Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

03/09/2009 (7:41 pm)

Propagandist Obama to "Restore Science Integrity" (Updated)

In the “shameless projection” department, President Obama today reversed the Bush administration’s policy toward embryonic stem cell research, declaring through advisors that his administration intends to “use sound, scientific practice and evidence, instead of dogma” to guide federal policy.

The Bush administration policy on embryonic stem cells was guided by very real ethical concerns, applied conscientiously. The President believed that allowing research on human embryos would dehumanize man. Whether one agrees with this or not, one should at least acknowledge that medical ethics are a permissible basis for federal policy, and not viciously denigrate any ethical consideration as mere “political ideology.”

Simply ignoring ethical concerns is not “scientific” in any sense. Quite the contrary: people genuinely engaged in the use of science to acquire facts will be the first to acknowledge that there are limits to what science can discover, and that ethics exist outside those limits. The claim that there are no ethics that govern the quest for knowledge is, itself, an ideological point of view that cannot be established by research.

The assertion that imposing that point of view constitutes “a return to science” indicates either that the President does not understand what science is, or that he intends to use rhetoric to win ideological battles using “science” as a pawn. Either way, what we’re seeing is not a return to science, but rather the subjugation of science to ideology. As is invariably the case with the judgmental, President Obama is committing the very sin he claims he’s correcting. God has designed the universe with a sense of irony.

Even worse, Obama’s claim leads to troubling conclusions. Reversing the policy because a different ethical decision has been made would be one thing; dismissing ethical considerations altogether as though they represent “mere ideology” is another thing altogether. The ideological point of view that posits that no ethics govern the quest for knowledge is, at least arguably, responsible for the experiments of the likes of Josef Mengele. The President’s position may do less to “restore integrity” than it does to dismantle medical ethics as a discipline. Let us pray that researchers proceed cautiously despite the President’s dangerous obfuscation.


UPDATE, 3/10/09: It turns out that in addition to issuing a new Executive Order funding embryonic stem cell research, President Obama also rescinded Executive Order 13435, an order funding research into alternative methods for producing embryonic stem cells without destroying human life.

According to Life News,

President Bush put that order in place in June 2007 when he vetoed a Congressional measure that would have required embryonic stem cell research funding.

Instead of signing the bill, President Bush issued an executive order to press for more research into ways of obtaining embryonic stem cells without harming human life. The order was intended to ultimately fund research into alternatives” to destructive embryonic stem cell research such as altered nuclear transfer (ANT), “regression” (reverting differentiated cells into stem cells), and other methods.

Bush could be said to have been ahead of his time since regression, also known as direct reprogramming, has taken off and the new induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are the talk of the scientific world.

The fact that Obama specifically rescinded this EO puts the lie to his claim of “science over ideology.” Given the core assumption of federal funding for research, and given the implication that all federal spending provides stimulus, there’s no good reason for the federal government to stop funding research into ANT and regression — unless the President’s goal is actually the destruction of human life. This comports well with his record of aggressive abortion advocacy but contradicts his rhetoric, a duality with which we’ve become all too familiar since Obama rose to national prominence.

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33 Comments »

March 9, 2009 @ 8:51 pm #

Hi Phil.

Well what do you know; We agree about something. With regards to the stem cell funding issue, the blather about “returning to science” is an ad hominem attack designed to disguise the fact that there is a good faith moral disagreement between those who support such research and those who don’t.

Of course, I can’t be too sympathetic to the Bush administration on the issue of science promotion – I believe that they really were anti-science on many issues. But I’ll let that go for now. Suffice it to say that I agree that this clearly is not a disagreement between people who support science and people who don’t (just as diagreement over the Iraq war was never a dispute between people who cared about defending the US citzens and those who didn’t).

By the way, you never responded to my clarification on the “right to life argument.” That clarification and my latest post will explain why I don’t think the Democrats need to avoid the moral argument.

Best wishes,

Joe H.

March 10, 2009 @ 7:51 am #

When I heard Obama say something about how these embryonic stem cells contained within them “such great potential to alleviate illnesses and even cure diseases” (lose quote from memory), I thought to myself, Does he hear the irony in those words: great potential . . . even cure diseases? He’s talking about letting them grow up to be doctors and lab scientists, right? For which is the greatest potential here?

March 10, 2009 @ 9:24 am #

I think Obama actually has it right about science, at least more so than Bush. But then, I don’t labor under the delusion that some sky-faerie is looking after me.

Unfortunately, what he thinks he knows about the “dismal science”, economics, is fundamentally wrong (or maybe he thinks that buying votes is “right”). The damage that he is doing to our economy is going to render anything that he might have accidentally gotten right completely irrelevant. The congress is acting like a bunch of preschoolers released into a candy store, told that they can take whatever they want. Unfortunately, the resulting tummyache is not going to happen to them, but to us.

http://www.chl-tx.com

March 10, 2009 @ 11:33 am #

Dullhammer -

Here’s the problem…because so many people are going through fertilization therapies now (many of them Christians), fertilized embryos are now laying frozen and not implanted. This is the source for most coming stem cell research.

The question really becomes…is there a “Subject” or “Person” here that is being exterminated, as Joe mentions above?

March 10, 2009 @ 12:13 pm #

Ahhh, “Sky faerie”, thanks for letting us know where you stand on the issue of a higher power, Tex. I always wondered why atheists feel the need to preface every argument with a statement about their belief, no matter what that argument is about? At least here it bears at least somewhat on what we are talking about.

Actually that does bring up a question I have always wanted to ask of an atheist. If there is no higher power. No guiding intelligence, no plan whatsoever. Then life and even consciousness is merely an accident.

Would not then make every “accidental life” a true miracle since it has no providence? Shouldn’t questions that impact that life or even potential life, then be undertaken with that much more exactness and care?

Even Bush’s ban on embryonic research only restricted FEDERAL FUNDING of this research. It did not outlaw it or make it unavailable for private initiatives. It merely said that the government would not put their own seal of approval on it.

Now the research I have read into stem cell research has been very promising on the adult stem cell side of things. However, the embryonic research has been a very mixed bag thus far.

Now I am sure that you would in turn argue that this is because there is no federal funding. However I would point out that the free market has a very good way of choosing good tech over bad. The advances that actually get results or have actual potential get funding, the ones that don’t… don’t.

Instead, in my opinion, we have people who seem to be trying to make a technology viable when in fact it may never be. However, in future, if there is actual promise for the technology, there should be ample funding available.

I worry that we are seeing Pres. Obama and his confederates on the pro-choice side trying to make a case for the necessity of abortion or embryo farming for it’s “benefit to humanity.” Sure we may all get squimish about abortion, but if I have the technology that can make you live forever, or cure your cancer, the “choice” is so much easier, isn’t it?

I am deathly afraid of Alzheimer’s. It has a tendency to run on my mother’s side of the family, and it is something I fear far more than Cancer or other diseases. Sure, death is nothing to sneeze at, but to lose your faculties, to eventually die not even recognizing your loved ones. That is a fate I would wish on no one, no matter who they are.

Among the many outlandish claims made by proponents of ESCR is that it could offer a cure for this disease. While I dearly hope that I am never presented with this devil’s bargain. I hope I would have the balls to go to my death with my conscience clear, even if not with my dignity.

March 10, 2009 @ 2:10 pm #

I lost count of how many things you got wrong, Horatius, starting with “atheists feel the need to preface every argument with a statement about their belief”. I made my statement solely because the original post made a direct tie between morality and god(s). Well, maybe not solely — I sometimes enjoy tweaking the noses of people who make the false assumption that all Conservatives are rabid bible-thumpers and all Liberals are godless heathens, neither of which is even remotely true. Most of the time, I do not mention my lack of any particular superstition.

Most of the other mistakes you made were of the form of assigning bogus claims to science, which betrays a lack of understanding of what science is, what it does, or why it’s important.

http://www.chl-tx.com

March 10, 2009 @ 3:05 pm #

darkhorse –

Back when I was a kid, I worked in the kitchen of a Red Lobster restaurant. Occasionally we’d overcook a batch of hush puppies, but the manager never let us set them out for nibbling, he made us chuck them. I asked why once, and he replied that if the cook staff gets to eat the burned items, pretty soon there’s a huge increase in the volume of burned food.

This is human nature, and the reason we cannot simply use the “leftover” embryos in the clinics. It’s not just that we care so much about frozen, fertilized embryos, but rather that if we open that door, pretty soon we’ll see deliberately manufactured human embryos for research… and that’s Pandora’s Box. I don’t see this as a risk, I see it as a lead-pipe cinch. It WILL happen. It will happen in a matter of months. There will be no stopping it.

March 10, 2009 @ 3:13 pm #

If you write a comment that says “You made a bunch of mistakes,” but you make no attempt to explain what any of them were, then there could be no possible reason for the comment aside from a desire to insult. I’d prefer that you provide an example or two.

I think Horatius is correct in drawing attention to your “sky faerie” reference. That’s not just tweaking, it’s deliberately insulting. Why do you do it? Surely you recognize differences between folk tales and major world religions, don’t you? Seriously, can you imagine anybody constructing a sound cosmological argument for faeries? There IS a sound cosmological argument for the existence of a theistic god, like the one claimed in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; and whether you find it persuasive or not, you should at least acknowledge that the major theistic systems display an intellectual robustness that deserves more respect than to refer to their deities as “sky faeries.”

I mean this seriously, because honestly, TX? I can’t take you seriously as my intellectual equal, or even a close competitor, as long as you’re issuing intellectually ridiculous insults of that nature. It tags you as a brainless troll, and not worth the time of anybody who has half a brain. I think perhaps you’re better than that, so please, try to show major religions the respect that is due them, even if you don’t believe them yourself.

March 10, 2009 @ 4:24 pm #

TX,
So, based on your offhand insult prior to your comment, what you’re saying is you instead labor under the delusion that there are no “sky faeries”, which is as much a faith-based system of belief as any deist of any stripe holds to. Unless you have new PROOF that God doesn’t exist?

March 10, 2009 @ 5:03 pm #

As far as my “many mistakes that expose a misunderstanding of science.” I personally think that the goal of science is to understand our world and universe. The better we can understand that universe the more able we are to use that understanding to make human life, all human life, better.

I square this belief in science with my belief in God. I do this by saying that not only am I doing so in hopes of improving life by applying that understanding but also in the search for pure knowledge. I do this not only for the pleasure I derive in learning new things but also so that in some small way, I can understand the being of God, by studying his Creation.

What do you think science is for?

The point I was trying to make, and I may have been unclear, is that we must make these studies in a way that does not compromise our moral clarity.

Take for example Tuskegee. The goals of this study were certainly laudable- to discover new methods of treatment for Syphilis as well as to study in a clinical way the progression of the disease. However, the methods were monstrous. No goal, no matter how laudable, justifies every single action.

However, the reason I chose this example was twofold. In this case, like ESCR, the methods by which this “study” was conducted were justified because of the “material” the study had to work with.

March 11, 2009 @ 9:16 am #

“If you write a comment that says “You made a bunch of mistakes,” but you make no attempt to explain what any of them were, then there could be no possible reason for the comment aside from a desire to insult.”

If you had actually read and comprehended my post, you would have seen that I gave a clear explanation of the first error, and categorized the remaining.

“I can’t take you seriously as my intellectual equal, or even a close competitor”

This is a judgment which you have neither the information nor the expertise to make.

Horatius: You did indeed give a fairly accurate description of the purpose and aims of science in your second post, but your first implied that if it didn’t render the results you wanted, then it wasn’t any good. In particular, science does not promise a cure or prevention for Alzheimer’s.

Back to Phil: Since you presume to evaluate my intellect on the basis of a few posts that I made, let me make a similar evaluation.

“There IS a sound cosmological argument for the existence of a theistic god, like the one claimed in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity”

If you actually believe that, and I have no reason to think otherwise, then we are indeed not even close competitors intellectually, but not in the sense that you wish for.

walkercolt: “Unless you have new PROOF that God doesn’t exist?” Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, and it is not possible to PROVE a negative, and I have enough intellectual acumen to know better than to bite on that one. My claims are based on the simple observation that the existence of god(s) does not make any tangible difference. All I see from the True Believers is a series of “proofs” which are adequately explained without the need for god(s). When you can prove there is a god, then I will be happy to change my beliefs (or lack thereof). Meanwhile, a difference which makes no difference *is* no difference.

I do have some respect for Judaism and a bit less for Christianity, and none whatsoever for islam (by far the most dangerous superstition on the planet). But they are all superstitions with no more basis in fact than a belief in faeries or leprechauns. My respect for Judaism and Christianity is solely because they codify a behavior that is generally acceptable in modern society. My lack of respect for the superstition of the militant pedophile is because it isn’t even a religion; it’s a political and military world domination strategy.

BTW, Phil, the comment about burnt food was a very good observation of human behavior (and rationalizations), and a valid criticism of embryonic stem cell research. Much better than an appeal to a revealed religion.

http://www.chl-tx.com

March 11, 2009 @ 11:20 am #

Phil,

I agree with TX CHL (despite his thinly veiled anger at faith) that the burnt Hush Puppies. In a system where medical research is motivated solely for profit, we have to take care there.

As Joe said, there is definitely something sacred present even in an unused, fertilized embryo. To encourage mass production of these would be troubling – and why the hell did Obama take away research into developing this material without embryos?

I cannot possibly agree, as per your update, that “the president’s goal is simply the destruction of human life.” Is there a more charitable interpretation?

March 11, 2009 @ 11:35 am #

“There IS a sound cosmological argument for the existence of a theistic god, like the one claimed in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity”

If you actually believe that, and I have no reason to think otherwise, then we are indeed not even close competitors intellectually, but not in the sense that you wish for.

Wow.

Since the argument is not originally mine, but Thomas Aquinas’, then what you’re saying is that Thomas Aquinas is not an intellect to be taken seriously. Is that what you believe?

Mind you, I’m not saying that you have to agree with him. If you disagree, fine, lots of intelligent people do. What I’m arguing is that nobody worth listening to would regard Aquinas as an intellectual lightweight and dismiss his position as the intellectual equivalent of animism.

I don’t think I’m the one who has trouble parsing his opponents’ arguments, here. This is not an appeal to revealed religion, nor a defense of those (though I don’t object to them); it’s an appeal for civility, calling for the recognition of intellectual rigor where it occurs, even when you don’t agree with it. You may not like Christianity, but it is the author of Western Civilization whether you like it or not.

OTOH, thanks for the compliment about my burnt hush puppies.

March 11, 2009 @ 12:15 pm #

darkhorse,

I don’t think we’ve ever had a system where medical research is motivated solely for profit. Is there a more charitable interpretation? :)

March 11, 2009 @ 12:18 pm #

Phil:

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a system where medical research is motivated solely for profit. Is there a more charitable interpretation? :)”

Touche, Phil -

Let me rephrase – our medical research COULD run solely on the basis of prophet and still reach the solutions that it does. Fortunately, it has many in it that truly want the cures…

There, is that better, wise guy? : )

(Author and Wise Guy sez: Yes. Thank you.)

March 11, 2009 @ 12:46 pm #

“then what you’re saying is that Thomas Aquinas is not an intellect to be taken seriously. Is that what you believe?”

Nope. I simply believe Aquinas was wrong, not stupid. Same as I believe about you. The ‘evaluation’ was just an example of the thought process that you applied to me. Turned around, of course.

So, “Wow,” yourself.

There are lots of otherwise intelligent people who hold ridiculous religious ideas. I used to work with a guy who was a reasonably good programmer (programmers have to think for a living, so those who aren’t very good at it eventually go on to something else, like management ;), but who firmly believed that Earth was about 6000 years old because the “Bible said so, and since the Bible is literally true, that’s what I believe.” I recall that he had a bumper sticker on his car with similar sentiments. I generally ignore such mental aberrations as being relatively harmless, unless I pick up vibes that indicate the imminent bombing of an abortion clinic or some other dangerous behavior.

http://www.chl-tx.com

March 11, 2009 @ 3:30 pm #

What a maroon.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:15 pm #

I used to work with a guy who was a reasonably good programmer (programmers have to think for a living, so those who aren’t very good at it eventually go on to something else, like management ;), but who firmly believed that Earth was about 6000 years old because the “Bible said so, and since the Bible is literally true, that’s what I believe.”

Yeah, I know some young-earthers, and really fine guys, too. Bright, literate, well-read, scientifically informed, but… they believe what they believe. There isn’t a one of ‘em that I wouldn’t trust with my wife or my kids. But they’re pretty radically wrong about the age of the earth. Oh, well.

In their defense, I should say that they all have excellent reasons from their own lives to trust what the Bible has to say about other important topics, and they’re simply extending that trust to the topic of cosmology. I don’t think their trust is wrong, I just question their interpretations.

I like cosmologist Hugh Ross’ take on it, which is to dismiss the difference between their assessment of the earth’s age and his own (which is in the 14 billion year range) as inconsequential, saying “What’s a few orders of magnitude between friends?”

March 11, 2009 @ 4:23 pm #

darkhorse–

“The question really becomes…is there a “Subject” or “Person” here that is being exterminated, as Joe mentions above?”

DH:
Thanks for raising the point you make. I did think of it prior to posting, but decided to keep things simple as I had to travel right after posting. I also appreciate Phil’s observation in response to your point. Here’s my further thoughts on the matter.

I don’t think we have to split it between ‘subject’ vs ‘person’. I think we should start with the known fact that the cells in question are living, DNA unique, human embryos. And as such they warrent a higher respect than mere biological material, which is how they are presently being viewed.

I believe there is a reasonable argument to have regarding whether or not we should protect these cells out of shere humility and respect for our humanity. There is also an argument that curing people of diseases is more honoring of humanity than protecting the embryos. I would like to hear those two arguments in debate.

But what we don’t need to hear right now is: These embryos are our only hope; people standing in the way of science are idiots; and these embryos are nothing special. Those arguments simply avoid the truth of what it is they are talking about in the first place. They cheapen us as we engage in them.

And Obama’s reference to the embryos’ singular potential for research was ironic at best, and insulting to my ear.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:27 pm #

TX CHL Instructor

Your refrence to “sky-faerie” is humerous. So too is your follow up of references to “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs” and “it is not possible to PROVE a negative”.

Extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary proofs. That is a false statement, as is your assertion about proving a negative. Suppose you claim there is no such thing as the state of Maine. Surely that would be an extraordinary claim. And surely the proof that it is false would be mundane. Like noticing a car with a Maine lisence plate or eating a lobster. Or, for the hard of heart, following the argument of I-95 to its logical end, which is Houlton . . . Maine.

As for proving a negative: happens all the time.

You could show a logical inconsistency. For example: It’s interesting that your statement, “You can’t prove a negative” is a negative statement. So, if it’s true then a negative statement is proven . . . and it is false. Therefore you can prove a negative.

You could also prove a negative with simple (or elaborate) inquirey. “There are no bazookas in my carry-on bag” for example is proven every day at your local airport.

You probably meant universal negatives. But even those are subject to reasonable proof and refutation. “There are no round squares” is easy. “There are no living veterans of the civil war” might take a little background in math and history. Your cop out regarding “There is no God” would be understandable if you were an agnostic. But as an atheist, you should at least deal honestly with the question.

As for the question of God, I have a question for you. Why would your ignorance of God constitute a basis for believing everyone else is also ignorant of God? For that seems to be your working assumption in referring to those who “labor under the delusion that some sky-faerie is looking after me”.

I believe God is looking after me. What do you know that I don’t? I was born in Maine. I was born again in Christ. I believe both are reasonable statements. I also believe neither deserves insult.

March 11, 2009 @ 9:13 pm #

TX,

“My claims are based on the simple observation that the existence of god(s) does not make any tangible difference.”

No, your claims are based on a faith in the non-existence of deities. Hence my comment about the delusion you labor under; if the deist is “deluded”, your word for his faith, then so are you, in your faith.

You even point this fact out with the standard “can’t prove a negative” mantra – if you can’t prove it, then by default this is a faith-based world view.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:16 am #

“You even point this fact out with the standard “can’t prove a negative” mantra – if you can’t prove it, then by default this is a faith-based world view.”

So, walkercolt, you think that not believing in Santa Claus, pink unicorns, the FSM, Wotan, Thor, Zeus, Apollo, etc are faith based lack of belief?

Sorry, no. Not believing in something due to lack of evidence is not faith-based. It’s rational thought. Believing in a postulated something, especially an extremely complex something (as God would have to be), doesn’t make sense without evidence.

We’re all atheists about a LOT of things. I bet you don’t believe in the things I listed a moment ago (Zeus, Apollo, etc.), so when you understand the reason why you don’t believe in all of those things, you’ll understand why I don’t believe in your God either.

I’ll even answer it for you… You don’t believe in Zeus because there’s no reason to believe that he throws lightning bolts down from the sky. You don’t believe in Apollo because you know there’s no reason to believe that he carries the sun across the sky in a chariot).

Atheists don’t believe in your God because we see no reason to implant him as a reason for the cause of the universe or any of the gaps people fill him with. You can also look at my response below to dullhammer on personal religious experiences, because it applies to you as well.

@dullhammer

“I believe God is looking after me. What do you know that I don’t? I was born in Maine. I was born again in Christ. I believe both are reasonable statements. I also believe neither deserves insult.”

If you’ve had a personal religious experience that led you to God, then good for you. That’s subjective to you and worthless as proof to me or anyone else. Your best course of action would be to pray to your deity that he/she/it/them show themselves to atheists and theists of other religions in such a way they will convert and make everyone in the world a single religion. (He’s all powerful and should be able to do that. And please don’t use the “it would take away free will” argument. It’s useless… if evidence took away free will, then no one would be able to deny evolution.

And, I don’t believe it deserves insult (well, I think Islam does), but it DOES deserve ridicule considering the things we still see even today… blue laws, the only recently lifted bans against stem cell research, intolerance of gays, non-believers, women, and the whole ID/creationism fiasco of it trying to force its way into the science curriculum when it’s anything but that.

I’m not saying this is you personally, because I don’t know you personally, but there are enough theists that do these things. If you keep your religion to yourself, great, but there’s enough of the afformentioned theists out there that things like Prop 8 get passed in California, bans on gay adoption are passed in Arkansas, etc that it is a HUGE issue that needs to be religated before the US basically becomes a theocracy because the only way to get elected is to be a “man of great faith.” Not to mention this bars atheists already because being *any* faith is considered better than no faith when it comes to being elected to a public office.

The proof is in the pudding… just look how often Obama asserts he’s a man of faith… using a religious figurehead to give the oath of office who added “so help me God” into it which is NOT part of the oath. Holding his hand on the Bible while doing so. (Why not the Koran, or NOTHING, while taking the oath?) Even in this most recent thing where he removed the bans on stem-cell research he asserted at the beginning “as a man of faith… etc etc etc”

I really don’t care what you believe so long as it’s not being used to impose morals on people who don’t hold those exact same views…

For example, if you want to restrict the petri-dish style ESCR (embryo is fertilized in a petri-dish, grows to about 150 cells, then is harvested) because you believe at conception an embryo somehow a soul, prove there is a soul and I, as an atheist, would back you up in stopping it. If you can’t do that, then your arguments aren’t substantiated and shouldn’t be considered as reasoning for restriction. I’m glad Obama understands that.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:55 am #

Kema (and TX)

One says belief in God makes no real difference in life. The other says belief in God is okay so long as it makes no real difference in life.

I find both your long arguments to be pure subjective reflection disguised as disgust toward others whom you criticize for subjectivity.

I did not present my personal testimony (which was a minor part of the whole) as any kind of objective proof. I simply brought it up as a reasonable statement and asked why TX or anyone has a right to insult it, or ridicule it for that matter (a distinction without a difference).

I do agree with you, though, that it is proper for me to pray to my God that he make himself known to you. I prayed that for myself, when I first admitted to God that I didn’t believe in him many years ago. So I pray the same for you. I expect he’ll give you much the same answer he gave me. Though I have no expectation beyond that.

March 12, 2009 @ 11:09 am #

“One says belief in God makes no real difference in life. The other says belief in God is okay so long as it makes no real difference in life.”

He DOES make a difference, but not because he’s real. Only because people THINK he’s real. Whether he really is or isn’t real is irrelevent to his affect on humanity.

“I find both your long arguments to be pure subjective reflection disguised as disgust toward others whom you criticize for subjectivity.”

I respond at length to make a point… which you either missed because you didn’t read, or ignored because you didn’t like the ridicule of your religion, but intolerance for non-believers, blacks, gays, anti-science propaganda, and things of that nature are NOT subjective reflection. They are measurably bad.

Those kinds of beliefs and enforced morals should be ridiculed and personally those views specifically are worth insulting someone over. If you still don’t see why, I feel sorry for you.

“I simply brought it up as a reasonable statement and asked why TX or anyone has a right to insult it, or ridicule it for that matter (a distinction without a difference).”

That was the exact point I was making… what you personally believe is irrelevent without proof to back it up. Somehow though (and you obviously believe this) religion is something sacred and shouldn’t be open to ridicule. Sorry, that is not a reasonable expectation.

I already stated by it’s reasonable to ridicule religion no matter how much it offends you or any other theist (intolerance, anti-science, ID/creationism, etc… these are all ridiculable beliefs).

“I prayed that for myself, when I first admitted to God that I didn’t believe in him many years ago. So I pray the same for you. I expect he’ll give you much the same answer he gave me. Though I have no expectation beyond that.”

I was a theist for 18 years… baptized, raised, and Confirmed in the church. I did pray and never saw or felt or heard anything.

If you pray, I hope you get him to give me a really good answers to my questions because believing in him and seeing him as something worthy of worship are two different things as well. If you can get him to appear to me, I’ll believe he’s real. He’ll have to answer some questions after that if he expects worship.

Now, here I will be intentionally insulting…

Stop being such a damn sheep. Religion is NOT infallible, nor is any concept of a God I’ve ever heard of even consistant in definiton. The morals of theists, save a few universal ones (not kill, steal, rape, etc), are sickening to anyone with a half-way rational mind.

If you really don’t see why those beliefs I’ve listed before should be open to ridicule then you’re no better than a bystander. A guilty bystander who’s watching someone get mugged or raped, watching a fire burning down a house with screams for help coming from inside, or watching a car accident and not even having the decency to help or even just call 911.

March 12, 2009 @ 11:53 am #

“…,so when you understand the reason why you don’t believe in all of those things, you’ll understand why I don’t believe in your God either.”

I wasn’t asking you to believe in my God, I was pointing out that the world view held by atheists ultimately comes down to a belief, or faith. What is faith but the belief in something unprovable?

You may call your arrival at your beliefs rational thought, but so do we. Most deists arrive at their conclusions the same way you did – by examining what proofs we have, weighing those, and making a choice. You just come to a different conclusion than we do. Most deists believe in a limited set of higher power(s), usually one these days; thus the disbelief in Santa, Wotan, and others you mentioned. You’ve limited your set to zero. No matter the conclusion it’s still ultimately a matter of faith, as ultimately neither view is incontrovertibly provable at this point.

March 12, 2009 @ 12:01 pm #

So, I pray for you.
And you deliberately insult me.
And feel quite righteous about it.
It would seem my ‘nonexistent’ God is in some contrast to your non-existent god.

I have to go to Bangor. So, that’s probably all for the day.

March 12, 2009 @ 12:23 pm #

“I wasn’t asking you to believe in my God, I was pointing out that the world view held by atheists ultimately comes down to a belief, or faith. What is faith but the belief in something unprovable?”

Atheists are not believing in something. They’re rejecting the belief in something based on lack of evidence, just like you reject belief in every other diety created in the past. I doubt you call your lack of belief in Wotan, Thor, etc a faith-based belief.

“No matter the conclusion it’s still ultimately a matter of faith, as ultimately neither view is incontrovertibly provable at this point.”

I disagree because this statement assumes that the existance and non-existance of a deity is equally likely because niether can be proved or disproved. If you look at how things have progressed in history, (using the mathmatical metaphor), we’re progressing towards a limit of zero.

Cultures used to be polytheistic, then monotheism started, and now atheism is rising. If you look at what used to be explained in the past via a deity, they were used to explain almost everything… love, war, the weather, beauty, the sun, good harvests, etc. Now they’re pretty much down to what happens when you die and what started the universe. Eventually you’re so close to the limit you actually hit it… It’s Archemede’s (I think) paradox, where you can never actually get to where you’re going because you get half way, then half way from there, then halfway from there, and there should always be a halfway, and could get infinitely closer, but never actually get there. Obviously, at some point you do have to reach that limit.

I have no problem with deism. I don’t ever recall meeting a deist who denies evolution and other sciences, or was intollerant of sexual orientation, race, etc. Most look at him as a clock-maker… he put everything together to start the Big Bang, and he hasn’t interfered since.

But, that’s not how most people view it. Most people still think their god actively creates miracles… most say on a daily basis, and he says this and that, and those things are immoral carry overs from a book people 2000+ years ago wrote.

Point being, the possibility of a deity that actively affects Earth is almost zero, and a deistic god is only slightly better.

Like I said, I don’t really care much what you believe personally… my problem is when people use those unprovable beliefs to restrict stem-cell research, ban homosexual marriage and adoption, promote sex-ed curriculums that are proven not only inneffective, but also have detrimental affects, restrict free speech to tell someone wrong because it hurts people’s feelings.

If people kept their religious convictions to themselves and left them out of the arenas of science and politics (particularly as a criteria needed to be electable), then atheists wouldn’t care a bit what you believe.

As a final note, I haven’t limited myself to zero. I just need proof that there is one to actually believe in one. The burden of proof, however is on those making the positive claim (i.e. There is a God). If I said “pink unicorns are real,” I would have to give proof they exist, not for you to prove they don’t.

March 12, 2009 @ 2:01 pm #

I just noticed this discussion going on on my blog, and I’m unhappy.

The discussion was about treating people of other faiths with respect, simply because one of the commenters referred to the God of the religion on which Western civilization was based as a “sky faerie.” This commenter later agreed that major thinkers from the faith, like Aquinas, were respectable even though wrong. That’s as far as the discussion needed to go.

Then this Kema fellow (or lady, whichever) popped in and started generating long comments that are full of errors. I have TX’s problem here: there are so many errors it’s hard to know where to start, and I’m tempted to simply say “F___ it,” and ban him. But I won’t do that.

The real issue, Kema, is whether you can discuss your differences without hurling insults. The people on this blog are my guests. You’re not free to come here and insult them.

Now, I don’t think we’re going to solve the question of the existence of God today. I do want to observe that Kema’s request for “proof” of the existence of God is equivocal in a particularly nasty way. He asserts that there is NO EVIDENCE for the existence of God. That’s a nonsensical statement, and I think he knows it. If I start listing the known arguments for the existence of God, he’ll recognize them — and probably start mimicking rebuttals by somebody like Dawkins or Harris to explain why he thinks those particular arguments are unpersuasive. Some of them, like the modern forms of the cosmological argument, are very firmly based on evidence (the singular explosion at the beginning of the universe demonstrates that the universe was caused, therefore there must exist a First Cause to explain the universe). The Telelogical argument also rests on evidence — the weight of Anthropic Constants continues to pile up, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that our universe is very, very, VERY finely tuned to produce life like ours. And then there are the arguments based on the existence of morals, the existence of meaning, the existence of consciousness, etc., all of which are based on observations of reality (e.g., there is certainly such a thing as meaning, such a thing as morality, such a thing as consciousness, etc.)

Now, the point is not whether Kema agrees that those arguments are true or not; the point is that the arguments exist, and Kema surely knows it. So he must know that the claim that there is NO EVIDENCE for the existence of God is simply false. What he means is, there is no argument for God’s existence that he finds persuasive. That’s a very different kettle of fish from “NO EVIDENCE.” But he insists on “NO EVIDENCE” because that equivocation permits him to claim that intelligent people MUST become atheists, in a fashion that requires him to make no positive claims and prove nothing at all. He gets to call himself “intelligent” and his opponents “stupid,” and all he has to do to defend it is keep moving the goalposts so no argument offered for the existence of God is ever good enough for him. It’s cowardly, it’s lazy, it’s intellectually deficient — and it goddam well IS NOT GOING TO CONTINUE ON MY BLOG.

Here’s the ticket, Kema: you know what some of the arguments for the existence of God are. If you don’t, say so, and I’ll point you toward posts of mine that offer a couple of them, or to other places on the Internet that offer them; but I think you do know what they are. So, you must know that if you reject the Teleological argument (for example,) then you must have an explanation for the IMMENSE improbability of the existence of human life in this universe. Since your knowledge is incomplete, your assertion that this improbable life arose without an immensely powerful, immensely intelligent, purposive being capable of planning and creating our universe does, in fact, require you to take some things on faith. You know this as well as I do. So stop lying and insulting my guests, and acknowledge the simple and harmless truth that all knowledge, at some point, relies on faith.

Or else, take your discussion elsewhere, because I will not have my guests insulted here. K?

(PS — are you aware that your pre-emption of free will arguments directly and immediately contradicts your previous assertion that God MUST be able to convince you that he exists? No, really, it does.)

March 12, 2009 @ 2:53 pm #

Agreed, Phil. I’m fairly used to the insults received from atheists, so was letting them roll off my back. It’s just business as usual.

I’m always amazed at the intellectual dishonesty of the atheist mind, in that they will bend over backwards any way they can to avoid the word “faith” in reference to their belief.

“As a final note, I haven’t limited myself to zero. I just need proof that there is one to actually believe in one.”

Kema, that statement of yours makes you an agnostic, a doubter, which is an entirely different animal than an atheist.

‘Nuff said, I won’t be responding to you again.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:45 am #

“popped in and started generating long comments that are full of errors.”

Please tell me even one argument I made that breaks a logical fallacy or is completely untrue.

“The real issue, Kema, is whether you can discuss your differences without hurling insults. The people on this blog are my guests. You’re not free to come here and insult them.”

Sweet. Censorship!

“He asserts that there is NO EVIDENCE for the existence of God.”

By definition, God is supernatural. Science deals with the natural, so science will NEVER make a statement as to the existance of God, but what it CAN do is tell you that correlating God to something natural it does say, “No. Natural phenomena X is cause by this.”

“If I start listing the known arguments for the existence of God, he’ll recognize them — and probably start mimicking rebuttals by somebody like Dawkins or Harris to explain why he thinks those particular arguments are unpersuasive.”

Finally an assertion you’ve made that is actually true. I would do that because logic and rationality trump faith every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

“the singular explosion at the beginning of the universe demonstrates that the universe was caused, therefore there must exist a First Cause to explain the universe).”

No. The singular explosion at the beginning of the universe demonstrates that the universe started wtih an explosion. The cause of that is yet unknown. Just because you want to believe that your God did it, doesn’t make it true or rational. You’re making a correlation without evidence to back it up.

BTW, that “first cause” argument is bullshit because you also have to explain where the first cause comes from then as well… it’s ridiculous to even postulate because we simply can’t know at this point. Saying it’s God only makes an infinite regression or leads to some absurdity like “God doesn’t need a cause.” It’s a worthless argument.

“What he means is, there is no argument for God’s existence that he finds persuasive.”

First, it’s mighty arrogent for you to say what I mean by something I said, esspecially when you’re wrong. When I said there is no evidence I meant it. There is no verifiable scientific evidence for or against God because, as I said earlier, science doesn’t deal in the super natural. It only tells you you’re flat out wrong, when you try to stick God into a natural process or state something that from the Bible that is obviously false (like the Earth is 6000 years old). That’s where science steps in.

If you want an argument to persuade a scientist you need one of two things:
1.) Verifiable, repeatable evidence, or
2.) Something that could not possible have happened by any other means… like if all of a sudden bullets could no longer kill people. We couldn’t explain that by any other means other than super natural causes. I’m sure if your God is all powerful he could come up with something.

“But he insists on “NO EVIDENCE” because that equivocation permits him to claim that intelligent people MUST become atheists, in a fashion that requires him to make no positive claims and prove nothing at all.”

Another incorrect assumption on your part. One of my favorite Scientists is Dr. Ken Miller. A devout catholic, but also a brilliant microbiologist. He’s also one of the most vocal proponants against ID/Creationism.

“all he has to do to defend it is keep moving the goalposts so no argument offered for the existence of God is ever good enough for him.”

I have never moved the goal posts for what would convince me. If you ask what proof I need, it’ll tell you exactly what would convince me.

Examples:
1.) You want to disprove evolution, find something that really is irreducibly complex. Find a modern day animal fossil out of place in the geological stratum. There’s plenty of things you could do.

2.) You want to justify banning same-sex marriage, give me ONE measurable detriment to society that comes from allowing it. (Sorry, “The Bible says so” doesn’t work here.)

I don’t move the goal posts like creationsts where they say find an intermediate between A an B, and we find A’ and then the creationist says find something between A and A’.

“Kema: you know what some of the arguments for the existence of God are.”

Yes, and not a single one is even remotely close to being proof for a deity in any reasonable sense of the word “proof.” Faith is not proof no matter how much you want it to be.

“So, you must know that if you reject the Teleological argument (for example,) then you must have an explanation for the IMMENSE improbability of the existence of human life in this universe.”

No matter how “IMMENSE” the imporbability, the fact is we know that the probability is 1.0 because *we exist.* The thing you fail to understand is we know life can start and evolve without the need of a deity. Self-replicating, evolving RNA (you can read the article here (http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/scientists-develop-first-examples-rna-replicates-itself-indefinitely-18191.html) has been produced in a lab by simulating what Earth would have been like when life began billions of years ago. It’s testable, observable, verifiable. We’ve observed evolution. It’s testable, observable, verifiable. We also know humans are produced via the same natural processes, with no divine intervention needed. It doesn’t matter how improbable you think it is, it’s not proof of any deity by any stretch of the imagination unless you take it on faith.

“PS — are you aware that your pre-emption of free will arguments directly and immediately contradicts your previous assertion that God MUST be able to convince you that he exists? No, really, it does.)”

Giving evidence does NOT take away free will. Just like I’m sure you’ll brush aside any argument I make, I won’t just brush aside any argument made to me… especially not one from a deity is he/she/it so happens to appear to me. The deity could convince me that he is real, so it would be my own choice to believe in him.

I state the following in response to Phil for the benefit of other people so they won’t fall into the same fallacies he did:

“I’m always amazed at the intellectual dishonesty of the atheist mind, in that they will bend over backwards any way they can to avoid the word “faith” in reference to their belief.”

Belief != faith. Belief in something is based on some amount of evidence, and non-belief because of a lack of it. Faith, however, is defined as positive belief in something WITHOUT evidence.

“Kema, that statement of yours makes you an agnostic, a doubter, which is an entirely different animal than an atheist.”

Atheism and agnosticism address two different points… what what BELIEVES and what one KNOWS. Agnosticism is not some happy middle ground between the two.

I do NOT believe in a deity because I have been shown no logical evidence that a deity is probable. I however am no so arrogent as to say I KNOW there is no deity for the exact same reason… I can’t disprove your diety.

So, it comes down to this…
Choose one of these: atheist or theist
and one of these: agnostic/gnostic

I’m an atheist agnostic. I do not BELIEVE in a god, however I don’t state for a fact there is no god. I only state at this point in time there is no logical or verifiable proof or evidence for a deity.

I’ll even give you the examples:

Gnostic atheist: I KNOW there is no God

Agnostic atheist: me, and most other athiests… even Dawkins is an agnostic atheist. There are varying degrees here. Some buddists fall into this category as well.

Agnostic theist: pantheists and deist mostly, however there are some christians that fall into this category

Gnostic theist: Anything described as “fundamentalist.” Creationists, most Muslims, etc

Please learn the definitons of the words before you try to tell me what I am.

In finishing, Phil, don’t worry about banning me. I won’t be back. I’ve reached my limit in trying to explain definitions and fallacies of what you all have said. I won’t be back.

March 13, 2009 @ 11:48 am #

On the off chance that Kema does not keep his word, and for those reading, I will respond to just a couple of points:

Belief != faith. Belief in something is based on some amount of evidence, and non-belief because of a lack of it. Faith, however, is defined as positive belief in something WITHOUT evidence.

No. This is an instance of that equivocation I mentioned, the one Kema ignored.

From Merriam-Webster online:

” faith
\ˈfāth\ noun

1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions
2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

And from dictionary.com:

faith
   /feɪθ/ [feyth] –noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

Notice that both definitions supply the word “proof.” Proof, also from dictionary.com, is “evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true.” Note that “evidence,” in the definition of proof, is qualified; proof is evidence sufficient to establish truth. All evidence is not proof; only evidence sufficient to produce certainly is proof.

There is thus a vast difference between “no evidence” and “no proof.” There are many things for which there exists evidence, but the evidence is not sufficient to establish them as true; evidence, but no proof. For example, there exists no evidence at all that multiple universes exist. There exists evidence that black holes exist, but it has not yet been proved. Belief in multiverses is pure supposition; belief in black holes, which is actually supported by some evidence, may be called “faith” if one bases some action on the probability that black holes exist. (By the way, cosmologists much better educated and more intelligent than Kema recognize that the Big Bang has made the Cosmological Argument so powerful, and the Anthropic Constants have made the Teleoloical Argument so certain, that they insist on multiverses to avoid having to admit that Theism is the most likely explanation for the universe. However, since there exists not only no proof that multiverses exist, but literally no evidence, it is the case that atheists who reject those two arguments are expressing faith that fits the definition of that which Kema so rigorously denies — believing something for which there is NO EVIDENCE, simply because their philosophy requires it. That’s not just faith, that’s GREAT faith. No Christian I know has that much faith. Kema, on the other hand, does.)

The errors Kema produces rely largely on his interchangeable use of “no evidence” and “no proof,” which ignores the vast sea of plausible statements that exist in the gap between “I made this idea up out of nothing” (“no evidence”) and “Every reasonable person is completely convinced” (“proof.”) Faith is not a belief in something for which there is no evidence, it is a belief in something for which there is some evidence, but no proof. In Christian theology, this means, for example, the believer has ample evidence that God will do a thing on his behalf, but since that thing exists in the future, he has no proof, and he has to trust. That’s Christian faith. In other areas of knowledge — like, say, science — it means the scientist has a reasonable expectation of an outcome, even though the event has not yet taken place; an instance would be the prediction of the next solar eclipse. A better example appears in Dawkin’s The God Delusion, page 158, where he expresses confidence that physics will produce a “crane” as powerful as natural selection is in biology to explain the improbability of our universe without requiring a divinity. Notice, also, definition #2 in the dictionary.com definition of “faith,” above. That’s a completely proper use of the word “faith” in describing how a scientist might use it.

Next:

Please tell me even one argument I made that breaks a logical fallacy or is completely untrue.

I’ve already explained a few. and I’ll mention two more. This deserves comment first:

… intolerance for non-believers, blacks, gays, anti-science propaganda, and things of that nature are NOT subjective reflection. They are measurably bad.

Measurably bad. This would require that Kema had invented a completely objective measuring tool for morality. I’d really, very badly like to see that scale. If he can’t produce it, then the use of “measurable” in that sentence is not just an error, but a risible attempt to claim technical and scientific merit for a set of arguments that are subjective within himself. I’d call that a rather stark logical fallacy.

My next example is longer, but important. Kema wrote:

Your best course of action would be to pray to your deity that he/she/it/them show themselves to atheists and theists of other religions in such a way they will convert and make everyone in the world a single religion. (He’s all powerful and should be able to do that. And please don’t use the “it would take away free will” argument. It’s useless… if evidence took away free will, then no one would be able to deny evolution.

And I replied that Kema made contradictory statements here. His is completely correct about this: evidence does not take away free will. However, free will produces the possibility of rejecting evidence; and if there’s a possibility in any argument, no matter how powerful the evidence, that the subject will simply reject it, then there is no argument that God (or anyone else) could offer that would infallibly result in the conversion of every person and the existence of a single religion.

Kema attempts to counter this even before I mention it, indicating that he already knows this to be so, by saying:

Just like I’m sure you’ll brush aside any argument I make, I won’t just brush aside any argument made to me… especially not one from a deity is he/she/it so happens to appear to me. The deity could convince me that he is real, so it would be my own choice to believe in him.

He makes a prediction about the outcome of an event that, in his mind, has not taken place. He can’t prove it, because it’s future, yet he’s certain, arguably based on prior behavior. (As an aside, this is precisely what the Christian refers to as “faith.”) Rather than establishing a logically certain outcome based on a correct syllogism, Kema is basically saying, “Trust me.” So, his assertion that God could certainly do this thing is not proved, we just have to take his word for it. Frankly, it’s not provable — because so long as free will exists, there’s some likelihood that the person examining the argument will simply reject even the best evidence, no matter how certainly Kema swears to the contrary. That’s a necessary characteristic of free will.

And by the way, in case anyone is tempted to argue how vastly unlikely it is that he would reject such evidence, my answer is that God has already, in fact, provided just such evidence to all mankind, and the vast majority of them have rejected it, including Kema. The evidence for the existence of God is all around him, every day, every minute, and he doesn’t accept it. Explaining the evidence for God to a person who claims not to see Him is like trying to explain to a fish that there exists such a thing as an ocean; the fish can’t see it, not because he can’t see the ocean, but because he’s never seen anything but the ocean. Humans can’t see God, not because He does not reveal Himself, but because it’s not logically possible for God to do anything in our universe that does not reveal Him. In effect, God wears nature like a glove on His hand, and every aspect of nature reveals Him. In order for one to see God in our universe, they’d have to see something that is distinctly not God in our universe, so they could distinguish God from the background. The only place in our universe where that exists is in human sin — the evil acts of men, and the consequences thereof. So there’s plenty of evidence for the existence of God; hell, there’s nothing in the universe that is not evidence for the existence of God. And yet, Kema rejects it.

We’re done here. Kema, if you want to reply, use email; my address is under the “Contact” label on my sidebar. I will delete further comments on the subject. Thanks for coming.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:08 pm #

Do not know if this comment will go through or if Phil has locked the thread down entirely or just the subject of Faith.

I was just paging through Hot Air when I came across this story:http://hotair.com/archives/2009/03/13/why-hesc-goes-in-the-wrong-direction/

As the original article, and the author of the piece at Hot Air says, Obama reversed Bush’s Executive order banning federal funding for ESCR, and then a ban for this fiscal year was written into the omnibus spending bill, which will then have to be renewed or not every year, barring further legislation.

So I am wondering, what is the deal here? Is it as the Hot Air guy says, Obama is just kicking the can to congress, while taking credit for rescinding the ban, while not really rescinding the ban by signing a new ban into law?

My opinion is that this could be a way of having it both ways. He can proudly display his bona fides to the Left about rescinding the ban on funding. Then if enough people hammer him from the right he can say, but I signed a ban into law the week after. Throw in some stuff about returning legislation to it’s rightful owners, congress (which actually could be a persuasive argument.) Then, next year with Congress still controlled by Dems, they let the ban die while no one is really looking. Triangulation. Actually pretty slick in a cold blooded, manipulative way. If this is what he intends.

March 13, 2009 @ 4:47 pm #

Horatius,

I just read that Hot Air piece you mentioned. I think what’s happening here is the converse of a “poison pill” amendment; I think Obama is deliberately sweetening the Omnibus spending bill by giving it a life-saving amendment that conservatives will not want to defeat. It looks to me like a strategy to get the spending bill passed with bipartisan support, and no filibuster.

I think what it says is that he really doesn’t care all that much about hEsc research, ’cause he’s willing to use it as a bargaining chip.

But that’s just a guess. I’m really not that close to Congress, so others are better sources of the real story behind Congressional finagling.

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