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Comments by Mark Jones

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 140 by Mark Jones

Comment 137 by Steve Zara

Ah yes, but what I am saying is not to do with matter, it's to do with information. The mental properties you mention are simply impossible. This isn't 'matter prejudice', but based on a relatively simple argument relating to knowledge:

Yes, to re-iterate; I'm not accusing you of matter-ism in your arguments, just that it exists. As you know, I'm familiar with your arguments on this, and find them pretty persuasive. However, I read the panpsychism article at SEP and decided it's beyond my pay grade until I've studied some more!

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 15:37:54 UTC | #949578

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 135 by Mark Jones

Comment 126 by Steve Zara

As Galen Strawson points out, we have no evidence that raw matter is incapable inherently of experience:

But we do have that evidence!

Yes, sorry, as I said later in my comment, I think there is evidence that raw matter is not inherently capable of experience, so I should have made it clearer this was a statement by Strawson, not me. Nevertheless, his 'anti-materialism' point stands: that many people let their prejudice against raw matter dictate the problem.

However, if experience is some attribute of raw matter, it's the wrong kind of thing to have an effect on physical brains.

Yes, that problem does suggest that such an explanation for experience would render it epiphenomenal. But I've never seen the real issue with mental features not having an effect, if the corresponding physics does the affecting. As Bernard Hurley points out, the big difficulty with epiphenomenalism is: how the hell did it evolve?!

(To consider just one situation, if experience was such an attribute, it would not be possible to explain how we managed to achieve unconscious states, because the amount of experiencing could not change if it was such an attribute) Such an attribute would be a sort of universal field, like an electrical charge. For us to have information about it in our brains something would have to happen like the field fluctuating. But that doesn't work because if there was some extra field on that scale that would in fluence brain cell activity we would have seen it, easily.

I don't think it need be an extra field, but an existing well documented feature of matter that just happens to deliver experience in certain environments or circumstances. That could explain loss of consciousness, for example. He's not arguing that rocks have experience, for example. Just that the matter in them is capable of experience. SEP touches on this issue in its article on panpsychism:

This reply, so far as it goes, can also serve to deflect another objection, which is that the mental attributes assigned to the fundamental physical entities by the panpsychist must lack all causal efficacy, that is be entirely epiphenomenal, since the physical world, as described by physics, is causally closed...The dispositional aspect of the properties of remote connectedness via informational states that we have been discussing are a part of basic physics but the panpsychist may urge that they also represent the primitive consciousness of the basic entities involved in these interactions. Physics has described them in the physical terms appropriate for physical theory, that is, purely in terms of their dispositions to interact with other physical entities in certain ways; this does not preclude their being mental properties.

So I think the suggestion is we are already well aware of the physics (there's nothing undiscovered physically) but something about it also makes it what we think of as 'mental'. If you think that not being able to preclude mental properties of the known physics is not very persuasive, I tend to agree, but it's important not to counter it with 'matter-ism'!

Although the arguments are quite subtle, I think it's clear that this kind of panpsychism just cannot work. It's simply the wrong kind of thing needed to explain awareness.

Yes, I think Strawson is almost certainly wrong in what he's saying, but undoubtedly right on the prejudice.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:34:18 UTC | #949573

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by Mark Jones

Comment 121 by Zeuglodon

Steve Zara was the one who persuaded me that physicalism, to be more precise, was a credible base. Not in the logical positivism sense of being exclusive (if I can't detect it, it doesn't exist, or "absence of evidence is evidence of absence"), but more in the sense that, if you can't provide evidence for something, you default to the null hypothesis in practice.

I think this is an important point; that materialism is simply a description of what we have evidence for at the moment. There are presumably any number of 'othernesses' that could exist, but we need some evidence for them. If, for some reason, the only evidence we can get is of matter, then that's hardly the fault of materialists, is it? We're simply not in a position to acknowledge the existence of anything else - how is that dogmatic? But if we can get evidence for something other than matter, well, great; we can all take a look.

I think it's also worth pointing out that there is an inherent anti-materialist dogma implicit in many of these discussions. As Galen Strawson points out, we have no evidence that raw matter is incapable inherently of experience:

The puzzlement remains - the deep puzzlement one still feels, as a beginner in materialism, when one considers experiential properties and non-experiential properties and grants that they are equally part of physical reality. The puzzlement is legitimate in [a way]: it is legitimate insofar as we have no positive understanding of how the two sorts of properties connect up. But it is completely illegitimate if it contains any trace of the thought "How can consciousness be physical, given what we know about what matter is like?" If one thinks this then one is, in Russell's words, "guilty, unconsciously and in spite of explicit disavowals, of a confusion in one's imaginative picture of matter" (1927a: 382). One thinks one knows more about the nature of matter-of the non-experiential-than one does. This is the fundamental error.

In this discussion of panpsychism, he calls this 'seemingly strange view', that all particles have the capacity to experience, a simpler explanation than what we've come up with so far:

Why have we simply assumed that the physical is in its fundamental nature non experiential, what is the evidence for that idea? The answer (because it's mathematically precise) is zero evidence, for the existence of non-experiential reality anywhere in the universe, so why simply assume that the fundamental things are non-experiential and then cause this huge problem for yourself, which is the problem of, how do I get the experiential from the non-experiential. Much simpler, simply to suppose that there is experientiality already there right at the bottom of things.

To make the assumption, he goes on, that matter is non-experiential is 'pure prejudice'. Well, he has a point, even if I find it intuitively hard to take panpsychism seriously! To be clear, I find functionalism more plausible based on, for example, gaps in our own experience (so I'm not sure about Strawson's 'zero evidence' claim), but I think it's worth pointing out this prejudice against matter.

So maybe we should start calling those who suggest that matter cannot explain intention, awareness and so on, matter-ists.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 10:07:06 UTC | #949556

Go to: Dawkins calls for 'Catholic' honesty

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Mark Jones

To be honest, the more I speak to theists, the more I think they are defined by their lack of doctrinal rigour. Oh yeah, I say to them, you don't believe in the tenets of your church; yeah, that's what sort of makes you a theist, I guess. You are a freethinker in another sense; because church dogma is, by definition, unjustified, you don't feel the need to justify your own beliefs.

Just like atheists, they see no reason to believe everything their leaders say is true, but instead of rejecting it all, they take what they want. No doubt some of their choices are evidence based, but sadly not all. One could say their zealotry is defined by how much they use evidence and reason.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 23:26:12 UTC | #946463

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 194 by Mark Jones

Comment 192 by Akaei

+1

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:10:13 UTC | #946080

Go to: Evolution skeptics will soon be silenced by science: Richard Leakey

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by Mark Jones

Comment 73 by cholsy

On the basis of what I've learnt, I believe in mutual respect, love to conquer evil, truth (believe it or not), taking care of our planet, of treating others better than you would yourself, of peace not war, of a clear purpose to life and of a creator who hates to see us suffer and won't for much longer...I believe the universe is very old, as is the earth...and that the bible is an amazing book, once you clear the air and start to put the pieces together.

It's a shame that your idea of mutual respect doesn't extend to explaining why anyone should take any notice of the book you like so much, considering how much suffering it has caused, and continues to cause.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 14:30:14 UTC | #944978

Go to: Evolution skeptics will soon be silenced by science: Richard Leakey

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by Mark Jones

Comment 56 by bronze

THE EVIDENCE HAS BEEN THERE LONG ENOUGH FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR PAST. LET THEM WALLOW IN THEIR PRETENTIOUS FAIRY TAIL WORLD,WHO CARES.?

Point of order: fairies are usually depicted without tails.

Wed, 30 May 2012 21:40:48 UTC | #944629

Go to: Evolution skeptics will soon be silenced by science: Richard Leakey

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by Mark Jones

Comment 52 by cholsy

I think your comment is off topic, unless you can explain how it relates to how science will come to silence evolution sceptics?

Wed, 30 May 2012 14:35:06 UTC | #944515

Go to: Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Mark Jones

Comment 32 by Cartomancer

+1

Wed, 30 May 2012 11:37:28 UTC | #944454

Go to: We asked "Do you really believe ___" and they said yes. Now what?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 618 by Mark Jones

Comment 615 by Shrommer

My whole point about the radishes and susanlatimer's response "Who could have seen that coming?", is that if nobody could have seen that coming and the person ate something that killed them, the person was still being reasonable in eating it. This is in contrast to susanlatimer's definition of "reasonable" as only in cases where something is known to be true as the quantifiable conclusion of a test.

Reasonable doesn't equate to truth. People know that (see Hume's Indian Prince). The question is, why would you go against what is reasonable? The Indian Prince is behaving reasonably; a theist isn't, even if she's right.

The only 'reason' to go against reason is arbitrary. Why be arbitrary?

Sun, 27 May 2012 00:25:52 UTC | #943735

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 226 by Mark Jones

Comment 222 by Less Entropy

I am suggesting that one mechanism underlies all psychology - the hierarchy centre. Yes, a big claim and one that I have to be prepared to see demolished according to the good Mr. Popper. However, so far, the facts fit, as far as I can see.

No-one cares what you are suggesting. People only care what the evidence suggests. Please grow up.

Sat, 26 May 2012 23:47:35 UTC | #943728

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 149 by Mark Jones

Comment 148 by Less Entropy

As with inclusive fitness there is a mass of observed phenomena that my theory explains.

Have you understood nothing I've written?

If you can pull my logic apart, or point out the step at which you think it fails, then I would be most grateful.

But your arguments are terrible; I pointed out one such in comment 49, to which you offered a terrible response. It would take me a long time to go through all your faulty logic, which, since you are not willing to present any evidence, would be a waste of time, as I've explained. You haven't even presented a formal argument throughout all your comments. Nevertheless, I've been charitable and allowed that you could just be poor at expressing your arguments, and asked you to support your comments. Your refusal to offer any evidence, even though I've patiently explained the reasons for the request, lead me to conclude that you are being deliberately obtuse.

I will leave you to it, since that sort of behaviour I consider trolling.

I don't think Sloan Wilson has anything like my default theory - although I gave it to him many years ago. Perhaps, he has re-invented it, I do know, I'd better have a look.

*shakes head*

Sat, 19 May 2012 18:03:11 UTC | #942303

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 146 by Mark Jones

Comment 144 by Less Entropy

So, I would suggest that the higher intelligence isn't what gives rise to the opportunity to make the error of religious belief, but that the capacity to live for 'law' rather than a fist is essentially what religion is and that once this was part of our nature we were able to go big. I am further suggesting that this 'submission to law' can only operate bi-modally, by a default mode and a converted mode, as being law-abiding, regardless of the social environment is clearly not an ESS. It only pays when there is a convincing group to join but then pays big-time.

Yes, I'm happy to hear all your suggestions and you make a lot of them and, for all I know, you may be right. But you don't seem to be reading my comments and inwardly digesting them. Until you start presenting evidence for your suggestions you are wasting everyone's time, including your own. But you should really submit your own article, since this is getting off topic!

Your ESS approach appears to be something like David Sloan Wilson's. Coincidentally, he seems to favour attacking other atheists rather than concentrating on his own work.

Sat, 19 May 2012 16:09:58 UTC | #942297

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 136 by Mark Jones

Comment 134 by Less Entropy

These discussions are certainly not a waste of time for me as there is nothing like having to defend your corner in the dialectic in order to sharpen up your game - and stimulate fresh thought. As for you, if you can see a glimmer of truth in what I say then the dialectic should chip away the misconceptions and reveal whether that glimmer was fool's gold or otherwise.

Talking is often valuable. Ideas are often good. The first step in the scientific process is often the inspired guess. But the facts around us are potentially explained by an infinite number of actual explanations. So everyone on the planet could have a different logically possible explanation of how reality is. How do we decide between them? I could see a plausible explanation in what you say, but how could I see a 'glimmer of truth'? What would be persuasive?

Well, I'm sure you know where I'm going again with this. The Dunbar article is the first link you've included (I think; maybe because you're not familiar with the combox functions - you can hover over the buttons on the WMD toolbar above the combox for tips, or highlight text and use the buttons directly. Sadly the WMD website appears to have disappeared). Thanks for that link, it's interesting, but it's just a short discussion piece, not a study, with no supporting links itself, as far as I can see. Pascal Boyer discusses some of the problems of treating 'religion' as a homogeneous thing in Religion Explained, as you no doubt are aware. In this article, he also discusses the problem, despite having written a book with that word in the title!

Studying "religion" in the spirit- or god- or ancestor-related stuff that is found before and outside religious institutions is like studying "sport" in a place where there is no such concept. One can certainly find that the people in that place sometimes do strenuous physical activities, that at other times they compete in achieving difficult tasks, that they laughingly throw objects at each other, that they often support their lineage against others... But there is no single time and place where people compete in playful strenuous and difficult physical tasks and others watch and support one of the competing sides. "Sport" is one of these institutions that some human groups have and others do without.

Boyer's observations are a bit of a stumbling block to anyone who wants to assign a selection advantage to 'religion', don't you think? How do you know that any apparent advantage you see in adopting some 'religion' isn't down to advantages conferred by underlying human traits that are not necessarily instantiated by 'religion'? Was our ancestral environment not 200,000 years ago? In which case, what 'religion' was conferring a selection advantage then?

Of course, Boyer may be wrong. Guess what you would need to show that he is?

For further discussion, see this piece by biologist Jerry Coyne.

Sat, 19 May 2012 10:05:20 UTC | #942277

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 120 by Mark Jones

Comment 115 by Less Entropy

Thanks for this background. To quote other comments, just put a > sign on the line at the start of the quote.

No offence intended, but we do occasionally get well-travelled old timers whose ideas have long been debunked or superseded, but who like to cling to them still. As a non-expert, I'm just trying to ensure you're not one of them!

"Mark Jones - Why neglect to confirm your hypothesis?"

Actually I said "...it seems unlikely you've neglected the opportunity to confirm your hypothesis...", but I take it from your answer that you have not confirmed your hypothesis, which is a shame.

In the light of your story, I think, to be fair to other commenters who have engaged with you, you should give links to your website and, if possible, reveal your name. The problem is, you are making unevidenced assertions, some vaguely plausible, some wild, and there is a possibility you are simply wasting everyone's time. I hope you understand my concerns, which appear to be shared by your wife!

Fri, 18 May 2012 00:46:39 UTC | #942119

Go to: "Our Lady of Sorrows (Ariz.) baseball team forfeits state title rather than play against team with a girl"

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by Mark Jones

Comment 66 by Quine

LOL. I asked them if they would approve of condom use if they were 100% effective. They never liked that little thought experiment. Mustn't go all 'chat room', however.

Wed, 16 May 2012 23:41:25 UTC | #941940

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 112 by Mark Jones

Comment 106 by Less Entropy

But I get ahead of myself, I haven't managed to persuade you that my hypothesis that we are religious apes is correct.

You have a hypothesis. On the face of it, as others have pointed out, it's full of holes and hard to believe; but then on the face of it, quantum nonlocality is pretty strange and hard to believe. However, nonlocality is borne out by experiment. So, similarly, your idea may appear implausible but experiment and evidence may confirm it. Since you're a scientist, or, at least, a science teacher, you understand how important it is to confirm your hypothesis.

I note that you said in an earlier comment that you were the first (in 1994, on the internet - an odd qualifier!) to say 'that religion gives selective advantage to groups of humans and that that is why we have religion - religion is hard-wired', so it seems unlikely you've neglected the opportunity to confirm your hypothesis for all this time. Atran, Boyer and others have been beavering away on a natural history of religion, as you are no doubt aware, so you must have made your ideas known in similar academic circles? You've had it peer-reviewed to iron out any problems? Enough to turn it into a theory? If so, it would be helpful to link to your papers for us to get a more rounded, less 'holey', picture of your ideas.

Wed, 16 May 2012 23:14:07 UTC | #941936

Go to: "Our Lady of Sorrows (Ariz.) baseball team forfeits state title rather than play against team with a girl"

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 61 by Mark Jones

Comment 59 by mmurray

Michael, thanks (!) for reminding me of Catlick Truth. I notice their 'editor' restarted their blog, after pausing it because they got fed up with some of us challenging them on miracles and Catholic teaching. Here's what they said a while back:

Sadly, though, we have a regular group of users who dislike us, coming on to argue for the sake of argument. They appear to seek to disrupt our debates. This, as one priest said to me recently, is a sure sign of “success”. They know it’s end-game time. And we’re on the winning side. Maddening for them.

'End-game time'! They make such daft comments. Here's an example thread where a number of us 'debated' their much loved regulars. Russell's Teapot (remember her) doing a sterling job amongst others, Quine included.

As one small recent example of their bigotry, take a look at this hate filled monologue on Stephen Gately's funeral:

Nobody seems to be expressing any surprise at all that Father Declan Blake condoned the homosexual lifestyle during a Mass and effectively canonised Mr Gately, publicly acknowledging his civil partnership, with approval. This is a very grave matter. For by our silence, we are complicit in the sin of another. A Church packed with celebrities, many of them living the same “gay” lifestyle, were betrayed: instead of hearing Catholic teaching expounded, they heard a priest reinforcing their erroneous beliefs about life, God and the nature of The Judgement which we will all have to face one day. Given that Stephen Gately had excommunicated himself by rejecting Catholic teaching on God’s moral law, there should not have been a Catholic funeral anyway. Now, shockingly, we are faced with the public scandal of an excommunicate receiving a funeral-cum-canonisation in a Catholic Church by a priest who has displayed a schismatic mentality. He has failed to uphold Catholic teaching on homosexuality and more, he has publicly approved this sin in the very presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Wed, 16 May 2012 09:57:40 UTC | #941794

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

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Mark Jones

The poll was run by Comres for the BBC, so I don't think 'poll rig' is a fair comment, although the questions asked are always relevant to the response. In this case the question is, I think:

The Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and is described as the Defender of the Faith, a title which goes back to the time of Henry VIII (the 8th). Prince Charles has suggested that if he becomes King, the title should be changed to Defender of Faith, implying he would see the role relating to all religious faith groups. Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements about this?

The statements are:

The Queen and future Monarchs should keep the titles of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. (73% agree)

The Queen and future Monarchs should not have any faith role or title at all. (25% agree)

If Prince Charles becomes King, his title should become Defender of Faith as he has suggested. (50% agree)

The Queen still has an important faith role. (79% agree)

Note the inconsistency between the answers to statement 1 and statement 3, suggesting a fair amount of confusion. There looks to be a fair proportion who are simply agreeing with the statements, without understanding them.

Not unsurprising results, given the level of sympathy still afforded religion in the UK, culturally if not in practice. In fact, I would say that the 25% agreement with statement 2 is encouraging (if respondents understood what was being asked - see above!).

Tue, 15 May 2012 11:36:42 UTC | #941568

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by Mark Jones

Comment 50 by Less Entropy

Mark: Mathematics is ever present.

Well, I asked you to present more plausible premises and conclusion so we could examine your argument in detail. Obviously, that you think mathematics is ever present (which is not what you said in the quote I cited) does not improve the argument I've drawn from your words. Just delete the word 'near' from the premises, and you will see what I mean. So you need to present a plausible argument to be taken seriously.

Sat, 12 May 2012 09:31:29 UTC | #941161

Go to: God and logic: help with theist conversations

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Mark Jones

Comment 46 by Less Entropy

Now, by the same token, tell me how you can dismiss God because of a failure of the physical existence clause - bearing in mind that mathematics exists because of the service it pays us and that religion has a similarly near ubiquitous existence because of the service it pays?

On the face of it, this is a pretty terrible argument. It appears to be:

P1 Anything that has paid near ever present service to humans exists

P2 God has paid near ever present service to humans

C Therefore, God exists

Well, obviously this is a valid argument, but it's not sound; neither premise appears to be grounded in fact, so I doubt it would convince any but the most credulous. One of the premises appears to suggest that god isn't ever-present! Of course, this may be misrepresenting your argument, so please feel free to present more plausible premises and conclusion.

Sat, 12 May 2012 08:31:24 UTC | #941153

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 325 by Mark Jones

Comment 322 by Peanuts

Hmm, I'm still getting the impression that when you refer to "those who are in support of secularism in this case", you mean only those who have been posting in support of the FFRF's action against the war memorial. Apologies if I'm wrong, but the rest of this reply is based on that (mis?)understanding. As I think I've made clear, I think this whole case is an example of intolerance, so if you're asking which of the contributors to this thread on the side of action against the war memorial are NOT being intolerant, I would say that they are all supporting an intolerant action. But please read on because I think we are talking past each other in our use of terms.

Well, we're not really talking past each other; you're simply not addressing my objections. I am not discussing the FFRF action; I'm objecting to your hyperbole, and you've still not responded to that.

You've not answered my question perhaps because it highlights the bind you're in. As a supporter of secularism, you presumably agree that secularism is a system predicated on tolerance of multiple philosophies? And yet, in this case you are advocating a limit to secularism. You are advocating not enforcing secularism, a system installed because it delivers a tolerant society.

If those of us who share my stance on this are right in our view that fighting these little cases will make us seem intolerant and will therefore result in the loss of wider public support for the more serious issues, then we are in support of secularism in this case by trying to persuade people of the dangers of pursuing it. Because if we are right, then the cause of secularism will be better served by adopting our approach.

So you are now moderating your claim; you don't want secularists to seem intolerant, you don't want to lose wider public support for more important secularism. Fine, not too unreasonable; this could be grounds for a civilised conversation.

But, firstly, I invite you to re-read your previous comments and see how you've shifted to a less hyperbolic position. You accused those with whom you disagree (who are supporting a system designed to deliver a tolerant society, remember) of intolerance! And you compared the actions they support to the actions of the Taleban, an authoritarian, theocratic government which is anathema to secularists.

Secondly, that you think the action could lose 'wider public support' is more evidence of the problem I'm highlighting. That a pretty innocuous action like this could draw such barbed and overblown responses from self-professed atheists supports my point that we are victims of the theist-dominated societies in which we live. Why should something designed to be neutral to all sensibilities, designed to deliver a tolerant society, cause such a furore? Because too many are hypersensitive to religious sensibilities, perhaps. This was what I was commenting on, not the action itself. Maybe, as you think, this is too small a battle? Then, again, why the furore? That would suggest this is not too small a battle, wouldn't it?

I do wish those of you who support the FFRF's actions in this case would at least recognise that you don't have a monopoly on support for secularism.

Of course not; I've not even expressed an opinion on the FFRF's actions. But let me remind you that it was you who accused those who support a secular act of being intolerant and Taleban-like.

Wed, 09 May 2012 20:36:51 UTC | #940769

Go to: Conversion on Mount Improbable: How Evolution Challenges Christian Dogma

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by Mark Jones

Comment 58 by JeffVader67

For the record I think young earth creationism is bonkers, and so do all the Christians that I know.

How do you judge young earth creationism to be 'bonkers'?

Wed, 09 May 2012 10:35:36 UTC | #940702

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 313 by Mark Jones

Comment 311 by Peanuts

Actually, my posts are stating that I think SOME of the people posting here, on this thread, in what I fully accept they sincerely consider to be support of secularism, are intolerant.

OK, fair enough. Who has posted on this thread, in support of secularism in this case, and is not being intolerant?

Wed, 09 May 2012 10:14:43 UTC | #940699

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 308 by Mark Jones

Comment 301 by Peanuts

I would suggest that that itself was a misrepresentation of my own comments that it was written in response to. I never suggested - and do not believe - that posting on an internet forum in support of secularism is in itself intolerant.

OK, well in the spirit of charity I'll accept that what I said is ambiguous and the above is how you interpreted it; mea culpa, I'll clarify a little. Your posts don't suggest that 'posting on an internet forum in support of secularism is in itself intolerant'. Your posts are suggesting that the people posting here, on this thread, in support of secularism are being intolerant.

The rest of your comment is unrelated to the rest of my post, so you have still not addressed the points I made, which I won't repeat.

Wed, 09 May 2012 00:11:04 UTC | #940639

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 300 by Mark Jones

Comment 277 by Peanuts

To decree that support for secularism cannot, by definition, be being intolerant seems a rather self-indulgent stance to me.

That's not what my post said. Please have the courtesy to respond to what it actually said. The clue is in your own quote: "Secularists can be tolerant...". See if you can take your own thought on board, and stop the hyperbole.

Tue, 08 May 2012 20:06:12 UTC | #940603

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 275 by Mark Jones

Comment 272 by Peanuts

Keep a sense of perspective, I beg of you. Be tolerant. The mission statement of this website advocates tolerance, but there are many days when I see very little of it reflected in the comments posted here.

Comment 273 by Peanuts

Why do we deplore the Muslim destruction of the Bamiyan statues? We don't share the beliefs that led to their creation, but we recognise that they are symbols of cultural significance, and that their wanton destruction is not just an act of barbarity but a declaration of intolerance.

One of the problems in our theist dominated societies is to counter sentiments like this, which imply that commenters on an internet forum are being intolerant simply by supporting secularism. That does not follow at all, but it's certainly in the interests of theists with a theocratic bent to encourage this view among the population. To compare the removal of a cross from public property with the destruction of the Bamiyan statues, however, is an indication of the success of this meme. It fails to draw a distinction between the actions of an authoritarian theocratic government to crush opposing philosophies and force the imposition of one philosophy over all others, and the actions of a democratic secular government to ensure religious neutrality in the public forum to prevent the imposition of one philosophy over all others.

That's really unhelpful. Rather than accusing secularists of barbarity and intolerance, it would be better to suggest solutions that satisfy the law while showing due care and concern for any symbols that some consider sacrosanct. And the reason for this is not because it crushes religious freedom, but because it protects religious freedom.

Tue, 08 May 2012 15:47:54 UTC | #940550

Go to: Conversion on Mount Improbable: How Evolution Challenges Christian Dogma

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Mark Jones

It's nice to see that scientific arguments do have the power to affect religious beliefs; for some people, anyway.

Darwin's theory doesn't disprove god, but it provides a whole stack of evidence against the Christian god; so much so, that a reasonable person who understands it should reject Christianity, imo. As well as the 'original couple' problem outlined in the piece, which is surely fatal to the Christian salvation narrative, the facts of natural selection add to the mountain of unnecessary suffering evident in the world, exacerbating the evidential problem of evil for a Christian, benevolent, god. Also, as Dennett points out, it debunks the Christian 'mind-first' view of the world. The facts of evolution show that minds are complex; that we complex things arise from less complex things; and that ultimately we came from much simpler things. This inversion is toxic to traditional Christian views of the ordering of the universe.

The project of religion has been sin eradication, and that approach now appears to be a fundamental denial of human nature.

This is an interesting comment, but I would like to see it expanded; I'm not sure many Christians I've spoken to would agree with it, as stated. Many point out that we are sinful, maybe inherently so, and that sin cannot be eradicated, and that is why we need salvation. So, in a sense, they are accepting the truth of our natures as revealed by natural selection. So the religious project is a reconciliation of the tensions we feel, and we can atone for our sins. It's a way to dispel the uncomfortable feelings generated by our evolved traits. (Of course, as a naturalist I say atonement is unnecessary and, in fact, can cause more harm than good; there are better ways to address the issue, in line with the facts.)

However, in another sense, the statement is correct, because the Christian vision is of a sinless destination for all who receive atonement. This contradicts many theodicies, of course, and is difficult (I would say impossible) in practice, and maybe even in principle.

Mon, 07 May 2012 13:01:33 UTC | #940293

Go to: One in seven thinks end of world is coming

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by Mark Jones

The survey asks

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • I believe the world will come to an end during my lifetime.

  • The Mayan calendar, which some say ‘ends’ in 2012, marks the end of the world

  • I have been experiencing anxiety or fear because the world is going to end in 2012

  • I believe the world will come to an end during the calendar year of 2012

  • Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    This question sounds quite anxiety inducing as stated! But even so, few strongly agreed with the sentiments. The Mayan calendar 'ending' is cited in the question itself. No option for saying I couldn't give a tinker's cuss about the Mayan calendar, whatever that is. I've heard plans are already in place for the Kelly Brook 2013 calendar.

    Fri, 04 May 2012 08:42:20 UTC | #939587

    Go to: Unbelief in the pews

    Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 272 by Mark Jones

    Comment 270 by Matt50

    But, of course, I could be dead set wrong.

    You could be wrong on natural selection, or, less likely, you could be right. So why do you mention it? Natural selection is just another scientific theory, so could still be overturned in theory. There is such overwhelming evidence for it currently, however, that it is not far off the evidence that the Earth is spherical, so the reasonable position is to accept its truth, just as one accepts the truth the Earth is not flat.

    Nevertheless, you continue to point out a truism about science, that no theory is unassailable. But you say:

    Why do we need God in the explanation - one consideration is that the biological explanations may just not be as justified as we first think they are.

    This insulates the god explanation from the evidence, since everyone accepts that science, at the extreme, could potentially be overturned, no matter how much evidence accumulates for it. In other words, you think we need 'God in the explanation' no matter how much evidence accumulates for alternative explanations.

    That really isn't going to work for anyone who values evidence.

    Thu, 03 May 2012 12:42:08 UTC | #939331