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Go to: Scientists Welcome Obama's Words

Jayday's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Jayday

I was surprised to hear Obama include "non-believers" in his inaugural speech. He is someone who may not be a non-believer but he recognizes that we are here. It isn't his mode of operation to divide people. He is inclusive.

Since he values education, I can understand that he supports science. He wants America to produce world class scientists as well as other types of professionals.

It was announced this morning that the FDA has approved the first stem cell clinical trials on humans. Geron Corp of Menlo Park California will be conducting stem cell trials on patients who have spinal cord injuries. This is fantastic!


Fri, 23 Jan 2009 06:30:00 UTC | #311268

Go to: Origins - The BIG Questions: 2008 Skeptics Society Conference

Jayday's Avatar Jump to comment 89 by Jayday

Michael Shermer calls himself an agnostic. In his books and in person he has stated as such. He has also stated that the existence of God can't be proven one way or another. And, that he doesn't care if people believe in God or not just as long as they don't impinge upon his freedom. He is more interested in "why" people believe in God, not that they do or don't. Okay fine. But here's the rub...At this time in American history, we are manipulated by the actions of the general theistic masses and by the fact that the highest level of our government is trying to legislate their religious values and forge them into laws that affect us all, based on their Judeo Christian beliefs.

There are people in positions of power and influence trying to join church and state. Our president informed the American people and the world that God "told him" to attack Iraq. A man who has the ability to direct the most powerful military on the planet. This is frightening and it is a wake-up call for those who disagree to be vocal and assertive about an opposing view.

It is my opinion that we cannot sit back and say "It is okay that people believe what they do, just as long as it doesn't affect me personally" without even countering their views. That "private" world view doesn't exist anymore, it is a fallacy and one well discussed in the book: "The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life" by Austin Dacey. Well worth the read.

As professor Dawkins has said, "why should scientists tiptoe politely away?" It isn't just scientists, but anyone who opposes the belief in God as an explanation of the origin of the universe and life. If we allow the advancement of religious ideas that forge church and state without any resistance or active movement away from that goal, then we could soon find ourselves living in a legitimate theocracy. I use the word legitimate because if we stay on the present course, the US Constitution will gradually be amended by legitimately elected government officials and judgments favoring laws that will support theistic morals via our courts with a theistically minded judiciary will be implemented. History will be re-written and the America intended by the founding fathers will cease to exist. It is already happening. The "personal freedom" Mr. Shermer wants for himself is being eroded away and becoming more illusive with each day.

If there is no active resistance or opposition, then those who are actively forging a theocracy will just easily gain power to change our country to their liking. In my opinion Mr. Shermer can't afford to be as visible as he is as the head of an organization that by its very nature opposes theistic views based on the fact that there is no evidence to support a God or anything supernatural, and be simultaneously wishy washy (as he was in the debate with D'Souza, which I have mentioned in several other comments on the Dawkins web site).

Michael Shermer obviously isn't as strongly the vocal opponent as Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Shermer is a bright and articulate person, but he doesn't belong in their league. He doesn't seem to CONSISTENTLY behave as though there is any value of taking an active stance based on the evidence. He isn't showing a consistent integrity of his thoughts, beliefs, and actions as head of the Skeptics Society.

One may say, the Skeptics Society isn't an advocacy group in the political sense. I say, perhaps not directly. But religion, which is a primary topic that the Society takes on, has become a political issue. The religious in our country have put it on the table whether we like it or not. In an extreme future, will the existence of the Skeptics Society be illegal one day? Don't laugh, look at the Muslim societies. Might we be on that slippery slope professor Dawkins speaks of? Where moderates support an environment that allow the extremists to gain more power to make a theocracy by simply not doing anything to oppose the movement? I never thought in my wildest expectations that the rise of an American Theocracy would be possible. I was wrong. It is very real.

Yes, yes I know, the skeptic's mind should be open to explore all evidence and welcome discussion with opposing views. As a skeptic, my mind is open and I do welcome discussion, I do welcome a conference of ideas. And, if there was hard evidence for God, I would admit it. I was raised as a theist and I know what it "feels" like to believe that God is real and working in my life. I've had my doubts for a long time. However, George W. Bush and the 9-11 fiasco and all its religious and political fallout was a pivotal force that helped me to wake up to the reality. I chose to let go of those false beliefs. I chose to look at the evidence and make a decision to grasp reality and live in the real world, not in what amounts to a collective fantasy or delusion. I sought out the Skeptics Society precisely to find a group of like minded people who opposed the theistic view of the world as the basis of reality. I wasn't looking for a group of people who support "whatever goes."

Mr. Shermer says:

" It seems that it is perfectly okay for us (the Skeptics Society) to host conferences and debates about science and religion, God's existence, origins, etc. (we've done several of these since we began in 1992, and many issues of Skeptic magazine have been devoted to the topic), but the association with the Templeton Foundation calls everything into suspect. Why? No one seems able to articulate that. Do you think people at the TF call me up to command "thou shalt not take the Lord's name in scientific vain."? Even if they did, don't you realize by now that I'm my own man and call my own shots?"

I will articulate why....because one of the goals of the Templeton Foundation is to legitimize the connection between science and religion. To raise their status and put them on equal terms. It is the same old stance of creationists vs the evolutionists. As though they were two equally valid theories to be discussed. THEY ARE NOT! I don't think legitimizing an organization that supports a fairytale as the explanation of life and the universe is inline with the purpose of the Skeptics Society. I was of the assumption that the view of the Skeptics Society is that they had made the distinction and could move on unless some new and REAL evidence could prove otherwise.

I don't have any problem with the Skeptics Society having theists in for debate. However, the purpose of the debate on the part of the skeptic is to talk about the reality of the natural world and to debunk supernatural ideas and stories embraced by the theists. We base our views on real evidence and facts. We support the scientific process as our guideline because it is based on real evidence that is reviewed, challenged and revised openly. It isn't based on revelation and private subjective experience that we must "take someone's word for." Are we still considering the theists view of reality as equally valid? Is it something we haven't made a clear and mature judgment about with the information we have? I don't think the skeptic is standing on the fence waiting for the big guy in the sky to make an appearance and prove us wrong. About this topic, we are living our lives in the real physical world. Being an empiricist doesn't mean we haven't taken a stance. We don't perpetually hold our breath....keeping such an "open mind" that our mind will fall out in the meantime.

Shermer also states that:

"I simply asked the TF if they could help me out with the travel expenses for the afternoon colloquium speakers on the Big Question topic, and that is all they are doing. In fact, the TF made it clear that they are not sponsoring the Stenger-Ross debate or the morning lectures, as they did not want my event to become their event."

Unfortunately I think Mr. Shermer is kidding himself. I strongly doubt that the general public is going to understand the nuances of what part of the conference was financially underwritten by the Templeton Foundation and what aren't. Unfortunately the masses don't tend to look that close. They don't tend to read the "small print." I am sorry to say that too many function on the "sound bite" mentality. Advertising works by association and playing on assumptions. People pay attention to appearances, whether we like it or not, and I think the Templeton Foundation knows this. It works to their advantage, not the Skeptics Society to have their name on the program and the advertisements for a conference at Cal Tech, one of the worlds prominent and great institutes of science. But, it appears that, since Mr. Shermer doesn't really care one way or another what we collectively believe in the end....why should it matter what the associations do in terms of furthering the credibility of the Templeton Foundation's mission? I would like to remind Mr. Shermer of something I think I heard him say at a Skeptics Society meeting. It was something like this...."Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." The Templeton Foundation is going to associate their own "religious opinions" with the "actual facts" brought to light by the scientific process about the origin of the universe and life supported by the Skeptics Society to gain credibility in the mind of the public.

Mr. Shermer is free to express his opinions and live his life as an agnostic who apparently passively associates with both passionate atheists and passionate theists and everyone with opinions in between. It is nice to be liked by everyone. Most of us have some friends or work with some people who are theists. I have family who are theists. It is hard not to. I live in America, and choose not to live or work in seclusion. However, in his official role as the head of the Skeptics Society, I would challenge Mr. Shermer to be more protective of the Skeptics Society mission and reputation. When the majority of people in the US are theists, and some in very powerful positions who don't think we should have a country that separates church and state on our heals, we can't afford to be so passive. We can't afford to have a Skeptics Society leader who passively hands over the debate to theists, or potentially advances the credibility and influence of their message saying it is fair play or in the name of being open minded. That is a fallacy. The playing field of ideas isn't anywhere near even at this time in history.

Professor Dawkins is an open minded skeptic, yet he has taken an active stance to oppose the proliferation of theism. He sees the belief in God as a shared delusion, and in some cases a dangerous one. I wonder if Mr. Shermer thinks the same?


Sun, 14 Sep 2008 17:11:00 UTC | #234646

Go to: Origins - The BIG Questions: 2008 Skeptics Society Conference

Jayday's Avatar Jump to comment 80 by Jayday

The point I was making about Shermer and the conference in my previous posts is that if the idea of the conference would be to expose theists to a different point of view than they may find in their church, then the opportunity may be lost in Shermer's hands. That is if he continues along the same line of conversation that I witnessed with the debate with D' Souza.

I quite agree that Mr. Shermer dodged the central questions about his association with the Templeton Foundation as the head of the Skeptics Society.


Wed, 10 Sep 2008 05:20:00 UTC | #232118

Go to: Origins - The BIG Questions: 2008 Skeptics Society Conference

Jayday's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Jayday

TThank you Comment #243499 by Tumara Baap for your comment about the Templeton Foundation's involvement with Shermer. I am a Skeptics Society member. Or should I say, when my subscription runs out this Fall I won't renew my membership. If you read some of my "other comments" by Jayday, there are several regarding Michael Shermer's perplexing behavior over the last few months.

Comment #243521 by AfraidToDie

Michael Shermer and Dinesh D' Souza debated this year at Cal Tech in front of a few thousand people. Most of the people attending were theists. I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to hear another point of view via Shermer. To my shock and dismay, Shermer laid down on the mat and just handed D'Souza the debate. I was so surprised because I've heard Shermer speak numerous times in person and have known him to be quite articulate. His display at the debate was embarrassing. I lost a great deal of respect for him that day. I saw a huge change in his behavior that just didn't make sense. If this conference reflects more of the same, the theists aren't likely to hear anything that may make them considers a different perspective. After the D'Souza debate, I am inclined to think Shermer doesn't really care if they are exposed to something different. I would like it if he would respond and explain his intentions.


Sat, 06 Sep 2008 22:16:00 UTC | #230810

Go to: Origins - The BIG Questions: 2008 Skeptics Society Conference

Jayday's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Jayday

I am a Skeptics society member but have grown cool toward the actions of Michael Shermer in the last year. I attended his debate with Dinesh D' Souza at Cal Tech and was shocked at how he appeared to have done an about face and just basically handed D' Souza (which he admits is a good friend) the debate. It was very disheartening. I have more details about the event in my "other comments" section of this website.

After that event and his subsequent association with the Templeton Foundation, I have stopped attending the Skeptics Society lectures on a regular basis. Shermer baffles me. Too bad Professor Dawkins isn't on the panel of lectures for the conference. I think he is uniquely qualified to add to the discussion. However, Professor Dawkins has made it clear that he isn't a fan of the Templeton Foundation. It is possible that he wouldn't want to be involved with the conference because of the topic which brings theology into an equal conversational setting with science. I don't know.


Thu, 04 Sep 2008 05:32:00 UTC | #229736

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