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September 24, 2004 2:21 PM   Subscribe

The full wealth of the world's religious knowledge has been collated into the quite extraordinary "God FAQ". A valuable resource indeed. [via b3ta]
posted by Pretty_Generic (95 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Its funny because its true.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:29 PM on September 24, 2004


Q: "Is Bush real?"
A: "No."
posted by mrplab at 2:33 PM on September 24, 2004


This simple elegance is almost overwhelming, in a good way.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:34 PM on September 24, 2004


Q: "Is this kind of lame?"
A: "Yes."
posted by scottq at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2004


Haha... (warning: self-link)
posted by jmd82 at 2:41 PM on September 24, 2004


So given the heavenly light shining through the clouds in the picture on this page, we're to assume that it is none other than God Himself answering the question, who is, after all the only one who CAN answer it with authority ... and He says, "no".

A paradox, and yet, annoying as well!
posted by JParker at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2004


So given the heavenly light shining through the clouds in the picture on this page,

Actually, JP, that was sunlight being filtered by a partially overcast day. It's an honest mistake to make, but be careful: that's how this kind of god-stuff get's started in the first place.
posted by signal at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2004


> get's started


True dat. Same with the errant apostrophe -- that's how a line that may have read in the original Aramaic, "believers in YHWH must not eat the flesh of the cloven-hoof'd beasts in the season of yellow grasses," gets translated into "men laying with men is an abomination and believers must pass a constitutional amendment against such vile practices."

:)
posted by digaman at 3:13 PM on September 24, 2004


Actually, JP, that was sunlight being filtered by a partially overcast day.

Meteorologists call those beams "Jesus shafts."

This might not be true, but it should be.
posted by kindall at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2004


Speaking of "Jesus Shafts", check out this image of hurricane Jeanne. Top left corner. That is totally George Bush. Found this on the CNN homepage.
posted by gwint at 3:25 PM on September 24, 2004


I find that page utterly lame and I'm not into any mono or politheistic religion either.

Cause believing that God exists is the same as believing that God doesn't exists ...two "jumps IN blind faith" equally arguable ad-infinitum ; I'm far more interested into and worried about the -fact- some people is exploiting faith to induce simpletons into totally insane practices ( and i'm talking about islamic terrorist, christian anti-abortion terrorist, stem cells research opposers on the ground that these cells are kids, donate-to-god scammers and the whole lot of them)
posted by elpapacito at 3:43 PM on September 24, 2004


Holy Dubya, gwint, you're right! That's amazing. W's mouth just ate St. Augustine...
posted by micropublishery at 3:44 PM on September 24, 2004


Wow. I don't think that's Bush, I think that's the Face of God. This just proves the theory that God is punishing Florida for the 2000 US election result.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2004


Even more amazing, the whois on cnn.net shows that the domain also belongs to God.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:31 PM on September 24, 2004


Self-congratulatory atheist declares stance and faith in science! Film at 11!
posted by solistrato at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2004


> faith in science!

Those words put together like that makes absolutely no sense.

Faith: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief.

Primer on the scientific method here.

Also its presumptuous to assume that all atheists are atheists because of scientific cosmology. Some people give up on god after they realize prayer doesnt work, just as 'credible' competing religions exist, the problem of evil, miracles are fakes, etc. You can be pretty ignorant of all things scientific and still be an atheist.
posted by skallas at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2004


skallas ... faith is necessary to posit a universe, the accuracy and consistency of our observations of it and of course, the consciousness necessary to make the observation ... sorry, but no one gets a free pass from a faithful outlook
posted by pyramid termite at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2004


You can be pretty ignorant of all things scientific and still be an atheist.

And yet you can be the best scientist the world has ever seen and still be a theist.
posted by jmd82 at 5:49 PM on September 24, 2004


skallas,

Go read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:52 PM on September 24, 2004


Oh please, don't equate the necessary root assumptions of science to theology which is all assumptions and unproven or unprovable. I wouldn't exactly call that a "faithful outlook."
posted by skallas at 5:53 PM on September 24, 2004


an assumption is something you can't prove, something that is taken on faith ... that's a plain fact ... if you want to argue that your assumptions are more useful, you may, but don't represent them as something that doesn't require faith
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 PM on September 24, 2004


Kuhn. Read Kuhn.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:58 PM on September 24, 2004


Faith (as used in a religious context) is the rejection of the requirement of evidence, and science is the reverse. They're basically opposites.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:06 PM on September 24, 2004


Yet we can't prove that our brain isn't in a jar and being controlled by an evil scientist, so we don't really know if anything we experience, scientific or no, is real to begin with.
posted by jmd82 at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2004


Pretty_Generic,

Your glib definition mosty reveals how little you understand religion.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:27 PM on September 24, 2004


I stopped believing in God and Santa Claus at about the same age and for about the same reasons: a) It doesn't make any sense b) there's no evidence for it c) It's an obvious con d) It doesn't make any sense.
Not everybody comes to atheism because of 'faith in science' (whatever the fuck that means). Most of us just are either not exposed to or reject the idea of gods as self-evidently ludicrous.
And science is, essentialy, an epistemology, a way of knowing, not a set of asumptions. Science has one basic tenet 'let's try not to get fooled'. Everything else stems from that.
posted by signal at 6:29 PM on September 24, 2004


signal,

Religion is an epistemology as well.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:19 PM on September 24, 2004


true, signal ... but what if the instrument you use as your way of knowing ... your brain ... lies to you about such a basic concept as whether you actually possess consciousness? ... i'm not saying that it does ... but on the other hand ... i'm not so sure it doesn't

your proof for an "i" is every bit as anecdotal and non-duplicatable as a mystic's experience of god
posted by pyramid termite at 7:22 PM on September 24, 2004


NOTHING REALLY EXISTS OUTSIDE THE BACK OF MY EYEBALLS.
posted by quonsar at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2004


Your glib definition mosty reveals how little you understand religion.

Sorry, but that smug "your answer proves that you know nothing and that's that" response is truly a tool of an asshole.

Like you're really going to get credit for being smarter than everyone when you have an imaginary friend.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2004


Sorry, but that smug "your answer proves that you know nothing and that's that" response is truly a tool of an asshole.

Well, one must sometimes adopt the discourse of assholes when confronted with someone talking out of his ass. When in Rome...
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:41 PM on September 24, 2004


*looks at quonsar's eyeballs in a mayonnaise jar* ... curious, curious, indeed
posted by pyramid termite at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2004


Faith (as used in a religious context) is the rejection of the requirement of evidence, and science is the reverse. They're basically opposites.

This is precisely right.
posted by rushmc at 7:54 PM on September 24, 2004


faith is necessary to posit a universe, the accuracy and consistency of our observations of it and of course, the consciousness necessary to make the observation

Well, I suppose you could say that. But then, everyone shares that trivial first level of "faith" whether they are religious or not. We're not talking about the fact that we all believe our senses. It's like we're talking about how humans have these wonderful hands with opposable thumbs, and you're going "but horses are made out of cells too!" It's true, but in context, trivial.
posted by kindall at 7:55 PM on September 24, 2004


It's quite telling that the only way in which superstition can be given equal credence as science, is to posit that all of our senses are lying to us.
posted by jsonic at 7:58 PM on September 24, 2004


Faith (as used in a religious context) is the rejection of the requirement of evidence, and science is the reverse. They're basically opposites.

This is precisely right.


But, no, it's not.

Firstly, different religions have different concepts of what faith is. Very few find it useful to define faith as " the rejection of the requirement of evidence," and most feature some form of existential or experiential evidence as part of the conversion process. The idea that belief or faith is in opposition to the mindset that good ideas are supported by evidence is a new one, a twentieth century one, a byproduct of modernism, of all things.

Now modern science might disagree with some religions about what counts as evidence, but that's an entirely different matter altogether. What counts as evidence even differs from one scientific discourse community to another, just as it does for religions.

Add to that the fact that philosophers like Kuhn have been pointing out that scientific communities are fairly rigid and dogmatic, and resist change, and that membership in these communities requires assent to a host of a priori assumptions about the world, the way it works, the way the brain works, and whether or not it is possible to be objective, among other things, and it beomces hard to tell the difference between religion and science, especially when one is dealing with those advocates of "science" that like to flatten complex matters in online debates.

It's quite telling that the only way in which superstition can be given equal credence as science, is to posit that all of our senses are lying to us.

False dilemma (there are other ways) and ad hominem (for the "superstition" bit).
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:04 PM on September 24, 2004


if it's so trivial, kindall, why do philosophers, neurologists and others spend so much time debating aspects of these questions? ... the implications of this debate are staggering

jsonic ... i actually regard my belief in god as less as a "supersition" than my belief in "i", these days ... the irony is, i'm more stringent about identifying what i've assumed and what can be proven than many of the people who are attempting to tell me i'm wrong
posted by pyramid termite at 8:07 PM on September 24, 2004


meh, pyramid termite, that way lies madness. Or at least circular reasoning
posted by Grod at 8:17 PM on September 24, 2004


i'm more stringent about identifying what i've assumed and what can be proven

I see that you are relying on logic. If you are questioning the core concepts of self-existence and knowledge, should not logic be suspect as well?
posted by jsonic at 8:18 PM on September 24, 2004


Add to that the fact that philosophers like Kuhn have been pointing out that scientific communities are fairly rigid and dogmatic, and resist change

And Catholic priests bugger young boys, too. The comparison is between religion and the scientific method, not the human failings of their adherents.
posted by rushmc at 8:19 PM on September 24, 2004


I just thought it was funny.
posted by fungible at 8:32 PM on September 24, 2004


i think logic is suspect as well ... the real point i'm making is this ... there are things we cannot know about the universe or ourselves ... and therefore we assume things ... you look upon the scientific method as a pillar of knowledge ... i look upon it as a useful game ... which is how i look upon my belief in god

why just survive when you can live largely? ... why work seriously when you can play at it, too? ... it's fine to create things ... as long as you don't forget you've created them
posted by pyramid termite at 8:34 PM on September 24, 2004


Empiricism is far more rationally defensible than the typical religious belief system. But that this is so is still a long way from the rational necessity or deductive purity implied by many of the above comments. And this is even more true—much more true—of the body of knowledge and institutions we call "science".

Functionally, especially in the context of individual people, religious faith and modernist faith are practically indistinguishable. That's not to say that I don't think one point of view is right and the other wrong. But I think a whole lotta people are right for the wrong reasons.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:36 PM on September 24, 2004


Incidentally, eustacescrubb, there's no need to rely so heavily on Kuhn or contemporaries. As my friend pointed out to me the other day when we were discussing these matters, Charles Sanders Pierce made many of these same points long before Kuhn. Indeed, I think that pretty much everyone prior to the last couple of generations were far more cognizant of these issues. This fetishizing of the "scientific method" is as much a product of the last few generations of elementary and secondary school science education as anything else, I think. The "scientific method" is practically the liturgy for our times.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:46 PM on September 24, 2004


I have some interesting readings on the failing of The Scientific Method and how its isolated use in the scientific community fails all of humaniy (or something like that- been a year or so since read it) that a biochemistry professor here at UGA wrote which would require some scanning (it's not on the web)- if anyone's interested, drop a note in my mailbox.
posted by jmd82 at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2004


I put a flame under water and in a few minutes it boils. No faith necessary.

I put my hands together, bow my head and say a prayer. Did God answer it? I don't know, there was never a voice or physical presence in response. So that would be faith then, a clear difference.

Plus, I can live (perhaps not as well) my observable life with or without faith. But if I ignore the physics of cars or fires...
posted by billsaysthis at 9:17 PM on September 24, 2004


Ok, one thing: the rejection of the dogma of the existence of an all powerful, all knowing, super being is most emphatically not based on a rigorous chain of evidence starting with "cogito" and ending in penguins and lollipops. It doesn't have to be. It's based on this: reasonable doubt.
I can not 100% prove that there is not an invisible pink unicorn living in my back yard. Yes, you could concoct a scenario where she, being invisible, and maybe intangible too, manages to spend most of her evenings in my backyard without my being aware of it. So what.
I have a reasonable doubt that the I.P.U. chose my yard for her habitation, and don't see a need to prove it beyond that. Or fairies, or Santa Claus, or Jupiter or Jehovah or whatever the Baha'i believe in.
So stop all this 'ah, but can you prove YOU exist!?!' crap, please.
To believe Galileo was on to something, all you need is an inclined plane and a stopwatch.
To believe Moses or Mahoma or whatever you want requires faith. Which is fine if that's your thing, but the whole 'science is just as faith-based as religion' is horse shit, and just a lame duck argument to make when you run out of other lame-duck arguments.
Religion is religion. Science is science. Science is not religion. Neither is communism, nor consumerism. Claiming that things which quite clearly are different are actually equivalent is just lazy arguing, a slightly more sophisticated version of 'I know I am, what are you?'
Give it a rest.
posted by signal at 9:22 PM on September 24, 2004


pyramid termite: your proof for an "i" is every bit as anecdotal and non-duplicatable as a mystic's experience of god

I never posited any proof of an "I" (nor would I).
posted by signal at 9:27 PM on September 24, 2004


Sorry to carry on but:

I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of course, admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it.
--BERTRAND RUSSELL Skeptical Essays, I (1928)
posted by signal at 9:31 PM on September 24, 2004


signal ... if you can't prove yourself, what can you prove?

the rejection of the dogma of the existence of a self-generating, self-creating, causeless universe is most emphatically not based on a rigorous chain of evidence starting with "god did it" and ending in bibles and churches. It doesn't have to be. It's based on this: reasonable doubt.

how do you explain the logical inconsistency that everything has a cause except the universe itself? ... you can't ... and ANY assumption you make regarding this is faith based

and no ... occam's razor cannot apply when you have insufficient data ... and equal amounts of "unnecesary entities" on both sides of the question

the absolute way in which people argue against the existence of god is as irrational and groundless as any other theory ... and it's always amusing to see people in deep denial about it

and this discussion having been inspired by a web link that states something without even trying to make an argument for it shows just what kind of thinking is involved in it ... faith-based thinking
posted by pyramid termite at 9:54 PM on September 24, 2004


p.t.: I am not about to get into that argument with you, mostly because its pointless, and not germaine to some interesting points brought up in the thread*.

I said: Not everybody comes to atheism because of 'faith in science' (whatever the fuck that means). Most of us just are either not exposed to or reject the idea of gods as self-evidently ludicrous.

That's it. I didn't say 'I can irrefutably prove that God doesn't exist' (nor can I, nor would I try). I said: the reason I'm an atheist doesn't actually have anything to do with science, or faith of any kind. I don't believe in God for the same reason I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy: The whole idea just seems dumb. A story. For little children.

That's it, that's how sophisticated my theology is.

Science isn't based on this kind of thing. Scientists routinely throw out or radically alter whole systems of thought. There is nothing I've read in any holy book more magical or strange or hard to believe in than evolution, quantum mechanics or general relativity, yet scientists, once faced with the facts and reasoning, accepted these things, though they were contrary to their supposed "faith".

* (though if you really want me to, here it is: how do you explain the logical inconsistency that everything has a cause except the universe itself? First you have to show me that the Universe (whatever that means, please define it first) doesn't have a cause. Most arguments for deities are based on the solution of false pardoxes, not very exciting stuff (namely "A is true; but wait, A can't be true!; therefore, God exists"))
posted by signal at 10:11 PM on September 24, 2004


and no ... occam's razor cannot apply when you have insufficient data

Well, no, actually. The rule of parsimony does not rely upon an empirical context. Rather, it's a necessary assumption because while there's a lower limit on possible causes, there is no upper limit.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:13 PM on September 24, 2004



posted by swift at 10:14 PM on September 24, 2004


There is nothing I've read in any holy book more magical or strange or hard to believe in than evolution, quantum mechanics or general relativity, yet scientists, once faced with the facts and reasoning, accepted these things, though they were contrary to their supposed "faith".

One caveat is that not all scientists fall under this category who just accept new reasoning. The "We haven't seen it happen in that instance- therefore it can happen regardless of what you say!" clause applies very much to science. For instance, all known proteins are synthesized in the cytosal by ribosomes, but there are scientists who are still convinced that synthesis still takes place within the nucleus though there in no proof it does. For years, it was thought that Newtonian physics was the end all-be all of physics- and then quantum mechanics reared its ugly head. There are countless examples of this where scientists don't necessarily accept things exactly contrary to their "faith" when shown other reasoning.
posted by jmd82 at 10:49 PM on September 24, 2004


I don't believe in God for the same reason I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy: The whole idea just seems dumb. A story. For little children.

i think we've established your subjectivity nicely ... thank you for proving my point

e.b. ... insufficient data, no conclusion possible ... and adding an assumption does nothing to solve it ... no matter how some razor wielders would like to think it does

swift ... dude! ... you found elvis! ... someone throw him a blanket, he looks cold!
posted by pyramid termite at 10:51 PM on September 24, 2004


pt: I never claimed objectivity (nor would I, nor could you). Are you being obtuse on purpose or do you really not understand what I'm saying?
posted by signal at 10:55 PM on September 24, 2004


you said, "the whole idea just seems dumb" ... i think i understand your argument quite well ... bye
posted by pyramid termite at 11:03 PM on September 24, 2004


if it's so trivial, kindall, why do philosophers, neurologists and others spend so much time debating aspects of these questions?

Argument from how much time is wasted? Okay, then I guess you'd agree that sports and video games are more important. Hell, I bet Minesweeper alone has consumed more man-hours than all the ancient Greeks put into philosophy.

Why do ordinary people spend so much time wasting time? Because they enjoy wasting time.
posted by kindall at 11:24 PM on September 24, 2004


I love it with y'all get all bent out of shape about God. Especially because the argument always goes, "Well, there's no proof that there's a bipolar maniacal space demon hovering the Earth and throwing evil dead souls into a pit of fire, so therefore all faith is bunk!" Er, wha? Sorry, that's the only idea of "God" there is? If someone has faith, they're automatically a creationist backwater troglodyte from Arkansas? Er, wha? That's what you think faith is?

Religious faith, or faith in a higher being or in a grand design or just plain faith that one may not know exactly what or why but I'll give it a go anyway you betcha, does not automatically contradict science. We've moved beyond Galileo. You can stop feeling special now, or like a persecuted minority. Every link you find about wacko fundies in Kansas trying to ban evolution only serves to feed your own sense of superiority. Yes, we get it, they're morons. FUCK 'EM. Don't base your entire sense of faith around the foaming botards of any stripe.

Devout Muslims invented math as we know it. Einstein believed in God even as he laid the groundwork for the destruction of classical mechanics. The only idea that's been trashed about God is the notion of some puerile Hebraic spazz deciding the fate of your eternal soul, and good riddance to that. The fact that people still cling to that corpse -- and the fact that skeptics flog that dead horse in order to feel smug, while ignoring the broad spectrum of religious belief -- indicates a lot of people have problems with conceptualizing something else. As St. Bill says, "We need to evolve ideas." Fine, you don't like God. GET OVER IT. MOVE ON.

Won't believe in something unless there's evidence for it? Wise idea. The Hindus first formulated it. Won't believe in anything you can't experience for yourself? Well, what if you experience something you can't explain with science? And if you answer, "There isn't anything that can't be explained with science!", well, that's a pretty big leap of faith there. Is it possible there may be some things that actually can't be experimentally verified? Can you at least maybe grant it's a remote possibility?

I swear, for people who claim to be open-minded, someone brings up God or faith or religion around these parts and just watch the knees jerk. The problem isn't God; the problem is your idea of God. We know, water boils when you apply fire. That's a physical mechanism, well-established by science. We get it. Thank you for talking down to us. Is it also possible the person on their knees praying is also having some sort of effect in the world? And that whatever that effect may be, it can't be measured in a lab? Yet? And if you say no...are you sure? Absolutely 100% positive?

I'm just asking that you acknowledge the possibility that you might not have all the answers. I certainly don't.
posted by solistrato at 11:40 PM on September 24, 2004


if you can't prove yourself, what can you prove?

Not all philosophies are based on "proof." More reasonable ones point out that while it may not be possible to find a diamond-hard proof of "I", the hypothesis that you exist is strong enough that we can move on to more important questions, like what's for breakfast.

the rejection of the dogma of the existence of a self-generating, self-creating, causeless universe is most emphatically not based on a rigorous chain of evidence starting with "god did it" and ending in bibles and churches. It doesn't have to be. It's based on this: reasonable doubt.

What dogma would that be? It seems like about once a year, I read a different theory behind why the universe exists. So far, few of these theries have developed much in the way of evidence, but to say that there is some dogma that nothing caused the universe to come ignores the wide variety of possibilities out there. Of which "god did it" is just one.

Of course, most of those theories run into the same problem as we run into with God. All you've done is moved the paradox back a bit. If God created the universe, then we have to ask, "why does God exist." If the universe exploded out hypedimensional branes, or quantum foam, then we have to ask why that particular stuff exists.

One of the interesting differences generally between theists and atheists is that atheists are quite comfortable with an unanswered question. (Or find them quite exciting.) The fact that don't know how the universe was created only forces us to entertain the possibility that SOMETHING happened. It requires quite a few more leaps of faith to go from SOMETHING happened, to blaiming it on a supernatural intelligence.

the absolute way in which people argue against the existence of god is as irrational and groundless as any other theory ... and it's always amusing to see people in deep denial about it

I don't argue against the existence of god. I argue that god is no more compelling (and in many cases, much less compelling) than the 1001 other hypotheses to answer your questions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:53 PM on September 24, 2004


solistrato:

Certainly, it is true that many atheists argue from a profound misunderstanding of religion. But it does not help your cause to demonstrate your profound misunderstanding of atheism in return.

I'm just asking that you acknowledge the possibility that you might not have all the answers. I certainly don't.

As far as I can tell, the only people who claim to have all the answers are the people who fill in "god did it" to everything they can't explain. Most atheists, and I would argue especially atheists freely involved in science, freely admit to not having all the answers.

But here is the big difference, over the grand course of human history, "god did it" has proven to be one of the least viable theories for most unexplained phenomena.

Is it also possible the person on their knees praying is also having some sort of effect in the world? And that whatever that effect may be, it can't be measured in a lab? Yet? And if you say no...are you sure? Absolutely 100% positive?

And here is a basic misunderstanding of science. While we talk a lot about the scientific method, perhaps a more important tool that scientists use is statistical analysis. As a result, scientists almost never make "absolutely 100% positive" claims. Instead, they have confidence limits. In the social sciences, 95% is good enough. In other sciences, you might go to 99% or even 99.5%. A good paper in science always includes a section on the limits of the observations, the caveats, the error bars.

The burden of evidence is not on me to say that can't happen. The burden of evidence is on you to show that it works. Until you meet a minimal burden of evidence, why should I spend my time considering god good hypothesis?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 AM on September 25, 2004


My glib but devastatingly accurate definition mosty reveals how little I understand religion.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:16 AM on September 25, 2004


it's true, kirkjobsluder, the question of creation seems to be quite paradoxical ... it's "turtles all the way down" no matter what hypothesis we look at ... i would disagree that theists are necessarily unconfortable with unanswered questions, though ... what you seem to be describing strikes me as being agnosticism, which at least is willing to admit the question isn't answerable ... doubt and uncertainty strike me as natural reactions to the whole set of questions ... and many theists, once they've made the basic assumption of their being a god, share much of this reaction ... it's a mistake to say that theology involves 100% positivity, too

i regard atheism and theism to be equal in the assumptions they've made and the amount of explanation necessary to defend them ... and i regard theism as something that is actually useful for me to assume ... it doesn't invalidate the work scientists have done to understand the world ... it simply puts it in a different context than atheists work with

i just find a lot of the arguments that atheists use in these discussions are faulty ... and really, the "god faq" this thread is about, is just a blatant and unsubtle troll ... and some of the subsequent statements, such as "the idea is dumb" and "it's a waste of time and video games are more fun", aren't much better
posted by pyramid termite at 5:21 AM on September 25, 2004


"a byproduct of modernism, of all things." - yes, a byproduct of "knowing about more things than we did in the dark ages".

"What counts as evidence even differs from one scientific discourse community to another, just as it does for religions." - but the principle of the requirement of evidence will never differ. Unlike the common religious requirement to "not test your God".

"...and it beomces hard to tell the difference between religion and science, especially when one is dealing with those advocates of "science" that like to flatten complex matters in online debates." - ah, you appear to be rejecting the principle on the basis of ad hominem.

"...and ad hominem (for the "superstition" bit)." - yes, I see you understand what I mean.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:24 AM on September 25, 2004


A good scientist actively tries to find fault with his theories.
A good priest actively avoids questioning his theories.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2004


The "scientific method" is practically the liturgy for our times.

Ha! If only this were true.
posted by rushmc at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2004


And Catholic priests bugger young boys, too. The comparison is between religion and the scientific method, not the human failings of their adherents.

You're missing the point in your eagerness to snark. Religious methods (love thy neighbor, kill the buddha, etc) work well to do what their intended goals are. The goals of religion and science are different. But Kuhn's point about scientific discourse communiies being rigid and dogmatic wasn't intended (by Kuhn or by me) as a criticism - just an explanation of the way things are. Paradigm shifts come to science only when the community's prior explanation quits working, but while it continues to work (while the evidence still seems to support it) the community is fairly rigid and dogmatic about it because this rigidity allows them to build on the thoery, test it, and do all the things good sicentists do. One cannot do much if one is always questioning the ground on which one stands.

ah, you appear to be rejecting the principle on the basis of ad hominem.

Huh? How? What principle am I rejecting? The statement you quote is me explaining how religion and science are similar - I'm not rejecting anything.

I honestly don't understand why the anti-religionists assume science and belief in God are automatically at odds. Religion and sciecne tend to address different spheres - science is about explaining how things work and go and where they came from; religion tends to be about inner life- the soul and its connection to the divine. Only a very small percentage of religions have caed about the stuff science addresses.
Evolution seems like the best explanation for how there came to be so much diversity of organisms. Physics does a good job of explaining how objects relate to one another, and how the small parts make the big parts work. Neither of these has much meaningful to say about God, and neither attempts to.

Modern science owes a lot to religion; almost all the groundwork for modern science rose out of religious thinking and the work of religious people. Algebra was invented by Muslims trying to work out if Pythagoros's ideas could be applied to God and creation. Writing and reading were valued and spread during the Reformation because guys like Luther and Erasmus thought people should read the Bible for themselves. The idea that the universe was based on "laws" that were consistent and could be predicted and studied owes a lot to the idea that God is an orderly being and would therefore not creat chaos.


A good priest actively avoids questioning his theories.

You've polled all the priests? And studied the writings of priests from all religions? For someone who venerates science as much as you seem to, you certainly don't put its principles into practice.

Most of the advocates for "science" in this thread have much more in common, rhetorically and in terms of methodology, with the ravings of a Fallwell than with any scientist I've known or read.
Science is not just a method, it's a giant conversation between people who've agreed to place limitations and requirements on their covnersation so they can make inquiries about how things work, limitations and requirements that are necessary to do the work. But most of the repondants in this thread seem to have decided that the limitations and requirements useful to scientists for getting their work done should be applied by everyone, everywhere, for everything, and that any application of different limitations or requirements used for inquiry into other questions (do we have souls? what are they like? why do I know what is good and do what is bad? what is love?) is some kind of blasphemy.
Couple this with the extreme charicatures of people of faith and the gross misunderstandings of what faith even is, and why people have it, and y'all have pretty much turned science into another fundammetnalism.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:30 AM on September 25, 2004


Metafilter: Ad hominem guaranteed or triple your posts back!
posted by leapfrog at 7:42 AM on September 25, 2004


y'all have pretty much turned science into another fundammetnalism.

Is this like when the Republicans got pissed off that Clinton was stealing their issues? 'No, we're the only ones allowed to have fundamentalists!'
posted by boaz at 8:32 AM on September 25, 2004


Religion and sciecne tend to address different spheres - science is about explaining how things work and go and where they came from; religion tends to be about inner life- the soul and its connection to the divine. Only a very small percentage of religions have caed about the stuff science addresses.

I think this has only been the case from like, Kierkegaard on... religion was once the foundation of society, and tightly interwoven with philosophy, which was all knowledge - natural philosophy=science, etc. Newton wrote books about theology, without thinking he was working outside his domain.

What people mean by "atheism" and "theism" is always part of the difficulty. I consider myself atheist in that I'm a-theist, not a theist. That doesn't mean I have any kind of proof of anything, but just that I don't see any evidence. Also, I tend to think of a "theist" as a believer in a personal god, and wish people would use terms like "deist" or "spinozist" or something if they mean the unity of being/etc. I am pretty down with deism, in a non-magical sense - that is, I think we're still stuck with the age old question, why is there something rather than nothing - we've gone from "the unmoved mover" to "the big bang", but the essential mystery is just gonna stick around.

I don't actually believe anything about beingness, except that it is, which is obvious, and that that's pretty fucking crazy, which is not obvious to everyone (ie, not everyone agrees with me or cares to think about it), but I can appreciate a deistic attitude toward this beingness so long as that doesn't extend into any sort of motivational/cognitive attributes being applied to it.

Anyway, for some, like richard rorty and kindall, thinking about that is just a waste of time. For others, like wittgenstein and me, it's kind of a waste of time but kind of hard to avoid. And then still others feel like it's really the only important thing (well, I might sometimes feel that way too, but I'm not sure that's incompatible with it being 'kind of a waste of time'...)
posted by mdn at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2004


pyramid termite: it's true, kirkjobsluder, the question of creation seems to be quite paradoxical ... it's "turtles all the way down" no matter what hypothesis we look at ... i would disagree that theists are necessarily unconfortable with unanswered questions, though ... what you seem to be describing strikes me as being agnosticism, which at least is willing to admit the question isn't answerable ... doubt and uncertainty strike me as natural reactions to the whole set of questions ... and many theists, once they've made the basic assumption of their being a god, share much of this reaction ... it's a mistake to say that theology involves 100% positivity, too

Agnosticism and atheism are answers to different questions. As Bertrand Russell pointed out, he is technically an agnostic because he could not find any iron-clad proof that god cannot exist. But for all practical purposes, agnosticism is equivalent to atheists because the default position is to doubt the existence of god. For the most part atheists since Russell and the American Pragmatists, atheism has been much less focused on "god does not exist" to "what kind of philosophy can be built without god." It is true that the absence of god is an assumption, but I would argue that the absence of god is a strongly warranted assumption given the absence of evidence.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on September 25, 2004


Is it also possible the person on their knees praying is also having some sort of effect in the world? And that whatever that effect may be, it can't be measured in a lab? Yet? And if you say no...are you sure? Absolutely 100% positive?

Possible, sure. But given the low level of observable effect of prayer and belief in a Judeo/Christian/Islamic god I would prefer to not have such beliefs embedded in law. Why do those of faith insist on imposing them on others? Especially since most of the laws regulate behaviors which those of faith could simply observe voluntarily without restricting the behavior of others.

Honestly, reminds me of sports owners who cannot control their own spending and so insist that the players give them a salary cap.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:43 AM on September 25, 2004


mdn, a: thanks for some sane, reasonable, interesting comments.

b: I am what is called a panentheist. I wonder, would you want me to distinguish myslef from a striaght-up theist? I see the one as a subset of the other , but it sounds like you see them as wholly seperate.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:51 AM on September 25, 2004


The fun continues in MetaTalk!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:32 PM on September 25, 2004


The question of god's existence is just a diversion; the central claim is both unverifiable and unfalsifiable, or to use the layman's term, irrelevant. The validity of the various 2000+ page books that alternatively make Faulkner seem the model of clarity and Mein Kampf the model of charity is where the real debate's at. And those are without exception chock full of indefensible superstitions. If one is panentheist, that's fair enough; if one believes that a panentheistic god ordered his followers to, say, murder homosexuals, lock up women during their periods and sacrifice cattle to him, then that's a much more straightforward and (considering the Defense of Marriage Act) relevant topic of discussion than this current roundtable.

So, here are the real questions: Does it follow from God's existence that a book currently exists that describes him? Is it morally acceptable to, devoid of empirical evidence of God's nature, choose a bigoted, hateful treatise to believe on the subject? Is choosing to worship a bigoted, misogynistic God make one bigoted and misogynistic or is one allowed to worship-but-disagree with one's concept of God?
posted by boaz at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2004


um. The faq has changed answers. Now I'm really confused.
posted by rhruska at 5:36 PM on September 25, 2004


One cannot do much if one is always questioning the ground on which one stands.

I very much disagree. I think not to do so is both careless and unrealistic.

Religion and sciecne tend to address different spheres - science is about explaining how things work and go and where they came from; religion tends to be about inner life- the soul and its connection to the divine.

Again, I think that's wrong. There is nothing with which religion is concerned that does not concern science. The approach to the topics are often quite different, it's true. But "inner life" is one of the main focuses of many branches of science today, and rightfully so.
posted by rushmc at 7:21 PM on September 25, 2004


rushmc: Again, I think that's wrong. There is nothing with which religion is concerned that does not concern science. The approach to the topics are often quite different, it's true. But "inner life" is one of the main focuses of many branches of science today, and rightfully so.

I agree in regards to inner life. However, there are certainly some questions that science is poorly equiped to handle. Science as properly understood is the practice of inferring general rules from multiple case examples. Science is poorly equiped to handle deductive questions such as, "Is the 'under god' clause of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance consistent with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?" or even "is the pythagorean theorem true within a given domain?"

So I would say that religion has an edge on science in terms of ethics. Fortunately, secularists have equally robust ways of doing inquiry into ethics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:34 PM on September 25, 2004


I have loads of doubts about the origins of the Universe. I don't expect that in a thousand years, we will have the same model for the origin of the cosmos that we do today, because we will have more facts at our disposal.

Sadly, I do think that theists will still believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent skygod, with no more evidence than we do now.

Oh, btw: this omnipotent god - 'Almighty', 'All Merciful', 'All-Too-Difficult-To-Find' - what's he done for anyone lately? Rid your country of invaders? Freed any hostages? Diverted any storms?

Anyone? Bueller?
posted by dash_slot- at 11:23 PM on September 25, 2004


The goals of religion and science are different.posted by eustacescrubb at 3:30 PM GMT on September 25.

Yup.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:33 PM on September 25, 2004


I prayed to St. Isidore of Seville that my computer would work after I reinstalled my operating system (it was suspected that my hard drive might be dead) - and now my computer works.

In the choice between saint and computer technician, I will always choose both. You just never know.
posted by jb at 11:49 PM on September 25, 2004


the idea that God is an orderly being and would therefore not creat chaos. Strike one!
posted by dash_slot- at 11:52 PM on September 25, 2004


Given all the crap, terror, misery, cruelty, bigotry, sadness, indifference, futility and lies in this world, I am prepared to be convinced that there is a God. It is just that it ain't like 'Jesus' - it's more like Cthulhu.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:58 PM on September 25, 2004


"If God is God he is not good,
If God is good he is not God."

Or what Iago said: "Credo in un dio crudel..."
posted by languagehat at 6:29 AM on September 26, 2004


Me: One cannot do much if one is always questioning the ground on which one stands.

rushmc: I very much disagree. I think not to do so is both careless and unrealistic.


I'm not suggesting it as a way of living. I'm contending that it's just the way things are. Everyone's way of seeing the world is built on a priori assumptions, and different ways of seeing have different assumptions. Most scienctists, while they're doing science, have assumptions like:
The universe is governed by "laws" which, even if they look chaotic, actually contain order.
One can't question this using the scientifc method, because the assumption is what the scientific method relies on. If the universe is chaotic, then one can't reasonably expect that repeating a process under constant conditions will yield the predicatable results.


Again, I think that's wrong. There is nothing with which religion is concerned that does not concern science. The approach to the topics are often quite different, it's true. But "inner life" is one of the main focuses of many branches of science today, and rightfully so.

I'll agree with you that there's some overlap (I quoted William James in one of these threads - he's a good example of the overlap), but I'll disagree that each doesn't have exclusive concerns. Science, for example, does not care about makign humans into better people. It wants to study humans, and figure out how they work, which information good people will put to use to help make people better, but science itself doesn't care about making people better. Religion, however, has made this one of its top concerns.
Science also isn't interested in God, apart, perhaps from figuring out if God exists, which most scientists know is impossible to prove or disprove. But many religions are very interested in God or gods.
If a scientist were to question this assumption, that sicentist would not be able to use the scientific method as a mechanism - not even to provide an answer one way or another about the assumption's validity. That's because in order for the scientific method to work, a sceintist has to be able to trust that repeating a process under constant conditions will yeild the same results so long as both the process and the conditions don't change. But in a chaotic unvierse, this isn't guaranteed.


Sadly, I do think that theists will still believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent skygod, with no more evidence than we do now.

The kind of evidence they accept is just different. Science favors evidence that can be demonstrated or repeated; religion tends to deal in idiosyncratic, subjective evidence and testimony. Like: you can't prove I love my wife scientifically, but participants in my life are all reasonably sure that I do.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:02 AM on September 26, 2004


I have one word to say on the deep attraction theism has to everyone. Teleology.

(What, you thought is was "plastic"?)

The kind of universe that I imagine our universe to be is deeply, deeply alien to human comprehension. Intuitively, everything has a cause, and that cause is for the sake of some goal. There is always intent—that's how we understand things.

You can say that this isn't true—there's not always intent—and you'd be right. But I've long been deeply sensitive to noticing teleological arguments, and I'm here to tell you that they occur with great and surprising frequency where they don't belong from people that know better. Subtly, yes; but they're there nevertheless.

The example that comes best to my mind is in evolutionary theory. Even the most rigorous evolutionists, like Dawkins, finds it very hard to avoid teleological language entirely.

This is how we think.

In that context, isn't it amazing that anyone, anywhere, at any time can seriously contemplate a universe that doesn't exist for a reason?

The instictive necessity of teleological thinking is why so many people think that the existence of a God, or Gods, or something equivalent, is a no-brainer. It's not just obvious to them, it's necessary. In this way they're not being crazy people, they're being human beings, with their minds comprehending the universe in the fashion that human minds attempt to comprehend the universe.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:29 AM on September 26, 2004


Iago is fascinating to me because he's the most viciously, mostly inexplicably, evil character in fiction that isn't a mustache-twirling caricature. He's in some twilight zone between classic and modern villains: he's modern in that he's psychologically complex, classic in that he's thoroughly evil, modern in that there's no supernatural agent involved in his evil, classic in that there's no excuse or rationalization of his evil. The modern reader really, really wants to rationalize his malignity: that Iago feels deeply hurt by and envious of Othello, or loves Desdemona, or just something that seems commensurate with how intent and extreme he is in causing Othello (and others) great harm. But, in the end, I think there's no good explanation for how bad of a man he really is.

His aria is deeply revealing, but I don't think it suffices as an explanation.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2004


languagehat: I'm not suggesting it as a way of living. I'm contending that it's just the way things are. Everyone's way of seeing the world is built on a priori assumptions, and different ways of seeing have different assumptions.

True, and I don't think that anyone has ever denied this. What is at stake is whether the assumption that the universe has order should be treated the same way as the assumption that the universe has order, because there is an intelligence at work. It seems the apology presented here is that if it is reasonable to assume that there is order in the universe, it is reasonable to take the next step and assume the universe is intelligent.

I personally think that Einstein's "god" which was literally dumb as a box of rocks and completely impersonal to human concerns really screwed up quite a bit of discussion here. If you replace the word "god" in his letters on religion with some other term, you end up with a view of the universe that can't be distinguished from Sagan, Wilson, and Dawkins.

Most scienctists, while they're doing science, have assumptions like:
The universe is governed by "laws" which, even if they look chaotic, actually contain order.
One can't question this using the scientifc method, because the assumption is what the scientific method relies on. If the universe is chaotic, then one can't reasonably expect that repeating a process under constant conditions will yield the predicatable results.


True, on the other hand, the scientific method (as embodied in statistical methods scientists use) makes plenty of allowances for chaos. You can identify the presence of a pattern, not the absence of one. You can reject the null hypothesis (the system is random), but you can't validate it.

Also, I'm more than a bit bothered by the practice of scientism within contemporary atheism because I think that science really looses something when you stop treating it as an inductive enterprise that is good at answering some questions, and bad at answering others.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:23 AM on September 26, 2004


What is at stake is whether the assumption that the universe has order should be treated the same way as the assumption that the universe has order, because there is an intelligence at work. It seems the apology presented here is that if it is reasonable to assume that there is order in the universe, it is reasonable to take the next step and assume the universe is intelligent.

A: that was me, not lnaguagehat, though I'm flattered you mistook my comments for his.

B: You're reading my point out of context. I'm not trying to prove God exists (and haven't been); I was trying to show (to rushmc) that there are things scientists can't call into question using the scientific method - not to prove God's existence, but to show that science, too requires a priori assumptions, which is part of the larger discussion about how people who assume God's existence a priori are not batty of silly, since everybody assumes stuff a priori.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2004


I too am flattered to be associated with that eminently sensible comment.

EB: Good point about Iago; I think a number of Shakespeare's characters are unanalyzable according to modern conceptions of how people should operate, which probably has to do with Shakespeare himself being in a "twilight zone between classic and modern." Personally, I think we've gone too far in the direction of psychologizing everything and could use a little more premodern he-just-is-that-way. (Does anybody really care about the psychological roots of Antigone's need to bury her brother?)
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on September 26, 2004


God's existence a priori are not batty of silly, since everybody assumes stuff a priori.

Right. The difference being that scientists make a priori assumptions useful for describing the world around them, while religionists make a priori assumptions useful for discriminating against women, murdering homosexuals, killing infidels and setting up theocratic regimes where people aren't allowed to disagree.
posted by boaz at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2004


eustacescrubb and languagehat:

Oops!

However, I'm still bothered by the assumption that we can take the two a priori statements as equivalent. And in fact, I have some serious doubts as to whether the idea that we live in an orderly universe about which we can create and test descriptive theories is really an a priori. It is not as if someone said, "let's just assume that the universe obeys a certain set of rules." Just as mathematics struggled with trying to produce a basic minimal axiomatic system that allows one to move forward with inquiry into mathematics, philosophers of science did put quite a bit of thought into what minimal axioms are necessary for science to work.

Perhaps you are not saying it, but I do hear a slippery slope argument that since science is grounded in some meta-scientific principles, it is reasonable to propose god as an equally valid assumption.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2004


It is not as if someone said, "let's just assume that the universe obeys a certain set of rules." Just as mathematics struggled with trying to produce a basic minimal axiomatic system that allows one to move forward with inquiry into mathematics, philosophers of science did put quite a bit of thought into what minimal axioms are necessary for science to work.

So are you suggesting that the human race's ideas about the divine have remained the same throughout history?
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:43 PM on September 26, 2004


I can't believe in this thread!

Question: “Is there a God?”
Answer: “There is no irrefutable evidence to prove or disprove the validity of a superior force governing the universe. Please see The Faith FAQ.”

posted by ZachsMind at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2004


es: So are you suggesting that the human race's ideas about the divine have remained the same throughout history?

Not at all, and I really don't see how you get that from my post given that I've said nothing about the history of religion. What I have a problem with is the argument that since science requires what you call a priori assumptions, that we can extend a warrant to an a priori assumption about the existence of god, and from there slide down a slippery slope to faith as practiced.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2004


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