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It's like he was reading my mind - Comments

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 1 by Cartomancer

Who is this Steve Zara anyway, and has anyone come up with a definition of him that can be empirically tested?

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 15:27:02 UTC | #531615

greenwich's Avatar Comment 2 by greenwich

So will Dawkins now be brave enough to rate himself a '7'?

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 15:28:01 UTC | #531616

Blaine McCartney's Avatar Comment 3 by Blaine McCartney

Comment 2 by greenwich :

So will Dawkins now be brave enough to rate himself a '7'?

If anything it would be 8 given the point that's been made.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 15:36:07 UTC | #531621

Moosebite's Avatar Comment 4 by Moosebite

I think the point is that on a scale of 1-7, my belief in god rates at "I don't care".

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 15:39:42 UTC | #531622

Quill Mob's Avatar Comment 5 by Quill Mob

I now have a new question to ask agnostics that I meet at parties: So, just what evidence would satisfy you that god exists? I'll be very curious to hear their answers. But, as with most things, I would imagine that these oh so "open-minded" folk haven't given it a moment's thought.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 15:41:44 UTC | #531623

greenwich's Avatar Comment 6 by greenwich

Serious question. Suppose you were out walking one night and you looked up and you saw the moon break up into several pieces; the pieces danced around the sky for a while; then they spelled out the sentence 'Richard Dawkins is a plonker'; and then they went back together again in the shape of the moon. Would that make you believe there's a God?

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:16:19 UTC | #531632

RW Millam's Avatar Comment 7 by RW Millam

Comment 6 by greenwich Serious question. Suppose you were out walking one night and you looked up and you saw the moon break up into several pieces; the pieces danced around the sky for a while; then they spelled out the sentence 'Richard Dawkins is a plonker'; and then they went back together again in the shape of the moon. Would that make you believe there's a God?

No. It would make me think that my mushrooms somehow got mixed up in my weed.

=============================================================================

I think it was the great philosopher Woody Allen who said ‎"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank."

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:16:36 UTC | #531633

ajs261's Avatar Comment 8 by ajs261

It is still worth being a 6.9(999999999999999999999999999999). There, after all, could potentially be an intelligence beyond the laws of physics or logic etc etc - this argument points out that there will never, ever be any evidence or logical reason as to whether such an intelligence exists or not.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:18:06 UTC | #531634

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Comment 1 by Cartomancer

Who is this Steve Zara anyway, and has anyone come up with a definition of him that can be empirically tested?

You shall know me by my works.

Interesting comments at Pharyngula; some still seem to approve of the idea of agnosticism. I'm at a loss as to understand that position, at least based on the arguments I put. Perhaps they are using a different definition of "God".

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:20:27 UTC | #531635

keithapm's Avatar Comment 10 by keithapm

Well done Steve. Your post really helped clarify and collect my thoughts on the issue of the evidence for the existence of a god/gods. I use this argument now whenever someone trots out the old "beyond comprehension" canard. Makes them look really foolish, esp. when I apply the argument to the FSM or, when engaging with the more homophobic religiot, Ralph the Giant Pink Gay Unicorn. Gets 'em flustered every time :-)

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:21:53 UTC | #531637

greenwich's Avatar Comment 11 by greenwich

Comment 8 by ajs261 :

It is still worth being a 6.9(999999999999999999999999999999). There, after all, could potentially be an intelligence beyond the laws of physics or logic etc etc - this argument points out that there will never, ever be any evidence or logical reason as to whether such an intelligence exists or not.

I think you should remember that 6.9 (recurring) is mathematically equal to 7.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:25:09 UTC | #531638

greenwich's Avatar Comment 12 by greenwich

Comment 7 by RW Millam :

No. It would make me think that my mushrooms somehow got mixed up in my weed.

Quite. It's worth being clear that we are not saying there's no evidence which might convince us of God; it's more that we choose to disregard the possibility of really 'unreasonable' evidence.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:27:10 UTC | #531639

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

Comment 8 by ajs261

"Intelligence" doesn't seem to me to make sense beyond the laws of physics or logic, because "intelligence" is defined as being a combination of good fast processing of information and the ability come up with good ideas - but all of those things require time and space (of sorts) to occur in. One of the main problems of theism is one of language, because the attributes of Gods don't make sense. Also, the Abrahamic God isn't just an intelligence - he has the ability to promise eternity to those he likes. That's going to be hard to get evidence for.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:31:34 UTC | #531643

RW Millam's Avatar Comment 14 by RW Millam

A few weeks ago, I posted to a thread titled "Are we living in a designer universe?" Not to throw a sabot into the gears, but I repost those thoughts here:

While I was out walking my dog, I had a horrible thought... If we accept the idea of a multiverse, we also accept that somewhere in one of the infinite number of universes it contains, anything that can happen has happened or will happened. It's a short step, therefore, to accept that somewhere there's a universe in which there is solid, absolute proof (not mere evidence, but real proof) that deities exist and meddle in the affairs of that universe's population on a regular basis. (Sorry -- I made myself gag just a little bit.) When I walk my dog, I put him on a leash and let my brain run free. Next time, I think I'll switch that around.

So all we have to do is develop the technology that would allow us to first identify and then travel to the alternate universe where the proof exist. Such an endeavor would be much simpler than finding evidence of a god in THIS universe.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:35:59 UTC | #531646

Irat's Avatar Comment 15 by Irat

"Comment 11 by greenwich Comment 8 by ajs261 :

It is still worth being a 6.9(999999999999999999999999999999). There, after all, could potentially be an intelligence beyond the laws of physics or logic etc etc - this argument points out that there will never, ever be any evidence or logical reason as to whether such an intelligence exists or not.

I think you should remember that 6.9 (recurring) is mathematically equal to 7."

Well, for all practical purposes. But I would say, anyway, that the probability for a god's existence should be rated at 1/x, with x approaching infinity. Myself, then, I would be a 7 - (1/x), with x approaching infinity.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 16:49:36 UTC | #531651

ajs261's Avatar Comment 16 by ajs261

Irat makes the point I was trying to convey with my 6.9999999...

And by intelligence my intention was to mean some sort of deity, rather than the trait of intelligence displayed by creatures on Earth. People scrutinised my post more than I expected!

My point was that there cannot ever be any evidence at all for the deity and considering this supreme lack of evidence or any reason, it is almost certain that a deity does not exist. Yet of course by shifting the goal-posts and positing that a deity could exist outside logic or existence or physical laws (whatever that even means) there could be a deity - whatever that even means. Hence it is reasonable to consider 6.999' rather than 7.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:13:27 UTC | #531654

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 17 by Alan4discussion

Comment 14 by RW Millam

So all we have to do is develop the technology that would allow us to first identify and then travel to the alternate universe where the proof exist. Such an endeavor would be much simpler than finding evidence of a god in THIS universe.

Slight problem though. If a God and eternal paradise did exist the crew would stay.

If it broke down but found a good habitable planet - they would stay.

If the ship did not come back, (like many in the days of flat Earthists) it could have "fallen off the edge" of the universe! - or found God!

If it found nothing and came back - must have been the wrong universe.!!

Think of the stories theists could make out of that senario!!

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:26:16 UTC | #531656

Phig Meant's Avatar Comment 18 by Phig Meant

It is a failure of critical thinking and scientific education to say: "There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let's stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.

Just as it is a failure of critical thinking and theological education to say: "There is no valid no-god hypothesis, so there can be no no-god evidence, so let's stop pretending that atheists have a shot at persuading us.

Both are complete and utter failures.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:28:28 UTC | #531658

Moosebite's Avatar Comment 19 by Moosebite

May I suggest that we do away with whole 'scale' idea altogether?

If you explained the scale to a believer and told him/her where you were on the scale, it would give the believer the idea that you're giving credence to him/her taking a position further down the scale. By suggesting you are accepting that people can put themselves on a scale of belief, you are suggesting that they are justified in having a stronger belief in god than you.

I think it's safe to assume that we all have the same amount of empirical evidence at hand that proves/disproves the existence of a god. So assuming that is none, on a belief scale, everybody on the planet sits at the same number. So it's a scale of 1-1 where 1 = "don't know".

So if you're gonna put anything on a scale, make it something like - "how much evidence I need to believe that something exists" 1 = no evidence and 7 = I won't believe it until I experience with every one of my senses.

At least that way you can put into perspective how gullible and stupid theists are.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:37:35 UTC | #531661

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 20 by Stafford Gordon

Despite there not being a shred of evidence for god, is it possible to prove there isn't one?

As far as I'm concerned, it's not for me to prove that there is no supernatural entity, it's for those who believe that there is one to prove it to me; I have an open mind on the subject.

What I can say for certain is that I'm an antitheist Russellian sceptic.

What Bertrand Russell wrote at the beginning of the last century still applies to this day. In fact, I think it's more important now than ever.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:43:44 UTC | #531666

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 21 by Marcus Small

I still think agnosticism can be defended.Both atheism and theism claim to know something, agnosticism claims only ignorance. Therefore,,

the true default position is neither theism nor atheism, but agnosticism ... a claim to knowledge needs to be substantiated; ignorance need only be confessed.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:46:18 UTC | #531667

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

Comment 18 by Phig Meant

It is a failure of critical thinking and scientific education to say: "There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let's stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.

I disagree. The situation is that believers have defined gods so that there can be no valid hypothesis, and no satisfactory evidence. It isn't a failure of scientific thinking, it's a ploy (deliberate or otherwise) by theists to avoid god being subject to science.

Suppose someone claimed that there was a wonderful mathematical proof of the meaning of existence: it would solve all problems. So, we ask how we can find that proof, and we are told it is infinitely long, and beyond human capacity to understand. We ask for evidence and proof-ologists say that the proof isn't the kind of thing that can be subject to proof, that it is the basis of mathematical truth, that to ask how to find the proof is not to understand it's nature. It would not be a failure of mathematics to give up at that point and to call the whole business a waste of time.

That is equivalent to current theology, and the nature of the Abrahamic god. It certainly is not a failure of critical thinking to dismiss the whole business as meaningless, except as an aspect of human psychology.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:47:43 UTC | #531669

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 23 by Stevehill

@QuillMob

I now have a new question to ask agnostics that I meet at parties: So, just what evidence would satisfy you that god exists? I'll be very curious to hear their answers. But, as with most things, I would imagine that these oh so "open-minded" folk haven't given it a moment's thought.

I spent a 35 year legal career intimately concerned with the rules of evidence. Rules I apply (and have applied since I was 8 years old) to the existence or non-existence of "god".

Evidence is something that convinces a reasonable man, a jury if you wish, beyond reasonable doubt. There i far more than reasonable doubt about god: there is not a shred of evidence whatsoever, and there never has been, which cannot be discounted as - at best - the primitive writings of uneducated goatherds.

You do yourself no favours coming here and making patronising statements suggesting that the average IQ in these parts is somewhat below the 27 or 28 you consider to be average.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:52:07 UTC | #531671

kriton's Avatar Comment 24 by kriton

There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence

This does not seem to be a logical conclusion.

Even if all people's ideas about gods are rubbish, this does not from a strictly logical perspective lead to the conclusion that there can be no god, or no god evidence.

The existence of something cannot depend on what ideas people have about it, and it doesn't matter if it's natural or supernatural.

If there is a physical phenomenon, say wormholes in space, but all the available human ideas about wormholes are rubbish, this does not completely prove that wormholes do not exist, or that there can be no evidence for wormholes.

We can say that the probability for god is so low that we can ignore it. We can also say that the probability that we will ever see any conclusive evidence for god is so low that we can ignore it.

But this is not the same as suggesting that evidence would be logically impossible, and I get the impression that this is what SZ and PZ are trying to do. This is clearly overreaching.

As greenwich pointed out:

It's worth being clear that we are not saying there's no evidence which might convince us of God; it's more that we choose to disregard the possibility of really 'unreasonable' evidence.

And frankly I think it would be quite stupid to say something like "there can not even hypothetically be any evidence that could convince me of god" in a discussion with theists. Please don't, it will just make you look bad.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:55:57 UTC | #531674

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

Comment 21 by Marcus Small

As C.S. Lewis is often mentioned in discussions about religion, I sometimes like to consider the example of Narnia when it comes to atheism or agnosticism.

A Narnia-agnostic would be someone who considers it not silly to be cautious about entering large storage units.

Are you a Narnia-agnostic?

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:58:12 UTC | #531675

Moosebite's Avatar Comment 26 by Moosebite

I still think agnosticism can be defended.Both atheism and theism claim to know something, agnosticism claims only ignorance. Therefore,,

I'm pretty sure atheism isn't a claim to knowledge. Theism is belief in one or more deity(s). Atheism is "not theism". It is "not belief in one or more deity(s)".

Take the theists proposition = "I believe in a god"

If you slap the "a" in front of that, and get "a-theism", it negates the statement. To negate something does not imply the opposite of it. If I had a pea on my desk, and I wanted to negate the pea, I would remove the pea, not put a pea shaped vacuum in it's place. So "a-pea" doesn't equal the opposite of the pea, it equals the lack of the pea.

A-theism = "Not 'I believe in a god'"

No claims of knowledge in that one. That's how I see it anyway.

In any case, to whether or not there is a god, I say: "Innocent until proven guilty!"

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:02:41 UTC | #531680

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 27 by Peter Grant

Agreed, good article Steve. The whole God idea is meaningless and self-contradicting, so what evidence can there be for it?

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:07:22 UTC | #531682

AlexP's Avatar Comment 28 by AlexP

Agnosticism is a hollow, a meaningless stance.

At it's worst, it's hypocritical accommodationism.

But even at it's best, it's technically correct but superfluous. No, we don't know FOR SURE that there is no god. Just as we don't know for sure that there aren't evil, invisible aliens about to destroy our planet unless we sacrifice Paris Hilton in their name. We can't prove either, and yet we're not going to kill Paris Hilton, at least, not for THAT reason.

The thing is - we don't know ANYTHING with absolute certainty - with the possible exception of our own existence. Everything else can be doubted. And yet we're making decisions every moment of our lifes. A dark, cloudy sky? The ground appears wet? Something that looks and feels like water apparently falls from above? Is that a proof that it's raining? Oh, please! Of course not! A Truck transporting water crashed, spilling most of it and making the ground wet. Somewhere beyond the clouds, a zeppelin is, unseen, loosing height and desperately emptying it's stored drinking water to prevent it from crashing. And the clouds themselves are, of course, just coincidence. And, mind you, we didn't even have to question the reliability of our own senses to answer that one!

So no, we can't prove that god doesn't exist. And whoever considers this important enough to ridicule atheists should better start finding an absolutely watertight proof that it's impossible to survive without food - quickly, before he starves.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:14:14 UTC | #531683

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 29 by Marcus Small

Comment 25 by Steve Zara

Yes but Steve as we know some theists, well many theists, try to influence public policy on the basis of something that they do not know. I dare say there are some atheists doing the same thing. No one, so far as I know is trying to influence public policy on the basis of what is written in Narnia.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:15:17 UTC | #531684

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 30 by Stevehill

@kriton

And frankly I think it would be quite stupid to say something like "there can not even hypothetically be any evidence that could convince me of god" in a discussion with theists. Please don't, it will just make you look bad.

It would be quite stupid to discount the possibility that I am Jack the Ripper, living in sin in Oz with the Wicked Witch of the West, because there is no evidence to the contrary. So it might just be true.

Billions of people take comfort from religion's many nostrums (forgiving "sins", afterlife, being one of the "chosen", one of the "enlightened"). And I don't begrudge them that, but it's an easy sell to the uneducated, impoverished masses. Harder once people develop some independent consciousness, some freedom of thought for themselves (Americans should give freedom a whirl one day, they might like it).

Meanwhile, it takes a certain kind of stunted imbecility, a mindset that never quite grew out of the cradle and the idea that the lady with the boobs is god, to take anything so far-fetched as being remotely plausible.

The only sane position is atheism (or if you're a 6.999-er, maybe agnosticism). Anything else is indicative of mental illness.

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:29:17 UTC | #531691