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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday




What makes an atheist get outof bed in the morning? What makes anyone think that you have to BELIEVE in anything? The only alternative to believing in god is to believe in another god-like thing. I am an atheist and I get on with my life - that's all I have.

A. I have to go to work.

Thank you R. Greenwald. You make getting out of bed a joy.

Atheism is a purely negative ideology, which is its problem. If one does not believe in God, what should one believe in instead?

This is the nut of the argument, and a point that can be answered. Atheism is not ideology. It is the rejection of the need for ideology. Just as a baby can locate and suckle a nipple without any ideology of hunger or food or mother or self, so can we leave the comfort of bed without the heckling of a capricious god or the ransom of fabulous bribes.

I think I agree with Daniel Lazare about at least one thing: We shouldn't chop off heads until we have the political infrastructure erected to replace the leaders overthrown. But it is hard to find argument amidst his rant. Is Lazare warning that something worse than Christianity will fill the void atheist evangelicals create? Or is he arguing that intellectuals should shut up and allow the mob to work its magick?

If only the Maccabees had stood by as Antiochus IV Epiphanes looted the temple treasury, the world could have skipped 2,000 years or so of religious fanaticism and proceeded directly to the founding of the Council for Secular Humanism... But just as it takes a child a long time to mature, it takes a long time for society as well.

So how is society to mature, Mr. Lazare, if you would have us all prostrate before our culotted betters?

And by the way, the religious zealotry most dangerous to the Western world didn't surface on 9/11. It is the evil spawn of folks like the (at last) late Jerry Farwell and his immoral minority.


Any Darn Ayn Rand could have told you aboot Mother effing Teresa. Right isn't always Wrong, nor is drunk (IF you're white).

These non-overlapping magisteria make me want to barf. Non-overlapping? The orbits of the planets are NOT perfect circles. SpectrOscopy, not to mention the Fox: "faked" Moon landing prove the Heavens are NOT made of a different substance than the merely Earthly. The Holocaust HAPPENED to God's chosen. The world is NOT flat, contrary to the claims of the very late Abdullah bin Baz (the venerable and non-over-lappingly religious Saudi education minister, in charge of the curricula of education at all levels for a country of 25 million). Non-overlapping my Asimov!

When one is cured of cancer, what does one replace it with? Another bogus "magisterium" another magic master? How 'bout the lenti- retro- viral majesty of AIDS? FHHT!

"Shallow" rationalism? Nietzsche (and the Italian Renascence) had a few things to say about "mere" surface 'superficiality,' vs. obscurantist rant and manipulative... pseudoosity.

One trembles at the label "anti-semitic*," but aside from the genetics, the RELIGION just might have something to do with the fact that these intellectual and intelligent people were very late arriving at the Scientific party, no matter how many tongue-in-cheek Einstein ironies one (mis)quotes, or how many Nobelpreistraeger are trotted predictably out. Why so late? Why only after secularization? And why the recalcitrance in the face of Reality, of so many (west)bankers with names like "Isaac- Jacob- Abram- Rabi- , and yes, the Biblic Lazar- "? Race? Or Religion?

I will say though we could do with a bit of majestic, nay, magisterial, Atheist MUSIC! Instead of Masses we could sing, say, "Energies", to energize us on Sunday mornings. And build (or seize) cavernous Cathedraloids to sing them in. Or we could train Atheist overtone-singing Anti-muezzins, we could.

I found the "athiest getting out of bed" article funny, because the only way the author tries to discredit Hitchens is the same Shite we see on this forum... "but he doesn't criticize GW. Bush".

Wow. In this entire book the only thing I complain about is an event that happened in 168 ad, and that he supports bush. /cry


I think the question of what to replace religion/faith with is valid. Granted, most of us atheist don't need the things that organized religion provides, most important being a sense of community. Therefore we scoff at the notion that faith needs a substitute. But that sense of community is what keeps many people in the church pews.
What other institution do we have that allows families to come together in a building and do something together, then socialize afterwards? We don't really. What other institution offers such a vast support system? Dawkins maintains that science can replace faith. But can you imagine a bunch of scientists running off to New Orleans to help the victims of a hurricane? I should hope not. No, science is not a perfect substitute for organized religion. Science and secular charitable organizations maybe, but then you still lack the sense of community and common ideas/actions that church provides.


Jam Sessions. Hip don' have to be, Osmonds, Browns, Lennon's Sisters, Hop.


What do we replace religion with?

"What other institution do we have that allows families to come together in a building and do something together, then socialize afterwards?"

"Science and secular charitable organizations maybe, but then you still lack the sense of community and common ideas/actions that church provides."

It would seem to me that we have a fairly good replacement already and that is of course our universities and colledges. A place where people come together in a building gain knowlege, share knowledge and socialize afterwards. You may argue that this does not provide for families to come together in the same sense and that this medium allows for only for those of narrown interests to come together. This is a valid argument as well.

So on one hand you have an institution that allows families to come together and share in a narrow minded ideology leaving everyone that doesn't share that specific ideology out. Or you have universities and colleges that invite those interested in speific areas of knowledge to unite and are free to learn and challenge that knowledge. Incidentally, the latter does not leave those seeking different areas of knowledge out.

Therein lies the lack of middle ground and assuming that we not only need a sense of community, but that we indeed need community, the challenge remains for this new era of floundering reason to build upon this lack. There may be such places that do indeed exist, although I am pressed to identify such places.

In the mean time, we should not be silent in the face of the ignorance of theism and put reasonable questions to those of faith because we might leave them without this sense of community.

Science, scientific concensus, and atheism does leave many questions yet to be answered. However, forging ahead with discovery to answer these unanswered questions in the absense of religious dogma will in my opinion lead us to a clearer understanding of our lot than where we find ourselves today. Perhaps as a result we can find a sense of community larger than the size of any organized religion and finally find our place among the greatest community of all, that of the humans.

The Freewill fruitflies thing is bunk.

Chaos does not imply unpredictable. It just says that the cost of using generalizations is high.

The notion of chaos being free will is fairly absurd. It seems to be trying to fuzz the line between nondetermanism and unpredictable.

Things are either caused or not caused. If it were caused then it was based upon something in the universe. Uncaused events are random.

There is no such thing as a little bit random (partially uncaused). You can have events caused by an interaction between a random event and a nonrandom event, but that interaction is predictable because it in itself is caused.

The notion of nondetermaninsm being required for free will is in itself strange.

Would you rather make decisions based upon what is or what isn't?

Lerc: Not to be too confrontational, actually I would like to discuss your views on this. You sound as though you have considered the matter. But...

Webster says unpredictable is the essence of chaos.

I haven't kept up on the literature, but the article uses the concept of chaos in nonlinear dynamics as was correct 10 years ago. Are you sure this usage has changed?

Mathematically speaking, it is indeed possible to be non-random and remain unpredictable. I'm pretty sure your costs of generalizations premise is false. Interestingly, it is also possible for random input to create predictable output.

You could spend the rest of your life and not exhaust the literature on Determinism and Free Will. What are you saying is strange?

And finally, as to the Is problem. The Standard Model is clear about this. Einstein wouldn't accept it, but even he couldn't argue out of it.

I found the article clear and interesting. What gives?

One can have free will in a deterministic world. One should not conflate determinism with fatalism.

"What do we replace religion with?" makes no more sense than asking what we'll replace cancer and AIDS with.

In the comments on Greenwald's testimony in the video, there is the revelation that Kingston has several major arms/defense contractors among his major contributors.

I doubt that the troops in his district give him anywhere near that money. Kingston knows which side his bread is buttered on.

The fruit flies exhibit random UNPREDICTABLE behaviour? Doesn't sound like will to me my friend; free or otherwise. It's a basic fact of something being willed by me that it tends towards my goals. What is interesting about human action (and what makes it willed) isn't the number of behavioural outputs I can give but the general tendency of behaviour towards certain goals or objective. Random activity is fundamentally uninteresting.

"Fruit flies have free will" - when the next philosopher-king takes over, men will be shot for writing such things. Kidding, but... seriously; Trash! Interesting finding but nothing to do with 'free will' - just another New Scientist article throwing terms-of-art around without thinking about them.

I agree with Erick. I believe free will is doing what you want to do. That our wants are caused is irrelevant.

mikleby: There's chaos and chaos. A system that is referred to as chaotic isn't actually chaos in the dictionary sense. It's all determanistic and caused and is called chaos because it is nigh on impossible to predict. The thing to note though is that little bit that bit that says 'nigh on'. If you now the exact starting conditions and the exact way interactions occur you can predict the outcome. What happens with a chaotic system is the slightest error in starting conditions or calculation amplifies until the final output diverges hugely from an accurate prediction.

Random output can indeed be predicted, but only by chance. Random input can be turned into a predictable output (play white noise though a speaker with the volume turned all the way down), Neither of these are very significant concepts though.

The finger flexion experiments related to readiness potential make a fairly convincing case that our perception of free will is flawed. A machine can predict when we are going to get the feeling to do a spur of the moment thing.

The thing is the feeling of free will is the prima facie argument that we have to say that we have it.

The problem that I see with the fruit fly article is that they have a little box where it's really hard to do the math to figure out. Because it's really hard and impractical to actually do, they then go, "Right! Now if we say free will comes from inside that box, nobody will be able to prove us wrong".

If you take a 'Doing what you want' approach to free will, then determinism doesn't matter. A Lego robot doesn't have free will because it doesn't want even if it has some rudimentary stimulus response mechanism installed. A far more respectable way to say that fruit flies have free will is to show that they have wants. This is where it gets tricky because even though there is a lot known about how brains work, there are few who have made inroads to the question of what awareness actually is.

Are fruitflies aware? Are they closer to a Lego robot or us? Is there a dividing line or is it a continuum?

Lerc: Thanks for addressing my questions. You seem to contradict yourself. "Random output can be predicted"? Chaos isn't really chaos?

You assert that knowledge of conditions is sufficient for prediction. This is simply not the understanding of 20th century science or mathematics. I have mentioned both the Standard Model and nonlinear dynamics. There is much compelling literature on these subjects, accessible to the layman.

I caution about drawing quick conclusions re: the Libet volition studies. Awareness is not Will. Libet studies the "mechanics" of decision making -- but even he still believes there is room for Free Will.

The current wiki seems to summarize modern thoughts on free will.

At length, the fruit fly experiments are exploring a very specific question. A question which arises from centuries of considered study. And a question that is respected by those who have followed the conversation.

(Amusingly you make reference to the box of the experiment. One wonders what Schroedinger would have to say.)

Eric: I haven't overlooked your gloriously stimulating Dennett link. It's a lot to digest, more than one sitting. I will just defend my reference to Determinism and Free Will by saying that this is the traditional formulation -- unavoidable reference for any informed discussion. ;)


To replace the crutch with:

believe it or not the church/crutch, whatever, did not become really absurd until recently. Much of the horrors, inqusition, crusades, were really politics, not religion. Even the crime of Galilieo, Galileo was a prick just like his father (V.).

It is these damnened PRE-MILLENIALIST pre-schoolers, Darby's cry-babies that really did it, the Left Behind Late Great Rapture crowd. Buddhist meditation centers would be cool crutch-replacements, minus the identity politics (and healthy too).

And there would be fewer discussions, less discussion, whatever, like the interminable determinism/freedom debate and switch above.

Capisce? As 4 D-boy,

Dennett didn't even believe in Qualia (the true "atoms" AND the true tutticompositti), he should be disQualified, .


Eff his fundamentalist extremist stance. Better to browse Paul Davies, a humble quest-farer, an Archimedes point-man.

one evil axis: Whew! I like how you say it, but say what?

I plead ignorance, but how do you distinguish religion and politics? Nobody would care about religion except for the political implications (i.e. Dawkins, Harris, Farwell, Bush, et al) -- would they?

Are you saying the fruit fly experiment is pointless? Or just that misconceptions of Freedom are tiring? Perhaps you are suggesting there can be no resolution? that there is a sort of dualism?

(I've read nearly every P.Davies book, great reference.)

Just a quick note before breakfast.

Say "heads", toss a coin. If it's heads you predicted it, By chance. (first paragraph)

re:standard model. There ares some spooky bits in the universe, A chaotic subsystem within the universe doesn't necessarily contain them (neurophysiological determanism etc.)

more later

Eric: Touche! The Dennett interview states the argument I have made better than I could (at or about 23 min in), and I concede that Dennett seems to disclose my confusion.

Lerc: I don't know what I am talking about. Thanks for helping me to see this.


Dang it, Dennett, Contra Dan, consciousness/ epiphenomenon is maybe, very easily, a spandrel? Conscious if and only if self-conscious, conscious of consciousness? I am conscious of confusion.

Straw-bat? Robot-bat? I think that Pythagoras knows (knew) what it is like to be batty (his most famous discovery is that things sound like what they are).

I am me? Unique and only? Am I a video I watch? If others be me/watch me from inside video-like mind-link I will be no longer unique and only. (Contort.)

We need some kind of Copernican revolution about volition, consicousness, conscience, battiness, methinks. Smoke and mirrors, mist and mirages, i.e., Mysterianity? No! Sunshine:

If you don't like pointlessness, go hug a cactus.


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