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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • They're trying to say that if you use duck typing atheism is a faith :)

    I resent even having to refer to myself as an atheist; it's such a stark reminder that the normal state (statistically at least) is to be theist. Why can't the believers be called irrationalists instead?

    • Because then the atheists would claim rationality. And most self-claiming atheists I met had more of a "There is no god. Period." attitude.

      I'd rather have the word spread that knowing and believing are two absolute different pair of shoes. And that goes for both camps, since I personally actually see science as faith or belief. At least with those people that say that a proven theory must be how reality is. But this would become a rather large discussion :)

      --
      Ordinary morality is for ordinary people. -- Aleister Crowley
      • Because he said it better than most of us could… a transcript of Richard Feynman from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out [google.com]:

        If you expected science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions about what we are or where we are going or what the meaning of the universe is and so on, then I think you can easily become disillusioned and then look for some mystic answer to these problems. How a scientist can take a mystic answer I don’t know because the whole spirit is to understand…

        • He also once captured it this way: “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

          He must not have known very many religious people. Nearly all of the great Christians in history have had tremendous doubt, from the Apostle Peter himself down through C.S. Lewis.

          Faith is not in opposition to doubt; faith expects doubt. That is why, for some of us, the practice of apologetics is so important: because we prove to ourselves the logical consistency of belief, so we have something solid to fall back on when we doubt our faith. As Steve Taylor sang (borrowing from Flannery O'Connor): "Shiver

          • I had to sit on this comment for a couple of days to choose my words, even though it felt wrong right away.

            You don’t give Feynman enough credit. He said religion is a culture of faith; he did not say religion is a culture of blind faith. This is the crux of the entire issue: the doubt you describe is a means, not an end. It is a stepstone to faith (whether it be stronger faith or negative faith).

            In contrast, doubt is not a state to be resolved for a skeptic. The basic tenet is acknowledgement that

            • You don’t give Feynman enough credit. He said religion is a culture of faith; he did not say religion is a culture of blind faith.
              But I am not saying he is saying that. I am saying, rather, that he implies that it is a faith that is without doubt (since he contrasts it to doubt). He completely misunderstands and misrepresents religious faith.

              This is the crux of the entire issue: the doubt you describe is a means, not an end.
              Neither is doubt with science an end, but a means ... as you describe well through the rest of your post. It is what drives you to attempt to come up with answers, to learn more, and to become more certain.

              In contrast, doubt is not a state to be resolved for a skeptic.
              A skeptic attempts to resolve questions as much as a religious person, and he acknowledges that much cannot be answered no more than a religious person.

              The basic tenet is acknowledgement that any interesting question is fundamentally unanswerable.
              If by "unanswerable" you mean "cannot be absolutely proven," sure. But that is an odd way to put it. We have many "answers" to many interesting questions, including cures for diseases and so on, despite not having absolute "proof."

              And the point of science is not to not have answers, anyway, the point is to learn. That you cannot have absolute proof is not the goal, but merely a truth to be accepted about the process.

              So what was it faith in the religious sense that drove Einstein to amend his formulæ?
              His theory said the universe was constantly expanding. Other prominent scientists said Einstein's theory must be wrong, because we "know" the universe is NOT expanding. So Einstein invented the cosmological constant, because he refused to abandon his theory, even in light of strong evidence against it.

              Later, of course, he found out the universe was expanding, thanks to Hubble, and he abandoned his "fix."

              What I do know, however, is that it was clear that relativity did fit much of the data, and in many respects did so very well. To then assume that the theory is incomplete is not a stretch, nor does it necessitate faith in the religious sense.
              What you describe is indistinguishable from "faith in the religious sense."

              He was perfectly on the mark: religion is a culture of faith – science is a culture of doubt.
              You have not shown a single epistemological distinction between the two. Indeed, by your exposition on the nature of scientific knowledge and lack of proof (which I agree with, of course), you've only shown religion and science to be more similar than many atheists and scientists would care to admit.

              So let's get down to it: how does scientific faith -- belief in, and adherence to, a theory -- differ from religious faith? Can you come up with any way to describe that difference, or any examples that show it?

              And I do not mean to demean anyone or anything by calling scientific belief "faith." But it is faith, nonetheless. Sometimes it is like what Einstein did; the theory was so good he refused to abandon it in light of evidence against it, which is much like common religious faith.

              However, sometimes it is more like the current global warming debate, where "scientists" get up and say what I think you'll agree are absolutely nonsensical statements to come from a scientist, statements like "the debate is over." That too is much like religious faith for some people, unfortunately.
              • Sometimes it is like what Einstein did; the theory was so good he refused to abandon it in light of evidence against it, which is much like common religious faith.
                I can't see how that's anything like religious faith at all - because with religious faith there's absolutely zero evidence. If there were evidence (and I mean that in scientific terms) then there probably wouldn't be any atheists.
                • I can't see how that's anything like religious faith at all - because with religious faith there's absolutely zero evidence.

                  That is absolutely false. ;-)

                  evidence (and I mean that in scientific terms)

                  Ah, *scientific* evidence. I was saying that faith in scientific evidence is similar to faith in religious evidence, so saying that scientific faith is not at all like religious faith because religion is not based on scientific evidence is question-begging. We are talking epistemology here: yes, scientific knowledge is different from other kinds of knowledge (religious knowledge is largely philsophical, while scientific knowledge is largely experimental), but in what way is

                  • I've yet to see religious evidence that is anything more than "I don't know the answer, so I'll assume a God". That's exactly what Kalam's cosmological argument is. I'd welcome something better than that, if you can provide something.

                    The scientist's answer to this is that to assume a "mystical" answer where there isn't a good scientific answer simply isn't good enough - we must strive for more knowledge to get at the answer, and for now to simply be happy that we don't know the truth to that question (or wh
                    • I've yet to see religious evidence that is anything more than "I don't know the answer, so I'll assume a God". That's exactly what Kalam's cosmological argument is.

                      No, you misunderstand the argument and the issues surrounding it. The argument claims there is a Cause for the universe. Then there is a second part to the argument which argues that the cause is Personal. It argues affirmatively that the universe must have been created by a personal, willfull, cause, and that no other beginning is even possible (not merely unknown).

                      I was not entirely clear by linking merely to that one Wikipedia page; William Lane Craig touches on this a bit in the conclusion of his ka [leaderu.com]

                    • The way I like to explain it is that if the first cause were not personal, acting from infinity (that is, outside of time), then the universe would have been created an infinite time ago (which was already argued in the first part of the discussion to be, at best, unlikely, though I'd claim it impossible), because an impersonal cause could not decide to create the universe, and being outside of time, nothing else could cause the cause to do so either. In order for a finite universe to have been created, the cause must have decided to create it, which means it must have been a personal cause.

                      You can, of course, argue against this logic, but the argument is a sound and strong one.

                      I don't argue against the logic, just that the logic does not imply a God. The universe could have been pooped out by a Cosmic Squirrel. That's not a god, or an almighty being (just an almighty poop). It's just something we don't understand yet.

                      It also flies in the face of general relativity which (without digging out "A Brief History of Time" so I'm going by memory here) equations predict an elastic time, stretching out until the singularity only to reverse once they get to that point (i.e. the big bang w

                    • To assume causality past the beginning of the universe seems like a questionable position to me, not a strong one. That everything that begins to exist has a cause is a compelling claim, but to the best of our knowledge so far, at the deepest level, existence in this universe is acausal; further, to the best of our knowledge so far, the beginning of the universe was found in this deepest level.

                      Any argument that rests on causality, however convincing, is a castle built on sand, as far as I can tell.

                    • Any argument that rests on causality, however convincing, is a castle built on sand, as far as I can tell.

                      To assume causality past the beginning of the universe seems like a questionable position to me, not a strong one.

                      I am not assuming anything, I am deducing it.

                      That everything that begins to exist has a cause is a compelling claim, but to the best of our knowledge so far, at the deepest level, existence in this universe is acausal

                      Heh, now YOU'RE the one who is assuming. Just because you can't see a cause doesn't mean it's there.

                      Any argument that rests on causality, however convincing, is a castle built on sand, as far as I can tell.

                      Shrug. I believe it is infinitely more reasonable than the alternative explanation, that it exists without a cause.

                    • I don't argue against the logic, just that the logic does not imply a God.

                      It implies a being who is powerful enough to do it, who is capable of making the willfull decision to do it, , and who lives outside of time. Whatever you call it, it is outside of the realm of any science known to man, and it is some sort of "supreme being," and that's the point. It is a given that it doesn't describe much about the nature of this being, and I was not using it in that way.

                      It also flies in the face of general relativity which (without digging out "A Brief History of Time" so I'm going by memory here) equations predict an elastic time

                      Well. Sorta. That was a theory Hawking proposed, there is no significant evidence supporting it, and as best I ca

                    • It implies a being who is powerful enough to do it, who is capable of making the willfull decision to do it, , and who lives outside of time. Whatever you call it, it is outside of the realm of any science known to man, and it is some sort of "supreme being," and that's the point. It is a given that it doesn't describe much about the nature of this being, and I was not using it in that way.

                      Well another possibility is that the universe was some sort of accidental experiment from a super-large-scale collider of some sort, built by ancient civilisations billions of years ago. And it's "colliders all the way down". Nothing supreme or supernatural about that at all, unless you consider humans to be supreme and supernatural.

                      But for now I'll accept your point: All hail the Cosmic Squirrel. :-)

                    • Well another possibility is that the universe was some sort of accidental experiment from a super-large-scale collider of some sort, built by ancient civilisations billions of years ago. And it's "colliders all the way down".

                      Yes, it is possible our universe was created by another universe, but then what created that one, or the one that created it, and so on? The same laws we're discussing that say you cannot traverse an actual infinite demand that at some point, there was a beginning, in my opinion.

                      Not that I am always right. :-) But it seems like the most rational position, given the evidence, to me. Which was really my only point. :D

                    • there was a beginning, in my opinion
                      I agree (despite the wonderful elegance of "turtles all the way down"). However I think the beginning being a "god" is far too simple an explanation.

                      What's unfortunate is that if we ever do experimentally try and prove how a universe is created, we will probably instantaneously blast ourselves out of existence. Ah the sweet irony :-)
                    • However I think the beginning being a "god" is far too simple an explanation.
                      I understand that view. I just think that no other posited explanation thus far fits the evidence.

                      The problem is, of course, that we are extremely dumb creatures, when it comes to understanding the universe. :-) I realize I may be wrong. Still, we can only do our best to understand given what we've got.
                    • You did notice that I qualified the claims as being to the best of our knowledge, so far (twice)? :-)

                      Maybe quantum mechanics does turn out to be deterministic rather than stochastic, once we find out enough about it. There are many scientists who are trying to formulate a deterministic foundation for QM.

                      I don’t see a need for such, though. I can equally well accept the current view, in which existence in the microcosm is acausal, and causality in the mesocosm and above is merely an emergent pheno

                    • You did notice that I qualified the claims as being to the best of our knowledge, so far (twice)? :-)

                      Sure, but my point is that I disagree, that the best of our knowledge does not agree that existence is acausal.

                      I’m wary of such calls for a deterministic explanation where they are demanded merely because a stochastic nature for the cosmos is counterintuitive

                      But that's not what I am doing. I think, rather, that the evidence shows that a personal cause to the universe is the only possibilty. I am open to other evidence, of course. But I just don't think, at this point, any argument has yet come up that makes me think it is possible that the universe has always existed, or that it could have sprung into existence from infinity without a personal cau

                  • For example, let’s take some nonreligious philosophy. Descartes said, “cogito ergo sum,” “I think, therefore I am.” I have far more faith in this being true than I have in any scientific theory that I can think of offhand, because though not necessarily obvious at first, when you think about it, it is self-evidently true (almost literally!).

                    Your “almost literally” exclamation does not even need the “almost” qualifier. “I think, therefore I am

                    • Your “almost literally” exclamation does not even need the “almost” qualifier. “I think, therefore I am” is, in fact, a tautology.
                      I was just playing a little joke with the word "self."
              • His theory said the universe was constantly expanding. Other prominent scientists said Einstein’s theory must be wrong, because we “know” the universe is NOT expanding. So Einstein invented the cosmological constant, because he refused to abandon his theory, even in light of strong evidence against it. […] The theory was so good he refused to abandon it in light of evidence against it, which is much like common religious faith.

                But the theory was not “good” just becaus

                • But the theory was not “good” just because it sounded rationally convincing. It was good because it rested on special relativity, which rested on the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment and the many variations on its theme, which had shown beyond reasonable doubt that prior theories which were in contradiction with special relativity were wrong. Einstein didn’t incorporate an artificial fix just because he fancied his theory a lot.

                  And how is that different from religious belief? I believe in Jesus for many solid reasons too. It is not just that it "sounded rationally convicing," although that is true too.

                  Along the same lines, I’m rather skeptical of much of the accepted model of contemporary mainstream cosmology, because so much of it relies on so much less observation than, say, electromagnetism.

                  Sure, and you should be skeptical. Just like I am skeptical of global warming, which has similar observational difficulties.

                  PS.: it just occured to me, after writing the above, that you chose to accentuate your argument by pointing to a belief of yours (that Jesus was real (which I believe as well; and hey, Einstein did too, despite his stated disbelief in a personal god)), whereas I chose to accentuate mine by pointing to how much I have no confidence in. Surely Mr. Feynman must have been joking…

                  Actually, I had some other beliefs that I have less confidence in (like the evolution of man), but excluded it since I didn't want to stray too far from the point.