Teach the Controversy!

Hat Tip: Terry P

22 Responses to “Teach the Controversy!”
  1. Mark says:

    Every time I think, “How is it possible that ‘creationists’ can’t see this kind of logic and humor” I’m reminded of cognitive dissonance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance) and then it all makes sense.


  2. Stoobs says:

    It’s about time. I’ve been skeptical about the periodic table for some time. I mean, it says oxygen has a weight of 8, but there’s lots of oxygen on top of me right now. If it weighs so much, why isn’t it crushing me? Meanwhile, carbon supposedly only weighs 6, less than oxygen, yet trees and diamonds don’t fly.

    Science is a scam, something atheists made up to steal credit from god. Don’t trust it!

  3. grassrootsmovement says:

    I think ‘cognitive dissonance’ would have to be athiests knowing there’s something more to life than random evolution, 70 years, then nothingness, but still claiming exactly that . . .

    But hey, I suppose it’s all a matter of interpretation.

  4. L. Ron Brown says:

    Grass roots:

    There is no cognitive dissonance there. Evolution is not random. It is systematic. There are cognitive science + evolution accounts for moral and social cognition. There is little reason to think that evolutionary accounts could not come to account for other aspects of our mind, too.

    But even if evolution was hopeless in accounting for issues such as meaning, purpose, and morality, that would not give any more credibility to religious views. Lack of knowledge does not warrant the endorsement of bad arguments.

  5. grassrootsmovement says:

    More to life than systematic evolution then. There was a hint of sarcasm in there. 😉

    Overestimation of one’s knowledge does not warrant throwing out ALL forms of religion either (though certainly most of them logically and/or practically historically etc. break down.)

  6. L. Ron Brown says:

    I do not overestimate my own knowledge at all. I am pretty well-calibrated I think. As an agnostic atheist, I do not know if there is a God or not, but due to lack of evidence I have no belief in a God and view it as being unreasonable to hold such beliefs, as I’ve yet to hear a good argument for it. I see no overestimation here. It is overestimation of knowledge that I am countering when I have debates with theists–as well as strong atheists who claim to know for certain that there is no God of any kind.

    While I think that religious traditions can teach us things, I have yet to hear anything to suggest that any of them are true in their theistic claims.

  7. Stoobs says:

    You seem remarkably well informed about what I “know”. I know there’s something more to life than 70 years then nothing? No, of course I don’t. Nor do you. The fact that you are afraid to admit you don’t know, and need to create an imaginary daddy to chase the scary unknown away is proof of nothing but your lack of intellectual honesty and emotional maturity.

    You do not know what happens when the 70-odd years are up, any more than I do. It would be nice to think that there’s some sort of continuance, but if so I’ve encountered no evidence whatsoever for it, and nor am I likely to.

    Even if there were irrefutable proof that mankind were designed rather than evolving (and there isn’t – make no mistake, evolution has all the informed votes locked in tight) aliens would be substantially more plausible creators than god. There is nothing – no deductive evidence, no reasonable inference, nothing whatsoever – to support theism except the bloody minded refusal of theists to give up their invisible sky daddy. There might be a god, but the odds are infinitesimal, and even if they come up, there’s still no reason at all to believe that it’s your god, or even any god that mankind has conceived of.

  8. Rachel says:

    Stoobs wrote:

    It would be nice to think that there’s some sort of continuance, but if so I’ve encountered no evidence whatsoever for it, and nor am I likely to.

    There is actually some sort of continuance with plenty evidence but it’s not the kind that we like because it reminds us that we’re part of the cycle of life not above it. Once we’re dead our bodies decompose and provide nutrients for other life forms. This might not be a continuance of the “I” we’re so attached to but if we step beyond that, life continues.

  9. grassrootsmovement says:

    Alright then, let us for a moment completely embrace the theory of systematic evolution.

    *pulls out gun and kills Stoobs*
    *disclaimer: for illustration’s sake only. would never ever do such a thing*

    Why shouldn’t I? You are nothing but a higher form of what was once a one-celled amoeba. I would argue survival of the fittest excuses and even endorses such a move. So why not?

    In other words, what gives life this supposed meaning? What makes us more than future compost? If you truly believe evolution, is the only thing that gives you pause at rape and murder the justice system and what it would do to you? Where does ‘meaning’ come from?

    I’m not being sarcastic here. I truly want to know where you derive meaning from a supposedly ‘meaningless’ universe.

    p.s. yes, I know there’s more to life than 70 years.

  10. Stoobs says:

    The primary reason not to pull out a gun and shoot someone is that through taking such an action, you effectively advocate for the right of others to do the same to you. If you don’t want to get shot, it’s a good idea not to shoot other people. You may have noticed that the vast majority of people who die from shootings are ones who own a gun. This is not coincidence.

    Survival of the fittest endorses nothing. It is not a normative position, but a descriptive one. You may as well be arguing that the theory of gravity advocates throwing yourself off cliffs. In fact, survival of the fittest is a misnomer – it is not necessarily the fittest that survive, except in the short term. In the long term, those who are adaptable survive better.

    Even if survival of the fittest was a normative theory, and did point purely to obtaining the maximum advantage, the benefits of being able to form a civil society far outweigh the benefits of shooting random strangers.

    What’s wrong with being future compost. It is liberating, in its way. Purpose, meaning, these things are overrated. What matters is that people live the best lives they can, by their own lights. To some people this means searching for a cure for cancer, for some it means helping their fellow man, and for some it means climbing mountains, or playing video games, or having a shit load of sex.

    I know a guy who grows fucking amazing weed. He’s been doing it all his life, and he produces some of the best herb I’ve ever smoked. Who are you to say that this is a less worthwhile accomplishment than whatever you’ve chosen to do with your life? I say, whatever makes you happy, if you’re not hurting anyone, do the shit out of it. Of course, if you are hurting anyone, as I said earlier, you are implicitly giving other people permission to hurt you for their own benefit.

  11. Stoobs says:

    PS – How exactly do you know there’s more to life than your lifespan? Please share your evidence, I would love hear about it.

  12. Paul says:

    The biggest reason why not to just rape and pillage and kill is that, apprently, we evolved in such a way as to be able to not only understand another’s viewpoint and pain, but to bond with others through social networks, small (family) or large (society, nation). We don’t act purely selfishly because we’re not evolved that way, just like animals will not act selfishly as well

  13. Stoobs says:

    Indeed, recent studies show that people obtain substantially more happiness when they do things for other people than when they do things to benefit themselves. People who even want to rape and murder are sick – they are mentally or emotionally unhealthy.

  14. grassrootsmovement says:

    Soooooo . . . we are ‘good’ out of self preservation. OK, I can see where you’d view it that way. (Although I would take issue with with Paul’s ‘BIGGEST reason’ because what do you do with the millions of years of evolution when people were not all pillaging and raping?)

    I also disagree that there is no inherent system of ‘values’ to life. Yes, plenty of people live their lives only for sex, others find a cure for cancer, and that’s their life to do with what they please, but are you really arguing both have equal weight?

    As to the knowledge of more than 70 years of ‘making myself happy’ *sigh* that’s a lot to go into. How ’bout, my lifetime of experience, study and searching has convinced me of it, just as yours has apparently convinced you there is no possibility.

  15. Stoobs says:

    I am not saying that both have equal weight, I’m saying that there’s no scales. The person who searches for a cure for cancer is more likely to find others who endorse his decision, but there’s nothing objective about that – humans naturally approve of people who work to make their life better, just as cats approve of people who fill their food dish.

    Studies show, of course, that people who spend their time and resources helping others enjoy far more lasting happiness than those who use them to indulge themselves, but that isn’t a judgment either, it’s just another fact.

    My question, however, had nothing to do with making yourself happy. How you spend your life is irrelevant. I just want to hear the overwhelming evidence that has convinced you beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something more to look forward to after death. If it’s really that persuasive, you could change people’s lives here! Come on, don’t be a meanie, share the evidence, and let us all end our fear of death…

  16. ***I’m not being sarcastic here. I truly want to know where you derive meaning from a supposedly ‘meaningless’ universe.***

    I don’t understand why people need external sources of meaning. Conscious beings like human beings create meaning. We are the source of meaning in the universe. Simple. You want a moral system, it has to fit the time and place the human beings live in. Was it different 1500 years ago than it is now. Absolutely. The conditions of life are different now, the technology is different now, our understanding is different now.

    If we don’t create our own meaning, then our lives become meaningless. It is when we abdicate our responsibility to live and be creative that there is no purpose. Religion kills meaning and purpose.

  17. grassrootsmovement says:

    I am not the best person in the world to delineate this, but I will try.

    The worldview you describe is of people who are insanely narcissistic, but I can see where you’re coming from.

    Leaving that right now . . .

    Understanding that you have made up your mind, as I have mine, that it is impossible for you to prove a negative (no God) and impossible for lowly little me to prove God beyond ‘reasonable doubt’, I would say reason, justice, meaning are ‘necessary’ (which definition I would hold to be similar though to Leibniz’s among others). Also, an absolute standard. I realize these things do not prove God, but they led me to that conclusion.

    C.S. Lewis said “Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

    Once one accepts God, then it would follow that what He says about life after death is true. Because see, whether God or no, there would not HAVE to be more than 70 years. God could have said ‘hey, here are some people, let them live out a span of time and then be done.’ Why not, right?

    but He didn’t. And knowing God leads to knowing what He says to be true. not the other way around – “Well since I have concluded life after death is necessary, there must be a God.”

    I’m not sure I’m making as much sense on paper as I am in my head. 🙂 Lost in translation, maybe. But there’s a snippet . . .

  18. L. Ron Brown says:

    Grass Roots:

    Inferring God from the existence of our sense of meaning and morality (as in justice) seems to me to be an argument from ignorance: inferring God because you have no better ideas for explaining these mental/social phenomena.

    As for how these phenomena came to be, who knows. Here is some speculation, though. Consider first the mind-body problem. Where does the mental come from? I go into one way of thinking of this here: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/my-views-on-materialism-and-dualism/
    Please see that link, because it’s too much to type out here. The basic crux though is that the distinction between mind and matter may be an illusion created by the nature of our cognitive systems. Just as humans halucinate sharp discontinuities in their perception of colours and speech sounds, perhaps we are hallucinating sharp discontinuities between the mental and the physical. Perhaps in objective reality the mental and the physical share a common dimension along which they both coexist at different parts of the spectrum. The mental and physical, after all, *must* share a common ground because they clearly interact with each other: the mental affects the physical (e.g., desires and beliefs lead to behaviours) and the physical affects the mental (e.g., being punched can be painful). For a fuller discussion, see the link.

    Another possibility is that the mental is an emergent property of certain highly complex and appropriately organized physical systems. Qualitative emergence has already been observed in other areas. Consider economics. Self-organizing economic systems emerge from the self-interested behaviour of individuals, whether or not the individuals are cognizant of the higher-order emergent socioeconomic system. Or, in Conways Game of Life—Google it—we see emergent global systems of complexity and self-organization based on nothing more than very simple local algorithms.

    As for justice and morality. These branches of social cognition could be based on evolutionary developments such as kin selection. At the neurological level, they could be given rise to in significant part by mirror neuron systems. Mirror neurons are neurons that fire not only when one performs an action or has an intention, but when one views another performing an action or an intention. Mirror neuron systems link up in the brain with various other neural systems (e.g., emotional response systems in the amygdala). Mirror neurons could be playing a significant role in allowing us to empathize with others as they serve as auto-simulators of others’ mental states as inferred from observed behaviours. They can allow us to, in a way, feel the pain of others—such as when guys can feel squeamish when they see another male kicked in the groin.

    As for meaning, that is even more high-level that morality. It could be the result of such things as self-awareness, knowledge that one will die, etc. That is a toughy, though. They’re all toughies.

  19. The world looks meaningful and organized because that it how we look at it, through the lens of language and experience. We divide up the world and assign causes and effects because from the time of our birth we are socialized to do so. Then, ignoring the effects of language and socialization, we start to ask, where does all this meaning come from?

    It comes from us, our history and our shared experiences which we acquire as we learn the language of our culture. That’s why different people in different parts of the world have different values and find different things meaningful. Their history and culture and language is not the same as ours.

    The only meaning in the universe is the meaning we created as we evolved and acquired language and culture. We are the source of all the meaning we experience. Without humans, there would be no meaning and no need for silly gods.

  20. grassrootsmovement says:

    just real quick . . .

    I’m not inferring God from meaning, I’m refuting ‘no sclaes’ and inferring meaning itself. From . . . everything else (sense of justice, etc). Atheism says meaninglessness (or as some argue, meaning assigned only by ourselves, which I would argue is truly arbitrary and therefore basically meaningless) is devised/comprehended of by evolved beings . . . but that is too simple because, as Lewis is arguing, we can’t declare meaninglessness or knowledge thereof without its opposite, which must be assigned by an objective creator. Systematic evolution would not assign such.

    I hope that maybe clarified a little. Perhaps it did the opposite. I have to run, but I promise I will come back later, read the link, and think some more.

  21. Lewis is playing the same BS word games as everyone else. I concur that the universe is devoid of meaning except to the extent that conscious beings create meaning.

    Of course, conscious beings live in a physical environment according to biological limitations etc. Being as we all share that experience, and evolved the capacity to represent conceptually in the form of language, some people like to delude themselves that there must be something greater.

    The point is, there doesn’t need to be something greater. Ignorance or lack of imagination doesn’t prove anything. The limitations of conceptual thought don’t prove anything except that word games are meaningless.

  22. Stoobs says:

    Meaning is most likely a consequence of the development of language. We experience things as having meaning because we think in words, and words are underwritten by meaning.

    The problem here is that introspection is a very poor tool for understanding the way humans think. As an example, for literally centuries it has been assumed that humans see a field of shapes and colors, and that the conscious mind picks objects out of that field. Neuroscience, however, shows us that the reverse actually occurs – we see discrete objects, and the conscious mind sorts them into a field of shapes and colors. You do not see a blue oblong and conclude that it is a book, you see a book and represent it as a blue oblong.

    My point? The fact that you perceive meaning in the world tells you nothing about the world – rather, it tells you something about your experience of the world. As Kant would put it (since he’s way smarter than Leibniz,) meaning is phenomenal, not noumenal.

    When Leibniz talks of necessity, he means logical necessity – in other words, his arguments are all (supposedly) based on things that can be known a priori, from the definitions of terms and the laws of logic and mathematics. In fact, though, he takes the existence of god as knowable a priori, and argues from it, so his work will never convince an atheist of anything.

    Leibniz’s philosophical writing is almost entirely a reaction to Spinoza, an attempt to come up with a way to accept Spinoza’s premises without falling into pantheism. Leibniz was a very smart man, and his contribution to the realms of mathematics, engineering, and information theory are all excellent. His metaphysical writings are certainly his weakest work, and the reason for this is simple – he committed himself in advance and without evidence to the existence of god, and shoehorned him into a world which simply does not need him.

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