards.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-27 02:53 am (UTC)

Re: DNA, God and SCK

I didn't think it was necessary since it's all around you and you can't escape it even walking down the street.

What is "all around" me? Physical reality? Or evidence of a deity?

The bible is evidence. The thousands of churches/mosques/synagogues are evidence...

None of your examples are evidence of anything but the fact that people believe they are evidence of the existence of a deity.

There are lots of believe who believe they were kidnapped by flying saucers, who cover their walls to keep out the mind-control rays broadcast by the CIA (I've spoken with a couple of those), there are people who believe that Elvis lives and that God speaks to them and tells them to cut up prostitutes and scatter their body-parts across wide areas of Arizona.

You're not saying that, because if you were, you would hold some form of God as an equal, as opposed to lesser, possibility.

Why should I grant an arbitrary mathematical probability to a concept for which - again - there is no empirical evidence. (The fact of existence is not evidence of its provenance.)

You're saying, "I think you should give "god" a 50% chance of being the true origin of the universe". I'm saying, "Why?"

The flaw is that you only accept as evidence the types of evidence that your own preferred answer proscribes. Science must have scientific evidence. I don't know how you can be more biased.

I don't deny the bias and never have. Science works. Religion asserts.

What you are saying is: let's keep investigating in the direction of my preferred suspicion, and discard all evidence that does not meet our own evidentiary standards for quality.

No, I'm saying let's keep investigating and see where the evidence leads us. At least since the era of Galileo and Ptolemy, science has proven religion wrong about one thing after the other. Religion has never proven any scientific theory to be wrong; only other scientists have done that.

This is exactly what the God-people do as well, except they use different language and have different evidentiary standards.

It's nothing of the kind. Name me any religion (with the possible exception of Buddhism, which arguably isn't a "religion" at all) which does not fall back upon its bible when evidence argues against it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-25 05:27 pm (UTC)

Of *Course* He's Stupid

Why is he confusing two concepts and then using deductive processes against one to disprove the other? Is he stupid?

I noticed the qualifications and wondered about them myself; on the other hand, the Essenes and the Albegensians haven't been around for a while. And you are, frankly, missing the most important qualifier, "supernatural".

A lack of empirical evidence is in no way a supporting argument against the existence of a God/creator.

The argument is not intended to prove that there is no god, but that there is no reason to believe in one. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs," as somebody or other once said.

To rephrase, there is no logical reason to assign "god" as the cause of anything simply because we don't know everything. I much prefer to say "I don't know what caused the big bang" than to push the question back a phrase and credit an arbitrary unmoved mover.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-26 05:43 am (UTC)

Re: Of *Course* He's Stupid

The argument is not intended to prove that there is no god, but that there is no reason to believe in one.

There is one good reason to believe in a God-creator for as long as you can not point to a single other thing anywhere that does not have a creator. Whether it is a Chinese motorcycle, a poem, a tulip or a child -- its origins can be traced to a creator. The reason to believe in a creator for the universe is simply modeling -- all things have creators. Nothing can be demonstrated to spontaneously leap into existence.

Where is your evidence to believe that the universe is the one thing in existence which breaks the model? It's the only thing extant that can spontaneously create itself? How is that largesse that you allow yourself any different from others' belief in God?

The logic is pretty simple, Young G.

a) All things can be shown to have creators, therefore the universe probably has a creator.

or

b) All things can be shown to have creators, therefore the universe probably does not have one.

And yet... you allow yourself the philosophical luxury to believe the second without evidence or reason, and contrary to all modeling. Isn't that the same as faith? How can you be sure that your own faith in the non-God-creator model of the universe isn't just a kind of intellectual pollution carried over from the evils of organized religions, which is entirely separate from the existence of God?

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-26 09:59 am (UTC)

Re: Of *Course* He's Stupid

Your formal logic "proves" nothing at all except that you've been too lazy to think your position through.

If I were to accept your proposition (a), "All things can be shown to have creators, therefore the universe probably has a creator," it begs the question a 6 year-old of my acquaintance asked when he was first introduced to the concept of a deity: "If God made everything, then who made God?"

Your "logical" answer in fact is no answer at all. It simply labels your ignorance as to the origin of the cosmos "God" and then slams the door on further inquiry.

Besides which, your premise is faulty. All things we know of have causes, but not all things we know of have creators; there for the existence of the universe must have a cause, but not necessarily a creator.

You remind me of the story of the old lady who insisted the world doesn't orbit the sun, but rather, rests upon the back of a giant turtle. Asked what the giant turtle rests upon, she replied, "It's turtles all the way down, sonny."

Your argument fails on its premises, it fails on imperical grounds, and it fails to answer the question at all.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sck5000
2007-02-26 05:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Of *Course* He's Stupid

Your "logical" answer in fact is no answer at all. It simply labels your ignorance as to the origin of the cosmos "God" and then slams the door on further inquiry.

It doesn't label my ignorance as to the origin of the cosmos as anything. It's simply meant to refute your skewed perception that you don't have any reasons at all to believe in God. There are some reasons to believe in God, they just aren't reason enough for you. My contention isn't that you should believe in God, it's that your own reasoning is so highly skewed in favor of the things you want to believe that it is also indistinguishable from any faith.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-27 02:55 am (UTC)

Re: Of *Course* He's Stupid

There are some reasons to believe in God, they just aren't reason enough for you.

You keep asserting that there are reasons to believe in god, but you have yet to give me even one.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: miyyu
2007-02-25 01:19 pm (UTC)
I think it would be nearly impossible to reach that aim no matter how good the book, if only because of who is likely to actually read it all the way through with a receptive mind. I haven't picked it up yet because I thought he was preaching to the choir, but I may eventually now that you say that it's powerful and well-written.

My biggest gripe is the implication that I need religion to have morals. I've firsthand met so many people who claim to have faith and are yet hugely hypocritical in how they treat other people as they go about their day. I can always use another argument against that.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-02-25 05:42 pm (UTC)

On the Origins of Morality

There are a couple of good chapters on the question of morality and whether we "need God to be good", as well as on the hypocrasy of many people of faith.

Since you are in the choir you might want to wait for the paperback, but I have little doubt you'll enjoy the book.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)