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Comments by Steven Mading

Go to: Scapegoat for Catholic evils?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by Steven Mading

We already have plenty of proof that the cover-up methodology was ordered from higher up the chain of command and in fact goes all the way up to the current pope from just before he became pope (+). I feel the same way about this that I do about that US army private who was prosecuted for the Abu Ghraib abuses - while what she did was horrible, and "I was only following orders" is an insufficient excuse, the guilt from following an order to do evil is lesser than the guilt from giving the order to do evil. It's not a bad thing that she got prosecuted, but it is a bad thing that she got prosecuted instead of the person who authorized it - Donald Rumsfeld.

If person A orders person B to do something evil and person B is in a position of subservience to person A in some big way ( i.e. A is a boss that can fire you or a commanding officer), then my order of preference for convictions is as follows:

Best -> both A and B get in legal trouble.

Good -> A gets in legal trouble but not B.

Bad -> B gets in legal trouble but not A.

Worst -> neither A nor B get in legal trouble.

We're only barely one step above "worst" here. Yes this person is a fall guy.

We already know who the top of the chain of command is who's responsible for ordering this behavior in the organization. He's the guy who likes wearing red shoes and a pointy hat.

(+) I wonder if this has anything to do with why he was selected by the cardinals - be nice to the guy who you know has the most dirt on you.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 13:08:56 UTC | #950157

Go to: Against All Gods

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by Steven Mading

Comment 4 by Kubrick :

Grayling is quite right.

Richard, I seem to recall you claiming that, before Darwin, Intelligent Design was a defensible position. (I hope I'm not distorting your view here; I'm thinking of the passage in "The Blind Watchmaker" in which you suggest that Darwin made it possible to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist.")

I'm sympathetic to this view--after all, Darwin did provide a breathtakingly parsimonious and empirically sound argument for natural selection as the the cause of the illusion of design. Still, I'm tempted to say that even before Darwin, there was a fatal flaw in ID arguments, precisely the one that Grayling foregrounds here. Saying "God did it" does not solve the problem--it merely replaces the original problem with a new (and more insoluble) one. Perhaps this means that we should be careful not to overstate the link between Darwinism and atheism. In other words, even if there weren't a shred of evidence for Darwinian evolution, wouldn't ID remain an illogical and unsatisfying position?

Exactly. Darwin provided a really good additional reason to debunk creationism. But the basic philosophical flaw was there all along before Darwin. It is invalid to explain away complex thing A by inventing a more complex thing B when the only evidence you have for thing B is that invoking its existence means you don't have to say you don't know the cause for thing A. It's ironic that William of Ockham was a monk and wouldn't have realized his rule is a great argument against his own church's core belief.

I'm in awe of people like David Hume and Thomas Paine who worked out that the bible was lying prior to Darwin based only on the inherent flaw mentioned above.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 13:00:12 UTC | #950156

Go to: Teaching science in public schools without stepping around religion

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Steven Mading

Comment 9 by Nordic11 :

Hi jdbilak,

Don't confuse science with philosophy. Teach your students how effective science is when exploring how the universe works but realize the severe limitations science when trying to understand why the universe works. Statements such as "the evolution of the universe is completely random without purpose or meaning" or "the universe has no supernatural elements to it" are philosophical inferences that the scientific method is incapable of supporting or denying. In other words, stick to science in science class and leave naturalism for philosophy class.

Enjoy your day!

"How" asks what are the steps that caused a thing to happen.

"Why" asks what was the intent behind making it happen.

In a world that was not deliberately created by a mind that intended it to have a purpose, there isn't any real difference between "how" and "why". They're the same thing as long as there isn't a sentience behind the actions.

What this means is that as soon as someone comes along trying to claim that the "inability" of science to answer the question "why" the universe is like it is is somehow a deficiency, that person is already presuming, before any evidence is examined, that the universe has an intended purpose by a sentient creator.

The "why" question becomes relevant only after you have some other reason to think there's a sentient creator. It is dishonest to use it as the reason to propose the existence of a sentient creator. Any argument of the form "science is deficient because it can't answer why there's a universe, while religion on the other hand, can" is blatantly deceptive for this reason. The question "why" doesn't become relevant until after you have reason to presume there's a creator.

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 10:10:28 UTC | #949392

Go to: Why is evolution more accepted in Mexico than in the USA?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by Steven Mading

Comment 19 by Stephen of Wimbledon :

Why, if the USA [has] a strong school system, are people there still denying evolution?

There's your problem right there. You assume that because the US is rich it has good schools.

I wouldn't send any child of mine to a US Gov't. funded school for all the tea in China. The US has good private schools, and it would be unfair to say all US Gov't. schools are equally bad - as far as I can tell some even achieve mediocrity.

I am being partisan using old data, and the last time I looked at detailed international comparisons was ten years ago but I heven't seen anything to change my mind either. US schools have consistently scored Low in comparisons of educational attainment at high school.

You are using a bad argument of right-wingers there, in fact the very same ones who usually teach the anti-evolution dogma. The argument utterly ignores one vitally important fact: Private schools are allowed to eject students who perform poorly, while Government schools take all comers and in fact are required to by law. A private school can keep its scores high by being selective about the students it takes in versus the students it refuses. Then liars use the better scores by the students as "evidence" that the school did a better job educating them when in fact the primary reason for the difference in performance was the difference in the kids the school got as its "input" to work with. You can be kicked out of a private school for getting low grades. A government school can only hold you back a year for performing poorly, but then your poor scores still reflect on the pubilc school's record in statistics like the one you quoted.

And you're unwittingly playing right into the tea-bagger fundamentalist's hands by using that argument. Their plan is to say "see, public schools bad, private schools good" as a reason to give less funding to public schools, which then cause them to become worse, which they can use as a reason to give them even less funding, in a downward spiral. The goal? Put education back into the hands of religious institutions instead of it being seen as a public good.

Worse even than merely defunding public schools, is giving that money to private religious schools, in the form of tuition vouchers that are over-valued being given to parents who want to pull their students out of public school and put them in private school. (The argument is that this is money the government would have spent on educating your kid in the public school, so here take that money and use it toward a private one instead. But the vouchers are over-valued so each kid removed thusly from public school removes more money than it actually took to have that kid in the school. Again, the goal is to MAKE public schools shitty so kids no longer have to be educated with the truth and instead can be educated by teaching them the bullshit the church wants to teach.

Worse yet is when these assholes get into power and pass legislation demanding that teachers in the public schools must lie to their children about US history and about biology, thus helping ensure they reach even the kids who aren't pulled out of public school.

My own time in tha States seemed to confirm that many US citizens only really start education when (and if) they go to college.

And the fix is NOT to defund public schooling by repeating the dodgy claim that private schools do a better job when in reality their better scores are just because they can eject students who bring down their scores.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012 05:55:14 UTC | #948823

Go to: Why is evolution more accepted in Mexico than in the USA?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Steven Mading

Comment 7 by Mr DArcy :

Of course we should remember that the RCC only accepts evolution in a very limited way, i.e. guided by God, which amounts to not accepting evolution at all! That's why Darwin's idea was so "dangerous", as Dan Dennett puts it. It did away with the need for God.

Accepting evolution means there was no Adam and Eve, and Genesis becomes allegorical.

And the Catholic Church, ever the masters of doublespeak, try to claim that evolution is true and yet still claim we all inherit original sin from Adam and Eve.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012 05:37:59 UTC | #948822

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Steven Mading

If he wants to do it I won't stop him, but the moment he expects me to participate WITH him then I d have a problem with it, or if he had done it in an official capacity rather than just as a single individual, then I'd have a problem with it.

It all comes down to the very large difference between letting a person have their own personal religious practices versus someone trying to have a group religious practice. The first one is not an intrusion. The second one is.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012 05:33:16 UTC | #948821

Go to: Atheism IS Increasing at the Expense of Theism!

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Steven Mading

The question doesn't make any sense. Of course any increase in atheism will be at the expense of theism. By definition.

Wed, 30 May 2012 22:24:53 UTC | #944642

Go to: So what's the goal with theism?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 196 by Steven Mading

The error in pretending caucasians are the result of albinos breeding with albinos is that there are caucasian albinos and they are nothing like typical caucasians. For the albino hypothesis to make sense there'd have to be no difference between albino caucasians and other caucasians because caucasians would be albinos. Caucasians have coloured hair and coloured irises. Actual albinos have red irises (because you see the blood in them when there's no pigment to cover it up) and white hair.

Wed, 30 May 2012 02:34:30 UTC | #944359

Go to: Dolan: White House is “strangling” Catholic church

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Steven Mading

Comment 7 by Quine :

. I urge all in the USA to stand up to these enemies of reproductive rights and health care, who come forth falsely cloaked in the vestments of religious freedom.

Whaddya mean "falsely"?? I really hate this dishonest meme that says when people do awful things in the name of religion that this is purely "in the name of" religion and not "true" religion. It's not false religion. Its an example of what makes true religion a bad thing. By using this tactic of labeling all such occurrences as "falsely cloaked in" religion, they hope to deflect in one motion all valid criticism of why the very practice of making unevidneced belief in things into a virtue (religion) is a bad thing.

Don't help them by falling into using their terminology for this.

This is NOT an action "falsely cloaked in" religion. Asking for exceptions to the law so you can get away with special privilege IS mainstream religion.

Wed, 23 May 2012 18:43:12 UTC | #943159

Go to: Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Steven Mading

There are several issues theists and atheists can work together on, but "what to do about fundamentalism?" isn't one of them. This is because the real goal of the moderate theists is to disassociate religion from fundamentalism and claim the fundamentalists are not being properly religious, thus absolving religion of blame for fundamentalists, while the real goal of the atheists is to point out that fundamentalism is caused by religion and is the reason religion is dangerous, and that religion needs to be blamed for it if anything is to ever be done about fundamentalism. These are opposed goals. Even if both groups want Fundamentalism to end, they can't work together on it because they can't combine their arguments which are directly opposed to each other.

Imagine two groups who both want to make sure a mass genocide like the holocaust never happens again.

One group takes the strategy of wanting to teach about the truth of the horrible history of how it happened as a warning to people to never let events go in that direction again. The other group takes the strategy of wanting to pretend it never happened and whitewash it from history to keep people from getting the idea of emulating it.

These are NOT groups that could work together toward their goal. This is exactly the position that the moderate theists and the atheists find themselves in with regards to fundamentalists.

Tue, 22 May 2012 17:38:47 UTC | #942884

Go to: Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 50 by Steven Mading

Comment 45 by Saganic Rites :

Comment 13 by xsjadolateralus :

Hitchens laid out why our worldviews are simply irreconcilable, rather than just being in conflict, or struggling to find a better configuration, common ground. No, we are simply opposed. It's like asking if the two football teams competing in the super bowl could work together. .....

Why would they have to? However, if we take your analogy over to real football then the answer is a resounding 'Yes'. Consider the MLS; players from several teams will happily work together for the U.S.A. national team, just as over here the England national squad is made up of players from most of the Premier League teams. Just don't mention Terry and Ferdinand, but that's a side issue with nothing to do with either religion or team loyalty.

Sporting loyalties are not something you try to claim is a foundational bedrock of the universe itself, unless you're insane. That's where the analogy fails.

Tue, 22 May 2012 17:28:16 UTC | #942878

Go to: Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Steven Mading

Comment 21 by casaoui-cool :

Why can't people just let everybodyelse believe in what she/he wanna believe in ?

Because there's this thing called the real world. Perhaps you've heard of it. IT, not us, is the arbitrator of what is true. That is the attitude known as empiricism, and it's directly opposed to religion.

When are we , humans, gonna stop pretending to possess or monopolize the truth ?

When we stop being religious and instead have the humility to realize that the world outside our minds is the actual arbitrator of truth, now how we feel about things. You know - like how science works as opposed to how religion works.

Now stop projecting.

Tue, 22 May 2012 17:25:55 UTC | #942876

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by Steven Mading

The basis of the article is the presumption that religious people actually get their morality from where they CLAIM they get it from. They don't. The entire article is pointless for that reason, not that any of the audience it was intended for will realize this.

Tue, 22 May 2012 17:18:47 UTC | #942873

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 95 by Steven Mading

Comment 72 by ConsciousMind :

Comment 71 by jez999 :

Ugh, this is fucking bullshit. I don't care if the KJB is a great work of literature; would RDF waste valuable funds paying for Shakespeare to be distributed to all kids in the UK? Dawkins' obsession with the KJB is the kind of thing that puts me off donating. I sure wouldn't want to see a penny of my money wasted on Gove's harebrained scheme.

Dawkins want people to read the bible so they can get to know the bad stuff in it, but he forgot the fact that it contains hundreds of pages of good literature. It sounds irrational and a waste to educate people in bible literature for the sake of a few evil pages, and then they have to spend 70% of their time evaluating the good parts too.

Proving you didn't bother to read the article, or you did read it but don't think honesty is a virtue. He explicitly called it good literature, right IN the very article you're talking about. It was the primary thrust of the whole piece. In fact, it could be most correctly summed up with the sentence "it's good literature but not a moral book."

Sun, 20 May 2012 14:53:14 UTC | #942447

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 93 by Steven Mading

Comment 9 by littletrotsky13 :

Decent piece, but was it really necessary to break Godwin's law?:

...especially if they had the misfortune to live in the Promised Lebensraum.

The comment was an absolutely correct interpretation of exactly what the story claims was going on.

Sun, 20 May 2012 14:41:10 UTC | #942444

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 92 by Steven Mading

Comment 1 by MullyROI :

Is the Bible not too R-rated for children of such an age? Just revelations (ignoring the rest) has far more gore and sex then we would allow in childrens' books. I'm all for people reading the Bible to see how ridiculous it is but I hestitate to recommend such schemes as they are clearly attempts to enforce a christian identity, the question is whether or not it will backfire.

EDIT: I should clarify. I feel that the Bible should be available in the school libraries particularly for its historical significance but I feel uneasy about such schemes which are far from endorsing the Bible for historical reasons.

The problem is that when people say "The Bible is an important historical document", that's an ambiguous statement. It might mean:

(A) The stories contained therein had an enormous influence on the history that came afterward.


(B) The stories contained therein are themselves historical truth.

Those are not even remotely close to being the same claim at all. And once you give the fundies an inch, they'll take a mile. If you give the mild concession that the bible influenced history after being written, they take that to mean that you just called the bible a true history.

The bible is, of course not a historical document. The Jews were not Egyptian slaves, for example. When they pushed out their neighbors and took over more land, they were not doing so on a mandate from the creator of the universe, for another example.

The bible is literature, and influenced the history that came afterward. That's not the same thing at all.

Sun, 20 May 2012 14:37:58 UTC | #942443

Go to: Scientific evidence proves why healers see the 'aura' of people

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by Steven Mading

Comment 21 by Alternative Carpark :

Bollocks. I find synæsthesia fascinating, but I doubt most of these clowns have ever even heard of it. And even if they had, I don't think they would like to have their perceived powers written off as a genuine physiological anomaly. Anyway, if this was indeed the case, it could quite easily be tested for. I believe it the Amazing Randi himself who conducted a test to disprove auras.

I have to be pedantic here and point out that all he did was prove that THAT person wasn't able to read auras in the way he claimed. Proving that one individual does not have a power to read auras like they claim to have is a far easier task than proving that auras don't exist period.

That's why the burden of proof has to be the way it is - the person who claims the power has to show it.

Thu, 17 May 2012 21:51:05 UTC | #942100

Go to: Scientific evidence proves why healers see the 'aura' of people

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by Steven Mading

Comment 5 by Ygern :

This is an example of terrible science news reporting, and a major weakness of the current internet-based news infrastructure. It seems that the many news outlets reporting this story are mostly just reprinting one original source – a news report from the University of Granada. Somehow they got the story exactly wrong (erring on the side of sensationalism), and this error has been propagated throughout countless science news outlets and paranormal websites throughout the web. No one, apparently, clicked through to the original article. The article is behind a paywall, but the freely available abstract plainly states the phenomena are not the same.

Yeah, it's bad that they are reporting the finding backward: (The actual findings were that aura readers probably do NOT have synesthesia, while "journalists'" repeating the story claim the study said they probably do.)

But what I find far worse than that is the utter misconception of what synesthesia is when the journalists report this as claiming science has found that auras are a real phenomenon. No you idiot reporters, even if your backward take on the findings wasn't backward, and you were correct that the study found that auras are in fact synesthesia, that still wouldn't mean mean auras are real, you idiot reporters. It would mean that we'd discovered that aura readers aren't a bunch of disgusting liars and really are getting hallucinatory sensory input to their brain that makes them think they're really seeing something that is genuinely there. It would still be a hallucination though - just one that we'd pinned down exactly what brain condition was causing it. Synesthesia is still a form of hallucination - just a very interesting one in that its a case of hallucination caused by the very low level sensory processing beneath the level of conscious and even subconscious thought rather than being the sort of self-caused hallucination that comes from the higher-level brain like happens with schizophrenia or paranoia. It's interesting because it's possible for a synesthesia sufferer to be perfectly sane and normal in every other way other than seeing the crossed sensory inputs.

Patients who know they have synesthesia, know exactly how it presents them with false senses, and know the sensations are not real, still can't stop it from happening even though they know at a purely cognitive level that what they're seeing cannot be true. For example, someone who sees all digit '3's as green might say, "Yes I know that digit '3' isn't really green. I know because I just drew it myself with this black marker. I saw the line being black as I started laying it down, I KNOW it's actually black because I drew it myself... but the moment enough of the figure was completed to make it look like a '3' in my vision, it instantly turned green in front of my very eyes, even though I know that cannot possibly be what it really looks like."

So I could totally believe that a person with synesthesia who didn't know they had it might think they're seeing auras if their condition has connected emotional sensations with visual ones. That's totally believable. THIS particular study didn't show that that was happening, though, and even if it had, there's an enormous difference between "we've pinned down exactly what sort of hallucination this is" and "we've proven auras are real".

Thu, 17 May 2012 21:43:21 UTC | #942098

Go to: Inspirational atheism

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Steven Mading

Comment 3 by All About Meme :

Neil de Grasse Tyson is magnificently charismatic, and would be a sensational speaker for atheism, but that's apparently not the way Dr. Tyson rolls...

Christina Rad explains the unfortunate situation.

Yeah, Tyson is one of those people who, frustratingly, fits the definition of "atheist" but wants no part of the label because they've fallen for the false claim that it requires a greater degree of certainty than it actually does. Basically, Neil would be about a 6 on Richard's 1-7 scale much like Richard himself is, but Neil doesn't want to identify with being an atheist.

Thu, 17 May 2012 05:25:06 UTC | #941974

Go to: More African-Americans leaving religious faiths

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Steven Mading

Comment 1 by dloubet :

Good for them!

I don't know how to phrase this with sensitivity, so I'm just going to blurt it out harshly: It's good to see people finally freeing themselves from slavery. It never made sense to me why an enslaved people would adopt the religion of their slavers in the first place.

As to the "religion of their slavers" comment, it's important to note that there's a lot of misconceptions about the order of events in "Westernizing" black Africans. (I hate that word in this case since Europe is NORTH of Africa, not west of it). People seem to have a misconception that things happened in this order:

Step 1: Slavers take Africans to the Americas.

Step 2: After arriving in the Americas, the African slaves convert to Christianity.

They happened in that order some of the time, but not all the time. A lot of the time it was like this:

Step 1: Missionaries appear in Africa prior to the slavers and start converting natives to Christianity. Remember that Christianity had about 1600 years to reach West Africa before the slave trade "triangle route" started going strong.

Step 2: Slavers start taking Africans to the Americas.

Step 3: The Africans arriving in the Americas are Christians already. They are new to being slaves, but not new to being Christians.

It's also important to note that it didn't take very many decades before it hit the point where the majority of African-American slaves were people who were born in the Americas to slave parents as opposed to being born in Africa and brought to the Americas in the slave trade. The law of exponential growth sort of demands that this happens, as birth rates will always eventually outpace manual relocation rates. These slaves born in the Americas would have far more exposure to Christianity than to the religions of their ancestors. To them Africa is just as foreign as it is to anyone else in the Americas.

Thu, 17 May 2012 05:04:59 UTC | #941972

Go to: Queen 'should remain Defender of the Faith' - BBC poll

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 62 by Steven Mading

The monarchy is hereditary. Religion isn't. Saying the monarch must be an Anglican promotes the blatant lie that one's religion is inherited genetically.

It's a little hard for me to feel sympathy for someone born into such immense undeserved privilege, but I do a little bit, in the sense that they've had their philosophical upbringing twisted by being told that their religion is a matter of national duty.

Thu, 17 May 2012 04:55:34 UTC | #941971

Go to: Want People to Trust Atheists More? Remind Them of Cops and Courts, Says New Study

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Steven Mading

I most emphatically do NOT place authority in cops and courts. They are just as prone to corruption as the propaganda artists who wrote the New Testament, and for exactly the same reason: When there's a story to be sold, truth takes a backseat.

Wed, 16 May 2012 19:30:12 UTC | #941898

Go to: Dawkins Foundation: Innovating for a Secular World. A Call to Action by Sean Faircloth, Madison, WI

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by Steven Mading

Comment 42 by jasonketterer :

I am a web designer in Wisconsin and would like to get in touch with people who are behind this movement. I'm willing to offer up my time to help the cause. If anybody knows how I can get in touch with others interested in the movement in Wisconsin that would be fantastic! Thank you!

I too live in Wisconsin, and have no idea how to get involved. I am not a public person, and have no desire to become one, but I do want to find some way to help.

Tue, 15 May 2012 05:12:40 UTC | #941539

Go to: FFRF announces fund to aid nonbelieving clergy

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Steven Mading

I'm of a bit of a mixed mind on this. On the one hand from a purely tactical point of view this is very useful. Ex-preachers are an excellent bulwark against the "you're only an atheist because you don't understand theology" bullshit like of argument, and getting a preacher to come out can affect more than one person because it can make their "flock" think twice about the next preacher they hear who, on the surface, seems just as certain as the one that lost the faith seemed.

But on the other hand I just don't have as much sympathy for their personal situation as I'm being told I should have. If you've gone through the schooling to be a proper preacher - if you're very well informed about the bible and its history - then your decision to spread the word anyway is more than mere delusion or gullibility - its deliberate deception. Every preacher who studies that evil book and pretends it's all sweetness and light is outright lying to his flock, and does NOT have the excuse of ignorance.

I support this ONLY because of its efficacy, NOT because of any sympathy for those who chose, on purpose, a career of deception.

Sat, 12 May 2012 04:16:09 UTC | #941126

Go to: Today’s example of Christian privilege: Delta Airlines

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Steven Mading

Comment 12 by debaser71 :

I really do not like this writer's writing style. Snarky snark snark college young person speak? It just puts me off.

I agree, That Bill Donahue is a rather immature writer, isn't he? Always taking offense at the tiniest little thing and pretending he's a big shot by pretending one website and one asshole running it constitutes a "league" of some sort.

Thu, 10 May 2012 07:37:24 UTC | #940830

Go to: Indonesian atheist faces long jail sentence for posting "God doesn't exist" on Facebook

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by Steven Mading

Comment 10 by MAJORPAIN :

Jon Stewart had some right wing christian on his show this week and he (the xian) told a story about a little boy being grabbed up by the scruff of his neck by a teacher because he (the little boy) was praying over his lunch.**

He (I think his name was Barton) seemed outraged by this. I couldn't help but think that what he really wants is more like what is happening in this story in Indonesia. People that don't agree with him need to be hauled off to jail. Little kids that don't believe in his god need to be grabbed up by the scruff of the neck. I was very disappointed in Jon's responses and questions of this man. I know he was trying to be funny in some of what he said, but it wasn't funny. These kind of people are dangerous and no one hates America's first amendment and free speech more than these people because it keeps them from doing what has been done Indonesia.

**And, I've since seen some people have posted that this story isn't even true or at least was taken waaaay out of context.

Barton is the forefront of the movement by the Christian right to engage in historical revisionism to pretend the US was intended to be a Christian Nation and that the notion of separation of church and state is some sort of new liberal invention that wasn't originally there. The book he was peddling on the show was a part of this movement - a book lying about Thomas Jefferson. This movement is also behind the attempts to get this bullshit into Texas state curricula which would then mean textbook manufacturers would have to cave in to it in order to be profitable. What the Discovery Institute does to the field of biology, this asshole does to the field of History.

Fri, 04 May 2012 03:58:18 UTC | #939533

Go to: Unbelief in the pews

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 106 by Steven Mading

Comment 66 by Just me :

And that leads me to my question for you folks. Have any of you out there with rational, scientific minded folks felt an unscientifically explainable spiritual occurrance - something that defies the 5 senses? Are any of you closet spiritual people?

I'll make the generous assumption that by "the 5 senses" you simply meant "all the physical senses". (The idea that there' only 5 is quite incorrect - there's sense of time passing, sense of body position ("kinesthetic" I think it's called), and "touch" is actually several separate senses lumped together - pressure, temperature, pain, and so on)

However, if that is what you meant - all the physical senses, not "the 5" senses - then it is by definition impossible to have an experience that defies the senses. Your brain experiences things through the nerve transmissions it receives - the senses.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 13:06:52 UTC | #936455

Go to: Unbelief in the pews

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 105 by Steven Mading

Comment 58 by Red Dog :

Comment 54 by Steven Mading :

Comment 4 by Red Dog :

" I think Jesus was just a really good salesman."

I'm sorry but that is an incredibly ignorant comment...

That's not the reason why it's wrong to say Jesus was just a really good salesman. The reason it's wrong to say it is that the Jesus historians and scholars claim existed is NOT the one the bible is actually describing,

Well yes and no. Certainly the Jesus in the bible is a creation that has limited resemblance to the historical Jesus. As I've said before the authors of the Gospels never met Jesus and wrote their versions of his life decades after the actual events based on 2nd (or Nnd) hand accounts transmitted through word of mouth. Each author had their own agenda, some to convert Jews, some to convert pagans, etc. and they each tailored the story they told to their agenda. Hence we get contradictory details in the different Gospels about basic facts such as where he was born and how his family came to be there.

However, this is not something that "historians and scholars" don't admit.

I never said it was. Please pay closer attention.

Quite the contrary. In the book Jesus Interrupted Bart Ehrman makes it clear that he didn't learn the basic facts I described in the paragraph above in some secret atheist anti-Jesus camp. He learned them when in a Christian seminary studying to be a Christian minister. Its something that virtually all Christian ministers are taught as part of their education. Its something that any serious historian/scholar of the New Testament takes as a given.

The proof that this is false is that so many still go on to believe Christianity anyway. Clearly they gloss over the important consequence of all this - that it means our evidence of the root core belief of Christianity, that Jesus resurrected and really is the son of god, is just as suspect for exactly the same reason. It was written by the same proven liars who tried to make Jesus's life fit other messianic prophecies, so why believe that particular attempt to make him out to be the messiah?

and therefore the alleged actions of this Jesus according to the bible are immediately suspect. There have been enough proven embellishments in the biblical Jesus character that it calls into question everything the bible claims that Jesus did.

Yes, agreed.

It's not Jesus that was the really good salesman - it was his biographers who wrote the New Testament books who were the good salesmen.

Its impossible to know for sure what the actual Jesus said. However to dismiss the fictional Jesus of the New Testament as just "a good salesmen" displays an amazing ignorance of the history of Western Civilization.

Please pay closer attention. I'm not the one that said that. I was refuting that by pointing out that his biographers were the salesmen.

Its at the same intellectual level as fundamentalist Christians who ignore the evidence of evolution. Please don't confuse this statement with an endorsement of religion or Christianity. Its not. Its just that I try to apply the same standards of objectivity to history, literature, etc. as I do to science and engineering.

We have next to no information whatsoever on the historical Jesus, since the only details we have beyond "some guy matching that description definitely existed" ALL come from the suspect unreliable sources that were collected into the New Testament later, who were known to have lied about some of the details, making everything else they wrote about Jesus questionable. Did he really say all those things about the poor, about the sick, about love thy neighbor? His biographers want you to believe he did. That's the only evidence we have.

I think "no information" is a bit extreme. There have been scholars who have researched the Gospels and other relevant texts (e.g. the writings of Jewish historian Josephus, the Gnostic gospels)

The Josephus reference is literally two short paragraphs long. That does tell you next to nothing other than that the biblical character was probably inspired by a real person of the same name.

and have developed various hypothesis as to who the actual Jesus was. I do agree that the best we can do is to come up with plausible hypotheses, nothing close to certain knowledge. Besides Ehrman's writings some of the books I found to be most interesting include the works of Elaine Pagels, the book The Passover Plot (although its a bit far fetched in places) and the book Jesus A Revolutionary Biography. The consensus that I've seen is that Jesus was probably a leader in a Jewish cult known as the Essenes.

However, I don't think it really matters all that much. What parts of Plato's dialogues were actually things Socrates said and what were things Plato made up and had Socrates say? There are different theories there as well but to me the interesting thing in both cases are the actual words and the incredible impact on Western Thought they have had. And I would no more dismiss the Jesus of the new testament as "just a salesman" then I would dismiss the Socrates of Plato's dialogues as just a dirty poof who liked to seduce young boys.

Your analogy is massively flawed because nothing Socrates or Plato said was presented as "this is correct because of who I am who is saying it", while with plenty of the things attributed to Jesus it really IS highly relevant if he was really the one that said it or not. This difference is especially important in the context of the Lord/Lunatic/Liar point to which I was responding in my post that you replied to. The claims about Jesus not being capable of being insane and acting like he did as being proof he was who he said he was are totally dependent on presuming Jesus actually is the one who said what his biographers claimed he said. He might not have been nearly as insane as the quotes attributed to him make him out to be, for example, if he never actually said those things.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 12:55:24 UTC | #936451

Go to: Dear E. O. Wilson: Please retire or stick to ants

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Steven Mading

Doesn't an ant colony all share the same DNA? The workers, the soldiers, the queen - they're all the same genes, and differentiate only based on what they are fed - is that true?

If so, then I don't see what the difference is between group selection and kin selection in an ant colony. They're the same thing. If you're an ant, then your whole group you interact with is the tightest sort of kin you can have - they're your clones.

Could it be that someone who studies ants primarily would mistake kin selection for group selection because of this?

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 21:36:41 UTC | #936356

Go to: Unbelief in the pews

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 55 by Steven Mading

Comment 22 by Nordic11 :

Excellent comments reddog, but I will go one step further. Jesus was either who said he was (God's son), a lunatic, or some type of pathological liar. If you study the gospels carefully, it leaves little wiggle room for Jesus being a "good salesman" or "moral example."This is not my idea, by the way. I know theologist Josh McDowell expanded on this idea in a book he wrote in the 70s, and I do believe either Dawkins or Hitchens also voiced a similar choice.

Or the fourth option - He existed but was misquoted in the books of the New Testament. He existed, but the Jesus we read about and the Jesus that actually existed are not the same at all. Isn't it awfully convenient how people using the lord,lunatic,liar argument speak the assumption "if Jesus existed" when what they really mean is the assumption "if the bible is accurate about Jesus", which is a FAR less likely premise.

Creating a dichotomy and trying to narrow it to one conclusion by eliminating the others is a very tenuous logic path that is wholly dependent on the dichotomy being correct in the first place. It MUST cover all possibilities, and Lord, Lunatic, or Liar does not. It leaves off "Never said what the BIble says he did", and is thus a false dichotomy, which is a massive fallacy.

Accidentally using a fallacy can be simple ignorance or sloppiness. But deliberately using a fallacy is being dishonest. Never use that argument again or you will be identified as a liar.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 21:01:17 UTC | #936115