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Author Topic: The (preferably audio) case for God?
DaveS
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quote:
To me, He's very real, but see for yourself.
Frannie, welcome to the discussion. We may not be very good at it, but we're trying to reason our way to an understanding of the possibility that God exists. I doubt we'll prove anything to either a profound skeptic or a true believer, but for those somewhere between those endpoints, we're exploring how one searches for and evaluates evidence one way or another.

We're on page 16 of this discussion, so there have been a lot of points and observations made on all sides of the question. It might help you to understand what we're doing better by reviewing as much of the thread as you can.

I apparently get to be the first to say this: Welcome to Ornery, you are wrong!

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MattP
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quote:
Note that I've asked you repeatedly for other Dawkins arguments, and the fact that you've repeatedly punted.
Let's get a little further before you start accusing me being evasive or otherwise, however slightly, insulting me.

You're request is barely 1/2 day old and my initial response was on the way to bed and my second post was just to cut off your repeated claims that Dawkins was only interested in a single argument. I was in the middle of another post when you posted your "repeatedly punting" comment. PLEASE Pete, give people the benefit of the doubt.

quote:
It does not matter what proportion of naturalists at the time believed in the Piltdown Man fraud. It's sophistry to argue that because one belief is exposed as mistaken, that all associated beliefs are likewise in error.
Dawkins takes on the positive arguments made by the majority of American Christians. By showing those arguments to be without merit, he leaves those Christians with no reasonable justification for their belief.

He gives little time to personal experience because when someone believes they've experience something that they did not actually experience it's very nearly impossible to demonstrate to them that they didn't just as it's nearly impossible for those people to demonstrate that they've actually had the experience that they claim/believe they've had. He spends a small amount of time discussing the mind's ability to misinterpret stimuli, but that's all you can say there without turning the book into a psychology textbook.

As I stated in my first response to you, his arguments are counter-arguments to claims made by Theists. I provided two of those arguments, and I'll provide a brief version of his response.

Claim: Morality comes from God/The Bible/religion. Without God/Religion man would rape/cheat/steal.

Answer: Studies have been performed that demonstrate innate morality, independent of religious belief. When several people are presented with certain moral dilemmas they consistently provide the same answers regardless of their own religious upbringing. Atheists, Buddhists, and Christians give the same answers. Also, there are a number downright immoral acts in the Bible that were sanctioned by God.

Claim: There must be a first mover to solve the problem of infinite regression. God is the only possible first mover.

Answer: There is no reason to assert that the first mover must be the sentient, we're-in-his-image, being that we recognize as "God". The "God must be First Mover" argument is just a blind assertion.

Since you haven't shared your opinion on these two items, I don't even know if you disagree with Dawkins' position.

If you're argument is just "Not everyone believes that" then we agree. He is taking on some of the major arguments put forth by Christians for the existence of God.

quote:
So is that how logic works? You venture a guess, and then form a binding conclusion based on that guess? That's not logic; that's American policework.
Please Pete, don't do this.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
*Sigh*

If you haven't read the bible, and are participating in this thread, please let us know now.

Is this what passes for scientific methodology around here these days? [LOL]

I've seen precious little evidence of Bible reading in the "case against God" arguments here on this thread. I've seen a series of arguments claiming that Christians overwhelmingly believe X, etc.

Well, most Christians believe in the Bible, and also believe that it's possible for good Christians to misunderstand the Bible. Any Christian could respond to Dawson's argument: even if you're right and my understanding of God is faulty, that only means that I've misunderstood what the Bible teaches me about *how* God operates. The Bible itself teaches that our understanding of God is faulty. So if you've really read and thought about the Bible's teachings, then see if you have any arguments that can stand against those teachings. Attacking existing human interpretations of those teachings is like attacking the Piltdown Man fraud. Misunderstood evidence does not constitute a failed theory.

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MattP
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quote:
Well, most Christians believe in the Bible, and also believe that it's possible for good Christians to misunderstand the Bible.
And yet 46 percent of American Christians (Gallup poll) believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. This shows a pretty strong unwillingness to accept that the bible may be misunderstood.

quote:
Attacking existing human interpretations of those teachings is like attacking the Piltdown Man fraud. Misunderstood evidence does not constitute a failed theory.
Except there is a consensus amongst scientists that the evidence was wrong. Not so for Christians and the bible.

[ December 23, 2006, 02:48 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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seekingprometheus
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Hee hee.

I fail to see the problem here Pete. It sounds like you and Dawkins agree on the point under discussion: There is no such thing as a distinct, omnipotent Creator. Now if you'd just convince the other 99% of Christians who don't understand this, I'm sure Dawkins would be happy to address the issue of demigods.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
[skip the personal crap and getting down to the actual logic]

quote:
It does not matter what proportion of naturalists at the time believed in the Piltdown Man fraud. It's sophistry to argue that because one belief is exposed as mistaken, that all associated beliefs are likewise in error.
Dawkins takes on the positive arguments made by the majority of American Christians. By showing those arguments to be without merit, he leaves those Christians with no reasonable justification for their belief.

If he framed it like that, I'd not be annoyed with him. As it is, though, he's guilty of bait and switch.


quote:
He gives little time to personal experience because when someone believes they've experience something that they did not actually experience it's very nearly impossible to demonstrate to them that they didn't just as it's nearly impossible for those people to demonstrate that they've actually had the experience that they claim/believe they've had. He spends a small amount of time discussing the mind's ability to misinterpret stimuli, but that's all you can say there without turning the book into a psychology textbook.
You know the old parable of the drunk who lost his keys and focused his seach where the light was better, right? [Big Grin]


quote:
As I stated in my first response to you, his arguments are counter-arguments to claims made by Theists. I provided two of those arguments, and I'll provide a brief version of his response.

Claim: Morality comes from God/The Bible/religion. Without God/Religion man would rape/cheat/steal.

I'm supposed to defend that silly argument? With religion man still rapes cheats and steals.

quote:
Answer: Studies have been performed that demonstrate innate morality, independent of religious belief. When several people are presented with certain moral dilemmas they consistently provide the same answers regardless of their own religious upbringing. Atheists, Buddhists, and Christians give the same answers. Also, there are a number downright immoral acts in the Bible that were sanctioned by God.
That answer is even sillier and more broken than the question. First of all, you're equating God to religion. Second, you're absurdly assuming that the lessons of religion only transmit to those that believe. You ignore the possibility that religion could convey moral lessons to those that do not believe in the religion.

quote:
Claim: There must be a first mover to solve the problem of infinite regression. God is the only possible first mover.
That statement only makes sense if you presume God's existence. If you have independent personal knowledge of God's existence, then it is logical to presume that God is the most likely first mover. The argument does not hold water as proof of God's existence.

quote:
Answer: There is no reason to assert that the first mover must be the sentient, we're-in-his-image, being that we recognize as "God". The "God must be First Mover" argument is just a blind assertion.
Again, your reply is even more flawed than the argument you're challenging. You're assuming absence of other evidence. Just because one argument fails to provide reason to assert X does not mean that there are not other arguments and evidence.


quote:
Since you haven't shared your opinion on these two items, I don't even know if you disagree with Dawkins' position.
Again I'd say that Dawkins is rebutting foolishness with greater foolishness.

quote:
He is taking on some of the major arguments put forth by Christians for the existence of God.
Is the above *really* what you meant when you said:
quote:
Dawkins makes a fairly convincing case for discarding all supernatural concepts. They are fairly specific arguments that he makes, many of which I've heard before, so presumably attempts have been made to answer them.
Where is this fairly convincing case for discarding ALL supernatural concepts?
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Pete at Home
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"Except there is a consensus amongst scientists that the evidence was wrong. Not so for Christians and the bible."

If you really have read the Bible, then why do you continue to bait and switch like Mr. Dawkins? You claim that you've rebutted statements from the Bible when you've merely addressed popular dogma?

To address another logical fallacy in your reply, Matt, if scientists had proudly persisted in believing in the Piltdown Man fraud, would that in itself disprove natural selection? Was natural selection temporarily "not true" during the time that scientists believed that Piltdown Man was genuine. [Big Grin] If you cannot distinguish popular dogma from actual fact, then do you really think you can stand on the side of science?

Seekingprometheus, if you read "Omnipotent" simply as meaning that God can do everything that can be done, then God remains "omnipotent." I've spent far more time trying to persuade my fellow Christians to accept God as the Bible describes him, i.e. the one who created "everything that was created" rather than everything period. I find that many, when confronted with the evidence, simply admit that they may be wrong about what God can or cannot do.

But that would not ultimately matter, if this were a genuine discussion about ideas.

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MattP
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quote:
Again I'd say that Dawkins is rebutting foolishness with greater foolishness.
The purpose is to neuter the arguments. He effectively does so. There is no attempt to disprove God, but just to eliminate arguments for God.

quote:
Where is this fairly convincing case for discarding ALL supernatural concepts?
I suppose I should amend that to "discarding most popular supernatural concepts." I do feel that he makes a good case for dismissing all supernatural belief, but I don't believe those arguments are as simple to articulate and I don't want to start a thread where I attempt to argue a book's worth of Dawkins' position.

Also, after experiencing this thread I have a new appreciation for what "convincing" means. [Wink]

In any case, we've gone far from the original topic of the thread. I've got a book list from the first few pages that intend to investigate. Now we're somewhere else entirely.

quote:
If you really have read the Bible, then why do you continue to bait and switch like Mr. Dawkins? You claim that you've rebutted statements from the Bible when you've merely addressed popular dogma?
All Christians believe their dogma accurately reflects the Bible. Arguing against an interpretation of the Bible that differs from the popular dogma would just result in a collective "That's not what it says!" from the Christian majority. No matter what argument is made, there will always be some sect somewhere saying "That's not what it says!" which is where you seem to be coming from right now.

[ December 23, 2006, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Pete at Home
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I cannot rebutt your "feeling" that Dawkins has made a coherent argument against any belief in God. I did not mean to force you to argue a book's worth of Dawkin's position; I merely wished to answer your challenge of refuting a few simple arguments. I respect your rephrase, and I accept explanation that you overstated your initial case; I've often made the same error.

There's nothing dishonorable about your needing time to answer my challenge, nor is there anything hostile about my challenging you to step up to the plate when you didn't initially respond. If you change your mind and do find some simple affirmative argument on Dawkins' part that you'd like a contrary view on, please feel free to drop me an email.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
All Christians believe their dogma accurately reflects the Bible. Arguing against an interpretation of the Bible that differs from the popular dogma would just result in a collective "That's not what it says!" from the Christian majority. No matter what argument is made, there will always be some sect somewhere saying "That's not what it says!" [snip your speculation about my position]
Which is why it's misleading to pretend that you've rebutted the "Bible" when you haven't even addressed any Bible text, and have based your arguments entirely on dogma. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Admit that you've simply addressed a majority dogma, and stop making misleading claims that the Bible has somehow been proved as "wrong" as the Piltdown Man. You said:

quote:
Except there is a consensus amongst scientists that the evidence was wrong. Not so for Christians and the bible.
You risk derailing your own thread when you make such an inflammatory false analogy. If you have evidence that the Blble is a fraud like your Piltdown Man, then put it up. Otherwise don't take cheap shots like that.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I've seen a series of arguments claiming that Christians overwhelmingly believe X, etc.
Actually, Pete, prior to your attempts to derail the conversation, there were precious few of those arguments advanced. [Smile]

I'll boil it down for you: Richard Dawkins is not the only person capable of rational thought. Nor has he dedicated himself to addressing and refuting all possible forms of supernatural being. He defined his version of "God" and effectively refuted it.

You reject his definition. That's great.

That, right there, is then the end of that conversation.

Dawkins isn't here to continue it with you. None of us are particularly interested in speculating on what else he might say if asked to refute other sorts of gods. For that matter, I haven't even read his latest book, and consider any arguments Dawkins is making nowadays to be irrelevant to the conversations I'm having on the topic, which are much more interesting to me.

quote:

Again, your reply is even more flawed than the argument you're challenging. You're assuming absence of other evidence. Just because one argument fails to provide reason to assert X does not mean that there are not other arguments and evidence.

I believe the point of challenging and demonstrating the hollowness of each individual argument is to eventually eliminate all such arguments. I will say that I've seen, on this thread, people assert that the necessity of a First Mover is alone proof of a God's existence; the argument that upsets you effectively renders those assertions empty, which demonstrates that it has at least some utility.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
He defined his version of "God"
Remind me, where did Dawkins admit that he was merely rebutting *his* version of God?


quote:
That, right there, is then the end of that conversation.
Until you drag it up again.


quote:
Dawkins isn't here to continue it with you. None of us are particularly interested in speculating on what else he might say if asked to refute other sorts of gods. For that matter, I haven't even read his latest book, and consider any arguments Dawkins is making nowadays to be irrelevant to the conversations I'm having on the topic, which are much more interesting to me.

Then why are you continuing to engage my rebuttals of Dawkins? Unlike Dawkins, I've admitted that I'm merely rebutting specific arguments. I've never claimed to offer empiric evidence of God or to rebutt any reasonable basis to disbelieve in God.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
I've seen a series of arguments claiming that Christians overwhelmingly believe X, etc.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Actually, Pete, prior to your attempts to derail the conversation, there were precious few of those arguments advanced.

How does what you said remotely contradict anything that I said?

I replied to a challenge I saw on page 1, and in response, saw a series of irrelevant arguments based entirely on appeals to groupthink. The fact that you don't resort to a particular logical fallacy until someone shows up and questions one of your particular fundamental assumptions does not constitute an airtight defense for your position or for your argument strategy.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Remind me, where did Dawkins admit that he was merely rebutting *his* version of God?
*sigh* Dawkins lists the attributes assigned to "God." This is a very traditional and very required part of any philosophical argument. In so doing, he defines "God" for the purposes of his argument. A creature which lacks those attributes is not the creature about which he is writing; that is implied by the definition of attributes itself.

Basically, it's a form of politeness. When making a philosophical assertion, you define the boundaries of the discussion to encourage precision.

What you're saying is that you want to have a discussion with Richard Dawkins about a different kind of God. That's fine, but Dawkins isn't here to have that discussion with you.

quote:
Then why are you continuing to engage my rebuttals of Dawkins?
Because you've come into an otherwise interesting and largely focused conversation and, as you often do, attempted to change the subject to something with which you feel more familiar and can be outraged about. I've "engaging" only so far as to point out that you're not having a productive conversation; if you still don't take the hint after this post, I'll just ignore further "discussion" of this digression.

(As a side note: I don't think it's an appeal to "groupthink" if you're attempting to argue that Dawkins' God is the God of the majority of Christians -- and thus the most likely target of any anti-God book written in the Western world -- by claiming that the attributes Dawkins chose to assign to His God are the attributes most commonly assigned to God by Christians. That's not an appeal to popularity; that's a demonstration of popularity for other purposes. Now, you can assert (and I'll freely grant; I don't have a horse in this race) that for one reason or another many Christians don't really believe those things, or even that the cited things aren't even claimed to be Christian beliefs, but in neither case does the counter-argument have anything to do with the previous poster's "groupthink.")

[ December 23, 2006, 04:57 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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seekingprometheus
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quote:
Seekingprometheus, if you read "Omnipotent" simply as meaning that God can do everything that can be done, then God remains "omnipotent." I've spent far more time trying to persuade my fellow Christians to accept God as the Bible describes him, i.e. the one who created "everything that was created" rather than everything period. I find that many, when confronted with the evidence, simply admit that they may be wrong about what God can or cannot do.
Personally, I've got no problem with a little watering down of the concept of omnipotence. (As long as you remain in the appropriate realm of pantheism, of course [Wink] ). The flaw I see is positing the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent entity within a world within which evil is averred to exist--unless the a priori parameters you dub "eternal laws" are extended so far as to encompass fatalistic determinism--or the term "omnipotent" is rendered so strangely as to have no meaning.

To wit: If for any given entity "Good" is attaining Salvation or Exaltation or Apotheosis (to take a Mormon conceit I view with fondness), and said entity is really capable of attaining this telic state of being--then it follows that "potence" is capable of achieving this "Good" thing. This "Good" thing is capable of being "done" according to the eternal laws which bound omnipotence. If there really were an omnipotent, omnibenevolent entity, then it should follow that the omnipotence would bring this "Good" thing to pass for each and every entity (unless, of course, omnibenevolence is tempered by omni-apathy). It is a thing which can be done, and it is a "Good" thing, and since we have a being who can do anything that can be done and does all good things which can be done, it is certain to get done--right? If any single one of these "Good" things which are capable of being done remains undone, then some sad condemned entity is left to confusedly reassess our definitions of the omnibenevolence and omnipotence of our God-entity in damned misery (an "Ungood" thing, it would seem).

Aha! the strawman might say--but this is where I misunderstand the nature of eternal laws! For our omnibenevolent quasi-omnipotent deity cannot do for another entity what only that entity can do for itself. Such a caveat is clearly written in the fine print of the eternal constitution. But you and I would scornfully dismiss this strawman as absurd, realizing that such a definition of omnipotence would render a term that merely meant "capable of doing whatever a particular entity is capable of doing in accordance with predetermined eternal laws" a definition too watered down for even those of us cavalier with definitions of omnipotence--since it leaves our damned wretch as an omnipotent in his own right, along with each and every entity in the world--each capable of doing whatever they themselves can do in accordance with eternal laws.

Nay--let us leave this silly strawman and his meaningless lexicon alone, and rather conclude that any useful terms of omnipotence and omnibenevolence cannot coincide any really existent entity in a world we call evil.

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Pete at Home
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To avoid offtracking this discussion further, I've responded to prometheus on a new thread: http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=009653;p=0&r=nfx


Tom complains that I'm taking this discussion off-track, and then does the classic trick to prolong the argument: misstates my position. Tom knows that when he does this, I clarify. I don't know why Tom wants to drag this out while claiming he wants to continue previous productive discussions.

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
[QUOTE]What you're saying is that you want to have a discussion with Richard Dawkins about a different kind of God.

That's a false representation of the discussion, Tom. Dawkins did not say that he was rebutting a specific "kind of God." And I was responding to Matt's (subsequently qualified) statement that Dawkins had presented simple arguments against supernatural beliefs in general.


quote:
I've "engaging" only so far as to point out that you're not having a productive conversation; if you still don't take the hint after this post, I'll just ignore further "discussion" of this digression.
Let's see if you're true to that pledge, Tom, or whether you continue to drag this "digression" out by mischaracterizing my position.
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TomDavidson
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Okay, let's get back on track. To sum up the last two pages quickly:

1) A newcomer to the conversation came in and offered to rebut some of Dawkins' arguments against specific supernatural beliefs (re: the request that started this thread) by saying that he didn't hold those beliefs. The thread starter agreed that this was a meaningful observation, but obviously not a universally applicable criticism of Dawkins' arguments (much less all of Dawkins' arguments.)

2) A poster new to the board asserted that the best way to divine the existence of a God is to read one particular work of scripture in its entirety (presumably in its English translation) without referring to other guides or analyses.

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Pete at Home
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Here we go again. I offer to leave, Tom misrepresents my position, I state my position correctly, and offer to leave if Tom wil disist; Tom offers another distortion; I correct; Tom offers yet another distortion, and folks blame me for derailing [Roll Eyes]

If you want to know what I said, look it up on the last page, or ask me. Don't trust Tom to feed it to you.

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Richard Dey
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Frannie:

Welcome, and you are indeed wrong.

If you don't have Hebrew and Hellenic Greek, one can't read the Bible. I could only read half of it. It was laborious; Paul's Greek in particular is not good. One can forgive him, for it was learnt language, but add up the bad writing and worse reading, and it Paul wasn't going far with me. Actually, I came to hate the man -- even after he gave up betraying and killing people. I suspect he came from bad stock, poor man. He didn't have a chance.

I don't have Hebrew, so I read an early 17th-C version of it. Too many confounded characters, preposterous plot, chronology missing, inaccurate, no cross-references, bizarre stories, and generally a poorly pasted-together piece of fiction all 'round, I'd say: and would probably make some really bad Hollywood epics. Anyway, I'm not Jewish (I think I'm descended from King David and King Herod, hwoever), so it doesn't apply to me in any way.

As to the Christian testament, far-too-many internal contradictions to be the nonfiction some claim for it; still no citations!; and whoever wrote Revelations would today be placed in an asylum for the socially dangerous. Bad stuff. I wouldn't ban it, but I would put it way up high where the children can't get it.

Otherwise, I am convinced that enough here have read at least enough of it to get the gist of the plot. The 1st testament justifies a land-grab in Canaan, the 2nd testament says that, if you don't accept somebody-or-other as your 'saviour', you will burn in hell.

Have you by any chance read Robert Graves or Raphael Patai on how the god referred to in these testaments used to be a woman?

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Carlotta
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Please excuse my butting in, I haven't read the latest posts, it being Christmas Eve and all, but came across this highly amusing interview with Dawkins. The best part? His statement that he prefers truth to comfort, ending with "We weren't put here to be comforted."

Apparently atheists can believe we were "put here" for a reason? [Smile]
Dawkins interview

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Pete at Home
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Good catch, Carlotta! [LOL] Passive voice covereth a multitude of fallacies.

[ December 24, 2006, 10:15 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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MattP
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quote:
Apparently atheists can believe we were "put here" for a reason?
In context he was clearly saying that we were not put here at all - the "to be comforted" was superfluous.

Earlier in the interview he says "I think there is a purpose to each individual's existence which is a purpose that we make for ourselves."

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Carlotta
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I know what he said conflicst with his previous statements, but such a slip was amusing to me. I also think it possible he still believes in being "put here" on some level, otherwise I don't see how it would have slipped out.

I've been watching "Root of All Evil" on googlevideo while cleaning my room tonight (I know, my life is so exciting.) Now I will give him some leeway in that he was obviously making a movie with arguments designed to appeal to the masses, and when people do that they often put forth arguments that they know have holes in them as long as they are still very convincing. But it amazes me that such an obviously highly educated man, who has made religion one of his life's studies, would be so ignorant of religion. Either that or he is intentionally presenting a simplistic explanation of these faiths' beliefs, and refuting that instead of what they really teach.

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MattP
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quote:
I also think it possible he still believes in being "put here" on some level
I doubt that very much. Given his level of a-religiousity that'd be like saying that it's possible that the Pope believes that we're "not put here" on some level. Possible? I guess anything is possible, but...

I too noticed that the views he tends to argue against are sometimes a sort of religious strawman. I believe that this is because his aim is not to argue against religion so much as it is to argue against the beliefs actually held by the individual followers of religion who don't necessarily develop more than a superficial sense of the doctrine of their church.

I imagine there's also an attempt to reach the broadest audience by addressing the lowest common denominator. There are few things that all Christians agree on when you get down the details so you would have to largely ignore the details unless you wanted focus on a smaller subset of the population.

Just because I'm curious, what is one of the arguments you're referring to in "Root of All Evil" that you believe has holes in it? I haven't seen that film, but I wonder if it's something he's rehashed in The God Delusion.

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Everard
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"I also think it possible he still believes in being "put here" on some level, otherwise I don't see how it would have slipped out."

A lot of cliches and expressions in the english language don't fit each individual's view points on a particular matter, but everyone still uses them, since expressions and cliches are essential for clear communication.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
since expressions and cliches are essential for clear communication.

[DOH]
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Everard
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You disagree that cliches in particular are the nails in the toolbox of communication?

Sorry, Pete... but expressions like "put here" are used so commonly because everyone in our culture understands what is meant. We use them because they speed up communication without losing meaning, unless people intentionally try to misunderstand what we're saying.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
expressions like "put here" are used so commonly because everyone in our culture understands what is meant.

Here again, passive voice covers a multitude of fallacies. When one person means one thing by a term, and another person means another thing by the same term, communication ceases to be "clear."

[ December 25, 2006, 08:53 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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DaveS
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quote:
"We weren't put here to be comforted."
Sure, words are slippery things, and imagery and idioms are more slippery yet. Irony happens when a listener recognizes something other than what the speaker meant, sometimes showing the speaker's ignorance or arrogance. Humor happens when the listener intentionally changes the meaning, sometimes to make the speaker seem foolish.

In this case, all you get out of Dawkins' words is humor. He meant "put here to be comforted", which reflects the solace that many people seek. He didn't mean "put here[, perhaps] to be comforted", meaning we may have been "put here" for a different reason. It sounds funny, but it is a sound byte lacking the context to make clear what he meant, rather than a statement with any intentional or unintentional ambiguity on his part.

I sometimes think I was put here for a reason, but who/what put me here, where exactly here is, and what the reason might be aren't at all clear. I don't think it was God, and since I don't know who/what God is, I can look for and find ironic and even humorous purposes in my very existence, as well as what may turn out to be the one that was intended.

[ December 25, 2006, 09:47 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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Carlotta
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The reason "put here" stuck out is that he could have just as easily said "we are not here to be comforted." The "put here" is kind of like "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" But I'm not seriously arguing that I know the innermost state of his deepest beliefs based on this one comment. I just found it amusing.

Let me try to remember what the arguments were. Ironically my husband actually went out and bought The God Delusion the other day so I do have it in my house but I don't get dibs on reading it till he's done.

There was one argument in particular about how morals do not logically require a God as the source of morality, because plenty of people who don't believe in God are very moral people. His argument, as far as I could tell from reading over my husband's shoulder, is to determine that existence of morality does not need to be justified by existence of God because many people believe in one and not the other... and of course so many people could not possibly be believing anything illogical. It comes down to determining if something is logical or not by whether or not it is believed, the same argument could be used to "prove" the existence of God.

Another one (which I have not read, just heard about, so feel free to just give me the traditional Ornery greeting here) is that God cannot be omnipotent, and his definition of omnipotent is to do absolutely anything. I find it strange that if he means to really address the belief in God's omnipotence as common to all major religions, that he limit his definition of omnipotence. Catholicism, a pretty big chunk of Christianity historically and today, believes that God can do anything which is not contrary to His nature, thus he is omnipotent but not as Dawkins describes.

I'm looking forward to actually reading his book and discussing his arguments. Here's a question I've been wondering. In one of my college philosophy classes we were taught that Nietcsche argued against Christianity, but that much of what he was arguing against was a false understanding of Christianity, so in that way his arguments actually support real Christianity. In the few pages I've managed to read of the God Delusion, it seems to me that once he tears down some of the inadequate explanations/definitions/proofs in support of theism, the reader is left to either disbeleive in God or to seek a refined explanation. For example when faced with his omnipotence argument, one could either agree that God cannot be omnipotent, or look for a better definition of omnipotence and then test the merits of that definition.

I'm excited about reading this because I think it will help me look critically at my beliefs, either to reject the ones that don't make sense or (which I believe more probable, based on what I've read so far) refine my understanding of what I believe and avoid his straw men.

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DaveS
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Carlotta, I'm not sure why "we are not here to be comforted" is any less prone to misconstruction, but we're teetering on the edge of wordplay now. Nothing kills a joke more surely than to talk about why it was funny, so I'm ready to let it go.

I haven't read the Dawkins book, either, so my opinion here is based on hearsay (having read perhaps 5 or 6 mostly negative reviews). I think it is a mistake to argue against the existence of God by "demeaning" God to a less than omnipotent role. If God is God, then God is absolute. Reducing the scope of His power or all-knowledge by one iota in order to chip away at what remains renders Him a god like Jupiter, Zeus or Odin, who all were "merely" the Chief God of their respective pantheons.

In our modern scientific world view, if God were just that tad short, but still created the world, it could be like the galaxy on Orion's Belt in "Men in Black". There could be other Gods making other worlds, even I suppose ones with other laws of physics or none. Why not a world where everyone has their own laws? It seems to me that Dawkins' argument allows that, and even requires it, by making God less than all-powerful, if his arguments don't successfully do away with him altogether.

As for man's morality, I wholeheartedly believe that that is a purely human construction, but a biological rather than intellectual or spiritual one. My argument is based on simple observation of "social" behavior of other animals, such as a mother cats nurturing their litters, male birds protecting their nests, penguins massing to conserve body heat, etc. Nearly all animals protect their offspring. Why is that not "moral", too?

A purely selfish animal has no morals, by definition, since morality implies a group consensus. The welfare of the many is important to the individual, so the individual considers it when acting. I think it is purely chauvinism that people don't see the parallelism of man's "goodness" and "good" behavior with that of other animals.

[ December 26, 2006, 09:19 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
There was one argument in particular about how morals do not logically require a God as the source of morality, because plenty of people who don't believe in God are very moral people.
Carlotta, is it your assertion that no morality can be justified without God? (BTW, I haven't read and don't intend to read The God Delusion, so I'm afraid I don't know whether Dawkins bothered to elucidate an atheist ethical framework or whether he just pointed out that some clearly exist.)

quote:
Here's a question I've been wondering. In one of my college philosophy classes we were taught that Nietcsche argued against Christianity, but that much of what he was arguing against was a false understanding of Christianity, so in that way his arguments actually support real Christianity.
I think it's absolutely the case that as philosophers identify major flaws in certain religious beliefs, those beliefs evolve where possible to spackle over the flaws. "Christianity" is a pretty tough nugget to attack at once, too, because there are at least thirty-one flavors, and anyone criticizing the blandness of vanilla or the sliminess of fudge ripple is going to be accused of having completely missed the mark by, say, people who like the white chocolate and strawberry. This is why criticizing "Christianity" is a lot like criticizing "ice cream," unless you're first very careful to list the characteristics of the ice cream you're criticizing: "it is chocolate, full of fudge ribbons, etc."
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Richard Dey
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Carlotta:

It was a turn of phrase, nothing more; it was y-o-u who read the word reason into it. He's not saying -1 but, rather, 0, so the +1 (ITC 'reason') is your imposition -- and Pete leapt for the bait [Big Grin] .

His comment "I think there is a purpose to each individual's existence which is a purpose that we make for ourselves" sums up Z in UnS very badly. It might have read less sloppily, 'I think that there is a purpose to each individual's existence which is a purpose each makes for himself.'

As the god Apollon said, "Know thyself" -- better translated as "Make Oneself", move from X --> Y and be cautious amongst whom one congregates!

"If you can be a part of god, great; otherwise stop blaming everything on a supernatural being." That's another version of it.

"If I believe in god, then I'll be in part responsible for his plagues, his catastrophes, his failures, his indifference to suffering, his killing of innocent babes." That's a minus that does not imply that there is a god to take the blame.

The phrase "God works in wond'rous ways," however, is lays blame on a god in whom one believes; at the same time, it is a vacuous statement that spits into the wind.

Leaping to your conclusion would lead anybody to 'believe' that TD is a secret ice-cream worshipper [Smile] of the chocoholic sect!

Too many people come to belief by filling in the holes in other people's beliefs. That's why their belief is not constructive but merely reactive. The majority of religions are patch jobs; they are certainly not the 'trails through the wilderness' envisioned by many of their leaders.

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Pete at Home
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[giggles at the strained and painfully defensive nature of the responses to Carlotta's observation, and wonders if the people who wrote these apologias have reread what they've written]
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Everard
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You know what, Pete?
I use phrases like "put here" and "Designed," all the time when talking about people... and it doesn't mean a damn thing other then that they are constructions of the english language that are so prevalent as to be part of every americans vocabulary.

I have to question the honesty of anyone who thinks that using phrases such as that means anything other then that the speaker is an english speaker.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
I have to question the honesty of anyone who thinks that using phrases such as that means anything other then that the speaker is an english speaker.

Of course you have to. You're always compelled to question my honesty when you run out of intelligent arguments.
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Pete at Home
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It's beyond your control.
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PanHeraclitean
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Everard, if you are a materialist you are allowing yourself to fall into the paradigm of the believer by using such language. Many people have made separate phraseologies to express their points of view. Most of these phraseologies do not fit into necessary ambiguity in the English language.

One might use instead, "I don't believe that as animal species we are justified in seeking comfort. It is antithetical to natural selection. Freedom from useless deception is much more fitting to the life of man than any search for comfort is.

I've been taking a look into Dawkins a lot more. I pick up his book and after the link to Dawkins on google video watched a lot more of him. He is a marvelous character. His is fervant in his believe. He stands in the face of Judeo-Christian-Islamic faith and says prove it. He tears down the stupidity of the simplistic believe who doesn't say anymore than, "God did it."

On the other hand his expertise is evolutionary biology. He is only a part time philosopher. As far as that goes, he doesn't go toe to toe with religion. He picks off straglers.

For instance, I read his three paragraph rebuttal of Aquinas's infinite regress proof. You can tell he has no idea of the context of the proof in Aquinas' own time. God was understood as self-existent. That has no parallel in the physical world for Thomas. This make God not temporally prior to creation as much as it makes him logically prior.

Logical priority is something that seems to have fallen out of the modern brain though. Dawkins doesn't disprove Aquinas for the Thomistic. He only proves how little he understands the argument Aquinas makes.

It would be very interesting if he went for the big fish of metaphysics in general. I haven't read enough to see if he does. The best arguments that I have seen against it nearly marginalize metaphysics to the esoteric or practically irrelevant. This likewise misaprehension the position that a metaphysician holds. If one could disprove the values that metaphysics attempts to uphold it would do a better job. Who wants to disprove any value to reason and morality or science though?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Everard, if you are a materialist you are allowing yourself to fall into the paradigm of the believer by using such language. Many people have made separate phraseologies to express their points of view.
In general, these separate "phraseologies" are called "jargon," and are useful in specialized fields like engineering and philosophy. Most people are perfectly happy with a little imprecision in their language when it doesn't matter -- like in this case. I say "for God's sake" all the time; this doesn't mean I'm actually calling upon a God that I secretly believe in.

quote:
You can tell he has no idea of the context of the proof in Aquinas' own time. God was understood as self-existent.
I suspect, rather, that he DOES know, but is also perfectly aware that assuming that God is self-existent in an attempt to prove the existence of God is, definitionally, begging the question. [Wink] There's a reason that Aquinas is a discredited philosopher.
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Carlotta
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You people have too much time on your hands. I had to spend 10 minutes going through various threads to find the question Tom D asked me earlier about morality:
quote:
Carlotta, is it your assertion that no morality can be justified without God
Here are my thoughts on the matter so far. These comments probably belong in that thread a week or two ago about morality but I didn't have time to read it and now it's gone.

I do not believe morality, in the sense of an obligatory behavior or code of behavior, can be justified without a universal standard existing outside of ourselves and coming from a sort of God. This god would not have to be the Christian God or anything like it.

The alternative I have heard argued is that morality is the set of behaviors which in general contribute to the peaceful society, or the perpetration of our species, etc. I agree with this, and obviously such behaviors probably evolved - "unselfish" behavior and a sense of fairness have been observed in monkeys. Here is my problem with this theory. Morality, in this sense, is the set of behaviors directed towards a goal, let's say living together in peace. Now, is "living together in peace" an obligation? Or just something we as a society have chosen? If it is an obligation, you are right back to where you started - where does that obligation come from?

If is is not an obligation but a choice, then hat if someone believes in something other than living in peace or furthering the species? In this case the majority has nothing stopping them from persecuting the minority who has chosen a different goal than they did, not because they are right and he is wrong, but because, in this system, might makes right.

I probably won't be able to post till sometime tomorrow, but will check back as soon as I'm able.

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