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Dr. House, "Rational arguments don't usually work for religious people, otherwise there would be no religious people."




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"finite, unmysterious universe"?

I've never heard that one before. It's usually, "you don't believe in anything except random!chance!chaos!"

I believe they are misrepresenting Mormon (or religious) ignorance of atheism. But I suppose there can be a few unique folks who have their own arguments. They're all straw men, anyway. What does it matter that atheists have to defend themselves against more left fielders?

I believe that this universe (and any possible others [eleven parallel universes if you believe the theories]) could, for all intents and purposes, be infinite, mysterious, random, chaotic, unordered, undetermined and ungoverned.

All of which only makes it, this planet and us, all the more special and beautiful.

This show is so brave. Taking on such a large and powerful group as the black Mormons. Whats next satanic hippies?

"Rational arguements don't ususally work on religious people, otherwise there would be no religious people"

Yep. Totally taking on Black Mormons.

If they really wanted to "take on" black mormons, he would have spent 2 minutes asking why the Mormons considered Blacks incapable of holding the preisthood until 1979, and still teach the doctorine that blackness is "the mark of cain".

Actually ... I think the fun begins when you stop believing what others have told you and start thinking for yourself. And social events as on Christmas etc are not the only reason why people need to gather. In fact "secular" gatherings are probably, on the whole, more fun! :)

And are they shitting us with that "finite, unmysterious universe" crap? The universe is finite and unmysterious for non-thinking religious people, not rational people. The infiniteness and mystery of the universe comes with a non-religious understanding of the universe, for god's sake!

Because religion always has to do with an individual's relationship with a higher power (thus associating that person with the higher power), the infiniteness and mystery of religion is always a reflection of the infiniteness of and self-obsession with that person's ego.

I think that an understanding of the smallness of the individual in the universe, and the connected absolute importance of the individual, can only come from secular thinking (for lack of a better term). Organized religion is all about associating with a higher power, not being one with the universe (to use that cliched phrase).

"Unmysterious"? Why is it necessary for the universe to suddenly become "unmysterious" when we remove "God" from the equation. It's an absurd proposition without logical justification.

Mysterious refers to what is not known--therefore it is a mystery. Without a god, we do not suddenly become aware of the entirety of the universe. Even the most brilliant minds have marveled at the enormity of the universe and what we do not know. A god is not necessary to keep that universe interesting.

I don't really understand what's going on in this clip - why are they in a hospital knocking back tequila shots?

I find it hard to take Hugh Laurie seriously with that terrible accent.

P.S. In the UK the supermarket chain Sainsbury's allows its Muslim employees to refuse to sell alcohol and morning after pills to its customers.

I think what each of you guys are touching about the illogical assumptions which are made of atheism.

For some reason, people just assume atheism means this or that, but we all know that atheism is by no means a philosophy nor is it a system of thought.

To be "atheist" really says nothing about what you do believe, but only states that you do not consider "God" or gods to be the substrate of all reality.

It's a peculiar thing for believers to face someone who says, "I'm an atheist," because atheists usually are unaware that "atheism" is a term which only bears content in the face of a theism. So let it be granted that assumptions of theism are not present: Well, now an atheist has said absolutely nothing. It really should be the job of atheists to properly explain what atheism is, and then go further to explain what they believe. After all this skulldrudgery, it is of utmost importance to explain even further that: Atheism is not humanism; Atheism is not spiritualism; Atheism is not Naturalism; Atheism is not Materialism, and so on.

Now these concepts are compatible with atheism, but they are by no means equivalent. For instance, Marx was an atheist because he was a materialist, but to attack him for his "atheism," which is what was predominately done, obscures the arguments for materialism, and it sets a potential for straw men arguments against atheists who are not materialists.

I think by "finite" a religious person might mean the generally held atheistic belief that there is no soul and that existence is limited to time spent in this body here on earth and that there is no more nothing at all afterwards end of story.

If, on the other hand, if you believe in the soul, whether the property of a second party or a soveriegn soul all your own, then you would not believe that life is finite.

Andy:

I find it hard to take Hugh Laurie seriously with that terrible accent.

Forgive me if your reference to UK supermarkets has misled me, but why oh why do I always and only hear Brits making this accusation? Dude, that is what Americans sound like. Hugh Laurie has probably the best standard American accent I've ever heard come out of an English mouth. For some reason you think we all sound like Texans, and you did long before President Chimpy came into power, so that's no excuse.

John Barrowman on Torchwood has a less convincing American accent, and he is American. In that case the dissonance is possibly a result of all the British expressions the writers put into his mouth, which come across sounding especially odd when he expresses things in a way no American would.

It's like how American viewers regularly thought the ranger Marcus on Babylon 5 had a terrible fake British accent, presumably because it wasn't a cockney caricature or something.

Or perhaps the problem is that you've had so much exposure to Laurie using his native accent that the difference is jarring. I know it surprised me.

"P.S. In the UK the supermarket chain Sainsbury's allows its Muslim employees to refuse to sell alcohol and morning after pills to its customers." Wow, you get liquor and the morning after pill in the same store, cool!

Dude, that is what Americans sound like. Hugh Laurie has probably the best standard American accent I've ever heard come out of an English mouth.

I agree. House had been on the air nearly a year before I learned that Hugh Laurie was British. His American accent is impeccable. I've never seen a British actor do a more convincing one.

Jamie Bamber on Battlestar Galactica also does a good American accent.

Mormons are a strange lot. They're friendly, generally upbeat and they smile a lot. But when you get to know them a little better, you notice this underlying struggle to always appear to be happy. To be in a bad mood, or be depressed is considered very un-Mormon-y.

It's like that Monty Python skit, "Happy Valley" where everyone were happy -- because those who weren't, were sentenced to be hung by the neck until they cheer up.

Hugh Laurie is a genius. And very brave -- as is House, although I'm not a big fan of the series.

Jamie Bamber on Battlestar Galactica also does a good American accent.

Oh, right. I'd forgotten Bamber. He fooled me, as Laurie would have done had I not known of him previously.

I grew up Mormon, and What struck me was how similar the cups that they were using to take tequila shots looked like the sacrament cup the Mormon use in their version of communion. (Actually at first, it confused me because it looked as though that's what they were doing: having sacrament.)

The writers know their stuff and made a thought-provoking episode, but they got lazy towards the end. The Mormons do not believe in a mysterious universe. In fact, this is what leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the mainstream religion (that and the fact that Mormons are quick to say they're the only true religion of Christ). It's what gets them banned from being an officially recognized 'Christian' religion. The Protestants and Catholics hold the strongest belief in a mysterious universe; the writers decided to rehash an old argument between the whole religion versus science for some reason,leaving behind the interesting particulars, the finer details, of Mormonism versus Atheism.

It's like that Monty Python skit, "Happy Valley" where everyone were happy -- because those who weren't, were sentenced to be hung by the neck until they cheer up.

Utah (home of the mormons)has some of the highest use/abuse of perscription drugs in the nation, and a fairly high suicide rate.

Utah (home of the mormons)has some of the highest use/abuse of perscription drugs in the nation, and a fairly high suicide rate.

Ennh. If I lived in Utah I'd probably take drugs too. Has nothing to do with being Mormon. The state is dull and depressing -- that's why Smith moved there; no one else wanted it.

The Mormons are pretty easy picking, I have to say, and I find a lot of what they say pretty loopy, but the problem with this scene and every scene like it is that House shows no compassion for the Mormon.

The fact is, if someone wants to be a Mormon, and wear the funny underwear, and believe in Smith's magic goggles and all they rest, then they have every right to believe and it's not House's or mine or anyone else business that they do. If someone wants to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then they have every right to do that.

What people don't have a right to do, I believe, whether they're rational athiests, Mormons, or Flying Spaghetti Monster-ists, is to tell someone ELSE what they should think. Which is what, more or less, House is doing in this scene. He's picking a fight, which is exactly what he'd be all up in arms about if a holy roller tried to tell HIM what to think.

Which is what, more or less, House is doing in this scene. He's picking a fight, which is exactly what he'd be all up in arms about if a holy roller tried to tell HIM what to think.

Quite the contrary, I think within the context of the show, House would respect the Mormon guy more if he did pick a fight and tell him what to think. The Mormon would get annihilated, of course, but that's the cost of being wrong.

Fact is, religious détente is comfortably expedient, but also incredibly hypocritical. Unless you're a Unitarian, you don't get to say it's an article of your faith that all viewpoints are valid, and if you are the other faiths generally think your institutionalized wishy-washiness makes you a bogus religion anyway.

I'm not myself saying I mind believers being incredibly hypocritical, but I do think you've misjudged that particular fictional character.

"I'm not myself saying I mind believers being incredibly hypocritical, but I do think you've misjudged that particular fictional character."

I don't actually know that character, only what I've glimpsed on this website from time to time. But the point of right or wrong is not relevant. Yes, it is true that if you believe in a monotheistic God you have to do some intellectual backflips to square this belief with the idea that everyone deserves their own set of ideas, no matter how contrary this is to what your holy text tells you is true.

But, the fact remains, it is no one else's job to tell you what you should believe. The point is not to finally find the one belief that EVERYONE must adhere to because it is so obviously right, to get that A+ on the test of life, the point is to lead a complete life, and if you can do that being Mormon - great; if you can do it being a Jew or Catholic or Muslim, fine also. That's your choice, and if you get there, who is anyone else to say you shouldn't have taken that route?

The proof is not so much in a supposed code of beliefs, the proof is in action. I know rationalists who are less rational that people who read Tarot Cards for a living. It cuts both ways.

I just wanted to let those who aren't regular watchers of House that this week's episode will have our atheist protagonist sticking a knife into an electrical outlet to give himself a near-death experience, simply because a patient who did the same makes the claim to have seen the afterlife.

I don't know about the rest of you godless rabble, but I feel slighted that the creators of the show would undercut the character in such a fundamental way. House didn't need to wear the magic underwear to recognize it as religious silliness... it is skepticism, especially toward personal revelation, which allows atheism. So to have one of the few atheist characters in mainstream media risking his life to test the claims of a delusional patient (especially when there are many medically valid explanations for his visions) seems to be taking a shot at the non-religious in general by portraying us as intellectually insecure.

I do not believe there are any medical explanations for the feeling of transcendent love and the choice to die or go on living that those who have near-death experience almost universally recount. Bright light, yes, but not, to my knowledge, love and choice.

In fact, if one is really dead set on evidence, the ONLY evidence, which are near-death experiences, would point to what Werhner von Braun describes as "the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."

I have never had one myself, but I know two people who have, both of whom are confirmed atheists, and neither of whom had anything to gain from claiming to have experienced something other than a void when they were physically dead. I'm not saying it PROVES anything, but there is certainly no PROOF that there isn't continuity.

Dude, that is what Americans sound like. Hugh Laurie has probably the best standard American accent I've ever heard come out of an English mouth.

I agree completely. I didn't know Hugh Laurie before House and I assumed he was an American before I learned differently. Andy - what American sounds "typical" to you? Having lived in Seattle, up-state NY, Chicago, and Iowa before the last twenty years in Texas, I can tell you Hugh Laurie's accent falls well within the range of "normal" Americans.

I didn't know Hugh Laurie before House and I assumed he was an American before I learned differently.

Same here. Not every American is going to have the same accent, but in the west of the country we tend to have a more "neutral" accent in terms of how our pronunciation matches with the phonemes designated with the words found in the American dictionaries.

Actually, he'll need two knives, won't he? Or a bent up fork.

I'm not saying it PROVES anything, but there is certainly no PROOF that there isn't continuity.
-- Bill

Oh for fuck sakes, how many times are we going to have these intellectually retarded opinions voiced here?

There is certainly no PROOF that there isn't a teapot in orbit around the sun. You cannot prove a negative. This is really, really, really basic stuff...

And this other rubbish you're spouting -- about not telling people what to think: Of COURSE we can! If you think it's a great idea to piss on an electric cow fence, fuck your sister, murder your brother, and that John Edward can talk to your dead relatives, then you're a fucking dumbass. And you need to be told so.

You're squandering your capacity for intellectually sound thoughts on nonsense. And that's not good for you, or anyone else.

You cannot prove a negative.

Univeral Negatives

@ the Universal Negatives link:

The first little paragraph says that you can prove a negative by saying the postive exists, and that the opposite cannot exist in the same rules.

That's not proving a negative. It's proving that an opposite of a positive does not exist, which is quite the difference.

I can show you the math that shows how a giant building sized spider doesn't exist, and cannot exist, which proves it's lack of being, but i'd dare you to show me the math that shows an otherworldly, trans-dimensional, non-physical, shapeshifting, all powerful, all knowing, everywhere at once, within everyone, untouchable, unmeasureable being.

I can show the probability of such a creature being close to nil, but i cannot prove it's non-existance, nor should I have to. It is the burden of the knee benders to prove he exists, which they still have not done.

@Dzwonka's response.

Even though your response didn't - at first glance - further the argument Erick was either trying to make or being a ass about (for suggesting such a lame proposition about Universal negatives), I must say your response was just mmmuuaahh! brilliant. I just couldn't help laughing out loud.

I do not know how to block a quote in gray so I will have to respond to being - I think it was intellectualy retarded - without them.

My point was about what Wherner von Braun, said, which is this, in its entirety:

"Nature does not know extinction, only transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, stengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."

This is what Thomas Pynchon - another intellectual retard, I suppose - quoted to start Gravity's Rainbow.

And you see, I wasn't trying to prove a negative. I was pointing out that the only EXPERIENCES reported after the death of a body would suggest that life in some form other than what we have here now. I wasn't asking you to believe in a magic tea pot in the sky. I am saying that if your requirement is proof, then you would probably be intersted in near-death experiences, as that is the closest we've got.

Unless, of course, the results of near-deat experiences validated something you did not want to be true. Then you would do everything in your power to if not disprove them, becuase you couldn't of course, but simply to discount them until you had one of your own.

As for telling people what to think - I know people tell each other what to think all the time. That's not the point. The point is there is no pre-prescribed route to a fulfilled life. Everyone has there own. And so you if you want the right to choose YOUR own, then you cannot, at the same time, tell someone else how there's won't work. I mean, you CAN, but if you do, then you are admitting that other people should be told how to live their lives, yourself included. Who would you allow to tell you how to live your life?

The experiences to which you refer demonstrate nothing of the sort. You have conveniently neglected the "near" in your near-death experiences. Our notion of what constitutes death has changed radically in recent years. We no longer consider "clinical" death (cessation of pulse and respiration) to be death, per se. The brain still operates, albeit in a rapid decline of coherent functionality.

Experiments during the 90s successfully replicated the phenomena of a near-death experience using Ketamine. For that matter, experiments in the induced breakdown of artificial neural networks produce results measurably analogous to many reported features of NDEs.

There is no simply no reason to infer "life in some other form than what we have here now" once the physical processes of your body cease. If that's the closest we've got, then we don't have much.

Unless, of course, serious research into the causes of near-death experiences fail to support something you want to be true. Then you would simply ignore them or find some other thin reed of hope that your mystical beliefs are real.

Did the experiments replicate the experience of love and of choice or only of light?

I do not know how to block a quote in gray so I will have to respond to being - I think it was intellectualy retarded - without them.
Well first off, I never called you intellectually retarded. I called your argument intellectually retarded. Not that I follow the site's commenting policy any closer than anyone else, but the former ain't kosher -- the latter is. Not that I mind personal attacks of course -- as long as I'm allowed to return the favor... That being said, if you can't figure out how to do a simple block quote, you're not coming across as an intellectual titan here, dude...

The issue of a near-death experience is just yet another of the endless straws that the superstitious grasp at, saying "Science cannot explain it, therefore it must be supernatural."

Fire was undoubtedly another. And we know for a fact that lightning was one. Eclipses. Comets. Earthquakes. It permeates our culture to such an extent that natural disasters are still to this day, referred to as "an act of God."

This is the argument of the religious: "Science cannot explain everything, and that which you cannot explain, is our God." The counter argument is brilliant, and simple: "We are explaining more and more, every day -- and every day, your gods grows smaller."

To add to Gelf's excellent post, I know that some pilots who have undergone high-G training have experienced everything described in these "near death experiences." It's just a matter of being under extreme stress, and losing consciousness.

@cirano -- thank you. I don't care much for single-line posts like that.

I am not arguing against science. Nowhere in anything I have written on this post have I argued that mysticism should replace science. Science can explain a great many things, and will continue to explain even more.

As for personal attacks, that is only an expression of your own fears of what that contrasting opinion might mean about life. It is the same with religious zealots. If you know you are right and God is on your side, why attack those who think otherwise? Anyway, by insulting me it does not mean my opinion is right, it just means you are afraid it might be. You are hoping to cancel something that opposes you without considering it by using insults because you cannot argue with an insult - you provide no proof, it's just, You are a moron, and then the name calling devolves to a "No, I'm not," "Yes, you are" school yard back and forth. If you are happiest on the school yard, so be it.

Lastly on the NDE, all I have written is that the closest we have to an experience of what might follow "death" are these NDEs. That is all. I am curious about death, and so I have looked into it. I have not heard of any experiment that replicates not only the light but also love and choice.

But perhaps it is all so much hooey. I am still alive - I cannot say for sure. Perhaps there is only the great void once the brain ends its circuit. But how, I ask you, how is science going to explore what awaits us after death, be it something or nothing? Will science kill someone and bring them back and ask them? I am not arguing against science, I just think this one is beyond their logical ken.

And that is fine. Science is marvelous, but hardly the be all and end all of human existence. There is also philosophy and psychology and poetry and music and all the other avenues we humans choose to understand how best to lead this life, and IF - and I say IF - it is possible that life is a choice, is not mearly the great unwinding of a Newtonian coil, if life is in fact original and creative and not some dry mechanical, mathematical response to the whipcrack of evolution, well then, I don't know that that is anything to be worried about.

And if that makes me a mystic, then I am a mystic.

...The counter argument is brilliant, and simple: "We are explaining more and more, every day -- and every day, your gods grows smaller."...


I think it would be apt to add "..and there seems to be a tendency to cling to the few imaginary gods you have left, a little harder than you did when these fairy tales weren't questioned."

As Mike Shermer put it on one of the episodes of P&T's Bullshit "..Smart people are very good at justifying things they've come to believe for non-smart reasons"

It's not that Hugh Laurie does a bad American accent. It's a good American accent - but to those of us used to his British accent, he sounds SO wrong.

Laurie's accent is excellent, but I know of one other amazing British actor who did a great American accent -- not as subtle as Laurie's, but it wasn't supposed to be...

I highly recommend Gary Oldman as Buford Hill in "Nobody's Baby."

If you want to hear a Brit with a great American accent I suggest "Velvet Goldmine"

At maximum volume.

As for NDE: Bill, before you post any more, try reading up on the current research.

Bill:

Hey look, science can recreate god using a helmet.

http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=434D7C62-E7F2-99DF-37CC9814533B90D7

Oh and people who have NDE are more likely to mistake being awake and asleep:

http://www.livescience.com/health/060411neardeath.html

Also, I can't find the link, but they have recently made it so you can have out of body experiences by virtual reality.

Music is only the pleasure your mind gets from matching patterns and anticipating the pattern.

People who have a higher propensity for patterns enjoy more complex music, often heavy metal or classical, depending on your age.

None of the science "discounts" music, but you feel that it should stay "mysterious" to be worth anything. I've got news for you; Love is only a sequence of synapses firing off in your brain, and is a completely chemical process, no hocus pocus involved. And isn't it more beautiful knowing how it works?

Ignorance should never be desired.

May I recommend Richard Dawkins - Unweaving the Rainbow for more information on this subject.

Willey - it took me a long time to figure it out, but Norm left us a few clues to make posting a link very easy.

Put a [ and ] around the text you want linked and immediately follow it with ( and ) containing the web address you want to link.

more

Ah, text formatting. Foiled again by those meddling tags.

Yeah, but if i formatted or proofread, they would take away my "blog commentor" membership.

Which reminds me, Norm, You cannot "preview" posts anymore, because the Preview page still looks for the captcha, but it doesn't generate one. FYI.

Wow, great comments, Willey, Bill, etc.! I should learn to type.

Utah, it's southeastern corner, is paradise on earth, Edward Abbey country. Stay away! My favorite town in the whole world is Cisco (Go ahead, Google-earth it. My favorite holiday is Halloween, do Mormon's do Halloween?). It would indeed be good news if all cities were as Cisco is.

Mormons do do Halloween.

Perhaps Psychobunny is correct: I been a fan of the Black Adder series for several years now, and I think Laurie's affected accent is adequate at best.

Yeah, but House once included global warming in a list of hoaxes. I have this theory that "House" is a Rupert Murdoch plot to create a hero the same build as Bush to break all the rules and have us cheering him on. This creates in the viewer of this narrative the desire for someone who will sweep all laws aside to save us. Hmm. Paranoid? A few years ago, I would have thought so.

Hidious accent, I don't think so. I'm English and I was gob smacked at the job Laurie does with his accent.

Seriously, if you watch "A bit of fry and laurie" or "blackadder" or dozens of other great shows hes been in you have to marvel at the guys talent.

The other English guy who I can honestly say does a masterful job of an American accent (to the point of you not being able to tell) is Dominic West from HBO's The Wire. Who believe it or not is actually from Sheffield / Yorkshire / England.

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