James Lee, Atheist Terrorist (Discovery Channel Hostage-Taker)

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 2, 2010 in Ethics

James Lee took hostages at the Maryland headquarters of the Discovery Channel, made some demands, and was shot dead by police. He was also a human trafficker. According to his MySpace page, he was also an atheist.

Some theists have been happy to draw a connection from his atheism and his “Darwinism” to his terrorist act. P.Z. Myers shot back with some contrasts between this atheist terrorist and some religious terrorists.

Alonzo Fyfe would like us to imagine what would have happened if James Lee had been a Christian or a Muslim demanding that the Discovery Channel air more shows favorable to creationism. It’s a pretty safe bet that many atheist blogs would have written something to the tone of “See how evil religion is, that it is responsible for stuff like this!”

Fyfe reminds us:

As atheism becomes more and more common, more and more acts such as this will be put in atheist terms and fewer will be put into religious terms… If [a] society is substantially religious, then these type of people will wrap their acts in religious terms. If their society is mostly atheist, they will wrap their acts in atheist terms.

If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.

Right?

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{ 157 comments… read them below or add one }

scott mc laughlin September 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Right! but fairer to say that it’s bigoted to link darwinism/theism to the actions of one person when there are so many other variables. the person commits the act, not the belief system.
This is also the fallacy in much of Dawkins’ attacks on theism, as much as I admire him I wish he’d frame his argument with less obvious holes.

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Reginald Selkirk September 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm

FoxNews says: Discovery Channel Gunman James Jay Lee Was No Terrorist

I think they mean that he wasn’t an A-rab.

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J. Quinton September 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm

If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.

I think if a significant amount of people did something in the name of Darwinism, then yes we would be justified in doing so.

But it seems as though you have to do a bit more mental gymnastics to do some crimes in the name of Darwinism, since biological evolution doesn’t say anything about what people should do. The Origin of Species is not a prescriptive tome.

But the Bible is.

People are wrong to blame bare belief in god on the crimes committed by theists. However, many theists also have religious books that tell them what they should and shouldn’t do. Many times with the added caveat that their personal god would be disappointed if they didn’t follow the prescriptions of their holy book.

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piero September 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Wrong. Darwinism is not a code of morals, whereas religions are. Nowhere in Darwin’s writings can you find anything remotely condoning what Lee did. Do I really need to go on and mention the Bible and the Koran?

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Joel Wheeler September 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

This article is bound to get you some flak, but it makes quite a lot of sense, and I agree.

Personally I like to step away from the arguments regarding how good/bad the adherents of an ideology are because that has no relevance with regard to the truth of said ideology. They seem to inevitably devolve into arguments over whether Hitler was an atheist or a christian.

These subjects should be debated based on their truth, not whether they make you feel good, or they inspire benevolent behavior. This is an ideal position, however, and can be quite hard to maintain.

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piero September 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm

J. Quinton:
Sorry, I said essentially the same thing you said. I posted before your comment had appeared.

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Reginald Selkirk September 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Alonzo Fyfe would like us to imagine what would have happened if James Lee had been a Christian or a Muslim demanding that the Discovery Channel air more shows favorable to creationism.

Atheism : environmentalism :: Christianity : creationism

That’s a mighty strained comparison. Environmentalism is not prominently linked to atheism as a core issue within any substantial portion of the community of atheists.

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Josh September 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Honestly, reading his demands, I found myself somewhat sympathetic to him. Pretty sad tbh.

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Silver Bullet September 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I fear that the phrase “wrapping acts in religious/atheist terms” may be missing a relevant point.

It is hard to imagine how someone could perform evil acts “in the name of” atheism, or because of an atheist ideology (if there is such a thing). On the other hand, it is easy to understand how evil acts can be performed “in the name of” a religion or god – acts that without the religious ideology, would have no ground or basis. Its not just easy to understand this, I believe that we observe it actually happening on a regular basis.

So I think that if someone kills another human being, and happens to be a Christian (or Muslim, or whatever), their Christian beliefs are probably not relevant. But if somebody kills another human being because of their Christian (or Muslim, or whatever) beliefs (such as murdering an abortionist, for instance), well, that’s far more than “wrapping the act in religious terms” – that’s performing the act specifically because of religious reasons.

Has anybody ever performed an evil act “in the name of” atheism, or for atheist reasons?

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NFQ September 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I agree. But how applicable is this to the situation at hand? Did this really cite Darwinian reasons for the act of taking hostages? It seems to me that he was interested in (among other things) promoting evolution, and chose to so via despicable means. That doesn’t mean that “Darwin made him do it” or what-have-you.

Atheism doesn’t command any particular behavior, nor does “Darwinism.” When people kill or torture or declare war in the name of their religion, it’s generally because their holy text actually *says* to kill people, or go to war, or whatever in that particular situation. That’s why I think it makes more sense to say that religion is “responsible” for these acts when religious people do them.

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lukeprog September 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Reginald, lol.

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Lukas September 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Here’s what I think the difference is:

Generalizing from individuals who use “Darwinism” as a kind of prescriptive quasi-religion to atheists in general is wrong because the theory of evolution is not some kind of moral rule, it’s a theory describing the natural world. In other words, science tells you how the world works, it doesn’t tell you how you must behave; what you do with the knowledge science gives you is up to you.

If somebody cites “Darwinism” as the reason why he did something, it’s not because the theory of evolution compelled him to do something, it’s because he himself decided what to do given the facts known to him. So there is no reason to assume that other people who see the same facts would necessarily come to the same conclusion on what they should do; that would be like assuming that all people who accept the theory of gravity as true would somehow share a common world view that is prescribed to them by their acceptance of gravity.

Religion, on the other hand, *is* prescriptive. It tells you how to live. If person A cites religion as a reason for doing something (good or bad), it’s fair to assume that other people who share the same faith would come to a similar conclusion in similar circumstances.

The theory of evolution is not a set of rules telling you how you must behave. Rather, it is a set of rules describing how the natural world works. A religion, on the other hand, *is* (or contains) a set or rules telling you how to behave.

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lukeprog September 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I’m certainly open to changing my mind, btw. That’s why the post ends with a question. So I hope to get a lot of thoughtful, constructive criticism.

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Erika September 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.

I agree with you Luke when it comes to an individual action. However, I think that given a whole set of evil actions, it is not bigoted to analyze the situation, whether the shared characteristic be religion or Darwinism. Of course, that analysis must not make the mistake of assuming that correlation implies causation.

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Eric September 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Are the Beatles responsible for the crimes committed by Charles Manson? Religion claims moral authority. Religious terrorists do their violent acts because they believe God condones it. There is a direct connection to the beliefs of the religious terrorists and the violence they commit. There is no connection from Darwins Theory of Evolution or atheism to committing acts of terrorism. It’s the same argument used against those that blame the crimes of Stalin and Pol Pot on atheism. There is simply no connection. Correlation does not equal causation.

James Lee was obviously a mentally unstable person. The hijackers of 9/11 were, as far as anyone could tell, well adjusted, college educated(some even had PHDs) and otherwise sane people. It was their jihadist beliefs that drove them to violence.

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Anette Acker September 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I agree with you, Luke. If someone does something in the name of Darwinism that has nothing to do with Darwinism, it is wrong to blame Darwinism. Likewise, if someone does something in the name of Christianity that has nothing to do with Christianity, it is wrong to blame Christianity. There is no difference.

Someone pointed out in the comments that the Bible is prescriptive while Darwinism is descriptive, and that is true. However, the Bible teaches love and peaceful resistance (Matthew 26:52), so it cannot be blamed for acts of violence. A violent person is no more a follower of Jesus than a capitalist is a follower of Karl Marx.

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G'DIsraeli September 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Sounds to me more like a spin…
He didn’t act on the behalf of atheism or Darwinism…Simply since this is impossible.
Atheism is not a creed, it is not a religion with commands and taboos.
atheism isn’t communism, Darwinism isn’t Nazism.

There is no causation between atheism and these acts! On the other hand with religious beliefs…its hard to blind yourself to the strong connections.

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Eric September 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

It’s been pointed out but I want to add that this is only true when “beliefs of religious terrorists” are consistent with passages in their holy texts and/or the views prescribed by their religious authorities. For example the Christian murderer of abortion doctor George Tiller and Islamic jihadists etc.

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cl September 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Luke / Alonzo,

If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.

Right?

Right. Exactly right. So then, is it bigoted to generalize about creationists because some subset of creationists does something evil while citing religious reasons?

I say no, and according to the logic you’ve just given us, it seems you should say no, too, yet – apparently – you and Alonzo Fyfe say yes. When you two rally against bigotry without retracting the bigoted statements you’ve made against creationists, how can a rational person not smell hypocrisy?

Please, if you respond at all, respond in earnest. Don’t just dismiss me by saying that “you don’t have time to discuss this anymore.” Put up. All I’m asking is that you either justify the claims you’ve made about creationists, or, say some variant of, “Okay, I went overboard, I should have said it like this” [followed by a non-bigoted assessment of the facts].

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David Evans September 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Anette Acker:

It is true that someone who follows the reported words of Jesus will probably not be led to commit violence. However many Christians in the past, and not a few today, seem to look to the Old Testament for moral guidance. One need only consider the historical effect of “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” to see that this is a bad idea.

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I don’t know anyone who does things “in the name of theism” or “in the name of atheism”, but I do hear people who do things in the name of a specific religious belief and they are organized and seldom criticized.

So, up front, I condemn that whack job before, what he did over the past few days, and I condemn what’s left of his dead corpse. He did not and does not speak for me.

To be clear, I consider theists in general not to be culpable for or in support of any other theist that uses violence or threats against anyone.

Yet, there is a level of accountability that I don’t see specific subsets of theists claiming responsibility for.

I do want to hear more theists who follow specific sects condemning the bad acts of people who lead those specific sects. I want to know that you’ve retracted your financial and social support for those who spread hate and ignorance and perform deeds that lead to the harm or subjugation of others. I think that is a limited and focused request. If you are a Muslim, I don’t hold you responsible for the Roman Catholic Church. If you are Lutheran I do not hold you responsible for the acts of the Mormons. But, if you are Catholic. If you are Mormon. If your church supports bigotry and hate on any level, then I do hold you responsible for speaking up and withdrawing your support for such immorality.

You might not consider your religious sect to be a democracy, but I do expect that if you associate and support a specific sect or are silent when they do wrong, that your actions show that you are in agreement with their policies. All of them. The good and the bad.

If you remain silent, do not vote with your feet, add to the misery with your money or your efforts, then I agree with Scott Clifton when he talks about such morals that are divorced from reality; ‘What fucking good is it?’. Make no mistake, though, looking at the examples offered by religions I don’t see them as wells of moral guidance — quite the opposite.

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Eric September 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm

@Anette Acker and David Evans,

Keep in mind that Jesus was an apocolyptic preacher who said those that didn’t follow his teaching would be condemned for eternity while only those that believed would live for eternity in God’s kingdom. Not a very tolerant teaching is it?

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Anette Acker September 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm

David Evans,

I agree that many Christians misinterpret the Bible, and that has always caused a lot of harm. But Matthew 5 clearly states that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (5:17-18) and superseded it (“You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you”). So we are to live according to the teachings of the New Testament–especially the teachings of Jesus.

Those who act in violent or bigoted ways because they misinterpret the Bible are no different from those who act that way because they misunderstand Darwinism.

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Anette, John 3:16-21 is fairly clear. Do you reject that section?

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Anette, ignore the last post. I thought you were responding to Eric’s message. I should have taken a few more seconds to read what each of you wrote.

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cl September 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I apologize for making what may appear to be unsubstantiated claims. I forget that not everybody who reads is a regular reader. In case anyone was wondering, “what on Earth is cl talking about,” here are some examples:

Electing a young-earth creationist to make laws is as foolish as getting into a car driven by a drunk… a character trait that defines young-earth creationists is a character trait that people generally have reason to discourage through condemnation because that trait leads to death and maiming… …what a young earth creationist believes itself contributes to death and maiming. [Alonzo Fyfe, Immorality and Young Earth Creationism, post 10-1-2009]

Luke is nowhere near as bigoted in his anti-creationist tirades, but he still labels all creationists as morally negligent:

Creationism-belief requires morally negligent epistemic processes. [lukeprog, New Podcast on Naturalistic Moral Realism!, comment 8-6-2010]

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Márcio September 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

What about determinism? He could have done otherwise?

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cl September 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Anette Acker,

Those who act in violent or bigoted ways because they misinterpret the Bible are no different from those who act that way because they misunderstand Darwinism.

Yes, that’s why noting that the Bible is prescriptive is a moot point. In fact, the Bible is actually prescriptive and descriptive.

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Eric September 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Marcio,

Ultimately no, but that’s not germane.

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Márcio September 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Eric,

“Ultimately no.”

Does that mean that determinism is something like an inescapable fate? Doesn’t matter what we do, the end is the same?

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Mastema September 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Márcio,

Determinism =/= fatalism.

It’s true that what is going to happen is going to happen, but we do not know what the future entails. Our actions are part of the causal chain, and what we do now influences what happens in the future.

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TaiChi September 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.” ~ Lukeprog

Right. Because acting ‘in the name of’ an ideology doesn’t actually make it the case that the act follows logically from the ideology. If it does, we can generalize from the individual case to the ideology; if it doesn’t, then all we ought do is add ‘irrational’ or ‘ignorant’ to the list of condemnations brought against a moral transgressor.

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TaiChi September 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Does that mean that determinism is something like an inescapable fate? Doesn’t matter what we do, the end is the same? ” ~ Márcio

I rediscovered a nice discussion of this the other day:

A case in point is all those who suppose that the necessary truth of the statement “The future will be what it will be” commits us to believing that the future must be what it is going to be and it is impossible for us to divert the future from its predetermined course. They suppose that logic itself commits us to fatalism.
On analysis, their reasoning goes like this. Consider the proposition

(13) If P then P.

where P is a contingent proposition such as Aristotle’s “A sea battle will occur in the Bay of Salamis.” Since (13) is a truth of logic, and hence necessarily true, it is also true that

(14) It is necessary that if P then P.

In (14) the modal property of being necessarily true is attributed to (13), and the expression “necessary” is being used in the absolute sense to mean that there are no logically possible conditions under which (13) is false. Now (14) lends itself to being expressed by sentences such as

(15) “If P then it is necessary that P.”

and its syntactic equivalent

(16) “If P then it is impossible that not-P.”

But in (15) and (16) we have a potential source of logical confusion. On the one hand, we can think of each as merely expressing (14) in other words. And in that case nothing remotely fatalistic even seems to follow from the necessary truth with which we started. But on the other hand, we can erroneously think of (15) and (16) as attributing absolute necessity or impossibility to the consequent clause or its denial, respectively.

That’s the fallacy committed by many metaphysicians when discussing Aristotle’s problem of future contingents. Aristotle had posed the question whether, if it is true that a sea battle is going to occur in the Bay of Salamis, it follows that such a sea battle must occur, and cannot but occur. To answer “Yes” would seem to commit one to saying that the logical truth of (13), as stated in (14), entails that the future is fated and that there is nothing one can do about it. It is to suppose, as I once put it, that logical determinism–the logical truth of (13)–entails logical fatalism. But, of course, logic itself does not dictate that the proposition P, as it occurs in the consequent clause of (15) and (16) is itself “necessarily true” or that its denial, not-P, is “not possibly true” or “impossible.” These modal expressions, as they occur in the consequents of (15) and (16), should not be understood in an absolute sense, but in a consequential sense. For the proposition P, remember, is a contingent proposition and hence not necessarily true and not such that its denial is impossible. That is to say, because P–by hypothesis–is contingent, it could be false (where “could” is to be understood in the absolute sense). To suppose that P can’t be false on the basis of the infelicitously expressed sentences (15) and (16) is to confuse the consequential uses of these modal expressions with their absolute uses. It is to be guilty of The Modal Muddle. All that follows from, is entailed by, the truth of the proposition that a sea battle will occur is that it will occur, not that it “must” occur or that its nonoccurrence is “impossible.” ~ Raymond Bradley

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Ralph September 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm

“If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.” ~ Lukeprog

I disagree. If someone is doing evil purportedly for reason X, it is entirely justified to include this among the evils that X promotes. For example, let’s say listening to a certain type of music encourages certain individuals to be suicidal. Why would it be bigoted to say that this is an evil of listening to this type of music? Clearly, this type of music wasn’t meant to induce suicidal ideation (why would the musician want to kill his audience?).

However, I don’t understand how one could blame Darwinian Theory to the hostage drama in the Discovery Channel. Exactly WHAT “Darwinian reason” was proffered? I understand that the mentally unstable guy wanted more pro-evolution programming but is that a Darwinian reason?

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Details matter.

It is wrong to broadly blame all religions — or all theisms. It is not wrong, though, to identify either category as a frequent source of bad things, or that it is in general over sold for what it promises though to do so requires some details to support that contention.

Specific religious beliefs can and should be criticized. Political beliefs such as social darwininism deserve to be criticized. In both cases, a proscription for behavior is made that can be destructive.

Natural selection as a description of a biological process does not deserve that criticism as it is descriptive not proscriptive. You can argue over the merits of natural selection as a descriptive methodology and you may be correct in part, incorrect in part, or entirely incorrect in your assessment.

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Ralph September 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm

cl: Luke is nowhere near as bigoted in his anti-creationist tirades, but he still labels all creationists as morally negligent:

He is? On the basis of the quote you jost offered, he isn’t.

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 4:22 pm

:)

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Kaelik September 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm

@cl

So my comment was deleted?

But the basic response was:

1) Being a Creationist can in fact be something that logically entails bad stuff I don’t want in a representative of mine. And you know how Alonzo phrases all his subjective opinions in the form of moral imperatives based on the secret connection of desirism that hasn’t been explained yet.

2) See example: Does Creationism entail racism. I can’t code anything on this site, because it’s not bb, and not html, so I am confused:

http://www.the1585.com/creationistsracist.htm

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Kaelik September 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Okay, I see it auto links, fair enough.

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lukeprog September 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm

cl,

Desirism is both descriptive and prescriptive, like we’ve always said.

Also, you’ve completely misconstrued our argument in favor of condemning creationists.

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Leomar September 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Where is the atheist scripture that point to a heaven with virgins in reward for killing ‘infidels’ in name of Darwin or anything like that?

No atheism to blame here!

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Jeff H September 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I have a couple things to say:

cl: You would be right, except that as far as I understand, Alonzo and Luke say that the belief in creationism itself (or more precisely, the lack of effort to inform oneself) is the moral negligence. They are not condemning creationism based on acts in the name of creationism (like Ken Ham going postal in a museum or something), but rather because of the negligence in properly informing oneself. That is, I think, an important difference.

In general: There have been several here who say that “Darwinism” is descriptive and does not tell people to do anything, whereas religions are prescriptive. While that’s true to a certain extent, it’s important to keep in mind that all texts and belief structures are interpreted. All of them. So someone may come up with an interpretation of Darwin’s ideas that involve harm (like, say, eugenics), and others may come up with interpretations of religious texts that do or do not involve harm.

The correctness of the interpretation, or the truth of the texts themselves are not the issue here (although certainly important for other discussions). What I’m pointing out is that it always comes back to the individual. Descriptive or prescriptive doesn’t matter; even the prescriptions must be interpreted. So it’s difficult to pin down a belief as being “good” or “bad” – what are good or bad are the actions that such a belief may or may not lead to. And actions are products of the individual.

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Agreed. Social darwinism — an interpretation of natural selection — is prescriptive, yet natural selection is not. Anyone who treats one like the other is making a mistake based on either politics or ignorance.

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Ajay September 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Wrong. I see a much clearer causal connection between doing something evil and religious reasons than I do between doing something evil and Darwinism.

So if someone, say, kills a homosexual and then offers up a religious excuse – after all, the Bible is clear on the penalty for homosexuality – we’re bigoted for drawing a connection between the two? But how do you get from the theory of evolution by means of natural selection to humans performing similar evil deeds? There is nothing in the content of Darwinism that would prescribe evil actions.

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Hermes September 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Ajay, if you are addressing my comments I’m referring to a specific narrow and notorious distortion of biological facts; social darwinism. Social darwinism isn’t biologically sound or impartial. It was a pseudo-scientific political movement used to justify various abuses. It does not, though, actually flow from the more sober and grounded natural selection.

By analogy, social darwinism is to natural selection as homeopathy is to double-blind confirmed medicines.

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Steven Carr September 2, 2010 at 11:03 pm

So James Lee made zero demands for the Discovery Channel to run programmes about atheism,and , as far as I can see, never mentioned atheism in his missives.

How then can he be an atheist terrorist?

What Lee did was cite the Reverend Thomas Malthus a lot.

So somehow, even if atheists take clergymen as their inspiration, they are somehow atheist terrorists.

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Ajay September 2, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Hermes: No, my comment wasn’t referring to you – it was referring to Luke’s post in general.

I think we’re of the same mind on this issue.

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Mike N September 3, 2010 at 12:23 am

“If it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of Darwinism because someone does something evil while citing Darwinian reasons, then it is bigoted to generalize about the evils of religion because someone does something evil while citing religious reasons.”

I principle, yes, but there aren’t so many atheist organisations that actively promote violence and hatred towards others in the name of atheism. The same cannot be said of religion.

Is it OK then to criticise religion for the indoctrination which often leads to these acts?

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Froggy September 3, 2010 at 3:20 am

Right. EXCEPT if the “bad guy citing religious reasons” is praised as a hero/martyr by other religious crackpots because of their common faith. Some killers ARE being praised by religious zealots (the WTC terrorists, Baruch Goldstein in Hebron, etc.)

On the other side, as Pharyngula recalls, no “atheist terrorist” is revered by other atheists.
Our “martyrs” (if we have any) were beaten to death or burned by angry (and religious motivated) zealots. They were no killers.

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AlonzoFyfe September 3, 2010 at 3:56 am

Please note that I DID NOT SAY that if a person performs an action for religion reasons that it would be wrong to condemn those who share the same interpretation of scripture that he does. In fact, I have affirmed that if a person performs such an act it is legitimate to condemn him and all who would cheer him

My objection was in saying that “religion” is to blame where “religion” includes a whole lot of people who would and do condemn the action.

Similarly, if Lee had been a part of an organization that held a set of beliefs such as, “Since there is no God, we must take it upon ourselves to be sure that these valuable ends are met or that those bad consequences are avoided, and this includes the legitimacy of terrorist acts against any who threaten those values,” I would agree with the legitimacy of condemning that group and their doctrine for such acts.

This does not warrant broad conclusions such as blaming “Darwinism” or “Religion”. It only justifies going so far as blaming “that specific group that advocates that such actions are legitimate.”

It does not matter that somebody else might read the same books that I do and come out with a totally different idea.

Somebody else might read the Declaration of Independence and draw different conclusions than I do. In fact, he might read the Declaration’s claim that “When governments become destructive of these rights it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and form a militant group aimed at government overthrow.

That does not provide any argument that all Americans who view the Declaration as containing the core elements of a fairly solid political philosophy are to be condemned for the terrorist acts of those rebels – even if they do “quote scripture” as it were.

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AlonzoFyfe September 3, 2010 at 4:00 am

Froggy

On the other side, as Pharyngula recalls, no “atheist terrorist” is revered by other atheists.

Sure. No communist terrorist was ever revered by other communist terrorists?

Nobody in the French Revolution (“the terrors”) was ever cheered by any other member of the French Revolution.

Never happened.

I’m sure.

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 4:52 am

‘Bigotry’ is a rhetorical bashing term (in this context) meaning no more then, you got your generalization of people wrong.
Generalizing the religious on the act of a a religious person, if his religion is relevant to the act, it makes sense. Since X, Y believe similar things to Z which was motivated by that idea.
Atheism does not hold this possibility. No creed, no commands no link to Atheist X, Z from the acts of Y. There is no ten commandments of atheism or a bible or clergy.

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ildi September 3, 2010 at 4:52 am

Please do point me to the relevant atheist or “darwinist” manifestos I may read so I can follow the proper directives. Since when is atheism equal to communism? Atheism and evolutionary theory are philosophical/scientific stances, not ideologies. By the same token, no theist terrorist was ever revered by other theist terrorists. You pick the dogma that has at its root “there is a god” upon which to base your terrorist activity.

First sentences in Lee’s demands to the Discovery Channel:

The Discovery Channel and it’s affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn’s “My Ishmael” pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other’s inventive ideas. Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order. Perhaps also forums of leading scientists who understand and agree with the Malthus-Darwin science and the problem of human overpopulation.

Sounds like he should more properly be called a follower of Quinn or Friend of Ishmael, or a Malthusian.

From Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)

What “struck” Darwin in Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) was Malthus’s observation that in nature plants and animals produce far more offspring than can survive, and that Man too is capable of overproducing if left unchecked. Malthus concluded that unless family size was regulated, man’s misery of famine would become globally epidemic and eventually consume Man. Malthus’ view that poverty and famine were natural outcomes of population growth and food supply was not popular among social reformers who believed that with proper social structures, all ills of man could be eradicated.

Although Malthus thought famine and poverty natural outcomes, the ultimate reason for those outcomes was divine institution. He believed that such natural outcomes were God’s way of preventing man from being lazy. Both Darwin and Wallace independantly arrived at similar theories of Natural Selection after reading Malthus. Unlike Malthus, they framed his principle in purely natural terms both in outcome and in ultimate reason. By so doing, they extended Malthus’ logic further than Malthus himself could ever take it. They realized that producing more offspring than can survive establishes a competitive environment among siblings, and that the variation among siblings would produce some individuals with a slightly greater chance of survival.

Malthus was a political economist who was concerned about, what he saw as, the decline of living conditions in nineteenth century England. He blamed this decline on three elements: The overproduction of young; the inability of resources to keep up with the rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes. To combat this, Malthus suggested the family size of the lower class ought to be regulated such that poor families do not produce more children than they can support.

Oopsie-doodles! Sounds like Malthusianism is Christian classist ideology!

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Mike N September 3, 2010 at 4:54 am

“My objection was in saying that “religion” is to blame where “religion” includes a whole lot of people who would and do condemn the action.”

I can see your point, but I would say that condemning religion is not the same as condemning all the individuals that are a member of that faith.

If a religion encourages it’s believers to lie, terrorise and kill in order to convert people then religion is to blame. More so, I would say, than the individuals perpetrating the acts, since they have quite probably been indoctinated since an early age.

That of course is not the same as individual nutters that choose to put a very special slant on religious texts. I’m pretty sure they’d be nutters with or without religion to back them up.

It doesn’t have to be killing either. A prime example is the condemnation of homosexuality and the persecution of homosexuals is largely perpetuated through religious channels. I don’t say it began like that, although it may have done, but in this case religion promotes and incourages ignorance and intolerance. So yes, I blame religion for that.

The point is that whether or not there are believers that condemn the action, if it is promoted and/or actively encouraged by the religion then it is legitimate to blame the religion itself.

I should point out though that when I blame (a) religion that does not mean I automatically think that every believer is at fault.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 6:00 am

G’DIsraeli

Oopsie-doodles! Sounds like Malthusianism is Christian classist ideology!

Darwin obtained a key component of his theory of evolution from Malthus. Competition for food, with some members dying out and others surviving, provides much of the natural selection that makes evolution possible.

Mike N.

If a religion encourages it’s believers to lie, terrorise and kill in order to convert people then religion is to blame.

No.

If a religion encourages it’s believers to lie, terrorise and kill in order to convert people then a religion is to blame.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 6:14 am

Excellent replies, Alonzo.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 6:23 am

One common defense is that atheism does not entail any moral claim so atheism cannot be justifiably blamed for any immoral act.

(Though there are some who claim that. The very problem with atheism is that it does not entail any claim that would have prevented such an act.)

However, religion is a set of moral prescriptions so it is quite legitimate to blame religion when religious people do something evil.

BUT theism does not entail any moral claim either.

Go ahead. Tell me what moral principle follows from “God exists”.

It is as morally empty as the claim that God does not exist.

Now, some people mix “god exists” with a lot of other nonsense to get some very dangerous and destructive conclusions.

Well, it seems that some people mix “God does not exist” with a lot of nonsense to get some very dangerous and destructive conclusions as well.

The two are alike, from the moral emptyness of the general claim to the potentially dangerous and destructive of different sects that fall under the each heading.

So, we should treat like cases a like.

The way to do that is to condemn those who commit the crime and those who would cheer them, and to not use these types of cases to fan hatred of groups larger than that.

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ildi September 3, 2010 at 6:27 am

Darwin obtained a key component of his theory of evolution from Malthus. Competition for food, with some members dying out and others surviving, provides much of the natural selection that makes evolution possible.

Does that imply that he agreed with Malthus’ political and economic theories? What exactly is the “darwinist” agenda? Is it similar to or different from the “lemaîtrist” agenda?

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Mike N September 3, 2010 at 6:30 am

‘If a religion encourages it’s believers to lie, terrorise and kill in order to convert people then a religion is to blame. ‘

Yes, my apologies, I was not clear enough. _That_ religion is to blame. I wouldn’t blame Hinduism for 9/11 any more than I would blame Islam for problems in Northern Ireland.

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 6:32 am

Alonzo,

So what if the idea was inspired from some ideology lets say?
There is -nothing prescriptive- in Darwin’s theory, its not only bad taste to somehow try and turn it into one, its simply false. Reminds me of creationists trying to connect with the same thought patten Darwin to Nazism is a disturbing way (Darwin leads to that ism).

“Atheism made him do it”, No, that is impossible. Atheism isn’t communism and it isn’t a creed.

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 6:40 am

Alonzo,

So now you twist the term “theism” to fit your notions?
Theism isn’t deism, we all know that theism means. It is a set of beliefs, a doctrine, a holy book etc. Its holds a huge set of moral commands & prescriptions.

“The way to do that is to condemn those who commit the crime and those who would cheer them” – and this is somehow impossible when it comes to some sect in theism?

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ildi September 3, 2010 at 6:47 am

BUT theism does not entail any moral claim either. Go ahead. Tell me what moral principle follows from “God exists”. It is as morally empty as the claim that God does not exist.

Now, some people mix “god exists” with a lot of other nonsense to get some very dangerous and destructive conclusions.
Well, it seems that some people mix “God does not exist” with a lot of nonsense to get some very dangerous and destructive conclusions as well.
The two are alike, from the moral emptyness of the general claim to the potentially dangerous and destructive of different sects that fall under the each heading.

I agree with your first statement, but I think you’re drawing a false analogy with the second two. There is a direct correspondence from “god exists” to “this is the God that exists” to “this is what that God tells me/us to do”. We probably agreed that the writings people refer to when deciding what their god tells them to do can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but there are writings you can point to. It’s not just a matter of mixing “god exists” up with other nonsense, as you claim.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 7:05 am

G’Disareli,

Even theists will deny your definition. Theism is standardly defined as belief in the existence of tri-omni God. Theism entails no moral imperatives until you add stuff to it.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 7:19 am

G’DIsraeli

So now you twist the term “theism” to fit your notions?
Theism isn’t deism

No it is not. However, deism is a form of theism. (Or do you want to classify it as a form of atheism?)

All rectangles are not squares, but all squares are rectangles.

[W]e all know that theism means. It is a set of beliefs, a doctrine, a holy book etc. Its holds a huge set of moral commands & prescriptions.

Apparently not. Theism is a whole set of different beliefs and doctrines, some of which have holy books and others do not. Do you think that pre-literate religions are not “theist”? The one thing that all theism has in common is the belief that there (almost certainly) is at least one God.

Just as atheism is a whole set of different beliefs and doctrines that share the belief that there (almost certainly)
is no God.

“Atheism made him do it”, No, that is impossible. Atheism isn’t communism and it isn’t a creed.

Atheism is not communism, and theism is not a violent form of Islam. However, communism is an atheist philosophy (it presupposes no God) and just as any violent form of Islam is a theist philosophy (it presupposes a God).

Thus, blaming atheism for the crimes of communism is just as nonsensical as blaming theism for the crimes of atheism.

Remember, I AGREE that it is discriminatory to blame all atheists for the crimes committed by the followers of some specific, violent, atheist (presupposing no God) philosophy. I am arguing that it is just as descriminatory to blame all theists for the crimes committed by some specific, violent, theist (presupposing a God) philosophy.

Ildi

There is a direct correspondence from “god exists” to “this is the God that exists” to “this is what that God tells me/us to do”.

No there isn’t.

It is perfectly coherent to believe that a God exists who created the universe and then went away without tell us anything.

A theist can be believe in desirism – God created a universe and all things in it. In the universe He created desires are the only reasons for action that exist and desires can be evaluated according to the degree to which they fulfill or thwart other desires.

Such a person would not be guilty of any type of incoherence.

“God exists” implies absolutely nothing about what a person ought or ought not to do. Which is why so many different people who share a belief that a God exists can have so many different beliefs about what God does and does not command them to do – if anything.

We probably agreed that the writings people refer to when deciding what their god tells them to do can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but there are writings you can point to. It’s not just a matter of mixing “god exists” up with other nonsense, as you claim.

It sounds like mixing “god exists” up with other nonsense exactly as I claim. The fact that I can point to the “utter nonsense” that some people use does not change the fact that it is “utter nonsense”.

And, as I said, it is quite possible that a person can believe that God exists and, except for this one error, have true beliefs about every other part of the universe. All he has to do is to take all of those truths and add “And a god exists”. There is nothing incoherent with that position.

Now, if a person who has even just one belief that you think is false is guilty of every act of terrorism ever committed, then we are all guilty. Because we all have at least one ill-founded, poorly considered belief, I assure you.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 7:21 am

Luke

Even theists will deny your definition. Theism is standardly defined as belief in the existence of tri-omni God.

That seems inadequate. Is it not the case that the ancient Greeks, Romans, and the like were theists? Were they “atheists” because their Gods lacked omnipotence or omniscience?

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 7:45 am

lukeprog,

If that is theism, then what is deism? Maybe be a belief in a QUINTET-omni god?
So standard (i.e. typical; accepted widely; norm; average) that Wikipedia agrees more with me and not with you? Or any other dude around the corner?

And even if theism is what you claim it to mean, how is this even relevant? Alonzo is playing equivocation between the words “religion” and “theism”.
While clearly most of us concern religion in its full sense (read the comments above).

“citing Darwinian reasons”…No such thing. It isn’t a religion nor creed, it holds no prescriptive force.
It is descriptive. Could you describe someone to death? Or take him hostage?

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 8:01 am

Alonzo,

“I am arguing that it is just as discriminatory to blame all theists for the crimes committed by some specific, violent, theist (presupposing a God) philosophy.”

If that’s the point, I don’t see how I cannot agree with you. I think maybe Luke misrepresented your view then.

The post speaks of religion (“had been a Christian or a Muslim “) not theism and about society and not atheism (“As atheism becomes more and more common” “atheist terms”).
In this sense communism is an atheist term, which is very misleading.

If I’m confused about the confusion, and you don’t agree with me, I will apologize for wasting your time since my reading comprehension has failed me, and quite for now.

I think in general we are talking about “to draw a connection” i.e. between a belief/creed and act.
When actually it makes sense to draw a connection between religion and such acts, and very little between atheism and such acts. That is my point so far (I agree about the above that you wrote.)

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consideratheism September 3, 2010 at 8:02 am

I haven’t read all of the comments, and this has probably been brought up. But Darwinism is not a belief system; it has no ideologies or morals. So making that correlation is not an accurate statement.

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 8:28 am

consideratheism,

lol…
Go read the comments.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

Fyfe,

Yeah, I should qualify. In Western philosophy, ‘theism’ typically refers to belief in tri-omni God. There’s also the sense of theism which refers to belief in any powerful supernatural beings, where ‘powerful’ is pretty vague.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 8:49 am

consideratheism

I haven’t read all of the comments, and this has probably been brought up. But Darwinism is not a belief system; it has no ideologies or morals. So making that correlation is not an accurate statement.

And you do not see the problem with that? You do not realize how a system with no morals is exactly how we got into this mess! You do not see how a system without morals can inspire a person to do all sorts of evil, mean, and vicious acts?

(/sarcasm)

That’s the point.

Theism, broadly defined, has no morals either. It implies no doctrine and makes no moral commands. It is the stuff that people ADD TO theism that causes all the trouble.

Atheism, Darwinism, and the like also have no moral implications. It’s the stuff people add to it that gives them (they think) moral commands.

So, if you want to let atheism off the hook because it gives no moral commands, consistency requires letting theism off the hook as well.

If you want to condemn a specific theist philosophies (those that assume the existence of a God) for commanding that which is evil then, . . . well, there are specific atheist philosophies (those that do not assume the existence of a God) that have the same problem.

However, instead, let’s prove our ability to back up derogatory overgeneralizations with irrational equivocation to comparing broadly-defined atheist oranges to narrowly-defined theist applies. (While we hypocritically condemn those who compare broadly-defined theist organges with narrowly-defined atheist applies as being irrational and bigoted.)

What I am arguing for is comparing atheism broadly-defined with theism broadly-defined, and compariting narrowly-defined theist philosophies with narrowly-defined atheist philosophies, and limiting myself to conclusions that are both fair and rationally defensible.

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G'DIsraeli September 3, 2010 at 9:10 am

Yes Alonzo, all agreeable. Yet the subject is religion (“James Lee had been a Christian or a Muslim”), and not theism (your definition of the term).

In this case, atheists (and Darwinism) are off the hook.

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JS Allen September 3, 2010 at 10:42 am

Beliefs have consequences, so it’s perfectly fair to ask whether someone’s actions are caused by this or that belief.

The tricky part is in having the intellectual integrity to evaluate rationally instead of just trying to score cheap points against our opponents. In this case, it seems clear that James’s atheism played practically no part in his actions. He strongly believed in the perspective presented in the book “Ishmael”, but even that is insufficient to explain his actions. He was not mentally healthy.

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ildi September 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

No there isn’t.
It is perfectly coherent to believe that a God exists who created the universe and then went away without tell us anything.
A theist can be believe in desirism – God created a universe and all things in it. In the universe He created desires are the only reasons for action that exist and desires can be evaluated according to the degree to which they fulfill or thwart other desires.

Ah, now you’re just playing three god monte.

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al friedlander September 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

“Generalizations are bad”

=]

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Brandon September 3, 2010 at 11:56 am

I agree.

I think it’s a knee jerk reaction by us atheists to use anything a Christian does as a way of condemning the whole enterprise.

A wimpy example is this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STFT0C5Hu8M

Clearly, this woman’s major problem is her mental health and not her religious beliefs, but one of the early comments says “the bible makes people insane.”

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Alonzo Fyfe September 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

In this case, it seems clear that James’s atheism played practically no part in his actions.

Well, this is my point.

James’ atheism played practically no part in his actions. At least it did not play any culpable part.

However, this is true in exactly the same way that if James had been a militant creationist demanding more creationist programming, that his theism played practically no part in his actions.

Of course, in this hypothetical case, no sensible person could possibly deny that the creationist’s specific brand of theism played a crucial part in his actions. And this gives us good reason to condemn his specific brand of theism, but it does not give us any justification for condemning theism broadly defined.

But, in this sense, it is also the case that James’ specific brand of atheism – played a crucial part in his actions as well. And it gives us good reason to condemn his specific brand of atheism. But it does not give anybody any good reason to condemn atheism broadly defined.

I am not arguing that it makes sense to condemn atheism for the actions of James Lee.

I am arguing against is the practice of distinguishing between atheism broadly defined and specific atheist philosophies on the one hand, while REFUSING to distinguish between theism broadly defined and specific religions on the other.

All for the purpose of scoring cheap rhetorical points.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Luke,

Desirism is both descriptive and prescriptive, like we’ve always said.

Then, in your own words, what does it prescribe? Don’t just point me to more of Alonzo’s ambiguous, cryptic writing. Don’t just make assertions and walk away hoping that I’ll swallow them whole; elaborate, please.

…you’ve completely misconstrued our argument in favor of condemning creationists.

Yeah, that’s your stock response to all who dissent lately: the Courtier’s.

Truth is, no, I have not misconstrued anything you’ve said; I cited you both verbatim and kept to a conservative interpretation of your statements. If you don’t like the way you sound, don’t make bigoted statements. You said, “Creationism-belief requires morally negligent epistemic processes.” You made no exceptions, whatsoever. You have redefined moral negligence to include “Creationism-belief” when in fact you have no grounds whatsoever for doing so. Hence, my suspicion that you argue from bias, intuition, or possibly both. I suspect that you’ll either respond with another vapid denial, or not at all.

In challenge to your claim, I believe God created the Earth, and I’m open to the possibility that God created the Earth within the last 10,000 calendar years. IOW, I’m essentially open to the YEC claim. Now, explain to me exactly where you think I’ve been morally negligent, else, retract the bigoted claim to say something more like, “refusal to inform oneself requires moral negligence, and people of any and all beliefs are often morally negligent.”

It’s really that simple, unless of course your pride is getting in the way.

Ralph,

Why would it be bigoted to say that this is an evil of listening to this type of music?

Because it labels as “evil” all those who don’t share the value of life.

cl: Luke is nowhere near as bigoted in his anti-creationist tirades, but he still labels all creationists as morally negligent:

He is? On the basis of the quote you jost offered, he isn’t.

That’s taking “Creationism-belief” at face value – anyone who believes in creation. I understand that Luke meant, “Young-Earth Creationism belief,” and was simply not arguing precisely. The charge of bigotry still stands.

Or, did you mean something else? If you deny that Luke was implying “all YEC’s are morally negligent,” by all means, let’s hear your argument.

Kaelik,

Being a Creationist can in fact be something that logically entails bad stuff I don’t want in a representative of mine.

So can being a Boy Scout or member of Congress.

See example: Does Creationism entail racism.

I briefly skimmed it. I’m not sure what you wanted me to take note of.

Jeff H.,

You would be right, except that as far as I understand, Alonzo and Luke say that the belief in creationism itself (or more precisely, the lack of effort to inform oneself) is the moral negligence. They are not condemning creationism based on acts in the name of creationism (like Ken Ham going postal in a museum or something), but rather because of the negligence in properly informing oneself. That is, I think, an important difference.

No offense, but you’ve misunderstood me, and instead of just assert such like Luke, I’ll do my best to explain precisely how and where. You wrote,

are not condemning creationism based on acts in the name of creationism (like Ken Ham going postal in a museum or something), but rather because of the negligence in properly informing oneself. That is, I think, an important difference.

I’ve never once been under the impression that Luke and Alonzo were “condemning creationism based on acts in the name of creationism.” Luke and Alonzo tag all YEC’s with “lack of effort to inform oneself.” That’s where the bigotry is. I wholeheartedly agree that lack of effort to inform oneself is the moral negligence in question; Luke knows that because he’s already said he agreed to that. “That’s why all that needed to be written between Luke and Alonzo was, “whoever lacks effort to inform oneself is being morally negligent and perhaps unfit as a lawmaker.” Instead, we got something equivalent to, “No YEC should be a lawmaker; what YEC’s believe contributes to death and maiming.” That, I’m afraid, is unabashed bigotry.

So, my argument is that Luke and Alonzo condemn Young-Earth creationists as a whole based on acts of a subset of YEC’s, and I’ve supported the argument with citations from their own mouths that [seemingly] prove it. If you don’t think I’ve proven their bigotry, I’m interested in hearing why.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Note to all:

I’m not wasting any more of my time repeating myself to cl.

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JS Allen September 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm

@Alonzo – I mostly agree with you. However, I do think it is sometimes fair to assign culpability to certain of creationists’ actions based on their belief in creationism (particularly, YEC). For example, when children are raised to believe that biologists and physicists are liars and tools of Satan, it’s not unfair to place a large portion of the blame on YEC.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Luke,

As predicted,

I’m not wasting any more of my time repeating myself to cl.

Thing is, you should never have taken to the strategy of emptily repeating yourself in the first place, in fact that’s among the key problems here. Instead of simply repeating yourself, you should evaluate yourself honestly, and try to think critically. I assure you I am, to the best of my ability. In the context of YEC, you said, “Creationism-belief requires moral negligence.” That is fully consistent with the statement, “All YEC’s are morally negligent,” so don’t sit there and say I’m “misconstruing” your statement when I’ve given it a fair reading. Yours is an unsupported claim, one that I suspect stems from your intuition, bias, or both. I suspect this because here we are, threads later, and you still fail to justify the claim.

Fortunately for you, I’m pretty much over it. I had gotten the feeling that you’re beyond reproach long ago, and I already know other people are sick of it. So, what the hell, it will soon be Friday night here – cheers to bigotry against YEC’s.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm

JS Allen,

…when children are raised to believe that biologists and physicists are liars and tools of Satan, it’s not unfair to place a large portion of the blame on YEC.

I think that depends what you mean by “YEC”. If by “YEC” you mean simply, “one who believes Earth may be between 6-10,000 calendar years old,” then it is most certainly unfair to blame “YEC” for anything. However, if by “YEC” you mean something more like, “the subset of YEC’s who have an aversion to informing themselves and indoctrinate children thusly,” then yes, you are correct – such people are guilty of moral negligence IMHO.

The problem is, Alonzo and Luke aren’t making that distinction. They simply assert that, “Electing a young-earth creationist to make laws is as foolish as getting into a car driven by a drunk,” and, “Creationism-belief requires moral negligence,” respectively – both of which should easily be pegged as false at best or bigoted at worst by any truly rational, objective person, wouldn’t you say? What is the typical atheist reaction when people say, “Atheism requires moral negligence?” From your experience, how would atheists react to the statement, “Electing an atheist to make laws is as foolish as getting into a car driven by a drunk?”

Alonzo also says, “…what a young earth creationist believes itself contributes to death and maiming,” but, the only required belief for YEC is the belief that Earth is [or may be] less than 10,000 calendar years old. That belief does not contribute to death and maiming, whatsoever. Now, certain YEC’s *DO* exemplify a character trait that rationally-inclined people have reason to condemn, namely, the elevation of dogma over critical thought. That’s a different thing entirely. As they’ve currently stated their position, Luke and Alonzo have cast all YEC’s in the morally negligent category.

I have not heard a cogent response that would justify Luke and Alonzo’s bigoted statements, yet.

Alonzo,

Of course, in this hypothetical case, no sensible person could possibly deny that the creationist’s specific brand of theism played a crucial part in his actions. And this gives us good reason to condemn his specific brand of theism, but it does not give us any justification for condemning theism broadly defined.

What “specific brand of theism” precedes the hypothetical YEC in your example? Can you clarify? I thought “an aversion to informing oneself” is the key issue here?

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JS Allen September 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

@cl – Yes, I think it would be a stretch to say that belief in YEC is contributory to acts of death and maiming. But belief in YEC definitely tends to contribute toward hostility to modern science.

The fact that some people have poor judgment (e.g. “YEC are drunk drivers”, “Atheists take hostages”) does not mean that we throw out judgment calls. Beliefs can, and do, have impact on actions. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the consequences of beliefs.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 3:03 pm

JS Allen,

Yes, I think it would be a stretch to say that belief in YEC is contributory to acts of death and maiming.

[wipes brow] ..well that’s reassuring. I’m glad that after months of work, I’ve apparently found one person besides me that’s willing to take a stand against bigotry against creationists. However,

…belief in YEC definitely tends to contribute toward hostility to modern science.

I remain hesitant. Again, if by “YEC” you mean simply, “one who believes Earth may be between 6-10,000 calendar years old,” then I’d say your estimation is still inaccurate. However, if by “YEC” you mean something more like, “the subset of YEC’s who have an aversion to informing themselves and indoctrinate children thusly,” then yes, you are correct – such people are guilty of moral negligence IMHO.

It is the attitude of certain YEC’s that “tends to contribute toward hostility to modern science,” not the more general “belief in YEC.” I am open to YEC, and I do not contribute a single iota of hostility towards modern science – at least not that I’m aware of. Rather, I humbly remind myself of the fact that the proclamations of science are provisional. In fact, I find it odd that so many ostensibly rational people would seemingly condemn for remembering what could arguably be called a foundational pillar of science. Then again, maybe we haven’t learned much since Galileo, after all.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

One more thing:

There is nothing wrong with pointing out the consequences of beliefs.

Of course, but I find everything wrong with pretending that epistemic irresponsibility and moral negligence are necessary consequences of YEC – and that is exactly the pretense Luke and Alonzo have put up – with no valid argument or justification whatsoever. And they tell us to value reason.

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Kaelik September 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm

@CL

Epistemic irresponsibility and moral negligence are not necessary consequences of YEC, they are necessary causes of it.

You cannot be a YEC without being epistemologically irresponsible and morally negligent.

What you were supposed to take from the article you briefly skimmed, is that because creationists reject the actual real facts of reality regarding race, any description of race they come up with is going to be factually incorrect, and in the case of race, anything you make up instead is going to based on your own personal feelings, and unlike reality, which is 100% not racist all the time, people’s personal feelings about race are going to be racist quite often.

So even though we know through the magic of science that black people are not less intelligent than any other classification, if you ask 100 people about what their personal subjective feelings about black people re: intelligence, a significant number of them are going to be wrong. And since we rejected reality as a way of contradicting them as soon as we became creationists, we have no way of convincing them they are wrong, because all we have are personal subjective feelings, which of course, don’t actually convince people with different subjective feelings.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

You cannot be a YEC without being epistemologically irresponsible and morally negligent.

Hello bigot; I’m cl.

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JS Allen September 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I remain hesitant. Again, if by “YEC” you mean simply, “one who believes Earth may be between 6-10,000 calendar years old,” then I’d say your estimation is still inaccurate

I mean, “One who believes that the earth is literally 6,500 years old, and is willing to self-identify with that belief by labeling himself ‘YEC’”.

Such a belief, especially among adults, has pretty good predictive power.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

JS Allen,

I mean, “One who believes that the earth is literally 6,500 years old, and is willing to self-identify with that belief by labeling himself ‘YEC’”.

Then yeah, your statement “…belief in YEC definitely tends to contribute toward hostility to modern science” is inaccurate. Belief in YEC is morally neutral. It’s how the believer goes about it that makes the difference. If you want to modify your claim to something like, “All YEC’s I’ve encountered have appeared to be morally negligent,” then I have no qualms with that. It would be an example of a conservatively-stated claim.

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Kaelik September 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

“Hello bigot; I’m cl.”

Hello idiot. I’m smart enough to know that all creationists do not base their belief on sound reasoning, just like all blind people do not have well functioning eyes (Or eye to brain connections, or visual processing parts of their brain).

Am I bigoted against blind people when I say that them not having functioning eyes (Or eye to brain connections, or visual processing parts of their brain) is what makes them blind?

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JS Allen September 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm

YEC, by definition, is the belief that Bishop Ussher’s fevered extrapolations of Biblical genealogies, performed thousands of years after the texts were authored, is the most reliable possible guide to the age of the earth.

It is possible to imagine Jewish mothers who don’t fit the well-deserved stereotype. It’s much harder to imaging YEC who think that modern mainstream science is a swell way to estimate the age of the earth.

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Hermes September 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm

lukeprog: I’m not wasting any more of my time repeating myself to cl.

Indeed. The dishonesty really is too much.

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Froggy September 4, 2010 at 4:16 am

Hi, Alonzo Fyfe
“Sure. No communist terrorist was ever revered by other communist terrorists”

How is it even related to the case discussed here?
Please give an example where an “atheist terrorist” *is* admired and revered by other atheist because his crime is “atheism-motivated”.

BTW: Robespierre may have sent priests to their death, but 1) he himself took part in the “Cult of the Supreme Being” which is rather strange for an atheist, 2) who the h… still suggests that we should follow his example?, and 3) his actions were motivated by his lust for power, not by a taste for philosophy and reason.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 9:04 am

Interesting. Hermes has alleged dishonesty on my behalf. The problem is, Hermes also touts his or herself as rationally minded, and rationally minded people aren’t supposed to prefer naked assertions. Alas, playing party lines contaminates many a search for truth.

The truth is, Luke, Alonzo and a few commenters here have promoted bigotry against YEC’s.

Kaelik,

It’s fine if you call me an idiot. It’s obvious that your claim is unsupported, and likely in juvenile retort to being called a bigot – a claim that is supported.

I’m smart enough to know that all creationists do not base their belief on sound reasoning, just like all blind people do not have well functioning eyes (Or eye to brain connections, or visual processing parts of their brain).

Odd grammar. If you really mean to say, “no creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning,” then, yeah, like I said, you’re a bigot [against creationists, that is]. Now, if you want to say something like, “I, personally, have never heard a creationist base their belief on sound reasoning,” that’s conservatively stated, and lacks even a hint of bigotry.

JS Allen,

YEC, by definition, is the belief that Bishop Ussher’s fevered extrapolations of Biblical genealogies, performed thousands of years after the texts were authored, is the most reliable possible guide to the age of the earth.

Now you’re redefining “YEC” to mean something different than it did in the previous exchanges. What do you see as the value in doing so? The key issue here – at least for me – is whether certain statements of Luke and Alonzo’s constitute bigotry. I believe they do, I’ve given my case, and not a single person has offered a cogent rebuttal.

I normally hold your arguments with deep regard, but when you say, “…belief in YEC definitely tends to contribute toward hostility to modern science,” you’ve missed the mark. Truth is, some subset of those who believe YEC tend to contribute toward hostility to modern science.

Do you really not see the difference?

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MichaelPJ September 4, 2010 at 9:43 am

Now, it’s funny that cl is over here in this thread furiously pursuing his usual line, when he’s neglecting the rather interesting conversation we two were having about justifying that.

In essence, despite being asked repeatedly, cl has provided no credible reason for doubting, for example, this evidence:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

Evidence like that is easily accessible. It took me 5 minutes of googling. So we can assume that any creationist who bothers to research the subject will have come across it. I think it is fair to say that unless they have a good reason for rejecting it, it is epistemically irresponsible of them to continue to hold YEC.

I’m not too fussy about good reasons. I’d accept significant problems with the experimental method; comparable bodies of opposing evidence; a credible alternative theory which explains the data; anything like that. I’m pretty sure there are no such good reasons to reject the evidence I provided, that is, I think that “no creationists base their belief on sound reasoning”. If cl wants to destroy this argument, and sustain the accusation of bigotry, all he has to do is provide such sound reasoning.

I’m still waiting.

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ildi September 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

Evidence like that is easily accessible. It took me 5 minutes of googling. So we can assume that any creationist who bothers to research the subject will have come across it. I think it is fair to say that unless they have a good reason for rejecting it, it is epistemically irresponsible of them to continue to hold YEC.

That’s because you’re forgetting about the “other ways of knowing.”

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Kaelik September 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

“Odd grammar. If you really mean to say, “no creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning,” then, yeah, like I said, you’re a bigot [against creationists, that is].”

Once again. How is it bigoted to make accurate statements.

Is it also bigoted to say, “No person who believes that the Sun is actually a specific person named John, who really likes apples bases their belief on sound reasoning.”?

Because once again, it is impossible to base an incorrect premise on sound reasoning. That’s the point. If someone believes that the Earth and many species of animals on it were all created sometime ago that is less than one million years ago, they are wrong. And like all wrong people, they did not base their belief on sound reasoning.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

MichaelPJ

Now, it’s funny that cl is over here in this thread furiously pursuing his usual line, when he’s neglecting the rather interesting conversation we two were having about justifying that.

Now, it’s funny that MichaelPJ is over here in this thread pretending like I didn’t invite him to pursue the technical aspects of the discussion elsewhere. I have a blog, you know. As for here and now, I’m interested in the bigotry discussion. I want Luke, Alonzo and the rest of the anti-creationist bigots to either justify the claims they’ve made against all creationists, or retract their bigoted statements.

So we can assume that any creationist who bothers to research the subject will have come across it. I think it is fair to say that unless they have a good reason for rejecting it, it is epistemically irresponsible of them to continue to hold YEC.

Yes, that’s a fair assumption to make – and I have. Still, that you make any distinction at all between creationists who have a good reason for remaining skeptical and those who don’t, supports my argument that across-the-board claims about all creationists are bigoted. Now, you can certainly say that you’ve not heard a creationist with a good reason, which you have in fact already said, but that’s different altogether, and not bigoted at all. You’re doing better than Luke and Fyfe, that’s for sure.

As for “good reason,” is an aversion to circular reasoning good enough for you? Is an acceptance of the fact that scientific theories remain provisional good enough for you? Is mention of the fact that we are often dead-wrong about so many things we felt certain of good enough for you? Is an aversion to conclusions based on assumptions in the presence of unknown variables good enough for you?

If cl wants to destroy this argument, and sustain the accusation of bigotry, all he has to do is provide such sound reasoning.

No. If I want to sustain the accusation of bigotry, all I have to do is show that Luke and Alonzo are promoting bigotry by either making bigoted statements or allowing them to go unchallenged – and that, I have shown. The burden of production falls to them, not me. And, you saw how Luke chose to deal with: simply assert that I’ve misconstrued what he and Fyfe said, when in fact I have not. Whether or not you think I have a good reason is irrelevant when discussing whether or not Luke and Fyfe promote anti-creationist bigotry. This is why I didn’t want to muddy the waters with the technical discussion – which I invite you [or anyone else] to pursue here.

Kaelik,

Once again. How is it bigoted to make accurate statements.

It’s not. The problem is, you’ve made statements that aren’t accurate. For example, you write that “all creationists do not base their belief on sound reasoning.” That’s inaccurate.

If someone believes that the Earth and many species of animals on it were all created sometime ago that is less than one million years ago, they are wrong.

Yeah, that’s exactly what the know-it-all’s thought about heliocentrism, too. After all, we could see that the sun actually revolves around the Earth.

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

Cl, I laugh at your false defense of your overt and repeated injections of dishonesty. After all, it’s war, right? It’s your mantra, just like your convenient woe-is-me false fragility that gets you out of so many issues you can’t address. Sun Tsu would be right there with you, but not proudly.

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Jeff H September 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

As for “good reason,” is an aversion to circular reasoning good enough for you? Is an acceptance of the fact that scientific theories remain provisional good enough for you? Is mention of the fact that we are often dead-wrong about so many things we felt certain of good enough for you? Is an aversion to conclusions based on assumptions in the presence of unknown variables good enough for you?

cl, you’re trying so hard, but you’re missing a key ingredient. Remaining skeptical of evolution and endorsing creationism are two entirely different things. Let’s agree for the sake of argument that someone may be rational to be skeptical of evolution. (At this point, the evidence is so overwhelming that you’d have to take a pretty drastic skeptical stance, but oh well. David Hume might say he/she was justified.) Even if we grant that, it says nothing about young-earth creationists. It only says something about evolution-skeptics. Creationism is the advancement of a completely separate theory which, whenever empirically tested, has failed.

Thus, even if it is rational to be skeptical of evolution, it is still irrational to accept YEC. Such a person should simply withhold making any assertions about the origins of life, rather than asserting a YEC view. So, presuming that the creationist has access to the Internet or a library, that person could be said to be negligent in their epistemic duties.

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Should I cue up “wheels on the bus” as a theme song for this thread?

No, it won’t happen again. Never. Well, just in case;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEtuXrV_KnM

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MichaelPJ September 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm

@cl

I don’t see what’s wrong with discussing it here. After all, you’re the one who keeps bringing it up.

Look, any creationists who support their belief with sound reasoning are not epistemically irresponsible; the others are. Woo. However, that set is empty. So all creationists are epistemically irresponsible.

My argument for the second point? There is nothing wrong with the scientific evidence. Show me wrong. Don’t just allude to possible instances of “circular reasoning”, point them out.

Scientific theories do indeed remain provisional, however, in the absence of any good reason to disagree, it is epistemically irresponsible to do so. Copernicus doubted that the sun orbited round the Earth, but he had an alternate theory that explained the evidence. Obviously, we should try to falsify even the theories we are most sure about, but that doesn’t mean that we have any grounds to withold at least some assent from them. Would you endorse: “The Earth is probably 4.5 billion years old?”

Anyway, I think there is sufficient justification for the statement “all YECs are epistemically irresponsible” (modulo ignorance), and so I don’t think that is a bigoted statement. It rests on a valid generalisation, not an invalid one.

However, I think I’ve had enough of this discussion now. Either give us your argument against the evidence, or admit you have none. I’m not going to bug you any more, because I’m satisfied that if you still won’t give it up, it’s because you can’t. I’d be only too happy to be proven wrong, especially since I think you’re on the right track about other things.

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Of course she has no evidence. If she did, she would have brought it up already. Normal people with facts do that very quickly if not as the first thing they do. It’s the friggen’ religious logic again!

Expect personal feelings and insults to be brought up as a reason for her not responding like a normal, honest, literate, and logical adult.

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Kaelik September 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm

@cl

“It’s not. The problem is, you’ve made statements that aren’t accurate. For example, you write that “all creationists do not base their belief on sound reasoning.” That’s inaccurate.”

Yes it is true. Because there exists no sound reasoning in the world that leads to the conclusion that God created a couple people (or any people at all) about 10,000 years ago.

It doesn’t exist. If you want to take exception to that statement, I challenge you to present one single example, at all.

Since none exist, I can be content in the fact that you can’t.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Fyfe tells us that “The Bigot’s Fallacy” occurs when we “..eagerly embrace examples in which a person associated with religion is involved in something bad, and immediately jump to the conclusion that ‘religion’ is bad.” He further goes on to say that, “This is as fallacious as identifying a crime committed by a black person, and jumping from that to the conclusion that no black person can be trusted.”

That is EXACTLY what Fyfe does with creationists: he jumps to the conclusion that all of them are morally negligent, and that none of them can be trusted as lawmakers. I’m appalled at those of you who endorse his bigotry. Why should this change simply because we switch “religion” with “creationism?” What if Fyfe made the same statements about blacks? Is there a single person here who would hesitate to call that racist bigotry?

Jeff H,

…you’re trying so hard, but you’re missing a key ingredient. Remaining skeptical of evolution and endorsing creationism are two entirely different things.

Certainly. Where did I say or imply that they weren’t?

Let’s agree for the sake of argument that someone may be rational to be skeptical of evolution. (At this point, the evidence is so overwhelming that you’d have to take a pretty drastic skeptical stance, but oh well. David Hume might say he/she was justified.)

We’re not talking about evolution, whatsoever. We’re talking about whether or not Luke and Alonzo’s comments constitute bigotry. I say yes, they both commit the Bigot’s Fallacy, as outlined by Alonzo above. What do you say?

So, presuming that the creationist has access to the Internet or a library, that person could be said to be negligent in their epistemic duties.

Of course. Negligence occurs any time somebody has the means for pursuing truth but fails to employ them. My point – in fact, the truth – is that not all YEC’s eschew their epistemic duties. Luke and Alonzo simply assume they do, and then they use that assumption to “justify” bigoted statements about all creationists being a threat to society.

Though, in all fairness, Luke has admitted that “marginal exceptions” exist. That is essentially a retraction, without an “official” retraction. You can’t say “creationism-belief requires morally negligent epistemic processes,” then turn around and admit that there are “marginal exceptions.” Don’t you think that’s contradictory? I do.

MichaelPJ,

I don’t see what’s wrong with discussing it here. After all, you’re the one who keeps bringing it up.

No, you’re the one who keeps bringing the technical aspects of the discussion up. I want to stay focused on the bigotry discussion.

However, that set is empty. So all creationists are epistemically irresponsible.

Hey, spout all the bigotry you want, even after you oddly agreed that some of Alonzo’s comments were overboard.

Don’t just allude to possible instances of “circular reasoning”, point them out. … Either give us your argument against the evidence,

See, that’s just the thing. I already told you that I accept the evidence. I question the conclusions made from that evidence. Do you see the difference? Please, assure me you do. Either way, fine. I’ll give in to your persistence.

I define “circular reasoning” as “assuming the veracity of a premise one is trying to prove.” When the question is, “How old is the Earth,” would you agree that the premise we’re trying to prove is how many calendar years have passed since Earth began to exist? Presuming your answer is yes, what is it scientists measure when they employ radiometric dating? Is it not something like “energy expenditure” [I realize an actual physicist might object to referring to decay as energy expenditure, but I hope you get the point]. Do they not assume that these rates have been constant throughout time, then extrapolate backwards? Do they not assume that time has been constant throughout time? If yes to all those, how are they *NOT* assuming the veracity of the premise they’re trying to prove?

Would you endorse: “The Earth is probably 4.5 billion years old?”

No. I would endorse, “We cannot state the age of the Earth reliably or responsibly.” Can you reliably date the time of a murder simply from measuring how much of a candle’s wick has burned in the room in which the murder was committed? Why, or why not?

Anyway, I think there is sufficient justification for the statement “all YECs are epistemically irresponsible”

Well, you’re in good company here, amongst the other anti-creationist bigots. You, like Luke, redefine “epistemically irresponsible” to include creationism belief, when you have no justification for doing so. Can you give me a definition of “epistemic irresponsibility” that isn’t specific to creationists?

Kaelik,

If you want to take exception to that statement, I challenge you to present one single example, at all.

You’re missing the point. I’m under no obligation to provide you with a successful argument for the claim that Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago. I’m not making that claim.

I am making the claim that derogatory generalizations about entire groups of people constitute bigotry. I am making the claim that you, Luke, Alonzo and others are making derogatory generalizations about entire groups of people.

That’s bigotry. If you disagree, what’s your definition of bigotry?

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 5:09 pm

creationists: he jumps to the conclusion that all of them are morally negligent, and that none of them can be trusted as lawmakers.

Sounds about right to me.

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Kaelik September 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm

“I’m under no obligation to provide you with a successful argument for the claim that Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago. I’m not making that claim.

I am making the claim that derogatory generalizations about entire groups of people constitute bigotry. I am making the claim that you, Luke, Alonzo and others are making derogatory generalizations about entire groups of people.”

And once again, you miss the point. It’s not a derogatory generalization. It’s a statement of fact. “No Creationists arrive at their creationism by means of sound reasoning.” is a categorical statement about all creationists, just like “All red objects reflect light in the red wavelength.” That’s not a generalization of red objects. That’s just a true statement about them.

In order to prove that this is a generalization rather than a true categorical statement of fact, you do in fact have to present an example of sound reasoning that leads to creationism.

You can’t do that of course, because… Sound means logically valid, with true premises. And it therefore means, “Is a true conclusion.” So of course, the fact that the world and people on it was not created 10,000 years ago is incredibly relevant to whether or not the statement “No creationists base their belief on sound reasoning.”

Because if you agree with the premise:

1) Creationism is factually incorrect.

Then you automatically agree with the conclusion:

2) There cannot be a sound argument for creationism.

Which means that you agree with conclusion 3:

3) No creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning.

Because 2 and 3 follow definitionally from premise 1).

So either man up and either 1) Claim that Creationism is possibly true. or 2) Admit that it is definitionally impossible for a belief in creationism to be based on sound reasoning. And that you unequivocally agree with the statement:

“No creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning.”

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 5:26 pm

…go round and round, round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus …

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 5:28 pm

(Cl can of course prove me wrong and actually conclude this one small branch this one time by dealing directly with Kaelik’s comments. All of them.)

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MichaelPJ September 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Regarding rates of decay: apparently you didn’t actually read the article I linked to. Here’s a reminder.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html#constant

Decay rates have been constant (enough) throughout all of their recorded history. Hence you have no evidence that they vary (significantly). You also have no plausible alternative to current nuclear physics, and so you have no good reason to doubt that assumption. If you still think that it’s not sufficiently secure for you, then I suggest you start following that policy throughout science. Maybe the Earth really was flat, and then at some point it became round. I guess you have to be an agnostic about that too, since after all, we’re only assuming that the Earth can’t radically change shape.

Anyway, I said I’d had enough, and I have. cl, I’m afraid you’ve dug yourself into enough of a hole now. You’ve convinced me that you don’t have any sound arguments, and so I’m happy. So I’m not going to say anything more on this (probably!).

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

(Add MichaelPJ’s comments too.)

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cl September 5, 2010 at 1:48 am

Kaelik,

I’ll address your comments later. I’m pressed for time at the moment.

MichaelPJ,

Although I’m willing to take what little time I do have to digress, this is why I asked you to pursue the technical discussion over at my place: the bigotry aspects of our discussion have been effectively abandoned, since you say that you likely won’t return to the conversation. Alas, that may be for the better, as your tone has grown increasingly snide. It’s no big deal. At the end of the day, I’m going to remember your initial reactions to Alonzo’s comments: you felt they were overboard, and you know it. This stands even if you’ve changed your mind since then.

Decay rates have been constant (enough) throughout all of their recorded history. Hence you have no evidence that they vary (significantly).

I suggest broadening your scope to include sources outside of TalkOrigins. While there is no doubt good information on the site, the conclusions its writers draw cannot be trusted as impartial, as TalkOrigins has a well-known anti-creationist agenda. This means you’re stacking the odds in favor of your own victory.

Popular Science recently mentioned data collected from Long Island’s Brookhaven and the Federal Physical and Technical Institute in Germany which revealed that the decay rate of silicon-32 and radium-226 apparently exhibits seasonal variation. Regarding this observation, Peter Sturrock – Stanford professor emeritus of applied physics and an expert on the inner workings of the sun – remarked,

Everyone thought it must be due to experimental mistakes, because we’re all brought up to believe that decay rates are constant

Also from that article [not Sturrock],

While examining data on radioactive isotopes, Purdue researchers found disagreement in measured decay rates, which goes against the long-accepted belief that these rates are constant.

Are Sturrock and the Purdue researchers epistemically irresponsible, too? Should we distrust them as lawmakers?

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piero September 5, 2010 at 3:28 am

cl:

Are Sturrock and the Purdue researchers epistemically irresponsible, too? Should we distrust them as lawmakers?

No, because they are not claiming that the (possibly) detected variation in decay rates alters the measured age of the earth by a factor of 800,000.

In any case, the variation has not been established as a fact yet:

Adelberger tells DISCOVER that he thinks the variation in decay that the labs like Brookhaven picked up is real. But he agrees with Sullivan that the effect is much more likely to come from a problem with the instruments than some new physics from the sun.
(http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/08/26/scientist-smackdown-are-solar-neutrinos-messing-with-matter/)

And even if it was established, the relevant paper was published in July 2010. So the best we can say about creationists is that they definitely were epistemically irresponsible wankers until two months ago; now they might only very likely be epistemically irresponsible wankers.

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Reidish September 5, 2010 at 3:53 am

“epistemically irresponsible”

Is there an agreed-upon definition of this term somewhere such that everyone in this conversation is using it consistently? Suppose this is epistemic responsibility:

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lormand/phil/teach/mind/readings/Bishop%20-%20In%20praise%20of%20epistemic%20irresponsibility.pdf

Epistemic responsibility involves at least two central ideas. [V] To be epistemically responsible is to display the virtue(s) epistemic internalists take to be central to justification (e.g., coherence, having good reasons, fitting the evidence). [C] In normal (non-skeptical) circumstances and in the long run, epistemic responsibility is strongly positively correlated with reliability.

Does everyone take “epistemic irresponsibility” to be the opposite of the above, or lack one of the above, or something else?

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MichaelPJ September 5, 2010 at 8:18 am

Man, I just can’t resist the bait.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=MiamiCaptionURL&_method=retrieve&_udi=B6TJ1-4WDGCNK-1&_image=fig1&_ba=1&_user=4420&_coverDate=08%2F31%2F2009&_alid=1441903185&_rdoc=1&_fmt=full&_orig=search&_cdi=5297&_issn=09276505&_pii=S092765050900084X&view=c&_acct=C000059607&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=4420&md5=3d9cea58f6a7c0f05dcf360a29dabe08
http://www.examiner.com/creationism-in-national/radioactivity-might-not-be-constant-after-all

An oscillatory 0.37% amplitude gets you nothing. However, this is a perfect example of what I’ve been trying to say. Given this evidence (let’s suppose it actually added +- 100,000 years to our estimate of the Earth’s age), you would now be epistemically justified in believing that the Earth was anywhere in the region of 4.5 billion +- 100,000. Not “maybe less than 10,000″. In fact, it doesn’t even get you that.

Obviously, we should keep new evidence in mind. There’s been no fuss in the scientific community about whether this throws off radiometric dating. Because it doesn’t. That fits with the 5 minutes of research I did to get the above two links. In conclusion, there is still no grounds to doubt that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, plus or minus some fairly negligible error.

Try again.

P.S. Genetic fallacy is a fallacy. If you have a problem with the evidence I’ve given, tell me what it is, rather than attacking the source.

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MichaelPJ September 5, 2010 at 8:19 am

Oh, and as I’ve pointed out several times, the technical discussion is crucial to the bigotry discussion. It underlies whether the generalisations being made are valid or invalid.

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 8:58 am

I don’t see how it takes time to say either:

1) Creationism is possibly true.

or

2) I was completely wrong. No Creationists base their belief on sound reasoning. It’s not a bigoted generalization, it’s an accurate statement.

And since those are your only two options…

What do you just have to decide whether you care more about being rationally honest about a debate or admitting that your allies in the war on evil atheists are all wrong?

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puntnf September 5, 2010 at 9:24 am

It’s funny how cl is doing exactly what Hermes said she would.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

She can change her behavior at any time. This is not war, no matter how much she preconceives it to be such [Cl’s blog: The Warfare is Mental;

About TWIM

The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer’s Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.

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cl September 6, 2010 at 12:56 am

The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer’s Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.

Is there something wrong with any of that?

Kaelik,

1) Creationism is possibly true.

or

2) I was completely wrong. No Creationists base their belief on sound reasoning. It’s not a bigoted generalization, it’s an accurate statement.

Really? THAT is what you’re calling me a “spineless coward” about? Okay, let’s be real here: don’t you find it the least bit inappropriate that you called me a “spineless coward” when I already chose 1, way back up in the thread? You asked a question that had already been answered. I assumed you were actually reading what I’ve been writing. It’s not my fault you weren’t. I don’t care that you call me names, but can you at least take the time to read what I say for the sake of being on the same page concerning the actual arguments?

puntnf,

It’s funny how cl is doing exactly what Hermes said she would.

Can you be more specific?

MichaelPJ,

Genetic fallacy is a fallacy. If you have a problem with the evidence I’ve given, tell me what it is, rather than attacking the source.

1) Where did I commit the genetic fallacy? Can you define the genetic fallacy, and then show me where you think I’ve committed it?

2) I’ve not “attacked” the source. I pointed out that until now, you’d been pointing to one article on a website with known anti-creationist bias.

There’s been no fuss in the scientific community about whether this throws off radiometric dating. Because it doesn’t.

I’m not saying it did. I’m saying that decay rates are not constant. You said they were. Baby steps.

…the technical discussion is crucial to the bigotry discussion. It underlies whether the generalisations being made are valid or invalid.

I realize you think that. That’s why I’m taking the time to pursue it with you. I think it’s unfortunate that you’re apparently only willing to take my side on the bigotry claim if I can convince you that Earth isn’t 4.5 billion years old. That’s not the issue.

The issue is, does creationism belief require epistemic irresponsibility and/or moral negligence, as Luke, Alonzo and others say? Mind you, Luke already “kinda retracted” his claim by noting that “marginal exceptions” exist. If creationism belief requires epistemic irresponsibility and/or moral negligence, marginal exceptions cannot exist, wouldn’t you say? I’m really interested in your honest answer to that, if you will.

Luke and Alonzo defined a trait, and claimed all creationists have the trait. It was, “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence.” Accordingly, epistemic irresponsibility entails making truth claims while willingly blinding oneself to the evidence. Yet clearly, the fact that you and I are even having a discussion about the evidence indicates that I don’t have the trait they ascribed to all creationists.

Regardless of where we end up on the technical discussion (and I’m not done yet), I really think you should reconsider the bigotry thing, keeping in mind your initial comments about it, and what I just explained about Luke.

More later.

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Lukas September 6, 2010 at 2:26 am

Alonzo wrote:

“My objection was in saying that “religion” is to blame where “religion” includes a whole lot of people who would and do condemn the action.”

First of all, when somebody says “religion is to blame for x”, the implication of that is not that every religious person is to blame. In fact, I rather feel it’s the opposite, since it seems that an implication of blaming religion is that its members are, in a way, victims themselves.

Second, if the thing that causes a member of a specific religion to do something bad is common to all or most religions, doesn’t it make sense to blame religion in general, rather than singling out a specific religion?

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 4:49 am

The “so what” response when shown to be a hypocrite once again. I guess there really isn’t any better defense. Such nonsense is depressing; maybe you can’t change and really don’t care about how much poison you pump around.

I would spend more time on you but you aren’t worth it.

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Kaelik September 6, 2010 at 6:51 am

So just to be clear CL, your specific defense of your outrageously stupid accusations is that you believe Creationism to be true. And that if it is false, you are completely wrong, and no one is being a bigot here.

Well frankly, if black people were inherently stupid and subhuman, then most bigots would stop being bigots with respect to black people.

But I think most sane intelligent people will agree that “The Earth was created 10,000 years ago fully populated (except only two people).” is equally as false as “Black people are inherently stupid and subhuman.”

So for the vast majority of all sane people, “No creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning.” Is not bigotry.

Also of note, the statement “Creationism is true.” is logically equivalent to the statement “No evolutionary scientist bases their belief on sound reasoning.” So in fact, for those of us living in the real world, if something as simple as making claims about the soundness of reasoning were bigoted, you would in fact be the bigot.

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cl September 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I think there’s a point that’s falling by the wayside here, that I agree there is a significant subset of creationists that constitute a very real threat to the advancement of reason. That’s where the common ground is here, and I think it’s unfortunate that nobody seems interested in acknowledging that. Instead, I’m getting treated like one of the aforementioned subset, when in fact I condemn “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence.” Not that I mind getting ridiculed, it’s just unfortunate for the actual arguments.

Kaelik,

So just to be clear CL, your specific defense of your outrageously stupid accusations is that you believe Creationism to be true.

Come on, exert a little effort here. Show me you’re not in this just for a roast. I stated clearly that I am agnostic about the age of the Earth. This means I don’t make explicit truth claims about the matter. I find the evidence to be inconclusive. If we had conclusive evidence that human civilization was extant 100,000 years ago instead of 10,000 I feel that would conclusively falsify the YEC claim. As it stands, I remain open to the YEC claim, which should be enough to make me guilty of the morally negligent epistemic processes, right?

Point is, though I’m open to YEC, it is inaccurate to say that I “believe in Creationism” aside from the generic sense in which I believe God created the Earth. I make no positive claims as to the time scale in which this happened. It may have been 10,000. It may have been 4.5 billion. It may have been much longer. I believe we need more conclusive evidence, and a better understanding of the concept of time.

Anyways, now that we’ve cleared that up, by “stupid accusations,” I presume you refer to my charge that Luke, Alonzo, yourself and others have made bigoted statements about creationists. Right? If so, no: my agnosticism about the age of the Earth is not my defense of my charge. My defense of the charge is that they define “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence” as the morally negligent trait, yet, I do not have that trait.

Hence, the claims are bigoted.

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ildi September 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Ten minutes of Google U:

The Global Arab Network, April 9, 2010: British archaeologist: 125,000 years ago first human settlement began in Oman

A new study by a British archaeologist says that the first human settlement in Oman began about 125,000 years ago. Dr Jeffrey I Rose, Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, UK, said this during a lecture here yesterday on “Oman at the Dawn of Time: The Archaeology of Human Origin in Southern Arabia.”

The Australian Broadcasting Network’s The Science Show, October 20, 2007: New evidence of early human culture

Lumps of red ochre 164,000 years old have been found in a cave above the South African coast, east of Cape Town. Scientists suspect early humans used it to paint their bodies. There are about 57 pieces of pigment which have been scraped and ground up. The pigments don’t occur naturally around the cave. There is also evidence of tools.

The oldest people anatomically are in Africa, and date to about 200,000 years. This evidence, from 164,000 years is the oldest evidence of people acting and behaving in ways similar to humans today.

Livescience.com, November 30, 2006: Startling Discovery: The First Human Ritual

A startling discovery of 70,000-year-old artifacts and a python’s head carved of stone appears to represent the first known human rituals.
Scientists had thought human intelligence had not evolved the capacity to perform group rituals until perhaps 40,000 years ago. But inside a cave in remote hills in Kalahari Desert of Botswana, archeologists found the stone snake [image] that was carved long ago. It is as tall as a man and 20 feet long.

More significant, when Coulson and her colleagues dug a test pit near they stone figure, they found spearheads made of stone that had to have been brought to the cave from hundreds of miles away [image]. The spearheads were burned in what only could be described as some sort of ritual, the scientists conclude.

“Our find means that humans were more organized and had the capacity for abstract thinking at a much earlier point in history than we have previously assumed,” Coulson said. “All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape.”

The New Scientist published an article on April 10, 2004: Is this the earliest sign of human culture?

TWO small beads made of ostrich eggshell may be the earliest evidence of symbolic thinking in humans. If the beads are as old as researchers believe, they would show that humans possessed this faculty tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

The ability to attach meaning to objects – in jewellery or art, for example – requires complex abstract thought and is at the root of human culture. The earliest uncontested evidence is from sites in Europe that are about 35,000 years old, and includes ornaments and cave paintings. But the beads were found in Africa and seem to be between 45,000 and 110,000 years old. Plants found at the site suggest the older end of that range.

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm

ildi, similar details have been provided to Cl and conveniently ignored. She’s a liar, perhaps? Naaah. Not a Godly Person!

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Kaelik September 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

“Anyways, now that we’ve cleared that up, by “stupid accusations,” I presume you refer to my charge that Luke, Alonzo, yourself and others have made bigoted statements about creationists. Right? If so, no: my agnosticism about the age of the Earth is not my defense of my charge. My defense of the charge is that they define “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence” as the morally negligent trait, yet, I do not have that trait.”

Get your pronouns straight. Also your facts.

Your stupid accusation is that the statement “No Creationist is correct about Creationism” is bigoted. It’s not just stupid because it’s false, it’s also stupid because it’s a standard of bigotry that is equally as applicable to every human being alive.

But yes, you are a super agnostic, so agnostic you have no opinions about anything, because you are a retarded creationist who knows that admitting it shows you to be stupid, so you hide behind the pretense that there isn’t enough evidence, because… Radiometric dating could just could not be off by a factor of a couple thousand, but we can never know!

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MichaelPJ September 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

@cl

You do know about wikipedia, right? :P
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy
You suggested that I stop using evidence from a particular source. Even the worst sources can have good information. Unless you can show me how having an “anti-creationist bias” leads one to producing bad evidence, I see no reason not to assume that the evidence is fine, lacking evidence to the contrary.

I’ve not “attacked” the source. I pointed out that until now, you’d been pointing to one article on a website with known anti-creationist bias.

Yes, and said pointing out is either irrelevant, or fallacious.

I’m not saying it did. I’m saying that decay rates are not constant. You said they were. Baby steps.

Spare me. Believe it or not, I was aware of that particular scientific discovery (or not; people are still pretty doubtful on a variety of fronts). However, we’re already discussing a topic with a natural margin of error. You don’t think that I believe that the Earth is exactly 4.5 billion years old? Because if I did, I’d be contradicting myself from a few days ago! I don’t know the precise accuracy, but what I do know from reading the articles about the new potential discoveries, is that for our purposes decay rates are effectively constant.

Again, as you’d know if you’d read the article I first linked to, and the more recent ones, there is ZERO (well, epsilon) evidence that decay rates have varied enough to introduce any meaningful uncertainty into estimates of the Earth’s age.

Now, I agree that it’s possible that the decay rates of all the elements used in radiometric data in fact fluctuate furiously, and it is only during this period that we’ve been measuring them in which they have been extremely well-behaved. It is also possible that there is a teapot orbiting the Earth. Are you an agnostic about the teapot? I would feel pretty queasy about letting someone into government who took issue with the claim “There are no teapots orbiting the Earth”. Don’t forget, YECs are actually claiming that there IS a teapot orbiting the Earth. They haven’t seen one, but it’s possible that it’s there!

Also, you’ve hinted that you have issues with the concept of time. Frankly, I think you’re probably wrong there too, but the philosophy of time is the biggest linguistic deathtrap I’ve ever had the misfortune to stumble into, and I’d really rather not repeat the experience.

My defense of the charge is that they define “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence” as the morally negligent trait, yet, I do not have that trait.

Well, I was pretty willing to grant that on goodwill to begin with, but the experience of watching you blind yourself to the evidence right in front of me has kind of put paid to that. So, given that you still haven’t given me any good reasons to doubt the estimates of the age of the Earth, yes, you do have that trait. Sorry.

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm
cl September 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm

ildi,

I’m sure this is probably pointless given our past, but I just want you to realize something: I’m not saying “Earth is 10,000 years old.” I’m not saying “Earth is 4.5 billion years old.” I’m not saying it’s not either of those ages, either, and contrary to the accusations, it’s not because I’m “really a creationist sitting the fence.” That’s absurd as the claim that atheists are really theists who are mad at God.

I don’t support people making explicit truth claims about the matter. I don’t support creationists who wish to advance an agenda that says “Earth is only 10,000 years old” without examining the counterarguments. I don’t support people who say “Earth is 4.5 billion years old” without examining anomalous evidence that seems to challenge the convention. I advocate caution in origins science because it is not unlike trying to deduce the exact attributes of a rock lobbed into a pond by it’s outermost ripples. There are inherent difficulties and lots of premises that must simply be assumed when making age-of-the-Earth claims.

I am saying that neither being open to YEC, or even positively believing in YEC, makes somebody “morally negligent” by default. Cramming that belief down other people’s throats is morally negligent, especially when the YEC abuses the legal and scientific institutions in doing so. Yet, plenty of YEC’s have no aspiration to force their beliefs on others. I see the statements made against YEC’s as bigotry, but, you all feel they’re justified.

I’m curious: do any of the articles you mention rely on techniques besides radiometric dating for their claims? The Global Arab Network article only mentioned a vague allusion to “genetic evidence” that I didn’t find explained. The livewire.com article did not explain how the dates were arrived at. Do you have a link to the New Scientist article that doesn’t charge? I could only look at part of it in the article I found.

Kaelik,

Your stupid accusation is that the statement “No Creationist is correct about Creationism” is bigoted.

Why do you feel the need to misrepresent what I say? How can we have an intelligent discussion if you refuse to hold me accountable to what I’m actually saying? My accusation is that across-the-board judgment of all YEC’s as “epistemically irresponsible” and “morally negligent” is bigoted. That, I’m afraid, is true.

…yes, you are a super agnostic, so agnostic you have no opinions about anything, because you are a retarded creationist who knows that admitting it shows you to be stupid, so you hide behind the pretense that there isn’t enough evidence…

Does demeaning people who don’t share your opinions feel good? What do you expect to gain?

I have plenty of opinions about things. I don’t make explicit truth claims about the age of the Earth because I feel it’s epistemically irresponsible to do so, given the current evidence. If you want to hear more, maybe you should step aside for a beat and listen to my next responses to MichaelPJ, who actually seems interested in talking about evidence.

If you leave any genuine questions I’ll acknowledge them, but I don’t have any further interest in responding to your childish insults.

MichaelPJ,

When I mentined the anti-creationist bias at TalkOrigins, it wasn’t as a support for the premise that whatever they say is wrong. No genetic fallacy was committed. I’m not saying, “since they’re biased, their information is necessarily bad.” Okay?

You assert that I have the trait, “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence,” yet, here I am, more than willing to discuss evidence with you. How would that be possible if I’m willingly blinding myself to the evidence? That you haven’t yet found my skepticism persuasive doesn’t entail that I willingly blind myself to anything.

As for the rest of your comment, maybe we should try the “less is more” approach: Would you say that tools found in limestone dated at 300 million years old are problematic for the science of dating, the current evolutionary models, or something else? [The American Journal of Science and Arts, 1:145-46, 1820]

Now I know there are truckloads of bogus “anomalous evidence” arguments on the internet, but this one seems to have come from a reputable journal, and to date I’ve not seen much real response to it. How would you explain such an anomaly? Also, let me know if you have access to the actual journal, as I’ve only been able to uncover second or third hand accounts for as long as I’ve known about this. Citing original sources wherever possible is a basic rule of epistemic responsibility. I just thought it only fair to be upfront.

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ildi September 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I stated clearly that I am agnostic about the age of the Earth. This means I don’t make explicit truth claims about the matter. I find the evidence to be inconclusive. If we had conclusive evidence that human civilization was extant 100,000 years ago instead of 10,000 I feel that would conclusively falsify the YEC claim. As it stands, I remain open to the YEC claim, which should be enough to make me guilty of the morally negligent epistemic processes, right?

There is conclusive scientific evidence for human civilization being orders of magnitude older than 10,000 years. The YEC claim has been falsified.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I’m expecting another reality defying statement as a reply.

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puntnf September 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

“You assert that I have the trait, “willingness to blind oneself to the evidence,” yet, here I am, more than willing to discuss evidence with you. How would that be possible if I’m willingly blinding myself to the evidence? ”

No offense, but you’re either unable to think outside the 1st-person-perspective or purposely playing dumb. Surely you are wise enough to realize, if you ‘sound like a duck, walk like a duck, and look like a duck’, you’re probably a duck. You’ve been accused of evasion/denialism multiple times by a multitude of different people. Surely there’s a shred of truth there; either that, or the whole world is against you for some reason?

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cl September 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

ildi,

There is conclusive scientific evidence for human civilization being orders of magnitude older than 10,000 years. The YEC claim has been falsified.

Like I said, I’m not opposed to the idea, but, if that’s the case, then why aren’t you presenting it? Why didn’t you answer any of the questions I asked about what you did present? We can’t have a “real discussion” if you won’t answer the questions I have about your evidence. After all, epistemically responsible people are obligated to clarify their evidence when asked. Surely you don’t expect me to just take your word, right?

puntnf,

You’ve been accused of evasion/denialism multiple times by a multitude of different people. Surely there’s a shred of truth there; either that, or the whole world is against you for some reason?

A “multitude” of different people, eh? I’m sorry you’ve been persuaded by a selective analysis. For every person who makes that claim, I find someone who says the opposite: that they consider me thorough, in earnest, fair, etc. I’ve challenged Hermes every time he makes that claim, and not once has he provided a link to a thread where I did not attempt to hold my ground. I don’t evade, and no, the whole world is not against me. However, I do get a consistent reaction from certain types of atheists. If you want to say I evade, then, show me. Please don’t just echo the trolls. If you pay close attention, you should be able to figure out Hermes’ drill pretty easily.

Anyways, why waste our time talking about that? You can test the claim that I evade yourself. Ask me whatever you wish, and I’ll do my best to explain. Or, continue believing the hype, and watch from the sidelines.

Makes no difference to me.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Noted that Cl used my name.

Cl, I’m still laughing at you and don’t care about your ‘challenges’; challenge all you want, I’m almost never listening. Is that clear? Of course not, but it will give you something to distort or manipulate while you go ‘la-la-la’ with your fingers in your ears.

Everyone else: Did she admit that the Earth itself is a few billion years old yet, and humans +100K years or is she still ignoring facts? If virus and mitochondria data were spoon fed to her she’d just ignore that too. Why put up with such nonsense? Return the favor. Ignore her. She’s not here to learn or even to talk but to insist that you agree with her. Her tune will not change.

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piero September 7, 2010 at 4:19 pm

cl:

You are truly unbelievable. I’ve met frauds and tricksters before, but none like you. Congratulations.

Let’s look at the facts. You know full well that there are tons of evidence concerning the age of the Earth, the age of fossils, the time of the earliest human settlements, and you know full well where to find that evidence. On the other hand, there is no evidence whatsoever for the claim that the Earth is 6,000, 10,000 or even a million years old. When you were asked to present evidence that could justify your agnosticism you mentioned a paper that probably shows that the decay rate of certain isotopes could vary by a tiny percentage. Even if that variation was conclusively verified, it would only introduce an error factor of plus or minus 100,000 years.

Now, really, what you are doing is the same as challenging the projected path of a lunar mission because the latest measurements show that the exponent of the distance in Newton’s law of gravitation is actually 1.999999999976, not 2. Stupid? Yes, indeed.

If I was in your shoes, at this point I would either have admitted I was an idiot, or left the thread altogether to avoid further embarrassment.

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ildi September 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Like I said, I’m not opposed to the idea, but, if that’s the case, then why aren’t you presenting it?

I did, sweetie; is your search engine broken? Would you like me to find a nice intro to archeology text for you?

Why didn’t you answer any of the questions I asked about what you did present? We can’t have a “real discussion” if you won’t answer the questions I have about your evidence.

Sorry to dash your hopes, but we can never have a “real discussion.”

After all, epistemically responsible people are obligated to clarify their evidence when asked. Surely you don’t expect me to just take your word, right?

You’re not taking my word for anything. If you have problems/questions about the studies, do some additional research or ask the authors. As you well know, the point of citing those particular articles is that even upon cursory examination of the immediately available literature, the scientific consensus is that human civilization evolved around 200,000 to 100,000 years ago, which is the evidence you were looking for to falsify YEC. No need to thank me…

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Cl, why do you insist on being wrong? It makes no sense.

You can go from wrong to right in one moment just by acknowledging reality through the facts amply available to you.

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puntnf September 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

cl,

I’m not trying to enter verbal-combat with you. God and all the heavens know that I will easily lose. You are quite skilled in what you do.

But that’s not the point. In my experience, an extremely talented lawyer/rhetorician can easily outmaneuver an amateur, regardless of the truth of the matter being discussed. You are intellectually gifted. I respect your ability, but at the same time, frown upon what I interpret as downright denialism (almost kind of like an ‘abuse’ of your abilities, but that’s no matter to me I suppose to be fair, since I don’t believe in objective morality). But…it’s like you see what you want to see, and then accuse others of doing exactly that, akin to a sort of psychological displacement.

No matter what I say, this following request is virtually impossible to meet:

“If you want to say I evade, then, –show– me.”

And I’m willing to bet that you were presupposing this. I suspect you were ready to tear me apart, even before my response.

“For every person who makes that claim, I find someone who says the opposite: that they consider me thorough, in earnest, fair, etc.”

I’m -highly- suspect of this claim, but no matter. This whole deal is a lose-lose situation for me. In discourse, you will best me with your silver tongue. In the case that you are very well aware of the dishonesty of your approach already, from what I’ve seen of your character (which may or may not be accurate), I doubt you’d be affected by personal guilt.

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Kaelik September 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Why do you feel the need to misrepresent what I say? How can we have an intelligent discussion if you refuse to hold me accountable to what I’m actually saying? My accusation is that across-the-board judgment of all YEC’s as “epistemically irresponsible” and “morally negligent” is bigoted. That, I’m afraid, is true.

That is plainly not true. You yourself just claimed that it is “epistemically irresponsible” to assert information about the age of the earth.

So if the earth is not actually 10,000 years old, and is in fact 4.5 billion, and there is actual evidence, then of course it is “epistemically irresponsible” to claim otherwise.

So once again. If the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and we have evidence of that, then yes, it is “epistemically irresponsible” to claim that it is 10,000 years old.

Therefore, “YEC” people who claim that it is 10,000 years old, are in fact “epistemically irresponsible.”

And this is the point, you in your insane hatred of reality, refuse to recognize that a reality could exist, and that someone might know something about that reality.

The statement “All YEC’s are ‘epistemically irresponsible’ and ‘morally negligent.’” is not a bigoted statement. It is a definitionally true term based on the premise “The Earth is not 10,000 years old, and we have evidence of this.”

What you keep failing to recognize is that this is a difference of fact, not a generalization.

Under your absurd standard of bigotry, in which it’s a “generalization” if you don’t agree with the premises that support a statement of fact, the statement: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Is also bigoted. Because if you don’t believe that God exists, then of course it’s just a generalization, and you can’t know it’s true of everyone!

TL;DR

If you disagree with a premise that supports an argument, attack the fucking premise, don’t whine about bigotry because you best friend Ken Ham is so epistimically responsible.

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vanlacrmcake September 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I’ve just been hit with a stroke of genius.

Clone cl, and pit the two individuals against each in a verbal-argument. The winning cl gets $2,000 bucks as an added incentive.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm

She’s not impressive, though, just obstinate. That doesn’t take any skill, just closed arms and repetition.

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piero September 7, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I’ve just been hit with a stroke of genius.

Clone cl,…

What??? Two of them??? Aaaaaarrgh!!!

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MichaelPJ September 8, 2010 at 7:42 am

@cl

Aha! Some evidence is presented! This website has a nice summary of that case, and some others:
http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/ooparts.htm

Okay, so what do we say about that? Obviously, it’s anomalous. However, this provides us with a great chance to explain how science works, since it’s apparently unclear.

We have a large body of evidence that supports theory T. Then we uncover an anomalous case that seems to contradict theory T. Now, if we’re taking a naive view, we say “OMG, T is falsified; throw it out”. However, we’re not that naive. The world is a complicate place, and sometimes unusual sequences of events produce apparently anomalous results. Or you know, fakes. This is why, in general, rather than proceeding on a naive “one strike and you’re out” process, science rather goes on a more sophisticated, inference to the best explanation, type of method.

So what we really have is a choice between two options:

T is true, but some weird combination of events that we haven’t figured out yet led to us getting the anomalous evidence.
T is false.

Given the weight of evidence in favour of T, and the relative paucity of anomalous evidence, the first explanation is best. This is why I asked for significant evidence. You have (finally) provided me with some evidence, but it’s insufficient. Thousands of professional archaeologists are aware of these cases, but noone is getting their knickers in a twist about them. They just haven’t figured out how they happened yet. If we threw out our major theories on the basis of the odd outlier we’d never get anywhere. Weird things happen, but more often than not they’re the sign of complex unforseen interactions, rather than true falsifiers.

The other factor is that the majority of these anomalous cases seem to be finding artefacts that are clearly reasonably modern, or come from a well-documented period (the tools in the limestone are clearly late 18th century French), and yet they are in incongruous rock deposits. This supports the theory that they are in fact more recent artefacts that somehow got embedded in those rocks. A truly unrecognisable artefact that actually dated to the same time as the surrounding rock would be much more interesting.

However, we’ll know when they find one of those because, you know, it will make the news. Believe it or not, archaeologists aren’t fools.

Now, I came up with this off the top of my head. I hadn’t actually seen that stuff before. But it just reinforces the trust I have in the scientific community. In all the cases I’ve actually investigated, they seem to know what they’re doing, and so, unless someone actually presents me with significant contrary evidence, I’m going to keep believing them.

So, I ask again, what significant evidence to doubt the scientific consensus do you have?

When I mentined the anti-creationist bias at TalkOrigins, it wasn’t as a support for the premise that whatever they say is wrong. No genetic fallacy was committed. I’m not saying, “since they’re biased, their information is necessarily bad.” Okay?

Ah, okay then. It was just irrelevant. Good. I’ll keep ignoring that, then.

As for willingness to blind oneself to evidence: the reason we think that is precisely because you’re having this discussion, and yet still not appreciating the evidence for what it is. If you wouldn’t discuss it at all then you might just be arrogant, but you’ve actually been presented with the evidence and are still ignoring it. Go figure.

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mojo.rhythm September 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

It seems to me it is not Darwinism per se that was the motivating ideology (as far as I know, it is just a synonym for evolution by natural selection), but evolutionary ethics.

If we see more cases like this in the future, then we can conclude that evolutionary ethics, just like social darwinism, is a corrupt ideology and one which we have reasons to condemn.

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Hermes September 10, 2010 at 10:26 pm

mojo.rhythm, I didn’t know there was an evolutionary ethics movement or ideology. This guy kept referring to Malthus, and even Malthus hasn’t had a movement or ideology based after him.

The only time I hear about evolution and ethics is when evolution is (often tangentially) used as an explanation of specific ethical impulses, for example the difference in how people handle differences in the famous trolley problem.

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Hermes September 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

(re: Malthus … irt current or vibrant movement or ideology.)

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MichaelPJ September 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Well, cl has once again vanished from the thread; again, just as the bullet hit the metal. Draw your own conclusions.

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piero September 15, 2010 at 5:34 am

MichaelPJ:

Well, cl has once again vanished from the thread; again, just as the bullet hit the metal. Draw your own conclusions.

cl modus operandi:
1. Reply indignantly to anything that might cast doubt on Christianity’s eternal truths.
2. When the going gets tough, move to another thread.
3. Rinse.
4. Repeat.

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cl September 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm

I challenge you all to supply your definition of bigotry.

ildi,

I did, sweetie; is your search engine broken?

If you refuse to answer the questions I asked about your “evidence,” what can I do? Mock away, but I assure I’m getting the last laugh every time. Anyone can go grab a bunch of links off the internet to prove a point. That’s one of the chief disadvantages of the internet.

Hermes,

…I’m still laughing at you and don’t care about your ‘challenges’; challenge all you want, I’m almost never listening.

I’ve known that you’re almost never listening. That’s presumably why you keep making baseless accusations and trying to accost me in every single thread I’m on. In what ways do you benefit? In what ways does your atheism benefit?

You can go from wrong to right in one moment just by acknowledging reality through the facts amply available to you.

How can I be wrong if I’m agnostic about the age of the Earth? How can I be wrong if I understand the scientific evidence presented? Are you implying that I’m wrong because I don’t run around making explicit truth claims about the non-observable past like you and all your buddies here? Keep thinking in herds.

piero,

You know full well that there are tons of evidence concerning the age of the Earth, the age of fossils, the time of the earliest human settlements, and you know full well where to find that evidence.

Did I ever say anything to the contrary? No. I’ve stated – several times – that I’m aware of the various lines of evidence. I know why geologists think Earth is 4.55 billion years old. If you think I haven’t spent a good deal of time looking into this, you’re wrong.

On the other hand, there is no evidence whatsoever for the claim that the Earth is 6,000, 10,000 or even a million years old.

I disagree there. If human civilization didn’t seemingly pop on the seen about 8,000 years ago, I’d be much more confident in the old-Earth view. For example, if we could demonstrate – without carbon dating – a line of documents extending backs tens or hundreds of thousands of years – that would be one thing.

If I was in your shoes, at this point I would either have admitted I was an idiot, or left the thread altogether to avoid further embarrassment.

Well, I’m not an idiot, and I’m not embarrassed to think for myself.

puntnf,

In my experience, an extremely talented lawyer/rhetorician can easily outmaneuver an amateur, regardless of the truth of the matter being discussed. You are intellectually gifted. I respect your ability, but at the same time, frown upon what I interpret as downright denialism (almost kind of like an ‘abuse’ of your abilities, but that’s no matter to me I suppose to be fair, since I don’t believe in objective morality).

Well thanks for [what seem like] some genuine compliments in there, but I’ve got to ask: what do you think I’m denying?

…it’s like you see what you want to see, and then accuse others of doing exactly that, akin to a sort of psychological displacement.

For example? As far as me accusing others of “seeing what they want to see,” it’s true. At every atheist blog there are always those few haters [like Hermes, ildi, etc.] and they’re never going to give me any respect. They want to see an “epistemically irresponsible” God-bot, no matter how much reality contradicts that. It’s actually kind of despressing to see first-hand the damage the culture wars have done. Here we have ostensibly rational adults that can’t even manage a civil conversation.

And I’m willing to bet that you were presupposing this. I suspect you were ready to tear me apart, even before my response.

Not at all. I was honestly asking for an example of evasion, and – as I am with any who make that charge – I remain curious as to how you know? To evade requires knowledge of inability to answer, and intent. In my case, I just got burned out because these people hijacked a conversation about bigotry to turn me into a laughing stock. This is the first time I came back to this thread in weeks. I figured there would be a pile-up of nonsense, but I’m not “evading” it by any means. One can only stomach so much sandbox atheism.

I’m -highly- suspect of this claim, but no matter.

Go over to my blog and learn the truth. It’s all there.

Kaelik,

Let’s cut to the chase: give me your definition of bigotry.

MichaelPJ,

Well, cl has once again vanished from the thread; again, just as the bullet hit the metal. Draw your own conclusions.

As you – and the haters – will. It is true that I “vanished” from this thread. Of course, I did so with full intent of eventually coming back and re-examining it – like I do on every other thread I comment on. If you really want to know, the reason I left is because you changed this from a discussion about bigotry to a discussion about the age of the Earth. Instead of, “Were Alonzo’s comments bigotry?” it’s now, “No they weren’t because cl is a jackass and a chump who can’t defend his position” – as if I’m taking a damn position. Point is, why would I come back to a thread full of disrespectful, arrogant atheists who show time and time again that they’re incapable of civil discussion with another human being?

As for willingness to blind oneself to evidence: the reason we think that is precisely because you’re having this discussion, and yet still not appreciating the evidence for what it is. If you wouldn’t discuss it at all then you might just be arrogant, but you’ve actually been presented with the evidence and are still ignoring it.

Go ahead and conclude that I’ve “blinded myself to the evidence” if you want, but I’m willing to bet I could articulate the evidence as good as yourself or anyone else. I ask you the same question I asked Hermes: what evidence do you claim I’m ignoring? On what ground do you make this claim?

As far as what went on here, you know how you originally reacted to Alonzo’s comments way back when we got started. I know, too. That’s why I’m not too concerned about being made to look the loser here. Your original reactions indicated a certain distaste for Alonzo’s comments. That’s good enough for me, because I think you’re actually a pretty reasonable guy – and that your initial reaction retains merit.

Do you have anything else to say? Either way, can you at least please provide me with your definition of bigotry?

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Hermes September 25, 2010 at 6:53 am

Cl, note that my last comment in this thread was over 2 weeks ago, and the one you quoted from me is tipping towards 3 weeks at this point. For reference, I provide a more current comment;

Personally, I do not begrudge Cl’s previous sharp comments to me, I admit my own sharp comments to Cl, and for now I will provide dead-pan factual responses when possible if the conversation continues. If not, I may be more direct in my assessment.

Source: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11303 (see my comment from September 19th)

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Hermes September 25, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Cl, as noted elsewhere;

I would be interested in your general comments on the Alan Sokal quotes and my additional comments that followed those quotes.

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MichaelPJ September 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm

cl, a few miscellaneous points before we hit the meat of this.

Are you implying that I’m wrong because I don’t run around making explicit truth claims about the non-observable past like you and all your buddies here? Keep thinking in herds.

Would you disagree that it is epistemically irresponsible to deny that, say, FDR was assassinated? That’s a truth claim about the “non-observable past”. Sure, we have human records, but if anything the carbon record gives us better testimony towards the (really, very limited) claims about the age of the earth.
You’re wrong because you take issue with a truth claim that is relevantly similar to others that you accept. I assume you agree with most historical and scientific claims about the past?

If human civilization didn’t seemingly pop on the scene about 8,000 years ago, I’d be much more confident in the old-Earth view.

Uh? Humans, those enormously complex products of the evolutionary process? You think it’s implausible that humans didn’t evolve sooner? Wow. I can understand how some people might think that we were too complex to evolve at all, but thinking that it should have been faster seems pretty unusual. Why do you think that?

And now, to business.

Firstly, bigotry: I am thinking of “bigotry” as synonymous (or close to) with “prejudice”. That is, to make a bigoted comment you make a comment (usually general) about a group of people based on your own prejudices rather than sufficient evidence. In general, lack of sufficient support for a generalisation suggests that it was made on prejudical grounds.

Secondly, while I agree that the tone around here has been pretty combative, it’s somewhat unfair of you to blame everyone else. You’re a positive master of trenchant passive-aggression (take it as a compliment :P). Yes people rile you, but you rile them too! I’ve tried to be civil, and I apologise if I haven’t always managed. That said, I’d much rather discuss the matter at hand than the tone, so I’ll stop now.

Thirdly,

If you really want to know, the reason I left is because you changed this from a discussion about bigotry to a discussion about the age of the Earth. Instead of, “Were Alonzo’s comments bigotry?” it’s now, “No they weren’t because cl is a jackass and a chump who can’t defend his position”.

Here is how I understood it. Discussion about bigotry was: “Bigotry is bad. Everyone agreed? Good, let’s move on.” Next step: were Alonzo’s comments an example of bigotry? Now, initially I was inclined to think they were too strong, but after consideration (and actually looking at the context), I decided that given a bunch of constraints that I found clearly implied by the context (and toning down the rhetoric), the generalisation he made actually seemed to be valid. That is, it was more like “(Adequately informed) Geocentrists are epistemically irresponsible” than “Women are epistemically irresponsible”, in that in the latter there is no connection between the two (well, none has been sufficiently demonstrated), whereas in the former there is a requirement that the person believe something that it is epistemically irresponsible to believe.

Okay, so let’s substitute in YEC for Geocentrism. Then the question is: does YEC entail believing something that it is epistemically irresponsible to believe? I say yes, you say no. Now, I made an argument for my position, namely that there is very good scientific evidence for the claim that the Earth is (approx) 4.5 billion years old.

I then tried to point out where I think the weak points in this argument are, so that you could explain where you disagree. I think you could argue
a) very good scientific evidence for X does not show that it is epistemically irresponsible not to assent to X (lacking in any alternative theory; reason to doubt the evidence etc.)
b) there isn’t very good scientific evidence for the claim that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.

Of course, you needn’t take a position on YEC to argue either of these, and I apologise if it was assumed that you hold the position that you were defending. Nonetheless, it needs to be defended, otherwise Alonzo’s generalisation was valid, and so his comments were not bigoted.

So as I understand it, the discussion is still perfectly on track. The defensibility of YEC is crucial to the assessment of Alonzo’s comments. If YEC is defensible, then I and others have been unjustly maligning a reasonable intellectual position, and should feel suitably chastened. But that remains to be shown.
From your earlier comments it looked like you were taking tactic b). Hence, I’m expecting you to provide me with some problem with the radio-carbon dating that provides a central plank of the evidence for the age of the Earth. You mentioned that decay rates might not be constant, citing recent scientific news; and mentioned some cases of anomalous artifacts. I think I dealt with those arguments. At least, you haven’t deigned to respond to them.

Consequently, as far as I can see, my argument is still valid. And so I am still unpersuaded that Alonzo’s comments were bigoted.

As for you yourself

I ask you the same question I asked Hermes: what evidence do you claim I’m ignoring?

The carbon dating evidence. You appear to reject its implications, but you haven’t given me any satisfactory reasons for doing so. So you accept the evidence, haven’t refuted the implication, but reject the conclusion. Sounds like blinding yourself to the evidence to me.

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 8:43 am

MichaelPJ, I’ll drop Cl a note in a more active thread. I am curious what Cl will write to you as a reply.

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Hermes September 30, 2010 at 8:10 am

[ continuing with my dry comments ]

MichaelPJ, as a student of anthropology (almost a minor degree) as well as someone who fondly follows that subject, I will say this;

What you mention in your post is only a fraction of what is available and is not even the strongest available evidence in support of your valid points. Taking that extra evidence into account would strengthen your valid comments substantially, but I do not think the extra evidence is required. What you provided is sufficient.

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ildi September 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I disagree there. If human civilization didn’t seemingly pop on the seen about 8,000 years ago, I’d be much more confident in the old-Earth view. For example, if we could demonstrate – without carbon dating – a line of documents extending backs tens or hundreds of thousands of years – that would be one thing.

How can you expect any respect when you make moronic statements like this? I was going to say misguided, but, no, from someone who keeps claiming that they spent a good deal of time looking into this, moronic is the best descriptor.

It would be a waste of time parsing all the things wrong with this statement; the stupid is obviously deeply entrenched.

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Jen November 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

This statement is flawed……
Wrong. Darwinism is not a code of morals, whereas religions are. Nowhere in Darwin’s writings can you find anything remotely condoning what Lee did. Do I really need to go on and mention the Bible and the Koran?

As much as I love evolution and Darwin, to some Darwin may be code of morals- furthermore,the Bible of the Catholic faith does not condone any type of killing…if a christian kills another it is against the teachings of Jesus- while in the old testament there very strict tone, Jesus put that to rest when he came- and any christian who murders in the name if faith is not following Jesus’ message, therefore their actions supposedly in the name of religion should be invalidated- The Christian message is to Love one another as Jesus has loved us and to Pray for those who persecute you – Jesus says to put down our swords- he does not condone murder in the name of faith.

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