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Author Topic: A parable about contradictions in what religious Americans think
Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
"And I do not recommend that particular spiritual path."

It's a biochemical path with spiritual side effects. Once one becomes dependent on a particular mix of those things it is hard to leave them behind. One of the side effects of doing that is that the context of the spiritual side of things can be directly. I'm talking out of my hat since I'm not you, but not because I've never had to kick a habit. We've all been there.

Damn, Al, that's almost word for word what the LDS leaders say.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:

But that drives home the point, to my mind: God's actions -- if they are indeed God's actions -- appear random. No one religious group appears specially blessed or protected; no one behavior seems especially punished. Mass murders still happen. Wars still happen, and righteousness does not correlate to victory. People are still genuinely conflicted about what it is that God might actually want, even.

I think that if there is a God, if he did not act in a seemingly random, hidden way, then his presence would be obvious. If mass murders and wars did not exist, then it would be obvious that someone was pulling the strings. You can ask for less, as Josh has done, but there is no way to prove that mr. invisible hand is NOT causing less mass murders and war.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I think that if there is a God, if he did not act in a seemingly random, hidden way, then his presence would be obvious.
Which is a good argument for God (if he/she/it exists) desiring our disbelief in him. Indeed our belief in Him/Her/It must be such a great evil, that he allows all those lesser evils (like genocides, tsunamis, etc) to take place rather than that we happen to believe in him.

quote:
but there is no way to prove that mr. invisible hand is NOT causing less mass murders and war.
I bet that (to make sure we don't believe in him) he even causes a couple extra mass murders and wars. Just to be on the safe side.

[ August 07, 2012, 05:45 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
Which is a good argument for God (if he/she/it exists) desiring our disbelief in him. Indeed our belief in Him/Her/It must be such a great evil, that he allows all those lesser evils (like genocides, tsunamis, etc) to take place rather than that we happen to believe in him.

I bet that (to make sure we don't believe in him) he even causes a couple extra mass murders and wars. Just to be on the safe side.

LOL. I suppose all that may be true, but it's certainly not what I have been trying to say.
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Mynnion
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Tom-
quote:
So if God acts, He acts in a random, capricious way. And that's only one step above actual malevolence, as far as I'm concerned.
How do you know the his/her actions are random? If Go is all knowing which we obviously are not we have no way of knowing why a set of circumstances exists/occurs. If I look at a picture Seurat painting with a magnifying glass the points and colors might well look random. You don't see the a pattern until you step back and look at the whole.

In addition, because God is outside time an event that seems random today may have an impact a thousand years in the future.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I suppose all that may be true, but it's certainly not what I have been trying to say.
It's pretty much the logical conclusion of the "God allows evil so that his existence won't be obvious" argument. That translates directly to "God allows evil so that fewer people believe in him." and from there to "God wants really badly to increase disbelief in him" and "God wants people to stop believing in him".

Of course a person who wants to obey God in spreading disbelief in God would be in any argument indistinguishable from an actual atheist: They wouldn't go around saying "God wants you to think he doesn't exist" (because that'd be self-defeating), they'd be saying "God doesn't exist".

I wonder how many famous atheists are in reality devout followers of a God that merely wants to spread disbelief.

[ August 07, 2012, 06:36 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
It's pretty much the logical conclusion of the "God allows evil so that his existence won't be obvious" argument. That translates directly to "God allows evil so that fewer people believe in him." and from there to "God wants really badly to increase disbelief in him" and "God wants people to stop believing in him".

LOL. That's not the conclusion I was presenting. I suppose it's not based on logic though, eh?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
If Go is all knowing which we obviously are not we have no way of knowing why a set of circumstances exists/occurs.
And you would distinguish this from functional randomness how?
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
That's not the conclusion I was presenting.
I know. Honestly, the conclusion you were presenting was stupid: It seems to be using "freedom of choice" randomly, without feeling the need to connect it logically with anything else.

You would not use "freedom of choice" as a reason for a parent to pretend to not exist to their children, nor for a doctor to not heal their patient, nor for a cop to not stop a criminal.

But once you connect it to "God", somehow that same non-argument (that you would not accept from negligent parents or unethical doctors or lazy cops) magically seems valid to you.

Do you even believe in God, or are you just arguing for the sake of argument? How does the universe you're presenting differ in *practice* from a universe where God actually doesn't exist at all?

And decision-theoretically, in what ways and with what justification should our behaviour be different in these two universes?

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Mynnion
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Tom- If your question is how do we determine whether an event is random or the result of divine intervention I don't have an answer for you. That is not what you indicated in your post. You made a statement that God's acts (if he/she exists) are random. I am merely pointing out that without a full understanding of all of the variables then you do not have the data needed to make that kind of statement.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
That's not the conclusion I was presenting.
I know. Honestly, the conclusion you were presenting was stupid: It seems to be using "freedom of choice" randomly, without feeling the need to connect it logically with anything else.

Well, I'm a pretty stupid guy. I appreciate the mutal respect and politeness. They come only second to your frankness, lol.

I can't equate a God to a doctor, a parent, or a cop. I understand that is what some people would like their God to be.

I can only continue to state, as I did before, that if there is a God, and I do believe there is one, it appears to me, from observation, that he does not make his presence obvious.

The only conclusion I can come to is that God does not want his presence to be obvious. I believe he can and does make his presence known selectively and subtley, but this is simply a belief. It's possible to draw the conclusion, as you have, that God remains completely hidden because he does not want people to believe in him at all.

On the other hand, I tend to believe this conclusion dovetails with the argument that God wants human beings to have free will, and to exercise choice. The more God exerts his will upon the world and upon human beings, the less responsible we are for our own fate. It can extend to the point where our freedom to think and grow is impacted.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
You made a statement that God's acts (if he/she exists) are random. I am merely pointing out that without a full understanding of all of the variables then you do not have the data needed to make that kind of statement.
In the real world we never achieve 100% certainty about anything. How do you know mice are just animals and not hyperintelligent extraterrestrial beings from another dimension?

And yet the reasonable thing is to treat them like animals, not like potentially hyperintelligent extraterrestrial beings from another dimension.

How do you know ducks are just ducks? If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I appreciate the mutual respect and politeness.
Frankly, I wasn't appreciative of the fact that you responded twice with LOLs instead of actually disputing or even seeming to briefly consider my argument.

[ August 07, 2012, 09:35 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I can't equate a God to a doctor, a parent, or a cop. I understand that is what some people would like their God to be.
What do you want your God to be? You seem to me that you want him to be effectively non-existent.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
Frankly, I wasn't appreciative of the fact that you responded twice with LOLs instead of actually disputing or even seeming to briefly consider my argument.

I promise I won't laugh anymore.

Bleh, I wrote a whole reply and somehow it got lost. Gotta do it again.

I did consider your argument. I chose not to dispute it, because your conclusion followed your premeses.

quote:
LOL. I suppose all that may be true, but it's certainly not what I have been trying to say.
I only wanted it made clear that the argument that you were making, was based on different premeses then the argument that I was making.

Your argument was based upon the idea that God does not want people to believe in him because BELIEF is evil.

quote:
Which is a good argument for God (if he/she/it exists) desiring our disbelief in him. Indeed our belief in Him/Her/It must be such a great evil, that he allows all those lesser evils (like genocides, tsunamis, etc) to take place rather than that we happen to believe in him.

I never made the claim that BELIEF was evil. I was making the argument that FORCED BELIEF was evil.

Instead of responding to MY argument, based on MY inferences, you took something I said and ran into far left field with it.

Again, I'm not arguing against your conclusion, I'm just stressing that your conclusion is definately not my conclusion.

I understand you believe my argument was stupid, that was obvious from your first post. You really didn't have to spell it out. But I don't seem to be following your counter-arguments.

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Mynnion
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Aris
quote:
quote: You made a statement that God's acts (if he/she exists) are random. I am merely pointing out that without a full understanding of all of the variables then you do not have the data needed to make that kind of statement.

In the real world we never achieve 100% certainty about anything. How do you know mice are just animals and not hyperintelligent extraterrestrial beings from another dimension?

And yet the reasonable thing is to treat them like animals, not like potentially hyperintelligent extraterrestrial beings from another dimension.

How do you know ducks are just ducks? If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

It is all a matter of scale. While I agree that even within the most controlled studies you will never reach 100% certainty random events can be minimized. When you are speaking of a God like scale it is like a bacteria believing that the antibiotic that was given to its host is random because it is beyond it's scope of understanding and the limits of information it has.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
What do you want your God to be? You seem to me that you want him to be effectively non-existent.

I tend to believe that if God does exists, then I really don't get to choose what he is. It would be like a computer program having an opinion on what they would like Steve Jobs to be.

All I can say is that if God does exist, he is not overt. I don't think that equates to BEING effectively non-existant, but it may APPEAR to be effectively non-exististant.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I was making the argument that FORCED BELIEF was evil.
By "forced belief" you seem to mean "undisputable knowledge of". Right?

Let's assume that God existed for everyone to see. Much like the moon or the sun. That would be "forced belief in God"? Just because we undisputably know he's out there?

Then by the same token, we currently have "forced belief" in the moon and the sun? "Forced belief" in gravity? Just because we undisputably know they're out there?

Why would God impose or tolerate forced beliefs in everything actually real except his own existence? Why is *only* the undisputable knowledge of God himself problematic, and not the undisputable knowledge of the rest of reality?

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TomDavidson
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I find it odd to think that I am forcing my children to believe in me.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:

Why would God impose or tolerate forced beliefs in everything actually real except his own existence? Why is *only* the undisputable knowledge of God himself problematic, and not the undisputable knowledge of the rest of reality?

I suspect that this may be because the rest of reality does not effect humanity the way a God does. If God does exist, how can even the sun have the same meaning and effect on humanity that God has?

I imagine God would have a very difficult time just trying to prove that he was God to the majority of people.

Then imagine this world with this totally immanant God where knowlege of him is undisputable? How is humanity going to respond?

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I find it odd to think that I am forcing my children to believe in me.

Are you forcing your children to be atheists?
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshCrow:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Josh, as far as I am concerned the only thing that your parable shows is a fundamental confusion about the nature of God. You are not alone.

I'm hoping for more elaboration...
It is not really my place to proselytize here, but since you ask...

The nature of God is (naturally) bigger than any of us can understand so we look at and deal with smaller bits of it. Our mistake is failing to remember that the part we are looking at is not the whole. We consider the transcendent and overlook the immanent or vice verse. In order to have a personal relationship with God we imagine God to be a sort of superperson in the sky who grants wishes or meets out punishment rather than being present in everything and everyone. We forget that God is present in us and neglect our part of creation. We think that Creation is an event that was over with a long time ago rather than something that is ongoing. There is a line in a hymn, "God has no hands but ours". Or, in the words of a certain Martian, "Thou Art God". If you want a better world, get on it.

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Aris Katsaris
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kmbboots, you seem to be using merely part of the the culturally-laden connotations for the word 'God', but if there's some substance behind anything you say, I fail to see it.

To indicate this, let me just replace the word God with the word zoomba, and list everything you've said of it so far.
1) The nature of zoomba is naturally bigger than any of us can understand so we look at and deal with smaller bits of it.
2) Zoomba is present in everything and everyone. Zoomba is present in us.
3) Thou art zoomba.

So, do I believe in the existence of zoomba? Yes, of course, I do: zoomba is the physical universe. Which is bigger than any of us can understand, present in everything and everyone, and we're definitely part of the physical universe.

So, basically, every atheist out there believes in your description of God --- but just disagrees with you labelling it God, as that would just confuse people, and the chief purpose of language should be communication.

Pantheism is effectively atheism laden with flowery language.

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kmbboots
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Aris, and now you are only looking at part.

Try panentheism rather than pantheism.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Are you forcing your children to be atheists?
Of course not.
Neither am I forcing them to believe that I exist. That I almost certainly appear to exist (to them, at least) may lead them to believe that I exist, of course.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Of course not.

Why not?
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DonaldD
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Part of the problem that is being skirted around is that, in many religious traditions, belief in one particular deity is a mandatory prerequisite for celestial rewards, thus making the choice of belief so important to those wanting to make the reward contingent on something.
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Aris Katsaris
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Those religions that promise celestial rewards only if you do NOT believe in them fail to attract converts. For some reason.
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Grant
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It's quite possible that religion has nothing to do with God [Smile]

Also possible that God has nothing to do with religion [Smile]

The problem of salvation or celestial reward is actually non-related to the problem of evil/suffering, and the problem of free-will.

The problem is not being skirted around. It is being deliberately ignored because it has no place in the questions originally raised by Josh, or the responses.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Why not?
Why would I?
I want them to be rational, thinking beings. If they look at the available evidence and conclude that there is a God, why on Earth would I want them to care about whether I share their opinion or not?

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:

I want them to be rational, thinking beings. If they look at the available evidence and conclude that there is a God, why on Earth would I want them to care about whether I share their opinion or not?

You want them to figure it out for themselves,right? You want them to have a choice, and you feel you should give it to them, right? You feel it would be overbearing to push your beliefs upon your children, right?

What if God feels the same way? What if God wants you to choose wether to believe in him or not? What if God wants you to figure out for yourself what is right and wrong? What if God has decided that if you need help figuring it out, that it is enough help out there if you look for it?

How are you going to be able to figure that out for yourself if proof of God is undeniable?

Look, I really don't KNOW why. I don't have all the answers. I'm just guessing.

We have 3000 years of philosphy and theology out there in the library. I'm positive there are better people then me out there who can explain it better.

[ August 07, 2012, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: Grant ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
What if God wants you to choose wether to believe in him or not?
Then He's a freakin' idiot.
Because the question is not whether or not my children choose to obey me; it's whether or not they have reason to believe I exist.

If it's possible for my children to reach adulthood without having evidence of my existence, I am a bad father.

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Pete at Home
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That presumes that what we reach during this lifetime is, from God's perspective, adulthood.

Rather than, say, the fetal stage of development.

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TomDavidson
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In this analogy, are we demanding that our fetuses make moral choices based on incomplete information?

[ August 07, 2012, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
In this analogy, are we demanding that our fetuses make moral choices based on incomplete information?

Do you believe that the information that you pass to your children is truely "complete"?

Maybe God thinks there is enough information out there for you to figure it out. Maybe making mistakes is part of the journey. Or maybe he IS an idiot.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:

Because the question is not whether or not my children choose to obey me; it's whether or not they have reason to believe I exist.

You're right. It's not about obedience, it is about belief. It is, apparently, about faith rather then knowlege. I don't know why that would be important, but it seems to me, if God does exists, it seems to be important to him.
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TomDavidson
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Oh, no argument. If God exists, it is absolutely important to Him that we have no reason to believe He's real.
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ken_in_sc
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We have no way of knowing whether if God had intervened or not allowed certain natural disasters or wars to happen, that the result might have been worse. It is possible that this is the best of all possible worlds. We just don't know. If it bothers you, try to make it a better world yourself. If you do, how do you know that is not God's doing?
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TomDavidson
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Better question: how do you know it is?

Because here's the thing: if there can be no discernable distinction between a world in which a god exists and a world in which one does not, a belief in a god is unnecessarily complex. The assertion that "this could be a world in which a God does things we can't detect" is functionally equivalent to "this could be a world full of leprechauns, fairies, and unicorns that no one has ever seen." (And, heck, based on the arguments I've heard from some believers in God, the idea that believing in fairies and unicorns might make you happier would be in itself justification in believing in them.)

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
In this analogy, are we demanding that our fetuses make moral choices based on incomplete information?

No.

Fetuses make the kind of choices that fetuses make, based on the level of information that fetuses have.

You cannot conceive of a type of choice that you don't presently have the capacity to understand. Well neither can fetuses.

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