The Atheist Complaint


“Hitherto we have stood on the front ranks of all that is intellectually honest and scientifically accurate, and this generation positively ignores us.”

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94 thoughts on “The Atheist Complaint

    1. Ignored? If you are attributing the quote to an atheist, then the person is factually incorrect. Non belief is growing by leaps and bounds and I suspect we are quickly reaching a tipping point where religious belief recedes from the public domain due to a majority of young people discarding these unpalatable religious truth claims in favour of well justified and easily defendable agnosticism and outright atheism.

      1. I agree; faith-based are too easy to hold, too convincing to those unskilled and – presumably unschooled – in critical thinking. That such thinking is a necessary ingredient for religion means it will always be our species nemesis.

      2. Good News! Religious belief of millennials (those born after 1980) is shown to continue the significant decline of religious affiliation (now 1 in 4) and a doubling (now to 16%) of ‘None’s (meaning no religious identity). In contrast to many accommodationist assertions that New Atheism is somehow a harmful effect to those who might be swayed away from religious belief, and even influences people back into the religious fold, this study (as well as two recent ones) continues to show nothing but an increased shift, especially among the young, away from religious affiliations and religious identity.

  1. I was thinking about all of the recent attempts to promote atheism in the public consciousness, and imagining that the public’s reaction to the atheist message must be frustrating.

  2. Well, I’m not an atheist, although my opinions seem to get me lumped in with them. I mention this to say I’m probably not the best person to assess public reaction or how atheists feel about it.

    My impression is that there are atheists who dislike the behavior of some of the vocal atheists in news stories. There are some who enjoy anything that riles up theists. The majority, IMHO, don’t care too much either way.

    1. Doesn’t stop them from being atheists though does it? I know atheists that do not even like the word ‘atheist’ – but they are still atheists, because they do not believe in supernatural stuff (including god).

      1. Doesn’t stop them from being atheists though does it?

        “What” doesn’t stop them? I’m not sure I understand your point…

        Christians can dislike the behavior of Christians without it making them deconvert; not sure why atheists would be any different.

      2. “What” doesn’t stop them? I’m not sure I understand your point…
        Not liking other outspoken atheists, doesn’t stop themselves from being an atheist – nor does it mean that they disagree with the message of the outspoken atheist.

        The point is that not all atheists call themselves atheists, or wish to be associated with other atheists – because the word ‘atheist’ is thought to be a loaded label. My point is just because people do not want to be labelled an ‘atheist’ it does not stop them from being an atheist, any more than someone who does not eat meat is not a vegetarian.

        The loaded label feeling is symptom that many non-believers experience, because the world around them is filled with religion to the extent that they feel they should hide away or be ashamed for something. Make no mistake about it, it takes guts to stand up like Dawkins et al and be counted – this seems to be lost on many non-believers that wish not to be known as an atheist.

        Personally, I am glad of Dawkins et al – they have brought the topic to the fore, which has caused many atheists to come out of hiding.

  3. What frustration do you mean?

    The only thing that frustrates me about it is that the atheist’s worldview must find the existence of God impossible. Yet, to prove this, they only speak with comparisons to absurd beings like the flying spaghetti monster. This does nothing to prove their point and they don’t even know why. So, failing to prove the impossibility of God (an absurd and not objective task) they fall victim to the ontological argument which they can only deny out the hope that they may one day defeat the premise that God is possible in some possible world. As long as one can say that God is possible in some world, then he must exist. The only thing left then, for the atheist, is to outlaw such speech. Perhaps this is why many philosophies of totalitarianism were also philosophies of atheism; giving rise to the thought police, as it were.

    1. Yeah I believe in a planet called Christmas, and on that planet there is a chap called Santa – so Santa must exist! Wow – I am theological genius.

  4. I’m sure atheists reject the stronger statement of God’s impossibility and fall back to claiming that God is irrelevant and not worthy of consideration in light of modern science. Talk of “evidence” usually begins after that. But, what I’m wondering, which is more in line with the subject of this post, is is the atheist message offensive to the public conscience no matter how they present it or is the presentation the only offensive part? Or maybe the nature of the content of the message is such that it is naturally passive and the atheists are violating the nature of their own message by making it active. I don’t know. Whatever the case, things aren’t going well in the public sphere.

    1. I don’t see any necessity of preaching atheism. After all, if a person dies still believing in God or in creationism, the atheist may still sleep at night. However, if a Christian finds an atheist dying still an atheist, he believes that atheist may suffer further consequences. So, preaching is easily a religious practice and not an anti-theological one. What is the gain to the atheist, in preaching atheism? Perhaps it is in having more comrades to push a shared political agenda.

      1. Oh, good grief:

        What is the gain to the atheist, in preaching atheism? Perhaps it is in having more comrades to push a shared political agenda.

        The gain to all of us comes only we stop respecting religious belief in the public domain (and allow people to keep private their metaphysical musings to themselves). Once this is accomplished, we won’t have to undermine respect for reality in the name of religious ‘tolerance’ nor have to continue trying to protect human rights, freedoms, and dignity from those who would remove them in the name of their religious beliefs. Believe it or not, tinnerk, you don’t have the right to force me or my tax money into being subject to or in the service of your religious belief and your religious agenda. Incredibly, there are theists in great numbers who actually think this subjegation and service is reasonable! And that works for you… right up until ANOTHER religious majority rams their dogma down your throat and demands you respect it as well as pay for it. Only then will you begin to realize just how amazingly blinded to their own pious stupidity so many religious people are.

  5. What is the gain to the atheist, in preaching atheism? Perhaps it is in having more comrades to push a shared political agenda.

    Find a person willing to preach falsehoods, and *someone* is eventually going to stand up to contradict or correct him/her. Assuming that well-meaning atheists exist (and I have no reason to think otherwise), it’d make sense that some of them would rail against what they see as a source of falsehood – political agenda or not.

    1. I agree that not all of them are politically minded. It’s just one explanation I thought of. It’s certainly not the only one.

      I understand railing against falsehood. However, how does an atheist know any falsehoods, philosophically speaking? The only falsehood for them to objectively recognize would be one that is obvious. For instance, an atheist sees a child steal a piece of candy and then the child says he didn’t steal it. That is obvious. What about philosophical lies vs truth? Can they objectively speak to those falsehoods? How can they know? They don’t believe you can know anything beyond material explanations. So, when it comes to something metaphysical or transcendental or a “higher truth” as it stands in relation to our existence, they have no way of knowing. Why would they claim to know? More importantly, why would they claim to know that there wasn’t any metaphysical, transcendental, or higher truth?

      1. Oh, this just keeps getting better and better. Apparently, belief in Oogity Boogity is a necessary condition to identify ‘higher’ truth, meaning that which is either unknowable or imagined (everything else has evidence in reality). That’s a hint, by the way…

    2. Whateverman,

      See, here I get get behind the atheist. We can all agree that intentionally spreading lies is wrong. But when it comes to a positive assertion like “this is what it true” then we have to part ways. We are like groups of people standing on opposite sides of a mountain; all looking at the same mountain but things look different to each group. The difference is our starting point. The issue of whether or not there is a God has the same polarizing effect for those looking at the world and trying to make sense of things. The Atheists positive assertion of truth looks like falsehood to a believer; and vice versa. Maybe those who walk away from this understanding (theist and atheist alike) naturally become offensive to the other side.

  6. The Atheists positive assertion of truth looks like falsehood to a believer; and vice versa.

    Most definitely. I honestly have no issue with people standing up to defend their opinions (or if you’d prefer, the truths they have faith in). I guess I’m only critiquing Daniel’s interpretation of how atheists “preach” their “beliefs”.

    1. PS. Sorry that I thought Dan O’Brien and Daniel were two different people.

      it seems to me that you’ve changed your argument a bit. You started by questioning the reasons for atheist evangelization, but now you’re agreeing that both sides (there’s more than 2, BTW) might be justified. Am I misunderstanding you on this?

      1. Sorry for the confusion. WordPress has me down as two different names. I have to fix it.

        As for your question– I am merely saying that if we are to find fault with one another we must observe the position each of us sees the matter from. A person is usually right from his point of view. And so the opposition must admit that the individual in question is at least partly right from that position. If he is at fault it is because he failed to see the matter from every side. Mankind is naturally unable to see everything from every side and understands a subject so far as it is within his reach.

        But, do not take this to mean that a point of view can be completely right and wrong at the same time- violating the law of non-contradiction.

        As for changing my argument– I was concerned with the atheist presentation and their reasons for evangelism and finding the relationship to the negative reaction of the public. And it seems here that I have stumbled upon an answer. The content of the atheist message is not the overwhelmingly offensive part, but the presentation is because they do not genuinely see things from their opponent’s perspective; and vice versa

      2. The content of the atheist message is not the overwhelmingly offensive part, but the presentation is because they do not genuinely see things from their opponent’s perspective; and vice versa

        I don’t know many people who, when they hop onto a soap box, display an understanding of the people they rail against. Perhaps it’s because they’re on a soap box, rather than simply exchanging opinions with others.

        I recognize that, even though I disagree with Evangelists about the correctness of their world view and message, they believe in the truth of what they’re saying. As you’ve pointed out, I **do** find it offensive when my interlocutor doesn’t grant me the same level of sincerity when portraying my opinions.

        So – doesn’t this mean we’ve come to an understanding? If it’s the presentation (rather than the content) of an idea that’s offensive, shouldn’t we strive to present our ideas differently?

      3. Ah yes, the argument about tone rather than content.

        I say we should respect reality and what’s true about it by letting reality arbitrate claims made about about.

        How strident.

        How militant!

        How intolerant.

        Theists disagree. They argue we should respect beliefs about reality based on metaphysical msuings unrelated in any way to the very reality they are trying to describe.

        The problem is that we find repeated contrary and conflicting claims about reality that then affect public policies and the direction of public institutions. If a complaint is raised about this incompatability and why we should keep private religious belief private, atheists are told that our tone is the real problem.

        I would suggest that theists grow up and get real. We’ve got problems of global proportions that are being denied, problems for real people in real life that are desparate for solutions that cannot be implemented as along as we continue to respect beleifs contrary to the reality we share.

  7. I believe we can agree on this understanding. Although, honestly, it’s easily lost– lost to our own egotistical fancies that we are almost never wrong. No one likes to be wrong, and yet when someone shows us an error in the hopes that we may become right, we despise them. I don’t know why we do this. We seem to be backward.

    I only hope that we can broaden our position that we might become circumspect. Too many of us had a broader position to begin with and then upon a convenient decision shrank our position and became dogmatic, ignoring what we once knew.

    So, yes, presentation matters. And the content should be true, at least as much as we can grasp it.

  8. “Hitherto we have stood on the front ranks of all that is intellectually honest and scientifically accurate, and this generation positively ignores us.”

    This is a quote? Citation?

    The only thing that frustrates me about it is that the atheist’s worldview…

    The what?

    As long as one can say that God is possible in some world, then he must exist.

    (Ah, the gift that keeps on giving.)

    As long as one can say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is possible in some world, then he must exist.
    As long as one can say that Santa is possible in some world, then he must exist.
    As long as one can say that Baal is possible in some world, then he must exist.
    As long as one can say that Vishnu is possible in some world, then he must exist.
    As long as one can say that pixies are possible in some world, then they must exist.

    I’m sure atheists reject the stronger statement of God’s impossibility and fall back to claiming that God is irrelevant…

    Oh, is that what they do? If only there was a way to verify that by maybe asking one of them or something. Hmm.

    Atheism is so complicated and hard to understand. Not.

    ATHEIST!!!!!!!

    1. As long as one can say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is possible in some world, then he must exist.
      As long as one can say that Santa is possible in some world, then he must exist.
      As long as one can say that Baal is possible in some world, then he must exist.
      As long as one can say that Vishnu is possible in some world, then he must exist.
      As long as one can say that pixies are possible in some world, then they must exist.

      Cedric,

      The statement that I made and you copied with your changes is not exportable to those beings you mentioned in place of God. “God”, as a metaphor for the “maximally great being” referred to by the ontological argument, is the only substitution that works for the statement in question. The lesser beings you’ve mentioned would not be necessary in all worlds. They may exist in some world or even all worlds, but their existence is not a must. Unless you claim that the flying spaghetti monster is a maximally great being. In that case, I would not argue the point, except to say that if the flying spaghetti monster is the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument then his attributes would be the exact same as the attributes of the metaphorical God which I earlier ascribed to the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument. Therefore, “flying spaghetti monster” becomes a phrase meaning the same thing as the word “God.”

      Still then, the burden that rests on atheists is, not to prove that belief in the flying spaghetti monster (or any other creature you mentioned) is just as reasonable a belief as the belief in God, but rather it is to prove that the existence of the maximally great being is impossible.

      1. Piling assertions on top of assertions will not help.
        Your magic, invisible friend does not poof into existence.
        It is as worthless as any other claim of a god’s existence.

        “The statement that I made and you copied with your changes is not exportable to those beings you mentioned in place of Baal. “Baal”, as a metaphor for the “maximally great being” referred to by the ontological argument, is the only substitution that works for the statement in question. The lesser beings you’ve mentioned would not be necessary in all worlds. They may exist in some world or even all worlds, but their existence is not a must. Unless you claim that your god is a maximally great being. In that case, I would not argue the point, except to say that if your god is the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument then her attributes would be the exact same as the attributes of the metaphorical Baal which I earlier ascribed to the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument. Therefore, “your god” becomes a phrase meaning the same thing as the word “Baal.”

        Still then, the burden that rests on theists is, not to prove that belief in their god (or any other creature you mentioned) is just as reasonable a belief as the belief in Baal, but rather it is to prove that the existence of the maximally great being is impossible.”

        See? It doesn’t work. It’s just silly.

      2. You do realize that this silly WL Craig resuscittated argument was put to bed as false by no less a theist as Aquinas, right? But as an atheist, I and most gnu atheists are assumed to be theologically ignorant. That may be so when it comes to the kind of sophisticated theologies and apologetics (where one must learn to squint just right) but as far as this kind of millennia old metaphysical argument goes, only the theologically ignorant continue to espouse them.

  9. Cedric,

    I agree with you that assertions do not dictate the ontological status of anybody, and human words do not poof anybody into existence either. Claims are worthless except inasmuch as they align themselves with the truth of the matter. Since timnerk and others like him seem to be in the wrong, and hence a bad position, and really do want to know the truth of the matter, I’m sure we all would be grateful if you were to show us your position seeing as how it is the better one. Tell us, how are we to know how some things exist and others do not?

      1. Then I would ask you to follow your own rule and provide evidence that the principle– “If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence”– does indeed exist in reality. Where is your evidence that this principle is actually real and not something you made up?

  10. Cedric,

    “‘The statement that I made and you copied with your changes is not exportable to those beings you mentioned in place of Baal. “Baal”, as a metaphor for the “maximally great being” referred to by the ontological argument, is the only substitution that works for the statement in question. The lesser beings you’ve mentioned would not be necessary in all worlds. They may exist in some world or even all worlds, but their existence is not a must. Unless you claim that your god is a maximally great being. In that case, I would not argue the point, except to say that if your god is the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument then her attributes would be the exact same as the attributes of the metaphorical Baal which I earlier ascribed to the maximally great being referred to in the ontological argument. Therefore, “your god” becomes a phrase meaning the same thing as the word “Baal.”

    Still then, the burden that rests on theists is, not to prove that belief in their god (or any other creature you mentioned) is just as reasonable a belief as the belief in Baal, but rather it is to prove that the existence of the maximally great being is impossible.'”

    See? It doesn’t work. It’s just silly.”

    I agree. It’s silly to think that any substituted word or phrase matters. The substitutions you used for my previous reply do not change the point one bit. They actually enhance the meaning of it because they illustrate the very point I was making; which was to say that all that is accomplished by the substitution is to trade the word or phrase for another word or phrase that essentially means the same thing. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is the meaning. Now we get down to the point. Either the meaning behind the word or phrase describes something real or it doesn’t, which is exactly the point of the ontological argument. Is it possible or impossible?

  11. What matters is the meaning. Now we get down to the point. Either the meaning behind the word or phrase describes something real or it doesn’t, which is exactly the point of the ontological argument.

    Meaning? So you are just going to skip the bit where you demonstrate that your magic, invisible friend exists?

    No, that won’t do.
    The “ontological argument” does not work.
    It won’t get you where you want to go.

    This is the internet. Anyone can google “ontological argument” and see how old it is. It’s been done and it wasn’t very convincing the first time around. It might work with someone without an iphone or bad internet connection whom you’ve managed to buttonhole in a bar somewhere…but that would be a sad state of affairs.

    No. 3: ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
    (1) I define God to be X.
    (2) Since I can conceive of X, X must exist.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    1. “Meaning? So you are just going to skip the bit where you demonstrate that your magic, invisible friend exists?”

      Michael Behe did a pretty good job of demonstrating intelligent design in nature. Even Dawkins admits things look designed. I think that these things give us good reason to think positively for the possible existence of an unidentified designer.

      “No, that won’t do.
      The “ontological argument” does not work.
      It won’t get you where you want to go.”

      Why?

      “This is the internet. Anyone can google “ontological argument” and see how old it is. It’s been done and it wasn’t very convincing the first time around. It might work with someone without an iphone or bad internet connection whom you’ve managed to buttonhole in a bar somewhere…but that would be a sad state of affairs.”

      What does how old it is have to do with its veracity?

      Why wasn’t it convincing?

      “No. 3: ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
      (1) I define God to be X.
      (2) Since I can conceive of X, X must exist.
      (3) Therefore, God exists.”

      This is not the ontological argument.

      I just want to point out that you haven’t actually tried to refute the ontological argument in any of these statements.

      1. Michael Behe did…

        The man is a joke. I don’t care about him and neither should you.
        Provide evidence for your magical invisible friend.
        Silly word games will get you nowwhere.

        Even Dawkins admits things look designed.

        This is the internet. Why can’t you understand that?
        I know a lot about Dawkins and what I don’t know I can google. Quote-mining is a very dishonest practice and shame on you for being dishonest.

        What does how old it is have to do with its veracity?

        It’s obsolete. People have looked and it an critiqued it and found it to be flawed. Even Christians reject it. Google it!

        I just want to point out that you haven’t actually tried to refute the ontological argument…

        It’s pre-refuted. All the heavy lifting has been done alreadly by others centuries ago.
        It’s got whiskers on it.

  12. Then I would ask you to follow your own rule and provide evidence that the principle…

    No, that won’t help you.
    You are the one making a claim. The burden of proof is on you.
    I don’t have to provide evidence for anything at all.
    Word games will get you nowhere.

    Even if I collapsed in a quivering pile of jelly, totally unable to explain to you the idea that claims require (gulp) evidence…that would not poof your god into existence.
    Your claim must stand on it’s own merits. It cannot “win by default”.

    Seriously, aren’t you even just a little bit embarrassed by trying this on? Is this an intellectually honest way to conduct yourself in an argument?

    Shifting The Burden Of Proof – The Atheist Experience 438

  13. Cedric,

    I’m not asking you to show me the error of my ways, I’m willing to concede that I could be wrong. Throughout the course of this discussion, you seem to have a better viewpoint that I, and whereas Tildeb has expressed satisfaction at being your pupil on particular subjects, I should like, in a similar manner, to understand your position better concerning the matter of how to know if things exist or not. I consider the answer on this subject to be of great importance, so tell me now what you were just affirming that you knew. You said, –“If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence”–, and I consider you to be stating the matter sincerely. You purport this principle to be true, so please show me the evidence that you are privy to and I am not that it is indeed true.

    1. A principle isn’t a ‘thing’ that has physcial properties but a word used to describe a normative code of conduct. Those who make claims that something is true in reality must do so on some basis that another person can follow. That basis is not grounded when someone switches the goal posts and demands that those who dare question the conclusion must now do all the heavy lifting and show why it is not true in all possible worlds. Imagine if we placed this burden to disprove everything ever claimed on those who wish to understand only by elimination the basis on which a claim is made. It is far easier for the person advancing a clima to show on what basis the positive claim is made. Failing this, the logic simply doesn’t follow that ignorance of X means proof of Y. Failing to account for god’s absence in every possible world doesn’t make Oogity Boogity in this one any more likely. Claiming that your god exists in this one requires compelling positive evidence to support it directly. It’s called the burden of proof which, if unmet, can be reason enough to discard it for lack of evidence.

    2. If you are honestly willing to concede that I could be wrong, then you should have some idea how this might be possible. What, I’m wondering, would constitute reasonable grounds in your opinion whereby you are convinced you are wrong? (I suspect you have used this phrase merely as a throw away line to present yourself as appearing to be reasonable and open to reconsidering your position, but I deeply doubt this is true in fact. I would love to be wrong in this.)

      As for Cedric and me, we have had our disagreements in the past. By offering up an accumulated weight of evidence for a position better informed than my own, Cedric was instrumental in helping me to change my mind. That’s not a bad thing if one gives up one opinion for another that is better informed. We’re allowed to do that if we value intellectual integrity. The actions of such people as Cedric provide the rest of us an opportunity to learn something we otherwise might miss. Finding that opportunity is our job.

  14. Tildeb,

    I’m sure you would shiver in luxurious delight if I were to shift from my position into one that you would happily prepare for me. And I would not hesitate to do so if it was made clear to me that this particular position provided a more solid foundation for and a better explanation of the subject at hand than my current position. Now, Cedric, in answer to my question, has ventured a comment that has not really answered my question. I asked him to show me evidence, which he obviously possesses, that his statement– “If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence”– does indeed exist or is true. His comment–“That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”– is a curious admission for he has not yet given me evidence for his first statement. Am I to take it that I can dismiss his first statement on the basis of the second? No. Surely he is toying with me and holding back the evidence for the first statement as an older brother holds a treat just out of reach of his younger brother. Do not tease me, Cedric. I wait with eager anticipation.

    Let’s not forget the subject at hand which is: How to know if things exist or not. Now, Tildeb, maybe you seek to clarify what Cedric means with the principle he described in his first statement and want to prove yourself a teacher in like manner as your mentor. If Cedric is pleased to let you clarify then I will submit myself under your tutelage. You say, “A principle isn’t a ‘thing’ that has physical properties but a word used to describe a normative code of conduct.” Well, here I’ve been thinking that Cedric’s first statement was real and true, and you come to tell me that it is not a thing at all, which is to say, it does not exist. I’m here to find out how things exist and you tell me his principle does not. I’m also to understand from your explanation that this thing that does not exist refers to a code of conduct. Maybe you will say that this code of conduct is a real and true thing, in which case evidence should be presented in its favor. And here I continue to stand with no evidence in my possession that any of these statements are real. Please, do not hold back any longer but produce this evidence which you require of real and true existent things. You are taunting me, sir, for you surely know of this evidence and I do not consider you to be a liar. I await your reply.

    1. Well, you don’t have long to wait!

      The principle of the burden of proof resting with the person making the positive truth claim about reality is a normative code, meaning it is a word (not a thing in and of itself) based on an ideal or typical standard (code of conduct) or model (in academia). In other words, it’s normal for people making a truth claim about reality to show positive reasons from reality for making that claim. It is NOT NORMAL to make a claim and then insist that others else eliminate all other possibilites (negative claims) first.

      Let me offer an explanation how this principle is based on normative conduct.

      If you and I were in a room with a window and I was looking out that window while you were sitting nearby unable to observe what I was observing, what would you do if I made a truth claim about what I was seeing?

      Well, in the normative case, you would first decide if my claim made sense to you. Perhaps I might note the passing of something typical – like a cloud that looked puffy – and say as much. You probably wouldn’t care. If I observed that your car was being towed away, I suspect you would care.

      Because you would care if the claim was true, you would be perplexed if I blocked you from seeing for yourself and told you to take my word for it. You would want me to either step aside so that you could verify my truth claim about reality for yourself or at the very least excuse my rude behaviour and offer you positive evidence that what I say I observed I really did observe… like the name of towing company or something useful to help you decide what to do next.

      If I observed that your car was being dismantled by little green five armed aliens and each piece was taken aboard a hovering space craft, you might simply disbelieve me. I think that would be pretty reasonable of you. If I wanted to prove my case, however, what do you think I should do? Write an essay using metaphysical arguments about why belief in aliens is justified on the argument that, unless you prove otherwise, there may be a world where aliens exist and so therefore my keen observations can stand alone without offering you evidence… about your car?

      Does that seem normal to you?

      Of course not.

      I suspect you would want to see for yourself. You would want evidence from reality that my claim had merit.

      If you came to the window and saw that the car you had parked was now gone, would you now believe aliens were the cause? I seriously doubt it. I think you would dismiss my explanation entirely… and justifiably so. After all, there are many other possibilities why your car might be missing: perhaps it was stolen or towed. Perhaps you parked it somewhere else. Perhaps you didn’t drive it today. Perhaps someone else with a key came and borrowed it without letting you know. Perhaps they let you know but you forgot. All these explanations are <i.reasonable explanations that need investigating becuase the likelihood of them happening is greater than little five-armed aliens dismantling and abducting your car.

      In order to take my explanation of alien automobile abduction seriously you would quite rightly demand that I provide you with extraordinary evidence for this extraordinary explanation because it would be an extraordinary event. All of this is normal human behaviour, which we call assigning the burden of proof to someone making a truth claim about reality: a normative code of conduct.

      What you’re doing is trying to create a false dichotomy. You are trying to suggest that what we use to represent ideas and concepts and notions is not physical and so it is not real and so therefore the idea, concept, or notion has to be untrue. You have confused your terms.

      ‘Real’ and ‘true’ are not synonyms, although they share some common meaning. Something real exists independently of the mind. It is physical, with physical properties and physical attributes subject to forces operating within reality.

      Something true can exist only in the minds that comprehend it but it is dependent on an association with what is real.

      For example, numbers represent quantity. They do not exist independently of the minds that grasp their symbolic meaning of quantity. From this very simple comparative basis, we have developed an entire language to explain how quantities can be used to describe properties of real things. The entire language of math is symbolic and based not on any one thing that is real but on relationships between real things that remain constant and knowable. The reason why this language works is only because it accurately describes stable properties of things that are real. We call these knowable and stable properties ‘true’ because they remain knowable and stable to all. This is why we can create mathematical axioms that are held to be true (because they work to describe reality) as the necessary grammar within the symbolic language we call math. Numbers themselves are like phonemes. But the language in order to reveal what’s true depends on it accurately describing relationships between things that are real, that exist independ of the mind.

      The same is true for our words. They are symbolic representations of what is knowable based on what is real.

      What I have done is try to show you why the principle of where the burden of proof rests does indeed come from reality, from physical evidence about common human behaviour. The principle was not POOF!ed into existence by a magical sky daddy. That is why, by missing the key word normative, you went sailing off into absurdities and assigned the map to your misunderstanding as coming from Cedric.

      If you would just take a moment and think about the points raised, asking honest questions about meaning and intention, rather than so eagerly and poorly assigning meaning and intention to others where none properly belongs, these kind of misunderstandings could be cleared up quickly. I know that Cedric can usually produce a video to explain the point he is making that affords others an opportunity to grasp it easily… unless one has already decided that they have The Truth (TM) and all criticisms – especially from Cedric – must therefore be wrong even before comprehension can take place. I suspect this is the trap you have set for yourself because you seem determined to keep falling into it.

      1. Videos. People are always demanding videos from me.
        (…insert theatrical sigh here…)
        Fortunately, we have access to the internet and there are a rich variety of short, simple videos out there that show how to know about stuff and sort out crap from reality.
        All the dishonest theological pretzel twisting and passive-aggression pales in comparison.
        Learn.

        Critical Thinking

  15. Meanwhile, in other news, evidence for magic, invisible people seems to be put on hold.

    (…waits patiently…)

    While I’m waiting, I’d like to ask a question.
    How old do you think the Earth is?
    There’s no need to hem and haw.
    Can you give me a straight answer on that one?

    1. Cedric,

      “All the heavy lifting has been done alreadly by others centuries ago.
      It’s got whiskers on it.”

      I take this to mean you won’t be looking into the argument personally and will choose to let others do the “heavy lifting”, as you put it, on other arguments as well. Are you sure it’s been refuted? Where? By whom?

      “This is the internet. Why can’t you understand that?
      I know a lot about Dawkins and what I don’t know I can google. Quote-mining is a very dishonest practice and shame on you for being dishonest.”

      I’m not sure what you’re trying to accuse me of. Dawkins does admit the appearance of design in his book the Blind Watch Maker. I never said he didn’t have an explanation for it, nor was I attempting to deceive anyone. My only point is that to the extent design can be recognized, it is possible that there is a designer. Dawkins even admits that last point when he says that maybe aliens seeded life on Earth. So, I don’t see how I’m being dishonest.

      “The man is a joke. I don’t care about him and neither should you.
      Provide evidence for your magical invisible friend.
      Silly word games will get you nowwhere.”

      So, I take it you’re not going to attempt to refute his argument either, because someone, somewhere, has done it for you.

      By the way – “The man is a joke” – Ad Hominem

      “People have looked and it an critiqued it and found it to be flawed.”

      What people? And why?

      “Even Christians reject it.”

      And your point is??

      “Provide evidence for your magical invisible friend.”

      Before, you asked me to demonstrate my “magical” friend. Now, you want “evidence”. Okay. So, 1) I don’t claim God can be demonstrated in the same sense that one could pull back a curtain to reveal him, any more than an evolutionary biologist could show me a fossil record that demonstrates conclusively an actual transition. Now, I do believe one could point to supporting evidence and supporting arguments for both claims, which leads me to my next point. 2) What kind of evidence are you asking for? Meanwhile, I’ve given you exactly one supporting argument (ontological) and one supporting evidence (Behe), and you have dismissed both by claiming one is old and already refuted by “somebody” and the other one’s author is a joke, and you still haven’t refuted either one.

      Tell me again, which one of us is playing the word games?

      “While I’m waiting, I’d like to ask a question.
      How old do you think the Earth is?
      There’s no need to hem and haw.
      Can you give me a straight answer on that one?”

      It’s probably millions of years old. What about it?

      1. …I take this to mean you won’t be looking into the argument personally…

        What part of “Google it” do you not understand?

        …will choose to let others do the “heavy lifting”, as you put it, on other arguments as well.

        Not “do”. Try “done” as in the past tense. As in centuries ago.

        Are you sure it’s been refuted? Where? By whom?

        What part of “Google it” do you not understand? How hard can it be?

        I never said he didn’t have an explanation for it…

        He does. You just left that little bit out. Funny how that seems to happen a lot.

        … nor was I attempting to deceive anyone.

        It would be nice to think so. Hmm.

        My only point is that to the extent design can be recognized, it is possible that there is a designer.

        Sure, it’s “possible”. Lots of things are “possible”. Bigfoot is “possible”.
        (shrug)

        So, I take it you’re not going to attempt to refute his argument either, because someone, somewhere, has done it for you.

        Behe is a harmless crank. His scientific career can be best summed up by his active, working research in the last twenty years or so. It’s not a pretty picture.

        By the way – “The man is a joke” – Ad Hominem

        By the way. There is this thing called the internet. Google what “Ad Hominem” means. You will find that it is not a synonym for insult.
        Go ahead. I’ll wait.
        (…time passes…)
        See? Now you know what “Ad Hominem” really means.
        Behe is a joke. I’ll grant you that he’s made some sweet cash on his coffee table books, though.

        What people? And why?

        What part of “google it” do you fail to grasp? We are not dealing with obscure knowledge here.
        Just type in “Ontological argument” and it pops right up.

        Before, you asked me to demonstrate my “magical” friend. Now, you want “evidence”. Okay. So, 1) I don’t claim God can be demonstrated in the same sense that one could pull back a curtain to reveal him, any more than an evolutionary biologist…

        Please spare me your ignorance on modern biology. I don’t care. Complaining about science will not poof your magical friend into existence. Your claim must stand on it’s own merits.

        What kind of evidence are you asking for?

        Well, what evidence convinced you? What awesome, surefire evidence makes you part with your hard-earned cash every Sunday and put it in the collection plate with a “no money back guarantee”?

        It’s probably millions of years old.

        Wow. Probably millions of years, eh?
        Try billions. Google it. This is really basic stuff. Just type in “age of the Earth”. It’s not that hard.

        ***** 16. Evolution vs. Creationism: The Age of the Earth *****

    1. Okay okay. Billions. I have no argument with that. I just wasn’t thinking when I put Millions instead of Billions. No need to get snarky.

      For the rest of what you said, I don’t have time to sit here and convince you that I wasn’t being deceptive. I also don’t have time to sit here and try to explain why I don’t accept “Googling” things as a scholarly research method. Actually my use of Ad Hominem was properly applied. I don’t know why you don’t see that. Ad Hominem means to speak negatively of a man’s character so that hearers may doubt the veracity of his claims. Which is precisely what you did. It’s a logical fallacy.

      I also suspect that you don’t even know if there is a continuous progression of fossils that conclusively demonstrate a transition, or not. What’s more, I don’t think you care. I thnk you are just happy to believe your position and get your kicks from the philosophies of Richard Dawkins and Michael Ruse and Christopher Hitchens, and not look into the science of it, minus some “Googling.”

      I’m not going to put up any more arguments or list any more supporting evidence on this screen for you to mock. If you care, you can find it yourself. But, you don’t. You don’t think there could be. That’s fine. Just admit it. I’m suprised we even got you out of your habit of word substitution. I consider that progress.

      Jesus loves you.

      1. Okay okay. Billions. I have no argument with that. I just wasn’t thinking when I put Millions instead of Billions. No need to get snarky.

        Fair enough. You would not believe the number of religious wackjobs out there that deny all the
        physical sciences just so that they can believe that the Earth is 6000 years old.

        I ask that question to avoid arguing with the terminally stupid. It’s a waste of my time.
        It quickly sorts out the sheep from the goats.
        Somebody hems and haws around the question and then (after long persistence) finally testily admits that they do think the Earth is 6000 years old, then the conversation is over as far as I am concerned. They can clean up their own drool by themselves.

        Ad Hominem means to speak negatively of a man’s character so that hearers may doubt the veracity of his claims.

        Yes but I didn’t do that.
        I didn’t even mention his claims. They are old news and they never got any traction in the scientific community.
        What I did was insult him and move on with the conversation.
        That’s not an Ad Hominem.
        It’s ok to insult people. It’s not a logical fallacy. Honest.
        Behe really is a joke.

        I’m not going to put up any more arguments or list any more supporting evidence on this screen for you to mock.

        Any more supporting evidence?
        You never even started.
        You offered a 900 year old theological argument that even Christians reject and a crank biochemist that has done no work in twenty years.
        Hugely unimpressive.
        I confess to remaining curious about what evidence convinced you. It must have been awesome, surefire evidence to make you part with your hard-earned cash every Sunday and put it in the collection plate with a “no money back guarantee”.
        Sadly, now the world will never know.

        I’m suprised we even got you out of your habit of word substitution. I consider that progress.

        Say the man leaving the conversation with unseemly haste.
        (shrug)

        I also suspect that you don’t even know if there is a continuous progression of fossils that conclusively demonstrate a transition, or not. What’s more, I don’t think you care.

        That’s very perceptive of you. You are absolutely right.
        I honestly don’t care what you suspect about what I don’t know.

        You see, you are offering a false dichotomy.
        Idle babble about biology will not magically poof your magic, invisible friend into existence.
        Even if all of modern biology collapsed tomorrow, your beliefs would not suddenly take centre stage and become real.
        They have to stand on their own merits, utterly independent of what the the other guy is doing.
        Behe and his dupes never understood that.
        It’s just how science works.

        Jesus loves you

        May His Noodly One bless you and keep your pasta al dente.

        Fallacy of ID and creationism-False Dichotomy [Reloaded]

  16. Let’s not forget our subject which is: who to know if things exist or not. To which Cedric explained that “If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence.” Then I, being concerned about the realness and trueness of the statement, asked him to provide evidence that it was either real or true.

    Tildeb,

    I know you are a man of similar form and fashion as Cedric, but he is not outspoken enough. Perhaps he is so filled with humility that he is driven to contradict himself by giving me a second statement that allows me to dismiss his first. But you, Tildeb, venture forth your answers confident in your frankness. Henceforth, if we should agree on anything, we can assume that the point has been well tested.

    However, I’m confused by the word normative you used in your explanation. I know the definition well enough, but do you not see that your particular application of the word bears no meaning and so explains nothing? I must ask you to clarify. What do you mean by normative? Do you mean how the largest number of mankind behave? or the largest number who behave the same way in a particular culture or subculture? or maybe the behavior of the non-religious as opposed to the religious? Or the majority of the people with western values as opposed to middle eastern ones? In any case, according to the behavior of the majority of the American culture, if you ask them how things exist, they will tell you that God made them. This is normative behavior for my culture and passes your test.

    But, again, I’ve not asked you to disprove my claim. I asked you to provide evidence for yours, which is: “If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence.”

    your answer made an appeal to common practice which is claiming something is true because it is commonly practiced.

    Maybe you would like to change your mind and say that one wise man is better than ten thousand fools in this matter. Surely the wise who have attained education and sharpness of mind would know the answer better than those who go about their normal behavior. Does the intellectual man shun the normative practice of the ignorant?

    However, it doesn’t matter whether or not this is fallacious. Neither you nor Cedric have given me evidence that Cedric’s first statement is true. You say it’s normal to do so, but when asked to produce the evidence, you just repeat that people ought to produce the evidence. I’ve been waiting here for quite some time for you to show your position to be the better one. I think I have placed myself under an inadequate teacher. Cedric, would you provide the evidence that your first statement is true? Tildeb has failed. Please, no longer allow him to clarify for you. Give me the evidence yourself.

  17. Let’s not forget our subject which is: who to know if things exist or not.

    Gosh darn it. I thought the subject was how you know your magic, invisible sky friend exists or not.
    Oh well.
    Maybe some other time.

    1. Sorry for the typing error, Cedric. Does this mean you’re not going to provide evidence to back up your claim? Should I give up hope of becoming wise because no one will share their evidence with me?

  18. I didn’t ask you to disprove God. You made a claim. Back it up

    I’m not making a claim.
    You are.
    You are the one going on about your magic, invisible friend.
    I’m asking you to provide evidence for your friend.
    So you resort to shifting the burden of proof.

    Then I would ask you to follow your own rule and provide evidence that the principle– “If someone claims the existence of something then they have to provide evidence”– does indeed exist in reality.

    Hey presto. Now suddenly, you don’t have the burden of proof any more. Neat dodge.
    (facepalm)

    Where is your evidence that this principle is actually real and not something you made up?

    I can say with perfect honestly that demanding evidence for a claim is not something that I made up.
    It’s pretty routine and basic stuff.
    (shrug)

    Let’s not forget our subject which is: who to know if things exist or not.

    Only it was not the subject.
    You are being dishonest because you can’t come up with any evidence for you magic, invisible friend.
    Adults don’t argue the way you are doing now. Shame on you.

    Would you accept this behaviour in a court of law?
    If someone in an email claimed to be a Nigerian prince and wanted access to your bank account and, rather than give you evidence of their tall story, they just demanded evidence from you that the principle of evidence existed in reality?
    It’s charlatanism. Pure and simple.

    1. Cedric,

      First you make a claim, provide no evidence for it, then tell me in your second claim that if there’s no evidence then I can dismiss it. After that, Tildeb says your claim does not exist in reality and makes an appeal to common practice. And finally, you tell me you didn’t make a claim at all.

      Then you say, “I can say with perfect honestly that demanding evidence for a claim is not something that I made up. It’s pretty routine and basic stuff.”

      Good. Then provide the evidence. I demand it. Then again, maybe there’s no evidence since the claim you made doesn’t exist. You say you never made it, and Tildeb agrees it doesn’t exist.

      You say. “You are being dishonest because you can’t come up with any evidence for you magic, invisible friend.”

      We don’t need to go through all that. Hear what I’m telling you. We can leave God out of this equation. It’s OK. Just provide the evidence for your (apparently non-existent) claim. Provide the evidence that your position is the better one. You say it’s proper and even normal to do so. So do it. I’m waiting.

      1. First you make a claim…

        Why do you lie? That’s not what happened.

        We can leave God out of this equation.

        It’s your claim. You deal with it. If you want to abandon it then be honest about it.
        Either provide evidence for your claim or abandon it.

        The same goes for claims of pixies, invisible pink unicorns and the existence of Baal.

      2. I challenge you, Cedric. Look back through this particular converation and point out to me the exact moment when I personally made a claim that God exists. I mention that there are people who believe God exists, and I mention the name of one particular argument for God’s existence. But, I did not personally make a claim of any kind in this conversation that God exists. Show me a claim that I personally made that God exists. Go ahead.

      3. Dan, why are you being dishonest and misrepresenting what I wrote? Is it because your comprehension ability is suddenly suspect whenever the subjetc involves a particular magical and invisible friend you think you have or are you really that obtuse that you don’t understand the criticisms of others in how you try to avoid being intellectually responsible for the beliefs about causal effects you hold?

        You have concluded that my position is that the burden of proof does not exist in reality. Well, it’s not a physical thing with physical properties as I’ve patiently and painstakenly explained; the evidence for its use is that it’s a principle based on how humans actually communicate. But you cannot possibly accept this explanation while maintaining this juvenile and ridiculous insistence that ‘not physical’ means ‘not true’. And you are doing this to try to avoid the criticism of making truth claims about causal effects in reality while providing no compelling evidence for these reasons. This disregard for backing up claims of causal efficacy is nothing more and nothing less than an avoidance technique. It’s not clever. It’s tedious. By not owning up to the burden of proof but insisting that because sucha principle isn’t a real and physical THING you can dismiss it with a metaphorical wave of your hand is not just very silly but dishonest. Yet you continue to exercise this intentional dishonesty by substituting words that do not share the same meaning to mean the same thing while conveniently forgetting to include key words in your quote mining.

        This shows that your intention is to:

        1) deceive through foul means the honest and reasonable requests from those who doubt your belief about reality corresponds to reality, and

        2) avoid taking responsibility for the truth claims you make about causal effects in reality.

        Shame on you. If we follow your argument to its conclusion, what you are saying in effect is that the burden of proof is irrelevant because it’s not physically real and atheists only respect what’s physically real. This is utter nonsense. What atheists say is that IF you are going to make a claim about causal effect in reality, THEN you bear the burden of showing good evidence for making it. Failing to do this means the causal claim for efficacy can be dismissed out of hand to be nonsense.

  19. Look back through this particular converation and point out to me the exact moment when I personally made a claim that God exists.

    You mean…unless you make the claim that your magic, invisible friend exists in a “particular conversation” that’s happening at present, unless there is an “exact moment” where “you personally” make a claim that your magic, invisible friend exists then…it’s wrong for me to assume that you believe that your magic, invisible, friend exists?
    Wow.
    Ok.
    Um, congratulations.
    You did not make a claim about your magic, invisible friend existing…in this particular conversation.
    You did not make a claim about your magic, invisible friend existing…personally at any exact moment…in this particular conversation.
    I stand corrected.
    I made an assumption.
    I assumed that you did indeed believe in a magical, invisible friend and that your claim was implicit and long-standing considering we have debated your religious beliefs before.
    I had no idea that you have changed your mind since.

  20. misunderstoodranter responded to me (above) with the following:

    Not liking other outspoken atheists, doesn’t stop themselves from being an atheist – nor does it mean that they disagree with the message of the outspoken atheist.

    While this a semantic objection, I’m pretty sure not liking someone (based on what they’ve written or said) implies that you don’t agree with what they’ve written or said 🙂

    I take your point, though, and never meant to imply otherwise. There are clearly “atheists” who don’t want to be identified as such, nor do they want to be associated with contemporary atheist causes – all while lacking belief in deities.

  21. Tildeb,

    It’s hard to see how something that doesn’t exist in the physical world can be true. Something that doesn’t exist doesn’t have the capacity even to be false. It has no falseness for there is nothing to be false. The same thing applies to non-existent trueness. Something that doesn’t exist can’t be true.

    You’ve relegated claims, principles, and similar propositional content out of the physical realm. You say a principle is not a thing, therefore not real and physical, but it’s still somehow true. Are you saying that we use the non-existent to know the existent; the non-real to know the real; something that’s unable to be intrinsically true to know the intrinsically true? In that case, what are we using? If we are using something, it exists. If you say a symbolic representation is not physical, you’ve essentially stated that the representation exists but have not shown how it exists. How can something non-physical and therefore non-existent exist in the mind? You say, the principle of the burden of proof comes from reality. Does it then pass into a non-reality?

    1. Don’t be silly, Daniel. True refers to consistency in reality but you continue to confuse the notion of a thing with a consistency about things and then suggest that unless the consistency is a thing that is real then this consistency cannot be true. This is very muddled thinking because you’ve muddled up the terms. Words, for example, are themselves not real things existing independently in reality. According to you, words cannot be true. (Are you beginning to see the problem with your terminology?) Your name represents you. These are words used to consistently represent you: a thing that exists in reality. But you are not your name and your name is not you; it is a representation that is true. We use this form of representation all the time to enable communication about things in the real world, to describe them, to show relationships between them, to provide a grammar that allows for complex and compounded additions to further our understanding of what is being represented, commonly referred to as meaning. If the meaning of words is not consistent with reality, then we lose the common base for mutual understanding. Reality is the foundation – the necessary ingredient – on which all languages as symbols for reality are built – everything from oral and written languages to maths and music. Remember, though, that what is being represented must remain consistent to be considered true and not necessarily real to remain so.

      1. So, in order for mankind to know things, he has to use something that is not real and make it match the real. How do we know whether the non-real matches the real or not? Is judgment a non-real representation that presides over other non-real representations in order to make them match reality? It’s not enough to be consistent. One can be consistently wrong.

      2. “How do we know whether the non-real matches the real or not?”
        You’re a bit slow Dan, but I think you might be almost there…
        Because we check whether the non-real (words) matches something that is real, by checking our physical senses (eyes, ears, touch, smell, taste). And if we are unsure about what our senses are detecting we check with (shock horror!):

        1) someone else’s senses; or
        2) both someone else’s senses and your own senses; or
        3) the record or multiple records of someone else’s senses and our own; or
        4) we simply do not know what we have detected with our senses and no one else knows either, or no one can agree to a majority what is detected – in which case we simply ‘do not know’.
        In other words Dan you do an experiment.

        You do know this Dan, because if you didn’t you would walk off cliffs.

  22. Misunderstoodranter,

    So, you experience reality and form a non-real thought about it, and if you want to make sure your non-real thought matches reality, you look at the reality again via the senses that you used the first time. This explanation is circular. (Not to mention that something that’s not real can’t be used. There’s nothing there to use.)

    Then if you are still unsure, you check with others who use the same circular method. And if the people are equally divided about a certain belief, how do you arbitrate that?

  23. misunderstoodranter,

    “or we simply do not know what we have detected with our senses and no one else knows either, or no one can agree to a majority what is detected – in which case we simply ‘do not know’.”

    This makes no sense. So, the majority is the deciding factor? The “majority” believe God to be real. You are expressing assent to a principle, the principle of the majority, that has made a decision you rebel against.

    1. “The “majority” believe God to be real.”

      Your logic is flawlessly stupid!

      Belief is not real – it is a belief, this is not to be confused with believing that people believe things therefore belief exists, because this very notion is testable – by asking people what they believe, but it does not mean what people believe is true.

      The reason God is not real is because even the people who believe in God cannot agree how to describe their belief in it/him/her! And collectively the believers in god cannot describe what they believe to people who do not believe in god.

      If I give you a shiny ball – you may not know exactly what it is, so you may ask someone else who may not know exactly what it is – but the fact remains all the people agree that it is shiny and a ball – if nothing else.

      The trouble with the God hypothesis is there isn’t even a single point of reference apart from a word based on imaginings that can be used as a point of reference.

      God as a concept I no different from any other imaginary concept – fairy, pixy, unicorn…

  24. I should have challenged you earlier when you started this silly word substitution game to serve your goal; specifically, you use ‘not real’ to mean not a discrete physical object. These are not equivalent terms and you know it.

    For example, you claim because a thought is not a discrete physical entity, it is equivalent to ‘not real’. This is a ludicrous use of language. Of course a thought is ‘real’ in that it is very much a physical process of electrochemical transmission through neurons made up of cell bodies, axons, and dendrites that activate other neurons that cause physical effect. But a thought is not a discrete object. You assume mistakenly that this means several us us here actually think that a thought is not real… not because we’ve intimated as much but because you muddle up the common language to paint this ludicrous notion attributable to us.

    This is silly. After all, if a thought weren’t real – meaning it was somehow disassociated from reality – then what else could it possibly be? A ghost in the machinery? An Oogity Boogity overlord? Come on.

    Of course we use reality to inform how we operate within it. So do you. Almost all the time…except when it comes to your religious assertions, in which case you will disallow reality to remain its arbiter (even though this works in all other areas of your life consistently and reliably well all the time) and start your dizzying linguistic decent into the bowels of relativism, all couched in some metaphysical hyperbole where such words as god, soul, heaven, divine, spirit, etc., are used to tie any rational discussion of reality that supposedly contains these elements as active agents causing effect in reality into Gordian knots of religiously sanctioned superstitious mumbo jumbo.

    1. I said “not real” means “not physical” because that’s what you said and I took you seriously. You said, “A principle isn’t a ‘thing’ that has physical properties.” And elsewhere you said, “It’s not a physical thing with physical properties…” If you think “not real” doesn’t mean “not physical” then you’ve got to show how a non-physical thing can exist. As it is, you abandoned this line of thinking altogether and now you’re telling me thoughts do have physical properties thereby making them real.

      If a thought is a physical process then, it has physical properties and exists in the physical (real) world. I’m glad to see that you’ve decided thoughts have physical properties even though indistinct. Your position up until now has been worse than the dualists: There was no ghost in the machine and the machine was not thinking at all because thoughts didn’t have physical properties therefore there was nothing to be thought.

      1. If you think “not real” doesn’t mean “not physical” then you’ve got to show how a non-physical thing can exist.

        Talk about a convoluted thought!

        Yes, a physical thing is a real thing. Note the consistency of the bold. We’re talking about a discrete and concrete object that exist independently of the brain that encounters it.

        By definition, a non-physical thing is not a real thing that exists independently of the brain that considers the notion. Please note the word in bold. You keep missing this essential point. What you continue to do is drop the bold-faced word to write I said “not real” means “not physical” because that’s what you said and I took you seriously. I pointed out repeatedly that the problem is that you kept dropping the key word I used make sense of what it was we were talking about, namely, your insisting that a non thing is actually a thing. A non-physical thing is not a thing if the word ‘thing’ maintains the same meaning in this sentence. Obviously, there is a logic problem here if you continue to assert that Not X equals X. So, keeping this notion in mind, perhaps you can begin to appreciate why I insist that a non real thing is not the same as a real thing. You confuse the terms by dropping the key descriptive word ‘thing’ with ‘non thing’ and ‘real with not real’.

        I then went to some pains to explain that we use symbolic representation all the time for non physical concepts and notions like patterns, relationships, comparatives, preferences, and so on, none of which are physical things that exist independent of the brain that recognizes these consistencies. In this sense, they do not exist as discrete and concrete objects in reality; they exist only as symbolic representations in our brains.

        A thought is an emergent property from a brain process. We use the symbolic representation of a word to describe a particular compilation of neurochemical activities and call it a ‘thought’. A thought is not a discrete and concrete object in reality; it is entirely a emergent property of a physical process, a property we assign the word ‘thought’ to. So when you write, if a thought is a physical process then, it has physical properties and exists in the physical (real) world, you’re almost correct except for what follows the conjunction ‘and’. Change that conjunction to ‘that’ and we’re home. It is the physical properties that exist and not the thought – a representative word we use – itself.

        Maybe now we can move on.

      2. Would it be fair to use the analogy of atunement? The physical process of a string being plucked produces an emergent property of sound waves: the plucked string being analogous to the configuration of firing neurons and the emergent property of sound waves analogous to thought.

      3. If you want to use such an analogy, then I would be inclined to relate it more to a group of strings producing emergent harmonics.

      4. Do you think that everyone has the exact same neural configurations when, say, looking at a rock, or that each person has configurations that vary.

      5. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘neural configurations’ but no two humans share exact replication including clones and identical twins. Your neural network is incredibly vast and subject to change (what’s called brain plasticity) so only in a general sense are neural configurations the same, as in your visual cortex will be very similar to mine. Perhaps this older TED video from Ramachandran (a brilliant neuroscientist) will help show how brain neurochemistry directs function that we have long presumed is associated with mind but somehow independent of brain.

      6. Tildeb,

        *So, the electrochemical transmission through neurons that activate other neurons that cause physical effect (or ETN’s for short) are never exactly the same in any two humans. Do you think that, therefore, every person possesses the emergent property called thought (or EPT for short) to a different degree? *

        *And do you think that EPT’s are controlled completely by the ETN’s or that the EPT’s can go contrary to them?*

        **

    1. Sorry. This comment was in response to the question, “And do you think that EPT’s (emergent property called thought) are controlled completely by the ETN’s (electrochemical transmissions).

  25. It’s one thing to say that ETN’s vary and therefore the contents of EPT’s vary. It is however, another thing to say that ETN’s vary and therefore one person has a EPT to a greater degree and another to a lesser. You may assent to both or just one, but which is it?

    1. It doesn’t make sense to me to try to say the emergent property of what we call ‘thought’ varies ‘to a greater or lesser degree’. The emergent property of thought in this sense is consistent, whereas the form it takes, meaning the ‘thoughts’ themselves varies from person to person dependent on the stimulation, neurology and neurochemistry, encoded memories, environmental stimulation, and the context of the response. Remember, our brains are not one thing but many many components of specialized cells that constantly interact, producing a very wide range of activities that we coalesce with the single word ‘thought’. There’s lots of stuff going on we simply are not conscious of as well as parts we are. To what extend we can manipulate all of this activity going on in our brain to achieve a specific outcome – a specific thought – is unknown. But what we do know is that we can manipulate this process directly by interrupting and interfering with very specific neural areas, showing a causal relationship between brain and the content of this emergent property. By changing one, we change the other… and this seems to be true in both directions (which is pretty remarkable); in other words, by changing what we think, we also can change how we think.

      1. “It doesn’t make sense to me to try to say the emergent property of what we call ‘thought’ varies ‘to a greater or lesser degree’.”

        I don’t see how you can avoid saying that the EPT varies. You would have to make the unreasonable assumption that all physical processes in the brain that produce the EPT work perfectly and have worked perfectly throughout all history. It would certainly make sense knowing that medical professionals have identified various brain malfunctions. And if the EPT’s are completely controlled by the ETN’s then the emergence is affected. If the ETN doesn’t work properly, neither will the EPT.

        Also, are you still committed (which I think you are) to saying that the EPT is not a thing, that is to say it is nothing. When I use the word nothing I mean the absence of anything. But are you using the word nothing to mean the same thing that Lawrence Krauss means when he says the universe came out of nothing, and by nothing he means a quantum vacuum which is definitely something. In other words, is the EPT a something which you redefine as a nothing? or is the EPT in fact the absence of anything?

        Also, if the EPT is completely controlled by the ETN, then the flow of information is only going one way. The EPT gets its information from the ETN which gets it from nature which gets it from the laws of nature which guided the expansion of matter from the beginning of the universe. In fact, you could say that the conversation we are having right now is 100% completely predictable if one knew completely all the events that happened at plank time. In other words, the EPT does not have the ability or capacity to exercise input toward the ETN. Therefore, thinking that the EPT can manipulate any activity in the brain is a delusion. Any feeling of being able to do so is illusory. There are not “both directions” of input which you asserted above, and no changing of anything. If the EPT could manipulate anything in the other direction it would be a violation of the laws of nature and a miracle (so far as Hume has defined it).

      2. Daniel, you’re playing a word game again and it grows very tedious.

        By me defining ‘thought’ as an emergent property of the brain’s neurochemical activity (widely supported by neuroscientists as a working definition), you then deliberately set out to confuse the meaningful term ‘property of’ by first assigning the term to be represented by the short form ‘EPT’ and then going right back to what you were doing before, namely, treating this term EPT as if it were an independent ‘thing’ rather than emergent property of neurochemical activity… and insisting that if it is not an independent ‘thing’ (which we know it isn’t because there’s compelling evidence that thought is an emergent property of neurochemical brain activity and wholly dependent on this neurochemical activity) then it must therefore be a non thing (thus denying it’s a ‘property of’.) … as if thought – the term we use to describe the form this neurochemical activity produces – is not a meaningful term. But Daniel, it is a meaningful term because we have assigned its meaning to represent not an independent thing but the form of an emergent property of neurochemical activity we call ‘thought’! Thought is not a thing in itself but a property of our brain activity. Play your word game all you want but you can’t call this emergent property ‘nothing’ when we use the term as a simple representation of a very sophisticated and detailed physiological process of chemistry and biology.

      3. Tildeb,

        Answer the question! Is the emergent property we call thought nothing or is it something? When it emerges from the physical process does it remain physical? If it is physical then I know how it exists. If it is not physical, then it is your job to explain to me HOW it exists.

      4. Tildeb,

        Part of the business of science is breaking things down into their respective parts. You made the distinction between the emergent property and the neurochemical physical process that it is a part of. Each part needs to be broken into smaller parts so we can examine what these things are made of. I understand that the emergent property is wholly dependent upon the physical process just as the harmony coming from plucked strings are wholly dependent upon those strings. But the harmony still exists in the form of sound waves that can be examined. The emergent property must exist in a form that can be examined. Or it is nothing.

      5. An undefined antecedent like ‘it’ holds the key to your question concerning ‘thought’: What is ‘it’?

        My answer is ‘thought’ is a word we use to describe the collection of neurochemicals in action: it produces what we call ‘thought’. Thought in this sense is the compilation of this neurochemical action and, keeping to the same sense of what is we’re talking about, is a physical process. That – the physical process – constitutes what ‘it’ really is.

  26. All good common sense, and clear logic – but it still amazes me that we have to dumb this down to this level and the religious still cannot understand it.

    1. Oh, it is well understood I think – (after all, religious folk are just as likely as anyone to insist on evidence from some con artist making an extraordinary claim). It is simply rejected in this case of special pleading because it is a demand that is fatal if honestly met to faith-based beliefs. That’s why it must be avoided at all costs behind whatever smoke and mirrors is available… the more obfuscating, the better.

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