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Sinners and Such

Hitchens and Donohue on Hardball duke it out, atheists 1 Christians 0. Evolution Blog has some interesting comments on the exchange.




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Harball w/Chris Matthews

 

Comments

It always amuses me when Americans claim to be Irish - why do they do this - and why does he demand that Englishmen ought to be quiet when he speaks?

Even though I and everybody else descended from Africa I do not claim to be African.

Clearly this is an embarrassment for the Catholic Church because she really was a fantastic marketing tool.

Unfortunately many people will dismiss this since it almost beggars belief in contrast to her "iconic" public image.

She really was a terrible person with a fetish for suffering.

Hitchens became an American citizen, someone ought to check Donohue's green card.

Whoa! I've always considered Bill Donohue one of the most despicable religious creatures that appears in the media today.

But this was a new low.

I was particularly amazed by how he repeatedly tried to talk over, and silence Hitchens with the phrase "An Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks" -- what an astounding example of bigotry...

Not that I'd expect anything less than bigotry from Bill Donohue, mind you.

Hitchens became an American citizen, someone ought to check Donohue's green card.

Valid point.

Hitchens -- like all immigrants -- is a true American.

Donohue just happened to have been born in this country. If he'd been born in Russia, he'd been singing that country's praises -- and the praises of atheism, or the Russian orthodox church (depending on the time period).

Andy, I certainly cringed when he said he was Irish. We have enough problems without having to count him among them. Bringing the Irish v. English thing into the argument is a debating trick in my opinion, commonly used to put english people on the back foot.

There was a very similar situation in France with the "abbé Pierre", a humanitary religious icon, as important to the church as Mother teresa, and who late in his life wrote that he also had doubts and had lived a sexual life. That was a big stone in the catholic lake too.

As a Catholic, I can tell you that these letters from Mother Teresa did not changed my belief in God. I guess for atheists there is a certain level of amusement at finding out that she had serious doubts. The fact that she tried to do so much good for the poor and that she spent the most of her life being unselfish is admirable. Having doubts does not mean that you don't believe. It is those doubts that keep me from running amok like the ultraconservative evangelical movement here in the US. I have questioned my church from time to time but my belief in God remains strong.

Mick - yeah.

Hm, I recall being in NYC in 2000.. it was a week of debauchery and I'd met a beautiful girl.. it came up in conversation that she was renting her apartment from a lady, though whilst being American, would protest that she is wholly Irish.

At first I just thought it was funny/cute, but then it emerged that she would support the IRA, send them money, go on marches, etc.

The IRA drew a lot of its resources from the US - so this "fake nationalism" syndrome is clearly not something we should just dismiss as being cute.

I would like to know why this happens. Is it about people wanting to differentiate their identities? Are they ashamed to be American? Do they choose to be Irish because of the suffering?

Does this mean that They can't trot out Mother Teresa each time the "Christianity makes you do want to do good things" arguement? She seems to be the go to gal for such a thing, but from the letters it doesn't sound like she was doing it "for god" at all.

Oh, nevermind, they made Hitler an athiest, they can surely make Mother Teresa a Christian.

As a Catholic, I can tell you that these letters from Mother Teresa did not changed my belief in God.

Its unlikely your belief is based upon evidence so it follows that evidence of MT's doubts wouldn't sway you.

Having doubts does not mean that you don't believe. It is those doubts that keep me from running amok like the ultraconservative evangelical movement here in the US.

If so, then I praise such doubt.

It seems to me disingenuous of Hitchens to say the catholic church exploited Mother Teresa by keeping her on as a fanatic. I got around to reading that Time's article on the subject and, chronologically, Hitchen's argument seems calculated, however poorly. Teresa gained permission for forming the sisterhood in the early '48, but it wasn't until the seventies before Muggeridge made her famous. It was in the 1950's she began her letter-writing confessions of doubt. Were the 'cynnical old men' really able to see that far into the future to when they could use her as a "marketing tool"?

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"An Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks" -- what an astounding example of bigotry...

it's only bigotry in that it only seeks to reverse...oh, say....seven or eight centuries of standard practice.

Hitchens kind of messes this one up, because it is rather bizarre, his book Missionary Position presents Mother Theresa as an active manipulator, now he argues she is a victim of the Vatican. Seems like hyperbole to me...should have stuck to his first arguement. The funny thing about the US-citizenship version of Hitchens is he acts as if no one remembers anything he wrote before he picked up his new nationality.

Is it safe to call that Irishman a shillelagh?

The Irish were the victums of alot of discrimination in early America, that is why they still strongly identify as Irish a hundred years later. They also closely relate their religion with their ethnic background.

The real question here is if Mother Theresa didn't believe in god, why did she treat people so badly? Perhaps she lost her faith because she herself was driven to do such sadistic things by religion.

"One of Mother Teresa’s volunteers in Calcutta described her “Home for the Dying” as resembling photos of concentration camps such as Belsen. No chairs, just stretcher beds. Virtually no medical care or painkillers beyond aspirin, and a refusal to take a 15-year-old boy to a hospital. Hitchens adds, “Bear in mind that Mother Teresa’s global income is more than enough to outfit several first class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so... is a deliberate one. The point is not the honest relief of suffering, but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection.”

http://www.population-security.org/swom-96-09.htm

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Does anyone else find it funny how the comments revolve about the irish vs. englishmen comment?

I am more likely to dismiss bad taste in humor, and focus more on the arguments for and against Mother Theresa. She was the topic, right?

As a Christian, (I've pretty well established myself as the only apparent Christian that actually reads this blog and finds it interesting.) I believe there are times of strength and weakness in the Christian walk. It doesn't make you any less of a Christian. In fact, the Bible talks about this direcly. Many of the great leaders throughout the old and new testament (King David etc) experienced times of doubt where God was silent. As they persevered through these times, their faith grew stronger, and they ultimately considered them as trials.

(Whenever I mention I'm a Christian, I recieve: Ha! You're stupid. You obviously haven't read Dawkins, Gould, Harris, or Hitchens. You obviously know nothing of evolution, because only we have taken biology courses! Assuming I have, let's save space and not recycle the arguments. Thank you.)

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I'll end by saying this:

It's good to know what you're arguing against. If I only heard my Christian fundamentalist parents teach me about evolution, I wouldn't have a very good understanding of it. My view of evolution would be misunderstood and scewed.

Do we all agree?

Now, the same is true for Christianity. If you're only understanding of Christianity is from hearsay, then I have the full ability to use the same logic against you and conclude that you are quite ignorant of Christianity.

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If you want to (intelligibly) argue against Christianity, please find or buy a Bible and read it.

If I only knew atheism through my local pastor, I wouldn't really know atheism.

If I only knew Christianity through Dawkins, I wouldn't really know Christianity.

Primary sources are the only way.

What an awful travesty of journalism that was. Neither had the time to make a cogent argument (not that I believe for a moment that Donohue had one), and within seconds it devolved into a tedious squabble the only object of which was the scoring of trite rhetorical points. A mess of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I don't blame any of the participants for this. It's the nature of six minute soundbyte TV journalism.

Andy,
You don't like the differentiating of identities but really, what is the official language that American's speak? Could that even be answered without "differentiating" the people who fall under the blanket idea of American? Touting your Irish ancestry or Asian lineage or Jewish background shouldn't be regarded as shame since one identifies your ethnicity and being American defines you culturally, unless you were born on a reservation. It's a fair distinction to make, as I don't recall the US census having the checkbox of "American" under the list of ethnicities. You can't really believe that people make mention of their ethnicity out of a desire to stake claim to historical accounts of suffering? So people claim to be Jews only because they're feeling down and want to cop a little holocaust sympathy from the "I'm just an American! / My color is Red White and Blue!" crowd.

/ Still found no reason for Bill to bring it up though, I can agree with that.

If you want to (intelligibly) argue against Christianity, please find or buy a Bible and read it.

The typical atheist reader of this blog is arguably more familiar with the Bible than the average Christian.

oh, as for the actual topic... Sam Harris wrote about this issue in the 'On Faith' column for Newsweek/Washington Post. He ended it with a very good question-- "Ask yourself, when even the doubts of experts are thought to confirm a doctrine, what could possibly disconfirm it?"

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Sam Harris wrote about this issue in the 'On Faith' column for Newsweek/Washington Post. He ended it with a very good question-- "Ask yourself, when even the doubts of experts are thought to confirm a doctrine, what could possibly disconfirm it?"

"Let us, then, take the idea of a spectrum of probabilities seriously, and place human judgements about the existence of God along it. The spectrum is continuous, but it can be represented by the following seven milestones along the way.

6.Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'

I count myself in category 6."

(The God Delusion 50)

"...the only people who don't believe today are dogmatic atheists."

Yes, them and apparently Mother Terrisa as well.

The dividing line between a wavering believer and a wavering unbeliever is not exactly easy to discern. Both are 'plagued' by doubts, both lack confidence in the truth and/or the reasonability of their respective stances. If you only look at the uncertainties and the wavering they can be hard to tell apart.

So I think the dividing line has to be drawn on the basis of actions -- on how you live your life. If you live your life as if there were a God, then this is an indication that your operational assumption is that God exists. Similarly, if you live your life as if God did not exist (and no, that doesn't mean rapine and pillage), then that indicates the presence of 'functional disbelief'. While it can get messy in a person's mind what with all the doubts and uncertainty, the functional, operational beliefs (as demonstrated by actions) reveal the prevailing 'currents', and thus divide the dubious theists from the dubious atheists.

By that standard, Teresa was a theist.

Norm:

The typical atheist reader of this blog is arguably more familiar with the Bible than the average Christian.
Yes. And most of us were even probably forced to go to church as children, too. I was raised Catholic, for instance, but recovered quite nicely.

Your comment reminded me of the Ten Commandments cheerleaders who couldn't name them (Daily Show? Colbert?). Man, that was funny.

Your comment reminded me of the Ten Commandments cheerleaders who couldn't name them (Daily Show? Colbert?). Man, that was funny.

this one

I read about 100 pages of The Bible myself before the contradictions/absurdities/irrelevancies/cultural-influences made it clear I needed to find my answers elsewhere.

this one

Yes! Sweeeet. It never gets old. Thanks!

I find is unusual when believers try to apply the term dogmatic to athiests, when most athiests, I believe, use reason and science to come to their beliefs rather than dogmatism. If my mother taught me from a young child something that science and evidence proves to be untrue I change my belief. That's the opposite of dogmatism.

I find is unusual when believers try to apply the term dogmatic to athiests, when most athiests, I believe, use reason and science to come to their beliefs rather than dogmatism. If my mother taught me from a young child something that science and evidence proves to be untrue I change my belief. That's the opposite of dogmatism.

As an actual Irish person and not some my-great-great-grandfather-once-kissed-someone-irish.

"Englishman should be quiet when an Irishman is talking"

What a dickhead.

Also he seemed intent on trying to attack Hitchens rather then discuss the letters.

what the heck is a "dogmatic atheist"? Atheism is non-theism, its non-belief, so by definition there is no dogma, since dogma is based on belief. I guess someone forgot to point this out to the "irishman".

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Yes Mr. Hartman, you might be very surprised at the number of us nonbelievers that know more about the damned book than the majority of believers.

Some of us studied it for years, along with theologians from Protestant Tyndale to very Catholic Augustine, Christian mystics and bone headed evangelicals alike.

I know that acting as though you believe, even when you don't is considered a virtue by most and even seen as a higher form of faith but a few. I do not see it that way at all.

She did not act upon what she really believed she acted upon what she apparently thought she should believe. When you consider the amount of suffering and misery she routinely submitted her "charges" to, it is easy to believe she was driven by theological politics rather than any concern for the dying or any attempt to 'live like Jesus'.

I think it compares to a disillusioned socialist carrying out Stalin's terrible orders with energy and efficiency while no longer believing in socialism or anything else.

Her internal suffering produced by or at least exacerbated by living such a blatant lie, was rather generously passed on to the people in her 'care'.

If she is a shining example of faith, her variety of faith is, and I say this advisedly, a mental and moral aberration

Posted by: Jonathan Hartman | August 30, 2007 5:00 PM

If you want to (intelligibly) argue against Christianity, please find or buy a Bible and read it. If I only knew atheism through my local pastor, I wouldn't really know atheism. If I only knew Christianity through Dawkins, I wouldn't really know Christianity. Primary sources are the only way.

Are you seriously attempting to argue that posters here only know about Christianity through Dawkins? How would that even be possible? Christianity is all over the place in western culture it just delusional to pretend that anyone could grow up only learning about Christianity from the writings of prominent atheists.

Like most atheists I know I came from a Christian family & I know a great deal about Christianity & the bible after being subject to church & then Sunday school every week, church youth groups in the school holidays… and even if my family hadn’t gone to such lengths to try and indoctrinate me Christianity is all over the place in the media.

In contrast atheism has long been so marginalised that the likes of CNN hold discussions about atheism with panels made up entirely of rather zealous theists and many Christians seem to be so ignorant about atheism that going off my conversations with them they have it confused with nihilism/Satanism.

One of my favorites regarding Mother Theresa... Penn and Teller's bullshit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q1m-8npkJ4

I'm a full blown english man, born and raised in london. I have the upmost respect for the Irish, I consider them to be some of the best people on earth.

The comments about the english really annoyed me.

Like the religious who like to call us "dogmatic atheists", I think Hartman is confused as well.

First, I don't call myself an atheist more than I call myself an unastrologer and an a-reincarnationist. I think "atheist" is a term that the religious use with a smirk to be able to demonize non-believers, to have a proper antagonistic "dogma". It is just damn presumptuous of them to group us as "atheists". Why should god get preference over unicorns and new age superstition when being "denied"? Obviously, other "atheists" don't agree with me, and even wear the term as a badge of honor. We don't believe the same things, we just tend not to believe in superstition.

Which brings me to the second point. There is nothing to learn about atheism itself. It is not a belief system. It is the opposite. If you wanna "learn" about atheism, you'll need to learn everything that doesn't involve a god. Prominent "atheists" say that people need to be educated about "atheism", but only in the context that in religious America it's a demonized "group" of people that few trust. There is no reason to trust or distrust someone who does not believe in some superstition. That's what we try to convey when we say people should know what "atheism" means. Others go further and say that atheism is virtuous as it regards evidence and skepticism, but I don't agree with that. There are "atheists" who believe in a flat earth and other nonsense.

Third, there is not much to learn about Christianity either. You can learn what the Bible says, but by now so-called theologians have diluted (sorry, "interpreted") the horrendous primitive content of the bible to suit modern knowledge, to the point in which they are just babbling nonsensical 3-in-1 type of rhetoric. How can you claim truths or knowledge of the universe from something that someone else invented thousands of years ago? Further, "thelogians" don't even agree amongst themselves. Hell, they can't even express themselves clearly. Obfuscation is what always worked for organized religion. Make it incomprehensible enough, and people will take it as "profound". The same is happening now with all the postmodernism nonsense.

"I think "atheist" is a term that the religious use with a smirk to be able to demonize non-believers"

I hate to break this to you andyo, but if what you are saying is true, Norm wouldn't be selling T-shirts with 'A' plastered on the front.

"I think "atheist" is a term that the religious use with a smirk to be able to demonize non-believers" I hate to break this to you andyo, but if what you are saying is true, Norm wouldn't be selling T-shirts with 'A' plastered on the front.

Since when is Norm religious?

@andyo: that might be one of the better descriptions about what athiesm is that i've seen around here.

...Norm wouldn't be selling T-shirts...

He isn't. Dawkins is. And it's a freaking t-shirt, not "The Athiest Bible. You must believe this, or you cannot be an athiest".

Just part of dawkins campaign to show that there are more athiests out there than america cares to believe.

@Hartman:

Oh, and I do believe you will be hard pressed to find an athiest who hasn't looked into religion, from the source of that religion. Dawkins and Hitchens both were raised in religious schools. I would wager that 95% of athiests have read the religious texts, which these churches are built on. We're armed with knowledge of the religion, not ignorance and fear of it.

Well, I was careful to point out that obviously other "atheists" don't agree with me. Maybe most don't. But we can argue about it. And also, that the religious gleefully and condescendingly call us "atheists" doesn't mean that some of us couldn't like ourselves to be called that, and even be proud of it. I just think that even though the term is somewhat useful in uniting us for a cause, it is also misleading, and it gives some credence to the "atheism is a dogma" crowd.

When a prominent atheist says that "atheists need to learn about atheism," what he or she is saying is that atheists need to learn the definition of atheism and what reasoning you have to continue your discourse as an atheist. What does this mean? Atheists of this nature are not learning "atheistic rituals" or "how to be an atheist." They are learning the arguments for and against God's existence.

It's exactly how one learns how to formulate their opinions on politics.

These people are not saying "be an atheist." They are telling atheists to educate themselves."

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As a Catholic for whom Donohue does not speak for and also as someone who despises Christopher Hitchens, this was painful to watch.

The entire discussion --if we can call it that-- is one between Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber: you choose which is which. Donohue is a fringe neo-orthodox Catholic and Hitchens is a disrespectful neo-athiest who gives other non-believers a bad name.

But they do share one commonality: they are both rude strident know-it-alls.

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I've seen Dawkins be dogmatic any number of times. And commenters at Pharyngula, for example, are fairly rabid on the topic.

As far as I can tell atheism is for most a specific form of anti-christianity. Instead of saying "I don't know if there is a God" (agnosticism), or that it doesn't matter if there is, there is the affirmative statement of the nonexistence of the christian God: "There is no God". This is not a statement that can be proved on a scientific basis, which I thought was the alternative being promulgated (see negative, proof of a). If science is a faith, then it must not be a science. Or perhaps it's a dessert topping as well.

I've seen Dawkins be dogmatic any number of times.

Would you be kind enough to cite some specific examples.

J.D.'s comment above seems to nail it.

Anyone care to refute (without posturing)?

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Would you be kind enough to cite some specific examples.

What's the current standard for citing video? Do I give you URLs and time designations (for files that are available online), or is my assignment to transcribe the video so as to save you the hours of googling it up and independently evaluating it?

Look, when I assert an opinion, that's just what it is. Why don't you try participating in this discussion? Cite me an apposite case where he says or shows he's not dogmatic. Or make your own assertion about how he's not dogmatic because of such and such (extra points if you can evince a sympathy with the opposing viewpoint). Try using some mental bandwidth and we both might learn something.

I'd love to hear an argument, for example, that the concept that science is superior to religious belief is something that can be scientifically proved and not some kind of category error. Dawkins leaves the realm of science when he asserts (in The God Delusion) that it's meaningful to treat what he calls the God Hypothesis ("there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us") as a scientific hypothesis. It seems to me to be equally appropriate to consider his statement that you have to be stupid to believe in a God (in a video from CBC I find I downloaded from or via this very blog) as a scientific hypothesis -- at least that's falsifiable, and indeed it fails by any number of counterexamples.

Look, when I assert an opinion, that's just what it is.

What a copout. Don't be a coward and own up to your assertions by backing up your claims. This isn't a thesis paper, no one is requiring you to properly give a Reference page. Just post an article, video, something that backs up your claims. It's your burden of proof.

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Just post an article, video, something that backs up your claims.

Perhaps you stopped reading partway through my reply. I cited Dawkins' own words from The God Delusion and also from video I found here at this blog. Why don't you prove that neither of those exists.

It's your burden of proof.

And by your statement you prove that it's your burden of comprehension, judgment and tact, and that your prejudgment likely makes it de facto impossible for you to impartially consider any such evidence. Were you the only correspondent here I'd consider this the very definition of a waste of time.

Donahue called Hitch "buddy". Ha, can it be that these two are friends? They both support Bush and they both support the war so I guess they've met up. I hate both of them and i would love to hear Ritter or Sam Harris get it on with both.

Cite me an apposite case where he says or shows he's not dogmatic.

The following pops up easily if you google "Dawkins reply dogmatic":

He distiguishes between "scientific fundamentalism" and "scientific passion" here:

http://www.alternet.org/story/46566/?page=2

He says others are wrong to call him dogmatic here:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,634,My-critics-are-wrong-to-call-me-dogmatic,Richard-Dawkins

It is more difficult to find material in video or audio clips, but I've heard Dawkins answer the "fundamentalist" charge many times by replying that he may be as passionate as a fundamentalist, but it isn't passion that most distinguishes fundamentalism. More characteristically, it is the adherence to beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Now, I've heard Dawkins speak with the Bishop of Oxford and he doesn't speak with him as if he believes he is stupid, so I wonder if the claim you made concerning his having said :you have to be stupid to believe in a God" is an accurate rendering of his views. He didn't qualify his remark at all? Did he say that he thought the belief in God was stupid or did he say that any person who person who believes in God is stupid?

"There is no God". This is not a statement that can be proved on a scientific basis, which I thought was the alternative being promulgated (see negative, proof of a).

From StrongAtheism.com:

    Strong atheistic propositions do not imply certainty.

    To understand this, we need to understand the difference between a claim and the confidence we put on that claim. We can make claims about a great number of things, but the nature of the claim itself does not indicate how confident we are in it.

    To give a simple example, a fundamentalist Christian having a “crisis of faith” would maintain the claim that there is 100% chance that a god exists, while having less confidence in that proposition than he did before. His claim did not change: his confidence changed.

    Science also affirms a great number of universals. For instance, Newton’s law of gravity is a universal. The attraction between two masses is proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance: this equation is universal, it applies to all points of spacetime and all time (as long as the laws of physics exist, of course). Yet science is open to disproof or improvement of its laws and theories. And Newton’s law of gravity was indeed shown to be incomplete by Einstein’s General Relativity. So Newton’s law being universal did not make its confidence 100%: nothing in science, nor in rational thinking, is known with 100% confidence.

    By the same token, a proposition such as “there is no god” may be universal, but it does not demand certainty. It demands that we prove it as knowledge, just like any other claim of knowledge.

    ...

  • Aren’t universal negatives impossible to prove?


  • It is usually assumed that universal negatives cannot be proven. Indeed that is the main complaint heard about strong atheism: that it cannot by definition be proven, because it is a universal negative. Usually this is associated with a pretense of omniscience. The argument is that to say that something does not exist, one needs basically to “look” everywhere, thus be omniscient.

    But on the other hand, we know that no contradiction can exist, because of the laws of logic. But we can make up contradictory entities. For example, the expression “married bachelor”. A bachelor by definition cannot be married, therefore the expression is contradictory. When the term being used is contadictory, the universal negative is true automatically, like “There is no married bachelor”.

    All that is needed to prove such a negative is to show that the concept in question is meaningless or contradictory. For example, an argument often used against the existence of hypothetical gods is the Argument from Evil. In this case, the evidence is that a god must be omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent, and the fact that evil exists. We do not need to know everything to know that evil exists and compare this with a god’s infinite attributes, and yet it is sufficient to argue strong atheism, because it shows that gods are incompatible with our universe.

    Another means to prove a universal negative about the non-existence of X consists of finding a positive which opposes X. For instance, science disproved the existence of phlogiston by demonstrating the scientific fact that combustion is sparked by the existence of a substrate combined with oxygen, and therefore not by phlogiston.

    It is therefore basically a fallacy to say that universal negatives cannot be proven. Indeed that is the main role of logic: proving universal negatives to remove all contradictions from thought. It would be surprising if universal negatives couldn’t be proven.

    “There are actually two ways to prove the nonexistence of something. One way is to prove that it cannot exist because it leads to contradictions (e.g., square circles, married bachelors, etc.). The other way is, in the words of Keith Parsons, “by carefully looking and seeing.” This is how we can know that such things as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Abimonable Snowman, etc. do not exist.” -Jeffery Jay Lowder, in “Is a Proof of the Nonexistence of a God Even Possible?”

    In fact, the scientific method only admits for universal negatives – in science, you can only falsify something completely, not confirm it completely. Something is judged to be true because it stands to the test of falsifiability extensively enough to be unassailable. But failing one single test disqualifies a specific principle from being accepted.

This conversation reminds me of this Dawkins Q & A.

sorry about the cut-and-paste error...

As to the comment,

Instead of saying "I don't know if there is a God" (agnosticism), or that it doesn't matter if there is, there is the affirmative statement of the nonexistence of the christian God: "There is no God". This is not a statement that can be proved on a scientific basis, ...

... this is a line of argument that has been rehashed many times here and elsewhere. Very few who call themselves atheists who think that "there is no God" also believe that they can "prove" it. Rather, they subscribe to the Bertrand Russell 'celestial teapot' argument. This is basically a lead-in to Dawkins's (and Harris's) statements that we are all atheists with respect to Zeus and the spaghetti monster - and then to 'atheists just go one God further.'

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Tim, thanks for your response.

As for the CBC video (which is available here at http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2007/05/dawkinscbcint.html), he implies strongly that only stupid people are religious (starting about 9:45 in):

[in the context that in Congress all but one member are Christians, but that it may change] It is beyond belief that every single member of United States Senate, United States Congress, is, is, religious, of course they're not. At least some of them are intelligent, are educated, there's got to be some there.

He's even kind of gleeful about getting that one off, and the interviewer cautions him about his tone. It seems to me that his qualifiers, and not the lack of them, are the problem.

(I hope "believing in God" and "religious" are similar enough to support my paraphrase.)

There may be another one earlier, but I haven't had time to review the whole video.

I'm working on a response to your Alternet and RichardDawkins.net references, but Real Life calls and I may have to add them later.

Posted by: Dennis Savage | September 1, 2007 2:35 PM

Dawkins leaves the realm of science when he asserts (in The God Delusion) that it's meaningful to treat what he calls the God Hypothesis ("there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us") as a scientific hypothesis.

Why because you say so?

To assert that that god/s exist and created the universe is to make positive claims about the nature of the universe. There’s no reason that those claims can’t or shouldn’t be subjected to scientific scrutiny in exactly the same way that scientists investigate other claims about the nature of the universe.

Also we still await your specific examples of Dawkin’s be dogmatic.

"An Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks" -- what an astounding example of bigotry...
-- Dzwonka
it's only bigotry in that it only seeks to reverse...oh, say....seven or eight centuries of standard practice.
-- Adam Goldsztajn

So bigotry is okay, provided you belong to a group that has been oppressed in the past? Americans may freely engage in bigoted behavior against Englishmen? Australians vs. Brits? Scots vs. Brits? Norwegians vs. Danes? Brits vs. Norwegians?

Sorry to be so long-winded. I'm just getting the impression that telling people to go fuck themselves isn't considered kosher here anymore. Because, if it was, that's what I'd say -- I'd tell you to go fuck yourself, and not pollute this blog with your intellectually deficient shit anymore. Alas, I caint.

So it goes.

The Irish were the victums of alot of discrimination in early America, that is why they still strongly identify as Irish a hundred years later. They also closely relate their religion with their ethnic background.
-- Erick

Uh, ditto.

And that's as far as I read, in the comments.

I couldn't find the passage you've quoted in the Palkin interview, but then I couldn't get Norm's clip to play and I went to Palkin's web site and listened to it there - couldn't find it. Perhaps Palkin edited the clip, so for the sake of argument I'll accept that he said it somewhere, if not there. Let's look at the passage again:

Dawkins:

It is beyond belief that every single member of United States Senate, United States Congress, is, is, religious, of course they're not. At least some of them are intelligent, are educated, there's got to be some there.

Savage: He's even kind of gleeful about getting that one off, ...

Let's look at the definition of dogmatic:: inclined to accept a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Dawkin's isn't being dogmatic in the quoted passage - he is being disrespectful of religion, but he isn't being dogmatic. Indeed, in the Palkin interview he emphasizes his view that religion doesn't deserve any more special respect in public discourse than, say, political views.

I couldn't find the passage you've quoted in the Palkin interview, but then I couldn't get Norm's clip to play and I went to Palkin's web site and listened to it there - couldn't find it. Perhaps Palkin edited the clip, so for the sake of argument I'll accept that he said it somewhere, if not there. Let's look at the passage again:

Dawkins:

It is beyond belief that every single member of United States Senate, United States Congress, is, is, religious, of course they're not. At least some of them are intelligent, are educated, there's got to be some there.

Savage: He's even kind of gleeful about getting that one off, ...

Let's look at the definition of dogmatic:: inclined to accept a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Dawkins isn't being dogmatic in the quoted passage - he is being disrespectful of religion, but he isn't being dogmatic. Indeed, in the Palkin interview he emphasizes his view that religion doesn't deserve any more special respect in public discourse than, say, political views.

... and all this is why I don't call myself an atheist. After all this time theists and apologists can't get over the fact that "atheism" is not positively denying their precious sky fairy, but just coming to realize it's not needed, and living without bothering about it.

These guys "citing" Dawkins and others, they obviously haven't read him, or only picked and chose. Neither Dawkins nor any other prominent "atheist" ever said he's positively sure there's no god, just that it's not needed and the evidence for it is as weak as for other superstitions. What's so hard to understand about that? He even explicitly and unambiguously states so. So either the theists' comprehension skills are very low, or they are just being flat-out dishonest.

Oh, and...

Look, when I assert an opinion, that's just what it is. Why don't you try participating in this discussion? Cite me an apposite case where he says or shows he's not dogmatic.
This is risible. I'll provide you with that. When he says "Evolution happened", or how about when he says "I have a daugther" ...Your request is meaningless, unless what you're saying is that he's always dogmatic. You are the one who said something baseless, and then didn't provide evidence. This is the same as the theists' "oh yeah?, you prove god does not exist" intellecutally dishonest strategy. You're the ones stating nonsense without ANY shred of evidence.
Or make your own assertion about how he's not dogmatic because of such and such (extra points if you can evince a sympathy with the opposing viewpoint). Try using some mental bandwidth and we both might learn something.

I'd love to hear an argument, for example, that the concept that science is superior to religious belief is something that can be scientifically proved and not some kind of category error. Dawkins leaves the realm of science when he asserts (in The God Delusion) that it's meaningful to treat what he calls the God Hypothesis ("there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us") as a scientific hypothesis.

He doesn't say just that. You're misinterpreting, I hope unknowingly. What he does say, again, explicitly and unambiguously is that he's going after the personal god who most people believe in and makes miracles and cares personally about every one. Whenever something has an effect on nature it becomes a scientific question. No jerking around with vacuous pseudo-intellectual "theological" arguments. Theists are the ones making claims about god messing with nature. Whatever has an effect on nature, can fundamentally be measured.

It seems to me to be equally appropriate to consider his statement that you have to be stupid to believe in a God (in a video from CBC I find I downloaded from or via this very blog) as a scientific hypothesis -- at least that's falsifiable, and indeed it fails by any number of counterexamples.

Again, you're just picking and choosing. You forget to "cite" the part where he says you've got to be either dumb, lunatic, or ignorant. And that the great majority is because of ignorance. What's untrue about that? Religious people go to god for things they don't know, and has always been like that. Before all the scientific discoveries, people thought gods made it rain, blew the wind, made the creatures, up until now when the most "sophisticated" theologians put him in the big bang. God has always been where we don't know what happens. Isn't that the definition of ignorance? We are all ignorant in several degrees, and the difference is just in how we approach that ignorance. Some of us want to actually discover what happens, others just want to throw their hands and make up something about it that makes them feel nice (god).

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Thanks, andyo, for your response(s).

First, a general point.

People have gotten so used to the idea that religion must be immune to criticism that even a very mild and gentle criticism of religion comes across as angry and intolerant. That's yet another piece of consciousness raising that we've got to undertake.

That's Dawkins, from the Alternet reference I was given above. Now, what if two words were changed:

People have gotten so used to the idea that science must be immune to criticism that even a very mild and gentle criticism of science comes across as angry and intolerant.

Seems to me that may be a good description of the basis of your response.

Whenever something has an effect on nature it becomes a scientific question. No jerking around with vacuous pseudo-intellectual "theological" arguments. Theists are the ones making claims about god messing with nature. Whatever has an effect on nature, can fundamentally be measured.

I'm not sure your categories are fully worked out. From you statement you are asserting:

1) that a "god" can't be part of nature (there goes at least 50% of all religious worshippers on the planet)

2) that all "effects upon nature" can be measured in a scientifically meaningful manner

3) that anything that can't be measured that way is not scientifically meaningful

Okay. #1 speaks to me of the peculiar disembodiment of modern American life, where everything's just "dead matter" to be technologically manipulated by force of will. (You can usually pick this out by asking, "what's the difference between 'natural' and 'artificial'?" "Artificial" only has meaning if you think humanity is separate from nature.) By no means is this true only of atheists, most believers experience life this way as well.

2 looks to me like an assertion of faith. You can't prove it, you can only posit it as an axiom. There are many measurements made that aren't scientifically meaningful (because they aren't part of a controlled experiment), and thus in scientific terms mere anecdotes (the plural of which, as they say, is not data).

But #3 looks to me like an implicit definition of what science is, and I agree completely with it. My argument is that Dawkins (and by implication you since you're defending him is the same terms) is attempting to extend the use of his scientific tools beyond their justifiable limitations, something like attempting to build a car out of cheese using a nutcracker.

Again, you're just picking and choosing. You forget to "cite" the part where he says you've got to be either dumb, lunatic, or ignorant.

Hmmm. Let's go back to my cite, and use some simple analysis of English.

It is beyond belief that every single member of United States Senate, United States Congress, is, is, religious, of _course_ they're not. At least _some_ of them are intelligent, are educated, there's got to be _some_ there.

Okay, someone who isn't intelligent is what? Dumb. And someone who isn't educated is...ignorant. (I'm leaving out "lunatic" because that's your [somewhat revealing] paraphrase, and not part of mine, which was "you have to be stupid to believe in a god".)

He's saying that it's self-evident that there must be some non-believers in Congress, because, since there are intelligent and educated members, some of them must have seen through the delusion of belief. Evidently, it's a matter of faith to him that at least a percentage of intelligent, educated people are atheists. (And he's probably right.)

As for "picking and choosing," duh. You think that's not what you're doing?

God has always been where we don't know what happens. Isn't that the definition of ignorance? We are all ignorant in several degrees, and the difference is just in how we approach that ignorance. Some of us want to actually discover what happens, others just want to throw their hands and make up something about it that makes them feel nice (god).

Here's another cite of Dawkins, from his own website (as referred to above by Tim):

Scientists are working on these deep problems, honestly and patiently. Eventually they may be solved. Or they may be insoluble. We don't know.

He's willing to concede that there are problems that science can't solve, yet he believes that it can prove and has proven there is not a God. (Note that this has nothing to do with whether or not there really is a God, Odin or FSM, since his/its/their existence would presumably not depend on the beliefs of an obscure species on an obscure planet.) So he's saying it's not necessary to have complete knowledge of the Universe to know whether or not it has an ostensible creator, and indeed admits that such knowledge may never be possible. That looks like faith to me (or in your terms, something made up that makes you feel nice -- you know, that the universe is somehow meaningful). It's certainly not science.

You may also find it interesting that Dawkins suggested (at some CSICOP-related convention a couple years ago) that, in the event that someone passed Randi's famous million dollar challenge by showing supernatural powers, Randi could avoid paying by declaring that the claimant had proved the existence of something natural (but not fully understood) that would therefore not be supernatural. (Sorry, no online cites for this, though I could eventually find the printed article.)

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Sorry, this should have been a blockquote:

Whenever something has an effect on nature it becomes a scientific question. No jerking around with vacuous pseudo-intellectual "theological" arguments. Theists are the ones making claims about god messing with nature. Whatever has an effect on nature, can fundamentally be measured.
You may also find it interesting that Dawkins suggested (at some CSICOP-related convention a couple years ago) that, in the event that someone passed Randi's famous million dollar challenge by showing supernatural powers, Randi could avoid paying by declaring that the claimant had proved the existence of something natural (but not fully understood) that would therefore not be supernatural. (Sorry, no online cites for this, though I could eventually find the printed article.)

Link

The question is posed at around the 4:50 mark.

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"An Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks"

What the hell does that mean? Where do the rest of us fall? From this i gather that irish > english, but what about spaniards, americans, frenchman, etc.

Does anyone have a mnemotic trick for remembering the order? Something like Roy G. Biv for rainbow colors?

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