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Comments by Sonic

Go to: Emotional arguments against religion

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 48 by Sonic

An emotional argument for atheism? Challenge a believer to consider Abraham's agreement to slaughter his son Isaac like an animal, and ask a believer how they relate the story to their personal life.

By the way, I reject the term sacrifice, because a sacrifice is a tradeoff, where we give up something personally to gain a greater good. Abraham's agreement to slaughter his son Isaac serves no greater good -- it's a lose-lose proposition. It's like when Gary Shandling made love with his girlfriend and he asked, "Was it good for you?" and she replied, "Gary -- I don't think this is good for anybody."

So you can ask a believer on two levels: 1) Do you agree Abraham did the right thing in agreeing to murder his son? (and are you "good enough" to agree to murder your children, too?) and 2) Do you agree Abraham's god did a good thing by giving Abraham a lose-lose proposition as a test?

Some percentage of believers investigate atheism because they realize this emotional and moral horror -- not because they value a logically self-consistent system of knowledge per se.

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 05:49:34 UTC | #583285

Go to: How do computers work? Book recommendations please

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Sonic

How is Babbage formed?
Just kidding!

I'm only adding that we could play checkers with black and red helicopters, so the essence of digital computing is not not necessarily electronic. But this is only to reinforce the posts above, that we give up on knowing everything, and we choose useful levels of abstraction for our purposes at the time.

Tue, 04 Jan 2011 05:58:10 UTC | #573026

Go to: A shameful Thought for the Day

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by Sonic

Comment 54 by JHJEFFERY:

When you go to make up a supernatural being, and start assigning it supernatural powers, is it not true that they will invariably conflict, as consubstantiation and the later Trinity are so inherently inconsistent?

Yes.

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 05:30:15 UTC | #568879

Go to: Care in Atheist Terminology

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by Sonic

ZOMG? Bocce balls!

But seriously, the AHA ad that just ran on NBC Dateline said:

Some people believe... "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. She must be silent." -- The Bible: I Timothy 2:12

Humanists think... "The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred. Marriage should be a perfect partnership." -- Attributed to Robert G. Ingersol

I'm all in favor of the AHA running ads, but the word "sacred" carries a ton of religious baggage. To my ear, it makes it sound like humanism still derives from gods, or some absolute authority. And religious history aside, I simply don't know what the word "sacred" means to a humanist. If it means rights should be "guaranteed" or "inviolable" or "unbreakable", then I wish they would say that, so I would understand it more directly without me needing to translate or decode their use of the word "sacred".

Mon, 15 Nov 2010 03:48:22 UTC | #547626

Go to: Where Are All The Atheist Women? Right Here

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 498 by Sonic

Quoting from Michael's comment 448 for truth:

I've often noticed how much more respect the guy in the suit gets in a shop compared to me in my sloppy academic uniform with hair and beard in need of a cut. I think if you ramp that effect up 100 fold you get an idea of how it works for women.

Those two sentences work together to summarize my personal observations. I find I get more attention and respect, from men and women, when I wear jeans with nice shoes compared to wearing the same jeans with worn-out shoes. I used to deny this because long into my adulthood I implicitly carried some adolescent-like notions of how society "should" work, or how society should treat me if "the world" was "fair" (note: all about me). Now I realize my observation of reality was hindered by my adolescent-like intellectualization of "fairness". Eventually I was able to get more perspective, to observe humans more scientifically as social animals. In this thread, focusing on women and their motives for dressing misses this perspective, and misses the balanced observation Michael made above about how society really works.

Tue, 09 Nov 2010 14:14:10 UTC | #544615

Go to: Scientific Journal publishes Koranic paper

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 89 by Sonic

@ Tanweer (and iain399 and Roedy who don’t see the fuss) -- a historical review is a legitimate subject for a journal paper in principle. For example, I would be happy to read a review paper about the history of the “luminiferous aether” (the hypothetical medium to bear waves of light) or “caloric” (a hypothetical substance to transmit heat). The history of ideas can be a legitimate topic in a journal, even if those ideas are known to be wrong today. My criticism is that a journal published such a blatantly uncritical paper -- not that it discussed the Qur’an and Hadeeth per se.

To elaborate, in a journal paper, the introduction presents some background, then the introduction ends by stating some claim of what the rest of the paper will show that will be novel or valuable to the community. In this paper, the claim is

“the purpose of this review is to accurately present the anatomical and medical contributions of the Qur’an and Hadeedth, with specific focus on the cardiovascular system.” [emphasis mine]

The paper fails to deliver its claim. About accurately, the paper is uniformly positive about the Qur’an and Hadeeth, so we can see it was cherry-picked even before reading counter-examples against the accuracy of the Qur’an and Hadeeth. About contributions to anatomy and medicine, the paper does not tell a story of knowledge before the Qur’an and Hadeeth, and/or account for a a story of how anatomy and medicine dealt with the ideas that were wrong afterwards. History is a discipline, not a collection of citations.

If I had been a reviewer of the paper (as if this paper was reviewed!), my review would have said, “You only have a journal paper if you have agreement between the claim and the rest of the paper.” I judge any paper by this rule, not just this paper. Then I would offer two ways the authors might resolve the claim with the body of the paper: 1) To rewrite the body of the paper to include examples of what the Qur’an and Hadeeth got wrong, or: 2) To rewrite the claim to say the purpose of the review paper is to present cherry-picked examples. Now consider those options, 1) and 2)... seriously, take your time to consider each of those two options 1) and 2), I’ll wait... OK, now you realize the authors would have no interest in publishing a paper fixed by either of those two options, right? Good, now you’re realizing: A) The authors had no interest in a legitimate paper, so B) The paper is propaganda. And I write “propaganda” feeling no emotional heat. I’m not mad at them for trying. Heck, I can imagine the authors thought they were doing a good thing.

What disturbs me deeply is this analogy -- suppose a scientific journal gave a drug company a pass to publish papers of cherry-picked results. Then the scientific journal would give up its reputation of impartiality to be a marketing tool for the drug company. That would be a corruption, or a poisoning of a social institution (of all scientific journals, a reputation built over decades) -- therefore, we agree to define such a corruption to be a gross violation of ethics. Well, the same thing happened here, with a religion taking the place of a drug company. So that’s what this fuss is about -- a scientific journal pissing away its reputation, and undermining the social institution of scientific journals in general.

LOL @ Qur’an and Hadeeth -- You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you.

Fri, 05 Nov 2010 06:13:19 UTC | #542936

Go to: Scientific Journal publishes Koranic paper

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by Sonic

Links to PZ Myers directs you to Avijit Roy fix'd.

Thu, 04 Nov 2010 23:54:11 UTC | #542841

Go to: Scientific Journal publishes Koranic paper

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by Sonic

In comment 67, Tanweer asked

Can you please direct me to the 'patently false' claims?

Yes, PZ Myers directs you to Avijit Roy

For example, in one verse of Qur’an it clearly declares that sperm originates between the back and the ribs (sura At-Tariq 86:6-7) i.e, it comes from the kidneys! Note that, Greek physician Hippocrates theorized this wrong idea long before Muhammad that sperm passed through the kidneys into the penis. For centuries this was an accepted (and incorrect) belief of the origins of sperm. Aristotle though correctly described the function of the umbilical cord, also amusingly believed that sperm testicles functioned as weights to keep the seminal passages open during sexual intercourse. Not only this, Qur’an, as a whole, has a whole lot of ambiguity and meaningless statements. For example, occasionally it tells that we are created from earth (11:61), sometimes it claims from dry clay (15:26,28,33, 17:61, 32:7), sometimes “from nothing” (19:67), sometimes “NOT from nothing” (52:35), sometimes from wet earth (23:12), or from mire (38:71), sometimes from water (25:54, 21:30, 24:45), sometimes from dust ( 3:59, 30:20, 35:11) or even sometimes from dead (30:19, 39:6) etc.. So which one is true? Those contradictory ambiguous statements actually do not reveal any scientific facts regarding either how we created or what exactly we are made of. If we go forward we will see - according to Qur’an and Hadeeth, Allah’s Angels ‘take charge’ while sperm enters a woman’s womb (see Sahih Bukhari 1.6.315, 4.54.430, Sahih Bukhari, 8.73.17, 18, Sahih Muslim, 33.6392 etc.), Human limbs can ‘carry Islamic Sins’ (Sunaan Nasai, 1.149), or Human organs can even talk like a human being (41:20, 41:21, 36:65, 24:24 etc). These are becoming simply meaningless and entirely laughable if we consider the knowledge of today’s context.

Revealed religion is true like a broken clock is right twice a day.

Thu, 04 Nov 2010 21:35:11 UTC | #542774

Go to: "The Moral Landscape": Why science should shape morality

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 78 by Sonic

D'oh! Ironically, on reflection, I see that I -- Sonic -- have misrepresented and failed to engage Fouad Boussetta's comment 5 above!

For one thing, the book does remark (in passing, later in the book) that Haidt's 2, 3, 4, and 5 are ultimately related to item 1 (in Sam's view), so Fouad has a basis for posting the remark in my blockquote above (although this is not a crucial point to Sam's theory). More importantly, Fouad originally weighed in with feeling "left uneasy by Sam's thrashing of Jonathan Haidt's theory," and now I can see, this goes to identifying terms of conflict.

For example, Sam rightly (in my opinion) thrashes the journal Nature for praising Francis Collins for supposedly bridging the gap between science and "religion" -- where Nature says "religion" as a euphemism for the culturally dominant superstition being Christianity on a basis of pragmatics -- not Shiva (et. al.) on a basis of principles -- and Collins botches the operation as the amphiteatre can plainly see -- so who are Nature and Collins fooling?

But earlier in the book, where the book head-butts Haidt's theory at length, Sam is establishing that Sam's theory is different than Haidt's theory. But Haidt is a psychologist explaining why liberal Americans don't eat at Applebee's. "Fact!"** So Sam and Haidt are talking about different things, and a synthesis between their views is potentially possible and productive.

** San Francisco Giants closing pitcher Brian Wilson after winning the playoff last night.

Time for me to stop posting before I do any more dommage.

Mon, 25 Oct 2010 05:17:12 UTC | #538231

Go to: "The Moral Landscape": Why science should shape morality

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Sonic


Fouad Boussetta wrote:

Sam thinks 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all ultimately related to item 1. Looking around me, this seems absurd.

I’m glad you’ve read the book -- I have too -- but you’ve misrepresented and I think failed to engage Sam’s definition. Sam defines morality to involve “the well-being of conscious creatures”. Haidt’s protection against harm (1) is protection against a negative, which is just one possible component of Sam’s positive.

Anaximander’s vector space is helpful (although Sam would not constrain a vector sum to constant magnitude). Sam would say that for each of Haidt’s vectors 1 through 5, moral reasoning is valid for the component of a vector that projects along Sam’s definition. Conversely, Sam would say moral reasoning is invalid and prone to moral error for the components of Haidt’s vectors that are orthogonal to Sam’s definition.

For example, consider the “moral” rule, “Every sperm is sacred / every sperm is great / If a sperm is wasted / God gets quite irate” (which is not in the book by the way). I suppose Haidt would classify this moral rule under 5 (purity to avoid disgusting things, foods, etc.). Sam would say that if this rule only serves a god -- and that god is silent and invisible, and does not serve the well-being of conscious creatures -- then the rule is based on invalid moral reasoning. Sam could also entertain (and I’m improvising here) that if there was evidence of a god that does get quite irate -- and the ire of that god affected conscious creatures -- then that moral rule could be based on valid scientific reasoning (again my improvisation).

I leave it to people to read Sam’s book.

Sat, 23 Oct 2010 12:38:07 UTC | #537649

Go to: Accommodationists, Don’t Lead With Your Straw-Man Argument

Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by Sonic

The word "accommodationism" has a specific meaning missing in this thread.

Jerry Coyne uses the word "accommodationism" consistently to identify a specific policy. Organizations (e.g., the National Academy of Sciences) want to promote acceptance and understanding of some science (i.e., the theory of evolution) against the resistance of religion (Christianity in the U.S.), so their policy is to assert harmonization is possible. I'll write this graphically:

Accommodationism is science outreach asserting Science + Religion = Harmony

For example:

  • The NAS: http://nationalacademies.org/evolution/Compatibility.html
  • The AAAS: http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/ (download "Angelena's story")
  • The NCSE: http://ncse.com/religion

  • After reading those web pages:

  • You probably find their assertions of compatibility are false.
  • Assertions of compatibility are a matter of substance, not tone.
  • Anti-accommodationists believe in simply presenting the science. This policy of anti-accommodationism or non-accommodationism is not hostile or aggressive to the students or the public. As PZ said in the discussion, in his biology classroom, he's occupied teaching biology, he's not going to try to make anyone an atheist in is college classroom.
  • As PZ also said in the discussion, accommodationism may ease the acceptance of evolution in particular, but it undermines the public understanding of science as an endeavor.
  • Accommodationism goes horribly wrong when the science organizations provide details of religion or theology it thinks will help religious people accept evolution. For example, here the National Center for Science Education tells Christians how to read their Bibles: http://ncse.com/religion/how-do-i-read-bible-let-me-count-ways

  • I don't mean to argue over the definition of a word per se -- I want people here to see the thing of substance that Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers are against, and to see the policy Coyne and Myers are for -- they want schools and science organizations to simply present the science, without asserting Science + Religion = Harmony. If you think a debate over "accommodationism" is about tone, then Mooney has succeeded -- again -- in steering the discussion away from the substance that I documented in the links I wrote above.

    Thu, 14 Oct 2010 02:41:49 UTC | #533222

    Go to: Atheist Richard Dawkins aids Haiti, touts God-free giving

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 187 by Sonic

    mmurray, this morning, after sleeping on it, I saw a point you made in your post #451493 (back on page 2). This morning when I looked at the NBGA page again, yes, I agree, that one sentence did jar me a bit. And I like the way you worded your point precisely, “But doesn’t this claim . . . make you feel just a little uncomfortable?”

    So today I looked at my feelings to see why I felt that way. As I see it, the first thing is the disaster. The second thing is responding with money for aid. The third thing is the co-location of aid with a banner of Non-Belief, and I think we can agree that seems fine that so far. But that one sentence you highlighted does argue in the negative against a scandalous myth. And I would agree if you say that sticks out -- is the point really to argue in the negative against a negative perception? If the banner was Darn the Canard, that would feel twisted. That might introduce a fourth thing that would muddy the waters.

    I see NBGA as an opportunity to give aid while also standing up and being counted in the positive. I also see the USA Today post by Cathy Lynn Grossman as totally positive (and the negative comments on their site are inevitable, no matter how the words are played). Sometimes I see “Atheist Public Relations” as a Monty Python sketch akin to “Dirty Fork Sketch”. If Richard says one thing “wrong” there’s hell toupée.

    Oh, man, this thread went from 2 to 4 pages while I wasn’t looking. I'm out of here!

    Mon, 18 Jan 2010 22:36:00 UTC | #432801

    Go to: Atheist Richard Dawkins aids Haiti, touts God-free giving

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by Sonic

    mmurray, about your response to my post #451492 in your post #451493,

    But does giving as atheists make atheists look bad (to others) or feel shame or guilt (to ourselves)? I don’t have time to fathom how perverse that seems.
    Has anyone claimed any of these things?

    It seems to me that you claim the first thing a few lines later:
    But doesn’t this claim
    2. When donating via Non-Believers Giving Aid, you are helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.
    make you feel just a little uncomfortable? It does me. It also seems to be a politically silly comment that will be thrown back at us in the future when we complain about theists motivation for doing good.

    That’s what I meant: You seem to feel fine with the name (“Non-Believers Giving Aid”), but you feel reservations about that quote from Richard. And where you say your reservation is political, political means you worry Richard’s quote might make atheists look bad to others.

    It seems to be a fine line (or impossible) to avoid triggering some people’s reservations about giving the “right” way, or for the “right” reasons. Personally, I like NBGA and Richard’s quote, too.

    Mon, 18 Jan 2010 05:52:00 UTC | #432486

    Go to: Atheist Richard Dawkins aids Haiti, touts God-free giving

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by Sonic

    I lost my place pointing and clicking and I thought a hacker swapped a photo of Richard with FSM here. My mistake! The USA Today article we’re talking about by Cathy Lynn Grossman struck me as totally positive. And Richard gave them something positive to write about.

    I’m with Cartomancer (on both his posts so far). I’m an atheist, and I’m giving, and I might as well give through Non-Believers Giving Aid. The only caveat I see of substance is what Spinoza raised, about whether the donations would go to the MSF Emergency Relief Fund.

    But does giving as atheists make atheists look bad (to others) or feel shame or guilt (to ourselves)? I don’t have time to fathom how perverse that seems. Thanks to Cartomancer for “post-christian” as a name for that.

    Mon, 18 Jan 2010 03:20:00 UTC | #432467

    Go to: Michael Bachelard's Story on the New Atheism - a reponse

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by Sonic

    SaintStephen, I read the two blockquotes in your post #449646 to mean two different things. As an exercise, I can try rewriting Russell Blackford’s quote without the verb to be. Some people call this ”E-Prime” to mean English without the verb to be. I’ll try this:

    E-Prime: Rundle’s comments about the implausibility of science miss the point. Yes, untutored human common sense finds many scientific ideas nonintuitive or counterintuitive.
    I think that still means what Blackford meant, and it also highlights what Blackford was doing. He was helping us, as a philosopher, by pointing to a roadmap and showing us where Rundle took a wrong turn.

    But your doppelganger says Rundle is an idiot (and I italicized the verb is to point out this is what E-Prime advocates call speaking in “deity mode”). Blackford did not say that, or mean that. I think this is a fair synopsis of how you changed the meaning:
    Blackford: Rundle missed a point (and Blackford wants us to see the point on a map).
    Doppelganger: Rundle is an idiot (and you want people to feel angry about something).

    Your anger and profanity have done you a disservice. First, you don’t see that you changed Blackford’s meaning, because your anger and profanity have obscured your own thinking. Blackford was not being pedantic, he was saying something completely different than you. Second, in your arguments here advocating anger and profanity, your post #449646 is a good example to show how anger and profanity fail. There may be a time and place for anger and profanity, but your confusion in your post #449646 counts as evidence against them, not for them.

    Mon, 11 Jan 2010 16:46:00 UTC | #430973

    Go to: Biblical scholar's date for rapture: May 21, 2011

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 71 by Sonic

    SaintStephen -

    YOU -- more than anyone else -- make this site look like crap.
    Do you even see your own posts?!

    Sun, 03 Jan 2010 20:41:00 UTC | #428132

    Go to: Rabbit is the question

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 109 by Sonic

    Oddly enough, here’s a footnote to (yes, the) Russell Blackford about gigantic bloodthirsty rabbits -
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Year_of_the_Angry_Rabbit

    In the movie The Matrix, when Neo visits the Oracle’s apartment, they’re on the TV -
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Lepus

    THE END - - ?

    Sat, 02 Jan 2010 04:30:00 UTC | #427571

    Go to: Lawrence Krauss blasphemes Our Lord

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Sonic

    Last night on Charlie Rose, I saw writer Michael Specter talk about his new book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives. Maybe it will help me understand the antiscientific current in society. The problem is more than religious.

    Wed, 30 Dec 2009 14:31:00 UTC | #426825

    Go to: UPDATE: Matching Offer: A Seasonal Gift from Richard and Todd Stiefel to RDFRS

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 110 by Sonic

    AtheistJon, I see your $1410 ≈ $2½ × 1000.
    Last night I contributed $314 ≈ $π × 100.
    I usually save my donations for Pi Day (March 14),
    but I couldn’t resist the matching contributions.

    Tue, 29 Dec 2009 02:23:00 UTC | #426542

    Go to: Heaven and Nature

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by Sonic

    Celebrate a burger like no other
    With a movie like no other
    Bite into Avatar
    With the one and only taste of McDonald’s ® Big Mac ®
    I just heard that in a TV commercial tonight. And it highlights a problem taking moral guidance from pantheism, or equating God with Nature, or Gaia. It seems as open to interpretation as revealed religion, or even more so, if it doesn’t even have a text. Or as Dizzy Gillespie sang with Joe Carol,
    Hey Pete
    Let’s eat
    More meat
    ‘Cause the steak
    From the Texas cow is sweet
    . . .
    Joe: What’s that, Pete, no more meat?
    Dizzy: No more pork, just beef!
    Together: Spee-de-lee-yaah!

    Fri, 25 Dec 2009 05:01:00 UTC | #426014

    Go to: Holy See declares unique copyright on Papal figure

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by Sonic

    From what I just read at the Times Online, the Vatican seems to be pursuing trademark protection (not copyright), and they want to control use of The Vatican®, Holy See®, Pontiff®, and Pope®.

    But to keep a brand name like Kleenex® from becoming a “genericized” name that anyone can use, there are rules about how the owner of a trademark needs to make this clear by showing the trademark (at least here in the US). So with Christmas coming up this week, I look forward to watching the Pope® deliver his address on television from The Vatican®.

    It seems to me the Vatican has not been doing this due diligence for hundreds of years, so they’ve already fallen victim to genericide. But I’m not a lawyer, and trademark law has many subtle stories.

    Tue, 22 Dec 2009 02:44:00 UTC | #425259

    Go to: Losing my faith

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Sonic

    Simon Le Bon’s reading was wonderful, and I see audible.com and audible.co.uk have the entire book read unabridged by the authors for download. Here is the publisher’s summary:

    Here is a fantastic listen that works brilliantly alongside the massively popular The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. This Guide was edited by Ariane Sherine, who started the Atheist Bus Campaign in response to an evangelical Christian bus advertisement that gave the URL of a website "telling non-Christians they would spend 'all eternity in torment in hell'."

    With the backing of Richard Dawkins, officially supporting the UK's first atheist advertising initiative, Sherine managed to compile a wonderful concoction of the world's most entertaining writers, scientists, comedians, and philosophers to read, perform, and narrate pieces that they had all written for the print book, which was published on October 1st 2009. This audio version is magnificent! It's funny, uplifting, and is read by all the book's contributors.

    This strikes me as unique and effective, to hear the variety of personalities present their own essays. And I see http://www.audible.co.uk shows it on their home page!

    Oh, and this is sweet -- Audible filed it under Home > Religion & Spirituality > Non-fiction along with The God Delusion. But I see they filed Bibles under Home > Religion & Spirituality > Bibles. Well, there you have it -- Non-fiction and Bibles, they’re two different categories.

    Fri, 18 Dec 2009 06:07:00 UTC | #424216

    Go to: Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza's Notion of a Conscious Universe

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Sonic

    As I’m typing this message, Deepak Chopra is appearing on the Bonnie Hunt Show (a daytime TV show the US). I expect they’ll post the interview here where we could leave comments.

    I love Julia Sweeney’s epiphany from her one-woman show, Letting Go of God -

    I was so intrigued by this quantum mechanics that Deepak refers to over and over again in his books that I decided to take a class in it. What I found was that Deepak Chopra is full of shit!

    Tue, 15 Dec 2009 17:45:00 UTC | #423653

    Go to: Intelligence Squared Debate: Is Atheism the New Fundamentalism?

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 142 by Sonic

    Moore's notes in the Spectator made me laugh out loud.

    Can he write anything positive for his own position?

    Aw, he's no fun, he fell right over.

    Sat, 05 Dec 2009 05:22:00 UTC | #420392

    Go to: Nearer My Atheism to Thee: How to Respond to Theists

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 79 by Sonic

    Maybe Shermer has a valid point to make, and he only needs to use a special font to make it clear when he is writing statements he believes are false, with a disclaimer to note when he is talking down to Christians in condescending irony mode.

    I can truthfully tell an opponent of evolution, "Pope John Paul II accepted evolution." I am citing a fact about what someone else believed. And citing that fact may help defend science education in public schools. Also note, I am not promoting atheism in public schools.

    But in his CNN article, Shermer wrote, "The grandeur of God's works commands awe regardless of what processes He used." There Shermer made a statement he believes is false. In my opinion, I define "accommodationism" as "lying for science", and Shermer's CNN article is a good example. Just don't lie, is that so difficult?

    Sun, 29 Nov 2009 20:33:00 UTC | #418057

    Go to: Atheism is the new fundamentalism

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 42 by Sonic

    You can test how fundamentalist you are by asking yourself what is 1 divided by 3?
    FORTRAN integer division rounds toward zero, so the expression "1/3" evaluates to zero (and "−1/3" does too). That's my answer and I'm sticking to it.

    Sun, 29 Nov 2009 06:02:00 UTC | #417864

    Go to: Religion, evolution can live side by side

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 42 by Sonic

    I’m glad Shermer compiled his list of six reasons that make people resistant to evolution; that was food for thought. But then he’s flat wrong to say all the fears are baseless, and I’ll start with Shermer’s reason number two:

    2. Belief that evolution is a threat to specific religious tenets. Many people attempt to use science to prove certain religious tenets, but when they do not appear to fit, the science is rejected. For example, the attempt to prove that the Genesis creation story is accurately reflected in the geological fossil record has led many creationists to conclude that the Earth was created within the past 10,000 years, which is in sharp contrast to the geological evidence for a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth.
    For Biblical literalists, evolution directly contradicts their belief that the Bible is a literal historical document. So Shermer’s claim is blatantly untrue, and that baffles me completely. Is he lying to himself about this? I can’t see what payoff he gets for getting this point so blatantly incorrect.

    Of course, for Biblical literalists, Biblical inconsistencies also contradict their tenet that the Bible is a literal historical document -- and that just goes to show you can’t reason with these people, because they can’t reason with themselves. And this brings me to Shermer’s reason number one:
    1. The Warfare Model of Science and Religion. The belief that there is a war between science and religion where one is right and the other wrong, and that one must choose one over the other.
    Did Shermer write “warfare model” to mean aggressive behavior on the side of science? Is Shermer trying to change some behavior on the side of science? I’m sorry Shermer, but this is reality: Biblical literalists will continue their war on science, no matter what you do. Now read this explicit denial of science and deal with it!
    Article XII.

    WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

    WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

    Compare Article XII. to Shermer’s 1. and 2. -- Shermer plainly denies this evidence that’s easily available to him on the subject. And what course of action can Shermer recommend? To tell Biblical literalists, “Just don’t be Biblical literalists,” and then the problem is solved? He’s pissing up a downspout.

    I’m sorry, I don’t know Shermer’s work outside of this essay, but here he impresses me as a fundamentalist in the sense he holds an ideological position dogmatically, and I mean dogmatically in the sense he seems immune to evidence.

    Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:51:00 UTC | #417391

    Go to: KRQE News: ''Anti Religion'' Billboards Surface

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Sonic

    Rod, I like your suggestion -- It works on more than one level.

    Incidentally, your suggestion illustrates the problem I have with some "philosophers of science" (not the subject, but what some particular people have done with it lately). Some "philosophers of science" might write your suggestion the other way around (that Darwin didn't discover it, he invented it). Regardless of whether that might be "valid" (within that academic field), presenting that maneuver in this public debate would carelessly undermine the truth claims of science without making any effort to invalidate the truth claims of religion. The result is a net loss of public understanding (and I don't think anybody learns any philosophy from the maneuver, either). Again, I'm not busting on philosophy, or philosophers, but I am saying some particular people have made this counterproductive maneuver, and that irks me. I mean, of all the things I could write in public that might be "true" or "valid", I try to pare what I say down to the subset of those things that are helpful. And that involves effort on my part to anticipate how people are going to receive things I say. For example, I see I've taken about 50 minutes to write this post.

    But I like your suggestion!

    Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:14:00 UTC | #417382

    Go to: [UPDATE] - Tuesday's Connector of the Day – Richard Dawkins

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Sonic

    My favorite comment -

    To think that all creation evolved to its current state without God overseeing the building process is pretty stupid. Just look at the structure of the atom, the way the universe is structured, the way the earth is tilted at 23 degrees axis, I could go on on on. Yet you would say that all of this has come about by mere luck.
    If someone sees 23 degrees of tilt as evidence in favor of a designer, then what amount of tilt would they see as evidence against a designer?

    This is the fine-tuning argument, but without the fine-tuning or the argument.

    Wed, 25 Nov 2009 03:48:00 UTC | #416348

    Go to: Computer Based on Insights From The Brain Moves Closer to Reality

    Sonic's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by Sonic

    The controversy over Deep Blue in chess (making a move "no computer would ever make") eerily mirrors the controversy over Deep Mauve in Rock Paper Scissors:

    In 2003, the World RPS Society made a bold step by authorizing the entrance of a player guided by a computer program to compete at the World Championships. The computer program, called Deep Mauve, was used to supply the player with a series of throws in an attempt to better approximate randomness. As was predicted by many leading RPS mavens, the Deep Mauve team did not make it past the qualifying round.... The computer advised [its handler] Mr. McMahon to deliver a suicidal Scissors/Rock combination in the second set, effectively resigning the match. This is a gaffe that even a beginner human player would not make.

    Fri, 20 Nov 2009 06:25:00 UTC | #414998