Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On the Effectiveness of Ridicule and Mockery

From time to time we hear from religious people who are upset about the way we treat their faith. They claim that by making fun of their logic and their defense of god we are only making religious people more convinced that they are right. According to them, we'll never convince any religious person to abandon god(s) by using ridicule and mockery.

Perhaps that's right but I very much doubt it. Here's Sam Harris illustrating the power of ridicule to make a point.



[Hat Tip: lutesuite]

52 comments :

  1. I'm glad you liked that, Larry.

    Personally, I don't consider it of paramount importance whether people abandon their belief in god(s). I'd settle for religion ceasing to have such a disproportionate degree of influence on public discourse and policy. There are a number of desirable social objectives (equality for homosexuals, reproductive freedom, stem cell research, acceptance of evolution as the basis of biology, etc.) the achievement of which is chiefly impeded by the fact that people feel entitled to having their personal religious fantasies accomodated.

    If people insisted on keeping their beliefs in God, but just viewed this as some private personal opinion that should not have any wider influence, I'd be satisfied with that.

    Another statement I recall from Sam Harris is that we should strive for the time when a person standing up in parliament or congress and saying he is voting on a bill the way Jesus wants him to is treated in the same manner as someone who said he was voting the way Zeus or Thor wants him to. i.e. With ridicule and mockery.

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  2. I agree with Lutesuite.

    On ridicule:

    Thomas Jefferson: “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

    Carl Sagan: “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    Richard Feynman: “... pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools—guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus—THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible! And that is what I got at the conference, a bunch of pompous fools, and I got very upset.” [“Is Electricity Fire?” by Richard Feynman. From Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, 1989. p. 258–259]

    St. Augustine: "Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although ‘they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion’. [1 Timothy 1.7]” [St. Augustine, City of God]

    Thomas Aquinas: “The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”

    Thomas Aquinas: “...since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.” --Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica” (1273)

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  3. god is the intangible creator of the universe in whose presence a human being can live and according to whose dictates or will a human being can live in this world

    This is sophisticated theology at it's best folks.

    David Wolpe seems to think that if you wear a funny hat and talk really fast and loud you can pass off the most vacuous inanity as profound thought.

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  4. I like this part of the story but I DON'T lough because I have mercy on animals that call themselves human..

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  5. Is not this just people wanting to mock/ridicule someone else while not allowing it to be done to them or selected targets!!
    This was a Jewish network thing. My observation is that any mocking or ridicule of Jews would be called anti-semetic and punished as far as could be done.
    In other words these days great principals and standards of relationship based on identifiable identity's has loudly and firmly said THOU shall not put down anybody whether deserving or not.
    Jews, Africans, Women, Gays, and more.
    Then theres this clamour to be allowed to mock creationists or cHristians or whoever "they" want.

    A society should be based on commom laws or rules of conduct.
    If creationists etc etc can be mocked etc then everyone can!
    What's good for the goose is good for the gander!
    (I never knew what that meant or barely what a gander is but I think it fits)

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    1. Creationists are mocked because of their willful ignorance; their holding to beliefs when the contrary evidence is easily found and understood.

      A gander is a male of the goose order. I hope that helps.

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  6. This is my favorite part of 'Ridicule and Mockery lol
    This is none other than The king of kings and the only one Richard Donkins lol

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY1uTlaP2Pc

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  7. It's pretty funny to watch Wolpe ridiculed by a self-professed meat puppet.

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    1. It's pathetic and disgusting to see someone complicit in the ongoing rape of children and the cover up think that they have anything to add to a conversation on human ethics and morality, other than as a counter example.

      And now you'll get to rationalize the past and present actions of that Argentinian war criminal who now heads your international crime syndicate.

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    2. Smegnor,

      Will you ever answer any questions asked of you? At Jeff Shallit's blog you made a number of bullshit assertions about teleology, "meaning", information theory etc.

      But you did not respond to direct questions from me or Shallit relevant to the subject you yourself brought up. When you brought up the subject of teleology, meaning, information etc. you refused to define ANY of those, you refused to present an equation for ANY of them.

      Where is your equation? Where is your definition for the bafflegab terminology that you assert refute evolution and prove that baby Jesus created galactic superclusters?

      And on another topic:

      When you are proven wrong, you dismiss all disproof on the grounds that the messengers are "angry meat puppets." But you believe that people are meat robots made up of tiny nanomachinery, with a spook in there somewhere.

      How is your belief, nanomachinery plus Casper the friendly ghost, an improvement over "meat puppet"?

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  8. Note that at 1:22 Harris states, "Many of those claims trespass on the territory of science, overtly."
    Larry, how does one scientifically, cogently, and unequivocally explore, and then further define the boundaries of "the territory of science" without making metaphysical claims? Even the statement "Metaphysical claims are irrelevant" is itself a metaphysical claim and therefore equivocal and ultimately self defeating.
    IMO Harris was not making fun of a theist's logic. He was actually making fun WITH his own logic, ABOUT his own logic, and I quite enjoyed the fun. I was not in the least offended by the video.
    We all need to lighten up a bit and "Suck it up, Buttercup"

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    1. Why would it be necessary not to make or not to imply metaphysical claims to set boundaries to "the territory of science"?

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    2. Negative Entropy, boundaries by definition are recognizable demarcations separating recognizable things as being distinct from one another in recognizable ways.
      Larry's OP remark: "According to them, we'll never convince any religious person to abandon god(s) by using ridicule and mockery.
      Perhaps that's right but I very much doubt it. Here's Sam Harris illustrating the power of ridicule to make a point."
      I very much doubt it too. The use of ridicule as demonstrated in the video may have swayed some religious folk, but not those that use the brain that God gave them to think things through to a rational conclusion.
      "What is the probability, given materialist naturalism, that our cognitive faculties should be reliable in such areas? It is very small indeed. It follows—in a wonderful irony—that a materialistic naturalist should be skeptical about science, or at any rate about those parts of it far removed from everyday life." Alvin Plantigna (in his review of "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False" By Thomas Nagel)
      Plantigna's review, a good read IMO, might be of interest to you Negative Entropy.
      ( www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/110189/why-darwinist-materialism-wrong )

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    3. Why would it be necessary not to make or not to imply metaphysical claims to set boundaries to "the territory of science"?

      Indeed. Is it a "metaphysical" statement to say that, for instance, music and economics are two different disciplines? "Metaphysical" and "non-physical" are not synonyms.

      As far as Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, that has been discussed elsewhere in this blog. That such sophistry is taken seriously as a theological argument is an example of why theology is widely viewed as a joke.

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    4. So your question on metaphysics was strictly a rhetorical ploy to slide in your disapproval of Sam Harris's use of humour. *

      If "religious folk" actually used their brains "to think things through to a rational conclusion" then their would be no need for Sam Harris to waste his time discussing "invisible friends and my special relationship with them and how that should allow me to dictate how others should lead their lives" with moral imbeciles like David Wolpe.

      * This is not a metaphysical claim

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    5. rockturner asks,

      Larry, how does one scientifically, cogently, and unequivocally explore, and then further define the boundaries of "the territory of science" without making metaphysical claims?

      Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds. If you want to know, for example, whether supernatural beings exist then the scientific way of investigating such claims is surely relevant. You can seek evidence for such claims while maintaining a healthy skepticism and you can apply the rules of logic just as you would do in any search for truth.

      Most of that's just "common sense" as Sam Harris says in the video. It's ridiculous to try and prevent scientific investigation of your claim (i.e. god(s) exist) on the grounds that your particular extraordinary claim does not require extraordinary evidence because its "metaphysical."

      The only people who try to limit science are those who promote "metaphysics" as alternative approach to learning about truth. Those people can't provide a single example of a "truth" that's been discovered in this way. They're just blowing hot air in an attempt to defend the indefensible.

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    6. lutesuite wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 8:28:00 AM
      Why would it be necessary not to make or not to imply metaphysical claims to set boundaries to "the territory of science"?
      Indeed. Is it a "metaphysical" statement to say that, for instance, music and economics are two different disciplines? "Metaphysical" and "non-physical" are not synonyms.****
      **** @luitsuite - Sooner or later you and I are going to run smack dab up against a tower of turtles that are at one and the same time both "Non-physical" and "Metaphysical".

      lutesuite wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 8:28:00 AM
      As far as Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, that has been discussed elsewhere in this blog. That such sophistry is taken seriously as a theological argument is an example of why theology is widely viewed as a joke.****
      ****@luitsuite - I quite agree that sophistry should not be taken seriously as argument in any discussion. We should always be on the lookout for reasoning that may appear sound but is fallacious at the root.

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    7. steve oberski wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 8:39:00 AM
      So your question on metaphysics was strictly a rhetorical ploy to slide in your disapproval of Sam Harris's use of humour. ** This is not a metaphysical claim ****
      ****@steve - I didn't disapprove of his use of humour at all. Like I said, I quite enjoyed it. I have a God given playful side to my quirky personality that I take joy in.

      steve oberski wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 8:39:00 AM
      If "religious folk" actually used their brains "to think things through to a rational conclusion" then their would be no need for Sam Harris to waste his time discussing "invisible friends and my special relationship with them and how that should allow me to dictate how others should lead their lives" with moral imbeciles like David Wolpe.****
      ****@steve - Sam Harris is free to waste his time as he sees fit. He's also free to choose who he engages with in whatever forum he chooses, so if you take issue with the value of his time and the worth of this antagonist in discussion, perhaps you'd best take it up with him (and this is not a rhetorical suggestion on my part).

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    8. Laurence A. Moran wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 9:55:00 AM
      rockturner asks,
      Larry, how does one scientifically, cogently, and unequivocally explore, and then further define the boundaries of "the territory of science" without making metaphysical claims?
      Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds. If you want to know, for example, whether supernatural beings exist then the scientific way of investigating such claims is surely relevant. You can seek evidence for such claims while maintaining a healthy skepticism and you can apply the rules of logic just as you would do in any search for truth.
      Most of that's just "common sense" as Sam Harris says in the video. It's ridiculous to try and prevent scientific investigation of your claim (i.e. god(s) exist) on the grounds that your particular extraordinary claim does not require extraordinary evidence because its "metaphysical."****
      ****@Larry - I agree in principal with everything that you've said in your remarks in the paragraphs above so let's cut to the chase. The one central claim of Christianity that sets it apart from all other religious traditions is the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. The one central claim of atheistic natural evolution that sets it apart from all other sciences is the fact of abiogenesis. They both are extraordinary claims of life coming from non-life. Extraordinary claims upon which one is willing to stake one's life require extraordinary evidence that is both warranted and comprehensive in scope.
      Laurence A. Moran wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 9:55:00 AM
      The only people who try to limit science are those who promote "metaphysics" as alternative approach to learning about truth. Those people can't provide a single example of a "truth" that's been discovered in this way. They're just blowing hot air in an attempt to defend the indefensible.****
      ****@Larry - You may have misunderstood my intent. My comments on your blog have no hidden agenda of trying to limit science, nor do I think it a worthwhile endeavour to defend the indefensible and I'd spend my time elsewhere if I thought my comments were limiting science or defending the indefensible. I quite appreciate the discussion engendered by your posts and see no reason to bow out now.

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    9. Ah Rock Turner,

      A slippery, slimey religious answer and really how else could you answer.

      I specifically take issue with your claim that religious folk use their (poorly evolved for modern life as you so amply demonstrate) brains to think things through to a rational conclusion.

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    10. Rock Turner says,

      I agree in principal with everything that you've said in your remarks in the paragraphs above so let's cut to the chase. The one central claim of Christianity that sets it apart from all other religious traditions is the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.

      Who cares? The most important claim of Christianity, and all other religions, is that there's a god. Once you accept that then just about anything becomes possible, including raising people from the dead.

      The one central claim of atheistic natural evolution that sets it apart from all other sciences is the fact of abiogenesis. They both are extraordinary claims of life coming from non-life. Extraordinary claims upon which one is willing to stake one's life require extraordinary evidence that is both warranted and comprehensive in scope.

      This is not true. Evolution begins after life has formed. We have abundant evidence for evolution.

      We don't know how life arose in the first place (abiogenesis). We are not making the extraordinary claim that life had to arise by entirely natural processes. All that we're saying is that it seems possible given what we know and that there aren't any other possibilities that make sense from a scientific perspective.

      It is disingenuous to equate that with the extraordinary claim that supernatural beings exist.

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    11. steve oberski wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 2:42:00 PM
      Ah Rock Turner,
      A slippery, slimey religious answer and really how else could you answer.
      I specifically take issue with your claim that religious folk use their (poorly evolved for modern life as you so amply demonstrate) brains to think things through to a rational conclusion.
      @steve - The only claim that I recall making in this thread about "religious" folk was in my reply to Negative Entropy when I said, "The use of ridicule as demonstrated in the video may have swayed some religious folk, but not those that use the brain that God gave them to think things through to a rational conclusion." I thought that it would be clear that I was aware that there are different types of religious folk and that they don't all use the brain that God gave them to think things through to a rational conclusion. Sorry if you didn't grasp my point.
      Are you implying by your bracketed remark that I am demonstrating that there is a difference between the brain of a religious person and that of a non-religious person? Surely you believe we share a common ancestor, don't you?

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    12. Rock Turner,

      I am claiming we both have poorly evolved brains for coping with modern life but some of us refuse to acquire and/or use the intellectual tools needed to be responsible members of a post enlightenment secular society.

      Most notably religious folk who insist on using bronze age tribal morality to deal with the problems that face our global civilization.

      I would compare the actions of religious folk who try to inject their primitive morality into modern society to that of drunk drivers who deliberately put other peoples lives at risk for strictly personal, selfish and irresponsible reasons.

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    13. *******Laurence A. Moran wrote on Thursday, March 21, 2013 3:23:00 PM
      Rock Turner says,
      "The one central claim of atheistic natural evolution that sets it apart from all other sciences is the fact of abiogenesis. They both are extraordinary claims of life coming from non-life. Extraordinary claims upon which one is willing to stake one's life require extraordinary evidence that is both warranted and comprehensive in scope"
      This is not true. Evolution begins after life has formed. We have abundant evidence for evolution.****
      ****@Larry - Like I said earlier to luitsuite , sooner or later you and I are going to run smack dab up against a tower of turtles that are at one and the same time both "Non-physical" and "Metaphysical". I'll grant you the right to your opinion that, on the view of atheistic natural evolution, life arising from non-life is not extraordinary and I'll bow out of the discussion. It's been engaging, though difficult to avoid sounding disingenuous, and I may weigh in sometime in the future. Thanks for the time and attention you've given to my comments.

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    14. steve oberski wrote onThursday, March 21, 2013 4:16:00 PM
      I am claiming we both have poorly evolved brains for coping with modern life but some of us refuse to acquire and/or use the intellectual tools needed to be responsible members of a post enlightenment secular society.
      Most notably religious folk who insist on using bronze age tribal morality to deal with the problems that face our global civilization.****
      ****@steve - I quite agree that we ALL need to acquire and use the intellectual tools needed to be responsible members of a post enlightenment secular society. I'd also add that we are not going to achieve this easily if we continue to hurl straw man invective back and forth. We need to reach consensus, especially in issues with moral content. BTW, if our sense of morality truly is solely evolutionary in origin, would it not predate the bronze age?
      steve oberski wrote onThursday, March 21, 2013 4:16:00 PM
      I would compare the actions of religious folk who try to inject their primitive morality into modern society to that of drunk drivers who deliberately put other peoples lives at risk for strictly personal, selfish and irresponsible reasons.****
      ****@steve - You've said a lot there.

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    15. @Rock Turner

      How would you describe the actions of religious folk who try to inject their primitive morality into modern society ?

      Do you think they are acting responsibly ?

      Are they striving to maximize the well being of the sentient beings that inhabit this planet.

      Why do you think that our sense of morality is solely evolutionary ?

      In what sense is it "straw man invective" to accurately describe the actions of religious folk trying to inject their morality into modern, secular society ?

      Wouldn't you agree that it’s difficult to formulate social policy in a secular democracy even when all the participants try their best to make informed, evidence based choices, but bring religion into the debate and it becomes toxic ?

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    16. @Rock Turner,

      You did not really answer my question. I asked this:
      Why would it be necessary not to make or not to imply metaphysical claims to set boundaries to "the territory of science"?

      Your answer seems to be:
      boundaries by definition are recognizable demarcations separating recognizable things as being distinct from one another in recognizable ways.

      I know that. However, you are implying that everything can be demarcated in ways that there will never be any overlaps. That would seem a bit devoid of reality. Do you really think that every discipline has perfect boundaries? Math never overlaps with physics? Biology never overlaps with chemistry? Philosophy never overlaps with science?

      You did the same mistake (assuming that because something might be demarcated, therefore it is separate from everything else, or else it is the very same) when "answering" to luitsuite:
      Sooner or later you and I are going to run smack dab up against a tower of turtles that are at one and the same time both "Non-physical" and "Metaphysical"

      While I find that quite nonsensical, even if that were possible, it still does not mean that metaphysical means non-physical, does it?

      As per Plantinga, he is quite the imbecile. It uses, by the way, the same absolutist reasoning you try in asking about boundaries for science. Survival does not equal perfection, therefore evolution is self defeating. Quite imbecilic. It gets worse. Plantinga criticized Dawkins for talkig about philosophy not begin a philosopher. Correct? Then why does he try to make an argument against naturalism and evolution if he is no evolutionary biologist? WOuldn't you agree, with that absolutism you are inclined to hold, that then Plantinga has refuted himself as soon as he criticized Dawkins for not being a philosopher?

      Best.

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    17. steve obersk and Negative Entropy have both raised questions that deserve answering with careful attention and a time budget that I can't afford tonight. I may get on with it as time allows, but the next few days schedule will not allow me to give the discussion the time it deserves.


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    18. @Rock Turner,

      Sooner or later you and I are going to run smack dab up against a tower of turtles that are at one and the same time both "Non-physical" and "Metaphysical".

      You've repeated this statement a couple times here, so obviously you think it's quite important and revealing. But to me it just falls short of being gibberish. What exactly are you trying to say?

      BTW, if our sense of morality truly is solely evolutionary in origin, would it not predate the bronze age?

      What makes you think it didn't?

      Our sense of morality is a result of neurophysiology, and so is pretty well certainly evolutionary in origin. The specific nature of moral values, OTOH, is determined at least in part by historical and cultural context, and varies with those factors. Even so, there is no reason to believe these originated during the Bronze Age.





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    19. If you were standing on the top of a tower of turtles, your perspective of the tower would be "turtles all the way down". If you were evaluating whether you were actually secure on your perch atop the tower, you might be inclined to ask what's supporting the bottom turtle. There are really only three general categories of possible support for the tower of turtles:
      1. It supports itself
      2. It has always been supported and I don't care how
      3. It is supported by something else.
      The turtle analogy was one that I was sure would be familiar to the academics that read this blog because, while being an old canard in the eyes of some, it nonetheless illustrates the types of things that need to be discussed when trying to explain the most basic question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" As with the turtle analogy, there are really only three general categories of answers to this most basic question of what caused something to be rather than not be:
      1. It caused itself to be.
      2. It always has been and I don't care how it came to be.
      3. It was caused to be by something else.
      Any particular "it" that is being addressed by the "Why?" question deserves to be addressed with rational rigor in the most logical category of the three available, and it is up to each person to decide what category works for them.
      From a thinking Christian's perspective the third category is a no brainer (pun intended)!
      This is the type of discussion that is best conducted over a couple of Guinness, seated around a solid oak table in warm comfortable chairs, but for now I'm sure we'll have more to say in this sequence of comments.

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    20. Rock Turner,
      I have no idea what this gibberish means.

      Larry, how does one scientifically, cogently, and unequivocally explore, and then further define the boundaries of "the territory of science" without making metaphysical claims? Even the statement "Metaphysical claims are irrelevant" is itself a metaphysical claim and therefore equivocal and ultimately self defeating.

      How is a description of the scientific method metaphysical?

      If, in describing the geographical borders of the United States, I were to say, "The rules of baseball are irrelevant", that is not a statement about the rules of baseball.

      "the statement "Metaphysical claims are irrelevant" is itself a metaphysical claim and therefore equivocal and ultimately self defeating."

      What sophistry. If were to say "the rules of baseball are irrelevant", is that then a claim about baseball, and "ultimately self defeating"?

      As for Plantinga's imbecilic argument against Evolutionary Naturalism, we've discussed it at length. You should look at this thread, specifically my four comments beginning March 14, 1:52pm, which are a thorough demolition.

      What is the definition of "metaphysical", exactly?

      I have noticed that immaterialists always begin gibbering about "metaphysics" when they're losing a debate. The point of "metaphysics", it seems, is to inoculate one's beliefs from the principles of induction. For example:

      1. Everything that exists must have a cause
      2. The universe exists, therefore it has a cause
      3. God exists, and is the cause of the universe
      4. God exists, but does not have a cause

      Small conflict between 1 and 4. But the way out of this is by asserting "God has metaphysical necessity, therefore God is the one thing that does not have a cause."

      The word "metaphysical" here is used to inoculate God from the logical consequences of induction, testability, etc. which would be applied to any other entity. And so on. What "metaphysical" means beyond that, I don't know; it seems only to mean, "The rules I apply to you, do not apply to me."

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    21. Diogenes wrote on Friday, March 22, 2013 3:11:00 PM
      Rock Turner,
      I have no idea what this gibberish means.****
      ****@Diogenes - A wise man once said "Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds."
      -Given that cosmology is a science within which there are no rules that say some questions are out of bounds, and
      -Given that the known universe encompassing all physical and metaphysical things that can be known to exist, actually does exist (if you don't want to accept that the universe does exist, stop reading), and
      -Given the three categories in my turtle tower explanation posted previously (please feel free to add more options if you care to),
      -now apply the question "Why is there a universe?" to your favourite answer, within whichever category you choose -
      1. It caused itself to be.
      2. It always has been (eternal) and I don't care how it came to be.
      3. It was caused to be by something else.
      Be scientific in your approach (which surely includes abduction) and judge for yourself which categories are rationally sustainable.

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    22. Rock Turner,
      you did not get within 100,000 miles of answering my fairly simple questions, very relevant questions to the topics you yourself raised.

      Again, what is this new gibberish?

      Given that cosmology is a science within which there are no rules that say some questions are out of bounds

      Really, what is that? Is not the scientific method a rule? Theories must be testable? Induction must be from proven general principles? Are those not rules?

      Again: you did not get within 100,000 miles of answering my fairly simple questions, very relevant questions to the topics you yourself raised, so now you seek to change the subject.

      In less than one comment you seek to pull me back to the Big Bang. With most creationists, it takes at least 3-4 minutes of me catching them lying, before they start gibbering about the Big Bang. You needed just one comment-- that's a record for me, and I've been around.

      Anyway you didn't get within 100,000 miles of answering any questions relevant to the topic(s) you yourself raised, so it's Gish Gallop time.

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    23. Rock Turner,

      I hope you are not really trying to pass those comments as answers to any of my points.

      In the meantime, one more issue I have with you: there's nothing extraordinary in proposing that life arose entirely by natural processes. Life uses nothing more but natural process, therefore life is natural. Since life is natural then it's only natural to think that life arose naturally in the first place. How or why should it be any other way? How could that be an extraordinary claim? More than a claim, of course, it is what should be expected. Testing it, proving it, might be another issue. But however much we failed or succeeded, the proposal is far from extraordinary.

      Gods on the other hand have a huge history demonstrating them to be anthropomorphisms deriving from whatever we humans happen to misunderstand or fear. Like it was for volcanoes and thunder in some time immemorial. We know how that went. Anyway, it's extraordinarily far fetched to compare a natural expectation with the claims about gods that can't be shown to be anything but imagination in the first place.

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    24. Rock Turner,

      Just for emphasis: if you are going to try and answer, first make sure you are not falling again into that absolutism (kind of a self-imposed false-dichotomy automaton) that seems to impregnate most of your comments.

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    25. Diogenes wrote on Friday, March 22, 2013 4:24:00 PMAgain, what is this new gibberish? Really, what is that? Is not the scientific method a rule? Theories must be testable? Induction must be from proven general principles? Are those not rules?****
      ****@Diogenes - I obviously presumed that you and Larry were on the same page given that he tipped his hat to you and you expressed pleasure.
      Larry had already explicitly informed me that "Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds."
      So how is it that "Given that cosmology is a science within which there are no rules that say some questions are out of bounds" is gibberish? Are there, IYO, some questions in cosmology which are out-of-bounds? Or perhaps on your view cosmology is not science. BTW, if you don't particularly like the phrase"tower of turtles" that I used in reply to luitsuite,"Sooner or later you and I are going to run smack dab up against a tower of turtles that are at one and the same time both 'Non-physical' and 'Metaphysical' then please take that up with Paul Davies because it was he that I first noticed using the phrase in his book "Cosmic Jackpot" on pg 269.
      Diogenes also wrote on Friday, March 22, 2013 4:24:00 PM In less than one comment you seek to pull me back to the Big Bang.****
      ****@Diogenes - No. In fact I am going back further than that. I am not even attempting to drag you back, much less pull you back. I will reiterate what I stated in my earlier comments:"I was not in the least offended by the video."
      and
      "The use of ridicule as demonstrated in the video may have swayed some religious folk, but not those that use the brain that God gave them to think things through to a rational conclusion."
      1. I am confident in the rationality of stating that the universe did not create itself.
      2. I am confident in the rationality of stating that the universe in not eternal.
      3. I am confident in the rationality of stating that the universe was created by something else.
      The something else (God) is NOT just another anthropomorphic "turtle doctrine". That would be a "created" God/god/gods that is in essence a strawman caricature of a true first cause. That type of god might be worthy of mockery.
      Summarizing the questions that still remain on the table:
      Q -How is a description of the scientific method metaphysical?
      A - A description of the scientific method is immaterial as opposed to material and is therefore metaphysical in constitution. The paper and ink with which it is communicated are physical and material, but the description of the scientific method, as pragmatic and beneficial as the method itself may be, is itself immaterial and metaphysical.
      Q - If I were to say "the rules of baseball are irrelevant", is that then a claim about baseball, and "ultimately self defeating"?
      A - No. The statement "the rules of baseball are irrelevant" is not a claim about baseball, nor is it a self defeating statement. On the other hand, stating "baseball should be played as if the rules are irrelevant" is a claim about baseball and ultimately self defeating.
      So, I stand by the point that even the statement "Metaphysical claims are irrelevant" is itself a metaphysical claim and therefore equivocal and ultimately self defeating. It is in effect saying "The game of metaphysics should be played as if metaphysical claims are irrelevant."
      A wise man once said that "ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them" and I would add that the idea of reason itself must be distinct before we can act upon it.

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    26. Rock Turner,

      I think you really need to check your definitions, because immaterial is not equal to metaphysical. Please check what metaphysical means. be very careful.

      I see it quite weird that you would start with something that was not said, such as "metaphysical claims are irrelevant." Nobody said that as far as I remember. I checked the video twice, and nobody said that metaphysical claims are irrelevant. Thus, who the hell knows what you are trying to do here. QUite importantly, if somebody said that, we would have to know the context, because you are acting as if (1) Somebody here said so. (2) In saying so it was said in a universal and absolute sense. For example, the phrase might be said in a given situation where it applies all right. Yet, I insists that such thing was not said.

      Now I have yet another thing to point to you:

      A - A description of the scientific method is immaterial as opposed to material and is therefore metaphysical in constitution. The paper and ink with which it is communicated are physical and material, but the description of the scientific method, as pragmatic and beneficial as the method itself may be, is itself immaterial and metaphysical.

      Sorry, but no. Saying that something is "immaterial" tricks you into an equivocation. What about instead you said what it is, rather than what it is not? Otherwise we would start a discussion over nothing. A description of the scientific method is conceptual would work. Immaterial makes us think of ghosts and such imaginary shit, and thus equivocates. Also note that knowing that the description is conceptual allows us to explain to you that concepts require physics to be formed. Therefore, however much you want to smug ghosts into the argument, there's none. Also, as I said above, that the description is conceptual does not mean that it's metaphysical. That does not mean that metaphysics are avoidable. Don;t mistake the claim that purely metaphysical shit will not lead us too far with the claim that metaphysics are irrelevant. The huge problem here is that metaphysics is transformed by creationists into a crappy cartoon. Philosophy is important. Only philosophy cannot be done in vacuo.

      You should take your studies beyond the cartoonish philosophy promoted by creationism.

      Delete
    27. "Immaterial makes us think of ghosts and such imaginary shit, and thus equivocates."
      We are talking past each other. From my perspective "ghosts and such imaginary shit" are INSIDE the universe as we can know it. I am only trying to illustrate that it is not irrational to hold, at the very least, a warranted belief in the possibility of the existence of "something" outside the universe as we know it. IMO it is also rational to believe that IF such a "something" exists, it would be able to act within the universe as we know it, no matter how we "feel" about that "something".
      ***********
      "Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance." -- Neil Postman, Foreword to _Amusing Ourselves to Death_ (1985)
      ***********
      Listen carefully to the very last two words that Harris speaks in the video and perhaps you might recognize why HE and others are actually saying that "metaphysical claims are irrelevant".
      The definition of the word except is very relevant to the discussion of this video and you can check it out at
      http://www.onelook.com/?w=except&ls=a

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    28. Rock Turner,

      Even if you believe that there's ghosts and such shit, it is still a lead towards equivocation to call something that's conceptual "immaterial" because the only purpose to do so would be to try and establish that ghosts and such shit are out there because other things are "immaterial," which is mere rhetorical trick. We can easily see and notice that the sense in which a reasonable person could accept that the description of science is "immaterial" has nothing to do with the sense in which Christians, for example, think that their god is immaterial. You would not truly believe that your god, and the ghosts and such shit, are all in the same category of things as descriptions about science, would you?

      I heard the video, and it is the other guy who said "except that ...", not Harris. It's an unfinished phrase, in case you did not notice. And no, Harris does not say nor imply that metaphysics are irrelevant. If he did, then you would have to look at the context in which the phrase were being used, rather than assume that whoever said so, said so in an absolute sense. You did not read what I said, so I repeat: philosophy is important, however, it cannot be done in vacuo. Do you get it? I could say "metaphysics are irrelevant" as an answer to some metaphysical claim that does not matter for a theme under discussion. That would not mean that I think that metaphysics are always irrelevant. That would not mean that I think that there's no metaphysics involved anywhere. Only that whatever metaphysical bullshit someone is bringing to the table is irrelevant. Can you understand now how context is important before saying that some claim is self-refuting?

      Please read carefully before attempting another answer.

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    29. @Rock Turner,

      I understand your statement about cosmology a bit better now; however, some of the other things you write continue to be gibberish. Chief among them:

      A description of the scientific method is immaterial as opposed to material and is therefore metaphysical in constitution. The paper and ink with which it is communicated are physical and material, but the description of the scientific method... is itself immaterial and metaphysical.

      This is gobbledygook. You are stating that

      1. If something is immaterial, it is metaphysical
      2. If something is a statement, it is immaterial.

      But if the above were true, it would follow that:

      3. All statements are metaphysical.

      Thus, for example, if I say 2+2 =4, that is metaphysical, following from your logic above. Or if I say, "There is a statistical correlation between the size of a footprint and the size of the foot that made it," certainly statistics and correlations are immaterial, thus they are metaphysical by your definition. If I say, "52% of the American public voted for Obama", well, percentages are immaterial, thus they are metaphysical.

      You have NOT defined what "metaphysical" means, despite the fact that YOU brought up the subject. YOU made "metaphysical" into a word of great significance, but refuse to define it.

      Now it seems to me there are two possibilities.

      1. If you are going to call every statement "metaphysical", then physics is a SUBSET of metaphysics, and we will need to divide metaphysics into sub-categories, such as, "metaphysics relating to matter, energy, organisms, chemistry, observable properties etc." and "metaphysics related to spooks, Middle Eastern war deities, zombie rabbis etc." We will handle the first category; we yield the second to you.

      2. If some statements are "metaphysical" and some are not, then it seems your division between them is based not upon a clear, fixed definition to which we also have access, but rather upon your assumption of superior authority to declare what is metaphysical and what is not, in an ad hoc, willy-nilly and chaotic fashion.

      Like all ID creationists, you portray yourself as being more knowledgeable about philosophy, logic, and metaphysics than we evolutionary "meat puppets" as Smegnor calls us. This ego-flattery of IDers is relevant, because, on the basis of your own authority, and ONLY upon the basis of your authority, you make the assertion that descriptions of the scientific method, and other scientific statements (maybe all scientific statements?) are "immaterial, thus metaphysical."

      This classification is based on your allegedly superior knowledge, and thus your authority. It is not based on a DEFINITION of the word "metaphysical" because we asked you for a definition several times, and you couldn't deliver.

      Now, given that ID creationists are so vastly more knowledgable than we evolutionary meat-puppets where logic, philosophy, etc. are concerned (and I went through the wringer at UD many times before their Thought Police banned me, so I know this approach well), perhaps you can actually DO SOMETHING with your vast, cool, superior intellect and define "metaphysical", a definition which is central to the issues you yourself brought up.


      Delete
    30. Following from my themes above, I wish to point out what seem to me to be rank contradictions in Rock Turner's writing.

      Description of the method of Science is metaphysical:

      A description of the scientific method is immaterial as opposed to material and is therefore metaphysical in constitution.

      Description of the method of Baseball is NOT metaphysical:

      The statement "the rules of baseball are irrelevant" is not a claim about baseball, nor is it a self defeating statement.

      How is the one "immaterial, thus metaphysical" and the other not?

      Are the rules of baseball material things? No? Then they're metaphysical, sez you.

      Continuing, Rock Turner attempts to use an ANALOGY, not a definition, to explain himself, but merely digs a deeper hole:

      Rock Turner: So, I stand by the point that even the statement "Metaphysical claims are irrelevant" is itself a metaphysical claim and therefore equivocal and ultimately self defeating. It is in effect saying "The game of metaphysics should be played as if metaphysical claims are irrelevant."

      This is BOTH an invalid analogy, and also BEGGING THE QUESTION. Rock Turner has re-stated his hypothesis with slightly altered wording, and presented the re-wording as evidence for his hypothesis.

      It is question-begging: RT's hypothesis is that a description of the scientific method is metaphysical. His evidence is this: whenever we say "scientific method", RT replaces our words with "metaphysics", which naturally makes our logic both metaphysical and also gobbledygook.

      Me: Scientific method...
      You: You said "Game of metaphysics"

      No I didn't, you cannot replace "scientific method" with "metaphysics" until you prove, by independent evidence, that science is a subset of metaphysics. You cannot use your assumption as evidence to prove your hypothesis; otherwise, it's question-begging.

      It is also an invalid analogy:

      Me: If, in describing the geographical borders of the United States, I were to say, "The rules of baseball are irrelevant", that is not a statement about the rules of baseball.

      Me sez= baseball : geography :: metaphysics : science.

      RT: ..."baseball should be played as if the rules are irrelevant" is a claim about baseball and ultimately self defeating... It is in effect saying "The game of metaphysics should be played as if metaphysical claims are irrelevant."

      RT sez= baseball : baseball :: metaphysics : science.

      No, invalid analogy and straw-man.

      By my count RT has employed four fallacies:

      1. Invalid analogy
      2. Begging the question.
      3. Straw man.
      4. Refusal to define philosophical terms he himself raised (actually a disguised appeal to authority)

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    31. @Diogenes

      evolutionary meat-puppet

      That's going to be the title on my next set of business cards.

      Delete
    32. I'll try and respond to Diogenes as promptly as possible, but it may be a day or two.
      Negative Entropy wrote on Monday, March 25, 2013 11:32:00 AM
      Rock Turner,
      Please read carefully before attempting another answer.
      Even if you believe that there's ghosts and such shit, it is still a lead towards equivocation to call something that's conceptual "immaterial" because the only purpose to do so would be to try and establish that ghosts and such shit are out there because other things are "immaterial," which is mere rhetorical trick. We can easily see and notice that the sense in which a reasonable person could accept that the description of science is "immaterial" has nothing to do with the sense in which Christians, for example, think that their god is immaterial. You would not truly believe that your god, and the ghosts and such shit, are all in the same category of things as descriptions about science, would you? Please read carefully before attempting another answer.
      @Negative Entropy - I am only trying to illustrate that it is not irrational to hold, at the very least, a warranted belief in the possibility of the existence of "something" outside the universe as we know it. IMO it is also rational to believe that IF such a "something" exists, it would be able to act within the universe as we know it, no matter how we "feel" about that "something".

      Negative Entropy wrote onMonday, March 25, 2013 11:32:00 AM Don;t mistake the claim that purely metaphysical shit will not lead us too far with the claim that metaphysics are irrelevant. The huge problem here is that metaphysics is transformed by creationists into a crappy cartoon. Philosophy is important. Only philosophy cannot be done in vacuo.
      You should take your studies beyond the cartoonish philosophy promoted by creationism.
      @Negative Entropy - There's absolutely no doubt that some creationists have fallen into the trap of thinking that "creation science" can somehow make a creation narrative fit into mainstream science. I cannot speak for them, but if that is how I am coming across to you, I'm sorry. That is not what I intended. I am only trying to illustrate that it is not irrational to hold, at the very least, a warranted belief in the possibility of the existence of "something" outside the universe as we know it.
      Way back up in this stack of comments on Friday, March 22, 2013 1:21:00 PM I wrote:
      "... the types of things that need to be discussed when trying to explain the most basic question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" .....there are really only three general categories of answers to this most basic question of what caused something to be rather than not be:
      1. It caused itself to be.
      2. It always has been (eternal)
      3. It was caused to be by something else."
      Which of the three approaches to answer "Why is there something instead of nothing?" seems most rational to you, remembering that "Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds" ? (forgive the awkward punctuation)
      Now,regarding relevance:
      The phrase "except that" may have been said by either of the speakers in the video. NOT THE POINT. If Harris said it then he thinks there is an exception and that metaphysics are irrelevant. If Wolpe was the one who said it, then whoever edited the video clip thought that Wolpe's metaphysical slant rejoinder, following the conjunctive "except that", was irrelevant and he cut the clip there. Point stands.
      Remember too, that we're discussing the power of ridicule and mockery to convince any religious person to abandon their god(s).

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    33. @Rock Turner

      I don't give a shit what religious people believe.

      It's when they project those beliefs into the public sphere and try to implement social policy based on the "belief in the possibility of the existence of "something" outside the universe as we know it"* that it becomes time to push back, with ridicule and mockery being part of the tool set.

      And the intent is not to get them to change their beliefs, it is to oppose the formulation of social policy based on irrational and non-evidence based beliefs.

      They can knock themselves out grovelling to invisible friends and getting ripped off and abused by the clergy, it's just another type of social club as far as I'm concerned, although I do take issue with the special tax status that worship hut franchises enjoy.

      * WTF does that even mean ? Do you ever read back your posts or listen to yourself ?

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    34. I know. Something that exists "outside" the universe, yet which operates "within" the universe? Just more incoherent nonsense. i.e. irrational.

      Delete
    35. @steve oberski - You say, "I don't give a shit what religious people believe." And you also say,"And the intent is not to get them to change their beliefs, it is to oppose the formulation of social policy based on irrational and non-evidence based beliefs."
      Question 1 - In what way am I trying to implement social policy in this comment thread ?
      Question 2 - Am I correct in assuming that you believe that the universe created itself or that it has existed eternally and further, that this belief is scientifically and rationally sustainable?
      When people grind axes sparks fly.
      The subject under discussion in this thread is the effectiveness of ridicule and mockery in attacking the rationality of "religious belief".

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    36. Rock Turner,

      I am only trying to illustrate that it is not irrational to hold, at the very least, a warranted belief in the possibility of the existence of "something" outside the universe as we know it.

      Well, it will be very hard to convince me that such a thing is rational by equivocating on the possible meanings of words such as "immaterial." Instead I would be convinced of the opposite. If to show something to be rational you have to equivocate terms then far from rational that must be snake-oil.

      I will not be convinced either by the misdescription of whatever someone said, such as Harris here, to mean that metaphysical claims are irrelevant in an absolutist sense. Besides Harris did not say such thing, a sentence devoid of context cannot be taken to be self-refuting. Context is relevant, right? Metaphysics cannot be talked about in complete emptiness, can it? (I still wonder what you mean by metaphysics, since you continue to equivocate it to mean "something about immaterial stuff," which is rather far from anything I would call metaphysics. Obviously you are not using an academic or philosophical definition, but rather a creationist or mumbo-jumbo one).

      As per your question: "why is there something rather than nothing?" I think you are mistaking it with the question "what's the origin, if any, of this something?" Those are different questions. For the first I would shrug and answer: why should there be nothing rather than something? (so none of your answers would be most rational to me). In other words, I would be trying to establish what the hidden unwarranted assumptions are (though for most creationist-friendly shit, there's frequently tons of hidden unwarranted assumptions).

      Thus, you have to first establish clearly what you mean by your question. Then maybe we can talk about possibilities and whether they are rational.

      If Harris said it then he thinks there is an exception and that metaphysics are irrelevant.

      Nope. You have to demonstrate that such an unfinished phrase was conveyed with that intent. Be very clear. I don't speak creationism. I don;t think with creationist bullshit held firmly in my mind.

      If Wolpe was the one who said it, then whoever edited the video clip thought that Wolpe's metaphysical slant rejoinder, following the conjunctive "except that", was irrelevant and he cut the clip there.

      You cannot know what Wolpe intended to do there. I heard this video. Again, you have to establish what Wolpe intended clearly, and why you think that it was about metaphysics. Don't forget to define what you mean by metaphysics.

      Therefore you never made any point. You just assumed that we all spoke creationist and think like creationists when it comes to the meaning of metaphysics, and the possibilities to what a sentence starting with "except that ..." will contain.

      See? You are just making this worse. Start cleanly and clearly. Make your points clear.

      Delete
    37. I would like to assemble a list of terms that ID creationist durst not ever define, although they use these terms constantly.

      These terms are presented by them as winners, key terms whose mere mention means that the ID creationist wins the argument, he thinks. But I know from experience, that when you ask them what's the definition of these terms, they become enraged, and start on bad-mouthing atheists.

      Here are the Never-Definables.

      1. Intelligent
      2. Design
      3. Specified
      4. Complexity
      5. Specified Complexity
      6. Information
      7. Metaphysical
      8. Free Will
      9. (Biblical) Kind

      Can anybody think of others?

      Delete
    38. I just thought of three more.

      10. "Common design" as in "Common design implies common designer"
      11. "Purpose"
      12. "Teleonomic"

      Delete
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  10. @Diogenes, negative entropy, luitsuite:
    The subject under discussion in this thread is the effectiveness of ridicule and mockery in attacking the rationality of "religious belief".

    Your confidence in the effectiveness of ridicule and mockery remains unshaken it seems.

    Definition #1 - Intelligence, n. [L. intelligentia, from intelligo, to understand. This verb is probably composed of in, inter, or intus, within, and lego to collect. The primary sense of understand is generally to take or hold, as we say, to take one's ideas or meaning.]

    1. Understanding; skill.
    2. Notice; information communicated; an account of things distant or before unknown. Intelligence may be transmitted by messengers, by letters, by signals or by telegraphs.
    3. Commerce of acquaintance; terms of intercourse. Good intelligence between men is harmony. So we say, there is a good understanding between persons, when they have the same views, or are free from discord.
    4. A spiritual being; as a created intelligence. It is believed that the universe is peopled with innumerable superior intelligences.
    INTEL'LIGENCE, v.t. To inform; to instruct. [Little used.]
    (Webster 1828)

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