Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Quiz for Atheists from a Creationist

 
Michael Egnor seems to concede that the theists were unable to come up with a good reason for believing in supernatural beings when I challenged them a few weeks ago: A Challenge to Theists and their Accommodationist Supporters.

Now he wants to return the favor by challenging atheists: What Do New Atheists Actually Believe?. It's kind of a funny question because atheists don't actually believe in anything—at least nothing that's common to all atheists. We've just failed to be convinced that supernatural beings exist.

Anyway, here are the questions ...
I want to learn more about what New Atheists really believe. So I'm asking Moran a few questions, although other atheists (Myers, Coyne, Novella, Shallit, etc) are invited to reply on their blogs, and I will answer.

Here are the questions:
1) Why is there anything?

I don't know and I don't really care. I'm quite happy to think that something has always existed but I'm not troubled by the fact that our space-time may just be an accident.

2) What caused the Universe?

I don't know. In fact, I'm not even sure what you mean by "cause." I'm told by experts in the field of cosmology that there's no need to invoke a supernatural being to explain the origin of the universe but if you want to believe in a deist god then that's all right by me.

3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

I don't know. That's not my field.

4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

That's two questions! I don't know the answer to the first one because I've never studied Aristotle. From the sound of the question, I haven't missed anything. As for the second question, I can't answer because I don't know what you mean by "final cause."

5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

Subjective experience seems to be what you perceive in your mind. I presume that's an epiphenomenon but it's a very pleasant one.

6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?

What? What?

7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)

I don't think there's any such thing as "Moral Law."

8) Why is there evil?

All animals exhibit a range of behaviors. Sometimes those behaviors are clearly beneficial to themselves, or the group, and sometimes they aren't. There's no rule that says every animal always has to act perfectly all the time. Some humans, for example, would restrict a woman's right to choose and would discriminate against gays and lesbians. I wish those people weren't evil but their behavior isn't a big surprise to me.


114 comments :

  1. Hey Lar,

    I don't think there's any such thing as "Moral Law."

    Hmmmm, really? So if I were to rob you at gunpoint of everything you own and worked hard for, you wouldn't experience a "moral" outrage?

    I know I've been pretty hard on you here, but I have to hand it to you—at least you actually make an effort to read what the DI has to say.

    And by the way, you still haven't cited any experimental data corroborating your assertion that irreducibly complex structures can arise by purely natural causes.

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  2. I think I can see the future interpretation of this challenge:
    "Atheists admit they don't know something, therefore God."

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  3. Ah, I just ran across the Creationist blog from Google News and dug up your blog to see what you'd say.

    I have to agree with you - I just don't care is the best answer I can give to most of these questions. It's not that there aren't decent answers to them that are easy enough to recite, it's just that the questions have no bearing on who I am. Some of the questions I seriously doubt that any theist cares about, either. Why are they even being asked?

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  4. Some of the questions are kind of awkward almost seemingling like, "why aren't triangles circular?" 1 and 2 are ultimately the same question. Don't have answers for some of them, that's what they are counting on so they can fill in those blanks with, "god did it."

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  5. Okay, I'll try my hand at those questions.

    1: (anything) - Don't ask me; I just live here. I'm not convinced it is even a valid question.

    2: (cause of universe) - The only meaning I have for "cause" is related to what I can cause in this world. I don't see how that is even applicable to the universe.

    3: (regularity) - Usually, when people talk about the regularity of nature, they are really talking about the regularity of our descriptions of nature. The way we describe nature is human invented, and at least part of the regularity in those descriptions derives from the regularity of our designed methods of describing.

    4: (causes) - Like Larry, I have never studied Aristotle, and only have the vaguest idea of what those causes are supposed to be. I am inclined to be skeptical of all of them.

    As for "final cause", that is usually related to purpose. I do think there is such a thing as "apparently purposeful behavior", though I believe it to be entirely natural. I am skeptical of ultimate purposes, which I suppose is what "final cause" is supposed to be about.

    5: (subjective experience) - There, I think most everybody has it backward. Subective experience arises from our biology, and our knowledge of an objective world comes because we have been able to shape our subjective experience so that it can represent the world to us.

    6: (intentionality) - I actually answered that in my response to q. 5. That is, our intentionality comes from our shaping our subjective experience so that it can represent the world to us. And note that this shaping is of great pragmatic value.

    7: (morality) - Like Larry, I am doubtful that there is such a thing as moral law. However, there is moral behavior, which is related to cooperation with others in the community. What evolved, as part of our being a social species, is a capacity for moral behavior but not the behavior itself. (And yes, I share Larry's view that evolutionary psychology is nuts).

    8: (evil) - Isn't this just a matter of natural creatures (such as humans) not matching some theoretical Platonic ideal?

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  6. 1) Why is there anything?
    Assuming it means "Why do things exist?" the question strikes me as pointless to ask.  My answer: I don't know.

    2) What caused the Universe?
    A loaded question. It assumes something is known to have caused the Universe, and is asking me to identify that something.  Cause implies intent, which implies some level of awareness.  It's like asking "What kind of bears live at the south pole?"

    3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?
    First, "Law" is often a human construct, and we love seeing patterns. Law implies an idea or mathematical statement that summarizes some replicable natural phenomenon.  Laws of gravity, etc. are human concepts used to "regularity."  Second, we could also ask "why is there irregularity in nature?"  My point is that regularity is something humans seem eager to focus on, and there are plenty of irregularity in nature.   As for "why" we need to decide whether we're talking about mechanisms (e.g. "Why do cars move?" Because the have engines, wheels, etc.) vs. some kind of assumed intentions of a supernatural creator (e.g. "Why do cars move?" Because people designed them to move.).  Science has many answers to the first interpretation, and see #2 above the problems with the second interpretation.

    4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?
    See #2 and #3 above first.  This question is somewhat nonsensical as science and philosophy have taught us quite a bit in the past 2000 years since Aristotle.  One also has to define "real" here. Are they real ideas? Are they accurate descriptions of observable reality? Are the exact descriptions of observable or all of reality?  Too many ways to go here.

    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?
    Links to definitions would be great, but without them we have to guess.  Subjective experience seems redundant - are there non-subjective experiences? I see no inconsistency between objectively existing and having (subjective) experiences.  I exist. I'm typing. QED.

    6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?
    I'm not a philosopher, so I'm not sure I fully understand the definition of intentional and aboutness, and hence the question.  Is the question "Why do we have ideas about external things, the ideas of others, etc.?"?  If so, then again - I don't know.  This interpretation touches on lots of questions - both proximate and ultimate - about how brains work.  Not my area of expertise.

    7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)
    Again, the terms need precise definitions.  What is "Moral Law"? What does "exist in itself" even mean?  As for whether (morality? absolute morality?) is an artifact of nature, I think it's quite plausible.  First, the diversity of human moral positions varies quite a bit both throughout history and across the globe.  Second, animals also seem to have some basic concepts of "does and dont's."  Consequently, I see nothing about human morality that's inconsistent with animal behavior nor do I think any moral absolutes exist. Even if there was a God with clear rules about morality, those rules aren't the only rules that exist as concepts, nor are they the only rules used in practice.

    8) Why is there evil?
    If we have any sense of good and bad, we have "evil." If the question is "why do evil things exist?", well it's merely the nature of existence.  Also, see #1.

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  7. Don't diss Aristotle, anybody can sound silly 2300 years later*. "Final cause" refers to the purpose or goal of the caused thing. It is the subject of teleology. Of course final causes exist (there is one fomr my sandwich), just not for everything. It only makes sense to talk about final causes when you are positive there is some agent with an intention behind the phenomenon, and for the 99.99999999% of all phenomena in universe there doesn't seem to be any.

    * Actually, do read about him. Ignoring him is in a way like ignoring Marx. You may like him or not, but you should better know what he said.

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  8. 1) Why is there anything?

    I don't know. There seems to be an awful lot of speculation going on by people in the know - namely physicists and cosmologists, but I recognize my own ignorance on the subject, so I must reserve judgment.

    2) What caused the Universe?

    I am not sure the universe had a cause, so I cannot say if the question is answerable even in principle.

    3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    I dont know. Se my answer to 1

    4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

    Real in what sense? The material cause seems to be the material the object of inquiry is made of, and I must agree that is real.

    Its get dicy when you talk about its formal cause. It reminds me of Platos thinking on object being instantiations of concepts existing in an ideal existance, which, however clever, is frankly a quite outdated mode of thinking. I see no evidence that concepts such as categories of shape having an independent existence, so on balance I would dismiss the formal cause.

    Efficient cause is also a little dicy, not all events in the universe seem to have an efficient cause, but of course we often attribute an efficient cause, our brain is hardwired to see cause, often where no causal relationship exist, just look at the the vaccination-atheism link. So I would say that in some cases we can make a case that something is the efficient cause of something else, but not the stronger statement that
    all things have an efficient cause.

    As to final cause that one is real shaky. I would contest that the concept of final cause is mostly wrong. What is the final cause of a seed of wheat? To grow into a plant, or to be ground into flour, to be eaten by a bird, or to rot in the ground? There is no way to discern this. Only if you theorize that there is some sort of purpose imbued in the grain can you imagine a final cause, but the you would have to assume the thing you are looking for.


    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

    Because our brains evolved the ability to create subjective experience.

    6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?

    That's two questions. The brain evolved to be intentional, apparently it was a possible development of the brain and, it survived long enough to be selected for.

    The question of how a mental state can be about something seems a little garbled. What delineates one mental state from another. If I have an itch on my back, and I am excited about it being friday, at the same time I am writing this reply, what would you call my mental state ( in fact what I described is very simplified view into my mind, for one thing, it doesn't describe how it changes even while I am replying).
    But my guess would be that the part of the brain responsible for generating what we experience as consciousness allow us to make internal models of external, or abstract objects.

    7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)

    Well what we can call objective moral law is an artifact of us being a social species. It is nothing more than the contract of the community you are currently in, and that is just a rough draft of what one might include in moral law.

    There is written down low, there is conventions, practices etc, with all kinds of exceptions and special cases.

    Moral sense, or the subjective experience of morality seems to be an evolved trait, since we share it with other animals. It is not one single thing, since it includes stuff like empathy, sense of justice etc. Just to make it fun these things are very much influenced by your circumstances.

    8) Why is there evil?

    Evil, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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  9. jcc asks,

    Hmmmm, really? So if I were to rob you at gunpoint of everything you own and worked hard for, you wouldn't experience a "moral" outrage?

    I'd be really pissed 'cause your behavior isn't the kind of behavior I'd expect from a rational person who wants to be part of a larger society. In fact, it's so out of tune with that goal that we even have laws against guns and theft. (At least in civilized countries we have laws against guns.) People made those laws because they're for the good of society.

    And by the way, you still haven't cited any experimental data corroborating your assertion that irreducibly complex structures can arise by purely natural causes.

    Sorry, I'm losing interest in your comments. (I can't imagine why.) The examples that I used to use in class were the plant photosynthesis apparatus and the citric acid cycle. Both of them are irreducibly complex by any reasonable definition of the term and both of them have well understood evolutionary explanations.

    There are dozens more just like them.

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  10. Physeter says,

    You may like him or not, but you should better know what he said.

    Why?

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  11. > 1) Why is there anything?

    I don't think there's a grand moral reason, I think the only possible answer to that question is purely materialistic.

    I'm an atheist because I don't think this physical process had anything to do with God, and the arguments that the universe we see serves any traditional 'divine purpose' are a little crazy. If you think the universe was created 'especially for human beings', you don't understand that most places on *Earth* are hostile to human life, and that's literally the only place we know that can support us.

    > 2) What caused the Universe?

    What started it off? Probably a very simple effect at the quantum level. Anyone claiming 'God', has the burden of proof, because we've observed weird things happening at the quantum level, we've never seen anything even a bit like a god.

    > 3) Why is there regularity (Law) > in nature?

    Because the universe is governed by a relatively small set of very simple, blind, processes. And we define and categorize. We call all the atoms that happen to have the atomic number of one 'hydrogen', then don't come out of a factory in Heaven with that name stamped on them.

    > 4) Of the Four Causes in nature > proposed by Aristotle (material, > formal, efficient, and final),
    > which of them are real? Do final > causes exist?

    Material - yes; Formal - probably not, but thinking in those terms helps us model the universe; efficient - yes; final - yes, but it doesn't follow that everything has a simple final cause. I can believe in the concept of final causes without thinking evolution's final cause is to create people, which is the trap you want me to walk into. I can believe the universe exists without its final cause being to please God, or whatever.

    > 5) Why do we have subjective
    > experience, and not merely
    > objective existence?

    Because we see the world filtered through our own senses, as interpreted by our own brains.

    > 6) Why is the human mind
    > intentional, in the technical
    > philosophical sense of
    > aboutness, which is the referral
    > to something besides itself? How
    > can mental states be about
    > something?

    I've read Fodor, too. If you think he's a creationist, you haven't understood him, you've only read the title of his latest book. The human mind has evolved to model the world. It is not perfect.

    > 7) Does Moral Law exist in
    > itself, or is it an artifact of
    > nature (natural selection, etc.)

    No. There are things that almost all human beings at all times have considered evil - cannibalism, killing your own children and so on, that are routine behavior for some animals. There are attitudes that virtually every human being in history had that have reversed - 'slavery is natural', for example, or 'homosexuality is unnatural'.

    A lack in belief in Moral Law doesn't mean I think murder, incest or adultery are acceptable behavior. The basis of law is the need to maintain a society.

    > 8) Why is there evil?

    I don't think there is. I think there's suffering. I think there's behavior that harms. I don't think that any of it is guided by some physical force like gravity, or masterminded in some control room in Hell.

    I doubt there are any absolutes - 'raping children' seems utterly unacceptable to me, but the hierarchy of the Catholic Church seem to think it's OK if it's their guys doing it.

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  12. I think it's important to compare and contrast the theists answers to these subjects. I've studied the subject for some time, so I'll speculate on the typical theists' answers, suitably condensed.

    1) Why is there anything?

    God did it by magic.

    2) What caused the Universe?

    God did it by magic.

    3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    God did it by magic.

    4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

    Final causes, i.e. God's intentions, really exist. How do we know? God told (some of) us.

    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

    God wants us to.

    6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?

    God did it by magic.

    7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)

    Moral Law does exist. God made it by magic.

    8) Why is there evil?

    There is evil because human beings selfishly choose to thwart the will of an omnipotent being. This must be true because it's absurd.

    HTH

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  13. I guess the 'atheist belief answer' to all the questions is 'I'm reasonably confident that a god or gods didn't exist and weren't involved'.

    Not much fun though.

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  14. 1) Why is there anything?

    2) What caused the Universe?


    You can point to recent answers to these questions by Hawking in The Grand Design, and an excellent talk by Lawrence Krauss, The Universe from Nothing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

    Because our minds create a model of our environment, which is an imperfect replica.

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  15. Larry, you did a fine job answering the questions above, so I don't think that my answers to most of the questions would be substantially different. But I do have a very different answer/comment to question 3: Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    I don't think that theists understand that the fact of regularity in our universe counts as another reason to conclude that there are no gods. If a universe has regularity it needs no gods for it to continue to function. Let's say there may have been deistic gods who created the framwork of the regularity thereby making themselves unnecessary after the act of creation, but Larry's answer to question 2 state's correctly that deistic gods are not even necessary to explain an origin of our universe (It is largely known how natural processes [regularitites] could have been responsible for universal origin). So we are left with a situation where gods are not necessary to explain universal origin or universal development. The creator and sustainer gods becomes a hypothesis with absolutley no foundation in fact, unlike the alternative explanations of physicists and cosmologists. The god hypothesis is unnecessary, unfounded, and unreasonable.

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  16. It startles me that a believer would ask about evil, a matter that most believers can't explain since God has according to their beliefs no qualms about killing innocent men, women, and children through all sorts of natural disasters.

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  17. Thanks for the response Lar,

    I'd be really pissed 'cause your behavior isn't the kind of behavior I'd expect from a rational person who wants to be part of a larger society

    Hmmm, that description sounds suspiciously like the definition of…morality. Well, at least according to Merriam-Webster Online: morality : 3 : conformity to ideals of right human conduct. So, that begs the question: who promulgated those ideals?

    we even have laws against guns and theft. (At least in civilized countries we have laws against guns.)

    Hey, that’s cute. Your “civilized” country also continues to pay arcane homage to an elitist, aristocratic monarch, stifles freedom of speech with thought police masquerading as “Human Rights Tribunals” and continues to prop up one of the most bureaucratically bloated, inefficient and unresponsive socialized health “care” systems in the world—third in line behind Cuba’s and “Great” Britain's.

    People made those laws because they're for the good of society.

    Again, who determined what was and wasn’t “good” for society?

    Sorry, I'm losing interest in your comments. (I can't imagine why.)

    No worries. That always happens to atheists after I hit ‘em with irrefutable facts, impeccable logic, and a dose of their own snide medicine—I know, it must be pretty bitter pill to swallow.

    The examples that I used to use in class were the plant photosynthesis apparatus and the citric acid cycle.

    Yes, but do you have experimental data that has replicated how that apparatus and cycle arose by “natural causes?”

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  18. It's like dealing with the infinite regress of "why is the sky blue" type of questions you get from a 5 year old.

    I'm in the "I don't know, I don't care" camp and I'm not willing to admit that these are serious questions that I should invest my time in and I'm not willing to make up answers.

    And if author of the questions was really honestly interested in answers, I'd suggest 25 or so years of primary, secondary and post secondary education in a field like cosmology and then you to can contribute to our ever expanding understanding of reality.

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  19. Physeter says,

    You may like him or not, but you should better know what he said.

    Larry M. answered

    Why?

    Whether you should or not is an open question but if you have any interest in the history of biology then one should know that although he said many things that in the long run were proved to be wrong Aristotle pretty much laid the foundations of the life sciences and the scientific method.

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  20. Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum says,

    God did it by magic.

    The nice thing about the theist response is that you can use the same answer for all the questions!

    According to Occam's Razor, this must be the correct answer.

    That's one of the best arguments for the existence of God that I've heard.

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  21. 4) The Law of Snark Conservation applies; thoughtful courteous answers get thoughtful courteous replies.
    I want to learn more about what New Atheists really believe.


    Egnor seems to be a doofus. He wants "to learn" but hasn't either enabled comments on his "blog", or posted here or shared his email ID. So is he going to be lurking around here?

    Truti

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  22. 3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    First off, regularity is not an assumption of science, it is a reasonable working conclusion based on half a millenium (or so) of scientific inquiry.

    The Fine Structure Constant is Probably Constant by Sean Carroll

    Asking "why" about anything is a leading question, it presumes there is an answer. e.g.: "Why did a 10 year old child survive a jet crash which killed all 150 other passengers" Is it really so unthinkable to think that it just happened that way? If you are going to step on the turf of why, you need to be able to accept "I don't know," and to understand that an argument from ignorance is fallacious. In other words, "atheists can't explain why" does NOT lead directly to "God did it."

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  23. Egnor seems to be a doofus. He wants "to learn" but hasn't either enabled comments on his "blog", or posted here or shared his email ID. So is he going to be lurking around here?

    Well, he does say:

    So I'm asking Moran a few questions, although other atheists (Myers, Coyne, Novella, Shallit, etc) are invited to reply on their blogs

    But he's still a doofus.

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  24. jcc asks,

    So, that begs the question: who promulgated those ideals?

    I did.

    Hey, that’s cute. Your “civilized” country also continues to pay arcane homage to an elitist, aristocratic monarch, stifles freedom of speech with thought police masquerading as “Human Rights Tribunals” and continues to prop up one of the most bureaucratically bloated, inefficient and unresponsive socialized health “care” systems in the world—third in line behind Cuba’s and “Great” Britain's.

    It's been fun (and so easy) yanking your chain every now and then but I'm getting bored.

    No worries. That always happens to atheists after I hit ‘em with irrefutable facts, impeccable logic, and a dose of their own snide medicine—I know, it must be pretty bitter pill to swallow.

    On the other hand, your comments provide one of the few sources of comic relief on this blog.

    Yes, but do you have experimental data that has replicated how that apparatus and cycle arose by “natural causes?”

    Hmmm, moving the goalposts, are we?

    The answer is "yes."

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  25. Final causes, i.e. God's intentions, really exist. How do we know? God told (some of) us.

    But because he has a great sense of humour, he told some of us different things than the others.

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  26. The answer to #8 should be, evil comes from God. Obviously, if there's an omnipotent being he's responsible for everything.

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  27. Hey, that’s cute. Your “civilized” country also continues to pay arcane homage to an elitist, aristocratic monarch, stifles freedom of speech with thought police masquerading as “Human Rights Tribunals” and continues to prop up one of the most bureaucratically bloated, inefficient and unresponsive socialized health “care” systems in the world—third in line behind Cuba’s and “Great” Britain's.

    Homage is alright, do you know what arcane means? If you did, you wouldn't talk gibberish like "arcane homage". Stifles freedom of speech? You mean as in screening audiences at GWB "town hall meetings" or as in Joe Miller Senate candidate for Alaska, handcuffing a journalist, or as in loutish thug like O'Reilley shouting down his interviewee?

    And bureaucratic and inefficient healthcare system? You must be talking of the US Healthcare system. It delivers the least bang for the buck. The US Healthcare system, costs 2x per capita as the OECD average for the worst outcomes in the OECD. It has the highest admin burden in the world employing 3x as many health insurance staff as any OECD nation. Cuba's healthcare system delivers the same if not better outcomes for its citizens as does the US at 1/10th the cost and does not have a single unisured resident. You shd get out of your cave more often and read the news.

    Truti

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  28. Hmmm, that description sounds suspiciously like the definition of…morality. Well, at least according to Merriam-Webster Online: morality : 3 : conformity to ideals of right human conduct. So, that begs the question: who promulgated those ideals?


    People. Provide evidence that something other than people do so.

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  29. jcc asks:

    Hmmm, that description sounds suspiciously like the definition of…morality. Well, at least according to Merriam-Webster Online: morality : 3 : conformity to ideals of right human conduct.

    No it doesn't. There was no mention of intrinsic right or wrong. Only the claim that taking things from others by force is socially disruptive and therefor undesirable (at least to the majority who find social harmony to be personally desirable and beneficial).

    So, that begs the question: who promulgated those ideals?

    Humans did. Specifically, the members of various human societies throughout history.

    Again, who determined what was and wasn’t “good” for society?

    Again, humans. More or less empirically.

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  30. Truti says,

    The US Healthcare system, costs 2x per capita as the OECD average for the worst outcomes in the OECD. It has the highest admin burden in the world employing 3x as many health insurance staff as any OECD nation. Cuba's healthcare system delivers the same if not better outcomes for its citizens as does the US at 1/10th the cost and does not have a single unisured resident. You shd get out of your cave more often and read the news.

    Wait a minute.

    I thought the US health care system was the best in the world because it efficiently eliminates all those people who are too stupid or too lazy to get a decent job!

    Darwin would be proud of such a system. :-)

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  31. Thony C. says,

    ... although he said many things that in the long run were proved to be wrong Aristotle pretty much laid the foundations of the life sciences and the scientific method.

    I don't believe you.

    Everyone knows that it was Christians who invented science. Jesus is the one who taught us about the scientific method. It's right there in the Bible. I think it's in Revelations.

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  32. Larry Moran says:

    Why?

    Thony C. pretty much answered that, though I would extend the reach of Aristotle to most of western thinking. Wikipedia notes appropiately:

    Bertrand Russell notes that "almost every serious intellectual advance has had to begin with an attack on some Aristotelian doctrine"

    If you are interested (may be you are not) in Philosophy and the history of Physics and Biology, Aristotle is inescapable.

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  33. I've got a different answer for #3: if the universe wasn't reasonably regular, complex creatures couldn't have evolved. The weak anthropic principle guarantees that anything remotely like us would have to observe a somewhat predictable universe.

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  34. I think the best answer to most of these questions is "I don't know and neither do you (or anyone else)".

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  35. jcc, you wrote:

    "
    Yes, but do you have experimental data that has replicated how that apparatus and cycle arose by “natural causes?”

    Would you know how to read or analyze anything presented?

    BTW- do you think you are new? You should refer to the talk.origins faqs, Of course, trolls never check them.

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  36. Pretty decent until #7. That sort of answer would just encourage them to point at that and say "see they're immoral bastards, we need god for morality!".

    I would have went with pointing out the many formulations of ethical theories that don't involve god at all, but rather, are based on interpretations of how the world is, and how people in it are.

    Keeping in line with the theme you established in the other questions, I would have said on top of that something like: "I wont presume to know which is ultimately correct, but it's clear that moral dictates from deities would not be needed, nor, (if you believe some philosophers like Socrates), would such dictates be a valid reason for morality."

    Anyway, my atheist peeps, quit screwing this question up, it's a biggie. Say you're into liberalism...(Rawls' is my fave) heck even utilitarianism... anything's better than nothing >.<

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  37. Physeter says,

    If you are interested (may be you are not) in Philosophy and the history of Physics and Biology, Aristotle is inescapable.

    Right now I'm having an interesting discussion about ethics and morality on one posting, about the existence of God on another, and about epistemology on several others. I haven't found it necessary to read up on Aristotle for any of these discussions.

    Can you give me a short lesson on why I am wrong and why Aristotle is "inescapable"?

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  38. Lar:

    I did.

    Uh, no you didn't. You just said you’d “be pissed” because your "expectations weren’t met," and that “people made those laws because they're for the good of society.”

    Again, who determined what was and wasn’t good for society? The Caribs were cannibals because they all liked doing it—but was that good for their society? If not, why not?

    It's been fun (and so easy) yanking your chain

    Psssst. Hey, Lar; my chain ain’t the one being yanked. It’s your blog and you chose to respond to me.

    I'm getting bored.

    You and me both. You’ve turned out to be just another juvenile, bigoted, narrow-minded, condescendingly arrogant, run-of-the-mill atheist.

    Hmmm, moving the goalposts, are we?

    Uh no. Goalposts have remained stationary. My original request was:

    “can you cite experimental data that demonstrates that they can [arise by purely natural causes?]?”

    Answering “yes” is not a citation of such data. Put up or shut up.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Anonymous:

    do you know what arcane means?

    Yeah, I do or I wouldn’t have used it. It’s a complete mystery to me why lily-livered, subservient Canucks continue to find it necessary to suck-up to such an antediluvian “code” of allegiance.

    Stifles freedom of speech? You mean as in screening audiences at GWB "town hall meetings"

    No. I mean like a government entity that can incarcerate people for daring to speak their minds. And I suppose you thought NPR was “doing the right thing” for firing Juan Williams…

    And bureaucratic and inefficient healthcare system?

    Yeah, you know the one where one of your own Premiers had to come to the best health care system in the world to have heart surgery without having to wait until he died first?

    the US Healthcare system. It delivers the least bang for the buck.

    Yeah, that’s why you Canucks are streaming across the border to use it.

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  40. Mike Haubrich:

    Would you know how to read or analyze anything presented?

    Um, yes. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?

    BTW- do you think you are new?

    Lord no! I’ve been slappin’ you atheists up-side the head with reality for over five years.

    You should refer to the talk.origins faqs

    Yeah, every time I need a good belly-laugh, I'll peruse that site.

    Of course, trolls never check them.

    ...And fools always make prideful assumptions…

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  41. Silly Egnor, those questions doesn't answer why atheists doesn't accept religious claims. It has much more to do with that religious people fail to provide evidence for supernatural beings.

    Now, we do have answers for these questions. But they come from the science The Egnorant One remains egnorant of, not from atheism.

    1) Why is there anything? - 2) What caused the Universe? - 3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    Same question, same answer: because symmetries are observed to break promptly and spontaneously (and so makes laws), and the simpler systems are more symmetric. "Nothing" wasn't stable.

    4) Of the Four Causes ... - 5) Why do we have subjective experience ... 6) Why is the human mind intentional ... - 7) Does Moral Law ... - 8) Why is there evil?

    Same question, same answer: Those are made up buffoon questions, not science questions on nature.

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  42. It's too bad Egnor doesn't allow comments on his blog. If he did, I'd ask:"Of what relevance are these questions to the supposedly non-religious 'scientific theory' of Intelligent Design?"

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  43. I caused the universe.

    Now either someone accepts it, rejects it, or wants evidence before accepting it.


    A theist who wants to insist that God caused the universe should then understand why atheists reject his claim, if he rejects mine

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  44. 1) Why is there anything?
    Shit happens . . . and I am not being flippant.

    2) What caused the Universe?
    This.

    3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?
    See 2.

    4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?
    Who cares about prescientific ruminations? We live in the 21st century, act like it.

    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?
    I'll jump on the epiphenomenon bandwagon. We are not just conscious, but self-aware. Our ability to imagine leads to states of subjectivity that are, at times, indistinguishable from reality for us.

    6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?
    See 5. And dude, "aboutness" is so L. Ron Hubbard.

    7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)
    No.

    8) Why is there evil?
    See 5. Evil is subjective. Earthquakes, supernovas, viruses, etc. are not.

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  45. Larry,

    Can you give me a short lesson on why I am wrong and why Aristotle is "inescapable"?

    To be clear, I think you're wrong in your attitude towards Aristotle thinking you're "not missing much". I'm not contending anything else said here and I'm not saying that you should agree with Aristotle in anything in particular. Neither am I saying that you should read Aristole himself, but that you should be familiar with some of his ideas.

    Anyway, I don't know as much about Aristotle as I would like to, and probably I'm not choosing the best examples, but I'll give it a try.

    Christian theology has taken a lot from Aristotle through Aquinas, who "Christianised" Aristotelian phylosophy. He made one of his five argmuents for the existence of god (sure you have heard about them, they belong to the "sophisticated-but-old" category) using Aristotle's "unmoved mover" concept.

    In the history of Science, you can't grasp how really revolutionary Galielo's physics were unless you know about previously the prevailing Aristotelian physics (e.g. Aristotelian physics was qualitative, not quantitative and said that without force there can be no motion). For biology, Aristotle is foundational in systematics and natural history, influencing Linnaeus, Owen and Darwin (check out John Wilkin's PhD thesis). You know his idea of the "great chain of being" is still a problem.

    Finally, see by yourself how many times Aristotle comes up in your own blog. Aristotle: 27, Popper: 27, Lamarck: 32, The Simpsons: 1.

    Perhaps I'm wrong and one doesn't really need to know about Aristotle to understand much of mordern thinking and the history of science. But I'm affraid in order to show that Aristotle's influence is superfluous and prove me wrong, you'd be forced to actually read about Aristotle ;P.

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  46. Larry, I tried to post a longish comment twice because I got an error message the first time. Didn't mean to double post... sorry.

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  47. [jcc said...

    Hmmmm, really? So if I were to rob you at gunpoint of everything you own and worked hard for, you wouldn't experience a "moral" outrage?]

    The fact that human beings have moral reactions or outrage does nothing to support the notion of the existence and/or necessity of objective morals. We have no objective morals, but we manage just fine with the subjective ones we have. And yes, we determine that subjectively.

    I have dealt with this argument a million times before. It's sophistry through and through, and boring sophistry at that.

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  48. Since the question is from a Creationist, surely there'd be at least one question dealing with the validity of evolution. But no, it's just cosmological and philosophical questions, which makes me wonder why make the questions in the context of creationism at all? It could just as easily be "A quiz for Atheists from a Theist" or "A quiz for Atheists from a Blacksmith".

    It seems the new proof that life on earth was created by an intelligent designer is that the universe exists, something that evolution cannot account for. There's something rather than nothing, therefore YEC God. Checkmate, atheists!

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  49. Cool, I've come across this blog through Pharyngula and would love to have a go at those questions :)

    1) Why is there anything?

    Physicists have some ideas about how something can come from nothing. Stuff about "nothing" being able to generate energy, which is interchangeable with matter (E=mc^2). These things are way over my league, though :)

    2) What caused the Universe?

    What caused whatever would have caused the Universe? Seems to me that it would lead to an infinite series of "whys".

    Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

    The moment you have energy, forces, particles, etc, I'd expect them to behave consistently, thus generating patterns. A better question would be "could there be other laws in the Universe?"

    4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

    Dang, they didn't talk about that in my high-school philosophy classes. But let me say I think purpose is a human concept. Things just "are".

    5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

    Couldn't be any other way. In order to experience a phenomenon you have to "capture" it by some means, e.g. your senses. Still, we're blind to most of the light spectrum, we hear on a limited range of frequencies and are unimpressed by countless molecules that other animals can smell or taste. We can abstract "reality" from what we perceive. Some things are very similar to our perception (e.g. gravity on the surface of the earth), others not so much (e.g. the fact that the Earth moves around the Sun and not the other way around).

    6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?

    Haven't got a clue what you mean by "aboutness", but more and more we realize that mental processes are far from linear. I believe thought implies language. Language is always about relationships between a subject and something else (attributes, actions, other subjects). In this sense, mental states would "be about something" by definition.

    7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)

    Way to trick us into choosing between only 2 categories. Moral law is a social construct and is contingent. What we now regard as evil (e.g. slavery) was once perfectly natural and nobody would give it a 2nd thought.

    8) Why is there evil?

    There isn't. "Evil" is a human concept. You can say an earthquake is evil all you want, *it* won't care a bit. "Evil" presupposes the ability for moral judgment. A person may be evil if he/she acts in ways that are shunned upon by their community. And these concepts change.

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  50. Interesting to contrast the waves of people here and elsewhere taking up this challenge with the deafening silence from theists when Larry issued his challenge.

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  51. Why on earth is anyone answering questions posed by Michael Egnor?
    This is the person that previously challenged scientists to name one example of new information arising in the genome and when presented with the biology101 answer of gene duplication, dismissed that as something akin to copying homework!
    He is also the individual that dismisses the idea of microevolution contributing to bacterial resistance to antibiotics - making him rather unique in the field of anti-evolution - i.e. someone who is even less rational than Kent Hovind! - who does accept this idea.

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  52. One could be forgiven for concluding that Egnor is a man who lived 1,000 years ago and was magically transported here. How else could one explain him seeming oblivious to everything mankind has learned since.

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  53. Science Avenger:

    The fact that human beings have moral reactions or outrage does nothing to support the notion of the existence and/or necessity of objective morals.

    Yes, and the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is just another one that’s “subjectively determined” by the individual—regardless of it being irrefutably universal in the human race.

    Yep, your “logic” is bullet-proof there, pal.

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  54. 1) It's important when addressing questions like this to underline one's ignorance. No-one knows the answer to this question (Theists might think they know, but they don't).

    There might not be an answer to this question. The universe might explain itself, or not require an explanation if it is eternal, or if time is circular. Or something other than the universe might explain the universe; God, aliens, some kind of higher reality, but that pushes the explanation back: is there an explanation for those things? There is, as far as I can tell, no evidence for one of these answers over the others.

    2) If we define the universe as everything that exists, this question is just a more leading version of the last. If, by universe we mean the observable universe, assuming it has a cause, the cause could be another universe, or aliens, or something supernatural. Maybe the universe as we understand it doesn't exist, and we're all hooked up to the matrix, but this is all just wild speculation. Nobody knows.

    3) I can't imagine a universe completely devoid of regularity, or "order". To say that something is ordered is just to say that it persists through time: bread is ordered if it retains it's structure, and hence stays bread. But without order, nothing would exist through time, and the universe wouldn't exist, since the universe is just a collection of entities.

    4)Some things are made of material. Some things are arranged out of matter. Some things have a primary source of movement. Some things have an aim or purpose. So examples of all these causes exist.

    5) Erm, not sure. I think it has to do with the brain perceiving itself perceiving other things, like a camera that watches itself as well as its environment. There isn't a little man in your head watching your experiences like a movie: the brain is a machine that takes in input from the world, and can also take in information about the processes that change the input into output.

    6) I'm not sure how this is different to (5). To have subjective experiences, your experiences need to be about the things you're experiencing.

    7) IMO, moral facts are facts about what we have reasons to do, specifically reasons for treating other people in ways that it would be reasonable for them to want to be treated.

    For example, we have reason not to kill or torture innocent people because they would, if they were informed and sufficiently rational, conclude that they would prefer not to be tortured and killed, and because other people deserve to have their preferences and interests respected as far as ours do.

    The fact that other people's interests are as important as our own is the reason to take into account people's interests when deciding how to act, and is a contingent state of affairs that could have been different (Suppose I was intrinsically more important than everyone else for some reason, or benefited a thousand times more from their time and effort than they did. Then it might be reasonable for me to only care about myself). So I'd say the facts about morality, about what it's reasonable to do or not do, reflect the nature of the human situation.

    8) Assuming that evil is just extremely immoral behaviour, people do evil either unknowingly (If they are misinformed about the situation and think that they're doing the right thing), or knowingly. They do evil knowingly because they either think that nothing matters and accept nihilism (which is false), or think that they're intrinsically more important than other people (Again false).

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  55. "Yes, and the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is just another one that’s “subjectively determined” by the individual—regardless of it being irrefutably universal in the human race."

    Joseph didn't mind when God raped his wife.

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  56. "the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is ... irrefutably universal in the human race."

    ... except in the Bible, where God frequently enables, rewards and sanctions it:

    http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm

    Please, please, please play the 'those were different times and different circumstances and anyway, who says any of that counts as rape card'. Go on, pleeeease.

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  57. 'Yes, and the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is just another one that’s “subjectively determined” by the individual'

    The laws and attitude to rape are constantly changing.

    Many blame the victim, don't understand the issues around 'date rape' and so on:

    http://www.williamkwolfrum.com/2010/03/01/christian-fundamentalists-are-evil-blame-the-rape-victim-edition/

    Many of the more bizarre and extreme opinions come from self-identifying Christians.

    Type 'rape' or 'rapist' into:

    http://www.fstdt.com/Search.aspx

    So ... OK. Humor me. What are the 'universal moral truths' about abortion, contraception, the death penalty and homosexuality? You know - the ones every human being innately knows and shares.

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  58. Wives/mothers/sisters/daughters are brutally raped all over the world by the very men you think are universally outraged by the notion.

    And even if it was universal, so what? We are the same species who developed in similar environments, so it makes sense that we'd have instincts and emotional reactions in common.

    Where's your bullet-proof logic that such a fact implies something else "pal"? Why don't you clearly spell it out for us instead of couching your argument in snarks and half-arguments? I know why - because that's all you've got once the hidden assumption of the need for objective morals and/or an objective measure is exposed.

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  59. jcc:

    Yes, and the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is just another one that’s “subjectively determined” by the individual—regardless of it being irrefutably universal in the human race.

    Your pretense universality is disproved by the very fact that some people commit those crimes against their own wives/mothers/sisters/daughters. And not all are clinically ill, they are sociopaths only in the sociological sense, in that they don't share the values of the vast majority of the community. And the community understandably punishes them.

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  60. jcc - a legend in his own mind!

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  61. jcc,

    So, as long as everyone agrees on something, that makes it objectively true?

    I can see why you put scare quotes around the word logic. It's obviously not a concept that you're very comfortable with.

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  62. Hey there Larry. I agree with Physeter's admonition towards Aristotle. FWIW, and with all due respect: Response To Larry Moran’s Challenge To Theists.

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  63. cI says,

    I agree with Physeter's admonition towards Aristotle.

    Good. Be sure to jump in whenever you see a discussion where it's important to know what some Greek guy said 2300 years sgo.

    Your input will be useful to those of us who don't care about Aristotle.

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  64. Yes, and the reaction of outrage to the brutal rape of a wife/mother/sister/daughter is just another one that’s “subjectively determined” by the individual—regardless of it being irrefutably universal in the human race.

    Wait, the rapist is raping his wife/mother/sister/daughter? That's not a very good example of absolute morality. I mean, apparently the feeling isn't universal to him, right?

    Yep, your “logic” is bullet-proof there, pal.

    I'll assume logic is in scare quotes only because you have no first-hand experience with such a thing.

    -Dan L.

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  65. Well well... I was hoping you'd actually be, you know, interested in hearing [what I take to be] a good argument for God, but if not, then not. Just don't complain the next time somebody like Egnor makes a "know-nothing" comment, because - when it comes to Aristotle - he's right. I don't think any rationalist ought to just dismiss something out of hand like that, but, your call.

    Skewer me if you wish; I'm content to let you have the last word.

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  66. ScienceAvenger:

    Wives/mothers/sisters/daughters are brutally raped all over the world by the very men you think are universally outraged by the notion.

    Oh dear. What part of antisocial behavior don’t you get?

    And even if it was universal, so what?

    Um, it corroborates my claim—that’s what?

    it makes sense that we'd have instincts and emotional reactions in common.

    Hey, nice about-face!

    Where's your bullet-proof logic that such a fact implies something else...?

    How ‘bout the fact that that reaction is hardwired into everyone of us?—and the fact that those who engage in such depraved behaviors, without exception, ultimately self-destruct?

    Why don't you clearly spell it out for us instead of couching your argument in snarks and half-arguments?

    I don’t know how much clearer I could’ve made it. The fact that you ended up conceding my point should've indicated the fallacy of your own “reasoning.”

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  67. qetzal:

    So, as long as everyone agrees on something, that makes it objectively true?

    Where did I say “agrees on something?” There’s a big difference between a subjectively opinionated response and a visceral reaction.

    [Logic is] obviously not a concept that you're very comfortable with.

    Cute. And I could easily fire back with something like: “…and obviously, reading comprehension isn’t your forte.”

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  68. According to your comments Larry, seems like atheism is just an excuse for laziness.

    'What? What? I like my ignorance strong, like my Starbucks so run along now and let me enjoy my cuppa.'

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  69. cl writes: Well well... I was hoping you'd actually be, you know, interested in hearing [what I take to be] a good argument for God, but if not, then not. Just don't complain the next time somebody like Egnor makes a "know-nothing" comment, because - when it comes to Aristotle - he's right.

    cl, I went to your website and perused Aristotle's argument from kinesis (the "unmoved mover" argument), and no matter how nice the philosophical argument, frankly all the kinesis stuff went out the window with Galileo, Newton, etc.

    Aristotle was a favorite of the old Church, and its embrace of his philosophy contributed much to the conflict with Galileo. Let's not make the same mistake re biology 400+ years later, eh?

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  70. Larry,

    Honourable mention at http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/10/26/why

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  71. JCC said:
    Oh dear. What part of antisocial behavior don’t you get?


    What part of "not universal" don't you get? Or is it only universal except where it isn't? Move the goalposts much?

    JCC:Um, it [being universal] corroborates my claim—that’s what?

    Since you insist on speaking in half thoughts, what your claim is exactly is far from clear.

    JCC: Hey, nice about-face!

    Nothing about-face about it. My position is that human beings, sharing a common ancestry, would naturally have many desires and instincts in common, with some amount of variation about the norm, and thus would develop many similar values and morals. No mysticism needed.

    JCC: How ‘bout the fact that that reaction is hardwired into everyone of us?

    But as we've all noted, it ISN'T hardwired into all of us. Declaring those not so wired as "antisocial" doesn't change the fact that your assumption is false.

    JCC: —and the fact that those who engage in such depraved behaviors, without exception, ultimately self-destruct?

    Make shit up often? You speak solely from ideology and desire, not reality. Oh wait, let me guess - if I cite exceptions that did not self-destruct, you'll just label them "anti-social" and plod blindly on, right?

    JCC: I don’t know how much clearer I could’ve made it.

    Your literary shortcomings aren't my problem, but let me give you a hint: you can't make it clearer because it is muddled at its core. But do try.

    JCC: The fact that you ended up conceding my point should've indicated the fallacy of your own “reasoning.”

    I see your reading comprehension is on the same level as your writing abilities. But here's another hint: putting scare quotes around words instead of forming clear arguments is a good sign you have little of the latter, and people know this.

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  72. jcc said...

    Hey Lar,

    I don't think there's any such thing as "Moral Law."

    Hmmmm, really? So if I were to rob you at gunpoint of everything you own and worked hard for, you wouldn't experience a "moral" outrage?

    I know I've been pretty hard on you here, but I have to hand it to you—at least you actually make an effort to read what the DI has to say.

    And by the way, you still haven't cited any experimental data corroborating your assertion that irreducibly complex structures can arise by purely natural causes.

    Moral Law is not the same as Morality
    Morality is subjective and socially influenced - it changes, and is because of our empathy and our ability to understand what other creatures capable of sensing experience and using imagination to put ourselves in their shoes. Moral Law implies it does not change - which is clearly testable and false

    As for "irreducibly complex structures can arise by purely natural causes." first of all it's not irreducible
    it's incredibly complex structures, and see Chaos Theory and Fractal Mathematics for amazing detailed explanations of those - it's a little complex to cover in an Internet forum post.

    Also i suggest researching Cognitive Bias - one being, we tend to over-simplify things and accept anecdotal evidence, or simple answers, just because they are simple, regardless of objective truth.

    How does a toaster turn bread into toast?
    Person who knows how heated coils work: "it heats it with coils"
    Person who does not: "I cannot explain this, therefore i shall invoke the nearest thing my mind has learned and twist it to find an explanation because admitting i do not know scares me, and i am unwilling to learn or experiment"

    :) there is a world of beauty out there - don't pretend you have it all worked out

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  73. @ JCC:

    If there's an objective morality, it should be universal and unchanging.

    There're societies in which it is immoral for a woman to show her face. This is not true for most western societies.

    In some societies it is moral to submit women to genital mutilation. Most other societies would deem that immoral.

    So, seems like morality isn't universal. What about unchanging?

    In the old testament (as a document of past morality) it is deemed moral that a man who raped a woman must marry her. Today, most people would find that disgusting.

    Again, in the old testament, slavery is a-ok. Today, most societies disagree.

    Divorce and sex before marriage were seen as immoral in many societies until recently (and some still find both immoral).

    So, not unchangeable, either. What makes you think again that there's an objective morality?

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  74. "I don’t know how much clearer I could’ve made it."

    Well, OK jcc, let me try: you think moral truths are eternal, and hardwired into us. By, presumably a really powerful moral force ... I'm guessing Allah, or Buddha or Thor. One of the gods, at any rate.

    So this 'god' did it. And we can tell that because, throughout history everyone's attitude to rape has always been exactly the same, except some crazy people who 'eventually self destruct'? Or get moved to another diocese.

    And there are also moral truths about homosexuality, abortion, gun control, stem cell research and so on and they are ...

    ... you'd better fill in that last bit.

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  75. jcc wrote:

    Where did I say “agrees on something?” There’s a big difference between a subjectively opinionated response and a visceral reaction.

    There's a much bigger difference between showing that something provokes a universal visceral reaction, and showing that it's objectively immoral. But I guess that distinction is over your head.

    Do you understand the meaning of the word "objective" here? It certainly doesn't seem that you do.

    Plus, we can add analogies to the list of things you have trouble with. As in: universal agreement on something doesn't prove it's objectively true, just like universal revulsion to something doesn't prove that it's objectively immoral.

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  76. ScienceAvenger:

    is it only universal except where it isn't?

    No. I claim that every cognitively unimpaired human being is subject to a moral pathos when a loved one is raped precisely because rape is objectively, morally wrong. The harming of any innocent human being for one’s own gratification is objectively morally wrong. The “the very men [I] think are universally outraged by the notion” are either cognitively impaired or are sadistic sociopaths (neither of which can be shown to be a product of natural selection and random mutation).

    Move the goalposts much?

    No. Objective morality is immutable.

    Since you insist on speaking in half thoughts, what your claim is exactly is far from clear.

    On the contrary. My claim is exactly that an objective, universal moral law exists—and every human being is subject to it.

    My position is that human beings … would naturally have many desires and instincts in common … and thus would develop many similar values and morals.

    Really? Then why are other animals subject to the moral law as well?—How do you explain the altruistic actions of a dog defending its owner from, say, a would-be rapist? Please don’t try to tell me that that selfless motivation “evolved” before the two species diverged…

    No mysticism needed.

    Agreed—only a transient moral law giver is.

    But as we've all noted, it ISN'T hardwired into all of us.

    I disagree. Ask any over-the-edge serial murderer if he’d mind being murdered the way he murders.

    Declaring those not so wired as "antisocial" doesn't change the fact that your assumption is false.

    Ahem, my “assumption” is false? (see my previous question).

    Make shit up often?

    No, live in an alternate universe often?

    You speak solely from ideology and desire, not reality.

    He-yeah, I do that, and not you.

    if I cite exceptions that did not self-destruct...

    Oh please do! I’d love to hear about all those geriatric, serial rapists who’ve been at it for decades and continue on doin’ what they do, happy as larks, livin’ and lettin’ live…

    you can't make it clearer because it is muddled at its core. But do try.

    Wanna take another shot at all this?

    I see your reading comprehension is on the same level as your writing abilities.

    And sadly once again, after logic, reason and reality ultimately fail the atheist in his attempt to defend his narcissistic worldview, he inevitably resorts to the usual, gratuitous ad hominem attacks.

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  77. JLT:

    There're societies in which it is immoral for a woman to show her face.

    You’re confusing social mores with moral absolutes. A woman exposing her face in public causes no physical or emotional harm to anyone—however, forcing a woman to cover her face against her will, is immoral.

    In some societies it is moral to submit women to genital mutilation. Most other societies would deem that immoral.

    That’s because it is immoral—the woman is physically harmed.

    So, seems like morality isn't universal.

    Again, I defer you to the definition of social mores vs. moral absolutes.

    What about unchanging?

    Yep, murder will always and everywhere be wrong.

    In the old testament (as a document of past morality) it is deemed moral that a man who raped a woman must marry her. Today, most people would find that disgusting.

    No, it is deemed wrong as per the required restitution of marriage. Just because different societies prescribe different punishments for the same transgression doesn’t make it a morally relative behavior.

    in the old testament, slavery is a-ok. Today, most societies disagree.

    That’s because slavery in the Old Testament was more-often-than-not, nothing like the brutal slavery of the Antebellum South. Slavery in the ancient world was usually a servitude that resulted from unpaid debt.

    Divorce and sex before marriage were seen as immoral in many societies until recently (and some still find both immoral).

    Immoral behaviors are always defined by their ability to cause either physical or emotional harm to others. Divorce does just that. Premarital promiscuity without commitment and responsibility does as well.

    What makes you think again that there's an objective morality?

    The answers I just gave?

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  78. I think the answer to all this is quite simple. Many of these tough questions are the result of our evolved, organic brains' attempts to interact with, and understand the universe. There is absolutely no reason why we should have the capability to fully understand it. The tools (laws) which we have developed to assist in this may not be absolute, or fully correct.

    The notion that we can grasp everything, or should be able to, is the utmost arrogance.

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  79. 1) Cogito ergo sum - I exist becaus I think.
    Religionists leave others to do their thinking - therefore they do not exist.
    Since god is a construct of religionists, and religionists do not exist, god cannot exist.
    Therefore the rest of the questions, cannot exist in my reality either.
    This takes care of subjectivity too - although that was unintentional.

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  80. "Then why are other animals subject to the moral law as well?"

    Oh for fuck's sake ...

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  81. Jcc ... answer the question about homosexuality. What does the 'moral law' say about homosexuality?

    I'm going to take a guess: 'Homosexuality per se is fine, it hurts no one. Gay marriage is great, it harms no one and is a celebration of love. Anyone who is opposed to gay marriage is in violation of the moral law and should be punished'.

    How close am I?

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  82. For the record, I first asked jcc to describe the universal truth that we all innately know about homosexuality on Friday at 7am, it's now Wednesday at 8pm.

    He's managed to 'answer' lots of other questions in that time.

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  83. "Immoral behaviors are always defined by their ability to cause either physical or emotional harm to others."

    I don't worship God. Is that against the universal Moral Law? Does it cause physical or emotional harm to others?

    I don't do any of the religious bullshit - I commit blasphemy, I lack faith, I don't observe the Sabbath ... no physical or mental harm to others, so presumably that's OK by the Moral Law.

    How about if I shot a man who was, unknown to her, about to break into a house to rape a woman - did I break the Moral Law but the would-be rapist didn't?

    And, again - two men who love each other want to get married. No physical or mental harm ... so, the Moral Law is cool with that?

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  84. "Then why are other animals subject to the moral law as well?"

    O.M.G.

    I can't wait to hear what moral law hyena's are following when they murder their siblings in the womb, or spider's and the many other animals who'll eat their young if given half a chance.

    What a maroon.

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  85. Anonymous:

    Oh for fuck's sake ...

    Now that’s the classiest, most intelligent, articulate, and above all, the most original reply anyone has every made to one of my posts.

    What does the 'moral law' say about homosexuality?

    First, a clarification of terms. Given that humans are not, and cannot be defined by their behaviors, in order for the term homosexuality to have any tangible meaning in a discussion, it must unambiguously refer to those behaviors and not to a “class” of human beings.

    Therefore, strictly speaking, homosexuality is a biological aberration—a counterproductive activity for the propagation of the species, ergo, one that Darwinism/neo-Darwinism/evolution/et. al. cannot account for.

    I'm going to take a guess: 'Homosexuality per se is fine

    Wrong. Bad guess.

    it hurts no one.

    Wrong again:
    • Young people engaging in this behavior are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007)

    • More than a third of those youth report having made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR - Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002)

    • Adolescents who engage in this behavior are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).

    And before you go off half-cocked on those stats being the result of bullying from heterosexual peers, get a load of this:

    “Saghir and Robins (1978) examined reasons for suicide attempts among homosexuals and found that if the reasons for the attempt were connected with homosexuality, about 2/3 were due to breakups of relationships—not outside pressures from society.

    Similarly, Bell and Weinberg (1981) also found the major reason for suicide attempts was the breakup of relationships. In second place, they said, was the inability to accept oneself. Since homosexuals have greater numbers of partners and breakups, compared with heterosexuals, and since longterm gay male relationships are rarely monagamous, it is hardly surprising if suicide attempts are proportionally greater. The median number of partners for homosexuals is four times higher than for heterosexuals (Whitehead and Whitehead 1999, calculated from Laumann et al 1994). Another factor in suicide attempts would be the compulsive or addictive elements in homosexuality (Pincu, 1989 ) which could lead to feelings of depression when the lifestyle is out of control (Seligman 1975)."

    Gay marriage is great, it harms no one and is a celebration of love.

    Wrong again (surprise). The redefining of traditional marriage to permit same-sex couples, 1) opens the door to the legal recognition of every kind of unnatural coupling (read bestiality) and 2) puts the state in the position of intentionally depriving children legally brought into such a union the essential presence of parental role models of both genders.

    How close am I?

    Not even in the same galaxy.

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  86. jcc says,

    The redefining of traditional marriage to permit same-sex couples, 1) opens the door to the legal recognition of every kind of unnatural coupling (read bestiality) and 2) puts the state in the position of intentionally depriving children legally brought into such a union the essential presence of parental role models of both genders.

    So, how long will it be before Canada and the rest of Western civilized nations collapse because they've legalize same-sex marriage?

    Or let's make it even easier. How long before they legalize bestiality? Just curious.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Lar said:

    So, how long will it be before Canada and the rest of Western civilized nations collapse because they've legalize same-sex marriage?

    Look around—they’re already buckling.

    How long before they legalize bestiality?

    Immediately following the ratification of "animal standing."

    Just curious.

    Well, that’s a first…

    ReplyDelete
  88. Yet another grand shift of the goalposts from "cause either physical or emotional harm" to "places you in a group which is statistically more likely to engage in some sort of self-destructive behavior".

    Just another Aristotelian mind-wanker playing word games trying to fit the square peg of his ideology into the round hole of reality. Best to just point and laugh.

    ReplyDelete
  89. jcc wrote,
    That’s because slavery in the Old Testament was more-often-than-not, nothing like the brutal slavery of the Antebellum South. Slavery in the ancient world was usually a servitude that resulted from unpaid debt.

    Exodus 21:20-21: "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

    After a day or two. A day or two. By any standard, that is some severe physical harm that God explicitly tells us is A-OK and not to be condemned. No limits are given on the master's reason (or lack thereof) for beating the slave; the fact that "the slave is his property" is enough to justify it.

    THIS is what the Bible presents as a supposedly universal Moral Law. Jesus endorsed it, saying that "until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law." (Matthew 5:18) Christians disregard most of the Mosaic law in practice under the umbrella of "Christ's fulfillment," (Matthew 5:17) but it's still the means by which we are taught what sin is, (Romans 7:7) and by which the whole world is found guilty and deserving of hell. (Romans 3:19) This law, that condemns cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5) while encouraging forced marriage of "captured" non-Israelite women (Deuteronomy 21:11), that prohibits disabled people from approaching an altar because that would "desecrate" it (Leviticus 21:16-23), but permits selling one's children into servitude (Exodus 21:7), that makes it a capital offense if a newlywed woman can't provide evidence of her virginity (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), but instructs a suspicious husband who has no evidence of wrongdoing to subject his wife to trial by ordeal (Numbers 5:24-28), is an outrageously far cry from anything I would call a "universal moral code."

    It's my understanding that it was quite progressive by the standards of its time, but it's nevertheless too flawed for me to accept a divine origin. Nor do I feel the sense of convictedness that the Apostle Paul would have me gnashing my teeth over. So I'm going to be over here not beating any slaves to within an inch of their lives, not selling my children, not treating the crippled and deformed like they're cursed, and not worrying about whether my morals are "universal" enough. I have yet to see a rulebook that lives up to that notion, and until then, I think I'll do just fine with simple empathy as my guide. In fact, I think rulebooks often have a way of interfering with the closest thing we actually have to a "universal" moral truth, which is the collection of sufferings and desires we share with all who live in similar bodies.

    ReplyDelete
  90. For the record: I find your opinions utterly abhorrent, your cherrypicking of scientific evidence nasty and your appeal to some universal force of nature (God, of course, although for some reason you have trouble saying it) ... unsurprising.

    That, in itself, kills your argument that there's some sort of 'Moral Law'. What you have is a prejudice enabled by faith. That's an argument against faith, not for homophobia. Gods are like newspapers - people pick the one that conforms to their prejudices, and then enter a vicious circle of seeing those prejudices harden as they are pandered to.

    First ...

    "The redefining of traditional marriage to permit same-sex couples opens the door to the legal recognition of every kind of unnatural coupling (read bestiality)"

    OK ... and I'll sink your battleship in 5,4,3,2,1:

    Marriage is a legal contract. Animals, children and the dead can't enter legal contracts, so gay marriage could not possibly 'open' the door to marriages based on bestiality, pedophilia or necrophilia.

    That's the irrefutable answer to that particular ridiculous 'where will it all end' wail.

    Second ...

    "puts the state in the position of intentionally depriving children legally brought into such a union the essential presence of parental role models of both genders."

    What a load of pious shit. Because "the state" doesn't screen heterosexual couples before they're married to see if there are alcoholics or abusers or adulterers and so on. Being married doesn't prevent someone going to jail or taking a job in another town or joining the army and being posted to a war zone. The state, quite rightly, doesn't even ask if the couple are planning to have children.

    It's not a coincidence that so many 'family values' public figures are found with their trousers down, or have been married three times.

    "Not even in the same galaxy."

    And yet your 'Moral Law' was universal. It should have encompassed my galaxy. It's almost as though your argument is bullshit, isn't it?

    Dress up your nasty prejudices all you want, just don't you dare tell me I think the same way as you, or that if I don't I'm out of tune with the universe.

    Why do atheists care? Because, from time to time, we're reminded of the poison religions are.

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  91. "Therefore, strictly speaking, homosexuality is a biological aberration—a counterproductive activity for the propagation of the species, ergo, one that Darwinism/neo-Darwinism/evolution/et. al. cannot account for."

    OK. It's all about the genes. We behave in ways that pass on our genes. These ways are often convoluted, but once laid out, they're often rather elegant.

    Off the top of my head, there are two very simple ways homosexual behavior is compatible with evolutionary theory:

    1. The same combination of genes that doesn't give one individual an advantage might give another individual an advantage. Many people in America have genes that are very efficient at turning food into fat - really useful when food is scarce, as it often was historically, but leading to obesity when food is common.

    Studies suggest that women with homosexual brothers have more children than women without, for example. If that's true, it might suggest there's a set of genes that tend to make women more fertile which also tend to make men homosexual.

    2. We behave in ways that pass on our genes. Our genes aren't just in us.

    In an ant nest, only the Queen lays eggs. The ten million other ants, all her children, are sterile. They work to pass on *her* genes, but her genes are also *their* genes.

    We are as closely related to our nephews as our grandsons. A gay man who is a - what was your phrase? - positive male role model to a nephew is doing as much, genetically, as a doting grandparent.

    [On a related note - if you're against gay marriage, presumably you'd also want legislation to keep gay men away from their nephews and nieces?]

    See?

    Now, your model is this: 'God thinks gays are unnatural, God created all the gays'. Or, the softer version: 'it is a universal Moral Law that gays are unnatural; boy, there sure are a lot of gays in defiance of that universal law'.

    What you have is a prejudice. A prejudice you are attempting to justify with a bit of old school religion and some deeply misunderstood science. Evidence and logic point to you being wrong about both.

    I'm not going to stop you being homophobic. If only it was that easy, but you are, unfortunately, suffering from what we scientists refer to as 'the God Delusion'. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be genetic.

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  92. anonymous says,

    Off the top of my head, there are two very simple ways homosexual behavior is compatible with evolutionary theory:

    3. There is no allele for heterosexuality (or homosexuality) so evolutionary theory has nothing to say in the matter.

    4. The sexual preference of individuals, even if there's an allele for heterosexuality, doesn't have much effect on fitness.

    5. The gene for exclusive heterosexuality was detrimental in the past because it reduced same-sex bonding.

    There's no end to the just-so stories you can make up, especially since Hamilton provided us with a perfect story-telling template.

    ReplyDelete
  93. The universe is indeed regular in a sense. Consider the principle of relativity: the form of physical equations describing natural phenomena is the same in all intertial frames of refrence. If we move to Mars, we won't have to reinvent physics, because the laws we discovered will work there the same way.

    Hamilton's principle and other extremum principles, along with Noether's theorem also give me a very strong sense of regularity, simplicity and 'unifiedness'. Miracles are not allowed in this universe :) And, of course, I don't know why is that.

    About moral law: I don't think it exsits 'in itself', but a universal moral law, that concerns our environment, includes present day knowledge, ensures sustainability, etc, could be established. It is time to replace biblical bullshit with something relevant.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Anonymous:

    I find your opinions utterly abhorrent

    Recitation of facts are not opinions.

    your cherrypicking of scientific evidence nasty

    Nothing was “cherry picked.” All citations were made in context and fully referenced. Only those who regard an objective reality as “nasty” clearly must wish it didn’t exist.

    and your appeal to some universal force of nature (God, of course, although for some reason you have trouble saying it) ... unsurprising

    And virtually nothing you’ve said so far even registers on the Originality Meter… you’re a walking, talking, cliché of a cliché.

    That, in itself, kills your argument that there's some sort of 'Moral Law'.

    Hmmm. But you just said those were my (abhorrent) “opinions.” Here’s another objective reality: arguments cannot be won using opinions.

    What you have is a prejudice enabled by faith.

    Uh, looked in the mirror, lately?

    That's an argument against faith, not for homophobia.

    Who here was “arguing for ‘homophobia?’” And please enlighten me…what exactly is a fear of the same?

    Animals, children and the dead can't enter legal contracts

    Changing the legal definition of marriage sets a legislative precedent—every ambulance-chaser’s dream.

    gay marriage could not possibly 'open' the door to marriages based on bestiality, pedophilia or necrophilia.

    You obviously didn’t read my link to “animal standing.”

    That's the irrefutable answer to that particular ridiculous 'where will it all end' wail.

    Sorry that “irrefutable answer” had to blow up in your face like that…

    What a load of pious shit.

    And what an articulate, clever, and original reply.

    Because "the state" doesn't screen heterosexual couples before they're married to see if there are alcoholics or…

    Nor would it for homosexual couples, but your froth wasn’t even remotely related to my point. State sanctioning of homosexual marriage deliberately deprives children under it the opportunity of having an essential gender role model. It promotes an aberrant and socially deficient environment for them.

    It's not a coincidence that so many 'family values' public figures are found with their trousers down, or have been married three times.

    Yes, and as per the stats I cited earlier on homosexual behavior, we all know they’re not prone to those kinds of lapses.

    It should have encompassed my galaxy.

    It does. So… you are from another galaxy…

    It's almost as though your argument is bullshit, isn't it?

    No. It’s as though you refuse to acknowledge the objective reality of the matter.

    Dress up your nasty prejudices all you want

    The record clearly shows that I’m not the prejudiced one here. Please point out where I’ve made any disparaging remarks about those who engage in homosexual behavior—and please point out where I’ve made any comment that could possibly indicate that I hate them or am afraid of them.

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  95. Anonymous:

    It's all about the genes.

    No, it’s not. There is no genetic link to homosexual behavior. Even Lar had to concede as much: There is no allele for heterosexuality (or homosexuality) so evolutionary theory has nothing to say in the matter. All behaviors are ultimately acts of the will.

    if you're against gay marriage, presumably you'd also want legislation to keep gay men away from their nephews and nieces?

    Another bad presumption. No legislation is needed. Like any other destructive behavior, it’s the parent’s responsibility to educate their children about it.

    your model is this: 'God thinks gays are unnatural

    Uh, no. Still refuse to accept that humans cannot be defined by their behavior, huh?

    If anything, God thinks homosexual behavior is contrary to the mechanics of reproduction, and when practiced excessively, becomes self-destructive—as evidenced by the data.

    God created all the gays'

    No. God only creates human beings. There is no more of an intrinsically “gay” subclass of people than there is an intrinsically “illiterate” one.

    What you have is a prejudice.

    No, but what you have is a paralysis of the will that blinds you from even trying to comprehend a differing worldview from your own.

    A prejudice you are attempting to justify with a bit of old school religion and some deeply misunderstood science.

    Oh dear, same song, second verse…

    Evidence and logic point to you being wrong about both.

    Really? So how is that I can still manage to correctly use both to defend my position?

    I'm not going to stop you being homophobic.

    There you go with that nonsensical word again… Even if that word did make any sense, do you really think you’re capable of stopping me from thinking differently from you?

    How sad that you’ve convinced yourself that I somehow harbor animus, hatred or even fear for people who have chosen to engage in an aberrant, self-destructive behavior. Anyone who truly understands the Christian walk does not, nay, cannot hate or fear those addicted to such a vice. We have nothing but compassion for them and above all else, we want to help free them from it.

    If anyone’s doing any “hating” here, it’s you. You’re the one who can’t tolerate the concept of someone actually daring to think differently from you.

    You know what they say about people who live in "glass houses."

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  96. Anyone who truly understands the "Christian walk does not, nay, cannot hate or fear those addicted to such a vice. We have nothing but compassion for them and above all else, we want to help free them from it.

    If anyone’s doing any “hating” here, it’s you. You’re the one who can’t tolerate the concept of someone actually daring to think differently from you."

    That you can put those two sentiments in consecutive sentences says far more about your position and logic and tolerance than anything I ever could.

    Thank you for finally using the G-word.

    Accommodationists reading this - *that's* the sort of thing we're being asked to accommodate.

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  97. "There you go with that nonsensical word again…"

    'unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality'

    That's the meaning. The etymology merely means 'fear of the same', sure. If you call today 'Friday', it doesn't mean you're honoring Freya's Day.

    "do you really think you’re capable of stopping me from thinking differently from you?"

    No. That's the problem with unreason.

    What I hope I can do, and the only reason I'm replying to this ... there may be moderate Christians reading this.

    Moderate Christians - you may be tempted to side with someone like jcc who claims to worship the same god as you. Do you believe that gay people don't exist ... that there are only gay behaviors, that they are 'aberrant' and a 'subclass', that all gay people eventually self destruct? No, of course you don't. You have more in common with Richard Dawkins than Fred Phelps. You know these things already.

    Please - we're going to differ on the god thing, but when people talk about 'teaching the controversy' or 'allowing school prayer', this is what they're really talking about. When people talk about 'strident New Atheists', what they mean is 'people who try to stop us spewing our poison'.

    Scratch jcc's surface, and a couple of posts down the line he's a nasty little homophobe who's so disingenuous he feigns incomprehension at the mere word homophobia, as though it's some logically, linguistically and scientifically impossible position to hold.

    Moderate Christians - there are sides, and what you believe is closer to, and will be far better protected by, atheists like me than Christians like jcc.

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  98. Anonymous:

    That you can put those two sentiments in consecutive sentences says far more about your position and logic and tolerance than anything I ever could.

    What, that I can uphold and abide by a standard while at the same time have compassion for those don’t? Are you serious? Would you not take pity on, and wish to help a strung-out meth-head, while simultaneously choosing not to indulge in such a behavior—precisely because you’re aware of its deleteriously consequences?

    If you call today 'Friday', it doesn't mean you're honoring Freya's Day.

    Oh dear, regardless of it being a blatant misnomer, the fact is, you have yet to demonstrate that it applies to me.

    there may be moderate Christians reading this.

    Would you mind describing for me what constitutes a “moderate” Christian? Is it someone who sorta believes in God?

    that there are only gay behaviors, that they are 'aberrant' and a 'subclass'

    Uh oh, this confirms my suspicion that your reading comprehension is inadequate to engage in this kind of discussion. My exact quote was, “There is no more of an intrinsically ‘gay’ subclass of people than there is an intrinsically ‘illiterate’ one.”

    Scratch jcc's surface, and a couple of posts down the line he's a nasty little homophobe…

    Again, I ask: please point out where I’ve made any disparaging remarks about those who engage in homosexual behavior—and please point out where I’ve made any comment that could possibly indicate that I hate them or am afraid of them.

    So far, you’ve consistently failed to counter my points with anything resembling a reasoned critique. All you seem capable of are unsubstantiated accusations and knee-jerk, emotional, ad hominem attacks.

    Just like the elitist, Obama-Kool-aid swilling, ruling-class who perceive any criticism leveled on his policies (regardless of their merits) as racially motivated, you automatically respond by labeling your opponent as “homophobic.” It’s impossible to have any kind of meaningful, mature and unemotional discussion with you and those who “think” like you precisely because of your inability to argue on an intellectual level rather than an emotional one.

    I remember exactly what it feels like to be a frustrated, immature kid who wants more than anything to keep on indulging in a destructive behavior (like smoking cigarettes) that brings immediate gratification but will ultimately either harm me or someone else—and have a parent step up and say, “NO. WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS WRONG—AND HERE’S WHY…” Yes, I remember throwing infantile fits because I couldn’t get my way, and that’s exactly how you’re behaving here.

    Why don’t you do those “moderate” Christians out there who read this a favor and respond to my points with dispassionate logic and reason instead of resorting to your ilk’s juvenile and hackneyed, standard playbook?

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  99. JCC whined: So far, you’ve consistently failed to counter my points with anything resembling a reasoned critique. All you seem capable of are unsubstantiated accusations and knee-jerk, emotional, ad hominem attacks.

    You got sufficient reasoned critiques early on: your assertions reveal a gross ignorance of reality, your definitions and standards constantly change, and your arguments, if we may elevate them with such a term, are grossly illogical. That pattern hasn't changed.

    There is a limit to how absurd you can be before people stop taking you seriously. Statements like "animals follow the Moral Law" and "since homosexuals have higher rates of suicide than others, homosexuality is violating the Moral Law" are simply too preposterous to take seriously.

    The argument is over already, has been for days, you are just the only one here too ignorant to know it.

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  100. "Again, I ask: please point out where I’ve made any disparaging remarks about those who engage in homosexual behavior"

    Well, first of all, you classify them as 'those who engage in homosexual behavior'.

    Second, you equate their situation with:

    "Would you not take pity on, and wish to help a strung-out meth-head"

    If I had pity on you because you engage with religious behavior, likening you to a strung-out meth head for doing so, would you consider that disparaging?

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  101. I remember exactly what it feels like to be a frustrated, immature kid who wants more than anything to keep on indulging in a destructive behavior (like smoking cigarettes) that brings immediate gratification but will ultimately either harm me or someone else—and have a parent step up and say, “NO. WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS WRONG—AND HERE’S WHY…”

    It's the "here's why" that's the big problem. Your "why" is what you've been taught about your religion. Sure, you cite some studies as though they're a rational argument unto themselves, but they're clearly ad hoc, and in at least one case you obviously didn't read what you cited:

    • Young people engaging in this behavior are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007)

    I assume this refers to Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the closest thing to your title Google could find. I checked out the 2007 one (PDF), and it says absolutely NOTHING about homosexuality.

    • More than a third of those youth report having made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR - Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002)

    Found the abstract here, but the full PDF is only available to subscribers. Interestingly, the 1/3 claim is immediately followed by correlations between negative social pressure and poorer mental health.

    • Adolescents who engage in this behavior are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).

    Couldn't find it online, but the claim doesn't inherently support one side or the other anyway. For example, this study cites it while concluding that "one risk factor for substance use and abuse among LGB youths is having more friends, family members, and other people react to disclosure in a rejecting manner. Accepting reactions to disclosure are protective and blunt the impact of rejection on substance use and abuse."

    The rest of your citations appear in two paragraphs you didn't write, judging by the unattributed quotation marks you put around them. I Googled the first two studies but had no luck finding anything except brief citations much like yours. After that point, I ran out of time and motivation to put any more effort into investigating what you clearly have put so little of the same into. Suffice it to say that I find the meatiest bits, like the claim that homosexuals try to kill themselves more over breakups than ostracization, overly simplistic. Even taking it at its word, the notion that a suicide attempt was triggered by a single trauma tells us nothing about what other factors may have been creating a mental state where that one trauma could do the damage it did.

    So don't go around pretending that you have "the facts." What you have is some beliefs about God, which cause you to buy into any copy-pasted statistic with a pair of last names and a date next to it that sounds like it supports those beliefs. This is what we in the business call "irrational," which, when paired with fear (and you're clearly afraid of the effects you think open homosexuality would have on children, marriage, and society at large), becomes - there it is - "phobia"! Not phobia in the clinical sense - obviously "homophobia" is hyperbolic - but still the kind of unreasonable prejudice that deserves to be called out and fought against. Most insidiously, you dare call it "love" when at best it's a pitying condescension. I assume I don't need to tell you who said, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive."

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  102. "Couldn't find it online, but the claim doesn't inherently support one side or the other anyway."

    ... and it cuts against his basic argument 'there are no gays, just people who do gay things'.

    There are - I feel very silly for having to type these words in the twenty-first century - gay couples who meet in school, never do drugs, never have another partner and are never unfaithful to each other, and live out their whole lives together. There are, of course, plenty of heterosexuals who don't.

    But jcc would have parents keep their kids away from such a 'bad influence' and 'self evidently self-destructive behavior'.

    He is, in other words, massively disingenuous. Lying for Jesus is, clearly allowed by the Moral Law.

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  103. 'What you have is some beliefs about God, which cause you to buy into any copy-pasted statistic with a pair of last names and a date next to it that sounds like it supports those beliefs. This is what we in the business call "irrational," '

    Indeed. Or, to put it another way, our rallying cry might be:

    http://i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/12644/slide_12644_169337_large.jpg?1288542963477

    And anyone who sees that as weakness, not strength ... well, we won, you just haven't noticed.

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  104. “Science”Avenger:

    You got sufficient reasoned critiques early on

    Oh yes, “reasoned” critiques like: “Would you know how to read or analyze anything presented?” or, “Many of the more bizarre and extreme opinions come from self-identifying Christians” or, “jcc - a legend in his own mind!” or, “Make shit up often? You speak solely from ideology and desire, not reality” or, “I see your reading comprehension is on the same level as your writing abilities” or, “Just another Aristotelian mind-wanker playing word games” or, “I find your opinions utterly abhorrent” or, “What a load of pious shit” and my personal favorite, “you are, unfortunately, suffering from what we scientists refer to as 'the God Delusion'.”

    Yep, I can always count on you atheists to deliver nothing but dispassionate, impersonal, and above all reasoned critiques of anything I assert here.

    your assertions reveal a gross ignorance of reality

    Oh dear, another elitist opinion.

    your definitions and standards constantly change

    Oh right. PROVE it.

    your arguments, if we may elevate them with such a term, are grossly illogical.

    Yep, that’s me, grossly illogical. Wow, you’re just like Anonymous—can’t refute my assertions so you attack me personally.

    Statements like "animals follow the Moral Law"

    Gee, you still haven’t given me a reason why dogs will altruistically defend their owner when they sense they're in danger.

    "since homosexuals have higher rates of suicide than others, homosexuality is violating the Moral Law" are simply too preposterous to take seriously

    Um, any self-destructive behavior is immoral.

    you are just the only one here too ignorant to know

    And yet another, “reasoned” critique.

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  105. Anonymous:

    Classifying those who engage in homosexual behavior” is disparaging?

    If I had pity on you because you engage with religious behavior, likening you to a strung-out meth head for doing so, would you consider that disparaging?

    First, no, not if my behavior could be shown to be detrimental to me or someone else. Second, I’m having a real hard time imagining you having pity on me under any circumstances.

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  106. Some Matt or other:

    Your "why" is what you've been taught about your religion.

    Hey, nice unsubstantiated assumption about me—too bad it couldn’t be more wrong.

    you cite some studies as though they're a rational argument unto themselves, but they're clearly ad hoc

    Tell Google that the multiple hits corroborating my claim in a search for “homosexual suicide rate” are just “ad hoc.” Sorry for not directly citing that particular survey in that quote, but this one cites it as well, and here is a direct reference to a subsequent study by the same outfit. Not to mention the irrefutable fact that the homosexual community is shouting from the roof tops that the suicide rate for “gay” teens is 30% higher than for non-gay peers.

    I find the meatiest bits, like the claim that homosexuals try to kill themselves more over breakups than ostracization, overly simplistic.

    Hmmm. You find it “overly simplistic” but conveniently fail to substantiate it.

    Even taking it at its word, the notion that a suicide attempt was triggered by a single trauma tells us nothing about what other factors may have been creating a mental state where that one trauma could do the damage it did.

    Perhaps not a single event, but multiple occurrences tend to have a cumulative effect—and are you challenging the assertion that homosexuals, on average, have a considerably higher number of partners over their lifetimes compared to their heterosexual peers?

    So don't go around pretending that you have "the facts."

    Ok then, please discredit these facts that I have firsthand knowledge of: three personal acquaintances who succumbed to AIDS as a direct result of their profligate behaviors, and another who was brutally stabbed to death in a jealous rage during a homosexual encounter.

    Please also discredit the silly notion that the mainstream homosexual community was nearly annihilated during the early eighties as a direct result of the vast majority of its constituents engaging in unrestrained licentiousness. But I digress. The truth is, my version of this perfectly harmless, completely healthy, “lifestyle” is a lie that my “religion taught me.”

    This is what we in the business call "irrational,"

    Uh huh. Yep, three friends dead of AIDS and one murdered are just figments of my “irrational” imagination.

    you're clearly afraid of the effects you think open homosexuality would have on children, marriage, and society at large

    Wow, congratulations! You actually got that part right. But, unfortunately, you quickly regressed with:

    obviously "homophobia" is hyperbolic - but still the kind of unreasonable prejudice that deserves to be called out and fought against.

    Yep. Our society would be soooo much better off if we could get back to the “good” old days when the San Francisco Bath Houses were just harmless little places for quiet social gatherings…

    Most insidiously, you dare call it "love" when at best it's a pitying condescension.

    Oh right. Those three I knew who died of AIDS—they really had it coming. And that poor SOB who was stabbed 20 times?—Yep, he really got what he deserved… Uh huh, that’s me—you nailed it—that’s how I really think…

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  107. "Wow, you’re just like Anonymous—can’t refute my assertions so you attack me personally."

    Your argument is to equate homosexuality with drug addiction, you want parents to warn their kids to stay away from gay relatives, you think the universe itself thinks homosexuality is 'aberrant', that gays know this deep down and that's why they inevitably self destruct.

    I have no interest whatsoever in you as a person. It's the nonsense you're spewing I'm attacking.

    You clearly have some stereotype notion of all gay people as drug-crazed, self-loathing hedonists. It wouldn't be a stereotype if a lot of people didn't think that. The problem is that you also have this idea that Morality is some physical force, like Gravity, acting on everyone - including animals - equally. That's just nonsense. It's impossible to talk sense about nonsense, all we can do is point out how ridiculous the idea is.

    Your theory doesn't work. We can see how, in the space of the generation we're living in, attitudes to homosexuality have reversed. No doubt, at some point in the future, they'll change again. There's no universal moral law, simply pragmatism as lots of different people seek to live together.

    That's interesting. You're not. I apologize if any of my attacks on your stupid, half-baked, disingenuous, counterfactual, irrational ideas have come across as attacks on you personally. That was not my intention.

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  108. jcc writes:

    Not to mention the irrefutable fact that the homosexual community is shouting from the roof tops that the suicide rate for “gay” teens is 30% higher than for non-gay peers.

    And what do you think ought to be done about this? I think it's a good reason to push for people (including both elders and peers) to act kindly and lovingly toward these kids, in contrast to the current all-too-frequent bullying and ostracism, and see whether that helps gay teens to feel better about life and themselves and reduces the suicide rate.

    I don't happen to know gay teen suicide rates for more secular societies. It would be interesting to look at reliable statistics and see whether there are correlations between more secularity, better treatment of gays, and lower gay suicide rates.

    ...and another who was brutally stabbed to death in a jealous rage during a homosexual encounter.

    Last time I looked at FBI statistics, 25% of murders in the USA were committed by family members of the victims, with spouses prominently represented. Good argument for not having heterosexual relationships, within marriage or otherwise, eh? Or at least a lot better argument than your n=1 re homosexuality and murder.

    C'mon - if you really think murder "in a jealous rage during a []sexual encounter" is exclusively or preferentially a problem for gays, you're quite wrong, and the fact you even thought it worthy of mention says IMHO that you didn't think this through.

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  109. "not if my behavior could be shown to be detrimental to me or someone else"

    Well, first of all, with that 'detrimental to me', let's just give those goalposts a moment or two to settle into their new spot.

    Second - you're the one pushing the idea that this is about 'behavior'. There's only one 'behavior' that's exclusive to gays, and that's that their relationships are same sex. You seem to think that every single gay person is living it up all the time in some sort of drug-fueled gay orgy. You probably heard this from a preacher. Statistically, there's more chance that preacher has, at some point, committed adultery or smoked pot than he hasn't.

    You've already said that a loving, lifelong, faithful couple who are both the same sex are defying the Moral Law.

    This isn't about gays leading some hedonistic immoral life, it's that you can't accept gays being gay. You can't even get that far, you frame it as them just doing 'gay behavior'.

    Oh wait, those goalposts shifted, too:

    "the mainstream homosexual community"

    ... who you said before didn't exist ...

    "was nearly annihilated during the early eighties as a direct result of the vast majority of its constituents engaging in unrestrained licentiousness."

    Yeah, and those blacks sure got rhythm.

    OK ... a fact. The group in society that's sexually active with the lowest incidence of sexually transmitted disease? Lesbians. Lower, in fact, than 'teens who say they are abstinent'.

    Another fact: when it emerged that there was a mystery illness affecting gay men in the early eighties, religious pressure groups did everything they could to deny research funding, everything they could to spread hysteria about bath houses, to denounce condom use, to stigmatize victims and prevent them from coming forward. The opposite, basically, of what could have contained the situation.

    To this day, the Catholic Church insist that condom use 'spreads AIDS'. Millions have died who needn't have because of that lie.

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  110. jcc wrote:
    Sorry for not directly citing that particular survey in that quote

    Really. That's what you think was wrong with what you wrote. That you weren't specific enough. The problem wasn't that you obviously hadn't bothered to check your "facts" before you copied them because the statistic DIDN'T EXIST IN THE SURVEY.

    Sure, now that you've been called on it, you've done a little legwork and found a source that does support the idea that gay suicide rates are higher, but I wasn't actually contesting that. I was demonstrating your lazy, cart-before-the-horse approach to the "facts," which undermines your claim to rationality. And, sorry, but it's too late to undo your actions now.

    Hmmm. You find it “overly simplistic” but conveniently fail to substantiate it.

    You’re familiar with the concept of the "onus of proof," yes? You presented a quote from who-knows-where citing a 30+ year old study that I can find neither the text nor any serious analysis of, making the simple claim that homosexuals kill themselves mostly over breakups. I think I'm perfectly justified saying that's not a lot to go on, especially as the linchpin of your claim that gay suicide is primarily due to inherent flaws in homosexuality.

    Compare that to this study suggesting that "when controlling for other psychological predictors of present distress, significant differences between [LGB and hetero youth suicidality] disappeared." And, intriguingly, "For past suicidality scores, the effects of sexual orientation were reduced, but still significant, when accounting for the other predictor variables." Which supports the notion that something has been changing over time - presumably societal attitudes - that makes older statistics less relevant.

    Not that I expect you to buy into that study, especially when all that's available for either of us to read is an abstract. I present it only to show that we can both play the quoted-statistics game, and since the onus of proof is on the one who would condemn other people's behavior, a stalemate is actually a loss for your side.

    But you know what? That's all sideshow, because this is the only thing you've said that I can believe is truly driving your argument:

    Ok then, please discredit these facts that I have firsthand knowledge of: three personal acquaintances who succumbed to AIDS as a direct result of their profligate behaviors, and another who was brutally stabbed to death in a jealous rage during a homosexual encounter.

    It's a damn shame your acquaintances died in those ways, and I sympathize with your loss. But it's nonsense to say I need to "discredit" those events. They happened, I believe you! Judging the events and deciding issues of morality and social policy on them is another matter. For example, where you see their deaths as evidence that condemns an entire form of sexuality as unnatural and immoral, I see results of behaviors that are neither confined to one form of sexuality nor universal within any. No group has a monopoly on STDs and crimes of passion, though the monogamous and non-penetrative of any persuasion are safer (especially lesbians). Yes, the gay male population has a greater incidence of promiscuity and associated risks, but that’s a matter of degree, not an essential black-and-white principle. If every act of gay sex somehow created HIV, and straight sex couldn't pass it on, the peculiar scope of your judgment would make a bit more sense. But as it is, it's tragically off-target.

    Our society would be soooo much better off if we could get back to the “good” old days when the San Francisco Bath Houses were just harmless little places for quiet social gatherings…

    The '70s were a time of huge extremes on both sides. I want moderation across the board - which, happily, I do see actually happening.

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  111. Anonymous:

    you think the universe itself thinks homosexuality is 'aberrant'

    I do? Would you please point out where I admitted to being a pantheist here?

    I have no interest whatsoever in you as a person.

    Really? Is that why you continue to respond to every one of my posts?

    You clearly have some stereotype notion of all gay people as drug-crazed, self-loathing hedonists.

    No. I merely made the analogy of drug use behavior to homosexual behavior.

    It wouldn't be a stereotype if a lot of people didn't think that.

    Uh no, it wouldn’t be a stereotype if a lot of people didn’t indulge in that behavior.

    The problem is that you also have this idea that Morality is some physical force, like Gravity, acting on everyone - including animals - equally.

    It’s not just an idea. It’s a fact. Everyone, including animals, is subject to an objective moral reality (i.e. law). Again, murder is morally wrong everywhere, all the time, and for everyone.

    Your theory doesn't work. We can see how, in the space of the generation we're living in, attitudes to homosexuality have reversed.

    Again, it’s not a “theory” it’s a repeatable fact. And just because a culture has become tolerant of a detrimental behavior doesn’t mean that it has magically become morally right. To assert such a thing is nonsense.

    There's no universal moral law, simply pragmatism

    Yep, that’s what all moral relativists say… that is, until they become the victim of a harmful behavior that they previously condoned.

    There's only one 'behavior' that's exclusive to gays, and that's that their relationships are same sex.

    Shhhh! Don't tell that to the “bi-sexuals.”

    You seem to think that every single gay person is living it up all the time in some sort of drug-fueled gay orgy.

    Hey, nice assumption! Too bad I never said that. Funny how pointing out an irrefutable historic fact about a particular group of people can cause you to jump to such a conclusion.

    You probably heard this from a preacher.

    Uh, no—I used to watch it on the nightly news.

    You've already said that a loving, lifelong, faithful couple who are both the same sex are defying the Moral Law.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

    it's that you can't accept gays being gay

    And next I suppose you’ll state as fact that I can’t accept blacks for being black, or Canucks for being Canuck (oh wait, …).

    you frame it as them just doing 'gay behavior'.

    Yep, I just have this thing about people not being defined by what they do. Tell me, is a Postman only capable of being a Postman?—after all, delivering the mail is how he behaves…

    "the mainstream homosexual community"

    ... who you said before didn't exist ...


    Huh????

    Yeah, and those blacks sure got rhythm.

    I must be psychic.

    Another fact: when it emerged that there was a mystery illness affecting gay men in the early eighties, religious pressure groups did everything… Yadda, yadda, yadda

    Yep, and those religious groups made up all those stories about all those bath houses and just how depraved a segment of society will act when it perceives—and believes—that their immoral behaviors carry no consequences.

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  112. "and those religious groups made up all those stories about all those bath houses and just how depraved a segment of society will act when it perceives—and believes—that their immoral behaviors carry no consequences."

    Yes. Google 'AIDS bathhouse hysteria'. They were demanding the closing of the bathhouses before AIDS, when gay men started suffering from a mystery disease they kept demanding the closing of the bathhouses (even though there was no proven link) and lobbied against funding research to see what was actually causing it. They were not 'proved right', they cynically manipulated a public health problem that affected a minority for political advantage.

    I guess if you believe that there's some absolute Moral Law, there are no depths to which you can't sink if you feel you're defending it.

    As for you ... thirty years on, you still buy the lie. Because it fits in with your prejudices. You still think that a committed lesbian couple and your fevered, detailed dreams of gay orgies amount to the same 'behavior' and are equally wrong.

    You think animals are subject to the moral law and know that murder is wrong. So, I guess the malaria parasites feel really bad.

    OK. I'm done. There's only so much entertainment to be had from mauling a corpse.

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  113. JCC whined some more:

    Gee, you still haven’t given me a reason why dogs will altruistically defend their owner when they sense they're in danger.


    I'd say for exactly the same reasons these robots behave altruistically. Altruistic behavior in groups will be selected for by many environments, and we see it all over nature.

    But I guess you think God put the moral law in the robots as well as the bees? And where's your Moral Law when hyena infants are murdering their siblings in the womb? Or when certain species of bedbug procreate via homosexual stabbing rape? That's one heckuva law you've got there.

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