Reasoning With Unreason, and Where It Gets You Sometimes

Two YouTube Videos:

The First Video

is by an atheist recruiting “like-minded activists” to the Reason Rally. I’ll lift out two excerpts for you:

[10:58] Here’s what I want. I want to see religious leaders held accountable for their b***s***. If you state as fact that which is not evidently true, you should be called out as a liar, just like the rest of us would be.

Hmmm… is that good logic, good reasoning? Let’s apply his test somewhere else. Consider someone who states as fact that there is no God. Is that evidently true? No. Is that person automatically a liar for saying that? No, again; for he could be mistaken, or (even though it’s not evidently true) he might be right. Either way he’s not a liar. The same applies for someone who says there is a God. So if you state as fact that which is not evidently true, that alone is insufficient to mark you as a liar. What this speaker has done has been to confuse the location of his negatives. To state as fact that which is not evidently true is not equivalent to stating as fact what is evidently not true.

Of course I think it’s evident that there is a God. I know that’s debatable. What’s not so debatable, though, is that this speaker has exhibited rotten logic with that opinion of his. His reasoning was embarrassingly poor, in view of his advocacy on behalf of reason. This speaker manifestly knows how to edit—and to correct—his videos, by the way.

Still, that’s comparatively trivial next to this:

[7:24] I see religion as dangerous on every level. It is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form, except of course in marketing and propaganda. It is perpetuated by prejudice and paranoia, and wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights. It is time for reason to rule. That’s why I’m inviting all you like-minded activists to join me in Washington, D.C. in March…

Someone certainly does deserve to be called out, whether he intended “not evidently true” or “evidently not true.”

But then there is…

The Second Video

which provides a marvelous image of what it feels like trying to explain to atheists that Christianity was responsible for the abolition of slavery everywhere it has been abolished; that its influence has been responsible for the freeing of women from oppression in countries around the world for many centuries; that it has been the world’s greatest force in favor of the poor, diseased, and oppressed; that its followers were the founders and builders of modern science; that its principles laid the foundation for modern democracy; that it was the fountainhead of the modern university; and that its followers, far from being paranoid, exhibit higher levels of emotional and social well-being than others.

Here’s what it’s like sometimes trying to get this message across:

(Can’t see the embedded video?)

 

Update February 27: Recent thoughts on the Reason Rally from other blogs

Comments

  1. Michele Marshall

    I have noticed from my experience on atheist pages that “liar” is preferred over “mistaken.” The perception seems to be that if you claim to be intelligent, you should know better. Therefore, there are no mistakes, only lies, because you failed to verify your patently-false assertion.

  2. SteveK

    We will have to wait and see, but this event might be better described as the event where rational people employ fallacious arguments in order to arrive at conclusions they want to be true.

  3. Doug

    Hmmm…

    [Religion] is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form, except of course in marketing and propaganda.

    …stated as fact, but not evidently true.

    [Religion] is perpetuated by prejudice and paranoia, and wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights.

    …also stated as fact, but not evidently true.
    Hard to take seriously folks claiming to be rational, but oblivious of irony.

  4. NickMatzke

    The Second Video

    which provides a marvelous image of what it feels like trying to explain to atheists that Christianity was responsible for the abolition of slavery everywhere it has been abolished; that its influence has been responsible for the freeing of women from oppression in countries around the world for many centuries; that it has been the world’s greatest force in favor of the poor, diseased, and oppressed; that its followers were the founders and builders of modern science; that its principles laid the foundation for modern democracy; that it was the fountainhead of the modern university;

    The modern New Atheist movement has all kinds of problems, but this isn’t one of them.

    You get resistance when making these claims not because of the flaws of atheists, but because all of these claims are arguable at best and apologetics-driven distortions of actual history at worst. It would be truer to say that the people that made most of the above-mentioned progress occur were usually liberal for their day, into secularism in the traditional sense even if they were Christian, heavily influenced by the Enlightenment, often dissidents from traditional Christianity (whether or not they remained theists or Deists, which they often did), and often opposed by people flying the battle flag of traditional Christianity, theological orthodoxy, Biblicism, etc.

    Just ask yourself where the Southern Baptists got their start, and you’ll begin to see the problems with your assertions.

    And, in fact, quite often those flying the battle flag of traditional Christianity, theological orthodoxy, Biblicism, etc., today have been recently or are currently advocating all sorts of regressive and anti-intellectual positions. Remember Bob Jones University and it’s interracial dating policy? Creationism and denial of human-caused global warming are just two examples on the intellectual side.

    It’s true that there are various silly myths about Christianity being always and everywhere opposed to everything progressive and good, but it’s no kind of solution to make up myths in the opposite direction. And it’s particularly rich when a right-wing Christian tries to take credit for what are primarily achievements of the Enlightenment, many of which right-wing Christians still oppose.

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    Tom Gilson

    If you yourself understood something about logic and reason…

    Concerning the Southern Baptists, for example, and your favored hobby-horse of Christianity and slavery. Let’s grant (because it’s true) that some Christians have had false and immoral views concerning slavery. The assertion I made was that where slavery has been abolished, it has consistently been through the influence (direct or indirect) of Christianity. I’ve worded it differently this time, but that’s of no matter.

    So here’s the form of it:

    a only where b. (Abolition only where there has been Christian influence.)

    You have tried to rebut this by showing:

    not-a, once, where b. (Slavery once where there was Christian influence.)

    Your rebuttal would apply if I had asserted

    a always where b. (Abolition always happens where there is Christian influence.)

    but I did not assert that.

    I made my assertions in rebuttal to the speaker’s statement that Christianity is always regressive. His view with respect to this issue would go something like:

    not-a always where b. (Slavery, or not-abolition, always where Christianity has influence.)

    Which is the opposite of what I asserted; which assertion of mine you tried clumsily, unsuccessfully to rebut; which is in fact historically true; which demonstrates that in this case the speaker was drastically wrong. He was wrong in many other ways beside this one. So are you.

    You know, we had this very discussion a week or two ago. You don’t learn. Your credibility suffers worse every time you do that. How about you stop it now, please, for your own good?

  7. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    For a supposedly scientific mind, Nick, you place an extraordinary reliance on isolated anecdotes. I made a broad set of assertions covering multiple swaths of society over the course of centuries. You seek to rebut it with Bob Jones, creationism, and the Southern Baptists. (Why you think global warming denial is a product of Christianity, I have no idea.)

    You did mention some things about the Enlightenment and secular mindsets, but on this, my friend, you are simply mistaken. It is not the case that progress in the matters I listed here represented a departure from Christianity. I have no time to go into the evidence for that, but then, you took no time to present any case, so we’re even.

    Have you ever bothered to read James Hannam? Why not????

    Anyway, your use of anecdotes here is in opposition to everything I learned—and that you learned, too—in research methods. You know better than this, but your prejudice blinds you.

  8. Holopupenko

    Tom:

    Please, get it right: Nick is not a very smart guy BECAUSE of what atheism has done to his mind… err, brain. Once again (as you point out euphemistically) he comes in, drops another load of dumb, and departs to pin another medal on his (per C.S. Lewis) non-existent chest. Talk about an empirically verifiable fact of prejudice!

    This time, I was able to avoid a Chardonnay-through-the-nose moment when Nick clung to his little invisible friend of anthropogenic global warming [not as a fact but in terms of its relative contribution]… but only because I, as a scientist, wanted to cry for him.

    Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. Intentional ignorance is… hell.

  9. Walt

    Holopupenko:
    In my opinion, your ridicule of Nick impaired whatever reasoning you may have sought to convey.

    Tom:
    I’m new to this site and haven’t spent any time researching the social force of Christianity. The claims that Nick quoted in his reply sound dubious to me as well. The original post’s assertion that I am most interested in specifically was “that Christianity was responsible for the abolition of slavery everywhere it has been abolished.” I would greatly appreciate any support you could provide or point me to in defense of your assertions.

    I do admit that after writing that last sentence, I wikipedia’d (the great source of inerrant knowledge, of course) “abolition of slavery timeline” and found a few that I wouldn’t think (lazily avoiding real reasearch) were in any way influenced by Christianity – e.g. 1882: Ottoman firman abolishes all forms of slavery, white or black.

    Anyway, I look forward to discussing this with you.

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    Tom Gilson

    Walt, the best place I could point you to quickly on that would be Rodney Stark’s book, For the Glory of God. I’ll admit that I’m not an expert, and the universal statement I made might not be universally true. I’m getting that information from secondary and tertiary sources.

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  13. Grace

    I “can’t see” the second link on my FB iPhone app, but I’ll check from the laptop later. The title drew me in because I have tried reasoning with the unreasonable, and I was surprised that many of the atheists I interacted with online valued harrassment and ridicule over intellectual discussions. I’m very curious to see if this Reason Rally will be about secularists feeling superior to others or if they will discuss their positive beliefs, which, in my opinion would make them a religion (not to mention that they’re proselytizing), which would actually in turn make a strong case for having Intelligent Design taught in the public schools along side of evolution. Something good may come out of this yet.

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    Tom Gilson

    It doesn’t show up in Safari for iPhone either. I’m surprised, and I’m glad you pointed me toward that discovery. Thank you. I don’t know if that’s a flaw in the mobile version of the blog, or what.

    I’ve gone back just now and added in a clickable link to it. (Sam was talking about the other video, though, which does have a visible link on iPhone-Safari.)

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  17. Doug

    I was surprised that many of the atheists I interacted with online valued harrassment and ridicule over intellectual discussions.

    This is an important observation, and quite revealing. Let me suggest a possible conclusion: atheists prefer ridicule to logic because their relative sensitivity to ridicule is higher(!) That is, for all protestations to the contrary, folks typically do not become atheists because of data and logic, but because of ridicule! If anyone disagrees, let’s make a bet: I predict that the Reason Rally will be a ridicule-fest. If the prediction fails, I’ll finance a copy of Tom’s new book sent to the first person to bet against me. 😀 — but of course if the prediction succeeds, I’ll expect the same from whoever takes up this challenge 😉

  18. Grace

    Yes, that might be another topic for discussion since I branched off here. But it’s interesting what Michael Ruse has to say about the Neo-Atheists (read “Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster”) and then look at the definition of religion from from the reference section of Dictionary.com, the term religion is “a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion; a code of behavior by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their actions; and a frame of reference by which individuals may relate to their group and their universe. Usually, religion concerns itself with that which transcends the known, the natural, or the expected; it is an acknowledgment of the extraordinary, the mysterious, and the supernatural. The religious consciousness generally recognizes a transcendent, sacred order and elaborates a technique to deal with the inexplicable or unpredictable elements of human experience in the world or beyond it.” Is atheism/secularism just a negative belief? We’ll see at the Reason Rally

  19. Grace

    Doug, I agree that some atheists are drawn to ridicule, not to reason and logic because I think that reason and logic are really boring to them. I’ve had one person tell me that debates should be entertaining. When atheists come over to a Christian site and make baseless assertion after baseless assertion combined with ridicule and insults, I ask if they are serious about having an intellectually honest discussion and point out the intellectually dishonest debate tactics list along with a logical fallacies list. If you get them to focus on one topic, most of them will leave because…it’s no longer fun! (or they just couldn’t handle the argument). I was surprised when one person stayed after 200 comments to debate a Christian, and it was amazing to see the transformation of an angry, irrational, disrespectful atheist turn into a calm, rational, respectful person; however, we could all see that his arguments didn’t hold water once we got him to focus on one topic. The ones who come over to Christian sites just to harass Christians really make the new atheists look bad. Not to mention that harassment isn’t allowed in the workplace. Why should it be accepted everywhere else?

    I don’t think it will be just a ridicule-fest, though. What’s the difference between the Neo-Atheists and the old school atheist? The old school atheist said there was no purpose to life, there is no good or evil. Neo-Atheism is now attractive to humanists because they claim that there is transcendent purpose in life, people do have intrinsic value, and they claim to have objective morals-all possible without God. So, I hope someone attends the Reason Rally and takes notes, and we’ll see what this rally is really about.

  20. JAD

    Doug:

    for all protestations to the contrary, folks typically do not become atheists because of data and logic, but because of ridicule!

    Are you saying they become atheists because they have been ridiculed and now “see the light,” or because they enjoy ridiculing others they perceive as being inferior?

  21. d

    Just a quick note, on this part:

    … and that its followers, far from being paranoid, exhibit higher levels of emotional and social well-being than others.

    There have been lots of studies on this… and most keep to that pattern.

    But from what I remember, once you start dissecting up the non-religious demographic into other groupings like:

    a) those who have a strong group identity and regularly congregate with like minded people
    b) those who don’t

    And when they dissect the religious into:

    a) those who identify strongly with their religious identity and attend church (or whatever) regularly)
    b) those who don’t

    … the measurements of happiness and well-being tend to look the same for the A’s… the non-religious come out looking as good as the religious, for the most part. And the B’s (in both groups) are consistently less happy than the A’s. This all suggests that its a specific type of social congregation around a group identity that really increases well-being – not any particular sectarian belief.

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    Tom Gilson

    d,

    Source, please?

    The researchers I’ve read on this are smart enough to know how to partial out those kinds of variables. So unless you know of a good exception, I’m going to consider that a bluff on your part.

  23. Grace

    D-that is interesting. I wish there was a study on the angriest group. Being angry isn’t equivalent to being unhappy (or is it?). New atheists seem to be very angry.

  24. JAD

    Doug,

    I think that might be true for a small minority, but I don’t see most people, including people who have become atheists, changing their beliefs because of ridicule. Which is why the use of ridicule is so irrational.

    I think most of the so called new atheists use ridicule because they haven’t fully come to terms with their own atheism. In other words, because as humans we are “hardwired” to seek purpose and meaning it is very difficult to settle on the true consequences of disbelief. So they have to find a way to turn their disbelief into a kind of belief. Unfortunately, one of the ways they do this is to demonize people of faith. Ironically when they do this they end up mirroring the very worst example of faith, extreme religious fundamentalism, which ironically also heavily relies on ridicule.

  25. d

    Tom:

    There have been several studies, but this is the one I could most easily and quickly find – its freely accessible too:

    http://asr.sagepub.com/content/75/6/914.abstract

    FWIW, my position on all this barely rises to a level above agnosticism – since these sorts of sociological issues are really, really hard to study – that and I haven’t investigated them *that* much.

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    Tom Gilson

    Interesting.

    We find little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.

    No surprise there. An isolated and “independent” Christianity is not biblical Christianity.

    The question I have is whether its methods can show what you claimed earlier: “… the measurements of happiness and well-being tend to look the same for the A’s… the non-religious come out looking as good as the religious, for the most part. ”

    I’m printing it out to read later.

  27. Melissa

    Doug,

    I think the use of ridicule has less to do with converting people and more to do with group cohesion. The common factor binding New Atheists together is an animosity towards the religious and a belief in their rational superiority hence the pervasive use of ridicule in their rhetoric. It builds the sense of belonging to a group.

  28. Melissa

    Tom

    Interesting.

    We find little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.

    No surprise there. An isolated and “independent” Christianity is not biblical Christianity.

    I was thinking along the same lines. No matter whether someone is “spiritual” or not if they act in ways that frustrate the purposes we were made for the outcome is never going to be good.

  29. Grace

    I just found an article today that backs up what I was saying about how the new atheists value fun and entertainment more. Today’s article in NPR news discusses the difference between old atheism and new atheism. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113889251

    PZ Myers says, “Edgy is what young people like,” Myers says. “They want to cut through the nonsense right away and want to get to the point. They want to hear the story fast, they want it to be exciting, and they want it to be fun. And I’m sorry, the old school of atheism is really, really boring.”

  30. Sault

    “They want to cut through the nonsense right away and want to get to the point. They want to hear the story fast, they want it to be exciting, and they want it to be fun. And I’m sorry, the old school of atheism is really, really boring.”

    Funny how you skip over the first part to exult over the second. Why shouldn’t we ask that our information be concise and to the point? Why not have an element of entertainment and style? You’ve got to do at least as good as the internet!

    Luckily, Christians aren’t excluded from those same trends (because Old School Christianity can be really, really boring). Pop culture’s influence should never be ignored. How many “seeker-friendly” churches do you know? How many of them do your kids prefer to go to than yours? How often do you rationalize it by saying that at least they’re going to church?

    Ministry after ministry after ministry follow right in this trend– keep it exciting, keep it relevant. How many of you would prefer to go to a worship service with a rock band (electric guitar, etc) rather than just a piano or a choir? What do you think your kids would rather go to?

    Keeping working at it… you’ve already lost some of them.

    I think most of the so called new atheists use ridicule because they haven’t fully come to terms with their own atheism.

    Well… believers have been ridiculing other believers since time immemorial, so there is a strong precedent. Christians calling Jews calling Muslims calling Christians pagans and atheists and heretics – it’s been going on ever since they began.

    An integral part in forming a group is defining who is *not* part of the group. Uniforms, creeds, polemics/rhetoric, violence, funny hats, humor, ridicule… these are all tactics that have been used by groups to differentiate themselves from others.

    In the broadest sense, all groups do this, so ridiculing the New Atheists for doing it is…

    …oh, I see what you did there! *slow clap*

  31. Pingback: Looking for Bloggers Responding to March 24th’s Reason Rally? « The Apologist's Pen

  32. Nathaniel

    Okay, I’d like to try to make some quick comments about the first video because I’m a regular spectator of Aron Ra’s videos. I can understand why Aron might come across as making major assertions that aren’t justified but if you watch more of his videos you get a better sense of what exactly he’s talking about. The first quote you mentioned is a bit of a misunderstanding of Aron. When he talks about Christians “stating as fact that which is not evidently true” he isn’t talking about the existence of God. He specifies a little later in the video, giving examples of faith healers, apologists who claim degrees they don’t have (Kent Hovind), and so on.

    As for the second quote from the video, I think Aron unfairly universalizes religion here, but in many cases he is correct.

  33. Nathaniel

    One other thing. Tom, your statement that everywhere slavery has been abolished has had Christian influence is false, and the inference you make from it is really shallow. I can go into more detail if you like.

  34. Doug

    @Nathaniel,
    What proportion of slavery abolitions would you estimate have had Christian influence? Feel free to assign non-binary influence weights. What are the most significant abolitions in history without Christian influence? (sometimes statistics can lead us to the same conclusion that even-false generalizations would have led us to)

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    Tom Gilson

    By all means, Nathaniel, if I’m wrong about abolition, please supply details. I don’t want to continue being wrong, if I am. Thank you.

  36. Nathaniel

    Well, some big “non-Christian” abolitions are Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and some others; but that’s not really the point. I guess I don’t understand what you mean when you say “Christian influence” or what relevance that has to the discussion. It’s true that most nations that have abolished slavery have large Christian populations. But what I think is more relevant is that almost all abolitionist movements occurred after the Enlightenment. There has been tons of slavery in nations that are Christian. So what? Christianity didn’t cause slavery in most cases and didn’t end slavery in most cases either. I don’t think it’s relevant; maybe I’m wrong though.

  37. Doug

    I don’t think it’s relevant

    then why did you come here telling Tom his claim was “false”?
    But here’s a list you might like to consult on Christian influence toward abolition before the Enlightenment…

  38. Nathaniel

    @Doug
    I said it’s false because it is a false statement in a nitpick sense of true/false. But the second part is more important- “the inference you make from it is shallow”. I shouldn’t have made that an afterthought and maybe that’s too arrogant a statement to make with too many assumptions. But what exactly is the point of arguing that most countries that have abolished slavery have large populations of Christians? Ancient religions like Buddhism and Zoroastrianism strictly prohibit slavery. So what? I’m not sure what point he’s trying to prove. That Christianity is good for the world? That Aron Ra was wrong about religions being dangerous?

  39. Mike

    “[Religion] is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form, except of course in marketing and propaganda.”

    Stated as fact and evidently true in almost every form yet known to man. eg of people that supports it; Hitler, Galileo, Darwin (just popular ones to show the truth in the quote)

    “[Religion] is perpetuated by prejudice and paranoia, and wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights.”

    Stated as fact and also evidently true.
    eg; Saudi arabia, early christian nations, early biblical nations, iraq, iran, afghanistan, america’s abortion rights, america’s anti gay movement based on christianity, etc (trust me I could go on for hours on this one)

    I fail to see how Aron was wrong in what he said other than people here whining that ‘NUH UH’ and then making up arguments that don’t refute him based on either nothing, ignorance, or wilful dishonesty of the facts. Though i’ve grown accustomed to this from the religious community i’ll just end with the word that fits these situations justly and never fails to encompass the complete ignorance and laughable retorts…

    Typical.

  40. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Mike, did you study any science in school? Do you think that you are also a rational person?

    Really?

    Did your teachers never mention how irrational it is to try to prove a general principle (“Religion] is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form,” or “wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights”) by way of specific and local anecdotes?

    Do you have the slightest idea of how massive the evidence is that you fail to take into account?

    Do you have the slightest idea of how early Christian nations, and later ones as well, advanced human rights? Do you? Do you have the slightest idea where the Magna Carta came from? Do you have the slightest idea how Greco-Roman slavery was brought to an end? Do you have the slightest idea how it was the women in ancient Greece and Rome, in China, in southern Europe more recently, were released from the status of being their fathers’ or husbands’ property? Do you have the slightest idea how it was that the needy, diseased, and disabled gained the social status of fully human?

    No. You don’t. You argue from a handful of anecdotes instead of from knowledge. And yet you claim that ours is the side of “nothing, ignorance, or willful dishonesty.” And you probably think your anecdotally-based style of thinking makes you more rational and scientific.

    I keep wondering, over and over and over again, why atheism claims to be the side representing reason and science. I keep seeing atheists and skeptics violate basic, easy, obvious principles of reason and science; and you are only the most recent example.

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  42. Mike

    Tom,
    Yes i’ve studied science in school, I took all 3 sciences all through till graduation then took a few college level biology courses for interest but only for knowledge but not application as I am a carpenter (ironic I know).

    No, my science teachers stuck to science. My social teacher on the other hand talked about general principles and application of anecdotal testifying, but you know that has nothing to do with stating observations backed by evidence and I think you know that.

    “Do you have the slightest idea of how massive the evidence is that you fail to take into account?”

    Please, by all means, enlighten me. I will then show you how massive the evidence is that supports what I accounted for.

    “Do you have the slightest idea of how early Christian nations, and later ones as well, advanced human rights?”

    Irony alert, do you have the slightest idea of how early christian nations destroyed and inhibited human rights based solely on religious beliefs?

    “Do you have the slightest idea where the Magna Carta came from?”

    This isn’t even worth retorting to as you obviously have no idea what it is nor how it came about if you think it supports you against what I said.

    “You argue from a handful of anecdotes instead of from knowledge.”

    Please, try to retort about anything i’ve said in my original post. Please point out how anything i’ve said is wrong instead of spewing misrepresentations, laughable strawmans, and all out falsehoods. How is anything i’ve argued for anecdotal? Do you realize that everything i’ve said is backed up by history and statistics?
    No, you don’t. You’ll just come back with a non argument about how christians sometimes do good and ignore my points like the usual theistic apologist.

    Typical.

  43. Mike

    ROFL!!!! REALLY?????
    Did you really just link me a book rife with misrepresentations, all out lies, and ignorance and try to pass it off as evidence of your claims? I haven’t read that particular book but I challenge you to give me any point in that book that hasn’t already been refuted a thousand times by a thousand people. No I won’t bother to read it, after reading books from WLC, L. Strobel, and Sean Mcdowell I’ve concluded there is nothing new and they must repeat the refuted arguments since it’s all they have.
    Wow…just wow is all I can say to that post…

    Typical.

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    Tom Gilson

    You haven’t read the book, and you know it’s “rife with misrepresentations, all out lies, and ignorance”?

    Typical. And I have quantitative evidence for that assessment.

    Well, okay, that’s not representative of all skeptics’ reviews of all books, and I won’t represent it as such. So let me rephrase that: I’ve seen that kind of “review” before. It’s both sad and laughable at the same time.

    Mike, you’re not engaging in dialogue if you laugh at what you’ve never even looked at. This blog is not for that purpose.

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    Tom Gilson

    I will then show you how massive the evidence is that supports what I accounted for.

    I don’t need massive evidence for your anecdotal events, for even if they are true and even if they represent what you claim they represent in their situations, they would remain anecdotes and nothing more.

    Irony alert, do you have the slightest idea of how early christian nations destroyed and inhibited human rights based solely on religious beliefs?

    Rationality alert: do you realize that if some early Christian (we capitalize proper nouns here, by the way) nations did as you say, that would not make AronRa’s universal generalization true? Do you realize that if, perhaps we were both right about this, that if there were good examples and bad, then AronRa would be proved wrong? And do you know how early Christianity advanced human rights, or not? If not then just say so, okay?

    I’ve read a lot of church history. I am well aware of some egregious errors. But (rationality alert continuing) they don’t prove AronRa’s point. They don’t prove yours. They don’t disprove mine.

    “You argue from a handful of anecdotes instead of from knowledge.”

    Please, try to retort about anything i’ve said in my original post. Please point out how anything i’ve said is wrong instead of spewing misrepresentations, laughable strawmans, and all out falsehoods. How is anything i’ve argued for anecdotal? Do you realize that everything i’ve said is backed up by history and statistics?

    Again: suppose everything was true in what you said. You would still be arguing from a handful of anecdotes rather than anything like adequate knowledge.

  46. Mike

    I’m basing this on a previous knowledge on the works of the authors and from the overview. Both support what i’ve said about them.

    And sure, when you are a liar and ignorant you are going to be called a liar and ignorant. You don’t have to show me atheists that have said this about people like you or the other authors or contributors of your laughable book. Blunt honesty is sometimes the best way to get the point across, and if an atheist talks to an ignorant lying creationist/theist then at times it’s just inevitable to call them out for it which is repeatedly the case. Some atheists see so much of it they just jump right to the inevitable end because there so far aren’t any new arguments to be had by apologists, rather they only come out with the same debunked and discredited fallacies and arguments as they always do.

    But again here’s my challenge for you,
    “I challenge you to give me any point in that book that hasn’t already been refuted a thousand times by a thousand people.”

    Also, again, mind pointing out how anything in my original post is factually incorrect?
    I’ll make it simple for you and i’ll provide what you have to answer;

    1. Name a religion that hasn’t been used, and isn’t repeatedly used (referring to current ones obviously), for mass manipulation or retarding scientific progression.

    2. Name one area/country that was/is a theocricy or had/has a religion with dominant power that didn’t/doesn’t automatically deny basic or any other current human rights based on the specific religion.

    Can you do it? I’d love to hear a new argument. And the answers, think carefully.

  47. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Mike, you have twice now called me a liar and ignorant. When you comment here you agree to abide by the discussion policy. This is a home for dialogue between human beings who treat one another as human beings, not as targets of verbal abuse. Read the policy before you post again.

    As for your challenge, here’s my answer. Here is one point in the book that hasn’t already been refuted a thousand times:

    The new atheists are generally incompetent in reasoned discourse.

    Note that your own illogic, which I have specifically identified in prior comments here, serves to illustrate the point.

  48. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    For your challenge #2,

    2. Name one area/country that was a theocricy or had a religion with dominant power that didn’t automatically deny basic or any other current human rights based on the specific religion.

    Your challenge is irrelevant to the debate, and your illogic continues to show. Please re-read my comment #49. Your challenge would apply if religion always equalled theocracy, but it doesn’t. Even if all theocracies or other dominant-power situations were evil, your point would not be proved.

    Do you consider yourself skilled in reasoning? Please apply logic to the question.

    Further: let me make it clear why I am not answering your direct question. It’s not because it’s unanswerable, it’s because it’s irrelevant, and I don’t want to follow you off topic. If you’re trying to prove AronRa’s point is correct, you have to show that all religion in every manifestation has always been bad. As long as you try to support your point in any other way, you’re supporting something that doesn’t help you at all, something on a different path altogether, a red herring, a fallacious line of reasoning. I’m staying on topic instead.

  49. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    A correction is in order. AronRa charges that

    [Religion] is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form, except of course in marketing and propaganda. It is perpetuated by prejudice and paranoia, and wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights.

    On a re-read of what he wrote, you were not wrong to raise the question,

    2. Name one area/country that was/is a theocricy or had/has a religion with dominant power that didn’t/doesn’t automatically deny basic or any other current human rights based on the specific religion.

    Logically, if there are no exceptions to that general rule, then one of AronRa’s subpoints is supported: “wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights.” I will grant that you were not wrong on that. Because I was not careful to re-read the original charge, I erred in say that you were wrong.

    I want to put that on the record and then come back. My wife has just called the family for dinner.

  50. Mike

    Ok, so we;ve established that you can’t dispute Aron’s second point even though you say it’s wrong. So in my mind that’s dishonest, now for the first one.

    I will not apologize for calling a liar a liar when I can show to anyones satisfaction the truth of it. Though if you look back I didn’t call you a liar specifically, I called people like you liar’s when supporting themselves over atheism or when attacking atheism. Though I can point out multiple times in this discussion that you have. It’s not verbal abuse, if I say something that’s obviously dishonest I expect to be called on it.

    *edited*
    Think there should be a correction in the original post though regarding that point since it makes it seem like you think it’s not true.

  51. Mike

    Ok, so now that aron’s second point isn’t contested, I’m looking forward to the first. I’ve deleted what i’ve said after to regards to the second point because it was being posted while you did yours. You can probably read it in your email if you can.

  52. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Mike,

    You’re out of here.

    Maybe you don’t realize what kind of discussion we practice here, but you should. The note above the combox clearly says that by commenting here you acknowledge you have read and will abide by the discussion policy. I reminded you of that policy in comment #54 and called on you to read it before you posted again. My blog logs show every page you have visited on this website. You have visited the page on the Signature in the Cell and the series on Darwin’s Gift, besides this page. You did not open the Discussion Policy page.

    If you had, you would know that I welcome disagreement, and there are many people whose beliefs run strongly counter to mine who have been long-term commenters here. Sault and d are among them. So when you go off to talk about this experience elsewhere, (here, maybe? be sure not to tell them you were banned for bringing some powerful disagreement. That doesn’t get you disinvited. Rank, repeated discourtesy does.

    This blog does not welcome the kind of person who will call a person dishonest after admitting and explaining his mistake. Goodbye.

  53. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    By the way, that wasn’t “AronRa’s second point” that was going uncontested. It was your snippet of his point, taken out of context, which I was choosing not to contest. I note that he was using it as one of many points in a cumulative case for the conclusion that religion is uniformly bad in its effects. The other points in that cumulative case are demonstrably wrong, and so is the conclusion.

    Further, the point that I conceded is true in a narrow sense that has no relevance to current political or social realities in Western democracies. I was going to explain that further, but you’re gone and for good reason, and unless someone else wants me to go into more detail on it, I’m not going to take the time to do so now.

  54. Mike

    It’s easy to be offended when someone calls you out when you lie isn’t it? Also aronra’s comment that I took wasn’t taken out of context, that’s another lie. If I talk about this i’ll be sure and tell the truth that you don’t like being called out when you lie, that is the truth whether you like it or not. And it’s easier to ban instead of facing the lie, I know, but telling the truth is more rewarding. You further lie when you say that it is true in a narrow sense, and I think you know it. Have fun knowing that you’re a liar and others know about it.

  55. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Mike, I’ve released one more comment of yours to appear on the blog here. I am willing this one additional time to let you try to convince everyone that I am a liar. I am by no means afraid of that, because your view is highly skewed, and I’m not worried about it being believed.

    The New Atheists place particularly high emphasis on two aspects of “reason.” One of them is being reasonable, one person to another. (The other has to do with believing only what can be demonstrated through observable, preferably scientific, evidence.) Your charge here is no example of reasonability. To call me a liar after I acknowledge, corrected, and explained a mistake—a mistake resulting from mis-remembering (not dishonesty), which I found and corrected myself after re-reading the original, and which I did not hide (dishonesty hides, honesty admits things openly)—is manifestly unreasonable.

    Sadly, you provide one further illustration of my point concerning atheists and reason.

  56. Mike

    Oh and banning an atheist for catching you and exposing you is…. you guessed it…

    Typical.

  57. Post
    Author
  58. G. Rodrigues

    Some years ago I had a blog. I wrote on it for a couple of years and eventually lost interest in it. As far as I know with the possible exception of one or two souls, more generous and kind than wise, nobody read it and thank God for that. Not just because most of the things I wrote are best left unread and forgotten, but because I can already imagine the kind of crap I would have to put up with if I had an audience. Sheesh.

  59. Nathaniel

    Okay, I’m an Aron Ra fan, I’ll admit, but Mike must have been like an obsessed fanboy or something. He even used some of Aron’s phrases like “proving you’re a liar to everyone’s satisfaction”. Yeesh. Chill, Mike, chill. Stop trying to criminalize people who have a different viewpoint.

    Anyways, like Mike, I’m an atheist. I just want you all to know, we’re not all just out to ridicule people. I can understand where that generalization comes from, though. And Tom, when I said that you’re point (abolitions have occurred only in Christian nations)was false, I wasn’t trying to call you a liar or anything like this dude. I don’t want to give that impression. I’m actually interested in discourse. The anonymity of the internet has caused many a person, Christian and atheist alike, to verbally bully other people to please their own egos. Let’s choose not to.

  60. Doug

    like an obsessed fanboy or something

    my hypothesis: Mike was AronRa. 🙂
    But seriously: anyone attempting to conflate Darwin (not a whif of persecution, buried in Westminster Abbey) and Hitler (whose “support” of religion was transparently Machiavellian) with Galileo (the one legitimate piece of “evidence” for religious “persecution of science” – and whose remains have been enshrined in the place of honor in Florence’s largest basilica since 1737) is clearly more interested in grinding his axe than in reason.
    (for anyone too busy to read the links provided, the money quote comes from Whitehead:

    “In a generation which saw the Thirty Years’ War and remembered Alva in the Netherlands, the worst that happened to men of science was that Galileo suffered an honorable detention and a mild reproof, before dying peacefully in his bed.”

    )

  61. Nathaniel

    Haha. Nah. Aron’s actually really cool. His videos about paleontology and taxonomy are awesome! But when he gets on his soap box he tends to make universal statements about religion and he throws the term “dishonest” around a lot. But, then again, he lives in Texas where a number of religious and political leaders are trying to stifle science and do spew propaganda, so I can understand his prickly attitude towards religion in general and Christianity particularly. Like any good Texan, Aron takes a very extremist position, but on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.

  62. Doug

    @Nathaniel,
    I heard the claim so very often, but I haven’t seen any evidence for it at all: can you give one example of a religious attempt to “stifle science”?
    …and if your (only?) answer is a variant of “attempts to put ID in school curriculum”, could you please provide evidence that any such attempts are even remotely “science-stifling”? After all, some of the very finest science to date from evolutionary biology has been done in response to ID claims! 🙂
    (fwiw, I’m not at all a fan of propaganda-spewing from anyone, and I’d prefer if Christians would educate themselves more)

  63. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I should think, too, that this evidence concerning science ought to be scientific evidence. I’ve seen a lot of theory supporting Nathaniel’s contention, but this theory is far from securely established, and I’ve seen nothing empirical at all.

    In fact if you see how few theists there are in the biological sciences, that could be (though it needs further study) indicative of science-stifling by non-theists who make it an unwelcoming environment for theists to study with them in those fields.

  64. Doug

    I should think, too, that this evidence concerning science ought to be scientific evidence.

    It would be quite odd, indeed, if those decrying “science stifling!” were promoting an evidence-free thesis…

  65. Nathaniel

    There’s a very disputatious atmosphere surrounding this blog isn’t there? I was just trying to be gabby. But okay, here’s an example: stem cell research.

    As for attempting to put Creationism (or ID if you prefer) into the classroom being science-stifling, it isn’t directly, but it is indirectly because it affects their education of science and thus pisses in the pool of our future generation of scientists. And religious propagators like Kent Hovind, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and others have spread enough misinformation to set us back enough already.

  66. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Nathaniel, regarding stem cell research, no Christian I know of opposes adult stem cell research.

    As for embryonic stem cell research, let me ask you this: have you heard of Josef Mengele? If I oppose repeating his experiments, does that make me anti-science? No, it makes me pro-research ethics.

    The reason we oppose ESCR is not because of any low regard for science. It’s because those are human persons being sacrificed for research.

  67. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Concerning your classroom contention, you suggested one hypothetical factor, ignored all others, and cited no quantitative work on it. Do you remember I called on you to be scientific about this sociological question?

  68. Doug

    In my field of language research, there is a great deal of scientific interest in a set of experiments that nobody wants to do: namely, placing a set of new-born human beings in an environment isolated from the rest of humanity and observing what kind of communication develops in their “community”. Of course, “common human decency” keeps us from performing these kinds of experiments.
    But I’ve never heard anyone suggest that “common human decency” is science-stifling.
    Here’s the thing: there is no limit to the number of experimental channels available for research. If we choose to avoid one such channel, good scientific muscles can be exercised by finding clever methods to examine the same phenomenon in different ways.
    Opposition to a subset of experiments is by no means science-stifling.
    I’m still interested, though: while I’m not at all a fan of misinformation being spread, in what sense does ID (or “creationism”, if you prefer — even Dobzhansky claimed to be a “creationist”) “set us back”? There are plenty of people, such as yourself, and many similarly-minded people in the scientific community, who, reacting to disinformation, put extra effort into scientific endeavors countering the misinformation. Why do you not consider challenges (even wrong-headed ones) to science to be positive things? After all, science, when it has a firm empirical foundation always succeeds in dissipating its critics (without the need, I might add, for censorship or name-calling).

  69. Nathaniel

    Tom, what reasons do you have for saying that a zygote is a human being?

    As for science education, Doug I don’t understand your reasoning. You’re saying that the Discovery Institute and other religious groups’ attempts to propel religion into the science classroom have failed; therefore, religious people don’t try to stifle science. You did notice that my original comment said “try”? This subject is near and dear to my heart because I went to a K-12 Southern Baptist private school and I came out knowing nothing whatsoever of science except that Darwin was sent by the devil. You’d better believe that some of those religious groups wish they could have it that way in public schools. Don’t even get me started on what the Muslim world does to science, or any other form of progress.

    But don’t misunderstand me, guys. I am in no way saying that all religious people are anti-science. Christians, in particular the Catholic denomination, are much more stimulating of scientific growth than most others. I don’t want you to think I’m being absolute and universal in my comments, because I’m not. My original comment on this topic was simply “a number of religious and political leaders are trying to stifle science” nothing more. Look at the Texas school board of education, and you’ll see some of what I was talking about.

  70. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Nathaniel, I have many reasons for saying the zygote is a human being, but let’s not get into that, for it’s a bit beside the point. The topic of discussion has been Christians’ alleged anti-scientific stance, and I can deal with that question without our having to decide whether the zygote is a human person, so I will keep the discussion on topic.

    You say that we have an anti-science attitude for opposing ESCR. I’m saying that’s not the case at all. Our opposition to ESCR does not come out of that attitude, but out of an attitude of respect for scientific ethics. As both Doug and I have demonstrated, respect for ethics is entirely compatible with respect for science.

    Maybe the basis for our ethical decision is wrong. That would be your position on it, I expect. That would not make it something other than an ethical decision, and (again) as an ethical decision, it is not an anti-science decision. I think that should be a conclusion we could agree on, without having to get into the topic of what makes a person a person.

  71. Doug

    @Nathaniel,

    You’re saying that the Discovery Institute and other religious groups’ attempts to propel religion into the science classroom have failed; therefore, religious people don’t try to stifle science.

    Actually, I wasn’t saying that at all.
    But let me take a different tack…
    As you may be aware, there are two types of science. There is “empirical” science (that makes inferences about the future on the basis of the present), and there is “forensic” science (that makes inferences about the past on the basis of the present). The first kind of science can be “proved” by its ability to make accurate predictions. The second kind… well, there really are no “proofs” — just “inferences to the best explanation”.

    The difficulty with Darwinism is that though lots of folks would like it to be the flagship for empirical science, it just isn’t. Sure, we have empirical evidence for mutations and natural selection, no question. But that the actual evidence (as collected in Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth, for example) is sufficient to claim that “these processes are sufficient to get us from single-celled life to all of life’s present diversity” is really very questionable. And to get to the conclusion “there is no purpose or direction” is simply an expression of a prior ideological commitment rather than a dispassionate assessment of the facts.

  72. Nathaniel

    @Tom
    I don’t think you or almost any other American has an anti-science view. But I do think the opposition to embryonic stem cell research is on the basis of religious belief, not ethics alone. Other than that, I agree with you.

    @Doug
    That is a valid point. I’ll grant there are no “proofs” in forensic science in a strict sense of the word, but I think there is a high degree of certainty that can be reached that can amount to a practical level of proof (we wouldn’t want all homicide cases to have a not-guilty verdict); certainly the lack of absolute proof should not mean that all theories (or hypothesis)are equal as I’m sure you’d agree.

    One nitpicky thing I have is the term “Darwinism”… that makes it sound like Darwin is a demi-god or something. But I’ll digress on that one.

    I think some of evolutionary theory is empirical and some is not, as you pointed out. Speciation, population genetics, mutations, etc. But some of the forensic parts of the theory are pretty undeniable as well. We know, to a great degree of certainty, that humans and the other apes share a common ancestor. And we can trace our relationship with other animals with genetic markers as well. Perhaps saying that EVERY living thing shares a common ancestor is an unjustified jump as of yet; but other parts are not. As for there being no purpose or direction… I personally don’t think that you can see purpose or direction (in the way we think about purpose and direction) from the facts; but scientific methods aren’t really meant to answer such questions, in my opinion anyway.

  73. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Nathaniel, you say,

    But I do think the opposition to embryonic stem cell research is on the basis of religious belief, not ethics alone.

    What does that mean in context of what I wrote earlier in the thread? Does it reduce the validity of my point by any fractional amount? Thanks.

  74. SteveK

    Nathaniel

    But I do think the opposition to embryonic stem cell research is on the basis of religious belief, not ethics alone.

    You’re wrong. Ethical objections to ESCR also come from non-religious people.

  75. Nathaniel

    @Tom
    It means that people are trying to put a stop to an important line of research for religious reasons… aka “stifling science”.

    @Steve
    That’s news to me. But I guess there’s always an exception to the rule.

  76. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    No, it doesn’t, Nathaniel. I don’t have a “religious” reason. I have an ethical reason. How much more clearly do I have to state that?

  77. Nathaniel

    So it has nothing to do with the religious idea that humanity begins at conception… if I recall correctly, you and I had a short discussion on Mikel’s blog where you repeatedly stated that your ethics are based on the Bible.

  78. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Here’s the point, Nathaniel. If ethical decisions are based on a biblical view of humanness, does that make them something other than ethical decisions? Are your ethical decisions “ethics plus naturalism” (or whatever your view of ontology may be) because you base your ethics on your view of when humanness begins?

    No. Each of us has an understanding of reality. We may differ from each other on that understanding, but the ethical decisions that flow out of our understandings are still ethical decisions. Ethical considerations rightly trump other considerations in science as in other realms, and do so without rendering each of us anti-science for allowing it to be that way.

    I have a further response, but I’m hopeful that you will agree this is sufficient.

  79. Nathaniel

    So if someone’s ethical understanding is that medical science is an afront to God so they don’t take their child to the hospital, that is ______.

    Someone else believes that embryonic stem cell research (which could potentially save many lives) is an afront to God so they fight to have it prohibited, that is ______.

  80. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You’re equivocating, Nathaniel. The second one should read,

    Someone else believes that intentionally and avoidably killing helpless and innocent human beings for any reason is an affront to God so they fight to have it prohibited, that is ______.

    (I’m not sure how your first one should or should not read, because I don’t know how that hypothetical person thinks medical science is an affront to God.)

    I think, too, that it would help you to understand better how ethics fit in to most Christians’ understanding of reality (those who have thought about it, at any rate). We take it that ethics do not just hang in midair on their own, but that they are tied directly to the character of God.

    There are many ethical issues on which virtually all persons agree. Murder is generally known to be wrong, for example. Now for me, the wrongness of murder traces back to God’s creating humans in his image, and to God’s valuing freedom and life, and to God’s love, and so on. So underneath my ethics there is another level of grounding, in God. But that doesn’t make my ethical view regarding murder into something other than an ethical view.

    Your ethics are grounded (if at all) in something other than God. Let’s suppose it’s naturalism. I could construct a parallel set of examples, using belief in the impersonality of reality in place of belief in God. Or suppose your ethical views are grounded only as deep as “everyone should get to choose his or her own destiny;” some kind of humanism, perhaps.

    It seems to me that you think that when it comes to naturalism, humanism, or whatever, it’s okay to bring them to the table for discussion, esp. as ways of viewing the reality that undergirds ethics; but it’s not okay to bring religion to the table in that way. Why do doctrines like naturalism and humanism get that unique permission?

  81. d

    Can’t it also be an equivocation to reduce ALL beliefs to some sectarian foundation (naturalism, theism, etc) in order to deflect objections that a particular belief is too sectarian for public enforcement or matters of law?

    It is hard to find the line – its extremely fuzzy – but it must be there.

    All ethical beliefs are going come from some foundational, sectarian component of a worldview, be it naturalism or theism or something else. So its true, one could sort of truly object to the public enforcement of any ethical belief on the grounds that “its sectarian and only justified by a worldview I do not share”. And if that can be raised against any ethical belief, surely its a weak objection.

    But on the other hand, where would we be if we could not object ethical beliefs in the public square based on the fact that they are too sectarian?

    What if Latter Day Saints decided it would be appropriate to make blood transfusions illegal? Wouldn’t it be strange if we couldn’t object to these beliefs based on the fact that they are so sectarian? Wouldn’t it be stranger still, if we did raise this objection, they could rationally dismiss it because it too, is based on sectarian beliefs once you get to the bottom?

  82. Nathaniel

    @Tom
    I’m not sure we’ll be able to see face to face on this issue; we both have biases. The disagreement, ultimately, comes down to where we stand on the zygote itself- is it human? How do we define human? Should it have the same rights as us? I would answer with a resounding “no” and my contention is that the belief that a zygote is a human is a religious one. But I could be wrong. This issue is many shades of gray.

    As for humanism being given exceptions…it doesn’t. Reason is given an exception; attempting to keep our laws constitutional gets an exception. I can’t and won’t make laws against any religion; but I will also fight to make sure that no religion makes laws restricting myself, others or scientific research.

    @D
    Well said, well said indeed.

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