Saturday, April 28, 2012


Early in the life of the Project: The King and I blog - in which I am an infrequent commenter - the non-believers were asked what it would take to convince us of god's existence. Some of us that replied, did so with fairly mundane and unchallenging "demands".

In looking back over that particular post by @Bruce , I see that at least one commenter had a pretty challenging proposition - that the stars themselves spell it out explicitly.

I don't see why this isn't the default position for human beings. If god is all powerful, then nothing's off limits. He (She ... It) can do whatever they wish, so balancing the moon on a baby racoon's head, or spelling in out in the stars, or making Sarah Palin smart, should all be well within the capabilities of the all-powerful one.

Wonder why it never happens.

Wonder why believers never demand such a high standard of evidence.

Don't you?

Espousing Religion is ...

Espousing religion is one of the most ignoble ways of gaining or exerting influence that we can imagine.

When Christian says all non-believers are going to roast in hell for all eternity - they are just trying to convince the 70% of the world that doesn't follow Christianity that they have a superior world view. They may be trying to coerce the weak of spirit and mind into falling in line, thus strengthening the enterprise.

When Muslims says all non-believers are going to roast in hell for all eternity - they are just trying to convince the roughly 85% of the world that doesn't follow Islam that they have a superior world view. Similarly, their overall organization goals are the perpetuation and growth of the enterprise.

There is a pattern here.

When you assert a proposition in everyday civil discourse, the assent of your opponent(s) and audience is obtained by the strength of your evidence, your arguments, and (less relevantly but unfortunately very effectively) your persuasive skill. Civil, rational, intelligent people will be persuaded if the evidence or argument, and how effectively it is presented, are sufficient to overcome the person's bias to the contrary. Sometimes you may present a debate opponent with a baseball, and they will still deny that the baseball exists, but that will only be true if the opponent either has grave perceptual difficulties, or is such a baseball denier that to acknowledge the existence of the baseball would damage their self esteem or world view in some way.

When people that have an advantage, via power, intellect, rhetorical skill, fraud - inappropriately coerce the less intelligent, more gullible, more pre-disposed, to believe that a world view based on the supernatural is a sound view by which to live one's life, then those people are taking advantage of their audience.

If you change your world view, and did not come to the change independently and honestly, then you are being taken advantage of.

You would not go into the wilderness and see evidence of the supernatural unless it is as a shortcut for grouping unknown causes and classifying them as unknown, possibly powerful and possibly malevolent. This is what our bronze and stone age predecessors did ... our medieval predecessors took advantage of, or were taken advantage of, this kind of thinking.

We shouldn't make the same mistakes they did.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Argument for evidence

Since I am intrigued by Christian apologetics and the counter-apologetics that we skeptics employ, I tend to get drawn in deeply, and forget one simple fact.

Argument is a way of reaching logical conclusions. It does not establish facts, and may not reflect the physical state of the world, depending on the conclusions made.

When we watch a debate - William Lane Craig versus any poor atheist or skeptic you wish to name, for example - remember that the debaters are judged on some formal or informal criteria that is a) either established beforehand and usually scored by capable judges - as in competitive debates; or b) assumed to be left in the hands of the audience members - each responsible for concluding whether Debater A or Debater B made the more compelling argument.

This exercise never makes a whit of difference to the physical world. Whether we think that God exists is irrelevant to whether God can be reliably detected. People say they see the hand of God at work in the world, but they never provide evidence. There is nothing that has been observed that cannot be explained by nature. Even things that can't be seen, but can be conjectured (the origin of life, the origin of the universe) are more elegantly explained by natural processes than by the supernatural.

We (as a species) can't say definitely how life began - we would have to create life in order to observe its creation and put to rest the intellectually lazy presumption that it can't be explained. The parts and processes are all there, we just haven't seen the tipping point where non-life becomes life, but that gap gets ever smaller.

We (as a species) can't say definitely how the universe began - we would have to create a universe in order to observe its creation and put to rest the intellectually lazy presumption that it can't be explained. We may always be consigned to a lack of physical evidence due to the energy and/or technology required to perform such a test, but we may be able to "prove" mathematically and experimentally that a universe can arise from the stuff that we have to work with.

The evidence that we have so far for these and other mysteries point to natural causes, and do not even hint that a supernatural realm exists.

Argumentation can change minds, but does not change the state of the world.

Accept reality into your heart

Hold on to your Bronze Age misconceptions if you must - but you will never be free until you accept reality into your heart