Sam Harris in Retreat

If you read the two articles by Stenger and Pigliucci, it looks like Sam Harris is quietly trying to furiously backpedal. Stenger writes:

Pigliucci severely misrepresents the views expressed by Harris in his 2010 book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (2012), presenting them as examples of the New Atheism’s scientism….. Nowhere does Harris’s book claim that moral questions should be settled exclusively by science. Rather he argues that science should be allowed a place at the table, where it has been previously excluded. In an email message to me, Harris explained (2014):

The Moral Landscape wasn’t a claim that current science, narrowly defined, can answer all our moral questions. It was an argument against moral relativism—the idea that questions of right and wrong have no answers, or that such answers are merely made up, culturally constructed, etc. More generally, the new atheists are not arguing that science covers all of human knowledge. We are saying that in every domain of knowledge there is an important distinction between having good reasons for what one believes and having bad ones. Religion consistently falls on the wrong side of that divide. In fact, it even has a doctrine that appears to justify staying on the wrong side (faith).

Pigliucci’s reply is below the fold. Word of warning – the tag-team of Stenger/Harris gets body slammed, so Gnu atheists might want to look away.

“Stenger accuses me of misrepresenting Harris’ position, and cites a personal email he got from the latter to the effect that he never intended to say that science can settle moral questions, he only wanted science to be granted “a place at the table.” It is hard to square this modest aspiration both with the reality on the ground (science does have a place at the table) and with what Harris actually writes in The Moral Landscape, the wholly unsubtle subtitle of which is “How Science Can Determine Human Values” (my emphasis). I will not rehash my analysis of Harris here, since that material is widely available, but it is entirely disingenuous of Harris to write the sort of thing he wrote to Stenger, and rather naive of Stenger to take the former at face value.”

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49 Responses to Sam Harris in Retreat

  1. cl says:

    We all see what’s happening here right? Gnus like Harris and Stenger have been so out of line for so long that legit dudes like Massimo now have them in their scope. “No, wait, we didn’t actually say that lame thing we said, the big mean smart guy is misrepresenting us.” Too classic.

  2. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    “Gnu”.. You do know that poking holes in what are after all humans wont make any god any more real?

    If there is anything like “furious backpedaling” going on in Harris’ recent blogs, I haven’t seen it.

  3. cl says:

    ^^^ I’m not trying to make God any more real to you or anybody. Only God can do that. The best I can do is converse with you.

  4. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Well, in that case we could very well be waiting some time.

  5. cl says:

    Or perhaps it’s right in front of your face and you’re just missing it? Pray tell.

  6. Dhay says:

    “Stenger accuses me (Pigliucci) of misrepresenting Harris’ position. It is hard to square this with…and with what Harris actually writes in ‘The Moral Landscape, the wholly unsubtle subtitle of which is “How Science Can Determine Human Values” (my emphasis).’

    I have discovered the “Faith. Physics. Rants” blog entry entitled “Science Denialism: Pot. Kettle. Black.” blog, and thence the linked arxiv paper by Luke A Barnes entitled “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life“.

    Anyone who thinks that science can and should determine human values should look at Barnes’ paper, which in 76 pages of strictly scientific argument, absolutely trashes Stenger’s recent book, “The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us”, and does so on the grounds that Stenger repeatedly makes false claims based on his ignorance of the ideas underlying his own arguments. I have appended some of the snappier comments below:

    In 4.1.1 we find “Stenger’s extraordinary claim that only one axiom is needed — the near-trivial requirement that our theories describe an objective reality — dies the death of a thousand overlooked assumptions. The folly of Stenger’s account of modern physics is most clear in his claim to be able to deduce all of classical mechanics, Newton’s law of gravity, Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism, special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the standard model of particle physics from one principle. These theories are based on contradictory principles, and make contradictory predictions, reducing Stenger’s argument to ashes.”
    In 4.3, “We conclude that Stenger has not only failed to solve the entropy problem; he has failed to comprehend it. He has presented the problem itself as its solution. Homogeneous, isotropic expansion cannot solve the entropy problem — it is the entropy problem.”
    In footnote #20, “Once again, Stenger fails to understand the problem. The question is not why the low entropy state was at the beginning of the universe, but why the universe was ever in a low entropy state.”
    In 4.5, “This claim is false, and symptomatic of Stenger’s tenuous grasp of cosmology.”
    In 4.6, “Stenger’s assertion that there is no fine-tuning problem for quintessence is false, as a number of authors have pointed out.”, and, “The puzzle is not just to understand why the zero point energy does not gravitate, but why it gravitates in some environments but not in vacuum. Stenger’s assertion that the calculation of vacuum energy is wrong and can be ignored is naive. There are certain contexts where we know that the calculation is correct.”
    In 4.8.1, “Stenger is either not aware of the hierarchy and flavour problems, or else he has solved some of the most pressing problems in particle physics and not bothered to pass this information on to his colleagues:”
    In 4.8.1, “Stenger has demonstrated that the u and d quark masses in our universe are equal (within experimental error) to the u and d quark masses in our universe.”
    In 5., “Stenger fails to distinguish between the concordance model of cosmology, which has excellent empirical support but in no way predicts a multiverse, and speculative models of the early
    universe, only some of which predict a multiverse, all of which rely on hypothetical physics, and none of which have unambiguous empirical support, if any at all.”
    In A.1, “This is sophomorically wrong… he is not expounding Hawking’s solution, he is contradicting it.”
    In A.2, “Stenger has accomplished that most rare of logical fallacies, a self-refuting ad hominem.” and, “Stenger’s reply… conclusively demonstrates his ignorance of the literature.”
    In A.3, “Any good cosmology textbook will explain why Stenger is mistaken:… This is precisely the opposite of what Stenger says. Readers may wish to speculate on the (perhaps ironic) reason why Stenger is able to claim in the preface that he “will present detailed new information not previously published in any book or scientific article” [Foft 22].” (My highlighting — I love that last one, because Stenger is boasting of acting contrary to sound scientific practice!)
    In B, “Stenger seems to be referring to the experimental limits on the parameters of the standard model. If that is the case, then this is the coup de grace: Stenger has spent 300 pages criticising an idea whose very definition he does not understand. Once again: fine-tuning calculations compare the life-permitting subset with the possible range. Experimental limits are not relevant.”

    So, with Stenger not properly comprehending his own scientific discipline (“…sophomorically wrong…”), would you trust this man Stenger to use science to determine human values?

    Is Sam Harris better? Here’s WM Briggs on Harris’ second and last paper: “During the course of my investigation of scientism and bad science, I have read a great many bad, poorly reasoned papers. This one might not be the worst, but it deserves a prize for mangling the largest number of things simultaneously. What is fascinating, and what I do not here explore, is why this paper was not only published but why it is believed by others. It is sure evidence, I think, that scientists are no different than anybody else in wanting their cherished beliefs upheld such that they are willing to grasp at any confirmatory evidence, no matter how slight, blemished, or suspect that evidence might be. “

  7. stcordova says:

    Thanks Dhay for the Heddle and Barns info.

  8. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    You’re absolutely right. There is a whiff of a sliver of a ghost of chance of deism, so wade right in there with a ton of a-priori assertions and go with Christianity.

    That seems the most honest thing to do.

  9. cl says:

    @richardjwalker …. LOL! You’re ranting about the honest thing to do and you can’t even offer an honest response to Dhay’s awesome comment? Put up or shut up.

  10. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Don’t have to. These men, despite their intentions, can argue all they like. It matters not to my atheism (

    Nothing here or anywhere else gets you even to a plausible deism, nothing. Certainly not theism. I am afraid you have the burden of proof, and yet even given all this time I find myself waiting to be impressed.

  11. Dhay says:

    richardjwalker’s response can be nicely re-worded as a criticism of Stenger:

    “There was a whiff of a sliver of a ghost of chance of deism, so Stenger waded right in there with a ton of a-priori assertions and scientifically wrong arguments and went with a non-fine-tuned universe.”

    Why Stenger should do that is indicated by the title of his book, “The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us“: that is, Stenger has used bad science to argue specifically (and partisanly, ie as part of his commitment to New Atheism) against the possibility and probability of there being a universe designer.

    This can be contrasted with Barnes: there is no suggestion in Barnes’ paper that he is arguing for a designer; he makes no reference whatsoever to a designer, and certainly does not argue for one, but instead seems simply to dislike bad science; and he focusses exclusively and relentlessly on Stenger’s bad science.

    Briggs’ criticism of Harris’ paper can also be nicely re-worded to apply to Stenger’s book:

    “During the course of my investigation of scientism and bad science, I have read a great many bad, poorly reasoned books. This one might not be the worst, but it deserves a prize for mangling the largest number of things simultaneously. What is fascinating, and what I do not here explore, is why this book was not only published but why it is believed by others. It is sure evidence, I think, that scientists are no different than anybody else in wanting their cherished beliefs upheld such that they are willing to grasp at any confirmatory evidence, no matter how slight, blemished, or suspect that evidence might be.”

  12. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Still doesn’t get you to your god over others or none at all, and the burden is with you to prove it. rather than find some wiggle room that gives room for baseless speculations, likely indoctrination and wish thinking.

    Sorry.

  13. TFBW says:

    richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    …I find myself waiting to be impressed.

    As it happens, the aim of this particular post is not to impress you or anyone else, but to highlight some New Atheists getting schooled by one of their more moderate peers.

    However, since you declare the onus probandi to be on us, and are waiting for us to hit you with our best shot, it’s never off-topic on this blog to ask, “what evidence do you require?” It’s always informative to hear what counts as “sufficient evidence” for those who posture as though the only thing preventing their conversion to theism is evidence. So do tell: how might we impress you?

  14. Kevin says:

    Nothing here or anywhere else gets you even to a plausible deism, nothing. Certainly not theism. I am afraid you have the burden of proof, and yet even given all this time I find myself waiting to be impressed.

    I understand completely. I am an a-philosophical naturalist because the burden of proof has not been met to justify being a philosophical naturalist (which is synonymous with impressing me, of course). Carry on, my ideological cousin!

  15. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    I don’t even think one has to have a “philosophical” angle to this. I mean, it helps I suppose ( as well as giving theists some shades of grey to mess around in being part of the problem to begin with, alas) but it really is simple common sense.
    This is without going into why a god, any god, would not use text as a means to propagate it’s message. Let alone a text of differing versions written long after the fact by anonymous authors to various ends, to say nothing of the morality of it.. It really is tissue thin.

  16. eveysolara says:

    It might be a good idea to also post Stenger’s response to Barnes.

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1202/1202.4359.pdf

  17. lukebarnes says:

    Morning all. If you have any questions about my paper, or Stenger’s and my replies, post a comment over at my blog: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/in-defence-of-the-fine-tuning-of-the-universe-for-intelligent-life/

    Stenger tries the same “personal email” strategy for fine-tuning here: http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/PromTune.htm

  18. Dhay says:

    It might be a good idea to also post Stenger’s response to Barnes.

    Yes, I should have searched for these in anticipation they would exist, and posted links myself. Thanks.

  19. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    As for evidence, as in real evidence, that might convince me, I do not think anyone here could provide it ( though they are welcome to try, but be warned I have heard most of it all before, and, as I say, it’s all targeted toward deism rather than theism).

    The thing is, this god of yours, if he wants to save me from the punishment he created for not believing in him, absolutely would know what to do that would convince me (he created me after all, so we are told). The more-so since he is supposed to be benevolent. But this never comes despite my being genuinely open to the idea.

    It would take a moment to convince me of werewolves for example, and while I do not categorically say they do not exist (and it is up to the person that says they do to prove it), their status is entirely congruent with their non-existence. Like god.

  20. TFBW says:

    So, are you actually going to tell us what specific evidence would convince you, or not? At the moment we have to take it on faith that it is even theoretically possible to convince you, and the status of the evidence is entirely congruent with the possibility that you are completely closed-minded and unmovable by any possible argument or fact.

  21. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Well, you apparently you see taking things on faith as a positive thing, so I guess I am glad to help out.:)

    The point is, this god of yours, knows all (including me, even more so than I know myself, so I am told) and so he absolutely should know what it would take to convince me.
    Not only that (and this is a failing of stupendous proportions) this god seems content for other religions, by means of a mere book, just like the bible, flawed as it is, again by means of “faith”, to have confused and beguiled billions of others around the world and countless others throughout history into other religions or none at all ( and presumably hell, by the lights of your loving god)
    To give a specific (and impossible, for you) example of what it would take to convince me, give me a miracle. I don’t want wealth or anything as mundane as that, and yes, yes, it must not infringe free will or any other of that nonsense that gets him off the hook for his genocidal/psychopathic tendencies. Give me a triple rainbow right out side my window within the next week, or better yet, stop all natural disasters or make bone cancer in babies obsolete. Try that (or pray for it, my soul depends on it, right?), and I give you my word – being the only thing we really do have, along with each other, and I swear I will convert. Failing that be creative, but arguments from ignorance, special pleading, veiled threats or anything Pascallian and I might begin to think all theism has to hand is an empty sack. Cheers.

  22. Michael says:

    To give a specific (and impossible, for you) example of what it would take to convince me, give me a miracle. I don’t want wealth or anything as mundane as that, and yes, yes, it must not infringe free will or any other of that nonsense that gets him off the hook for his genocidal/psychopathic tendencies. Give me a triple rainbow right out side my window within the next week, or better yet, stop all natural disasters or make bone cancer in babies obsolete.

    But WHY would such things convince you that God exists?

    Try that (or pray for it, my soul depends on it, right?), and I give you my word – being the only thing we really do have, along with each other, and I swear I will convert.

    I see. So you want us to accept this on faith? Don’t you have any evidence to show that you would convert?

  23. TFBW says:

    So you want a miracle? Something that couldn’t be explained by natural causes? You’d accept a God-of-the-gaps argument like that? Don’t we have enough God-of-the-gaps arguments already, or is there something special about your particular criteria?

  24. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Playing with words like this gets you nothing. More than that it looks suspicious. You are asking me for evidence of something that hitherto I have no experience of (miracles), but clearly if I had this evidence in hand – whatever it was ( I remind you that I gave some examples) – we would not have a difference of opinion. But, as I say, it would trivial in the extreme for a god to make it’s existence obvious to me (or anyone else bound for his hell) and yet all I see and experience is the natural world – cruel and wonderful as it is – and any god, certainly the ones in theism, seems nothing more than a product of their time.

    It’s telling that, on the one hand I am the one who has to provide evidence, and yet on the other you offer none other than to take it “on faith”. This is an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

    God, if it exists, could demonstrate its existence in a heartbeat, but it does not. Please stop suggesting I am asking you to take anything on faith. I am not. The core issue is that we have no reason to suppose any god exists, let alone believe it (or let it affect our lives or that of others) and every reason to suppose all this babble is a destructive waste of time. It’s up to the believer, or their god, to demonstrate what they assert is true. And yet curiously the one thing that the various flavours of theism have in common (aside from a contemptible history of deceit, cruelty and ignorance) is that none of them have. Not one.
    I wish you rid of it, really I do, I think you would be far happier and contented and more nourished to witness the world in truth, rather than try and cookie-cutter this doctrine into the real world. Cheers.

  25. Kevin says:

    The core issue is that we have no reason to suppose any god exists

    While I can understand not being a theist based entirely on logic, I do not grant the same pass toward deism, which is the farthest from Christianity I can reasonably get when eliminating all faith. There is not a single naturalistic explanation for why anything exists that comes even close to contending with a deity. Unless you take one on faith, that is.

    I think you would be far happier and contented and more nourished to witness the world in truth, rather than try and cookie-cutter this doctrine into the real world.

    Yes, if I accept that your opinion about God is truth, then believing that my existence is as meaningful as a housefly or a rock in a crevice on Pluto, or believing that the morality of a Hitler or Bundy is equally valid to the morality of an absolute altruist, will surely make me happier and more content. Now, I could delude myself into thinking that my life matters, and pretend that these objective truths don’t exist under an atheistic worldview…but sadly, I have trouble intentionally deluding myself.

    Also, what you said is interesting. Given that I find my current beliefs to be the correct ones, what you are saying is not only will I find greater happiness in your hopeless worldview by going from thinking I am right to thinking I am right, but that also by becoming an atheist I will gain an increased certitude that my beliefs are now correct and will no longer experience doubt about what “the real world” is. Dogmatic certitude does seem to be a staple among the atheists I have debated.

  26. Dhay says:

    The key to Victor Stenger’s mind (and presumably of the ten people who helped him compose his relatively short and undetailed reply to Luke Barnes’ long and detailed critique of his book) is the closing paragraph of Stenger’s reply: “Nothing in Barnes’ paper changes my basic conclusion: The universe is not fine-tuned for us. We are fine-tuned to the universe.”

    Odd, fine-tuned for us? Fine-tuning does not have to be fine-tuning for us to be fine-tuning, nor does Barnes’ paper argue fine-tuning is for us, or that it is in any way teleological.

    So I struggled to make sense of that closing paragraph until I realised that, “The universe is not fine-tuned for us” should be read as “The universe is not intelligently designed”, and, “We are fine-tuned to the universe”, should be read as, “Humankind evolved (ie is not intelligently designed.)”

    Stenger shows his mind-set is obsessively focused on his New Atheist anti-religious crusade, rather than focused – as Barnes is – on the objective scientific arguments.

  27. Dhay says:

    “1. The universe is not fine-tuned for us. We are fine-tuned to the universe.”

    “2. Based on existing knowledge, we cannot demonstrate that a natural explanation for the apparent fine-tuning is so unlikely as to provide a strong case for the existence of supernatural intelligent design in the universe.”

    Stenger repeats his anti-religiously focused (rather than scientifically focused) “basic conclusion” as question 1 in an e-mail he sent off to several cosmologists in search of their support and agreement: note that instead of asking the eminent scientists the relevant scientific question that he should be asking, namely whether ‘fine-tuning’ (a term which I note in passing unfortunately ranks with ‘selfish gene’ in implying agenticity where none need be inferred) has the small value Stenger claims or the hugely (astronomically?) larger value Barnes claims – instead of the relevant scientific question, Stenger asks two irrelevant religious questions, both of which come down to asking what these scientists think of ID.

    Stenger shows his mind-set is obsessively focused on his New Atheist anti-religious crusade, rather than focused – as Barnes is – on the objective scientific arguments.

  28. TFBW says:

    @richardjwalker

    You are asking me for evidence of something that hitherto I have no experience of (miracles), but clearly if I had this evidence in hand – whatever it was ( I remind you that I gave some examples) – we would not have a difference of opinion.

    You gave some examples, but I’m curious as to why those examples constitute “evidence” when other things don’t. Let me give a specific example: I think that the phenomenon of consciousness is compelling evidence against naturalism and atheism. Possibly it can’t distinguish between theism and deism, but it’s a place to start, since you don’t subscribe to either of those. There is nothing in the entirety of science which gives even a shadow of an explanation as to how a pile of matter like you (on materialism, that is) could experience anything. The miracle of conscious matter is something you encounter daily. And yet you beg for the slightly unusual natural phenomenon of a triple-rainbow outside your window, as though that were somehow far more significant.

    Can you please explain what makes your particular choice in miracles so significant in terms of their weight as evidence, relative to a miracle like consciousness?

  29. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Well, miracles convinced Paul and other in the books so it would be a start. Again, this god would know what it would take and have the means to do it. Nothing seems forthcoming though. All I get – all we have seemingly ever got, now that they can’t just use violence and coercion – are tortuous and often fatuous pseudo-philosophical meanderings that, as I have also said, can only ever get to deism.
    I agree, deism almost as much of a non-sequiter as any of the gods of our books, and so I do not subscribe to that either. Not even by invoking the “mysteries” of consciousness. As for the whole “without my god I and you can have no meaning” I have no time, because I don’t think nature owes us a cookie because it would please us like some child. We create meaning. We create purpose, and we obviously created “god”.

  30. Michael says:

    Richard, you don’t seem to get it. By admitting that you would be convinced and converted by a miraculous display, you have conceded the legitimacy of the God of the Gaps approach. You are telling us that if there was a big, sensational Gap, you would believe. TFBW is just pointing out that your God-of-the-Gaps atheism seems arbitrary, where the Gaps that exist are not “good enough” and you need a Special Super-Duper Gap designed Just For You.

    Secondly, you claim you would convert if you experienced such a Miracle, but again, there is no evidence to support this claim. Why not just admit that you want us to accept this on faith? That is, on faith, we are supposed to believe you would change if only God would perform some sign for you.

    So what have we learned? You, Richard, embrace God of the Gaps reasoning and find it natural to expect others to rely on faith. No, it’s not word games, Richard. It’s the logic embedded in your own thinking.

  31. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Lol ( really, Lol). Whatever mate.

  32. TFBW says:

    @richardjwalker:
    You haven’t answered my question about why you consider the scientifically inexplicable phenomenon of consciousness not to be evidence, whereas you would consider a triple-rainbow to be so. I’m going to treat your other comments as smokescreen until you address this question directly. Explain the rational basis for your preference, or else it is indistinguishable from petulant attention-seeking.

  33. Dhay says:

    {Stenger] can be contrasted with Barnes: there is no suggestion in Barnes’ paper that he is arguing for a designer; he makes no reference whatsoever to a designer, and certainly does not argue for one, but instead seems simply to dislike bad science; and he focusses exclusively and relentlessly on Stenger’s bad science.

    Still doesn’t get you to your god over others or none at all, and the burden is with you to prove it. rather than find some wiggle room that gives room for baseless speculations, likely indoctrination and wish thinking. Sorry.

    richardjwalker shows his mind-set is obsessively focused on his New Atheist anti-religious crusade, rather than focused – as Barnes is – on the objective scientific arguments.

  34. TFBW says:

    Last call for richardjwalker: please explain what makes your selection of miracles a rational choice for evidence of God’s existence, relative to universal experience such as consciousness, which is even more scientifically inexplicable (from the standpoint of those who think that science entails materialism, either methodologically or metaphysically).

  35. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    To assert that because we cannot explain consciousness therefore your god exists is an argument from ignorance. If we do not understand how consciousness works/came about ( different from knowing how it works, where progress has been made) we do not understand how conicousnesss works/came about, and nothing can be attributed to it other than to say we do not know. Say it must be a result of Yahweh or Allah; however this is pointless and unfounded, and yet both have equal “validity”.

    I picked miracles because, as was I hope clear, I was being pressured by another poster who had been seemingly romanced by fatuous the trope that we atheists are axiomatically unable and unwilling to see any evidence for god. I suggested it because it might be a start, given that all other avenues somewhat lacking in, well, anything. Bottom line, again, is that a god – if it made me, and certainly if it wanted to save me from the hell it created – would understand what it would take to convince me of it’s existence and do it. It most certainly would not rely irreconcilable accounts and legend and faith, and it certainly wouldn’t use text.

  36. Michael says:

    LOL. My last comment is still entirely valid:

    Richard, you don’t seem to get it. By admitting that you would be convinced and converted by a miraculous display, you have conceded the legitimacy of the God of the Gaps approach. You are telling us that if there was a big, sensational Gap, you would believe. TFBW is just pointing out that your God-of-the-Gaps atheism seems arbitrary, where the Gaps that exist are not “good enough” and you need a Special Super-Duper Gap designed Just For You.

    Secondly, you claim you would convert if you experienced such a Miracle, but again, there is no evidence to support this claim. Why not just admit that you want us to accept this on faith? That is, on faith, we are supposed to believe you would change if only God would perform some sign for you.

    So what have we learned? You, Richard, embrace God of the Gaps reasoning and find it natural to expect others to rely on faith. No, it’s not word games, Richard. It’s the logic embedded in your own thinking.

  37. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    From this I can only conclude you did not read my post and so any more effort on my part seems futile. However, the most salient thing here to me, aside from the absurdity of what you are talking about, is that /you/ seem to think this gives you some kind of edge. Some improved means for believing in your god (or that I and others like me are going to the hell he created), but it does not. It is pure obscurantism laced with a few non -sequiters.

    You have the burden of proof, not me, and every single one of your assertions could, and has, with similarly nil effect, been used to justify a belief in Allah or Krishna. Empty tombs don’t do it for me, neither do ten a penny uncorroborated accounts by anonymous authors decades after the fact or any of the rest of it. They just don’t.

    Call that dogmatic if you will. I call it reasonable.

  38. Squibs says:

    That’s the way dogmatic rants shout be: concise, to the point.

  39. TFBW says:

    @richardjwalker:
    Thanks for sticking with us.

    To assert that because we cannot explain consciousness therefore your god exists is an argument from ignorance.

    I asked what you would consider to be acceptable evidence. You said that you wanted a miracle. I understood a “miracle” to be “something that couldn’t be explained by natural causes,” and you didn’t correct that interpretation, so I gather that it’s a fair one. As it happens, the experience of consciousness can’t be explained by any known natural causes, so it would seem to qualify as a miracle. It has the advantage of being (as far as we know) universal experience: everyone experiences the miracle of consciousness. It is a universal and ongoing miracle. We simply take it for granted because of its ubiquity.

    Now, if it’s an argument from ignorance to say that the miracle of consciousness is suggestive of a personal God (a God who is at least a conscious person in the same way that we are), then how is it not an argument from ignorance to say that a triple-rainbow is evidence for God? Upon seeing such a display out your window, you would not know its exact cause beyond the usual interplay of white light and a suitable diffracting medium. Would it not be a tremendous leap to claim that some kind of deity is behind the display? Isn’t that the sin of which you accuse us — taking the unknown and attributing it to God?

    What, exactly, gives you license to call a triple-rainbow of unknown provenance, “evidence for God?” Is it something to do with the coincidence between your asking for it and it happening? What if the effect turns out to have a “perfectly natural” explanation, as it almost certainly would? Would that devalue or even invalidate the miracle?

  40. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Have the last word, enjoy. I no longer care.

    Thx

  41. Dhay says:

    Give me a triple rainbow right out side my window within the next week, or better yet, stop all natural disasters or make bone cancer in babies obsolete. Try that (or pray for it,…

    Natural disasters and bone cancer result from the world behaving according to natural regularities (natural laws). For example, Hurricane Katrina resulted from Charles’ Law for how gases behave; bone cancer results from regularities in genetics and physiology; in general, [insert natural disaster] results from [insert physical laws]. Having natural law has drawbacks, but on balance I would much prefer the many benefits of a regular and ordered world, one that follows natural law.

    richardjwalker wants an erratic and unpredictable world, one which, to convince him, jumps to his whim and to the whim of a thousand like him, entailing the destruction of the regularities upon which science and technology (and even reasoning?) rely. Fortunately, that destruction of regularity is out of his reach, and on principle I won’t even try.

    … my soul depends on it, right?)

    Not according to Pope Francis.

  42. Michael says:

    From this I can only conclude you did not read my post and so any more effort on my part seems futile.

    I did indeed read your comment. That is how I knew my previous comment still applied – a) you never supplied any evidence to back up your claims about a willingness to change your mind and b) you never showed how you got from your miracle display to God belief.

    You have the burden of proof, not me,

    No. If you are posturing as objective judge and jury, demanding that I impress you, then you do have the burden of showing you can process these issues in an open- and fair-minded manner.

  43. Sam says:

    >”Have the last word, enjoy. I no longer care.”

    You never cared to begin with. You were completely dismissive of theistic belief from the get-go.

  44. richardjwalker@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Ah well, at least you get to say that.

    I wonder if I treat your god the same way as you do Allah..

  45. TFBW says:

    So you’re not going to answer my questions, then?

  46. Billy Squibs says:

    The name God, being a proper noun, is spelled with a upper-case G. Odd then that you see fit to adhere to the rules of grammar and spell Allah, another name for God*, with an upper-case A.

    That you refuse to either obey the rules of grammar, seem incapable of fairly representing your opponents convictions (see your various misrepresentations about divine punishment) and refuse to answer some direct questions does not reflect well on your supposed open-mindedness to the existence of God.

    * No Universalistic undertones intended

  47. Kevin says:

    The refusal to properly capitalize the name “God” is almost universal among internet atheists. Some of them try to waffle for some reason, and pretend that they are using it synonymously with “a god”, but then of course it’s still bad grammar because they are are leaving out words. Others are honest, and admit that they are utilizing a petty little tactic to disrespect God in order to look cool to other atheists (they wouldn’t acknowledge my accurate description of their tactic, but they do admit to the tactic itself). It’s the same reason many of them can’t be bothered to capitalize “Christians”.

  48. TFBW says:

    It’s a hallmark of New Atheism that they prefer to spout invective against theistic religion in general (and Christianity in particular), rather than address questions about the “evidence” and “reason” they profess to value so highly.

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