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Biblical Passages About VP Debate

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Much has been written and said by both conservatives and liberals about Vice President Joe Biden’s laughing, disrespectful, rude performance at last Thursday’s (October 11, 2012) vice presidential debate. The conservative/liberal political angle has been written about so much that I just could not resist offering these Biblical passages in yet another angle.

There is, in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, the book of Proverbs, the parables of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. It “is so called, because it consists of wise and weighty sentences: regulating the morals of men: and directing them to wisdom and virtue.” Let’s see what the world’s most published, read, and quoted book says:

    Proverbs, chapter 29, verse 9:  


  • “If a wise man hath a controversy with a foolish man, Whether he be angry or laugh, there will be no rest.” And, here is John Wesley’s comment: “addressing the word “Whether,” Wesley says, Whether – Whether he, the wise man, deal sharply with him, or mildly, there is no rest, no end or fruit of the debate.And permit me to add these two verses as well, verses 11 and 12:
    “A fool uttereth all his anger; But a wise man keepeth it back and stilleth it.””If a ruler hearkeneth to falsehood, All his servants are wicked.”
    Proverbs, chapter 30, verse 32:


  • “If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, Or if thou hast thought evil, [Lay] thy hand upon thy mouth.” Verse 33 offers perspective and what is to come: “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.”Wesley’s comment:
  • verse 32: Thought – Designed any injury against thy neighbour.
    verse 33: The forcing – The stirring up of wrath, either in a man’s self towards others, by giving way to passion; or in others by reproaches, or any other provocations.”
    Proverbs, chapter 1, verse 22:


  • “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And scoffers delight them in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge?”Wesley’s comment:
    Scoffers – That scoff at religion and condemn the word and faithful ministers of God.
    My comment: The operative part of this verse is, “And fools hate knowledge?”
    Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 35:


  • “The wise shall inherit glory; But shame shall be the promotion of fools.”Wesley’s comment:
    Shame – Instead of that glory which they seek.
    Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 14:


  • “The wise store away knowledge. But the mouth of the foolish is a neighbor to confusion.”Wesley’s comment:
    Knowledge – Whereby they may be enabled to speak both what, and when it is seasonable.
    But – Fools are more forward to lay out than to lay up, and for want of knowledge speak much and foolishly, whereby they frequently bring destruction upon themselves.

Just so you readers don’t get confused, it was Joe Biden who laughed, was condescending, rude, and acted the fool.

No, I did not personally find these passages. That honor goes to the fine people at Black & Right, and to Doug Ross for distributing them.

Okay, BC commenters, your turn to offer Biblical passages and/or sources to reinforce Biden’s antics.

But that’s just my opinion.

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  • Glenn Contrarian

    A wise man once said, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

  • Baronius

    Roger – Therefore, quoting the Bible is fascistic? Either that’s what you’re implying or your comment was a non sequitur.

  • Baronius

    Sorry – Glenn, not Roger. Actually, it’s more problematic that it’s you, Glenn, saying that, as you’re someone who espouses both flag and cross. That makes your comment seem less like a principled stand and more like a cheap shot.

  • Re: comment # 3, Baronius, well said! Please notice that Glenn, a self-described strong Christian, was unable, in comment # 1, to offer ANY Biblical passage(s).

  • maybe he didn’t find a website to copy them from

  • Re: comment # 5, EB, is that the best you can do? You really make me LOL! I gave my source. Now it’s your turn. And where I got my sources in no way changes the message, or its applicability.

  • Deano

    Right… because a 2,000 year old, heavily abridged, multi-authored, oft-poorly translated, mostly mythical skewed biblical tome written for pre-medieval desert tribesmen is by far the best methodology for assessing or solving modern political decisions.

    Perhaps next we should call upon the Mighty Zeus to smite the heathens…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Um, Baronius –

    Unlike some people – such as the Religious Right – I don’t believe in forcing the tenets of my religion upon others. It’s funny how the GOP believes so strongly in small government, but is all too eager to support whatever the Religious Right tells them to support.

    For instance, before the rise of the Religious Right in the mid-1990’s, could a Republican politician even dream of being one heartbeat away from the White House if he espoused outlawing abortion even in cases of rape or incest? Now that’s part and parcel of the official GOP political platform! Oh, and let’s not forget the two GOP governors that pushed mandatory ultrasounds for women wanting abortions – welcome to the Religious Right’s brand of small government!

    Could the GOP have really gotten away with assigning congressmen to the House Science Committee who believed that evolution and the big bang were “falsehoods from the pit of hell”, and that women couldn’t get pregnant by being raped?

    Thanks to the rise of the Religious Right, there’s schools that teach that the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution. And then there’s the “don’t say ‘gay’ in sex ed” bills in Missouri, Utah, and Tennessee, and the fetal personhood bills that they have pushed in various states!

    Baronius, in the parlance of the modern political world, the teachings of Jesus are quite socialistic…and here’s perhaps a better explanation of the fact.

    One last thing, Baronius – remember that the same party that is so…infested by the Religious Right is also the same party that is pushing corporate personhood. Now go look up fascism – not the Nazi brand, but the real by-the-book fascism that Mussolini pushed. That’s not quite a complete fit for what the Right is advocating, but it’s certainly too close for comfort.

  • Igor

    @1-Glenn: I think it was Sinclair Lewis, who wrote an excellent book called “It Can’t Happen Here” (which I remember as the proud boast of my parents contemporaries, in an invidious comparison to the Europeans) about how an oafish small town politician named “Buzz Windrip” (one of the great names in American literature!) becomes the first American dictator. Think of Andy Griffin in “A Face In The Crowd”. A pale imitation of Lewis’ fine book.

    Red Lewis was much despised in Middle America for “Main Street”, which gave a not-pretty view of American small-town values (you know, the sort of thing radical right republicans are always weeping about), and “Elmer Gantry”, which ripped the mask of hypocrisy from the tent-show evangelicals which preceded todays TVAngelists (thus dismaying the power-mad religionists) and “Babbit” which exposed the falsity and hopelessness of American small business.

    Yes, Sinclair Lewis was much denounced by his childhhod familiars, and excoriated from coast to coast by Good Republican Americans, but today you can go to Sauke Centre (“The Original Gopher Prairie” proudly pronounces the road sign) and drive down “The Original Main Street” and even drive by his childhood home, where his father, the original for Dr. Kennecut in “Main Street” and “Arrowsmith” practiced medicine and raised his family.

    Because, you see, Lewis transcended the American Hoi Polloi and became a celebrity! The Holy Of Holies! A celebrity! Truly a member of Americas Real Royalty. Only exceeded by primped-up movie stars.

    How delicious success must have been for his pals and contemporaries: Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and even my own uncle Johnny who went to New York, became a famous illustrator and married The Most Beautiful Woman In New York City (the men in my family have always been skilled at finding and wooing the most fabulous women).

    None of them returned. Tom Wolfe even wrote a book “You Can’t Go Home Again”. John Steinbeck had to sneak into Salinas as a middle-aged man to visit his sister. He was hated in the Salinas Valley and his books had been banned thru central California. A friend of mine had to take the Greyhound bus 200 miles from Hollister to San Francisco to buy “The Grapes Of Wrath”. Now, Steinbeck is celebrated in Salinas because he brings Bu$ine$$ their way. Their way being somewhere East Of Eden, where Adam and Eve were driven in disgrace by an angry god.

  • Re: comment # 7, Deano, your opinion of the Bible is worth exactly what I paid for it: NOTHING! And, just how many books, fiction or non-fiction, have YOU authored lately?

    Re: comment # 8, Glenn, you now blame the “Religious Right” for your inability to cite EVEN ONE Biblical passage. You say, “Unlike some people – such as the Religious Right – I don’t believe in forcing the tenets of my religion upon others.” Well, if you cite any Biblical passage, we can choose to read them or not, so don’t worry about “forcing the tenets of my religion upon others.” BTW, Dr. Dreadful, what Glenn is currently offering qualifies as a rant.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Warren –

    Re: comment # 3, Baronius, well said! Please notice that Glenn, a self-described strong Christian, was unable, in comment # 1, to offer ANY Biblical passage(s).

    ‘Unable’? Hardly. Warren, I spent eight years in , made literally thousands of posts on, and for a couple of years moderated a religious forum. If you want to get into a religious debate, sir, I can certainly do that, and in spades.

    My comment #1 concerned the fact that you – and those you referenced – are using religion to push a political agenda…something which Christ did NOT preach. In fact, Jesus told us to pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21) and insisted upon following the rule of the Roman government even though He knew it would result in His execution – remember, He even stopped Peter from defending Him when He was being arrested. At NO point does Jesus even hint that we are to reject the government even if the government is evil – for those who do not belong to Him will have their own problems later.

    I am a strong Christian – I try to follow as best I can the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. BUT most ‘churches’ of the modern world have no clue. For instance, Jesus is not and never was God, and the ‘trinity’ is an invention that no Biblical figure ever preached.

    Before you start trying to defend Jesus’ alleged divinity, remember that Jesus DIED…which means that if trinitarian theory were true, then it had to have become a ‘duality’ for the period of time that Jesus was dead. Furthermore, if you were to do some research, you’d find that the Hebrews NEVER thought that God was part of a trinity…but every other nation and culture from the Indus to Iberia DID worship a trinity in one form or another, usually (but not always) as part of a pantheon of gods – Ba’al was part of one such trinity, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    Furthermore, just reading the Bible won’t give you the answers you need, Warren, for as Romans 10:14-15 make clear, you must receive the Gospel from one that is sent to preach the Gospel…and as 1 Corinthians 1:10 makes clear, all those in the Body of Christ must believe the same thing, with no division – which completely nullifies the protestant belief that it doesn’t matter which denomination one goes to, as long as one believes. For instance, the Baptists believe in baptism by immersion, whereas the Episcopalians believe in baptism by sprinkling; that is division of belief. BUT if you ask the preachers of either one, they’ll say that the other will probably be saved, too – thereby falling afoul of Paul’s admonition in Corinthians, and thus proving their ignorance of the commandments of God, Jesus, and the apostles.

    Want more? I can do this all day long, Warren. The only reason I don’t is that the Church of which I am a member is apolitical in America – in the 20 years I’ve attended twice a week (and sometimes every day of the week and twice on Sunday) (except for when I was at sea), I’ve never once heard a minister preach on political topics…

    …which is directly following Jesus’ example. Think about that the next time you hear your preacher say something about the political process.

  • “Now go look up fascism – not the Nazi brand, but the real by-the-book fascism that Mussolini pushed.” #8

    As per Anarcissie, “Mussolini’s formula was ‘Everything within the state; nothing outside of the state; nothing against the state.'” (see comment #26) So it looks as though that it is the liberals, not the conservatives,” who are closer to Mussolini’s brand of fascism for being statists.

  • Re: comment # 11, Glenn, you say, “‘Unable’? Hardly. Warren, I spent eight years in , made literally thousands of posts on, and for a couple of years moderated a religious forum. If you want to get into a religious debate, sir, I can certainly do that, and in spades.” Well, with those qualifications, you should have no problem offering even one Biblical passage. Yet you conspicuously continue to offer none. Yes, I’m calling you out.

    You say, “Want more? I can do this all day long, Warren. The only reason I don’t is that the Church of which I am a member is apolitical in America – in the 20 years I’ve attended twice a week (and sometimes every day of the week and twice on Sunday) (except for when I was at sea), I’ve never once heard a minister preach on political topics…” And now you will cite specific examples of just how my article is, in any way, political. It, just in case you have been blinded by ideology, was a citation of Biblical passages that are quite apporpriate to Biden’s disrespectful, rude, outlandish behavior.

    You sound just like Obama did last week, during the debate, when asked to specifically answer questions. He could not. All he could do was look down, and we all got to see just an empty suit he is.

    Damn, but this fun. Glenn, you are an easy target.

  • Baronius

    I’m always reluctant to go off on religious tangents in the Politics section, but I have to say that the idea that every religion has a trinity is driven by confirmation bias. If you’re looking for a trinity, you’ll find it even if it isn’t there. In fact, if you look at the web page you linked to, you won’t find the idea of a Babylonian trinity there either. You’ll find the word “trinity” along with an explanation of why the trinitarian paradigm isn’t applicable. Really, this might be the perfect example of confirmation bias, the linking to an article with one word in your defense and a thousand words against your case.

  • Costello

    What will commentors accomplish posting Bible passages? But I’ll play along: thou shall not steal. Were you aware of that one when you were stealing credit for articles you didn’t write?

  • Re: comment # 15, Costello, did you even bother to look at, much less read, the second page of the article?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Warren –

    Well, with those qualifications, you should have no problem offering even one Biblical passage. Yet you conspicuously continue to offer none. Yes, I’m calling you out.

    Never mind that I pointed out specific verses in Matthew, Romans, and 1 Corinthians. I’ve got no problem quoting the verses in full – I just chose to not include the full quotes for brevity’s sake and ASSUMED that you would have the wherewithal to go look those verses up. Shame on me for assuming you’d go to the effort of looking them up, I guess.

    And now you will cite specific examples of just how my article is, in any way, political. It, just in case you have been blinded by ideology, was a citation of Biblical passages that are quite apporpriate to Biden’s disrespectful, rude, outlandish behavior.

    Wait – are you saying that you posted the above article in the Politics section without any political motivation behind it? Really, Warren? Really? Would you tell the same thing to God?

  • Deano

    Re: comment 10: Actually Warren, I’ve authored two books and the third one is in the works.

    And if you don’t want feedback on your non-sensical, poorly argued, derivative and shallow-minded meandering postings that continually set the high-water mark for inane stupidity and hypocritical posturing…then don’t post them.

    That advice is FREE by the way.

  • Dr Dreadful

    BTW, Dr. Dreadful, what Glenn is currently offering qualifies as a rant.

    Only what Glenn is offering? It’s so easy to take Biblical passages and apply them in either a positive or negative light to the doings of any politician, or indeed to anything whatsoever, that one is led to wonder what substance one is supposed to discern in your article.

    None at all? Just a series of Bible quotes? Sounds like a rant to me.

  • Re: comment # 17, Glenn, you say, “… I pointed out specific verses in Matthew, Romans, and 1 Corinthians.” And now you will explain how those verses justify Biden’s behavior. More obfuscation? You, in your mind (only), talk a good game, but you never seem to get to the specific point at hand.

    You say, “Wait – are you saying that you posted the above article in the Politics section without any political motivation behind it?” Is that the best you can do? Let’s see: Biden-Politics. I, somehow, get the connection, but you seem to miss it. Now you can tell me where I should have posted my article.

    Re: comment # 18, Deano, Book titles? Please don’t be shy. I’m sure that your books have out-sold The Bible, and your books have been quoted more often, as well.

    You say, “And if you don’t want feedback on your non-sensical, poorly argued, derivative and shallow-minded meandering postings that continually set the high-water mark for inane stupidity and hypocritical posturing…then don’t post them.” Your opinion is showing. And I could not help but notice that you (1) offered no Biblical verses, and (2) offered no specific feedback, unless you consider your rant as specific feedback.

    And I’m glad the advice you gave was free, because that’s EXACTLY what it’s worth.

    Re: comment # 19, Doc, feel free to contribute ANY Biblical verses to further your position.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Really, this might be the perfect example of confirmation bias, the linking to an article with one word in your defense and a thousand words against your case.

    …Or the perfect case of special pleading, in which Baronius explains to us just why the Christian Trinity is fundamentally different from the hundreds of other trinities to be found in world mythology.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Re: comment # 19, Doc, feel free to contribute ANY Biblical verses to further your position.

    And what position would that be?


    “None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:16)


    “Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.” (Isaiah 41:24)


    “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

    Come to that, why the Bible particularly? Other literature would do just as well. Let’s try Mark Twain, for instance:

    “When we badly want a thing, we go to hunting for good and righteous reasons for it; we give it that fine name to comfort our consciences, whereas we privately know we are only hunting for plausible ones.” (“The Mysterious Stranger”)

    We could go at this all night.

  • Deano

    I could quote you my grocery list and it would have just as much relevance to the matter at hand as your scriptures, which is to say none. You’ve hoisted up a big straw man and when we don’ t engage it, you claim victory.

    As I noted before: inane, shallow posturing. Let me know when you can scrap together an original thought or idea.

  • No, that’s not the best I can do, but there’s no reason to waste my best on you. Is this the best you can do, copying other people copying from the Bible? And you paid such little attention with your cut and paste job you don’t introduce to readers who John Wesley is.

    Like Deano and others, I have no idea what you think you are accomplishing with this ridiculous challenge of quoting the Bible. It’s utter nonsense, but to throw you a bone, here’s one that the editors of this section and the site appear to have taken to heart with the low bar they set on accepting your submissions:

    “if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (1 Cor. 14:37)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Warren –

    Re: comment # 17, Glenn, you say, “… I pointed out specific verses in Matthew, Romans, and 1 Corinthians.” And now you will explain how those verses justify Biden’s behavior. More obfuscation? You, in your mind (only), talk a good game, but you never seem to get to the specific point at hand.

    I wasn’t trying to justify Biden’s behavior at all – I was questioning your behavior…and – assuming your beliefs are as I suspect – I was showing you a few of those errors in your beliefs…especially in your attempt to use Scripture to justify your personal judgment of a politician.

    You say, “Wait – are you saying that you posted the above article in the Politics section without any political motivation behind it?” Is that the best you can do? Let’s see: Biden-Politics. I, somehow, get the connection, but you seem to miss it. Now you can tell me where I should have posted my article.

    I notice you left off the rest of the paragraph: Really, Warren? Really? Would you tell the same thing to God? I included that because God knows what is in your heart. Is that why you didn’t include it in your quote?

  • Baronius

    Dread – I haven’t found anything comparable in other religions. That’s not to say that that constitutes proof of the Christian trinity – the concept could be unique and still wrong. But I just don’t see the case against it being unique. Feel free to provide examples.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    That’s why I included the link to the Catholic Encyclopedia showing where they stated that Ba’al was part of the Babylonian trinity. Furthermore, Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma form the Hindu ‘Trimurti’, which are depicted as one-in-three and three-in-one. Sound familiar?

    The Greco-Roman world had the trinity of Isis, Serapis, and Cybele. The Egyptians had Horus, Isis, and Osiris. The Sumerians had the trinity of Anu, Enki, and Enlil.

    Note that while not all these were one-in-three/three-in-one and were often part of a greater pantheon, they were all trinities of one sort or another.

    As far as I’ve been able to find, the Hebrews were unique in that they did NOT worship a trinity. Instead, there’s significant indication that Roman emperor Constantine decided that the Catholic church would worship the ‘trinity’ so he could keep a measure of peace within his kingdom since he was also the high priest – “Pontiff Maximus” was the official title (as it was for Julius Caesar 200 years before Christ was born) of the Roman trinity I mentioned above.

    So bearing in mind that even the Catholics admit that the Hebrews did not worship a trinity, if the trinity were real, then that would require that ALL the pagan nations arrayed against the Hebrews in OT times knew more about the triune nature of God than the Hebrews did!

    Just something interesting I found over the years….

  • Baronius

    In the case of Egypt, they had five or six main deities. Over centuries, when priests of one temple or another would gain prominence, a particular god would become more important. But there was never a three-in-one concept that I’ve ever run across.

    Likewise, the Indian deities you mentioned each had their era of dominance, and there can be an underlying theme that all gods (and everything else) are one, but there’s no real notion of three-in-one in historical Hinduism. Brahma is the oldest of them, but in recent centuries got relegated to something closer to a king than a god. If I remember correctly, Shiva is one with his spouse, which is closer to the multiple-gods-in-one-entity idea.

    I read the Babylonian article you linked to, and it doesn’t depict anything like a Christian trinity. It does contain this nice description of how pantheons develop:

    “The tutelary spirit of a locality extended his power with the political power of his adherents; when the citizens of one city entered into political relations with the citizens of another, popular imagination soon created the relation of father and son, brother and sister, or man and wife, between their respective gods.”

    You can see that no religion as far as I know ever set out to enshrine a trinity of gods, except for Christianity. Several have had three near the top, but not as a doctrine. They just happened to be in prominence at the same time. The Catholic Encyclopedia article makes one reference to a trinity, as follows:

    “The Babylonian Trinity of Anu, Bel, and Ea is the result of later speculation, dividing the divine power into that which rules in heaven, that which rules the earth, and that which rules under the earth.”

    The comment about later speculation, as I read it, means that there was no sense of trinitarianism about the Babylonian dieties at the time. You’ll also notice that the split of heaven, earth, and below the earth doesn’t fit the Christian understanding. And as the article points out, Marduk came along and rivalled all of the original gods, as a creator deity. So it just doesn’t match traditional Christianity.

    You note that the Hebrews didn’t have a trinitarian conception of G-d. That’s common knowledge, I think, but it doesn’t address the question.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    With the exception of the Indian trimurti, I didn’t say that the others had the same style of trinity as does mainstream “Christianity”. I said that they were all trinities of one sort or another.

    I also said that the Hebrews never worshiped a trinity – and that is significant. The only two verses in the OT of which I’m aware that are used to ‘prove’ trinitarian theory are where God says “Let us make man in Our image”…which they claim must be proof that there is more than one aspect to God. What they forget is that there is the plural of respect, and that He could also have been speaking to His angels, as a father might to children when he is about to guide them or teach them in work.

    The other verse is Isaiah 9:6 where all modern translations say the verse refers to Jesus as a “mighty God”. Problem is, ‘God’ is translated from the Hebrew ‘El’, which is also translated as ‘man’, and the phrase could also be correctly translated as “mighty Man”.

    I can go through the New Testament as well, but that’s enough wonkishness for now. I know it goes against most ‘modern’ thought, but the Bible doesn’t support trinitarian theory.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Baronius –

    You note that the Hebrews didn’t have a trinitarian conception of G-d. That’s common knowledge, I think, but it doesn’t address the question.

    I just saw that last line. While this belief might be true of the Church of which I’m a member, of the Jews, and of those who are well-versed in Catholic doctrine (which does NOT include most Catholics), this is not true among the great majority of mainstream “Christianity”.

  • Zingzing

    “Triads of gods appear very early, at the primitive level. The archaic triads in the religions of antiquity and of the East are too numerous to be mentioned here. Arrangement in triads is an archetype in the history of religion, which in all probability formed the basis of the Christian Trinity.” C. G. Jung, A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity

    Christianity evolved, just like every other religion. The “newness” of the Christian trinity is only its specific iteration, the mutation of previous iterations. The amount of religions floating around the roman empire meant there were multiple sources to pull from, and even from those we know about, it’s easy to come up with multiple possible sources for almost every bit of early Christian mythology, and then it’s a matter of historical record to watch the Christian church cleave bits of that away, leaving stories, characters and whole understandings of what we consider to be “Christianity” left in the dump heap.

    The early Christian religion was a smorgasbord of cultural and religious myth, while what we have today is a product of consuming bits of it and adding successive contemporary bits to it, to the point where the Christian of the 1st century would probably have as hard a time figuring modern Christianity for his religion as he would any of the sources that went into making it in the first place. Evolution!

  • Clavos El Buey

    Jesus told us to pay our taxes

    Yet another reason to ignore him.

    The guy is a character in a book of fables, why do you care what he “said?” He’s the figment of the imaginations of ancient would-be story tellers with too much time on their hands.

    What claptrap.

  • Baronius

    Glenn, what you’re calling trinitarianism in other religions is at best tritheism. Trinitarianism is the specific idea of three persons in one God. You could call Jordan, Pippin, and Rodman a trinity if you want, but only in the broadest sense. And doing so doesn’t provide any great insight into religions.

    I’d like you to reread that Catholic Encyclopedia article. Tell me if you think it’s describing anything comparable to the Christian trinity. If not – that is, if you don’t read it or you don’t think it’s comparable to the Christian trinity – then don’t link to it again and claim that it is.

  • Re: comment # 22, Doc, thank you for finally offering Biblical verses.

    You make a very point: why limit ourselves to the Bible?

    Pro-Biden behavior: “Biden laughed and grinned and smiled a lot– a real lot. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was part of his plan to marginalize Ryan, to show without making angry faces, complete contempt for Ryan and his words.”

    Anti-Biden behavior: “CHRIS WALLACE: ‘I don’t believe I have ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other’.”

    You are correct” “We could go at this all night.” So the question is, “Do we limit our focus, or not?”

    Re: comment # 24, EB, you say, “I have no idea what you think you are accomplishing with this ridiculous challenge of quoting the Bible.” And then you do the same thing. You quote 1 Corinthians 14:37: “if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” That could apply to you and your comment as well.

    Regarding the “Trinity” discussioin/arguments: they are moot since we take that concept on “faith.”

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doc, thank you for finally offering Biblical verses.

    And what do you think my point was in doing so?

    So the question is, “Do we limit our focus, or not?”


    Regarding the “Trinity” discussioin/arguments: they are moot since we take that concept on “faith.”

    That’s a cop-out. Almost every aspect of religion is “a concept taken on faith”. Yet millions of books have been written about religion. Whether the point is moot or not, that’s a hell of a lot of energy to expend.

  • Dr Dreadful

    As for the Trinity argument specifically, that’s one of Glenn’s particular hobby horses, which is why he brought it up despite his disclaimer that he doesn’t mix religion and politics…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Religion and politics should never be mixed – anyone with half a clue about history knows where it leads all too often. Today’s ‘Christians’ have forgotten that the Germany of the 1930’s was majority Lutheran (and so was I, once upon a time).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    You’re (perhaps willfully) not getting my point. It’s not that the other ‘trinities’ were exactly in the ‘Christian’ style (as you complain), it’s that polytheism was accepted, and often those gods were in groups of three. This made the idea of a trinity much more acceptable to the people after the deaths of the apostles.

    For instance, when Constantine decided for the Catholics that they would worship a trinity, the very idea of monotheism was anathema to him, for his title was “Pontiff Maximus” of the Roman pantheon, including the trinity I mentioned above. Constantine was far more comfortable with polytheism than the monotheism that Hebrews had worshiped for thousands of years.

  • Dr Dreadful

    The idea of a god taking on several forms is as old as religion itself. Couple that with the almost-as-ancient numerological belief in 3 as a perfect or balanced number, and it’s not surprising that tripartite deities crop up all the time in world mythology.

    Glenn may be onto something with his hypothesis that the Christian Trinity was invented as a way to mesh the old Roman polytheistic tradition with the early Christians’ stubborn refusal to worship more than one god.

    It is a unique twist, but there’s nothing particularly special about it.

  • Baronius

    Actually, Glenn, I was being polite in ignoring your comment about the Greco-Roman trinity. It’s pure nonsense. It isn’t remotely like anything the Greco-Roman world would have worshipped. And we have a lot of details about their worship. Isis, Serapis, and Cybele weren’t significant gods to the Greeks or Romans. The primary gods of the Greeks were Zeus and Hera, with Poseidon and Hades among the more prominent second-tier deities. The Romans had their counterparts, but historically paid more reverence to their hearth gods. There was no concept that any of them were shared x-in-one deities. I was hoping that that comment was just a mistaken cut-and-paste job, but if it’s central to your argument then you’re not even close to corresponding with historical reality.

  • Baronius

    Except it doesn’t come up all the time, Doc.

    Let’s take an example. Let’s say that all the great comedic troupes were threes. The Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, et cetera. It’s easy to say that. All you have to do is drop the single-person acts, the Steve Martins and the Richard Pryors. Then drop the teams like Abbott and Costello, Cheech and Chong. Drop the four-member teams like the casts of Seinfeld and The Honeymooners, and presto, you’ve proven that all comedy teams are trios.

    Pad your evidence a little. Steve Martin? He was a trio with Martin Short and Chevy Chase. Monty Python and the cast of Friends were pairs of trios. It’s a theory with conclusive evidence, if you ignore all the evidence against it. This is what I meant by confirmation bias.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I do get what you’re saying, Baronius, and I’m not suggesting that tripartite deities are ubiquitous, just very common – as are comedy trios.

    Perhaps I should have been more clear that there’s nothing particularly special about the Christian Trinity in the context of man’s long tradition of having multifaceted gods.

  • Re: comment # 32, Clavos, you say, “The guy is a character in a book of fables, why do you care what he “said?” He’s the figment of the imaginations of ancient would-be story tellers with too much time on their hands. What claptrap.” Perhaps it is claptrap to you. But let me point out your hypocracy. We take God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit on faith. What do you do EACH time you sit, or turn on your computer, or …, you have faith that the chair will support you, that the power for your computer will be available, or …. Faith is faith!

    Re:comment # 35, Doc, you say, “That’s a cop-out.” Perhaps for you, it is. But not for me.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    I suggest you go read Herodotus sometime. In his histories, he details his travels and of course gives commentary on legends that he never could have personally verified, but for the most part he tries to be as objective as one could be expected for those times.

    When he traveled and saw the different cultures and religions, he always referred to the senior of the local gods – whether in Egypt or Babylon or elsewhere – as “Zeus”, although we all know that Zeus was strictly a Greek god. The point is, the very fact that he did so evinces an attitude of “the gods have different names, but they’re the same gods”…and that further backs up what I stated about the Near-East-wide worship of gods, that the familiarity of the makeup of gods worshiped in a region made it easier for those from another region to accept those gods, even with the differences between those different pantheons of deities.

    And Baronius – it seems that you’re demanding that if the other trinities that I referred to are not in the exact same style or composition as the mainstream ‘Christian’ trinity, then they don’t count. That tells me that you are probably unaware how cultures and religions change between locations and times, and how one religion influences other religions.

    For instance, the Catholic church itself approved of including certain pagan ceremonies and religious items so that Catholicism could be more easily spread. Today – a mere 1500 years or so later (as opposed to the thousands of years of OT time) – you call those items the “Christmas tree”, the “yule log”, the “Easter bunny”, among other things. From the Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism:

    The missionary history of the [Catholic] Church clearly shows her adaptability to all races, all continents, all nations. In her liturgy and her art, in her tradition and the forming of her doctrine, naturally enough she includes Jewish elements, but also elements that are of pagan origin. In certain respects, she has copied her organization from that of the Roman Empire, has preserved and made fruitful the philosophical intuitions of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, borrowed from both Barbarians and the Byzantine Roman Empire – but always remains herself, thoroughly digesting all elements drawn from external sources…In her laws, her ceremonies, her festivals and her devotions, she makes use of local customs after purifying them and “baptizing” them.

    Is it really so hard to accept that the mainstream “Christian” idea of the trinity was adopted in significant measure from any of the surrounding (and more powerful) nations?

  • Dr Dreadful

    What do you do EACH time you sit, or turn on your computer, or …, you have faith that the chair will support you, that the power for your computer will be available, or …. Faith is faith!

    What nonsense.

    Clavos’s belief that his chair will support his weight, or that his computer will come on when he pushes the power button, are supported by experience (most other chairs he has sat on in his lifetime have not collapsed, most computers he has used have worked (well, unless they’re running Windows…)) and, if he wished to delve further, by sound physics, engineering and design principles.

    Whereas your belief in a Holy Trinity is supported by… what, exactly?

  • Clavos El Buey

    But let me point out your hypocracy. We take God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit on faith. What do you do EACH time you sit, or turn on your computer, or …, you have faith that the chair will support you, that the power for your computer will be available, or …. Faith is faith!

    No, Warren. When I sit on my chair or turn on my computer, it’s not “faith” that allows me to expect a certain result from those actions. My chair and computer exist. How do I know this? I can see them, touch them, feel them; and I can (and do) do this repeatedly. They are here; they exist. I can turn to you and say, “See my chair and my computer, Warren?” If you give me a truthful answer, it will be “Yes.” Why? Because they are physical objects and everyone with a full set of senses can sense their existence; there is evidence which confirms their existence, evidence which can be replicated repeatedly by others confirming their existence. One can only do that for Jesus and the other Bible characters by, as you say, faith; there is no evidence (in the scientific sense) to support their existence; there are only statements (primarily in the Bible) as to their existence, and those cannot be repeated by you or me; they have to be accepted as true on faith — “I believe this because I want to believe it; not because there is evidence (accessible to everyone and which can be directly confirmed by anyone, (not just believers) of their existence. Evidence, not just what someone wrote two thousand years ago.

    As to their functions:

    When I sit in the chair, I have expectations (not “faith”) that it will support me. Why? Because it has done so thousands of times in the past; in other words, palpable, repeatable evidence that supports the theory that it can and will support me, not someone else’s allegations with no supporting evidence. The same is true for the power for my computer; I have accessed it repeatedly over the years, I can do so again at any time, and so can anyone else, each time confirming its existence.

    One last (grammatical) point:

    You accuse me of hypocrisy because I won’t accept the existence of your god or the divinity of Jesus in the absence of evidence, but I do accept on faith that both my chair and my computer will perform as expected. Let’s assume for the moment that you are correct, that there is a dichotomy between my belief in the one and my non-belief in the other.

    Merriam-Webster defines hypocrisy thus:

    Definition of HYPOCRISY

    : a
    feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion (emphasis added)

    Even if theories about the existence of god and Jesus are correct; even if they do (or did) exist, my disbelief does not constitute hypocrisy by Merriam-Webster’s definition, because I am not feigning my disbelief.

  • Clavos El Buey

    Sorry for the apparent repetition of Doc’s very cogent (and far less verbose!) refutation of Warren’s “hypocrisy” point: I (obviously) had not seen it before I sat down on my chair and turned on the power to my computer.


    C’est la vie…

  • Baronius

    Dread, if I may answer that –

    I’ve read and thought about the arguments for and against the existence of God. Applying my reason, experience, and other faculties to the question, I’ve become convinced that God exists. Does that mean that I can prove it with certainty? No. Faith and doubt are simply stances that a person can take toward something that cannot be proven scientifically. They don’t oppose claims that can be proven, but they don’t involve claims that can be proven.

    Likewise, I’ve considered the evidence about Jesus’s existence, the claims made about Him, et cetera, and the weight of the evidence has convinced me to take a posture of faith toward Him.

    Now, for me as a Catholic, part of that posture of faith has to do with my understanding of the claims made by the Church about the Bible, and the claims made by the Bible about the Church. I think that creates an anchor that most Protestants and evangelicals don’t have. To wit: the texts and institutions testify to one another, and have been protected by divine guidance.

    That is part of the reason why you look and see a book mired in controversies and typos, and a history in which random groups won doctrinal disputes, until what we have today is unrelated to original Christianity; whereas I see a continuation of the original teachings with occasional clarification, but consistency. Given the inconsistency of human institutions, the consistency of the Faith is one of the things that persuades me of its accuracy.

    Now, there’s a whole lot in there to unpack. I have some reservations about doing so on a Politics thread, and I already feel like a thread bully. Proceed if you feel like it.

    PS – How does this tie into the Trinity, specifically? I should note that the presence or absence of similar trinities doesn’t help or hurt my position. As usual, I get hung up on getting one or two facts out clearly, and probably hurt my own cause by doing so. My belief is that Jesus presented the trinitarian idea, which was propogated throughout Christianity and clarified in the first few centuries and has been held to by the majority of Christianity and by the Catholic Church ever since.

  • A chair, though a physical object, is still a construct, a primitive construct at that. And to a physicist, it’s a different kind of construct made up of electrons and fields. Is force, mass, acceleration, or a subatomic particle for that matter, less real, for the fact? And what about a photon, at times a particle, at other times a wave?

    It’s naive realism, Clavos, to attribute greater reality to physical objects than to other elements which make up our universe. Is love, hate, sentiment, even money (not a dollar bill, for it’s merely a representation) less real for being “less physical”?

    And I thought we’ve acquired a habit to regard the primitive man, to whom a chair is nothing but a chair, superstitious.

  • Clavos El Buey

    And I thought we’ve acquired a habit to regard the primitive man, to whom a chair is nothing but a chair, superstitious.

    Perhaps we have, but not for his belief in the chair he can see, touch and sit on.

    And you verge on sophistry with your over-deconstruction of the chair;while nothing you wrote is untrue, neither is the fact that it is after all, a collection of “electrons” and “fields” which, taken together, form a (dare I say it?) chair.

  • Baronius, when I started reading your #48 I thought for a moment that you were actually going to explain the reasoning for your unreasonable belief but you ducked the issue.

    How have you applied reason? What experiences do you mean? Exactly what other faculties do you refer to?

    I can accept the notion that Jesus probably existed, although I don’t see what believing in him means exactly, and had some interesting ideas, but that is also true of the current Dalai Lama, who definitely exists and makes many sensible and useful observations.

    I couldn’t make head or tail of your argument about the Catholic Church and The Bible, which was way too ouroboros-like for me, but would be really interested to know the answers to my questions…

  • May appear as sophistry because it’s a tough terrain to navigate. What I’m getting at, I suppose, is that there is no way for us humans to do away with language while trying to “process reality.” It’s the ever-present filter.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    The chair lends itself very well to matters of faith – Clint Eastwood proved that a few weeks back!

    (sorry – couldn’t resist)

  • Baronius

    I wasn’t trying to duck any issue. Like I said, there’s a lot there to unpack (and I do hate that expression, but it’s fitting). I wasn’t trying to recreate the steps that led me to my beliefs, but to describe the process that led me to my beliefs.

    If I could make one point about the process, it would have to do with epistemology. Consider a weatherman with a thermometer. He’s able to understand quite a few things with it. But he doesn’t have a barometer. He doesn’t believe in anything that a barometer could tell him. Does that mean that his thermometer is inaccurate? No. It just means that his instrument is capable of measuring one aspect of the weather, but he has not instrument capable of measuring another important aspect.

    So, when most of us say science, we’re really talking about repeatability. The scientific method involves research and reason, but its flagship is repeatable experimentation. Repeated observations provide a confidence in an underlying theory’s accuracy. But observation is incapable of responding to unrepeatable events.

    It may seem wise to say that you’re only going to believe in observable, repeatable things. But you can’t use that position to deny that there are unrepeatable things. That’s like denying a change in air pressure because it doesn’t show up on your thermometer.

    [OK, at this point, I had gone on to write twice as much, but I realized that I was off-topic. In fact, I see that what I just wrote wasn’t on-topic either; it was addressing the usual objection that you raise to anything you consider “faithist”: that is, that faith, by being outside the realm of reason, is unreasonable. My best chance for making a relevant comment is to click “post” right now and come back to this later.]

  • Dr Dreadful

    that faith, by being outside the realm of reason, is unreasonable.

    Baronius, in your earlier comment you quite correctly juxtaposed faith and doubt as possible positions to take with regard to something that is unknown. I think Chris would say (and I, though making no value judgement at this point, would tend to agree) that doubt is a reasonable position to take whereas faith is an unreasonable one.

  • Baronius

    Dang it. I can’t stop writing.

    Where I’m headed with this is the idea that, while the tools of reason and observation are appropriate for the realm of the repeatable, they simply don’t apply to the realm of the unrepeatable. While no one should take a position on an unrepeatable phenomenon that contradicts reason or observation, there is nothing in principle wrong with taking a position on an unrepeatable phenomenon which is reconcilable with what is reasoned and observed.

  • Baronius

    Dread, I’d argue that doubt is no more reasonable or unreasonable than air pressure is warm or cold, or that movement on the x axis necessarily affects movement on the y axis. And maybe comment #56 applies too.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, have you heard of the “‘Wow!’ Signal”? It springs to mind here as an example of what I’m getting at.

    In a nutshell, in the mid-1970s a junior astronomer who’d pulled the grunt duty of looking over the radio signal printouts for the observatory he worked at spotted a signal that seemed to possess many of the features one might expect to see if an alien civilization were broadcasting at us. He circled the signal on the printout, wrote “Wow!” next to it and gave it to his superiors for review.

    Problem was, when other astronomers pointed their receivers at that bit of the sky and tuned them to the signal’s frequency, they detected nothing. Ever again.

    As good scientists do when they encounter an unrepeatable phenomenon, they didn’t decide that they had discovered probable or even possible evidence of an alien civilization. They decided that an anomalous signal of unknown origin had been detected. To this day, no-one knows what the “‘Wow!’ Signal” really was.

    That’s what I mean when I say that doubt is a reasonable position to take. It wouldn’t have been reasonable for the astronomers to announce to the world that ET had been found, any more than it would be reasonable for a man, on discovering that his car has a flat tyre, to decide that a leprechaun came along in the middle of the night and let the air out of it.

  • One epistemological position is that doubt is an integral and indispensable element of all knowledge/belief statements/claims, that without the possibility of doubt, all knowledge claims would lack proper context. Hence, Wittgenstein’s argument about the language of sensations, in particular that the statement “I know I’m in pain” is grammatical nonsense; we wouldn’t know what it would be like for there to be an element of doubt about it, nor what it would take for the statement to be false.

  • Baronius

    Maybe this will help.

    The word “reasonable” has two senses: logic (deductive) and reasonableness (inductive). A sound mind is capable of both, recognizing the limits of both. The deductive thinker can’t say that the sun will set tonight. The inductive thinker will be wrong the night that the sun doesn’t set.

    I have the impression, and I could be wrong, that Chris takes the deductive stance. When he calls faith “unreasonable”, I thnk he’s using it as a synonym for “blithering”. While I recognize that common sense thinking can lead to error, I can see the merit in it especially in situations where logic isn’t applicable. When isn’t it applicable? I don’t think the “Wow!” signal is an exact parallel to metaphysical matters. A scientist can continue to look for similar signals and develop a theory accordingly. In supernatural matters, which are defined by their unrepeatability (super natura), repeated observations don’t permit a conclusion.

    What are those metaphysical or supernatural matters? Kant said God, freedom, and immortality, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

  • But even the immutable laws of nature — gravity, for instance — require a certain leap of faith, for it’s only by virtue of induction that we can claim with near-absolute certainty that the sequence “n + 1” will continue uninterrupted, and that’s in spite of countless observations and repeated experiments that it had done so in the past.

  • Dr Dreadful

    In supernatural matters, which are defined by their unrepeatability (super natura), repeated observations don’t permit a conclusion.

    It occurs to me, though, Baronius, that in the case of the Roman Catholic faith you are claiming repeatability when you speak of things like “the texts and institutions testify[ing] to one another” and “a continuation of the original teachings with occasional clarification, but consistency”.

    That flies in the face of your contention that reason is confined to the realm of the repeatable.

  • Dr Dreadful

    But even the immutable laws of nature — gravity, for instance — require a certain leap of faith

    Well, technically, Roger, yes – but so small a leap that, in the case for example of Clavos’s chair, for all practical intents and purposes there is no difference between it and no leap at all.

  • You mean his favorite chair will never give out so as to result in a leap and a fall?

  • Baronius

    Interesting. My formulation may be a little off, then. I’d say that in matters of faith, I’m not going to contradict reason or evidence, but I understand the limits to them.

    Plato speculated on the nature of the universe, but his works were mostly assertions. Aristotle built his understanding of the universe from the understanding of the physical world. I’m more of an Aristotelean. I expect my beliefs to be internally consistent, and consistent with reality.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Aristotle built his understanding of the universe from the understanding of the physical world.

    Aristotle was also not above ignoring or reasoning away data that didn’t match his understanding of the universe.

  • I would prefer gods came in a 6-pack. That said, can someone please write a piece about Paul Ryan’s scummy stunt at the soup kitchen.

  • Dr Dreadful

    @ #64: No, Roger, I don’t mean that. I mean that Clavos can reasonably expect his chair not to collapse when he sits in it because (a) it is designed not to do so and (b) he has observed this chair and many others to successfully support his weight on almost every occasion that he has sat down over the course of his life.

    We can similarly assume with a high enough degree of confidence to be indistinguishable from certainty that the sequence “n + 1” continues infinitely.*

    Contrast that with the assertions of the world’s religions, close to 100% of which are supported by no empirical observations whatsoever, yet which their adherents accept unquestioningly.

    * Carl Sagan speculated that one way a “Creator” might apply his/her/its “maker’s mark” to the universe would be to implant it in one of these infinite sequences – for example, several trillion decimal places into the value of Pi the digits might suddenly arrange themselves into an unmistakeable message.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    I mean that Clavos can reasonably expect his chair not to collapse when he sits in it because (a) it is designed not to do so and (b) he has observed this chair and many others to successfully support his weight on almost every occasion that he has sat down over the course of his life.

    There’s just GOT to be a way to liken Clavos’ Chair to Schrodinger’s Cat!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Perhaps the chair has both collapsed and has not collapsed until it was observed by a non-Clavosian observer….

  • Dr Dreadful

    Ah yes, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Nevertheless, the chair having been observed in a non-collapsed state renders this our reality.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    But remember – according to the Many Worlds Interpretation, when a quantum particle changes state, it changes to all possible states. This would apply to all quanta in the chair, which means that in this particular reality the chair was non-collapsed, but in innumerable other realities it certainly did collapse.

    Okay, I know, that’s just puerile silliness on my part. I’ll get back to work….

  • “To this day, no-one knows what the “‘Wow!’ Signal” really was.”

    Maybe it was a note to himself to call his mother

  • @68

    The reasonableness of the induction hypothesis was never in question. What is, in question, however, are different notions of what counts as evidence for a believer and a scientist/non-believer. And I strongly suspect that a believer doesn’t subscribes to or relies on solely scientific kind of evidence in order to support his or her belief-system. There’s a different logic and structure to religious type of experience; which suggests that the methodology of science, when used to invalidate the authenticity of religious experience, misses the point.

  • @68

    “… high enough degree of confidence to be indistinguishable from certainty …”

    Even though we speak of “absolute certainty,” for emphatic reasons, there is no certainty, no matter how “absolute,” which doesn’t allow for doubt. The term functions not a criterion of the truth but of the claimer’s conviction as to what is the truth.

    Just a point about language.

  • What is, in question, however, are different notions of what counts as evidence for a believer and a scientist/non-believer.

    Which is exactly why Warren’s accusation that started all this – calling Clavos a hypocrite for “having faith” that his chair wouldn’t collapse under him – was so imbecilic.

  • Never-NEVER discuss politics or religion with friends… I guess that’s why Warren keeps bringing it up?

  • I think we’re on to partial agreement here, The next question must be: Do the different notions of “evidence” employed justify talk of different kinds of faith? Apart from the obvious fact that one is a fairly ordinary feature of everyday life whereas the other appertains to “the exceptional,” aren’t we still talking about one and the same attitudinal stance, regardless of the object of the belief?

  • Personally, I don’t accept that there actually are different notions of evidence, I think that faithists need to make that claim because their beliefs don’t stand up otherwise.

    Nor would I agree that there is anything exceptional about the whole deist concept, except perhaps its persistence despite the paucity of supportive evidence. That, however, seems to say more about a clearly deep seated need for some kind of authority figure than the actual existence of said deity.

  • In that case, you must conclude, Christopher, that every “faithist” is by definition irrational.

    As to “the exceptional,” I use the term merely to highlight the contrast with our ordinary kind of beliefs (e.g., in the existence of the material world, consisting of chairs, tables, etc.) And in that sense, a person’s belief in freedom or love, even in basic human decency, would be a belief of a different kind.

  • 74 I think you put that well, Roger. You can’t expect to find stars using a microscope. Science is a tool, but has limits–at least for now–and is not a be-all end-all tool (at least not yet, though I reserve that perhaps in the future it could get there).

  • The way I think about it, every person turns out to be a faithist. Not a deist, certainly but in some way, it seems when I look at the idea, that everyone uses faith. I can’t imagine having most opinions without some measure of faith in a rational, meaningful, and explainable world. (Paraphrase: ‘God does not play dice with the universe.’, is, for example, an expression of such a faith.)

    I find some skeptics to be among the most dangerous kind of faithists. The believe their beliefs are based on rationality and science, whereas, they are mere beliefs. They have simply labeled themselves the correct and rational approach. Michael Shermer is such a faithist, for example.

  • Baronius

    #79 – I think I addressed that with my thermometer analogy. If you choose to respond to it, I’d be interested. If you choose not to read it and instead question my character, you’re free to do that too, but don’t think it gives you the high ground.

    Personally, I’m a dark-mooded kind of guy, and when I set out to ponder the nature of existence, I was kind of hoping for something depressing. If you know my political views, you know that I’m not scared away by tough implications. I was sure that humans are free – because any other assumption denies both my observation and the possibility of continuing the discussion – and prone to evil. Anything else was up in the air. I dabbled in existentialism for a while. But existentialism and Nietzche revolve around finishing the sentence “If God doesn’t exist, then…”. That begged the question about God’s existence. I decided that I needed to solve whether God exists.

    I looked through the various arguments for and against, and was persuaded by the First Cause type arguments. I didn’t see a way around them. Sure, it would be possible for a first cause to exist within time, but it didn’t seem rational. Russell’s critiques convinced me that smart people didn’t have a decent critique against them.

    Now, this is where faith comes in (although I wouldn’t have thought to call it that at the time). After looking at this stuff to the best of my abilities, I found the weight of the evidence in favor of a creator. So I moved on, willing to revisit it if I found anything contrary, but taking it as a working model. That’s faith. It’s not an act of blindness in the face of opposing evidence, but a stance of acceptance toward something that you can’t know absolutely. It’s no more irrational than doubt – in fact, it’s more rational to conclude that something is true if the weight of the evidence leans in that direction.

    So then I started looking at religions. I knew that there didn’t necessarily have to be a valid religion, but I had no reason to rule out the possibility either. A lot of steps later, as I narrowed down the possibilities to one, I was bummed out because it was the one I’d started out with. I hadn’t intended to be Catholic, and I was biased against it, but it seemed like the only credible answer.

    I know very few cradle Catholics who aren’t in some sense converts.

  • @82

    Especially since no one has a direct/privileged access to reality, all our claim statements are expressions of an attitudinal stance.

  • Igor

    @82-Cindy: you are wrong in your understanding of Einsteins famous statement “God does not play dice with the universe.”

    Einstein was not so superficial as you imply, and his statement comes from deeper analysis.

    Einstein knew full well the misinterpretations that could easily come from The Kinetic Theory Of Gases that had then evolved and been so successful in explaining so much phenomena. Simply stated, La Grange (or maybe it was La Place) postulated that if you knew at any instant the exact location and exact momentum of all the molecules in a liter of gas that you could accurately calculate the future positions and momenta, even if the gas were contained, even if molecules collided, even if they bounced off other objects, and even if a piston were advancing on the gas. You simply applied the known laws of Newtonian mechanics. QED.

    Of course, there are some practical problems, starting with the 6.24 x 10**23 molecules per liter of gas and the difficulties of measurement of position and velocity at any time and any place. However, intellectually it is conceivable.

    Therefore, the properties of gases are deterministic and predictable. The clockwork universe survives.

    But as a practical matter this leaves us with no good way to predict the behaviour of gases, and that is a big concern in an era when steam engines are becoming prominent and it’s incumbent on the Science and Engineering fields to provide mathematical tools for dealing with such things.

    So what Science said is this “we can’t deal with all those billions of independent molecules with all their independent attributes, so let’s treat them in aggregate with statistical methods”. Bingo! After all, in steam engines we are NOT interested in particular molecules but only total effects like Pressure, Volume and Temperature. Of course, once developed these methods extended to gas engines, etc. In fact, we extend the Kinetic Theory to the operation of the very universe itself.

    Einstein was no slouch at this. He was totally familiar with these methods and was author of the famous Bose-Einstein statistics.

    But Einstein understood that although statistical mathematical methods are powerful in dealing with gases, that does NOT mean that the underlying phenomena are probabilistic or statistical!

    You should understand that too!

    Just because statistical math proves useful in dealing with a multivariate problem does NOT mean that the underlying phenomena is probabilistic! It just means it is EASIER to do it this way.

    Thus Einsteins comment.

  • Igor

    @81-Cindy: Wow! What a radical you are! You seem to think that science, the science that rules the universe, changes with time. Our UNDERSTANDING of science and the language we use about it, may change, but underlying science does not.

    In fact, one of the rules of physics is that physics doesn’t change with time. One of the favorite ways of disproving a physics hypothesis is by showing that the hypothesis conflicts with that.

    But in your world everything seems wishy-washy, and that seems ok.

    “Science is a tool, but has limits–at least for now–and is not a be-all end-all tool (at least not yet, though I reserve that perhaps in the future it could get there).”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    In fact, one of the rules of physics is that physics doesn’t change with time. One of the favorite ways of disproving a physics hypothesis is by showing that the hypothesis conflicts with that.

    Actually, as you can see in this article by Scientific American, there’s a significant school of thought in the physics community that there is no such thing as time.

    It’s just like the old saying – the more we know, the more we find out how little we actually know.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Time is just a dimension – a manifestation of the physical laws of our universe.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I find some skeptics to be among the most dangerous kind of faithists. The believe their beliefs are based on rationality and science, whereas, they are mere beliefs. They have simply labeled themselves the correct and rational approach. Michael Shermer is such a faithist, for example.

    Cindy, as it stands this claim of yours is just name-calling. I could just as easily say that you and Roger think your beliefs are based on rationality and logic whereas in fact they are just beliefs.

    On what do you base your assessment of Shermer? Where does he err, and on which positions?

  • A heck of an account, Baronius. You’ve surely come by your faith honestly.

  • A great bulk of pseudo-disputes about the nature of reality and truth stems from the fact that many people happen to think that the main function of language is descriptive, that language is as it were a mirror of reality and that truth and correct representation of reality are the matters of uttermost if not exclusive concern.

    That is hardly the case, as J.L. Austin (“How to do things with words”) and John Searle (“Speech Acts”) amply demonstrated. We use language for a variety of purposes – as a performative, exhortative, and the list goes on – its descriptive function being just a small fraction considering the vast array of different uses and purposes to which language is being put. It is thus, in divorcing language from the user, that we become oblivious of the purposes which underlie most of our speech acts and in the process, reify the expression itself, the mere form of words, as though a stand-alone, apart from the user and the purpose(s) it was meant to serve.

    It is thus that we get so hung up.

  • Dr Dreadful

    We use language for a variety of purposes – as a performative, exhortative, and the list goes on – its descriptive function being just a small fraction considering the vast array of different uses and purposes to which language is being put.

    To what purpose, Roger, do you think that language is being put in religious scriptures? In scientific papers?

  • It’s more difficult to ascertain with written texts. for we assume the purposes were many. What, for example, was the purpose of Shakespeare’s plays? To entertain, to convey his understanding of human nature, the world, and history? To expose us to a morality play? I would say all of the above and many other things besides.

    As to biblical texts, much depends on the author. Some of them, like the Book of Job or the Psalms, may be regarded as wisdom literature; Deuteronomy and Leviticus had more to do with codification of laws and establishing the supremacy of the priestly class; Exodus with providing the Hebrews with a sense of history and mission. As to scientific papers, they are about offering descriptions and explanations. But that’s not the case with most of our everyday talk, which is subject to definitive, limited, and rather easily ascertainable contexts — although some of the speakers are either unaware of those contexts or try to present their utterances as though transcending the underlying context.

  • #80: Yes, Roger, I do.

    #81: Cindy, you’re right, all tools have limits and science is a tool; a very good, important and versatile tool, but ultimately just a tool.

    #82: Perhaps you mean believer, rather than faithist. We all believe things, so, for example, I believe the sun will rise tomorrow, but that is very different to what we mean by faithist.

    I also believe that you are mischaracterising sceptics; one of the most useful aspects of using the tool of science is that it puts things to the test. Any self respecting sceptic would fully accept that their views are, to some degree, conditional and could, in theory, be over-turned at any time, so one has to be sceptical about one’s scepticism! LOL.

    I’d not encountered Michael Shermer before you mentioned him so looked him up on Wikipedia and didn’t see anything that seemed too extreme but perhaps he comes across differently on television.

    #83: Baronius, first of all, I’m not seeking the high ground at all, so please let’s not even consider such foolishness. That said, I looked back at your thermometer point (comment #54) and don’t actually see how the fact that one instrument tells you some data and another different data supports your position at all, nor do I see anything in your argument about unrepeatable events except an attempt to claim some kind of exceptionalism for the deist notion.

    I think where you are going wrong is in actually making the decision to believe in a creator just because it doesn’t seem possible to explain the “first mover” argument any other way. That is pretty thin logic given that there is still actually zero evidence for the actual existence of such a creature and that if there was, they have done nothing at all since the act of creation.

    Sure, we don’t yet know what happened in the first moments of the beginning of the universe, a period of some incredibly minute fraction of a second and we may not ever know, or at least not until the end of the universe in many billions of years from now if we still exist then, which may well be unlikely.

    However, that lack of knowledge doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination justify a concept that was only ever conceived of a few thousand years ago and certainly didn’t exist as an idea in human history prior to that time, which it should have if it were actually true.

    In stark contrast to Roger, I don’t see that you have come by your beliefs honestly at all, quite the contrary really.

  • By “coming by it honestly,” I simply meant that Baronius didn’t inherit his faith from his patents, took it for granted, but that he struggled with the concept before embracing it. I may be wrong, but I think that’s the general gist of this turn of speech.

  • 59

    Right Dr.D, I somehow forgot to put down the reason I said that.
    He thinks that capitalism is actually evolution at work. Really, he does. Actual evolution. Sort of like the mistake made by social Darwinists only applied to economics.
    Now when you, as a rational science-minded person hold the position that something as destructive for the marginalized classes of people as capitalism can be, as a product of evolution, that is scary. Good thing he doesn’t have as much influence as some other nuts, like Ayn Rand.

    Have an opinion, I say. Don’t elevate your opinion to science.

  • I was a skeptic for awhile, Christopher. I had a lot of questions and an open mind to go with them. I gave most things the benefit of the doubt and tried a variety of things myself that other people claimed worked. I had been burned, and seen others burned, by new age schemers, among other charlatans. I belonged for a couple years to an anti-quackery mailing discussion list. I attended one of James Randi’s Amazing Meetings in Las Vegas. Michale Shermer was there along with a lot of magicians and Penn and Teller. All affiliated with the at large skeptic movement.

    There was nothing wrong with anything Shermer said there. Penn was an obnoxious, rude, and revolting person. Generally, much of what they are interested in is not objectionable to me.

    But when you become a member of a social culture you learn the rules of that culture. And the mantras of the skeptic culture are dogmas like any other culture of belief. You learn them and they become your arguments.

    Still that was annoying enough to realize I didn’t like the cultish quality, but that isn’t enough to justify the claim that a Shermer can be a dangerous faithist. So, I hope my explanation cleared that up.

    The danger would be were someone with the flag of science to get the power to endorse their personal belief system as if it carried the endorsement of being natural evolution.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    But when you become a member of a social culture you learn the rules of that culture. And the mantras of the skeptic culture are dogmas like any other culture of belief. You learn them and they become your arguments.

    Well said!

  • 86


    I am not sure why the reaction. By science, I mean our best knowledge of the time which cannot be separated from our active interpretation of the world and the universe.

    My claim is actually not different than that of many scientists. It is the claim that science is not the right tool for the job of looking for evidence of god(s).

    By stating that some day science may be a better tool is saying nothing more than, as an aficionado of quantum physics, I think we are getting closer to discovering just how weird the universe is. It is nothing at all intuitive or rational as we have evolved to live within the everyday Newtonian physical world. It is quite surprising and shocking and even unbelievable. I count this as progress in our science–which to me is an act of discovery and interpretation not a state of nature.

    We may very well discover that everything changes just because we interact with it. To say that science is just out there and we simply either understand it or don’t is premature. I am sure you are familiar with the double slit experiment.

    Anyone who is not should find this cartoon of Dr. Quantum the most enjoyable and understandable version I have ever seen. (Plus there is a really cool surprise at the end of this particular version!)

    Anyway, Igor, if you like just change what I said to “understanding of science” that is fine with me.

  • Cindy, I just read your #96 and my jaw literally dropped at the magnitude of your misconstruing of Shermer’s position.

    I admit that, while I have read quite a few of Shermer’s books, I haven’t read The Mind of the Market, but I have read reviews of it. Frankly, the proposition that capitalistic practices are a product of evolution is hardly earth-shattering, since everything humans do is a product of natural selection over millions of years. It would make as much sense to get upset if someone said that humans’ tendency to copy one another is a product of evolution.

    Furthermore, Shermer doesn’t appear to be saying that this means capitalism is good. Or bad, for that matter. It’s just something humans do as a consequence of their genetic programming.

    I’m extremely disappointed in you. Shermer, by his own admission, was once an evangelical Christian, and it would hardly be surprising if he occasionally exhibited behaviour that was a throwback to that period of his life. I was expecting an example along those lines. But this? Come on

  • Cindy, the problem I have with your argument is that you are presenting as the epitome of someone who has developed their own dogma and nothing appears able to shake it. I think you need to revisit scepticism.

    Glenn, as an arch dogmatist, I am not at all surprised to see you endorsing Cindy’s error. Disappointed, but not surprised…

    As to Shermer, everything evolves, except the rigidly dogmatic – who just pass into irrelevance over time – so it can hardly be surprising that he said that capitalism does.

    I know capitalism is your current favourite complaint, Cindy, and it certainly has issues that need addressing, but perhaps your hyper critical perspective is preventing you seeing its achievements as clearly as its flaws?

  • I don’t happen to think that capitalism is Cindy’s “current favourite complaint.” It’s been so for over four years now and counting — as long as I’ve been on this site — so unless the term “current” has acquired an unusual lifespan, to say that of Cindy is a gross and willful mischaracterization. The term “favourite,” another appendage which functions here as a modifier, doesn’t help matters either. One way or another, Christopher, you are a master of innuendos.

    I don’t know much about Shermer, but perhaps both you and Dreadful are being unduly dismissive of Cindy’s first-hand experience with the man. In my book, it ought to count for something, but don’t let any of that disturb you.

    Lastly, I’d say it’s but a human flaw to be so blinded by the capitalism’s excesses so as to not clearly see its monumental achievements, and Cindy ought to be thankful for having been so prompted to help her restore a clear and balanced vision. And in the even she’ll fail to express to you her gratitude directly — another human flaw and folly — let me do it on her behest.

  • That’s not actually the case, Roger. From her current IP address Cindy has made over 300 comments, going back to last year, and the words capitalism or capitalist rarely appear until about 5 months ago.

    Furthermore, capitalism is what she goes on about more than anything else these days, so it seems eminently reasonable to talk about her “current favourite complaint” as it is her favourite complaint currently.

    I rarely deal in innuendo, Roger, but perhaps you as a persistent dabbler in the dark arts of philosophical obfuscation are more familiar with it.

    As to Shermer, I know nothing more of him than I’ve read here and on Wikipedia and have only taken exception to Cindy’s objection to the notion that capitalism evolves, which it clearly does to the degree that it seems impossible to argue contrariwise.

    We all have our human flaws, which is one of the many reasons that dialogue, in person or online, is such a wonderful thing. As to gratitude, I’m not looking for or expecting it…

  • pablo

    I must say in all of the threads on this site that I have read, this one takes the cake. Mental masturbation sums it up quite nicely.

  • Glad you’re entertained, Pablo! 🙂

  • Dr.D,

    I agree with Micahel Shermer when he says that: We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.

    Nowhere is this more evident in his own terribly flawed and biased defenses of his own similarly acquired beliefs. Michael Shermer is a freemarket libertarian who seems to have taken his irrational positions from reading Ayn Rand and watching John Wayne movies. He defends what he calls ‘free markets’ and capitalism as not only good, but the fittest as a result of evolution, morally right, and holds this view up as the seemingly conclusive scientific position. He presents a cherry-picked selection of evidence from such dubious new fields as Neuroeconomics (which strikes me as much like a field of psychobiologybabble designed by a the Chicago School economists), while ignoring vast quantities of evidence countering his view. He will create a strawman out of a fragment of an argument made weak by being snipped out of its context rather than addressing any of the substantial arguments against his ideological perspective.

    He can see and explain that we believe irrational things and then create a narrative to justify them, but he cannot seem to see through the nuances of cultural conditioning that guide his own irrational ideologies. He excuses himself from the natural order and justifies his own rationalized beliefs by elevating them to the level of science, presumably because he reads a lot of news both right and left wing (his words, my context).

    All of what I have stated is evident in his own writings and/or and in the writings of his critics. I’ll give you some links to read of same. In combination, they support everything I have said. Take what you will from them.

    Review: The Mind of the Market, by Michael Shermer
    Critical lessons on evolutionary economics; Jettison the libertarian tripe. (book review)
    Michael Shermer, Ayn Rand & other dreck
    Michael Shermer – Science, Skepticism and Libertarianism
    Michael Shermer’s Libertarianism

    By Shermer:
    Why People Don’t Trust Free Markets
    Why Ayn Rand Won’t Go Away: ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ Part 2 and the Motor of Moral Psychology
    Capitalism: A Propaganda Hate Film
    The Constitution of Man Dictates the Constitutions of Men, Part 2 of the Rules of Capitalism Series
    The Real Rogue Warrior: Ayn Rand, Not Sarah Palin

  • Christopher,

    Up until about the last 4 years (as Roger states correctly, the time when I began in earnest to question capitalism), I had no in depth understanding of any ills being caused by capitalism. I have to say that to return to that point of view I would have to pull a rug over my head.

    But thanks for your suggestion. And since we are giving over friendly advice, I have some to gently impart.

    Instead of saying you don’t know anything about Shermer, or the rape of the rainforests, or Nafta, or any other of the vast quantity of examples I present and document to support my position, why don’t you try learning what I know instead of criticizing me for what you don’t know?

  • Cindy, there is nothing wrong with questioning capitalism, I do it all the time but, given that nobody has yet come up with an alternative system that seems capable of working on a global scale for everybody rather than on a local scale for a privileged few, I remain sceptical that it can, yet at least, be replaced.

    I don’t know anything about Shermer because I’d never heard of him until you mentioned him and it didn’t seem necessary to do more than read the Wikipedia article about him because he doesn’t seem, from a European perspective at least, to be that important. All I said was that it is self evident that capitalism, like every human construct I can think of, evolves. Surely even you wouldn’t dispute that point?

    If my memory serves, you were on this site before Mr Nowosielski and as I remember it you were far less angry and more thoughtful back then. As I see it he has influenced you into a more radical perspective whilst remaining somewhat aloof himself, which is odd to say the least.

    I’m aware of the problems with the loss of the rain forests and have been for many years, since long before we first met virtually, and of many other problems, environmental, social and political, caused in no small measure by human over-population.

    What I don’t get is how that is an indictment of capitalism, a human system, rather than of humanity itself, which is clearly in a situation where its reach exceeds its grasp, a very juvenile condition typical of a fairly young species.

    I haven’t, as you so glibly state, criticised you for what I don’t know, if anything I have only pointed out that you were wrong to object to the single point that capitalism doesn’t evolve. However misguided Shermer may or may not be, he isn’t wrong on that one element.

    As to seeking to address the world’s problems, I think action is more important than the pretensions and mock outrage of mere philosophers and am taking such steps as I can to do what I can to help and protect those things I cherish, such as endangered and/or abused species.

    To the extent that I can, I am bending capitalism to my will to achieve what I see as good things, as are many more people all around the world. It follows therefore that capitalism is just a process and, like all processes, it can be put to both good and bad uses, which brings us back to the human dimension…

  • Cindy, first of all let me say that I do have some sympathy with your concerns about capitalist economics. My own primary criticism is that capitalism is inherently self-defeating since it is growth-driven and there is a finite amount of growth that can be attained in a closed system.

    Shermer’s main point, I think, is that capitalism is a manifestation of irrational behaviour (the word “irrational” does not imply any negative or positive moral judgement here) that is a product of human evolution. Many of our problems as a species arise from the fact that the pace of our technological development has far outstripped our biological ability to cope with it. So the “dog-eat-dog” system that our Stone Age brains are telling us to follow, while it might have made sense for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, is a pretty poor fit for our technologically-driven modern society.

    While Shermer has some difficult ideas – ideas with which I don’t by any means necessarily agree – I think you’re confusing things when you speak of him as “dangerous” and draw an equivalency between his arguments about the free market and Social Darwinism.

    The latter was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Darwin’s ideas about natural selection – sometimes referred to as “the survival of the fittest”. Social Darwinists basically took the position that because the rich had control of most of the resources, they must be “the fittest” – which it doesn’t take much effort of thought to realize is the most unscientific conclusion that it’s possible to reach.

    As far as I can see, Shermer is simply drawing on biology in an attempt to explain why humans pursue capitalism. Calling him “dangerous”, to my mind, is a bit like calling somebody dangerous because they picked up Mein Kampf in an effort to understand how Hitler thought.

  • oh yeah, as to your point about beliefs, I agree that people don’t question their own beliefs enough.

    I hope I am not alone in having come to the view that it is actually belief itself that is our enemy, that we need to overcome it in order to grow – and to grow up.

    That is, in part, why I am opposed to churches, think political parties shouldn’t be allowed and that everything is open to question. My hero, if any, is the boy in the story of the emperor’s new clothes!

    The scientific approach is a part of that process and I believe everything deserves a healthy dose of scepticism, including everything in this comment!!!

  • Dr.D,

    I understand the various ways the words social Darwinism have been used and reused. You are attributing my analysis to some misunderstanding I have. I assure you, I am not misunderstanding any of the points you have made. I am saying point blank:

    He agreed with Ayn Rand, and John Wayne Hollywood movie style morality and libertarianism suited that limited perspective, then he developed a rational theory of why free market Capitalism is the way to go.

    He loves a story that romanticizes capitalists and CEO’s and those who own businesses as hard workers, where the hell is the factory worker? Are John Galt’s cronies going to serve their own caviar and sew their own tuxedos?

  • Baronius

    Cindy – You say that we decide first, rationalize afterwards. In essence, our rational decisions are fraudulent. Then you say that Shermer’s failure is to realize that his own positions are fraudulent.

    My question is, how can you claim that yours aren’t? This isn’t a one-off question, either. This has been a running theme with you and a lot of commenters over the years. You see yourself as a modern Plato, having seen outside the cave. But how do you know? If you doubt your ability to analyze anything, because after all you’re just another human with the same thought processes as the rest of us, then how can you claim that your newfound positions are any sounder?

    You say, for example, that Chris should try learning what you’ve learned. Why? If what you believe can’t be trusted, why should he learn it? How can you claim that *you’ve* learned it, when we only rationalize our opinions rather than form them based on evidence?

    You’ve implicitly applied a universal standard, with only yourself as an exception. Everyone else decides first, rationalizes later. Everyone but you (and maybe Roger). That’s not only a slap in the face of humility, it’s an impossibility. Either everyone is incapable of thinking outside the box – in which case, why bother trying to persuade anyone of anything – or some people are capable of it – in which case, you can’t automatically discount everyone else’s opinion as culturally-dependent.

  • Baronius

    At the risk of putting too fine a point on it: you made the statement to Dread that

    “I assure you, I am not misunderstanding any of the points you have made.”

    This is precisely the statement that you can never make without denouncing your beliefs.

  • Cindy, I still think you’re reading far too much into this. I can’t see anywhere in any of your links where Shermer says he agrees with Ayn Rand.

  • Baronius,

    I am quoting Shermer and agreeing with him. (see 106 paragraph 1)

    You are taking a lot of liberty in your personal interpretation of what Shermer said and I agreed with. Fraudulent? I never said such a thing. If you understand what was said, then you would see that saying our reasons are fraudulent is like saying our vision is fraudulent because we can’t see cells without a microscope. It is simply the way Michael Shermer believes we are wired. And I am inclined to agree with his observation–though maybe not necessarily with the entirety of his rationale for it; which I also do not oppose. Just that his reasoning is his personal speculation. So, I am limiting myself to agreeing with his observation. I see the same thing he sees as far as I can tell.

    My question is, how can you claim that yours aren’t?

    I haven’t. I do my thinking just like everyone else. Never made that claim. Nor am I saying what you seem to be construing. Even with regard to Christopher. What I in essence said to him was that instead of assuming my negativity regarding capitalism comes from a personality issue or wrong ideology, perhaps he should familiarize himself with the actual information on it I already have–like the oil dumped in the indigenous Ecuadorian rain forest, which he was happy to find out about, or Nafta, or the 7 million subsistence farmers run out of farming. I was asking him to look at the dark side more closely. My myriad examples have only scratched the surface. I didn’t say anything beyond that.

    If you think that I think of myself as different in some way, then that way is likely this: I have tried, and still do, to challenge my culturally indoctrinated beliefs. That is not something I have found to be very common.

    Before you make too much of what I just said, notice I didn’t say that I always come up with the ‘right’ answers based on my challenges. And, of course, I am as subjective as you or anyone else is.

  • Dr.D,

    For you, I will take the time to pull a few quotes. But later.

  • Igor

    Capitalism is a valuable component of a modern economic system, but it’s dumb to think that capitalism itself is the be-all and end-all of society. How stupidly unbalanced that is. It’s just a way of allocating and assigning resources for starting or expanding a business.

    I was a capitalist for many years, intermittently, and I found it to be basicaly tiresome work, which I was glad to hand off to someone who, say, didn’t have the tools for doing the core work, i.e., building product.

  • Capitalism is the modern economic system, not a component of anything you’re unable and unwilling to specify. You speak therefore from both sides of your mouth, with the obvious intention to create a meaning while the meaning is not there.

    And you were never a capitalist, in spite of your assertion. If you were, it would have shown by now in your net worth. You only imagined yourself to be one.

  • Cindy, you appear to be stuck in a rut here; nobody is asserting that capitalism is perfect and all but the most extreme would readily agree that many mistakes are made, some of them truly terrible.

    Your repeated appeals that I and others look at the dark side are not achieving anything because we already know about it.

    The challenge is to either improve it or come up with a new system to replace it. The latter remains unresolved so people of a constructive nature introduce changes whilst philosophers wring their hands and say how terrible it all is.

    People challenge their culturally indoctrinated beliefs all the time and always have done; that’s why everything from social, cultural and spiritual values, fashion, all kinds of art and, yes, capitalism, change over time. If you aren’t finding it to be common, maybe you are looking in the wrong places and listening to the wrong people. I see such challenges to change going on all over the place amongst people of all ages and types. Even my mum, who is 80 later this month, has made what I consider extraordinary and startlingly large changes in her outlook in the last few years.

    All that said, Cindy, I am somewhat disappointed not to have seen a more engaged response to my comments but live in hope!

    Roger, I completely agree with you that Igor’s remark is somewhat confused and/or confusing.

    You are absolutely right in saying that capitalism is the current economic system, not a component off it, but it is a component of human society and its precise structure and processes easily adjusted or even restructured.

    It is dumb, therefore, to think that capitalism is the be all and end all of society, not that I’m sure there are many people who have such an extremely narrow view.

    It is far more than “just a way of allocating and assigning resources for starting or expanding a business” though.

    I wasn’t aware that you knew Igor well enough to be able to comment so assertively on his economic standing. Do you?

  • Christopher,

    I was merely explaining to Baronius what I was saying earlier.

    You seem to have made up your mind about me and the case is closed and therefore I cannot engage you very deeply.

    You believe you already know what I have examined. I have never heard you express an understanding of how capitalism creates body hatred in women and self-hatred and aggression in men. It makes misogyny appear natural, even to women. It creates wars, a military-industrial complex, a prison-industrial complex. It turns people into objects and breeds a pathological anti-empathy. There is a psychology to consumerism that creates depression, anti-social feelings and behaviors. It encourages those in its system to look at the wrong things in life as valuable, to be arrogant and competitive. It causes family destruction and tribal destruction with great harm to the weak and powerless (like the old in the nursing homes). It marginalizes the powerless and those it has harmed. It makes them redundant. Did I say it causes unhappiness, laziness, free-rider behavior, depression, and loneliness.

    It indoctrinates our children into violence and agression and competition instead of cooperation and love. It turns them into gang-bangers and alcoholics.

    If you don’t deeply understand everything I have said. If you are at a loss to thoroughly explain every item in that list and how capitalism makes each one so, then I suggest you have no real comprehension of capitalism dark side.

    If I am wrong please tell me that you can trace everything there the way I can to capitalism. If you cannot, then I can’t believe you when you say you already know. And I am afraid I have determined not to get into debates unless they are with people who show evidence of not having reached a conclusion. But thanks for wanting to get further.

  • By that I mean, I am not going to defend or argue my position. Unless I happen to feel like it from time to time.

    My time on blogcritics has taught me how time consuming and fruitless these sorts of conversations are. I’d rather be spending my time in other ways.

  • Oh, and by reached a conclusion, I meant about me, not about a subject. I don’t care for conversations that identify me or my attitude or my conclusions as the problem.

    I prefer ones where I am respected for have the capacity to think and examine the world. I like ones that go: “How did you come to that understanding?” rather than, “The reason you think that is because your problem is_______.”

    But that would have to be done honestly, not as some formality of politeness. At this time, any such change in you, I would suspect to be a formality and from politeness rather than genuine interest or respect. There is always the future. Things and people change.

  • “I prefer ones where I am respected for have the capacity to think and examine the world. I like ones that go: “How did you come to that understanding?” rather than, “The reason you think that is because your problem is_______.”

    I like that, Cindy, except that both of us, more often than we’d like, are equally guilty of not following this adage.

    My excuse and weakness is — I’m intolerant of indolent minds. What’s yours?

  • Baronius

    Roger, that’s an interview response. Your weakness is that you’re intolerant of intolerance? Lemme guess, you’re also a perfectionist who sometimes cares too much?

  • There may be something to the perfectionist idea, Baronius, especially about the things I care about — like clarity of thought or unfettered minds.

    I must say, however, I’m pleasantly surprised by your recent disclosure.

  • Cindy, I haven’t made up my mind about you at all, I’ve merely pointed out that endlessly pointing out capitalism related problems doesn’t achieve anything, particularly as nobody is asserting that it is a perfect system. You don’t have to defend that point because nobody here is disagreeing with it.

    Whilst all the items you so endlessly list do happen, there are also other examples that contradict them.

    Your statement about not wanting to get into a debate with anyone who hasn’t reached a conclusion is absurd; you are the one that has reached a conclusion with regard to capitalism, not me, so complain about yourself!

    All you are really doing is being arrogant, smug and intellectually lazy, so if that is all you have to contribute, you really would be better off not getting involved in debate at all. A true shame, particularly as you were neither so short-sighted nor dogmatic when first we met.

    You are also mistaking a desire for honest communication and debate for good manners, but debate of necessity needs at least some disagreement or there is nothing happening but a mutual reinforcement of dogma, which is a true waste of time and the preserve of mere dilettante philosophers.

    How you came to your understanding is of no interest at all; your point is that capitalism is flawed, which nobody is disagreeing with, so let’s try and move the discussion along from there…

    Roger, if you’re “intolerant of indolent minds”, how do you live with yourself? 😉

  • Roger,

    I have to agree I am guilty as charged. My excuse is that I have gotten so angry at injustice that I hate when people simply reiterate the same things that cause injustice. What the heck? There is no justification. It never helps. I am wrong when I do it. I am trying to change.

  • Christopher? Are you for real?

  • Christopher, worry not how I manage to live with myself. Suffice it to say, I’m thankful I didn’t inherit your genes, in which event life would really be unbearable.

  • Cindy: Yes

    Roger: As inaccurate as you are superficial; you are, at least, consistently indolent, in both meanings…

  • Roger,

    Thank heavens for you. 🙂

  • I should have known better, though, Cindy, than to engage him. Now I have to deal with his clever witticism masquerading as wisdom.

  • … witticisms … for there are surely many more to come …

  • BTW, are you getting on with the project we discussed earlier? I want to re-open the discussion of key issues on a dedicated website.

    We don’t need the kind of static which comes with BC. It’s a total waste of time.

  • Baronius

    Chris – You said that there’s no evidence for the existence of God. If I may ask, what would constitute evidence in your eyes? Reason, repeatasble observation, unrepeatable observation? I realize that Occam puts the burden squarely on me, you’ve got to at least tell me what courtroom the trial is in and what the rules of evidence are.

  • Roger, please feel free to create your own dedicated website; I’m sure the lonely sound of tumbleweeds will be great company for you, whilst the lack of challenge to your vast intellect will be of equal comfort.

    Cindy, I don’t have words to express my frustration with your stubborn refusal to engage or even think. The arch philosopher truly has you under his ignorant spell, to our mutual loss.

    Baronius, at this point I doubt there is anything other than simply turning up that would work for me, but we both know that is never going to happen…

  • Roger,

    I sold my house and will be busy sorting and packing ’til mid November.

  • I need neither your permission nor approval, Christopher. Don’t worry, though. I won’t be leaving BC either and keep on publishing and posting now and then. I’ve grown attached to it, in spite of you. Somebody’s got to keep it going, because your contribution amounts to nil In fact, you’re a disgrace.

    I suppose that’s what you wanted, Cindy. Have you made any intermediate plans? How about California?

    Will call you later today.

  • Baronius

    Chris, what if he did turn up, talk to a lot of people, do miracles, and answer questions? Do you have any reason to reject claims of the sort out-of-hand? That doesn’t mean that you can’t have alterative theories to explain the evidence, but you have to consider that evidence.

  • I wasn’t giving you my permission or approval, Roger. As always, flawed communicator that you are, you inaccurately project your preoccupations onto others.

    As your judgement is so deeply flawed, your assessment of me as a disgrace can safely and accurately defined as the petty bitching and name calling so characteristic of you when you lose the control you seek. That is very pitiful and petty, but so typically you. Shame…

    Baronius, if he did turn up, I’d be down the front row. I’ve no objections to gods in principle, just the false creator myths we are burdened with that cause so much division and harm.

  • Baronius, Chris does have a point. It would have to be a case of God showing up and acting in such a way that his/her/its being God was the best explanation for what we were observing him/her/it to do.

    The problem is one of definitions. How would one differentiate the behaviour of a supernatural god from the behaviour of a very highly advanced, but natural, being?

    I found this link in which an atheist forum is asked what would constitute proof of God’s existence. A very interesting and illuminating set of responses follows.

  • No failure to understand, Chrissy boy, just repaying you your dose of sarcasm with my own.

  • Baronius

    Dread, those were less impressive than I would have hoped. I realize that atheism covers a wide range of positions, and that neither you nor Chris was identifying with any particular one on that site. But most of them weren’t allowing the possibility of evidence. Again, it just doesn’t seem fair to use the term “evidence” in the statment that there is no evidence for the existence of God, when you disallow the possibility of such evidence.

    Besides, sufficently advanced aliens or mass delusion don’t seem to be particularly parsimonious assumptions to me. And at some point, you’ve got to acknowledge that those are different explanations for the evidence, and by so doing, you’re labelling whatever evidence exists as evidence. You wanna say that you don’t buy the evidence, that’s fine; but there’s evidence.

  • Igor

    When god shows up to answer questions I’ve got a few good ones to ask him/her/it so send me a telegram.

  • Baronius, I guess you and Chris are at an impasse then. Neither of you can present evidence sufficiently parsimonious to convince the other that there is no other explanation.

    Personally I think Sagan was onto something when he speculated that it would have to be a “maker’s mark” embedded unmistakeably somewhere in the natural laws of the universe – for example, several trillion places into the value of pi. It would have to be very deeply embedded in order that only a sufficiently advanced civilization would be able to (a) discover it and (b) comprehend it unambiguously for what it was.

    (As a matter of interest, pi has been calculated to several trillion decimal places and no such signature has yet been found.)

  • Zingzing

    If there is a god and he created this universe for us, he’s got a pretty dim view of us and planted certain doom all over the place. If we can survive the next few billion years on this fragile planet, the sun will get us, and if we can escape this planet and the sun, there’s a giant black hole sucking this galaxy in like a cosmic toilet. Only that which is most ungodly–technology–is capable of saving our collective fucked ass.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Hm. A ‘Maker’s Mark’? Perhaps there is one, just not in the way one might expect.

    I referred to the Many Worlds Interpretation above, which has been positively received by many (but not most) physicists including Stephen Hawking.

    At its basic level, it says that whenever a quantum particle changes state, it does so not to just one other state, but to every other possible state, and every other state exists in a different reality.

    Here’s where it gets weird – because if a new discrete reality comes into being with every possible new state whenever a quantum particle changes state, then it is almost certain that a new, discrete reality would be created with every possible combination of new states of all quanta in the universe. Essentially, with every cycle of quantum state-changes in the universe (and of course they all aren’t on the same clock and don’t happen simultaneously), a set of new realities is created that would make the Big Bang look puny indeed.

    So what the heck does this have to do with the subject at hand concerning the ‘Maker’s Mark’? It’s simpler than you might think. Because if every quantum particle changes state to every possible state, then there is quite literally an equal chance that (1)you’ll keep breathing, and that (2) enough of the atoms in your lungs are suddenly converted to energy to really ruin your whole day.

    But you know – you know – that won’t, that just can’t happen. So how could one reality – one that we know is impossible – be impossible, if the chance of it happening is exactly equal to the reality that we’re not going to blow up in the next moment, then what’s stopping that other reality from being our reality? And bear in mind that with MWI, there’s a for-all-practical-purposes infinite number of other possibilities, other realities being created every single moment of Planck time.

    Perhaps it’s not a ‘what’ that’s stopping those other realities from becoming our own, but a ‘Who’…because remember, if MWI is true, there’s equal chances for all those other realities, including the ones that We Just Know can’t happen.

    Perhaps that is the Maker’s Mark.

  • Roger, as I wasn’t being sarcastic, your level of misunderstanding only deepens…

    Baronius, I don’t follow your point about evidence for a deity at all. There are some bits of information that would allow someone to say something along the lines of “well, that must mean there is a god” but that is leaping to a conclusion, it isn’t evidence in either a legal or a scientific sense, so it amounts to little more than wishful thinking.

    I don’t think we are at an impasse, although you may well be. From my perspective you have convinced yourself of something you obviously want to be true whereas I don’t care what the truth is one way or the other but I’m not going to buy a half assed argument and base my life upon it, particularly when history clearly shows us the duplicity and corruption at the heart of these creeds.

    Glenn, your #147 is a fun speculation but ultimately nothing but a philosophical exercise that is unproven and probably unprovable, which may well explain its appeal to you.

    I prefer the knowable, the verifiable and the substantive and there is nothing about our existence or the universe that either requires or implies divine origin unless you want it to and giving in to what you want to be true rather than what can be shown to be true is the essence of corruption.

  • Chris, since you’re always sarcastic, well, most of the times, you’ve long lost the ability to tell. You’re not really cognizant any longer of your dominant communication mode.

    But as I said, I’m not really interested in what you’ve got to say on this or any other matter, let alone do I bother to read your comments any more, so I’m gonna drop it.

  • Roger, if you don’t bother to read Chris’s comments any more, how do you know what he said in his last one?

    Glenn, there are two glaring flaws in your “maker’s mark/many worlds” argument. While they are obvious, they’re rather tricky, so I’ll wait to elaborate until tomorrow when my head’s a bit clearer. See if you can figure out what they are in the meantime.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    One, it’s unprovable by any technology today or on the conceivable horizon, and as far as the second one goes I’ve got a possible one…but before I point it out, I’d like to hear what you think the errors are. But thankfully, I can take your criticism seriously.

  • Wrong again, Roger, for the third consecutive time. Not sure that is a record for you but if not it must be close!

    Unlike you, I am in control of my expression and aware of what I am trying to convey. Granted, I don’t always achieve the delivery of that message, for which I must clearly take some responsibility. That said, there are many people online who are more often in “transmit” mode than they are “receive” and you are one of the worst for that.

    I support the idea that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion, whereas you are clearly far too in love with your own ideas to actually receive alternative input, to your discredit. It’s a common trait amongst political or social pundits and online “philosophers” unfortunately.

    What you’re not interested in is actually the give and take of normal human discourse and what you are interested in is having an audience that will take your poorly thought out and largely unactionable ideas more seriously than they actually merit.

  • Roger,

    There is no sense in talking with a wall.

  • Dr.D,

    “Cindy, I still think you’re reading far too much into this. I can’t see anywhere in any of your links where Shermer says he agrees with Ayn Rand.”

    Perhaps it isn’t most evident in those particular links. However if you read him or about him it is not a secret that Shermer admires Rand. He is in line with her economic ideology and uses her as an expert in his book and he believes in economic morality–according to reviews on his website. He does disagree with her that human nature is rightly and essentially selfish. (and also on a fragment of Objectivism, as mentioned below).

    His introduction to economics through Rand and its fit with his world view.:
    My introduction to economics came in my senior year when many of the students in the psychology department were reading a cinderblock of a book entitled Atlas Shrugged, by the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. (…)

    I found Atlas Shrugged to be a remarkable book, as many have. In fact, in 1991 the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club surveyed readers about books that “made a difference” in their lives. Atlas Shrugged was rated second only to the Bible. (…)

    Although I now disagree with her ethics of self-interest (science shows that in addition to being selfish, competitive, and greedy, we also harbor a great capacity for altruism, cooperation, and charity), reading Rand led me to the extensive body of literature on business, markets, and economics.

    I cannot say for certain whether it was the merits of free market economics and fiscal conservatism (which are considerable) that convinced me of its veracity, or if it was my disposition that reverberated so well with its worldview.

    Even in his critique of Objectivism THE UNLIKELIEST CULT IN HISTORY, he makes it clear that the problem is not Rand’s noble ideas, with which he agrees. Indeed he proclaims he agrees so much with her core values, he might even have been tolerated in her cult–except for his reservations on whether morality can be found in nature.

    Now he seems to me to be asserting that morality can be found in nature as a part of the moral system of free market capitalism as developed via evolution.

    There are further examples–he states his agreement repeatedly in his writings and reviews of Rand, and apparently in in his book. How can one admire the film or even stand the vapid, cast of cardboard characters in Atlas Shrugged 1 (which I could only stomach part of, I haven’t seen 2) unless one admires Rand? If you haven’t done so, Part 1 is on Netflix. How much of this dreck can a non-admirer take? Only the moneyed classes are valued in the narrative. The banker is spirited away by John Galt as an example of worthy morality. Where is the waiter?, the cook?, the grocery clerk?, the factory worker?, the field hand? They are invisible and irrelevant. They are as insignificant to Shermer (in his narrow-minded claim of Wal-Mart’s morality) as they were to Rand. They both reek of the stench of their own inability to examine their privilege in the system.

    Shermer is a conservative who thinks people should stop whining and get to work. Hs views, as with all libertarians are based on their own belief that their privilege is deserved while those who don’t have are just lazy whiners. He says as much in The Most Unlikely Cult. That, in my opinion, is generally speaking, the real belief at the root of libertarianism and fiscal conservatism.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Well, then, Cindy, it seems Shermer’s liking for Rand is lukewarm at best.

    I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged nor seen either of the movies, and have no desire to. They sound like revolting (and not in a good way) pieces of work.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Glenn, I’m not sure the flaw you think you’ve identified in your hypothesis is actually a valid one, because the whole idea of the “maker’s mark” is that it will only be detectable and recognizable for what it is by a civilization sufficiently advanced to be able to process the discovery. Since that advance is nowhere on the conceivable horizon, we’re left with mere speculation.

    Actually, my first objection is with your misreading of the many worlds theory, which holds that not only is every conceivable state of every particle possible, all those possible changes actually do happen – creating an entirely new universe every time. There isn’t anything or anyone “stopping” all the atoms in my body from spontaneously combusting: in an inconceivably large number of other universes, they did exactly that.

    The fact that I’m not a puff of radioactive dust but am instead conversing with you about it is not a miracle but a product of the fact that, in this universe, I remained intact.

    The second objection is pretty simple and is that, in this universe, it is not physically possible for all of the atoms in my body to spontaneously convert to energy – at least not in the state they currently happen to find themselves in. (It is possible in other universes, but I suspect that in those realities it is highly unlikely that I, or you, or any stable matter whatsoever, would exist in the first place.)

  • I don’t really understand why Rand is seen as so influential or insightful but, like most people, she was clearly full of contradictions.

    To quote briefly from her Wikipedia entry, “Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism, and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of the philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except Aristotle.” Not really a totally linear set of ideas to my mind…

    Anyway, her most famous work is the best part of 60 years old and the world of human culture has moved on massively since then, becoming a more complex and infinitely nuanced place.

  • Baronius

    Chris – I guess that is my point, then. You seem to disallow the possibility of evidence, which makes your statement about the lack of evidence meaningless. It would be fairer to say that you’re unpersuaded by the evidence. Ideally, I’d persuade you that you’re wrong on this, but I’d settle for you admitting that, by posting on the subject, you’re taking an active position in the debate without sufficient evidence that you’re right: that is, your statement that the mental health or motives of those who have reached different conclusions are at fault. Many of your statements are designed to undercut rather than to illuminate. For instance, you’d find it ridiculous if I brought up misdeeds of atheists as an argument for the existence of God. But you do the equivalent from your point of view.

    This ties into an ongoing complaint I’ve had with your comments. They are often directed more at the commenter than the comment. I mean, can you look back on this thread and feel like you’ve taken the high ground with Roger and Cindy? The word that Roger was looking for wasn’t “sarcastic”, it was “snotty”. And you’ve both made snotty comments. (I’m not saying that I never have, but really, you two are sticking out your tongues at each other.)

  • Irene Athena

    The Trinity is a beautiful idea, and if it weren’t true, I would wish that it were. Three is the number of balance. The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit aren’t gods and goddesses, scheming and competing against one another. They dwell and work in love with one another, and make decisions (sometimes in agony) with one ultimate purpose in mind. They invite people into this love they model, to be a part of it.

    John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    What I believe when I hold on to the belief in the Trinity is that somewhere in the Universe, there is a Company like that. It inspires people to live like that. The people who are most convinced of the idea of the Trinity are those who have watched God give them the power to live like that when they could not find it in themselves.

  • Irene Athena

    As for a mathematical Maker’s Mark, what might qualify is Euler’s Identity, which brings into harmony two transcendental constants (endless decimal representations) found everywhere in nature, pi and the natural exponent constant, e, with a third, the square root of -1.

    The thing of it is, the same people who claim that they’d be impressed toward a belief in God by something unexpected in the trillionth place of pi, must have looked at Euler’s formula and said, so what does THAT say about God? Nothing.

    The thing of it ALSO is, the great majority of believers, which has the same proportion of people who hate math as any other population, will ALSO look at Euler’s Identity and say, “so what?” LOL. What amazes them is the Love that turns one who is full of hate, for himself and others, into one who is a small force of good in the universe.

    I have no desire to argue my faith in the Trinity with anyone. I think Baronius is doing fine as an apologist, as far as that will go in convincing anyone to look to God for the power to love.

    Do you think God graciously gives that power to people who humbly look to a Creator to give it to them, even when they do not know or yet believe in Trinity, the model and Source of that perfect love? I do.

  • Irene Athena

    I’m in the politics section? Oh excuse me. I’m with the Beatles. “They all deserve a dam’ good whacking.” Since they seem to be doing a good job of giving same to one another, I have nothing more to add. 🙂

  • @158

    The more I think about your comment, Baronius, the more convinced I am that you’re right. Sarcasm is a way of undercutting the validity of someone’s utterance without denying its validity altogether. With Chris, there is none of the former, only the latter; so he’s correct in saying he isn’t being sarcastic, only that you’ve got no ground to stand on, none whatever, if what you’re saying doesn’t jibe with his view of things. Somehow, he must regard himself a superior mind, except there is no pedagogy in his communications, only total dismissal. I’m not referring, of course, to the content, for we rarely if ever get to discuss the content, only the style. In essence, therefore, there is no communication to speak of, no two-way street.

    Apropos of the more important aspect. I think you’re falling into a trap when you’re trying to prove the existence of God in terms of what passes as standard of scientific or legal kind of evidence. First off, the very idea or the project (of trying to prove the existence of God, that is) is a misguided one. It would be like trying to prove the existence of force or energy. Even in physics we don’t “prove” such things, we only postulate them as some of the key, high-level concepts.

    Secondly, and more important I think, you don’t want to be discussing relations in the spiritual realm on analogy with how we usually discuss them when it comes to the physical world. These are two different (language) games, and when you do so, you’re guilty of mixing them. In particular, you end up not availing yourself of the language and logic of faith, certainly one of the key concepts of any religious kind of experience, a concept, besides, which entails the question/s of existence by implication, the right and the subtle way of doing this; and I think St. Augustine would agree.

    In any case, religious language and the language of faith is a way (for some people) to organize the totality of their experience, to include the desirable stance we should adopt when relating to other people and every part of the world we live in. So on these grounds along, the proper language for the spiritual world is, in many ways, incommensurable with the language that’s proper for descriptions and theorizing about the physical world, for the simply reason that the purposes are different.

    As to the nature of “evidence” in the religious realm, you might want to look up an article by C. A. J. Coady, “Testimony and Observation,” in Epistemology: contemporary readings, Michael Huemer, ed., Routledge (2002).

    Also, John Wisdom constructed a clever little “argument,” The Parable of the Invisible Gardener, in “Gods.”

  • Dr Dreadful

    Irene, the idea of the “Maker’s Mark”, as Sagan formulated it, was that it would be unambiguous, and that it would require the discoverers to have sufficiently advanced knowledge to understand it as such – presumably because such discoverers would have to be mature enough as a civilization to be able to cope with the 100% certain knowledge of the existence of God, and all that would imply, without their brains turning to blancmange.

    In crude terms, it would be a piece of cosmic graffiti, written with such crystal clarity that it was immediately comprehensible to anyone, that said “God woz ere”.

    I don’t think Euler’s Identity qualifies, at least not now, precisely because of the objection you pointed out. We know that it works and that it is exquisitely elegant – but we don’t know why. It could be chance or it could be because of something more subtle; but at this point, asserting the latter remains mere faith.

  • Baronius

    Irene – I’m not much of an apologist on this subject. You rightly pointed out something I’ve been ignoring, the fact that the Trinity isn’t three, it’s one. Even if you could find an example of a tritheistic religion, it wouldn’t be like Christianity. But hey, smarter people than me have tried to tackle the doctrine of the Trinity and stumbled.

    Roger – You’ve mentioned language a couple of times, and if I recall correctly you’ve brought up Wittgenstein. I may be creating an unnecessary trap for myself by using the word “evidence”. The word may be more of an analogue to what I’m talking about, but I don’t know of a better word, and by giving Chris the freedom to set the terms for evidence, I’ve opened the door about as wide as I can.

    As for Wittgenstein, I have three problems. First, I have a hard time following any philosopher who originally wrote in German. I don’t know why, but I do. Secondly, even Wittgenstein said that people didn’t understand what he meant. Thirdly, he was writing about not understanding what other people mean. So I figure I’ve got zero percent chance of getting anything much out of him, aside from just a common-sense warning to watch out for miscommunications.

  • Baronius

    Dread – Pi’s non-repeating is more mindblowing than if it fell into a pattern after 2 trillion digits.

    But why should a god leave proof only for the smartest? That seems like a smart man’s bias. A lot of people have seen God’s design in the perfect creations of Bach, or for that matter in the perfect creation of Heidi Klum’s parents. I don’t usually think of things in those terms, but a good portion of the population has. And I’d ask Sagan (and you) the same question I asked Chris: what would constitute gobsmacking evidence? Physicists are telling us that matter is made up of probabilities – doesn’t that make you catch your breath a little?

  • Baronius,

    I purposely avoided making any references to W for fear of creating a stumbling block. You should try to examine the ideas in terms of their merit – in particular, in light of the different purposes and objectives which govern everyday talk. The concept of a language game is a very useful analogy, for there are certain natural limits and rules. For example, a perjury is not a lie, nor is murder synonymous with having killed someone: the first set of terms have a legal validity; the second do not.

    You’re right in that W is not easy to understand. I suppose I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to his teachings second-hand, from some of his students, and kinda absorbed him through osmosis. In any case, some of the main points are that philosophy doesn’t correspond to pure logic, that words are subject to certain contexts with, albeit difficult to specify though certain natural limits, that meanings are determined by use (although we’re all too prone to all manner of misuse), that many of the language equivalences we tend to make across the many different language games are simply false and result in confusion. It would be like trying to play a game of chess with the rules designed for checkers.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, I agree that the apparent randomness of pi is pretty mindblowing, but I suspect not for the same reasons you do. Also, we know why it’s like that.

    Sagan’s speculation seems to me more like a moral man’s bias than a smart man’s. God, here, is assumed to be benevolent enough that he cares whether or not his creations’ brains turn to blancmange when they find out he really does exist after all.

    I think that if God left a proof simple enough that dumb people could understand it, it wouldn’t be unambiguous enough that smarter people couldn’t identify non-divine explanations for it. And if there were such a proof that was simple and elegant enough to satisfy those of all intellectual calibres, wouldn’t it be known by now?

    I think I’ve already answered my version of what would constitute gobsmacking evidence. It would be unambiguous to any reasonable person, although precisely what form it would take I don’t know (Sagan’s pi speculation was a hypothetical). Frankly I don’t think we can say much more than that we would know it when we saw it – which is pretty much the same stance most Christians take nowadays.

    I’ve said before that when you delve into quantum physics and cosmology there’s a lot of stuff that hints at a designer or creator, but I’m also cautious enough to realize that this might just be anthropic bias. As of right now, there isn’t anything about what we know of the origins and structure of the universe that requires a Creator. It’s a pretty astounding place, getting more astounding by the minute, and that satisfies me. As Douglas Adams once asked: Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

  • Baronius, I don’t think it is so much that I disallow the possibility of evidence for a deity, just that it is rather unlikely given everything else in the world that is both more eloquent an explanation and more verifiable. It is like the multiverse theory or string theory or even time travel, it might be possible but seems all of unlikely, unknowable and unprovable so best left to people who like to amuse themselves with such speculations. Spookily, one such is Irene who promptly turned up today and left us three comments of which I have understood precisely nothing!

    Anyway, to get back to your points, I don’t think there is much by way of evidence for a deity unless you want there to be one and are willing to make some, I was going to say leaps of logic but I guess what I really mean is illogical leaps which I can’t in all good conscience persuade myself to take.

    For example, in a creationist universe, I am apparently supposed to believe that some all powerful being snapped this universe into existence 14 billion years ago, then did nothing of consequence (or at least nothing that humanity ever recorded in either our entire 200,000 year history or even the 10,000 years since we stopped being a primarily nomadic species and started building large scale permanent settlements) until appearing to the Jews roughly 3,000 years ago and then doing nothing again ever. This god being “an absolute one indivisible incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence”. Seems a bit of a stretch to me although that might just be a failure of imagination on my part.

    You also complain that I touch on the mental condition and/or motives of the believer – or those who have “reached different conclusions” as you put it. Sure, guilty as charged but, given what I see as the sketchy at best evidence; the corrupting nature of the three bitter rivals of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (to say nothing of the equally bitter rival factionalisms within these three meta-factions (for want of a better term!) and the general willingness to ignore inconvenient facts, it doesn’t seem completely wrong to do so.

    Moving on, you then turn to my approach to comments. I believe you are only half right. I’m not unwilling to address the persona of the commenter but I always address their actual arguments first. If I was talking to somebody in the real world and they were making no sense or refusing to listen to others, I’d probably try that tack as well.

    I’ve no interest in taking the high ground with Roger & Cindy or anyone else for that matter, not even really sure what you mean by that term, but my experience of them is that Cindy has become more shrill, dogmatic and extreme over the years and Roger is a philosophy loving manipulator that can’t go beyond word games and do anything practical. Maybe I am a bit snotty with them sometimes but such imprecision and dilettantism frustrate me. It’s not a universal thing though and I hope you’ve never seen me be like that with Doc D, who is almost always honest, fair minded and unprejudiced (although he does have a worryingly dodgy taste in music), to say nothing of far more patient than me!

    Roger, I thought sarcasm was a kind of humour, often expressed in an ironic way to soften the possible harshness it may otherwise convey. It doesn’t work too well in the written medium, particularly in the comments space and with Americans. Although I am not stupid, I don’t regard myself as a superior mind and am frequently amazed by the insights and sharp perceptions of many people from all kinds of backgrounds and countries. One thing I do tend to see particularly clearly is the pretensions and posturing of the dishonest and/or pretentious, which I really dislike. I refer you back to my earlier comment about the emperor’s new clothes.

    On that point, is it actually true that we don’t or can’t prove the existence of force or energy? I rather thought we could and did…

    Possibly predictably, I find myself troubled by your use of the term “logic of faith”, which seems a contradiction to me in that faith by definition seems not to need logic.

    It seems to me that the, or at least a, desirable stance when relating to other people involves empathy and compassion, which doesn’t require faith at all and nor does faith necessarily include much by way of desirable stances, as all the “killing in the name of”, past and present, confirms.

    Doc, I hope you’re having fun with this whole maker’s mark idea but wouldn’t it be more like “Made by God” rather than “God woz ere”?

    Baronius and Roger: Bringing Wittegenstein into any conversation is always going to offer much opportunity for linguistic fun and games as he is not only frequently misunderstood but also rebutted many of his own ideas. The potential for chaos is thus huge. How his ideas relate to anything under discussion here is unclear, to me at least.

  • @150

    First line, Dreadful, first line, as it hits while I scan the comments page. And it’s good enough for me. Anything more would require greater application than I’d be willing to expand.

    Haven’t you ever been there?

  • Igor

    Dr D: well put.

  • Dr Dreadful

    first line, as it hits while I scan the comments page. And it’s good enough for me.

    Figures, Roger.

    Haven’t you ever been there?

    Of course, but generally speaking, if I hear the pitiful whining of a puppy inside a china shop, I first ascertain whether the reason for the whining is the presence of an enraged bull inside the shop before flinging open the doors to retrieve the puppy.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doc D, who is almost always honest, fair minded and unprejudiced (although he does have a worryingly dodgy taste in music)

    This from a man who has been known to wax publicly enthusiastic over Nicki Minaj.

  • Since it figures, why did you ask?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Just wanted to confirm where you are coming from.

  • Irene Athena

    Spookily, one such is Irene who promptly turned up today and left us three comments of which I have understood precisely nothing! Spookily? I thought I was talking about a God of love who inspires us to love one another. What’s spooky about that, Christopher?

    What’s spooky is Satan, much easier to believe in than God is. Thus, I appreciate Baronius’ reminder that all of Creation bears the Maker’s Mark. Y’ALL should think on what he said. Some days, it’s hard to look past the tarnish.

    Dr. Dreadful, Cosmic Graffiti isn’t difficult to understand–even by those of common intelligence, or uncommonly low intelligence–when those confronted with it are inclined to read it as such: a bush that won’t stop burning, food that appears in the desert to satisfy hungry stomachs, a man who raises the dead, and then after being crucified himself (PRAYING for those driving in the nails–wow) is raised from the dead as well. And nore generally, some people look at the wonders of sight and mercy, or the planets in their orbits, and look for a being who can order their lives, the way he orders nature.

    Inclination. That’s the highway that runs through this conversation, with Baronius and me going on in one direction, seeking God, though “through a glass darkly,” and Christopher Rose and Dr. Dreadful going on in the other, motoring away from Him. By arguments that purport to support their view of reality, but only support their disinclination to believe our understanding of it, they can disincline neither Baronius nor me, and we can’t evoke inclination in them.

    Spookily (LOL) yours, Irene Athena

  • Irene, are you being serious when you say that Satan is easier to believe in than God is?

    I thought your creation myth had it that they went hand in hand and without the latter the former wouldn’t exist?

    Did Baronius say that all of creation carried God’s maker’s mark? I must have missed that…

    As to the rest of your comment, again you leave me mystified and baffled; I read the words but can’t find the meaning. You are definitely not a little Wittgensteinian. Say what?

  • Different tempers of mind, Irene?

  • Never claimed I was being patient or fair in those situations, Dreadful.

  • Irene Athena

    Yes, Christopher, I think Satan is easier to believe in than God is, oftentimes. Satan is called the “Prince of the Power of the Air,” and a tornado catches our attention more a beautiful summer morning does, because the former interferes with human activity more.

    You are right, Christopher Rose. My paraphrase of Baronius was not exact.165: “A lot of people have seen God’s design in the perfect creations of Bach, or for that matter in the perfect creation of Heidi Klum’s parents. I don’t usually think of things in those terms, but a good portion of the population has.” Baronius says he doesn’t usually see creation that way, but that implies he sometimes does. The important thing is that he does not see as delusional the non-scholar’s perception of God’s touch in the simple beautiful things around him.

    You describe a dualistic view of creation, Christopher, where good and evil are opposing forces of equal magnitude. My understanding of the creation is that it began ages before the earth’s being inhabited by man. God created Satan to be a beautiful being of light (Lucifer, the light-bearer.) Then Satan became jealous of God, and as a free agent, turned his heart against God.

    The rest, sadly, pretty much sums up human history, to this date. I don’t believe that Good needs evil to exist. There was only God who is good from time before time, and after time there will only be Good: God and the ones whom he loves, who love him back. Maybe evil was allowed to exist for a time, not so that God could exist, but so that everyone who loves God, as Lucifer once did, would know what Evil looked like, what it could do, so as not to repeat Satan’s error.

    I am not deliberately trying to be unclear, but it seems that I only talk in a way that makes sense to you, Christopher Rose, when you are agreeing with me, as in matters of politics!

    To Roger, I am tempted to lose my temper when people make fun of people with a disability. Right now, there’s a good book upstairs (and a smidgeon of rainbow sherbet) to whose temptations I am hereby succumbing.

  • Hiya Irene,

    I like your narrative. It is the first explanation that makes sense to me as to why, if there is god, does what happens here exist. If it is a look at what evil can do, then that is a satisfactory explanation for me.

  • Baronius

    I’d put it differently than Irene did, but I get the idea of believing in evil more readily than believing in good. But for me, that’s the result of looking inwards.

    I think that Irene has more of a religious/mystical bent than I do. I’m more philosophical. One problem we both have is that we conflate what we’ve come to believe about God with what we’ve come to believe about Christianity – and even as I read this sentence, I can tell it doesn’t say what I want it to. What I mean is that the principles which led me, at least, to believe in God don’t require me to believe that Jesus is God. A person can reach the first conclusion without reaching the second. I’ve probably blurred the arguments in favor of each, as I’ve found them to be compatible, to both point to the same thing. But for me, as I said, I came to believe in God on the weight of the philosophical arguments. They were my barometer. Chris I think is looking for a physical type of evidence, and Irene is right that there is physical type evidence for Jesus being God. But I think he’s wrong to overlook the philosophical proofs.

    To each his own path. My dad can see proof of God’s existence in his great-grandson’s toes. I’d be inclined to scoff at that as unscientific, if he hadn’t built a nuclear reactor.

  • You mentioned mysticism and philosophy as different colorings of and possible routes to faith, but I think you overlooked the weight of human experience (not in the narrow, scientific sense, but in the humanistic one, reflecting as it were our basic human makeup). Perhaps that’s why you were unresponsive to earlier remark to the effect that the concept of faith provides one major way of organizing the totality of our experience.

    In a nutshell, we’re all born “in faith,” as it were. It comes to us naturally by way of trust. But once trust disappoints, as it invariably does and will, it creates a vacuum and it must be replaced in a kind of trust that will never let you down. Hence, the concept of faith (and it’s mainly an emotion). Hence another distinction between faith on the one hand, and the object(s) of faith, which can be many (since every emotion, positive or negative, must have/be directed towards some object).

    I suppose therefore your temperament must be akin to that of William James, who tried to analyze the quality of religious experience while one can be less than certain whether he had actually lived the experience.

    My idea of the ideal mix between the philosophical and experiential accounts of faith are of course the works of Kierkegaard.

  • Dr Dreadful

    It would of course be foolish to deny that good and evil exist, but assigning oversight and control of them to opposing supernatural entities (God and Satan) doesn’t seem any different, as far as I can see, to the ancient Greeks assigning oversight of the harvest to the goddess Demeter.

    And Baronius, I hope you were joking about your dad and his great-grandson’s toes. I think you were. If not, unfortunately, what you’ve got there is an appeal to authority.

  • Was that the import of Baronius’s communication, that that’s how he had come to believe in God, on the strength of grandfather’s say so?

    If so, then I somehow missed it.

  • Irene Athena

    Hiya Cindy! Always good to share ideas back and forth with you. Hi to Roger, too.

    Baronius — I’m mystical AND spooky. LOL. By the way though, I don’t think some kind of cosmic switch was thrown when Christ arrived on the scene, that made it so that only those who believed in Christ could seek and find help from the Almighty. Some of the laws of the Iroquois Confederacy, for instance, reflect the contemplations of a people who sought deep wisdom, and found it.

    Your distinction between the logical versus mystical approaches to God, Baronius, reminds me of Jesus’ commandment that we love God with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength. Different people have different emphases, and you pointed out two. When I think of people who are serving God “with all their strength” I think of people like Mother Theresa or other people who have dedicated their lives to serving the poor, people who might only have time to commune with God while they’re scrubbing up before an operation. All ways are important, but as you say, depending on the individual, some come more naturally than others.

    Dr. Dreadful, find the analogy between that assignation to Demeter’s being eaten with her siblings by their father Cronus, and then Zeus’ feeding Dad an emetic, causing him to barf them all up again…bodda bee, bodda baa. Much of mythology formed the basis, and sometimes found its source, in contemporary popular theater. Again, you’re finding connections between a) a Loving God and the Enemy of Mankind, and b) a Cast of Clowns, on the most tenuous of bases!

  • Baronius

    Irene – I think a lot about the Myers-Briggs personality types – there are a dozen similar systems I’m sure, but that’s the one I’m familiar with. I’m an NT, which means I’m brutal and uncaring (or at least that’s how I’m perceived). Methodical. Likely to be short-tempered with people who fail to reach the same conclusions I do, or especially those who use different means of reaching conclusions. As charming as a series of ones and zeroes.

    One of the things that Myers-Briggs taught me is that my approach isn’t necessarily right. I mean, I’d still trust myself to be able to reason my way through a problem, but the artistic SP, the procedural SJ, or the sensitive NF can solve problems I can’t, and more vexingly they can solve the same problems I can in different ways. A touch of humility is in order. If a person like you can discern God in a sunset, my inclination is to shout you down, but that’s not my right. Bach, Klum, pi, and toes are impressive, but they aren’t conclusive enough for me.

    My online namesake Baronius was an NT. His boss, St. Philip Neri, was an NF. Intuitive. Neri kept Baronius on a short leash, because he was prone to getting obsessive and morose. The humility to trust someone who thinks in a different framework than I do is something I’m in awe of.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I’m mystical AND spooky.

    And mysterious and kooky? And altogether ooky?

    Dr. Dreadful, find the analogy between that assignation to Demeter’s being eaten with her siblings by their father Cronus, and then Zeus’ feeding Dad an emetic, causing him to barf them all up again…bodda bee, bodda baa.

    Irene, those stories are no more outlandish than some of the stuff in the Bible, particularly the OT.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Was that the import of Baronius’s communication, that that’s how he had come to believe in God, on the strength of grandfather’s say so?

    No, Roger, it wasn’t.

    If so, then I somehow missed it.

    You don’t say.

  • Just took the test, Baronius, and my type is ENTP.

  • N, after narrowing it down: dominant extroverted intuition.

  • Baronius

    Outgoing conceptual-type who’s more interested in the journey than the destination? I can’t say I’m surprised.

  • I suppose so, if your interpretation is correct.

    In any case, the life of the mind is the only life in my book that’s worth living.

  • Irene Athena

    …what’s more, I get a different result every time I take the Meyers-Brigg personality test.

  • Don’t tell me it’s because you don’t know you own mind!

  • Irene Athena

    Naw. I’m just not good at taking tests I can’t study for. Well, goodnight all.

  • troll

    how would your treatment of others change if you lost your faith?

  • Baronius

    I should pull this tangent back to my earlier point. Different people look for different types of evidence. Due to my makeup, I’m unconvinced about God’s existence without philosophical proofs and convinced about it with philosophical proofs. It’s tough for me to imagine how someone could be convinced by other means, but the majority of people throughout history have at least paid lip service to the idea of god/gods, and plenty of people find reasons other than mine to be convinced.

    And to tie in another thread of conversation, let me explain where faith enters into it for me. I think that the First Cause argument is persuasive. Does it conclusively prove that the universe isn’t caused by a brand of chewing gum that will go on the market in 2041? No. That’s still a possibility. The proof doesn’t have the perfection of a deductive proof. But it’s sufficiently reasonable for me to take the step (I don’t see it as a leap) of accepting the proof.

  • Or, the test is unreliable psychobabble from a century ago!

    Baronius, there is no such thing as philosophical proof.

    The reason the majority of people throughout history have believed in gods is that as a very young species we didn’t have any better knowledge to explain the world but now we do.

    I’m confused by your last paragraph in #197; you start off talking about the First Cause argument and then switch to proof. There is no proof of the First Cause argument, just an argument which is unproven, so you are in fact taking an immense leap to accept it…

  • @168, 196

    Possibly predictably, I find myself troubled by your use of the term “logic of faith”, which seems a contradiction to me in that faith by definition seems not to need logic.

    It seems to me that the, or at least a, desirable stance when relating to other people involves empathy and compassion, which doesn’t require faith at all and nor does faith necessarily include much by way of desirable stances, as all the “killing in the name of”, past and present, confirms. 168

    By “logic of faith,” Christopher, I simply mean the logic/grammar of the language game (Wittgensteinian use). I suppose I should have made that clear to start with.

    So yes, there is a distinction to be made between the logic of a game (in terms of its rules, underlying concepts, legitimate moves, etc.) and one’s like or dislike of the game, whether it’s a game worth playing, whether it’s a silly or interesting or challenging game.

    Why do I say a language game must have a certain logic to it? One argument to that effect could be termed “ipso facto”; the very fact the language game is still around testifies to its (certain) internal coherence. If it were incoherent to begin with, it wouldn’t have survived without the necessary modifications.

    As to troll’s question, although I think it’s quite possible to have a proper stance towards humanity and all things which make up “our world” by virtue of, say, moral stance alone, a belief to the effect that one is not a master of the Universe helps to reinforce that stance.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Roger, I think you’ve got hung up on the idea of language as a fluid thing that can be used in many ways besides the conveying of information.

    This is, of course, correct, but you’re not justified in inferring from there that anything anybody says is no more or less true or valid than the next person’s utterance – for example, that your philosophical wonderings are just as good as Dr Element’s latest peer-reviewed scientific paper.

    Language is a tool. A gun is also a tool: it can be used to defend oneself, to murder someone, to entertain an audience at a sharpshooting display, to make someone do what you want them to do, for target practice, or as a fashion accessory. It can also be used to kill your dinner.

    In the same way, language can be used to cajole, to persuade, to threaten, to entertain, to play games, to woo, and to think, among other things. It can also be used to convey the results of empirical observations of the physical world.

    In other words, the following two statements do not have equal “truth”:

    1. “I think piano music is a window to the pianist’s soul.”
    2. “Excuse me, I observe that the rope from which that piano was suspended has just snapped. Bearing in mind the theory of gravity, and that you are standing directly underneath the piano, I think it would be wise for you to move.”

  • I don’t believe I was arguing for “equal validity” bur rather against making false equivalences across the board. In any case, validity itself is context- and language-game dependent, and so is truth itself, since the purposes are different.

    For instance, a move in checkers doesn’t invalidate a move in another game, such as chess. They’re just different games.

  • … equivalences as well as comparisons …