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Comments by jonjermey

Go to: Atheism: the cheapest alternative?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by jonjermey

"What do you think?"

I think they're going to need a bigger collection plate.

Sat, 21 Jul 2012 01:07:18 UTC | #949702

Go to: UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 114 by jonjermey

The pithiest comment on postmodernism that I know of was made by a headline in a satirical magazine when one of the founding fathers passed away. It read, simply:

                  DERRIDA IS "DEAD"

And I use 'fathers' there deliberately, because there seem to be very few female practitioners of this dark art. I like to think it is because they have more respect for the value of communication.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 11:40:10 UTC | #638365

Go to: Why and when did homosexuality become such an issue?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by jonjermey

Kurt Vonnegut suggests that organizations which want to maintain power must create and enforce some irrational rules. After all, if they simply do what is right and sensible, then one could predict what they would do in any situation and avoid their influence simply by doing what is right and sensible oneself. But in order to instil fear and unreasoning obedience, the authority has to make itself unpredictable: it has to single out harmless behaviours or attitudes, and punish them for no particular reason. Thus the War on Drugs, and many other wars; and thus the various churches' attempts to demonise homosexuality.

By overriding ordinary common sense in deciding what is wrong and right, the church not only increases its power to suppress anything that it decides is 'immoral', it obliges people to consult the church in advance before they do anything at all, in case it infringes on some hitherto-unheard-of but deeply significant arbitrary rule.

Wed, 08 Jun 2011 04:34:53 UTC | #635772

Go to: 17 Year Old - In Need of Some Inspiration

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by jonjermey

My atheist blog is just starting to get traction. It's taken two years. People like Richard who are looked up to in the atheist movement have usually been working away quietly for decades. It takes time and effort: but history is on our side.

Wed, 25 May 2011 07:58:20 UTC | #630631

Go to: Why God cannot be an alien

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by jonjermey

My personal view is that any civilisation much smarter than ours will have realised that attempting to communicate with other solar systems is a waste of time: given the limitation of the speed of light it is always easier, quicker and more energy-efficient to invent something or solve a problem oneself than to try and find someone else who has already done it.

In fact there is a certain intellectual arrogance in thinking that sentient extraterrestrials would be remotely interested in anything we could possibly offer or say to them. The classic science-fiction books, shows and movies are just updated Westerns, with the same premise: there are vast untapped resources 'out there' a few days or weeks away, and we can get there cheaply and exploit them. A more realistic view is that searching for anything useful in space is like looking for a gold coin dropped overboard somewhere in the Atlantic. The investment of time and effort required to find it is grossly disproportionate to the probable return.

Wed, 18 May 2011 22:45:55 UTC | #628210

Go to: Sign on church lawn

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by jonjermey

The most important thing you and all the rest of us can do is be visible. Make your concerns known. This year you might be the only one. Contact (or form) a local atheist group, and next year there might be four of you. The following year there may be ten. Sooner or later the church will get the message.

Most of the unthinking prejudice against atheists comes from people who have never knowingly met one, talked to one, sympathised with one, befriended one. The more visible we make ourselves and our attitudes, the quicker it will go away.

Wed, 06 Apr 2011 22:14:45 UTC | #612756

Go to: Why we will never reach the stars

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by jonjermey

There are far more important obstructions keeping us from the stars: the first being that to get there in less than a million years we would need to use up the entire Earth to provide fuel for our craft. But assuming we can solve the propulsion problem, stellar exploration will either be done by:

a) miniaturised robots with computer brains

b) human clones grown after landing (supervised by robots) from thawed fertilised embryos

Either of these is far more cost-effective than sending fully-grown human beings into space. And robots have the advantage of being far more robust: no air supply, no urine recycling and little or no terraforming would be needed. Their first job would be to set up a transmitter to send data back to us data on everything they see and do.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 23:13:41 UTC | #599194

Go to: Jewish fundamentalist attempt at refuting Dawkins

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by jonjermey

It seems to me that most of the commentators are missing an important point. In view of that I have submitted the following comment:

Most of the responses here seem to have missed the obvious rebuttal: we KNOW how human beings come about. Remember those Sex Education classes? "When a man and a woman who love each other very much...' and so on. So when we encounter a new human being, we don't have to speculate on how he or she got here: we KNOW how he got here -- through the ordinary biological processes of fertilization, embyronic development, birth and growth. Unless the doctors or surgeons have been at him for his appendix or tonsils, he or she is clearly a product of natural processes that have nothing to do with design.

So let's go back to the suit. If you saw a suit plant in a field, and it had some suit buds on it, and a few weeks later they had grown into rompers, and a week or two later they were overalls, and after another week they were dress suits, and a week later they were turning into evening clothes and falling off the plant, would that lead you to think the suits were designed? No, because you can see they weren't designed, they GREW. So the question is not 'who designed the suits' because we can see nobody designed them: it is 'what made the plant grow suits?'. And for real plants and real animals we have a perfectly adequate answer for that: evolution.

Mummy and daddy can't design a human being, but they can create one from the instructions. Evolution -- eventually -- provides the instructions through gradual improvements. Nobody 'designs' anything.

Fri, 11 Feb 2011 10:31:22 UTC | #590815

Go to: Sir Paul Nurse and BBC TV's Horizon programme

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 81 by jonjermey

Even the Telegraph has doubts about Sir Paul.

And James Delingpole recounts how he was stitched up by an interviewer with an agenda:

" Nurse had come posing as an open-minded investigator eager to hear why Climategate had raised legitimate doubts about the reliability of the “consensus” on global warming. Instead, the man I met was a parti-pris bruiser so delighted with his own authority as a proper Nobel-prizewinning scientist that he knew what the truth was already."

Sun, 30 Jan 2011 07:21:21 UTC | #585880

Go to: Sir Paul Nurse and BBC TV's Horizon programme

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by jonjermey

"Why on earth do you think that an article in a financial magazine is the appropriate place to start to investigate a scientific matter?"

Perhaps because the scientific journals which would normally be the proper place for the debate to take place were nobbled by the AGW establishment. How did they do that? Read the 'exonerated' Climategate emails.

Thu, 27 Jan 2011 10:30:25 UTC | #584685

Go to: Sir Paul Nurse and BBC TV's Horizon programme

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by jonjermey

"Jonjeremy can you respond to my post above quoting you?"

Why should I reply to insults? But I will make the point that those who believe there is a 'consensus' among scientists about AGW should ask themselves: "How do I know this? Is it because somebody told me? Can I trust them?" You may find that the reports of consensus are no more reliable than those of AGW itself.

(And just to get back on topic for a moment: note that there is also a 'consensus' among Christians that God exists. Which means precisely nothing in the way of evidence.)

Those who sincerely want to investigate what the AGW 'consensus' consists in can start here:

Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:57:26 UTC | #584525

Go to: Sir Paul Nurse and BBC TV's Horizon programme

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by jonjermey

But wasn't there 4 separate and independent inquiries into "Climategate" with the findings vindicating the UoEA CRU?

The amount of time collectively spent on each enquiry was just long enough for each participant to have a long lunch. The enquiry panels were composed of people from government and private industry bodies with vested interests in supporting AGW. And the 'evidence' that was used to 'exonerate' Phil Jones was requested from, and sourced by, guess who -- Phil Jones!

Whether you believe in AGW or not, it will take you less than five minutes' investigation into the inquiry process to discover that the only thing it reveals is the UK government's contempt for the intellectual capacity of its electors. You can start here:

Wed, 26 Jan 2011 09:05:02 UTC | #584317

Go to: Sir Paul Nurse and BBC TV's Horizon programme

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by jonjermey

It always astonishes me how people who advocate applying scepticism and rational thought to religion are so eager to swallow the AGW alarmist narrative without even blinking. We have two more or less well-established facts: the global temperature rose from about 1970 to 1998, and has remained high; and CO2 emissions levels rose during that period. Nobody denies these: so save your straw-man attacks for a moment. The sole 'evidence' connecting these two events, however, is a set of computer models which not only have trouble predicting temperatures in the next year, but -- much more seriously -- are unable to retrodict the temperatures that we know we have had in the past. Belief in AGW, then, is a little bit like believing that Jesus raised Lazarus, while acknowledging that Lazarus is still dead.

So to all readers who are prepared to genuinely question their beliefs, I suggest that you take a critical look at the most popular and widely-read climate science blog, Watts Up With That. If after a month or so of reading the entries and the discussion, you still support AGW, fine: at least you are making an informed choice. If you can't be bothered, and merely want to be rude about a position that you for some reason regard as 'right-wing' or 'anti-science', then go ahead: we have heard it all before anyway.

To paraphrase Stephen Roberts -- "When you understand why you dismiss homeopathy, you will understand why I dismiss AGW."

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 20:41:01 UTC | #584084

Go to: Turing vs God

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by jonjermey

Daniel Dennett's take on the Turing Test -- which I think is the correct one -- is that it doesn't attempt to answer the question of whether machines can be intelligent: it just renders it vacuous. Suppose you discovered one day that your best friend was a robot, though even they didn't know it. Would you immediately radically change your behaviour towards them, and if so why? Or would you think: 'I guess robots have feelings, then'?

Turing's (and Dennett's) point is a pragmatic one: if it makes sense to treat an entity as a conscious intelligent entity then we will do so. What we choose to call it is trivial and irrelevant. It's like asking 'Does your watch really know what time it is?'

With regards to the argument about God, I would like to pose a counter-question: if absence of evidence is not proof of non-existence, then what is? I don't see that there is any other way of proving that anything doesn't exist -- God, leprechauns, the Prime Minister's integrity -- other than showing that there is no evidence of its existence. If anyone has another method I would be delighted to hear it, but until I do I will go on assuming that absence of evidence is proof of absence. How else could you prove it?

Tue, 28 Dec 2010 21:06:33 UTC | #569850

Go to: Sympathy for the Bishop! (Well, a bit.)

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by jonjermey

A Bishop in touch with reality! How dare he!

Wed, 24 Nov 2010 01:59:08 UTC | #552335

Go to: Human evolution 'has stopped' - Jones

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by jonjermey

Human evolution will stop only when people select their sexual partners at random. I don't expect that to happen for a good while yet.

Mon, 08 Nov 2010 20:00:50 UTC | #544277

Go to: Parallels between atheism and feminism?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by jonjermey

I think the 'first wave' of atheists can be identified as the accommodationists, who think if we're really nice to theists and don't ruffle their feathers, they might one day eventually come around to giving us some meagre proportion of the same rights and privileges that they now extend to anyone who is prepared to embrace irrationality out loud.

Fri, 22 Oct 2010 05:38:57 UTC | #537058

Go to: Ridicule Corner?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 115 by jonjermey

My favourite is the atheist who promises to look after the pets of fundamentalist Christians when they are taken to Heaven in the Rapture -- for a retainer, of course:

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:20:19 UTC | #536506

Go to: No religious test for office...

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by jonjermey

Interviewers will only stop asking questions about a candidate's faith when voters stop using that faith as a guide to how to vote. And that will only happen if voters learn that a candidate's faith is a poor guide to their performance in office. Is it really irrelevant? Not to me; other things being equal I would vote for an atheist over a theist every time, because they have demonstrated an ability to analyse and reject bullshit. So information about a candidate's religious beliefs are of importance to me.

The problem here, as usual, is not with the candidates or the media but with that part of the public who see a profession of religious faith as a plus rather than a minus. And the only solution I can see is to go on educating people, ridiculing religion, and publicising atheism. You can't simply decree that people should be kept from hearing information that is relevant to their voting choice, no matter how misguided that choice may be. That's not what democracy is about.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 20:27:26 UTC | #536447

Go to: Agnostic angst - my last hurdle towards atheism

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by jonjermey

It depends what you mean by meaning. Presumably you go to work, do your best there, come home, spend time with your loved ones, eat good food, drink good wine and generally try to enjoy yourself? Then what could possibly be more important to you personally than your own happiness and the happiness of those around you? Isn't that enough?

If it's not then perhaps you should broaden your horizons. Volunteer to help others. Chip in with community projects. Do whatever you think is necessary to help the planet. There are seven billion other people out there and most of them could do with an assist from time to time. Is that not big enough for you? Why not? What on earth leads you to believe that you are entitled to anything else?

The demand for 'meaning' in the universe may sound humble, but -- like most theism -- it actually represents an act of monstrous hubris and huge intellectual arrogance. You want the whole universe to cater to your emotional need for closure? Man, what a mismatch! The universe doesn't give a hoot about you. It is what it is. Get over it.

Whenever I hear a plea for 'meaning' I see a pathetic little ego desperately trying to reassure itself that it's important. Really! I am! Really truly!

Sun, 17 Oct 2010 20:04:43 UTC | #534628

Go to: Igtheism and Ig-belief

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by jonjermey

Sorry, Steve -- I just don't think there's anything remotely interesting or surprising about the fact that a false belief is also internally inconsistent. After all, it's much easier to invent inconsistent beliefs than consistent ones: in fact, I suspect this is the default procedure. To come up with a consistent belief -- even a false one -- requires hard work and thought; to come up with an inconsistent one all that's required is a little wishful thinking.

I suspect that if we examine Freudianism, Marxism, neo-liberalism, climate change alarmism and pretty much any widespread dogma -- yes, perhaps even some varieties of atheism -- we will find inconsistencies; perhaps not as glaring as those in religious belief, but there nonetheless.

What's important to me is that I reject those beliefs because they are false: exactly why they are false is secondary.

Tue, 12 Oct 2010 19:56:18 UTC | #532610

Go to: Bioelectric Photography - Real Science or Pseudoscience?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by jonjermey

'Energy' is a fundamental concept of comic-book science. Half the super-heroes in the fictional universe fight their battles by somehow emitting some unidentified 'energy' which they have generated and stored in some unidentified way. This 'energy' can push things around, heat them up, cool them down, electrify them, change people's minds and light up the environment, among many other things. It's a nonsensical concept, but it's thoroughly rooted in folklore.

Perhaps your Russian scientist is just a superhero in disguise.

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 22:23:27 UTC | #526438

Go to: [UPDATE]Family conflict: Catholic vs Atheist

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by jonjermey

Some good replies here. My instinct would be to attack the logic of the letter and ask: "Do you really think a good God would condemn our innocent babies to hell just because their parents failed to baptise them? What kind of monster would do that?"

Tue, 14 Sep 2010 21:05:43 UTC | #517956

Go to: "Everything happens for a reason"

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by jonjermey

If they are bright enough, and you really want to pursue this, you could say something like:

"You agree that there's no point having a discussion unless each side has a chance of influencing the other, right? So to keep our discussion going, tell me: what kind of evidence would I have to provide to make you change your mind? You don't have to be specific -- just indicate the kind of facts I would need to supply in order to make you consider the falsehood of your position."

If they can't or won't, or their 'facts' are impossible to obtain, then you exit with dignity. Otherwise you provide those facts.

Updated: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 20:59:21 UTC | #496391

Go to: Spotting fallacies

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by jonjermey

You could point out that the existence of God can be disproved to the highest standards used in any court of law anywhere, and to the highest standards imposed by any scientific laboratory, and ask him why this one proposition should require any higher standard of proof than those which we use every day to build bridges, fly planes, or sentence people to life imprisonment.

And you could read what I have written at

Sun, 01 Aug 2010 04:13:08 UTC | #494713

Go to: Why we don't see transitional organisms today

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by jonjermey

Because you can only tell if an organism is 'transitional' when you have two endpoints. But in the present we only have one endpoint, now. It's like standing by the road in Sydney and saying 'I can't see any cars that are halfway to Melbourne!' Sure you can; just go halfway to Melbourne and you'll see lots of them. But we can't move forward in time the way we can move around in space. In a million years we will know which of the species around today were transitional and which were not, but we can't tell now because we don't know what they are transitioning to.

Sun, 01 Aug 2010 04:06:46 UTC | #494712

Go to: Sometimes you just have to be a "dick"

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 44 by jonjermey

Comment 42 by Letsbereasonable :

Comment 39 by jonjermey

I beg to differ.

The "interchanges between theists and atheists as one-on-one private debates" are far from private since this site is open to all with access to the internet. In fact I submit that a theist would more likely peruse this site than attened, for example, a Dawkins live debate. How would a theist in the Philipines get to a Dawkins live debate?

If fence-sitting theists (the standard deviation of the Christian populace, I would think) can see the logic intelligently played out at their convenience and leisure on this site and, hopefully, be 'converted', as you inclined yourself to non-interest, then I think that would be a good thing. Do you not think so?

I think you have misunderstood me. I would certainly regard debates in this forum and any other substantially open forum as 'public'.

But I think if all the atheists on this and other forums counted up the number of deconversions to atheism that have occurred in people we are debating with, as a direct result of those arguments, the number would be vanishingly small. The human mind just doesn't work that way.

People change their beliefs because:

i) They get hurt or traumatised because of the old beliefs

ii) They see someone close to them get hurt or traumatised

iii) The people they hang around with start to change their beliefs

iv) They start to hang around with new people who have different beliefs

v) (Rarely) they need to rethink their beliefs in order to attain a desired goal (as in a devout Communist who wants to emigrate to the USA)

Direct argument is a very poor way of changing beliefs unless it gets really traumatising, in which case people will usually withdraw anyway. But by joining in debates, and prosecuting them vigorously, atheists help to draw attention to factors influencing reasons iii) and iv) -- there are more of us here all the time, we are not going to go away, and we have some cool arguments.

Recently in Sydney a devout Christian who made some hateful comments about Muslims and atheists was dropped by his party from running as an electoral candidate. This is the kind of thing that changes minds. And the louder and more vocal atheists become, the more often it will happen.

Updated: Sun, 25 Jul 2010 04:29:28 UTC | #492659

Go to: Sometimes you just have to be a "dick"

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by jonjermey

Most of the comments here seem to regard interchanges between theists and atheists as one-on-one private debates: and I guess if you want to engage in debates like that it's appropriate to do so in a civilised and friendly way. But debates like that are very unlikely to achieve anything anyway.

Debates in public, on the other hand, have an audience that can be wide and varied, from many different backgrounds and holding many different beliefs. If you are genuinely interested in putting your point of view before an audience then you will use any and every method in the book to do so, because you don't know in advance what method will work with any given audience member.

I don't debate theists to convert them: I debate them to show the audience how ill-founded their beliefs and assertions are, and the kind of nonsense that they lead to. In other words I do my opponents the compliment of believing that they mean what they say and understand the implications of it. Anyone who deliberately steps into a public debate deserves nothing less.

If theists or observers don't like it then they can stay out of the debates. Others will draw their own conclusions from that too.

Updated: Sun, 25 Jul 2010 04:00:42 UTC | #492649

Go to: Natural Selection and Humans, now over with?

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by jonjermey

Human evolution will stop when women stop finding some men more attractive than others, and men stop finding some women more attractive than others.

We have a long way to go!

Thu, 22 Jul 2010 23:36:26 UTC | #491768

Go to: William james

jonjermey's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by jonjermey

The fact that I have a feeling of awe is not evidence for anything other than the fact that I have a feeling of awe. But you could probably put forward a plausible evolutionary explanation for it, along the lines that the feeling of awe is acting as a 'memory stimulant' to help you remember this place and find your way back to it (or perhaps in the case of a vast desert, avoid it). Once we developed the capacity to associate awe with internal mental states as well, we started to get a kick from things like scientific discoveries and great novels too. Religion is just an unfortunate by-product.

Updated: Wed, 14 Jul 2010 21:07:32 UTC | #488768