A Simple Letter back from a Christian

Total Posts:  133
Joined  22-08-2005
09 October 2006 04:28

[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]
For rhetorical purposes a few days ago, I looked for an example where Newtonian physics was not accurate enough to suffice in some civil or mechanical engineering task or anything else at a human scale. I did not find one. Do you know of one?

Nope, I just left the possibility open in case somebody could think of one. I knew that the speed of light is a limiting factor in computer engineering, though, which is why parallel computers typically try to put the processors all on the same wafer, so that you don’t have any bus distance to travel. The results on the cell processor in the PS3 are quite amazing. Now, if they could only come up with a viable implementation of reversible computing, and solve the heat/power problem…

Regarding the body counts in your earlier message of apparently secular vs religious progroms, its worth noting that the scale of the purges of the twentieth century may be as much the result of population density and improved weapons as they are of intent. It’s also interesting that Naziism and Communism justified attrocities in the present by referring to a future paradise, just as religion uses the premise of the afterlife to justify its attrocities. The Communists spoke of the millenial Workers’ Paradise, while the Nazis promised the Thousand Year Reich. The echo here of Christ’s promised Millenial Kingdom is probably quite deliberate, and both Naziism and Communism were loaded with pseudo-scientific and pseudo-religious nonsense. As Scientology demonstrates, you don’t have to mention God to found a religion. Any dogma will do.

Total Posts:  2323
Joined  19-02-2006
09 October 2006 07:25

[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]Summary of the post for busy readers: Let’s not harm good causes with easily demolished arguments.

Wordy response in which Ted growls continuously:

Vikar wrote:

The worst attrocities ever recorded in history have been in part brought about by Christian extremism. I need only mention the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Burning Times, The Salem Witch Trials, and the excommunication of Coppernicus and Galileo.

and I gagged on this ignorance of history. An atheist hands a Christian an easy rhetorical victory by ignoring Communism’s murder on a genocidal scale in the Twentieth Century. That is, the Christians have only to point out this ignorance of history to demolish the atheist’s claim. We atheists deserve better representation. My response here is longer than I intended, but the provocation is severe. Christianity had nothing to do with the murder of millions of people by Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. Excommunicating two men, or two million, barely registers as an atrocity compared with these facts:


Thank you Ted. I think we disagree on the truth but I think we agree that no one does more damage to the truth then one who argues it poorly. (furthermore, Galileo was put under house arrest and made to recant his position, Copernicus was a monk and never faced the inquisition. neither man was excommunicated)

Ted Shepherd
Ted Shepherd
Total Posts:  755
Joined  20-02-2006
09 October 2006 12:38

You are welcome, frankr. Thank you for clarifying the issue of the alleged excommunication.

I see that the church hierarchy is preserving its prerogatives as the Cardinals beat the Padres. Shades of the Penitentes. Haven’t had so much fun since the Lions took on the Saints.

Total Posts:  1038
Joined  22-12-2005
09 October 2006 14:20

[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]Haven’t had so much fun since the Lions took on the Saints.


Total Posts:  394
Joined  08-07-2006
09 October 2006 17:16

[quote author=“Salt Creek”].

Mathematics is not a language, unless you define language very broadly. Not all symbolic representation is language, as art should have informed you already. Linguistic skill does not avail one in deriving a mathematical consequence. I cannot help you if you insist that all symbol is language.

One of the big moments in my life was when I realized that Mathmatics was language.  The language of abstract thought.  I never got on with Math in High School until I realized this.

All symbology is Language
Years before Dawkin’s Memetics, William S. Burroghs stated “All language is a virus”.

I will not belabor this point as it is so obvious that I cannot understand your short-sightedness.

open your head, Kid…..

Total Posts:  1547
Joined  02-03-2006
10 October 2006 08:41

I’ve been away for a while pursuing some pressing personal matters.  But I think I have a few things to say about this discussion of metaphyscis.

[quote author=“Elentar”]
What I find so objectionable about your position on materialism is that it is summed up by the title of one of the most notorious examples of pseudo-science that has come out in the last few years, a film called What the *&#! Do We Know? If materialism is just another metaphysical proposition, and all metaphysical propositions are suspect, well, then, our metaphysical proposition that the Universe is ordered by God, or Angels, or Operating Thetans, is just as sound as materialism.

Or just as unsound

You’re right, of course, that believers will draw this conclusion.  But it just does not follow.  I have said that ALL metaphysical doctrines are suspect, including materialism and including the anti-materialism that is the basis of so much of Christianity.  The conclusion is NOT “well great, that means anything goes; religious beliefs are just as good as science”.  NO, the conclusion is that we should be suspicious of ALL metaphysical beliefs.

So much for the scientific method! Who needs evidence—that’s just materialism, and that’s just more metaphysics anyway. In which case, whatever drifts into my head is as viable a way of knowing as all of the research ever done. You have your way of knowing, and I have mine, and that’s that. The fairies are real, because I say so!

As I said before, methodological (or epistemological) materialism is sound.  If you would like, I can explain why.  Nothing I have ever said implies that we have any better epistemological account than the scientific method for arriving at true beliefs about the world.  So your concerns are just misplaced.

But methodological materialism does not gurantee metaphysical materialism. 

What you have done is not close the door on metaphysics, but torn the door off its hinges. If materialism is metaphysics, and science uses methodological materialism, then science is based on metaphysics, and can be abolished by metaphysics. This is the position that Frankr wanted you to take, because it establishes his theology over science. In fact, with this epistemlogical void you can establish anything.

What epistemological void?

If this is what frankr wants, then he is deluding himself.  The rejection of materialism (and of ALL metaphysical doctrines) in NO WAY establishes frankr’s theology.  Frankr’s metaphysics will be thrown out with the rest as unjustifiable.  PERIOD.

I hope this clears some things up.

Total Posts:  1547
Joined  02-03-2006
10 October 2006 08:45

[quote author=“Elentar”]I think the reason that everyone wants to claim an alternate system of knowing, and why they shy away from materialism, is that our emotional life is not “material”.

I don’t want to sound rude here, but this sentence just smacks of hypocrisy.  You have been defending materialism but now, here you are, saying that there are non-material phenomena.

I assume you were using the scare quotes to avoid saying what you are in fact saying: that emotions are not material.  But if you aren’t saying that what do you mean?

Total Posts:  20
Joined  25-09-2009
08 November 2009 13:38

Franklin:  “Letter to a Christian Nation” is addressed primarily to fundanentalist American Christians.  By this the author means the conservatives who seek to abrogate the separation of church and state as established by the Constitution and set up a theocracy in which creationism replaces evolution and Bible reading and prayers are reinstated in our public schools. I hope they never get the chance to torn back the calendar.
BTW, “impute” and “input” are two words, not alternative spellings of a computer process.

Total Posts:  20
Joined  25-09-2009
08 November 2009 13:40

FranklinBR:  “Letter to a Christian Nation” is addressed primarily to fundanentalist American Christians.  By this the author means the conservatives who seek to abrogate the separation of church and state as established by the Constitution.  Their goal is to replace our democracy with a theocracy in which creationism replaces evolution and Bible reading and prayers are reinstated in our public schools. I hope they never get the chance to torn back the calendar.
BTW, “impute” and “input” are two words, not alternative spellings of a computer process.

Total Posts:  20
Joined  25-09-2009
08 November 2009 13:44

Oops!  Sorry I posted twice’ and my last phrase should read “TURN back the calendar.” (Emphasis added)

Total Posts:  8
Joined  27-05-2009
17 November 2009 16:16

First of all, Sam Harris never claimed the label ‘humanist’. In fact, he has explicitly rejected all labels, exactly because people like you decide for yourself what those labels mean and see them as an invitation to start attacking strawmen all over the place. And even if he did claim to be a ‘humanist’, the label ‘humanist’ does not mean that you worship humans. That is something that theists have made up about humanists. And where do you get off saying that atheists don’t believe in God simply because they don’t want to? You claim to be not wanting to insult, but that is clearly insulting. Just because we don’t agree with you does not mean we are just being deliberately ignorant. I would not simply tell you that the only reason you believe in God is because you’re afraid of death, utterly ignoring any research you’ve done into the matter. Show your opponents the same respect and take their arguments as they actually are, or you will be dismissed as irrelevant to this conversation.

Second, you may have only believed evolution because ‘your biology teachers said so’, but did you really understand how evolution works? I say this because every creationist I’ve ever met or heard of - EVERY creationist - has exhibited that they have no clue about what evolution actually says. This is clear the moment they say things like ‘evolution says complex life just came about by chance’ and ‘all the monkeys should be evolving into humans’. These are wrong. Evolution says complex life came about by natural selection, a natural and yet entirely NON-RANDOM process (this was the whole point of Darwin’s achievement), and modern humans are not descended from modern monkeys. And even if it the false creationist claim that ‘there is no evidence for evolution’ was true, I would still hold evolution to be an infinitely better explanation for the complexity and diversity of life than intelligent design; because not only is evolution non-random, but it is also compatible with the innumerable signs of unintelligent design that are everywhere we look; particularly with the predator/prey phenomenon, where predators and perfectly ‘designed’ to chase, maim and poison prey, and prey are in turn perfectly ‘designed’ to hack, skewer and evade predators. This is not only explained by natural selection and survival of the fittest; it is PREDICTED as the only way things could be if evolution is true. But it is utterly inexplicable by any form of intelligent, let alone benevolent, ‘design’. There is no way that acceptance of evolution involves faith in any way that is not simply playing games with the definition of the word ‘faith’.

But it doesn’t matter. Because even if evolution was utterly disproven tomorrow, that would still not mean that design wins by default, as many creationists seem to think. David Hume obliterated the design argument well before Darwin came along, without reference to any evolutionary theory whatsoever. And his critique applies equally to ALL forms of design argument, whether in biology or physics or cosmology. He asked: Why should it automatically follow that, because mind is one producer of order and purpose, that it must therefore be the producer of all order and purpose? Is this not dependent on an unproven, a priori assumption that matter itself does not contain an internal source of order and purpose, just as the mind does? As difficult as it is to imagine the material world containing the source of its own order, is it not equally difficult to imagine a designer containing the source of its own order? For surely, if the design argument is valid, then the order and purpose inherent in the designer itself would demand that the designer also be designed, resulting in an infinite regress of designers that simultaneously eliminated the possibility of a ‘first cause’ and leaving us with no more explanation of the origin of order and purpose than we had before? The design argument simply attempts to explain one mystery by raising another still greater (and therefore explains nothing). But furthermore, if we are truly to infer a designer from the attributes of the ‘design’, would not the evidence of multiple and conflicting purposes in nature demand that we infer not one deity, but many? And would not the brutality, suffering and waste guaranteed by the laws of the natural order demand that we infer a designer that is, at best, either non-benevolent or non-omnipotent? Such attributes are certainly not those that advocates of the design argument, deist or Christian, wish to infer; yet surely they are inevitable?

So you see, the design argument was stone-dead well before evolutionary theory was even a twinkle in Darwin’s eye.

But thirdly, morality. You somehow say that Harris cannot justify objective morality, even though you claim to have read The End of Faith, where he outlined secular objective morality quite clearly. The argument of the theists goes something like this (feel free to tell me whether this is a fair characterization): ‘If God doesn’t exist, then we have no logical justification for not simply doing whatever makes ourselves happy, regardless of the cost to others’. Agreed! We should indeed do whatever makes ourselves happiest. However, theists never ask the next logical question: What is the GREATEST form of happiness in human life? I would hope the theist agrees that love is the greatest form of happiness we can possibly experience. Is the atheist not, then, logically unjustified (according to the theist’s own argument) to experience love for others as much as possible? And doesn’t love entail caring about the happiness and suffering of others? It certainly does. Therefore an atheist’s morality will be about promoting happiness and alleviating suffering (which is why we don’t have moral obligations towards rocks, as Harris puts it). Therefore, for objective morality to exist there need only exist better and worse ways to maximise happiness and minimise suffering, as the standards judging right and wrong. Not everyone is made happy by all of the same things, of course, but this is rather like eating: there is not always one best food to eat, but still, we cannot eat stones. We are therefore bound to one another in our search for happiness, and the failure of violent individuals to understand what maximises their happiness wrecks no more havoc with the fact than a failure to understand Special Relativity wrecks havoc with the laws of physics. And there is nothing mysterious about the existence of love itself; in fact love is a rather inevitable outcome of the evolution of social creatures such as ourselves, because our survival was dependent on group-living, and there is no greater bonding mechanism than love.

It’s so simple.

[ Edited: 17 November 2009 16:33 by SamSpeedy]