William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Atheists Claim There Is No Such Thing As Gravity—Or Shakespeare!

grav

How’s this argument grab you? There are many competing theories of (quantum) gravity. They cannot all be correct. Therefore, they must all be wrong and thus there is no such thing as (quantum) gravity. Here’s another. There have been many theories about the model of an atom. These are often contradictory. Therefore, they must all be wrong and there are no such things as atoms. Another. Many historians disagree about the birthplace of Homer. These historians cannot all be correct. Therefore, they must all be wrong and Homer was born no place or Homer never existed. (Substitute Shakespeare or any of hundreds of other figures.)

Contrast those (and the myriad you can easily think up) with this one. There have been many gods worshiped in many places. These gods and their cults or religions are often contradictory. They cannot all be the true God or the true gods. Therefore, none of these gods exist and none are the true God or the true gods.

Atheists (no, not all) are fond of the last argument and think themselves clever for using it. In September of 2013, the University of North Georgia Skeptics Society set up a miniature “Graveyard of the Gods”, which included tombstones for Osiris, Zeus, Krishna, and a few others. Inspired, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison created their own with 200 faux stones. A sign at the entrance to the prank read, “God Graveyard. Here lie the graves of thousands of dead gods. Once worshipped by entire civilizations, now only myths. How much longer will the gods of today last?” They stuck mostly to Western contributions to the pantheon. Good thing that didn’t go after Hinduism, which has 330 million deities.

Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion said, “I have found an amusing strategy when asked whether I am an atheist to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon-Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.”

Michael Shermer, chief Skeptic, echoed Dawkins in his book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths said, “What is the probability that Yahweh is the one true god, and Amon Ra, Aphrodite, Apollo, Baal, Brahma, Ganesha, Isis, Mithra, Osiris, Shiva, Thor, Vishnu, Wotan, Zeus, and the other 986 gods are false gods? As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further.”

(Shermer also said in that book “Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.” Somehow he has been able to escape the confines of his brain.)

Instances of the Gravity-Doesn’t-Exist Fallacy litter the web. It’s rarely blatantly stated, but it is surely implied (it is in Dawkins and Shermer). Notice the Christian bias of these authors, which is natural enough. The GDE is a double-fallacy if it’s also used to imply a proof has been given for the non-existence of Zeus, Apollo, Baal and the other gods. Of course, no such proof is found here. And if such proofs do exist (and are accepted as background premises), these proofs can actually support knowledge of the Christian God.

We can weaken the GDE so that it’s not a fallacy. Many mean the GDE in this way: “Look, men have made many mistakes about gods. Therefore, they probably always do or will.” This is not a fallacy. But then this changed argument is useless to the atheist! If Zeus, Apollo and the rest are shown to be false, we could then say, “Since Zeus, Baal and a host of other gods have been shown not to exist, it’s more likely the Christian God does.” This is not a fallacy either. After all, some rivals to the God have been removed from consideration!

No, the GDE is a cutesy argument for the lazy. Those who use it imply they have proof Zeus et alia don’t exist therefore God doesn’t, either, plus, belief if God is just as silly as belief in Zeus seems to them. But this, as we have seen, is no argument at all. It is a mere statement of prejudice. And most likely uninformed prejudice.

The examples given at the beginning have the notion of increasing knowledge through time. We have abandoned various models of the atom since Democritus’s time and say we have a better one now. Perhaps the standard model is not the best or final model, but it is certainly better than one entertained, say, two centuries ago. There are two points here. The existence of other gods, or rather the existence of claims of other gods. While these claims don’t and can’t disprove the existence of the one true God, they can be said to show a humanity groping towards knowledge of this Deity. Incomplete and flawed efforts, perhaps. But we don’t chuck out all Science because false threads are often followed.

The second is that knowledge at least of the Christian God has changed through time. His existence hasn’t of course, but our understanding of Him has progressed. Followers of the series on Summa Contra Gentiles will know of this.

57 Comments

  1. Re: Shermer … (Shermer also said in that book “Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.” Somehow he has been able to escape the confines of his brain.)

    Shermer is also skeptical of skeptics (from skepticblog – not Shermer but I’m aware of Shermer’s position):
    http://www.skepticblog.org/2014/08/27/the-pot-calling-the-kettle-black/#more-26177
    This cartoon is apropos (I think it works for skeptics!)
    http://www.skepticblog.org/wp-content/uploads/10384760_416677655141903_3364675479685388325_n.jpg

  2. ‘ If Zeus, Apollo and the rest are shown to be false, we could then say, “Since Zeus, Baal and a host of other gods have been shown not to exist, it’s more likely the Christian God does.” This is not a fallacy either. After all, some rivals to the God have been removed from consideration!’

    I don’t think this follows without some other assumptions, which themselves would be contentious: that there are a finite number of god-models in the set, and that one of them is correct, or something similar.

    However, your overall point is quite sound, and very ably expressed. The last two paragraphs here are really excellent, and will stay with me.

    I do cringe sometimes at my fellow secularists’ temptation into smug, facile arguments. But I understand the temptation, as there is so much provocation at every turn.

  3. Nature abhors a vacuum so when God is ruled out, smug satisfaction will come rushing in. No avoiding making a god out of something in your life if you can’t accept the real One. As Bob Dylan in his christian period said, “ya gotta serve somebody.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOK0v2QYy9Y
    Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/gotta-serve-somebody-lyrics-bob-dylan.html

  4. I read Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things”.
    Having interest in bicycling in a previous life, I found it notable that Shermer was an active participant in “(Bicycle) Race Across America”. I remember him talking about all these Nutrition PHD candidates hanging onto participants with all their ideas about vitamins and megadose vitamins. The bicycle enthusiasts were their guinea pigs and they were conducting all kinds of nonscientific experiments to prove their pet ideas.
    So a few years back (understanding that Climate “scientists” are NOT doing science, I figured Shermer would be somewhere in the middle of the camp and at the least a “lukewarmer”…but no…he’s right there on the side of the “angels” (that nobody can prove)

  5. Doesn’t a graveyard imply there was indeed a living god that was buried there? This seems more like proof of the existence of gods.

    If one skeptic is wrong, they’re all wrong. If there’s more than one model for climate change? What happens if the god Scientism turns out to be a myth? What about when Scientism fails to explain things?

    It fascinates me that those quoting pop psychology are always exempted from the phenomena. How does that work? Are they magic? Genuine psychologists are (or were–not so sure anymore) aware that psychology applied to all, and they, being a subset of “all” were affected by the same psychological defenses and so forth that everyone else is.

    It is interesting to note that right wing beliefs “cause” people to not believe climate science, but left wing beliefs do not. I believe that is called “double think”. Love the cartoon link, John B()!

    Gary: Well said.

  6. Sheri :: I KNOW!!!

    The guy used it to bolster his post on the insanity of “Deniers”

    And I’m sure Steve (not sad) Sack MEANT the cartoon to put down deniers but I LOVE how well it fits the POST ! ! !

    Steve Sack was the political cartoonist for the Minnesota Daily (UofMN) during the seventies.

  7. No we don’t. Atheists believe that a using a creator for a universe is gap theology. If a creator is eternal, then why not a universe?

  8. Hans : Huh? (I may be dense…but I don’t understand what you mean)

    But Briggs said IN the post: “Atheists (no, not all) …”

    Lee Phillips : Wasn’t clear by your “As if on cue…” statement either

  9. Hans: sorry … I somehow read your eternal as eXternal…

  10. Wasn’t a reply to you. My timing’s a bit off.

  11. Lee : I saw we were a minute apart so I knew it wasn’t me…didn’t see how it fit in with Gary, either.

    I thought maybe you found a link somewhere and failed to provide one

  12. Everybody knows that gravity is just a social construction invented by the evil dead white man Isaac Newton. All the white oppressors got together with Newton and passed the law of gravity to keep down women and minorities. Newton (and Leibnitz) also invented calculus to befuddle and confuse women and minorities.

  13. “As if on cue”/”My timing’s a bit off”

    Ha. I like irony.

  14. You say: “…our understanding of Him has progressed …”.

    On what evidence has this “understanding” progressed? Is this backed up be research? I’m not asking about historical research about Christ but about the “Father”.

    Have new “facts” come to light for example in the last 1000 years?

  15. Ray: Newton’s calculus apparently had the unintended outcome of befuddling a very large group of white males also. 🙂

  16. What I wonder is why atheists are evangelical, i.e. trying to spread a teaching of “no-god”. What difference does it make to them? Do they think that believers will force a moral code on them? Maybe that is the reason–the pro-abortion and gay marriage crowd are against religion because those who believe would inhibit their libidinous life-style.

  17. acricketchirps

    I’m still chuckling … didn’t catch the irony (at first) … EVEN after you pointed it out … I really am dense which proves what a denier I am

    By the way, you’re website looks to be an interesting diversion

  18. Bob Kurland : Fear of Religion

    from Ravi Zacharias’
    http://rzim.org/just-thinking/lessons-from-war-in-a-battle-of-ideas

    … Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy, New York University:

    “In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions… in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself.…I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally, hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

    …Aldous Huxley acknowledged it when he wrote his book Ends and Means: “We objected to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”

  19. JohnB(): Used to be I’m website. After a short absence I can’t figure out how to log on any longer to post to it. I should probably ask a scientist or someone.

  20. acricketchirps: You can get the account back if you know what email you used to set up the blog. That will get you your username. If you have more than one email, try all of them. If you don’t know what name you used to sign up for the blog, that’s a problem. Google now makes it convenient for you by using one login for all accounts so you can lose all your accounts at one time! 🙂

  21. Sheri: Thanks. I’m betting at this point that it was some stupid email address I set up and forgot about.

  22. John B()…your quote from Thomas Nagel distresses me because I am in sympathy with many of the positions: for example, the idea that consciousness is not to be explained on material grounds, that the neo-Darwinian explanation of evolution is inadequate, that teleology informs cosmology, all positions that are in accord with a belief in a deity. Can we infer from his antagonism to theism that grace is given both for belief and non-belief?

  23. for “the positions” —> “his positions”

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 6, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I do cringe sometimes at my fellow secularists’ temptation into smug, facile arguments.

    That’s because once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop.

    More to the point is that facts do not interpret themselves and if there is already a well-accepted theory, such as natural selection, any new facts will always be intepreted in light of that theory. This isn’t quite the same thing as “looking for” confirmatory evidence.

    But even if it is true that it is harder to change your mind than to make it up in the first place, we cannot conclude that a well-beloved theory like natural selection is false. Or that detectives necessarily arrest the wrong person just because they have a theory about the crime.

    If a creator is eternal, then why not a universe?

    Basically because the universe (the set of everything that physically exists) is in constant change whereas eternity is changeless. Besides, Aquinas assumed sec. arg. that the universe has in fact always existed. No big deal. That has nothing to do with being created.

    The belief in an ever-lasting universe having been formed back in ancient times, the brain begins to look for and “find” confirmatory evidence in support of that belief, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in it. Hence, unfalsifiable “multiverses” and the like to preserve the belief in the eternity of the world.

  25. Bob

    I don’t know that much about Thomas Nagel but I heard the quote from Ravi and just knew enough to find the quote on Ravi’s site:
    Here’s a site with Nagel quotes – and the quote is slightly different there.
    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/57677.Thomas_Nagel
    but the essentials are there. The quote is from his book “The Last Word”.
    It sounds like he’s conflicted both about atheism and being an atheist.
    Don’t know what else to say

  26. John B()…. thanks for the link, John. I would think Nagel would at least have the grace to be an agnostic rather than an atheist… (pun intended).

  27. Bob:
    Case in point Nagel (and YOS may be interested) doesn’t dismiss out of hand criticisms about Darwin by ID folks almost defending them:
    “In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture… by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen C. Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.”

  28. Bob

    Totally agree. As conflicted as Nagel seems to be, I don’t know how he claims such a firm grip on Atheism.

    On a personal note, after God started getting to me, Ravi helped cement some of the details (not that my house is very well built, at least the foundation is good).

  29. FWIW, Ed Feser has treated Thomas Nagel’s thought fairly extensively in a series of posts on his “Mind and Cosmos,” from a point of view with which many of Briggs’ readers would sympathize. See here:
    edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2013/06/mind-and-cosmos-roundup.html

    Feser calls Nagel a “naturalist, but …highly critical of … fellow naturalists — who, [he] maintain[s], do not see the deep metaphysical problems afflicting the complacent materialism that prevails among contemporary philosophers (and among contemporary scientists in their philosophical moods).”

  30. Sander van der Wal

    October 6, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    All theories about Gods are equally testable, i.e. not testable at all. So there is no reasonable way of testing them, reasonable being not by dying and checking for yourself.

    And on sundays, on this very blog, it is constantly claimed that God is beyond our comprehension, the collorary being that we would be incapable of thinking up tests. Because, if God is incomprehensible, what kind of test would show that beyond all doubt?

    But no, it is the atheists that did it.

    Sorry, mr Briggs, as with the Sistencer Chapel, this is an image the Catholics invented.

  31. Thanks acc for the link to Feser’s blog about Mind and Cosmos. by the way (or is btw?) does FWIW mean “for what it’s worth”? My kids have left the house and grandkids don’t come to visit that often; I don’t text and am largely ignorant of text write. It’s good to have someone bring one to modern times.

  32. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 6, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    All theories about Gods are equally testable, i.e. not testable at all.

    The smuggled assumption is that “testable” always involves some form of empiricism, i.e., “dying and checking for yourself.” But this dismisses mathematics as well as metaphysics.

  33. It’s a terrible argument and I’ve never employed it. It’s the same sort of negative posit argument atheists accuse religious folks of employing. There’s only one way to make a point about nothing and that’s to not make it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting a conversation.

    I am an atheist because the whole thing seems utterly ridiculous to me, not for the spite of any one religion.

    JMJ

  34. For what it’s worth, yes. Or alternatively: For what? Its worth?

  35. JMcJ: That’s the exact reason I’m a Catholic.

  36. This god of the philosophers, the Thomist Deus Unus, which is inanely defended here and in many places, is not the One True God, the Most Holy Trinity. Once again, even after almost 40 comments, a jaw-dropping statement, in this case that [the Christian (!)] God’s existence has not changed through time, has gone unremarked.

    That this statement somehow seems sensible to proto or classic Thomism amounts to a practical refutation of Thomism. Somehow, God, born a Babe in Bethlehem, dying on a Cross, and Risen, has undergone no change in His existence?

    Is Mary truly Theotokos, Mater Dei, the Mother of God, or is this just an expression, not meant literally? The answer is known since the Council of Ephesus (AD 431).

    And the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) did NOT resolve, but instead simply dismissed as irrelevant, a long-standing dispute between Antiochene and Alexandrine theologians over the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus the Christ:

    This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son [of God] must be confessed to be in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably [united], and that without the distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the peculiar property of each nature being preserved and being united in one Person and subsistence, not separated or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets of old have spoken concerning him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ hath taught us, and as the Creed of the Fathers hath delivered to us.

    As Fr. Donald J. Keefe SJ remarks:

    The creeds are historical assertions of the historical faith: Jesus’s kenosis is his ensarkosis, his ‘enfleshment,’ his becoming a fallen man, a historical human Person. It is thus, by becoming flesh, that he is made man, submitted to our fallen historicity. Unfortunately this is not the usual, i.e., Thomist, understanding of the kenosis of Jesus, for there the kenosis is applied to the dehistoricized subject of the Incarnation, the eternal Son, who is not man, but “assumes” a human nature.

    This dehistoricization of Jesus the Lord has posed and continues to pose the insoluble problem of providing for the antecedent possibility [of] the divine Person, abstractly understood as a cosmological absolute, changing so drastically as to “become flesh” without ceasing to be divine. Inasmuch as divinity, thus cosmologized, dehistoricized, abstracted from the economy of salvation, connotes immutability, it is evident a priori that God cannot change without ceasing to be God.

    Matt continues to insist that his forays into ‘God’ here are philosophy, not theology. And I agree with him. For what the Thomist ‘philosophy’ does is make the actual One True God impossible, as Fr. Keefe notes above.

    “Advances in our understanding?” That’s (almost) a joke, right? We mostly struggle to blunt our Faith, not to understand it. For Fr. Keefe’s systematic, remarkable, 500,000 word scholarly and theological examination of Catholic theology’s near-unanimous 1500-year refusal to take Chalcedon’s clear professions actually seriously, begin by clicking here.

  37. Sander van der Wal: All theories on the origin of the universe are no verifiable, short of time travel.
    I could ask the same thing about quantum physics–to most of the world, it’s incomprehensible. Evidence for it is mathematical and circumstantial. Yet most scientists are offended if anyone dare say that quantum physics is not verifiable or comprehensible. We all have our beliefs in things that cannot be proven.

  38. @Bob Kurland “What I wonder is why atheists are evangelical, i.e. trying to spread a teaching of “no-god””
    Same reasons many religions look for converts. There’s safety in numbers, and, most importantly, they think that until you believe what they believe you cannot see the world for what it truly is and your life will be diminished.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses like to use the ‘competing theory’ argument as part of their dismissal of evolution as an actual thing.

  39. @Sheri.
    Unhappy with your dismissal of QP. It’s not a question of belief, but a mix of theory and observation that makes impossible to treat as if it’s a question of faith in an obscure branch of mathematics.

    Many quantum effects are well known and observed in the real world. A chunk of modern semi-conductor manufacturing and operation depends on them. Gravitational lensing has been observed. We see what happens when you smash particles together and it accords with the predictive maths.

    You cannot junk the whole even if you are able to show weaknesses in individual elements of the structure formed by theory, experiment, observation and maths.

  40. It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in on Fr Robert Barron

    Provocative Title: “Aquinas and Why the New Atheists are Right”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NMex7qk5GU

    Don’t think there’s much new but I like him and if you have an hour…

  41. Steve Cook: The Jehovah Witnesses I know do not dismiss evolution–they embraced it and “looked forward to having God show them how He used evolution to create the earth.” The JW website says they believe in creation but not over 6 days but rather a very long time period. They say there is no need to ignore science while believing in God. I did note that some skeptic societies still believe the JW don’t believe in evolution while there are mainstream religion sites telling one how to argue with the JW acceptance of evolution. I’m sure there is not 100% agree on this, just as with any religion.

    First, you did not refute what I said–most people do not understand QP and it is mathematical and circumstantial. Your comment in fact verifies this. I also did not dismiss QP as useless. It has predictive value. However, we really do not know what is going on in an atom. It’s not a series of equations that yield a result–or maybe it is. No one knows. It fascinates me that if someone believes in God and can predict outcomes of actions based on the rules God gave, they are dismissed as superstitious fools. However, the belief in a mathematical equation that predicts outcomes in a phenomena that may never be observed is perfectly okay. My point was we all have faith in something and you pretty much illustrated that. While I am willingly to admit I cannot prove God exists, you are unwilling to admit the uncertainty in QP. Those who believe in science are often overconfident, believing they know more than they actually do. If I even suggest you cannot verify that which you believe in (especially the Uncertainty Principle), you ruffle up.

    My explanation of why QP is not “certain”: We put a blind person in a very large room with heat source, water running in tubes along the ceiling (making a sound), lined it with trees so it appears to be a forest and then ask the person where they are. They most likely will tell you they are in a forest. If we replicate the forest well enough, it will work. It will, however, also work if we confine the person to a chair and simulate forest sounds and conditions. Because there is no sight, it is not possible for the person really know where they are. Their mind fills in the picture based on available information, even though it leads to an incorrect conclusion. No one is bothered by this, but apply it to evolution or QP and people get unhappy. Why? Why must the certainty be there? Why can’t it just work and you’re happy with that?

  42. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 7, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Many quantum effects are well known and observed in the real world. A chunk of modern semi-conductor manufacturing and operation depends on them. Gravitational lensing has been observed. We see what happens when you smash particles together and it accords with the predictive maths.

    This comes from forgetting the distinction between a fact and a theory. The effects surely are observed; but what they mean depends on the explanatory theory. But you cannot prove a theory by pointing to some consequences. That would be like proving epicycles are real by pointing to the retrograde motion of Mars.

    There will always be multiple theories to encompass the same set of facts: so whether the Copenhagen, many-worlds, standing wave, transactional, or other explanation of quantum effects is correct cannot be settled by pointing to those quantum effects, since they are compatible with all the various explanations. (And especially, as Grosseteste noted long ago, if those were the same observations used to develop the theory in the first place.)

    (Gravitational lensing is a consequence of relativity theory, not quantum mechanics.)

    We see what happens when you smash particles together and it accords with the predictive maths.

    But we have been assured in this very forum that the emission of a particle is not only unpredictable but literally uncaused. Therefore, it cannot be “caused” by smashing particles together.

  43. @Ye Olde Statistician
    I’m unclear what you’re trying to say. Or at least in the context of a response to my comment. Some QP theory was developed to explain observed phenomena. Some QP theory has predicted other effects that have later been demonstrated by experiment and observation. We have both chickens and eggs.

    I felt Sheri had dismissed the whole field as largely incomprehensible mathematical smoke and mirrors passed off as certainty. Something I thought was not fair. I wouldn’t dream of arguing that it’s all done and dusted.

    Gravitational lensing is part of general relativity theory, but was already part of conventional physics (though considered to be a smaller effect I believe) originating with Newton’s work on gravity and first predicted by Cavendish and Soldner. Newton’s theories were used predict an effect that couldn’t be observed at the time. A theory about something that hadn’t been observed but was a direct consequence of the maths used to describe real world phenomena.

    Which was my point about QP.

  44. @sheri The JW’s that knock on my door still don’t consider evolution to be a possibility and still offer the ‘a mouse cannot evolve into an elephant’ argument as a core of their reasoning. Those I’ve talked to still believe creation took 6 days. Glad to hear that they’re opening up a bit. I will say that they’re an unfailingly polite bunch and I always enjoy a doorstep chat with them.

    I wasn’t actually trying to refute what you said. There are elements of QP that, frankly, are indistinguishable from magic. There is a core that’s well based in reality. I thought you were inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Certainty. Isn’t QP based on uncertainty/probability? 🙂
    More seriously, it’s human nature for anyone fully committed to something to be certain about it. You’d hope that scientists who have any knowledge of the history of science would be more circumspect.

    “Why can’t it just work and you’re happy with that?”
    Because it’s not in our nature. Be thankful for it, it’s given us longer, healthier lives.

  45. Sheri and Steve Crook: it was Richard Feynman, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on quantum electrodynamics theory, who remarked “If you meet someone at a party who tells you they understand quantum mechanics, they’re a liar” (or words to that effect). That’s why there are (at last count) 17 different interpretations of QM, all compatible with observations –so far.

  46. The Observer: RELIGION IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST. Repeat in your head until you finally understand it, if that’s possible. Religion is not a retail outlet, religion is not a social club. It is about belief in God, whatever God you believe in. It’s not a Facebook page gathering “likes”. It’s not Twitter gathering followers. If it’s followers you want, social media sells well. If you believe in situational ethics, try the Unitarian Church. Want all religions combined? Try the Unification Church. Want a Sunday picnic in the park? Try a social club. Why is it so difficult for people to understand religion is not about popularity?????

    Steve: I’m glad you see I was not dissing QP. I actually find it fascinating.

    I’m not really clear why if something works we have to keep trying to improve. If we have a painkiller that works in all situations, why do we need more? If we have a diet that works in all cases, why do we need more? If it only works in certain situations, sure, try for something else. Scientists “fully committed to something” are a problem for science. Science is about learning. One must be willing to toss out a theory that is shown incorrect even if one spent 30 years developing it. It does take a special kind of person to be a true scientist for sure.

    (I was actually surprised by the JW I met. They were much less judgmental and “preachy” than in the past. It’s a good sign. There are still very strict rules for joining the church, but the evangelizing is more user friendly.)

    Bob: Yes, I am familiar with the Feynman quote and agree. Feynman does not seem to be as wedded to the absolute certainty others have in things like QP and evolution. Theories don’t have to be absolute to be useful, I know. I just don’t want certainty overstated. It’s not an insult to theory itself.

  47. Well, we Christians actually do believe that pagan deities exist, it’s just that we believe them to be dæmons as opposed to The Lord who is [The] God.

  48. No non idiot would argue for ~a therefore ~b, ~c, ~d…

    This only leaves one with idiots. Therefore one is left to wonder why one is rebutting idiots. The danger in rebutting idiots is that it is seldom possible to tell the idiot and their critics apart. Case in point, articles of this type.

  49. For the record, I believe in God and Allah and Brahman and the First Cause and Existence Exists … and I also believe they are the same entity.

    I would now like to point you in the direction of “The Universal Prayer” by Alexander Pope. If you insist on something short, you might be interested in Robin Weinbaum’s prayer in The Quincunx of Time by James Blish: “To Whom it may concern: Thy Will, not mine. “

  50. swordfishtrombone

    October 8, 2015 at 10:07 am

    @Bob Kurland: “What I wonder is why atheists are evangelical…”

    Odd, thinking back I don’t recall ever having an atheist knock on my door and try to convert me. I do remember Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently doing so and various creepy religious types approaching me in the street.

  51. swordfishtrombone

    You’re being intentionally dense

  52. JohnB(): Swordfishtrombone is just being his usual self. It’s interesting that the only kind of evangelizing he recognizes is door to door or on the street. Maybe he’s not familiar with the workplace atheist evangelist who has a hissy fit if anyone so much as breathes “Merry Christmas” or wears green and red on the wrong day of the year. Perhaps he never saw those Navitiy scenes that used to be everywhere and now are lucky to even be allowed on church property. He sees evangelism as “various creepy religious types approaching me in the street” (should be happy it’s not an armed, atheist drug dealer or gang member) and not the forcing of atheist practices on those who want to practice their religion in public and outside a church.

  53. swordfishtrombone

    October 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    @John B(): “You’re being intentionally dense”

    Yes and no. I’m calling it how I see it. Religious believers trying to convert me face-to-face have been far more intrusive and annoying than atheists trying to un-convert me via books.

  54. swordfishtrombone

    October 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    @Sheri:

    “Swordfishtrombone is just being his usual self.”

    I didn’t know I had a usual self!

    “It’s interesting that the only kind of evangelizing he recognizes is door to door or on the street. Maybe he’s not familiar with the workplace atheist evangelist who has a hissy fit if anyone so much as breathes “Merry Christmas” or wears green and red on the wrong day of the year.”

    You’re correct. I’ve never witnessed anything of the sort. My opinion is from a personal perspective – what would be the point of me giving someone else’s opinion? I’ve had workplace Christians and Muslims trying to convert me in various ways including giving me a copy of the Koran (I smiled and said thank you, then took it home and put it in my recycling bin so it could be turned into something useful.) I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I would give a copy of “The God Delusion” to a Christian or Muslim.

    “Perhaps he never saw those Navitiy scenes that used to be everywhere and now are lucky to even be allowed on church property.”

    I’ve seen many of those Nativity scenes you mention and I’ve been to quite a few Nativity plays at my children’s schools and they came complete with all the usual Christian trimmings. (Although my local junior school is a Church school.) Maybe things are different in the US?

    “He sees evangelism as “various creepy religious types approaching me in the street” (should be happy it’s not an armed, atheist drug dealer or gang member)”

    Why would a drug dealer or gang member be an atheist? I do think religious evangelists are creepy because they target people who look unhappy (I’ve got that sort of face!) which strikes me as an underhand tactic.

  55. swordfishtrombone: Yes, things in the US are very, very different. Schools are not allowed to have nativity plays, it is forbidden to say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Easter” etc. The same is true for businesses–the only thing Christmasy is the pile of merchandise the stores try to entice you into buying. The employees are not to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It’s Happy Holidays or keep quiet. Kids cannot take Bibles to school for reading and are not allowed to pray unless it’s silently and no one notices. Head bowing is a no-no. Religious expression is pretty much not allowed if you are a Christian. Muslims are allowed much more freedom and even demand prayer rooms and rugs and get them.

    Why wouldn’t a drug dealer or gang member be an atheist? A certain percentage of the population is atheist so I would think the Venn diagrams for Christian, Atheist, drug dealer and gang members would overlap in varying degrees.

    Actually, the only time I was approached by “street evangelists” is when my husband and I were sitting in our car (62 Chevy Belair, not restored) waiting to head over to the movie theater. A couple of Morman missionaries came by and wanted to share their religion with what they apparently thought was a homeless couple living in their car. I told them I already had a Book of Morman and they went away (I do have one and it’s not in the recycle bin–I like learning about other’s beliefs). We thought it was funny.

    I may not be “targeted” because I look mean! Especially with the scar on my neck that looks like I was in a knife fight!

  56. Ronny V. Bush

    May 26, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Re: John B()
    Best song for me God Bless The Child http://lyricsmusic.name/barbra-streisand-lyrics/just-for-the-record/god-bless-the-child.html by Barbra Streisand

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