Friday, April 06, 2007

Arguing Against God

 
John Wilkins brings up an issue that just doesn't seem to go away [Disagreeing with PZ]. He argues that there's a stupid version of religion and a smart, sophisticated version of religion. Wilkins claims that "aggressive" atheists are picking on the stupid version and not addressing the smart version. He implies that it's harder to refute the smart version.
This is what I reject about the Dawkins/Moran/PZ aggressive atheism - it takes the most stupid version of religion, argues against it, and then claims to have given reasons for not being religious. At best (and here I concur) they have given reasons not to be stupid theists. But a good argument takes on the best of the opposing view, not the worst.
John, I debate the existence of God. I have not ignored any arguments for the existence of God that I know of. If you think there are good arguments for the existence of God that I have avoided then please make them known to me. I'm not interested in any of the baggage that comes along with accepting the existence of God. As far as I'm concerned they are completely meaningless unless you can prove that God exists.

I'm aware of the fact that, C.S.Lewis, Jerry Falwell, the Jesuits, and Francis Collins have different concepts of what must follow once you accept the existence of God. Some of those concepts are "sophisticated" and some are "stupid." I don't care. I'm only interested in whether or not there is a God in the first place.

Looking forward to seeing your list of "smart" arguments for the existence of God I am,

Your Agressive Atheist.

122 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing your list of "smart" arguments for the existence of God I am

    Doesn't that depend on what the words "existence" and "God" mean?

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  2. Yes, and it also depends on the meaning of "looking," "arguments" and every other word in the sentence.

    What is your point? Do you really think there's a huge controversy over what I mean when I refer to the "existence of God"? Would it be better if I asked whether "supernatural beings are real or imaginary?"

    BTW, do you have any "smart" arguments or is your question supposed to be "smart?" :-)

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  3. What is your point? Do you really think there's a huge controversy over what I mean when I refer to the "existence of God"?

    Rob Knop is on recent record as having redefined "existence" to justify his belief. (He also redefined "God" and "Christianity," but those are more typical.) Perhaps that is to what anonymous referred.

    He argues that there's a stupid version of religion and a smart, sophisticated version of religion.

    Undemonstrated. Certainly, some forms of religion are more stupid than others. Perhaps if he claimed there was stupid religion and stupider religion, I could agree with that. Give him hell.

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  4. Yes, and it also depends on the meaning of "looking," "arguments" and every other word in the sentence.

    Well, "existence" and "God" are the key words in that sentence.

    Does "existence" refer to the physical reality *in* this universe? Or somewhere else in an infinite multiverse (assuming the multiverse "exists")? Or is this all just a dream, and "existence" refers to the greater reality that you may wake up into? Or does "existence" refer to an immaterial idea or concept?

    The word "God" is even more important. How can you call yourself an atheist or a theist if you can't even define what the word means?

    What is your point? Do you really think there's a huge controversy over what I mean when I refer to the "existence of God"?

    Now you seem to be referring to the common Abrahamic God, whereas in your original question to John, you were asking for a more "sophisticated" version.

    Would it be better if I asked whether "supernatural beings are real or imaginary?"

    Isn't "supernatural" a bit of a meaningless word? Whatever "is", is natural. But again, we have that little problem with the meaning of "existence" :)

    BTW, do you have any "smart" arguments or is your question supposed to be "smart?" :-)

    No, I need more clarity on the question first. I could have just said 42 :)

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  5. God is a ham sandwhich. But then I ate a ham sandwhich just last night. So now God is dead.

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  6. Wilkins is originally criticizing PZ for not engaging Pagels view, but the irony is that Pagels made a courtier's reply to Dawkins.

    The "philosophic gods" are weak concepts, which explains why the responses are weak too. My challenge to Wilkins was that these are old, heavily constrained and mostly debunked concepts, which are far from using philosophy to propose new ideas for research.

    Dawkins and Stenger may be exploring new grounds. It would be interesting to see philosophers join them in that exploration. Theistic evolution in all its variants would be a ripe target.

    "How can you call yourself an atheist or a theist if you can't even define what the word means?"

    That can be a problem for an atheist, since some atheists may only react to the suppositions of the theist. It is also a strategy of theists to change and defer definition. Interventionist god believers (the laity) points to non-interventionist philosophical gods as deflecting criticism.

    But it is really theism that must define the concept enough for an analysis if it wants a serious consideration.

    "Isn't "supernatural" a bit of a meaningless word? Whatever "is", is natural."

    Supernatural is a philosophical concept. It can be defined as phenomena which are not subject to natural laws. One philosophical use is non-interventionist gods, another interventionist gods (non-caused phenomena as we would observe them). So the later is in principle observable.

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  7. I should never post on religion during holidays when I have family commitments...

    My argument is not that there are convincing arguments for the existence of God - if there were, I would be a theist, nu? Nor is my argument that Pagels gave the right answer. My argument is that attacks upon religion that are based on taking the simpleminded forms are not sufficient to eliminate all religious believers as irrational.

    I think rational people can hold a range of views so long as they are self-consistent, and I think a theist can be self-consistent (and can also accept science). That is not compelling to a nonbeliever because to find theism compelling you need to be inside that particular hermeneutic bubble, but all I argue is that we can, as nonbelievers, allow that theists can be rational in their own way. It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

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  8. Supernatural is a philosophical concept. It can be defined as phenomena which are not subject to natural laws.

    And how do you know what all the "natural" laws are?

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  9. These unsophisticated god arguments were designed through multiple iterations (evolved?) specifically to be popular. They falsely address various powerful insecurities like death and can only be maintained by not thinking very much.

    Philosophical or theological aristocrats would seem to be unlikely to get much emotional comfort out of their god but something keeps them tied to it. I note how John seems to need at least the possibility that there is something 'else' and the effort he goes to in order to defend that possibility.

    I like your choice to demand proof of a god's existence, rather than being drawn into disproving every version that gets thrown up.

    Unfortunately god pushers won't stop just because they have no proof.

    Wishful thinking starts with the wish and any thinking that occurs is all after the fact in order to sustain it.

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  10. It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

    Because in real life, theists' request for "tolerance and respect" from atheists is generally "admit that my claim without evidence is compelling"... followed by "now shut up". And that's the reasonable ones.

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  11. Torbjörn Larsson: "the irony is that Pagels made a courtier's reply to Dawkins."

    And where did she insist that Dawkins study the Emperor's clothing? It looks to me like she is saying, "Dawkins is pointing at another naked emperor and saying he's my emperor." Now whether that is true is another story, but her reply is not that of the courtier.

    Or has "Courtier's Reply" now come to be the standard reply to any criticism of Dawkins, regardless of its content?

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  12. John Wilkins is right at a more basic and important level.
    The existence of God is not "good stuff" as matter of scientific inquiry. I would never recommend that subject to a student, to say the least haha.
    No one can scientifically prove that god exists, no one can scientifically prove he does not exist. Science does not care for the supernatural.
    But religion does: Precisely, it must . At least at some clear points it explcity challenges logic and experience. It requires faith. You have faith that true mIracles are not impossible. It's a basic trait of religion, that will stay as long as there is religion. "logical-empirical" refutation poses no threat whatsoever for religion.
    I, personally, do not believe that god exists. I'm an atheist but please note I'm not hammering my views about god as "the only logical thing". Not on a topic such as..."god"

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  13. John says,

    It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

    I don't like being accused of intolerance. Just because I argue strongly against a point of view doesn't mean I'm unwilling to tolerate people who disagree with me. I would gladly vote for a Christian or anyone else who professes a religion.

    I respect all kinds of people who believe in God. That does not mean I have to agree with them. I respect you, John, even though we disagree on a number of things and we argue about them in public. Why would you imply that I have no respect or tolerance for believers? Is it because I don't respect the worst of them that you assume I disrespect all of them?

    Incidentally, have you ever accused some of your religious friends of lacking tolerance and respect for non-believers or is it only me, Dawkins, and PZ who are being intolerant and disrespectful?

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  14. J:

    The original question was: "What do you make of the recent claim by the atheist Richard Dawkins that the existence of God is itself a scientific question?"

    Which question she didn't answer, but said: "the God that he's debunking is not one that most of the people I study would recognize." ( http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/04/hiding_from_religious_reality.php )

    You should explain how you infer that she is discussing her own gods, and how the later would be outside the courtiers reply.

    (When someone like Dawkins discuss the naked emperor (interventionist gods) the courtier's response is that he must discuss the embroideries of the emperors dress (non-interventionist gods). It seems to me a fair description of Pagels non-response.)

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  15. all I argue is that we can, as nonbelievers, allow that theists can be rational in their own way.

    I'll agree that some beliefs are more rational than others, and I'll even agree that believing certain things is "rational in their own way". However, that is not the point. The point is that their starting premises are irrational. It's quite simple really- if a belief, any belief, is not based on any evidence whatsoever, then it's irrational. Yes, me believing that the diamond in my back yard is very hard would be rational, but only if it's true that there IS a diamond in my back yard.

    It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

    I think there is a very important distinction to be made here. I personally am not in favor of disrespecting or being intolerant of individuals, but cannot see why BELIEFS should be respected or tolerated. Especially when they have consequences in the real world, which religious beliefs certainly do, whether or not they are "rational" or not.

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  16. Yes, and it also depends on the meaning of "looking," "arguments" and every other word in the sentence.

    What is your point? Do you really think there's a huge controversy over what I mean when I refer to the "existence of God"?


    I suspect the definition of a "smart theologian" is "a theologian who uses a definition of 'existence' which excludes scientific methods".

    There are lots of abstract nouns (truth, justice, The American Way, love, confusion) whose existence cannot clearly be defined in scientific terms. Show me an atom of mercy, take the temperature of anger, or weigh the truth of this sentence...

    If the "smart theologian" uses a definition of "existence" and "God" that places them on this abstract plane, that theologian has thus inherently remove themselves from the realm of scientific enquiry. Of course, it then becomes harder for them to argue that God actually *does* anything, and impossible for them to say how She/He/It (which I have trouble not abbreviating further...) does it.

    At its most basic, science relies on the underlying assumption "Material effects proceed from material causes". You can't disprove an immaterial God, but you *can* argue that an immaterial God has no material effects.

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  17. Anonymous
    "And how do you know what all the "natural" laws are?"

    I have no idea, but ID:ers, they argue that "naturalism" is "false" and "limiting", so they MUST know what it is.
    (They can't say that it limit something outside if they don't have an idea what "natural laws" are.)

    So go and ask them!

    (It is like asking "is evolution unfalsifiable just so storytelling machine = which can generate anything OR is there some observable phenomena (like RC) which can not be generated through evolution..)

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  18. I can think of at least two other shades of "existence": fuzzy superimposed quantum "existence", and the "existence" of a reality inseparable from your own consciousness (how can anything "exist" if "you" don't?), which leads to at least a quasi-solipsism.

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  19. God is a ham sandwhich. But then I ate a ham sandwhich just last night. So now God is dead.

    You are what you eat. So now you are God.

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  20. but all I argue is that we can, as nonbelievers, allow that theists can be rational in their own way.

    "in their own way"? (roll eyes)


    It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

    Where "tolerance" and "respect" mean the acknowledgment that a nonrational claim is rational. I can peacefully live and work with theists, but I will not stand idly by while reason is *******.

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  21. Torbjörn Larsson: "When someone like Dawkins discuss the naked emperor (interventionist gods) the courtier's response is that he must discuss the embroideries of the emperors dress (non-interventionist gods). It seems to me a fair description of Pagels non-response."

    Last time I checked, the emperor's clothes were theology, not non-interventionist gods, e.g., "Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope," to quote the review by Eagleton that was the original object of parody in the Courtier's Reply. If you are going to stretch the meaning of the Emperor's clothes that far, then I'd say that you have come to using the Courtier's Reply as an all-purpose deflector of criticism.

    Larry Moran: "I don't like being accused of intolerance."

    Then don't "jokingly" say that high-schoolers who bought the ID BS should not be admitted to university (where they can unlearn the BS). Don't make claims that imply that the NCSE says that miracles are part of science. Demonizing the opposition with statements that at the very least border on the slanderous is a hallmark of the intolerant.

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  22. Was calling Dawkins a "village atheist" intolerant and respectful?

    And how come when some theologian goes looking for a scientist to criticize for naive and stupid views of religion, they always jump on Dawkins, but not Francis Collins?

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  23. pz myers: "Was calling Dawkins a 'village atheist' intolerant and respectful?"

    It was certainly disrespectful. It is one thing, however, to disrespect a whole class of people with an epithet that implies that they all fit a stereotype. It is another thing to disrespect a person with an epithet that is insulting but descriptive. It's the difference between referring to all Republicans as "right wingnuts" and referring to operatives like Sean Hannity by that name.

    pz meyers: "And how come when some theologian goes looking for a scientist to criticize for naive and stupid views of religion, they always jump on Dawkins, but not Francis Collins?"

    Dawkins is far less obscure than Collins. That's not the only reason of course, but let's not pretend that Dawkins isn't a much bigger presence.

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  24. Concerning the definition of intolerance, J.J. Ramsey says.

    Then don't "jokingly" say that high-schoolers who bought the ID BS should not be admitted to university (where they can unlearn the BS). Don't make claims that imply that the NCSE says that miracles are part of science. Demonizing the opposition with statements that at the very least border on the slanderous is a hallmark of the intolerant.

    Are you being serious?

    When I question whether students who reject evolution are ready for university, that's being "intolerant?"

    When I challenge people who think that miracles are compatible with science that's "intolerant?"

    You have a very strange definition of intolerance. You're using it as a weapon to stifle criticism.

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  25. Larry Moran: "When I question whether students who reject evolution are ready for university"

    You didn't question. You said they shouldn't be there, period. What you advised was a prescription for keeping the ignorant ignorant. Of course, you said you were joking afterwards, but only after the obvious problems with your modest proposal were pointed out.

    Larry Moran: "When I challenge people who think that miracles are compatible with science that's "intolerant?"

    Don't try to weasel by shifting from "part of" to "compatible with." You indicated that the likes of the NCSE said that miracles were "part of science." Those were your words, and they were false words, too, since the NCSE advocates methodological naturalism, which explicitly rules miracles out as a scientific explanation. BTW, if you are wondering why I am mentioning the NCSE when you conveniently did not mention them, it is because you wrote this:

    "Richard Dawkins writes about the 'Neville Chamberlain "appeasement" school' of evolutionists. These are scientists who are willing to compromise science in order to form an alliance with some religious groups who oppose Christian fundamentalism. Do you believe in miracles? That's okay, it's part of science."

    When I look at what Dawkins wrote, he uses the NCSE and Michael Ruse as examples of "appeasers," and both advocated methodological naturalism.

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  26. A subject like god automatically causes disagreement. This disagreement about the exact nature of god between atheists is not going to end. As soon as you start talking about god, you know people will fall into these dead-end disagreements.
    We must not accept that a fact like evolution be denied in biology class, and must energically ensure that is respected. But what about the eternal question about the existence of god? NOT a scientific topic, not within the competence of science and I say that should by all means be an OFFICIAL ANSWER.

    But, you cannot have an argument with a theist unless you accept some common premise to start with... unfortunatley, for some atheists that common ground is the agreement on the notion that the existence of god can indeed be scientifically tested.

    P.D. Unlike wilkins, I don't think it too necessary to make the distinction for "the better" religion (though I know there are, of course, better, more interesting and mature religions with great humanist achievements).
    Simply, faith of any kind, to prove itself, must crash with fact and reason, at least every once in a while. It's an important part of ANY true religion.

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  27. a miracle by definition must be incompatible with science, if not, it is not a miracle. The fact that it is incompatible with science is completely consistent within a real religious faith.

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  28. I respect all kinds of people who believe in God. That does not mean I have to agree with them. I respect you, John, even though we disagree on a number of things and we argue about them in public. Why would you imply that I have no respect or tolerance for believers? Is it because I don't respect the worst of them that you assume I disrespect all of them?

    If you assert that all believers are not rational, then yes, you disrespect them. All of them. If you asserted that anyone who held that some aspect of living things was irrational, too, then you'd be disrespecting me (of course you don't hold that, but I'm trying valiantly for a parallel case you might think salient).

    I know many religious believers who are way better educated, both in their religion and in science and philosophy, than I am, who are smarter, and snappier dressers. I think they are wrong about their beliefs. I do not think they are irrational. Or better, no less rational than I or you or PZ or Dawkins. Harris I will leave out of this as I haven't heard good things about his book and haven't read it.

    Incidentally, have you ever accused some of your religious friends of lacking tolerance and respect for non-believers or is it only me, Dawkins, and PZ who are being intolerant and disrespectful?

    Of course I have. And what is more, I have done so equally publicly as my criticisms of you and Paul. But a curious fact: critics of either side are treated solely as critics of one side. Nobody reads my attacks on those who they themselves oppose as being evidence of a fair and balanced treatment.

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  29. Oops:

    "If you asserted that anyone who held that some aspect of living things could be explained as adaptive was irrational"

    Doesn't make sense without it - up to you to decide if it makes sense with it...

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  30. John Wilkins says,

    If you assert that all believers are not rational, then yes, you disrespect them.

    That's nonsense, John, and I think you know it.

    I happen to think that it's very rational to be an atheist and it's irrational to adopt superstition as a personal worldview. I realize that most people don't like the suggestion that their cherished beliefs might be irrational but don't confuse debates over whether something is rational or irrational with respect or disrespect.

    As for your analogy concerning adaptionism, I actually do think it's irrational to believe that all of evolution can be explained by natural selection. That doesn't mean I have no respect for people who hold that belief. I could be wrong and they could be right. The issue hasn't been decided.

    Do you know very many people who think their opinions are irrational and those of their opponents are rational?

    Do you think that agnosticism is rational or do you think your stance is irrational? If it's rational, doesn't it follow that everything else is irrational? Is this blanket disrespect for all atheists and Christians?

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  31. I don't know that miracles need be unexplainable by science.

    If I turn a corner in my car and someone runs the red light and very nearly hits me but at the last second I see the threat and turn away with a screeching halt and nobody is hurt, I might call it a miracle - that is, a highly unexpected event with a positive outcome. Yet at the same time I am perfectly cheerful in my knowledge of physics that showed that nothing supernatural occurred at all.

    You may say 'well, this stretches the definition of miracle until it is something that is so subjective that anyone could define anything as a miracle' and I say 'that's absolutely right.' Miracles are personal, like love or taxes.

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  32. But religions will always make it pretty clear what kind of miracle THEY are talking about. Precisely, if not faith could not be required. Several days old rotting corpse of lazarus rising from the dead, you cannot say how lucky or what an amazing coincidence, right? It's as materially imposible as feeding thousands with a few leftovers, or just float out of sight into the sky.

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  33. "If it's rational, doesn't it follow that everything else is irrational?"

    Actually, no, it doesn't. You are confusing two very different statements:

    * X is true.
    * It is rational to believe X.

    Obviously, if X is true, then not-X is false. (Duh!) However, one can rationally believe something that is false, because the evidence is murky, or how things appear is misleading, and so on.

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  34. j.j. ramsay says,

    However, one can rationally believe something that is false, because the evidence is murky ...

    You must have an interesting life. I understand you're an engineer, right? Can you post a list of the things you build that might be based on false concepts that you rationally believe? I'd like to avoid them if possible. :-)

    Seriously, if the evidence is murky I withhold judgment. I think that's the only rational thing to do. I might lean one why or another but I would never argue that my tilt is rational and a tilt in the other direction is not.

    Perhaps you're referring to the fact that I can make a mistake and think that something is rational when it's not? If that's what you're saying then I agree 100%. I have lots of examples.

    I don't really understand your point. To me, if there's a choice between two possibilities (say, evolution and Creationism) and I believe that one is based on rational thinking, then doesn't it follow that I identify the other with irrationality? Can you think of a case where you believe your position is rational but so is your opponent's?

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  35. Do you think that agnosticism is rational or do you think your stance is irrational? If it's rational, doesn't it follow that everything else is irrational? Is this blanket disrespect for all atheists and Christians?

    I hope not. I make a certain decision based on a lack of evidence not to take a position on this matter. Others think they can take a position. I do not see how, but I do not think they re irrational for so concluding.

    You keep using the word "rational". I do not think it means what you think it means. For my money, someone is rational in their beliefs if their choice of belief coheres with the majority of their views, and they are able to maximise consistency with statements of fact. There is a large number of statements of fact, and nobody - not you, not Paul, not Dawkins or Dennett - is capable of cohering all statements of fact with their beliefs or vice versa. We are not Laplacean Demons.

    So we are simply haggling over the price, as Shaw said to the society lady; we must agree on what we are - fallible knowers who cannot reconcile all our beliefs in our lifetimes. So it is hubris in the extreme to claim, as so many do on both sides, that anyone who chooses different beliefs to one's own is ipso facto irrational. Particularly when everyone knows the only sensible view is to be an agnostic ;-)

    This is not to say that anything goes - we can tell those who are obviously irrational (ranging from schizophrenics to creationists, in which direction I will allow the reader to decide), but there's sufficient wiggle room for us to allow that a religious person, who has taken the trouble to learn a lot of science and who has no antiscience bent a priori, can be rational, in their overall commitments even if we disagree about the beliefs themselves. I happen to think that atheism is an unjustified belief, though probably true. I don't therefore think atheists are irrational. Parity and symmetry require that I extend the same courtesy to intelligent theists as well.

    Ramsay is right - people can be rational or not, or statements of belief can be. A person, if they must have a certain percentage of unsupported beliefs, can still be rational, even if they hold views you happen to think are superstitious. Part of that comes from the fact that many people - OK, all people - have at least some unexamined beliefs, so overall reasonableness can remain despite those views, or we condemn everyone to being ruled irrational, in which case the very notion has no meaning.

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  36. Alipio: (1) No one can scientifically prove that god exists, (2) no one can scientifically prove he does not exist. (3) Science does not care for the supernatural.

    1) That depends on which particular god you're talking about. Certainly most gods that have ever been worshipped or described could be proven; that is, if they actually existed. Take for example Zeus, who resides on top of Mt. Olympus. It is not in principle that such gods are unproven, it is a in practice that evidence for their existence has failed to turn up.

    2) This is trivially true, in the sense that invisible pink unicorns and teapots orbiting distant stars cannot be proven not to exist.

    So what you are saying is that the only gods which have not been disproven are those which cannot be disproven. That is a very weak claim, and the presumption of disbelief (teapot argument) ought to be enough to cover it.

    Other concepts which cannot be disproven are generally not considered rational or worthy of serious consideration. For example, some Bigfoot believers explain away the lack of physical evidence by stating that Bigfoot retreats into another dimension when pursued. Really, if your argument is that weak you should just pack it in.

    3) Again, this is not in principle true. Within the last decade, there have been many attempts to explore whether an interventionist god who heeds third-party prayers to heal the sick exists. All such sizable, well-designed, well-run studies return the answer of "No," except of course for the Elisabeth Targ study, which is known to be fraudulent, and the Columbia University study, which is widely believed to be fraudulent (nonsensical methods, authors withdrawing or being found guilty of various misdeeds which cast shadows on their integrity, editors stonewalling). Other supernatural phenomena which impinge on the natural world are also scientifically testable. However, no such testable phenomena have ever actually passed such tests.

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  37. I am the organizer of the annual Bible skeptics conference. We are planning our next conference in Feb.08 and plan to hold two debates.1) Darwin vs Bible(Scientific) and Skeptic vs believer (philosophical)Do you know any worthy "Darwin" and "skeptic" proponents? David Onley (City TV) will be the moderator

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  38. "I am the organizer of the annual Bible skeptics conference."

    You mean this one?: http://www.bibleskeptics.org/

    If so, the name is even more deceptive than the name "Skeptic's Annotated Bible."

    "Do you know any worthy 'Darwin' and 'skeptic' proponents?"

    If you are serious, you might want to try the Biblical Criticism & History forum at IIDB. That's at least got some people a cut above the run-of-the-mill Internet skeptic. Whether they will be interested is another story. I doubt that they would expect to be given a fair hearing at your conference.

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  39. Other supernatural phenomena which impinge on the natural world are also scientifically testable. However, no such testable phenomena have ever actually passed such tests.

    If such phenomena were tested and repeatedly came up positive, they would not be called "supernatural", but rather "natural", with an unknown explanation. Further testing might result in hypotheses and theories that eventually coalesce into an explanation.

    The only "supernatural" phenomena that could possibly exist, are those that are not repeatable or cannot be tested. But even under that definition, the radioactive decay of an atom might considered supernatural, since it's exact time can't be predicted, it won't always happen at the same interval, and happens without any apparent cause.

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  40. If you say "there is no evidence for the existence of this god, and this god" surely you must have a specific evidence in mind.
    Which is the specific evidence that could lead you to believe in any god? a pearly throne at the summit of mouse olympus would be enough for zeus?
    In any religion I think we will find agreement that god is a supernatural entity. Challenging experience and reason has a natural niche within any religion, so you won't be able to bring it down by any process of reason and evidence.
    If you say "HEY, there is no zeus living on mount olympus" or "HEY, jesus could NOT have walked on water" well... that's why you have to have faith to believe in a god. With faith, it is still possible to believe in zeus.

    I don't believe in god, I know I cannot demonstrate he does not exist, but I am quite happy knowing that it is impossible for any one to prove god exists.
    In all, I choose not to believe. The non-existence of a god is not like a mere scientific fact everyone should know about. Imagine every supernatural entity, the non existence of each one labeled as "scientific fact". Its ridiculous. It's not the way to handle a scientifically untestable topic.
    Some insist atheism is " the only logical thing" yet in the next breath they say that given evidence of a god, they would believe!!!. Who is the wishy-washier? You see, God is just such a kind of subject

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  41. Yes thats the website JJ. I don't suppose there is anyone qualified here. Thanks for the refferral

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  42. alipio says,

    I don't believe in god, I know I cannot demonstrate he does not exist, but I am quite happy knowing that it is impossible for any one to prove god exists.

    This is not correct. It is quite possible to prove that God exists, if he exists. The fact that there is no evidence at all for the existence of God is quite significant because people have been trying to find that evidence for 5000 years.

    This is one time when the absence of evidence makes one pause. It's still not evidence of absence but it does change the dynamics of the discussion. People who believe in supernatural beings have to start the discussion by making their basic assumption clear. They believe in something but they cannot demonstrate that it exists when talking to a skeptic.

    This is why the Flying Spaghetti Monster analogy is so important. It seems really silly to believe in something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster when there's absolutely no evidence that it exists. Well, it's just as silly to believe in everything else that exists only in your imagination.

    Incidently, there are very simple, naive versions of the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion. There are also very some sophisticated mature versions of the religion that have been adopted by some very intelligent people. There's even a gnostic version.

    Does the fact that there are sophisticated versions make you more likely to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I didn't think so. It's completely irrelevant to the question of whether she exists, isn't it?

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  43. Hehe. C'mon, Larry. Just HOW is someone h¡gonna prove go exists? Just give me one "proof"
    (this is gonna be funny)

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  44. There's a simpler method:

    Whether "god" exists or not I propose that:
    No god is detectable, and therfore, even if a god or gods "exist", he.she/it/they are i;rrelevant."

    This gets around the "nyahh, you can't prove a negative!" which one gets even from the so-called "sophisticated" believers.

    In the absence of any positive evidence for this positive test, I will continue as an atheist, as should be the default postion of all rational thinkers, given the test proposed.

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  45. Alipio asks,

    Hehe. C'mon, Larry. Just HOW is someone h¡gonna prove go exists? Just give me one "proof" (this is gonna be funny)

    The funniest way would be if THE RAPTURE happened this afternoon. There are more subtle possibilities. Proof of the efficacy of prayer, for example, or the existence of documented miracles.

    To prove he exists all God has to do is show himself. That would work for me. How about you?

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  46. if the rapture started happening and I'd never come across a christian acccount of what the rapture is supposed to be, I'd probably just crap in my pants and would not know what is going on. mass abduction by extraterrestrials?
    See, you guys complain that you don't have to discuss the specifics of any sophisticated religion; after all, if god does not exist, the emperor's dress does not exist so why discuss its embrioideries? yet when pressed to say what would your evidence would be, tada!! You are ALL about the specifics of specific religoons as the only ways of confirmation. That's poor stuff, scientists. You're all about the embroideries.
    Same thing for god just showing himself. Just what do you expect him to look like, Larry, that you would recognize him for god? How much would you deend on christian narratoves for a fitting description? I'm tellign ya, a "G" on his forehead is just not enough for me.

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  47. A little late, but can someone explain the reference to Shaw's "haggling over the price" comment? I imagine its GB Shaw - not familiar with the anecdote, however.

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  48. The funniest way would be if THE RAPTURE happened this afternoon. ...
    To prove he exists all God has to do is show himself.


    If he appeared in the heavens, he'd risk being shot down by the U.S. air force, or star wars defense systems. Things are lot tighter since 9/11.

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  49. He's not going to appear over America. I think he's more interested in Japan. They worship the correct God.

    But even if he did appear over America during the Rapture he would be quite safe. All the US Air Force pilots are good Christians. They won't be able to fly their planes because they'll be assending into Heaven. There won't be anyone left to defend America during the apocalypse.

    Ex-Air Force pilots will also be raptured. This will be bad news for most airline passengers.

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  50. So what you are saying is that the only gods which have not been disproven are those which cannot be disproven.

    I'd go with that. I'd also state that's likely to remain the case into the indefinite future. Miracles Just Don't Happen. Sorry to all the people that believe they do, but hey, we can't all be right.


    That is a very weak claim, and the presumption of disbelief (teapot argument) ought to be enough to cover it.

    This, however, I dispute. There are plenty of non-provable statements where presumption of disbelief is at best unwise and at worst simply inapplicable.

    Other concepts which cannot be disproven are generally not considered rational or worthy of serious consideration.

    Utter codswallop. Take, for example, the statement: "I love my mother very much". You cannot prove that statement. I assure you it would be daft to therefore disbelieve it.

    Or, as another example, the statement: "Bach wrote sublime music". Here, I hope you would agree that the truth of the statement is not a binary value. It is true for some observers and false for others. De gustibus non est disputandum.

    Just because something is non-falsifiable, it is not therefore unimportant. Quite the opposite: I'd be willing to bet large sums of money that many if not all of your life's most significant decisions have been based on non-falsifiable hypotheses.


    To get back to the original question - of course you cannot answer the question "Does God exist?" without defining both God and existence.

    Suppose I were to define God as "that which impels living things to perform altruistic acts". Proof of the existence of God is trivial: a simgle observation of an altruistic act suffices. This definition also has the intriguing side-effect of making Richard Dawkins an eminent theologian.

    Of course, this is a rather silly example! But I hope it serves to illustrate my point made upthread that the "smart theologians" are almost certainly using definitions of God that places God outside the realm of scientific enquiry. They are not necessarily wrong thereby, just interested in something other than what I as a molecular geneticist am interested in.

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  51. Hahaha
    But seriously...let the creationists be the only ones to pursue the scientific demonstration of all godly affairs.
    You truly cannot say "there is no evidence" if you cannot define (seriously, please haha) what the evidence would be. If not, anyone can say you are just unable to recognize evidence.
    And by scientific evidence we mean something that can be proven to any scientist, from any particular cultural-religious background ( no more embroideries, please)

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  52. It would be great if scientific endeavours could all start off by defining the evidence, a priori. Oh wait, scientists don't do that. Asking for a definition of possible evidence for the supernatural is disingenuous; the best anyone could do is offer examples or the methodology to characterise the supernatural.

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  53. You can't just assume evidence for god can only be discerned a posteriori of seeing it. That could be the case, but the fact that we can't know is yet another unstable point of these godly debates.

    C'mon. Of course scientists can state a priori what kind of evidence they expect would resolve a specific question! If we can do that or not, depends on the question. I can say "there is no evidence for the loch ness monster, such as a corpse". If I wish to say there is no evidence for *god* as if it were something amenable to testing, then I MUST say what evidence.

    Now of course the whole "evidence for a supernatural god" is a very twisted road. That's my point.
    A good retreat in the supernatural is a defining trait for any god. If it ceases to be supernatural, it ceases being a god.

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  54. That prayers don't work at healing does not mean there is no god. And if they did work, I don't think everyone would conclude: "there IS a god". Buddhists wouldn't, for starters.

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  55. Paraphrasing your position, you want someone to tell you what sort of general evidence would provide irrefutable and blatantly obvious validation of a religion. Thus, the absence of such means that the religion is invalid?

    Well, that's silly. It's too nebulous, as it asks for an absolute. If the central tenets of a religion, say fundamentalist Christianity, have been refuted, then the de facto reality is that there is no god. This applies regardless of whether one is capable of discerning your standards of evidence or not. For instance, if god did appear in front of me, but I didn't recognise him, I could still validly claim that there is no god unless I later do recognise him (wherein my view would change). This seems pretty scientific to me, that one can claim sweeping validity of a position unless evidence to the contrary arises (like gravitation from Newton to Einstein). If this seems imperfect to you, it is because it is-- science is approximation. Science doesn't give absolute truths, like that there is no god. BUT, saying that there is no god is VALID, if the context allows (which atheists would argue that it logically does, re: god doesn't answer prayers, etc.)

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  56. You have confused mi intentions for the exact opposite.
    I am not the least concerned with "invalidating" religion according to scientific expectatives. I have already said that is futile. Read above.
    I am clearly saying that science cannot pronounce itself over the validity of god.
    I KNOW the limitations of science. I don't adhere to a simplistic use of the notion in evidence within proper science. You can bet your ass then that I don't think it works much better on a topic such as the existence of god. haha.
    Recognizing the subtleties and limitations of science however must not lead to a cartoon, doubting basic facts and achievements of science.
    You must be really careful to not deny or underestimate what scientists CAN do.
    You will also get nowehere if you do not acknowledge the fundamental role of the irrational in religion...

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  57. It was a long weekend.

    "I can think of at least two other shades of "existence": fuzzy superimposed quantum "existence","

    That wouldn't work, since QM is minimal (no hidden variables) and we have reportedly exhausted all room for more interactions.

    "and the "existence" of a reality inseparable from your own consciousness"

    Solipsism. Fair enough, it is consistent. But it isn't compatible with science.

    "But even under that definition, the radioactive decay of an atom might considered supernatural, since it's exact time can't be predicted, it won't always happen at the same interval, and happens without any apparent cause."

    This is confusing observations with theory. QM describes all forms of decay radioactivity, through strong or weak interactions combined with models of atoms.

    "I don't suppose there is anyone qualified here."

    :-) Both refusing to accept the answer as given, and rude after asking for help and receiving it. Just the religious behavior we have come to expect.

    J:
    "Last time I checked, the emperor's clothes were theology, not non-interventionist gods [ ...] If you are going to stretch the meaning of the Emperor's clothes that far, then I'd say that you have come to using the Courtier's Reply as an all-purpose deflector of criticism."

    That isn't my intention. First, we were discussing Pagel's reply, which is within theology. Second, my using non-interventionist gods were an attempt to capture deism and other theological views.

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  58. "I can think of at least two other shades of "existence": fuzzy superimposed quantum "existence","

    That wouldn't work, since QM is minimal (no hidden variables) and we have reportedly exhausted all room for more interactions.


    But there is a difference between microscopic and macroscopic QM existence, even if it's only wavelength.

    Solipsism. Fair enough, it is consistent. But it isn't compatible with science.

    Not sure if it could ever be proven true, but there's a possibility that it actually could be falsifiable, if there was some technological way to link or merge your consciousness with someone or something else, so you could experience an alien consciousness directly. This would of course require intimate knowledge of the physical mechanism of human consciousness. Note that it would not be sufficient to observe someone else undergo such a transformation and report success - you would have to directly experience the entire new "qualia" of another consciousness yourself (while still remembering your old self) in order to actually "know" that solipsism was false. Obviously, the merging would have to occur within your lifetime.

    This is confusing observations with theory. QM describes all forms of decay radioactivity, through strong or weak interactions combined with models of atoms.

    The radioactivity example was only used to test a possible definition of "supernatural".

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  59. Solipsism. Fair enough, it is consistent. But it isn't compatible with science.

    One more thing - how do you know that science and math are at the bottom of all things - the heart of soul of reality? How do know what is really really real? Maybe existence is ultimately absurd, or not subject to analysis.

    If you're a solipsist, you are the only ultimate reality. Your birth was the big bang. The universe was defined when you were an infant, by the choices you made, now long forgotten. The "symmetry-breaking",
    the separation of your conscious self from the objective world, definition of space and time, matter and energy - and this is the result. You have only yourself to blame for this mess :)

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  60. "This seems pretty scientific to me, that one can claim sweeping validity of a position unless evidence to the contrary arises (like gravitation from Newton to Einstein)"

    You're talking to a biologist here, Dunbar. We do that but we have to be a little more cautious haha
    But see, if you can say that science is approximation, and does not deliver the absolute truth, you can acknowledge the "bump" and say that to overcome that takes a bit of a personal decision. Atheism is not a scientifically established fact, even if you say the non existence of god (or all supernatural for that) is a scientific inference. However, this would be an inference that CANNOT EVER be confirmed by evidence.

    So, acknowledge the loophole, but make it clear that this also implies no one wil ever be able to scientifically prove the existence of god.

    That point in particular should be made all the time against creationists; however it ends up drowned by those who think science is decisive about the inexistence of the supernatural.

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  61. I would agree that atheism is not a scientifically established fact, only because it's not. Atheism is a belief, which may arise from interpretation of facts.

    Since you seem so adverse to saying that science cannot disprove the existence of god and sundry, why not accept that logical deductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that it is extremely improbable that there are gods? I think most atheists already take this position. Thus, your equivocation is really a semantic difference.

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  62. alipio says,

    Atheism is not a scientifically established fact, even if you say the non existence of god (or all supernatural for that) is a scientific inference. However, this would be an inference that CANNOT EVER be confirmed by evidence.

    I say this all the time when I'm debating Creationists. I also remind them that science cannot prove the non-existence of Santa Clause, the tooth fairy, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    So, acknowledge the loophole, but make it clear that this also implies no one wil ever be able to scientifically prove the existence of god.

    I never say this because it's not true and I have an aversion to lying.

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  63. haha well, it IS true. NO one, , never, is proving scientifically that god exits (or does not exist), NNNNEEVVVVVAH, Larry, nevah.
    The evidence you suggested was not only laughing material, Larry. It just did'nt prove anything.
    That's what you get by posing scientific on a matter like god.

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  64. God is kind of like alipo's literacy- there's just no good evidence to support its existence. ;)

    Anyway, if there were a God, Dick Cheney would have had a fatal heart attack years ago. QED. ;)

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  65. me la pelas, gringo stevie

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  66. the main point being, if you guys are smart enough tio realize there CANNOT be scientific evidence of god, and thus stop dancing to the creationist's fiddle

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  67. Dunbar, I don't talk about things being highly improbable if I can't say just how much and over what. That is, without a real calculation.
    If not it is just "sciencey"-sounding talk (but without numbers, just BS)

    I wouldn't even say that atheism is a clear scientific inference because the supernatural is not a concern of science. Therefore, although non existence of the superntaural can be argued to be most parsimonious and this in turn can be argued to be a "scientific" argument, but in fact it is just another quite debatable argument, and not a matter of science, since it just cannot be tested.

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  68. If there is a god who intervenes in the empirically detectable operations of the universe then there most certainly CAN be scientific evidence of its existence, and the long history of failed attempts to provide some is indeed significant. (Please have someone explain Bayesian probability to you, by the way.) If it is claimed that there "exists" a god who does no such thing, then we're merely talking about a boringly stupid redefinition of the word "exist". Either way, your claim is silly.

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  69. I remeber having read some magazines like discover about bayesian probability and its philosophical debate when a teenager; when I actually taught it in biostadistics I remember being amazed because it struck me as pretty plain and straigtforward tool and not at all related to those philosophical discussions.
    The same thing happens with parsimony. In practice, like in phyloegentic systematics, it is pointless if not used with numbers, counting steps. Yet some will insist on parsimony, for example, to say that natural selection is the most parsimonious explanation to any evolutionary change, even beofre looking at any specific case.

    It happens all the time; unhinged amateurs and quaks take a scientific method to make philosophicla points about woo subjects...like god.


    Anyway, you are welcome to make your bayesian argument for the non-existence of god. After all, there is a thousand bozo's out there invoking bayesian probability for anything... I don't believe your argument is going to stand out too much among all that crap... hehe

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  70. correction. I meant

    "when I was actually taught bayesian theory in biostadistics I remember being amazed because it struck me as pretty plain and straigtforward tool and not at all related to those philosophical discussions"

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  71. not to mention tat accoring to your argument every freaking second that god is not manifest muts be counted as a "failed attempt" to observe god...
    You are wrong in more things too, it's just boring to list thim. It just proves how stupid it is, indeed, to scientificize the god topic

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  72. I notice that you completely fail to address in any way my very simple SCIENTIFIC point, which is that anything that can be said to exist in any sense meaningful to science is potentially empirically observable. Which part of that do you have trouble understanding?

    And I guess that your informants on Bayesian statistics forgot to teach you that if you make repeated attempts to observe X with consistently negative results, you should adjust downward the subjective probability you attach to the existence of X. (The complications of calculating actual values for these probabilities don't by any means let you off the hook there.) Or else the instruction wasnt't simple and straightforward enough for you to actually understand.

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  73. your concept of "attempt" on the god topic...haha
    And yes, my teachers of biostatistics did NOT boil bayesian probability down to anything like you say.

    And remember we are talking about god; sometimes material, sometimes not. It's god, you know. And is not a requiste to be purely inmaterial in order to escape from the realm of science.

    You can now wrap it up, with some kind of insult towards me, and leave off with a high chin, but in the privacy of your home, reflect upon this: making scientific arguments about god is validating the basic premise of creationists and playing right into the hands of theism.

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  74. I can reflect upon it right now,and it's still utter and complete nonsense. Quite the contrary, it's very instructive to ask such people on what actual evidence they base their belief. Try it some time and watch them squirm while babbling something about the divine influence they sense in their life, or some such meaningless twaddle. IOW they have to fall back on the ridiculous redefinition of "existence" that pretends something can "exist" without having any intersubjectively available effect on the universe. And they squirm because deep down they know how ridiculous that is, and that it's all wishful thinking.

    Get back to me when a voice from the sky heard by a number of witnesses correctly predicts everything that will happen to you the rest of the day, or something like that. This is really not a subtle point we're discussing here, not at all. No evidence means just that, no evidence. And that, in the face of all the believers over the millenia who have desperately craved for some.

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  75. well, then, re-study bayesian probability while at home. What you have argued as "bayesian" is just a false philophized cartoon. Not an example at all af how I understand Bayes is used within scientific practice. As far as I remember Bayes is only is useful to test the probability of some of your ideas if you know a few things to start with. Not the case when debating god.

    And paying I am telling you that god can be material, In fact miracles are all about that: god manifestng himself in the real world by doing what is clearly impossible.
    You're having problems paying attention so it's boring for me.

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  76. Not an example at all af how I understand Bayes is used within scientific practice. As far as I remember Bayes is only is useful to test the probability of some of your ideas if you know a few things to start with. Not the case when debating god.

    You have no clue whatsoever what you're talking about. WHATEVER prior you assign to that hypothesis (so long as it's not precisely one or zero), you should, on pain of inconsistency, reduce it when evidence in its favor is sought and not found.

    If you would like to actually learn
    something about Bayesian reasoning in science I suggest reading the classic book by Howson and Urbach.

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  77. And paying I am telling you that god can be material, In fact miracles are all about that: god manifestng himself in the real world by doing what is clearly impossible.

    Precisely (and you're directly contradicting your own original claim about god and science!)Wake me up when there is the slightest reliable evidence that such a thing has ever happened. And do go and read Hume's "Of Miracles" while we wait. Here, I'm such a nice guy that I'll even hand you an online copy: http://tinyurl.com/69ahe

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  78. What would constitute evidence of God? Spontaneous regrowth of amputated limbs (see http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/). Or the resurrection of Anna Nicole Smith.

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  79. *SIGH*
    To screw up, all you have to do is to merely talk about evidence of god.
    It's very easy to say NO EVIDENCE is "as simple as that" but of course that is completely, hopelessly false in a world where over and over again claims are made, that the evidence has been found! They'll tell you it's full of evidence and will honestly think you're stupid that you cannot see it. You need to explain why that is not evidence. In the real world, it certainly is not "that simple".
    What kind of evidence is provided? "positives" of tests like those you yourself proposed: prophecies fulfilled down to the detail, etc. And then of course, there is "creation science", "reasons to believe".

    But now it's too late! You have already become trapped in an endless "scientific discussion" about GOD and other silly topics like the specific myths of specific religions.
    The correct answer would have been: The existence or non existence of god cannot be scientifically tested.
    To engage in the scientific pondering of god is only to the benefit of the creationist, of course (much like occurs with creationists debating scientists) Unlike the scientist, the creationist is the only one who REALLY NEEDS to push the god topic into science (or cover it with scientific robes). Guys like Dawkins are "the air they breathe". I kid you not!!!!

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  80. Speak for yourself. I have no trouble with "the god topic". There is no good reason for a rational person to believe in gods. End of story. The "problem" is had by those who harbor delusions based on wishful thinking and who seek to justify their delusions with some veneer of reasonableness. But that's certainly not a problem for science, it's THEIR problem. Period.

    You may "kid me not" but you're kidding yourself, because that claim is ridiculous (in fact the believers are clearly worried that atheists like Dawkins are no longer doing their Neville Chamberrlain impression- and they should be worried, as Larry has explained many times here.)

    Now go play in traffic.

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  81. unexplained phenomena, that appear contrary to reason and established evidence, are not evidence of god.

    Religion challenges reason and established fact. If not miracles would not be possible. That is what faith is about. Scientific and rational refutation provide the confirmation of the miraculous nature of alleged events, as well providing the clear need for faith: a treasured religious concept.

    With such a natural niche for irrationality in religion, does it surprise you really, that a rational discussion isn't able to do much about faith in the existence of god?

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  82. Pffff marginal arguments.
    The true "tolerance" of creationism is to accept their belief that god is a topic within the realm of science.

    Cut to the chase. Tell people how it REALLY IS. You cannot scientifically prove that god exists, and you cannot prove that god does not exist. THAT IS THE MESSAGE!!!! No matter what dawkisn says

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  83. the main point being, if you guys are smart enough tio realize there CANNOT be scientific evidence of god

    Thus god doesn't exist :)
    But seriously speaking, your position is claiming that science cannot absolutely disprove god. I'll accept that with the caveat that science cannot absolutely disprove the notion that sometimes when I let go of a ball, it floats upwards, then shunts to the side while playing 1920's big band sound.

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  84. "You can't scientifically prove God exists" because you can't scientifically prove the existence of something that doesn't exist, idiot. If he existed there most certainly are a million publicly observable and confirmable ways in which he could demonstrate it beyond a reasonable doubt. I gave one example.

    "You can't scientifically prove God doesn't exist" and the same is true of Odin, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the Tooth Fairy. So what? Nobody made such a claim.

    These are not exactly novel, unfamiliar points. I don't know what cave you've been living in all these years. I think you should go back there, since reality seems to have a bad effect on you.

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  85. I'll accept that with the caveat that science cannot absolutely disprove the notion that sometimes when I let go of a ball, it floats upwards, then shunts to the side while playing 1920's big band sound"

    Yes, but the message is incomplete.
    The idea that a simple ball could sometime just levitate and play music is not scientifically testable.
    I cannot prove it will never hapen, but I sure as hell cannot prove it WILL happen either.

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  86. not a scientific idea, that is.

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  87. steve, you're boxing your own shadow

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  88. Since that was an example of something materially impossible according to the regularities of our world, let's make it clear: All "hypotheses" that require for basic regularities of our world to be suddenly overturned, in ways that cannot be observed and studied, are not scientific, testable "hypotheses".
    And that's absolutely correct. No?

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  89. All "hypotheses" that require for basic regularities of our world to be suddenly overturned, in ways that cannot be observed and studied, are not scientific, testable "hypotheses".

    Your tendency to frame definitions in your favour is tiresome, but I'll bite. If something cannot be observed or studied, then it doesn't exist naturally. Thus if god cannot be observed or studied, and cannot be tested by science, then god doesn't exist for all intents and purposes. Facts are determined, after all, by observation. Besides, my example is perfectly amenable to scientific study; suppose if I came across a qualitative account of a ball floating and playing music. Since this goes counter to what I know, I decide to test it by dropping a great number of balls, using the fact that balls normally drop down and bounce a bit as my null hypothesis. If indeed the ball shoots up and plays music a statistically relevant amount of times, I can confidently say that balls sometimes shoot up and play music. If no balls do such a thing, then I accept my null hypothesis. This is science, no?

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  90. By the way, steve refers to the fact that the more times I don't get a different result from say, pulling same color beads from a bag, the lower and lower the probability there is a bead of any another color.
    So...La Bonne jumps from this, to evidence that god does not exist. The result, of course, is an aberration.
    With no defined system or true bayesian theory, it is reduced to this "common sense" message:"we have looked and looked for a long, long time. we have never seen god. therefore he does not exist"
    Not precisely a new argument to anyone, including religious folks. Only now its "bayesian"

    The longer the time passes the more certain labonne becomes there is no god.. i think every minute counts!! haha
    Nice defintion of your conditions, to do so some real statistics, you know: with numbers.

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  91. Of course that is not science.
    there is no interest in science of experiments with conclusions of the kind "such miracle did not happen". Miracles are not a concern of science.

    Shall we say that every time we do not levitate, we acumulate evidence against levitation? Should we value every fallen stone as a case where a miracle did not occur because it did not float away (playing music, perhaps?)
    What a grand way to advance scientific knowledge, with so good confirmation of your everyday life facts. hehehe

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  92. Shall we say that every time we do not levitate, we acumulate evidence against levitation?

    Yes, that is precisely what we should say. The more people have been observed, and the longer the period over which they have been observed, without any instance of levitation occurring, the less credibility we should attach to the hypothesis that people can levitate. One can frame it in terms of abduction if you prefer that to Bayesian reasoning- the best explanation for why extensive observations do not turn up any instance of levitation is that people, in fact, do not levitate.

    You know nothing about scientific reasoning, so you really should shut up instead of making an ever-bigger fool of yourself.

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  93. No need to despair and get angry. We are all atheists. You won't have to run to a church. You merely need to update some of your notions.

    All I'm doing is to kindly point out to you that it is pointless to tackle an irrational, supernatural topic through reason and science.

    Alas, you can take the donkey to the water; but you cannot make it drink.

    I'm trying to let you know, that it IS ridiculous you believe every day he doesn't show up accumulates evidence of god's non-existence (talk about fundamnetalist atheism!) God is SUPPOSED to be supernatural. You only defile the concept of scientific evidence by trying to apply it to the supernatural. Even if you can convince your fellow dawkins-worshipper yopu are very clever, even "bayesian" (haha), the layperson, and myself, will just laugh.
    Your demand that god be observable is as old as god himself. It is in the definiton of godliness that he is not evident, but requires faith. If you fail to understand this, you fail to deal with the concept of god that we actually HAVE to deal with: A supernatural faith god which of course, by supernatural defintion, cannot be observed at will or scientifically studied.
    Arguments like yours DO make us look very. very ridiculous. That's what you get wehn you try to measure god with the scientific stick: ultimate ridicule.

    But, you just cannot play by the rules of rthe actual concet of god. You've decided not to understand anything, and defend your corner repeating yourself, and being pig-headed and insolent: just like a fundie when in trouble.

    You are the token fundamentalist atheist.

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  94. The only thing I despair of is your ever attaining even the most elementary acquaintance with the philosophy of science.

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  95. Ha. At least I know better than to attempt scientific testing of supernatural concepts.

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  96. If you think anybody has called for scientific "study" of "supernatural concepts" (whatever that even means, if anything,) then you're even more confused than I thought, which is really saying something.

    Anything observable can be studied. Anything so "supernatural" that it can't be observed at least indirectly, doesn't exist. There isn't a third alternative.

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  97. "But there is a difference between microscopic and macroscopic QM existence, even if it's only wavelength."

    I fail to see your point if superposition is impossible.

    "if there was some technological way to link or merge your consciousness with someone or something else, so you could experience an alien consciousness directly."

    Also here I fail to see the point. A solipsist claims that any type of observations is a construct.

    "The radioactivity example was only used to test a possible definition of "supernatural"."

    The point was that there is a natural description, so the test failed.

    "how do you know that science and math are at the bottom of all things"

    That is not why solipsism isn't compatible with science. The problem is that it isn't parsimonious to assume that a specific part of reality (I hesitate to say "nature" here) either constructs the rest.

    "you should adjust downward the subjective probability you attach to the existence of X."

    Actually, given conditional probabilities we can make the same argument based on firm observations without discussing what a gods actions should be:
    P(N|D) < P(N|D&T); N = Naturalistic universe, D = Data, T = Theory. Each time we explain a data set by a naturalistic theory the probability for the universe being naturalistic increases.

    Of course, if you believe that a naturalistic theory has supernaturalistic agents involved, it doesn't work that way. But that only gets you up to equality - no new information.

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  98. " at least indirectly", huh? Pffffff
    There you go, opening the window for the creationist to climb in.

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  99. My idiot friend, can you see electrons, or quarks, just by looking? That's what is meant by "at least indirectly".

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  100. the correct statement is: there can be no scientific evidence for the existence of the supernatural (like god)

    if you say "what we cannot see does not exist", it is misguiding, since it implies that in any moment we may see god and have to accept its existence.

    The real situation is, there is no scientific observation that could confirm the existence of god.

    We've already seen how problematic that is for you. You have not come up with scientific evidence that could prove god. What you have proposed does nothing of the sort (asides from being just ridiculous)

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  101. Oh, I see you mean that we only have indirect evidece for atoms becuase we can't just "see" them
    ha..haha
    yeah, a great philosopher of science you are.

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  102. "But there is a difference between microscopic and macroscopic QM existence, even if it's only wavelength."
    I fail to see your point if superposition is impossible.


    The existence of a virtual particle may not be as substantial as a cat. The position and momentum of a subatomic particle may not be quite as substantial as those of your car.

    "if there was some technological way to link or merge your consciousness with someone or something else, so you could experience an alien consciousness directly."
    Also here I fail to see the point. A solipsist claims that any type of observations is a construct.


    That would depend on the solipsist (there are various degrees). The point is that your consciousness would be changed, and you may not be a solipsist anymore.

    "The radioactivity example was only used to test a possible definition of "supernatural"."

    The point was that there is a natural description, so the test failed.

    No it didn't fail, because it was my definition, that just happened to overlap with the natural definition. And some might argue that the natural description isn't really very descriptive (why does it decay?)

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  103. No it didn't fail, because it was my definition, that just happened to overlap with the natural definition.

    Heads I win, tails you lose, eh? How... religious.

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  104. watcha talking about?
    If you cannot refute a concept like god, whining that it is religious is stupid. OF COURSE IS GOING TO BE RELIGIOUS!! We are talking about *god* for darwin's sake. That is my whole point. I'm doing you the favor of telling you it is a waste of time to ponder a religious topic like that with science.

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  105. "how do you know that science and math are at the bottom of all things"
    That is not why solipsism isn't compatible with science. The problem is that it isn't parsimonious to assume that a specific part of reality (I hesitate to say "nature" here) either constructs the rest.


    Because something is not parsimonious (in your view), does not make it not scientific. If it's falsifiable and testable, it's a scientific proposition.

    In any case, I didn't say solipsism was necessarily scientific, only that there's a small possibility it could be falsified by one or more individuals.

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  106. We're talking about rationality. If you hold that it's rational to believe in gods, you need to be able to answer Larry's question- what are your "smart" arguments for that belief? Then maybe we'd get somewhere.

    If you hold that it's not rational, then we agree, and what exactly are you on about?

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  107. Belief in god HAS to be irrational in any religion worth its salt. If not, faith would not be necessary.

    A "rational" belief in god is therefore a clear mockery of faith, as well as being a clear mockery of reason (I have said all the time there can't ever be scientific-rational evidence for god).

    I fail to underastand how it is not clear to you that I have not the slightest intention of endorsing the belief in god with science and reason. It is so oxymoronic I can only conclude you must have serious attention problems.

    Precisely, the problem I have is with people like you whose arguments imply that evidence of god could just pop up any moment an we'd have to believe.

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  108. A "rational" belief in god is therefore a clear mockery of faith
    Funny, Thomas Aquinas certainly didn't think so, to put it mildly. There seems to be no limit to the things you don't understand but are nonetheless happy to gibber about.

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  109. You think Thomas Aquinas was dumb enough to think he did not need faith in order to believe in god?
    Where did he ever say such a thing, please?
    You obviously think, in sectarian fashion, that because Thomas Aquinas did great progress for philosophy and reason, he could not have been at the same time a man of faith. But if you've ever read two paragraphs from him, you'd know he was indeed a man of faith.
    This may be news to you, but addmitedly believing in god by faith and for no rational reason, does not mean you cannot contribute to reason and science.

    Only the dumbest religious peole, like creationists, think their belief in god is merely rational and try to prove it with "scientific" evidence. Of course, they do not contribute anything to reason and science...
    Another thing: religon has irrationality and faith, but if openly acknowledged, reason has stepped in. In fact, religions are this mixture of rationality with strategically placed chuks of unreason. People of faith, and some ancient religions, can be very clever. St Thomas, St Augustine, Occam, etc...

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  110. Address your complaint to Aquinas, not to me. Yes, he did indeed hold that the existence of God, and much else besides, could be established by reason alone, though certain Christian dogmas such as the Trinity required faith. Yet another topic you proclaim on confidently without having the slightest idea what you're talking about. Why do you bother?

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  111. I have no doubts that Aquinas gave rational arguments that god existed, but to say that faith is unnecesary, that reason alone is enough...I'll have to check that one out, given your great reliability haha.
    Anyway I might be wrong onthat but its not a major point.
    Rational arguments about the existence of god can be mixed with faith, but no faith in god required? Nope. Not in any true religion.

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  112. of course, aquinas was dead wrong if he thought faith was unnecessary to believe in god...so wrong, in fact, that I sincerely would not expect that from st Thomas. Are you sure you're not just...full of it? hehe

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  113. Project much?

    Evidently among the many, many theings you're unaware of is the millenia-long tradition, which is not dead even now (try Googling "Alvin Plantinga"), of philosophers trying to make rational arguments that supposedly prove the existence of God. It's a long way from just being St. Thomas.

    Idiot.

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  114. That argument has indeed become very rare, not only within philosophy. I also doubt seriously that any major religion has maintained that faith in god is unnecessary.

    This is because no matter how suggestive and clever is your rational argument for god, you cannot say it is definite in a way such that those who do not agree with you are "irrational" (unless you are a deluded creationist).
    Actually, the same happens with the god topic with atheism, too. There are very suggestive, rational arguments that there is no god, but it we are STILL talking about *god* and it is still NOT a scientific topic.
    So, to say that god does not exist, you don't need to go around tastelessly hammering your opinion about god as "the only rational thing" or " a plain scientific fact" (the pathetic bizarro version of the creationist)
    The correct thing to do is to point out the existence of god is not a scientifically testable topic.

    But, you choose to imitate the creationist fundie, calling all those that do not align with your specific cultural baggage "idiots" (devoid of reason)

    Anyone can see through you, Steve. You're just "another" of a very, very predictable flock of amateur "rationalists"

    I just wonder where did Dunbar go... he was able to come up with some interesting points (unlike yersefl)

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  115. Wrong as usual. It remains, for example, the official teaching of the Catholic Church that the existence of God can be known with certainty through the operation of reason alone.

    The idea that faith is contrary to reason is a grave heresy in mainstream Christian tradition and I've never heard of a Christian who holds it.
    (It may have been flirted with by the early Church Father Tertullian if the ascription of the famous "credo quia absurdum" to him is really correct.) The slightly milder idea that belief is held by faith alone without the need for reason is called fideism and is also very much contrary to historical Christian teaching, especially since the time of Aquinas; it is professed today only by a tiny minority of very liberal Christians.


    First rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging.

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  116. well., that's why the catholic church (and most western religions) are more of a mockery of religion. teh religions of the east have more true mysticism to them, adn spend far less time in the futile task of finding rational jstfications for thir gods and miracles.
    the reason for this is taht western culture is such a fan of ratioanlism taht even religions want to apper as rational.
    But you ad me, Steve, know that they are NOT rational. Right? No matter what they say, I find most people will realize this, that in fact there IS need for faith in religion.

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  117. it has worked every time for me, with very religious people

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  118. Ah, now we have to change the definition of "religion" so you don't have to admit you're talking rubbish. Priceless.

    Almost all religious believers think that it's reasonable to believe as they do, and that the differently-believing and unbelieving are unreasonable. Anyone who hasn't spent his entire life in a cave knows that.

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  119. I am not dodging any relevant topic
    The catholic idea, that the existence of god can be known with certainty through pure reason (a shameless peace of BS by all means) is a perfect example of "wrong", what I am fighting against:
    The notion that the existence of god is a topic that can be rationally-scientifically tested.

    Dawkins is doing the same thing, when he argues he has found no evidence for god, he implies scientific evidence can prove the existence of god: convergence with the catholics. They agree on that but will eternally disagree on whether it has or hasn't been proved. They agree there is evidecne, but they cannot agree on what would be evidence. What a sorry mess."Empiricism" cut loose from any theoretical roots. "Pseudoempiricism", because it's worth just nothing.

    And, whether catholic theologians realize it or not, faith is necessary for people to believe in god. You just don't see god at your doorstep every morning, you know. You DO need to "believe".

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  120. Catholics are the same as creationists as far as pushing that god is the rational conclusion.
    catholics do not focus on denying evolution as a part of their argument, but not denying any well-established scientific fact is not good enough
    They cannot maintain that god is the ony rational thing.
    And the fact that they say its all rational, while ignoring their loaded traditions and other notorious mega-chunks of irrationality within catholicism, miracles, "revelead truths"... no comments...
    Catholicism may be the religion of hypocrisy "par excellence" faking it has no faith (but oh yes it does!)

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  121. Anonymous:

    "The existence of a virtual particle may not be as substantial as a cat."

    Ah, I see. So you think objects predicted by a theory and observed by its effects have qualitatively different existence depending on how we label them.

    I don't think realists would agree.

    "That would depend on the solipsist (there are various degrees)."

    Agreed. I picked the definition that is amenable to analysis. As such, I think it describes all the positions.

    "The point is that your consciousness would be changed, and you may not be a solipsist anymore."

    Yes, according to a more realistic world view that is true. But I don't think a solipsist would agree, since it is amenable for incorporation into his view.

    "my definition, that just happened to overlap with the natural definition"

    Ah, I see. I considered the usual definition where there is no overlap. I don't think one can have such an overlap either, since when there is a natural description for aspects of supernatural phenomena.

    In any case, since the definition is specific for you, you can keep it. ;-)

    "And some might argue that the natural description isn't really very descriptive (why does it decay?)"

    Oh, it is fully descriptive since QM will both tell us that the decays must be stochastic and what distributions they take.

    We can even continue and discuss the details of a specific mechanism, if we pick a decay.

    So take alpha decay. Sometimes the movements of particles in a nucleus of a decay-able atom by chance forms aggregates which is an alpha particle. Subsequently they have a tiny probability of tunneling out of the nucleus barrier. The movements and the barrier is described by nuclear forces which ultimately derives from the strong force.

    We can learn (and do) learn more about the nucleus, the strong force effects and tunneling.

    Anonymous:
    "Because something is not parsimonious (in your view), does not make it not scientific. If it's falsifiable and testable, it's a scientific proposition."

    Agreed. I was discussing if it was a philosophy compatible with science.

    It is not.

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  122. About the solipsism thing haha

    Cognition is something that occurs to an organism. Without organism, there is no cognition. And cognition is not mere absortion of stimuli by the senses.
    To science, solipsisim does not make sense; but neither does representationism. A biological explanation, somewhat in between, provides the best approach.
    To acknowledge this does not erode the foundations of science. It provides no reason to question the well-documented facts and everyday regularities of our world. Rather it allows us to scientifically expect many questions that may not be clear, or how "realities" are later recongnized as illusory. This, from the "filling in" of the eye's blindspot, down to the history of science.

    Biologically, we can expect our relation to reality to sometimes NOT be so straightforward

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