Thursday, August 23, 2012

Invisible Sky-Dice

I wrote early this morning about an atheist commenter's use of the really cool phrase Invisible Sky-Man.  That's such a poetic phrase, and it really hits the spot.

It makes the believer pause for just a moment and say, "Wait a minute.  My God is invisible and He does dwell in heaven, which is kind of like the sky, and He very well may be simply a projection of my own humanity onto the blank canvas of the cosmos.  Invisible Sky-Man is apt indeed.  What I have been thinking all these years?!"

But the only reason this phrase works at all is how far we've fallen from reasoned discourse to mere sloganeering.

Take the case of other slogans - Right to Work, for example, is a catchy slogan used as a union-busting tool.  A right to work must be a good thing - and if unions oppose this basic human dignity, unions must be a cause of great evil. 

Right to Die is even better.  It glosses over all the ugly details of killing those who have no say in the matter - like Terry Schiavo - and it asserts at the very least a right to kill one's self, which is surely a "right", but not one most people would endorse.  For instance, if instead of saying Right to Die, the phrase was, Go Ahead and Jump Off a Bridge and Kill Yourself and Thereby Exercise a Basic Human Liberty, the "right to die" would have fewer supporters.

So with Invisible Sky-Man. 

I pointed out in my previous post that the very word "invisible" is telling, for it implies that things that cannot be seen are less real than things that can.  The microscopic cause of the Black Death (namely Yersinia pestis) could not be seen when it decimated Europe in the Middle Ages, but of course it was quite real despite being invisible to the naked eye.  Even today, things like energy and force cannot be seen.  Gravity cannot be seen.  Love cannot be seen.  Thinking cannot be seen (and for some people cannot be done).  So invisible as a derogatory slap in the face is a rather weak one.

But in this post I want my readers to try on a new phrase I invented, which is actually a pretty good one. 

Invisible Sky-Dice.

The next time an atheist mocks you for believing in an Invisible Sky-Man, you could either point out that He became visible and walked among us and everything has been a wee bit different since then; or you could be just as nasty and say, "Well at least I don't believe in Invisible Sky-Dice."  You could go on - "A giant pair of Invisible Sky-Dice dangling from the galactic rear-view mirror, fuzzy and tacky and forcing me and my loved ones into an existential game of Cosmic Craps." 

And then you could explain.  "You accuse me of worshipping an unseen anthropomorphic projection that I call God.  Perhaps I do.  But what do you worship?  You worship something even more outlandish.  You worship mere Chance, as if the random bumping together of bits of matter had any kind of meaning.  Indeed, in your more lucid moments, you acknowledge that meaning is an illusion, the kind of thing weaker people project onto the heavens in their sad and pathetic false hope.  And you admit that Chance can have neither meaning nor design.  In fact, Chance by definition is the absence of intention; it is something that happens without anybody or anything making it happen; it is quite literally nothing.  Chance is not an agent, Chance can do nothing.  Chance is our word for things that just happen, either with a cause that we cannot determine, or with no cause at all.  Dice are the perfect symbol for this.  And in your world, the dice rule.  In your world, everything is random and nothing is intentional and all pattern and meaning we perceive is but our own hunger for pattern and meaning thrust onto a universe that includes neither.  I grant you your Chance, but I point out that your Chance is just as invisible as my Sky-Man.  The role of the dice might demonstrate something random called Chance, but this thing you call Chance cannot be seen; its effects can, but it cannot - kind of like God.  Likewise, all of biology from the point of view of a metaphysician might demonstrate design, but the design itself cannot be seen.  Like love or gravity it's not a "thing", it's not a "material" thing; gravitons might be material, but the force they convey is not material.  Love is utterly immaterial, though its effects are visible all around you.  And Chance is the same.  You worship Chance - an invisible pair of dice.  You enthrone this Chance above all creation.  You quite literally bow down before Invisible Sky-Dice."

And then you could go on to add the part about tacky and fuzzy and Cosmic Craps.

This is, of course, no direct argument for God, but it is at least the unpacking of a slogan that more aptly fits the materialist-atheist 20-year-old at Starbuck's, who's hopping on the wi fi as he sips his five-dollar latte, hoping to denude you of your medieval illusions. 

And it goes by the principle of another slogan - What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The chance/randomness theory is also "interesting" because it essentially involves stating that there is enough chance occurrence observed to form a basic principle from it. But, if there is a sufficient pattern then it is not truly random. In other words, chance is the order of things, is the fixed principle, which means it really isn't true randomness, now.

Anonymous said...

First off I just want to point out the first comment is hilariously incoherent.

Secondly, as an atheist and a materialist, I would like to reveal the straw men you're burning beneath your characteristic layers of inanely repetitious phrasing, middle-school metaphors, and of course, much Capitalizing of the Abstract.

The first straw man is the God of Chance. No serious scientist, philosopher, or educated atheist believes that 'chance' is an explanation, for anything, at all. While skeptics are probably more likely to make use of the methods of probability or statistics in an argument, this is largely because they are a universally accepted means of mathematical induction on large groups of data. Claiming 'chance' as an explanation makes just as much sense as claiming 'God' as an explanation - both simply refer to the unexplainable.

Now, whether or not there are fundamentally unexplainable aspects of our universe is THE question of science. Greater minds than yours have tried to prove that "God does not play dice with the universe," and it turns out there might be methods of investigating that claim scientifically (explore the wonders of Bell's Inequality), but those experiments are extremely tricky and require the marking and recording of individual photons. So you'll forgive them if it's taken a while.

The second straw man, and to me the far more important one to expose, is that skeptics or atheists worship anything at all. As far as I'm concerned, and I know most educated atheists would agree, the whole idea of 'worship' is largely what we stand opposed to - that we should bend our wills, our reasons, or lives to anyone or anything simply out of faith or divine right; that there are concepts above inquiry or beyond reason; that any one group of people is above any other. These are all inherently religious concepts, and while you can tout your sophomoric line that atheism is just a religion since 'they're all faith positions' anyway, I'd appreciate it much more if for once you practiced what you preached and chose reasoned logic above vitriolic, hurtful rhetoric. Seriously. This blog has been going for years, with many a derogatory bite at atheists, 'pagans,' 'drug addicts' and other assorted 'freaks,' as well as a number of arguments quoted and linked from various Catholic sources. Not once is a credible argument from a serious public atheist examined, analyzed, or debated at any length.

Please stop adding hatred to the internet in the name of truth and reason, and start explaining the science you are so eager to place limits on.
("namely Yersinia pestis"... how typical of a catholic. "if we say it in latin, it's got to be scientific")

IronDonkey said...

To the second Anonymous:

As a materialist, you have two options: Things are entirely deterministic, or there is some randomness. Given that modern science tends to think that there is probably some randomness inherent in the laws of nature, most people go with option 2. If, however, you go with option 1, then we can say that you worship your invisible sky calculator, and, if you have no point of view, then we can say that you worship your invisible sky calculator that may or may not have a random button.

As for your random attack on the concept of "worship" - clearly you have no idea what we mean by the word. Whether or not you feel it necessary to bow down to or sing songs about your invisible sky calculator is up to you, but the truth is that as a materialist you recognize that it is the fundamental driving force of everything. Will the sun blow up this year? Nope, invisible sky calculator says it has a long time left. Will life be on some other planet? Check the sky calculator. Is there meaning to life? Well, the Sky Calculator has no way of causing meaning, and since it is the fundamental standard of everything from which all things flow, there can be no meaning.

Now to be fair, we Christians also trust the Invisible Sky Calculator. We just don't see it as fundamental.

hurrrrrrrdurrrr said...

Why do the heathen rage?

Anonymous said...

I'm going against my better judgement, and responding to the Iron Donkey, mainly because in true Christian fashion he is not responding at all to what was said, most likely because it was misunderstood.

It's obvious you misunderstood my points on chance, since I myself fall into your "option 2," and therefore, apparently by your argument, you cannot accuse me of worshiping a sky calculator. I believe there are most likely aspects of the universe that are forever hidden to human science,. The experimentation that has been done around Bell's Inequality (to determine if there is inherent randomness to our universe, or if some version of hidden variable theory might be possible) indicates as such, as do most interpretations of quantum mechanics. But again this is incredibly precise, incredibly cutting edge science. Results are shakey at best. And if we do encounter a limit to our inquiry, we might not even be able to understand whether this limit is "fundamental," or whether it is a limit of uniquely human nature owing to our size, chemical composition, or something even more bizarre. This is why I repeat, with some extreme emphasis, that chance is not an explanation for anything, because chance as you have defined it is not real.

The Oxford English Dictionary, an acceptable standard, I believe, defines worship as such: "To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies." The first three results from dictionary.com, if you want something more populist, all mention either God himself, ceremony, or adoration. So excuse me if I am unfamiliar with however you are describing it, but I feel strongly that Kevin would agree with me when I say worship is usually taken to connote subservience and adoration at least, if not self-humiliation. Not only is worship an inappropriate term for my feelings toward the scientific process, I believe you misrepresent the nature of science. It is not a giant clock to be checked and measured. It is a living, evolving process, involving many component parts and theories designed to be the most rigorous standard of truth available. It is not something to be worshiped, it is a tool to be used to interrogate nature. This kind of relationship is completely alien to the relationship a Christian believes he or she has with god.

Anonymous said...

As a materialist I strongly suspect that there IS no 'fundamental driving force of everything', and if there is, it's probably related to entropy, which again while relying heavily on probability and statistics, is an actual explanation of physical processes, that makes extremely accurate predictions for reality and has allowed us vastly improve our daily lives (far more than can be said for Invisible Sky Man). It is not, under any circumstances, anything related to chance, because chance as you have described it is as real as God, and we would be massively hypocritical for suggesting such things. It's not different from intelligent design - it doesn't explain the situation, it just pushes the doubt around.

Also, I do not believe there is any "meaning" to life, in the sense I'm sure you mean. "Meaning" is a "word," which were made up by human beings relatively late in their development. And since human beings are one of the universe's more recent developments, far as we can tell, it's childish to an asinine degree to expect the universe at large to conform to our language, which was evolved to describe things of our scale, that interacted with us on a daily basis, on a practical level. If there is something like a 'meaning' of life or a 'fundamental driving force' or a 'God,' I probably won't be able to understand it and you won't, either. But you and I and Mr. O'Brien and all the other apes with shoes can all have meanings, and things can have meanings to us, without us mattering a shit in the greater scheme of the universe.

I have absolutely no idea what you mean by your closing line. I feel the ISC and your God are incompatible, or at least redundant.

I hope this has cleared things up. Challenge yourselves - go find a prominent atheist, or any educated atheist, writing or doing anything that resembles "worshiping chance." Or worshiping in general.

Why do the Catholic argue like a pissed off sixth grader?

MDT said...

"But you and I and Mr. O'Brien and all the other apes with shoes can all have meanings, and things can have meanings to us, without us mattering a shit in the greater scheme of the universe."
Why do you degrade yourself with such fervor?

Anonymous said...

"Why do you degrade yourself with such fervor?"

Ok, the other anonymous is doing just fine on his own, but I'm taking this. See we come from a world where "ape with shoes" is an incredibly uplifting statement. We accept the obvious fact that we are mere animals living on a small planet in an insignificant star system in a much larger galaxy that is negligible compared to the entire universe. The fact that conscious life has evolved on this insignificant planet is AMAZING. The fact that we can talk to each other and have sex and play football is absolutely, mindblowingly incredible. It is beautiful to look at yourself as an animal created by nature. What is degrading is to believe that Invisible Sky Man created you with his mind to live in a largely painful existence that is a test to see if you get to hang out with him later. That's slavery. We are proposing that we are not slaves to anyone. We are free, which means that we must rely on each other to maintain order and morality. We are the process of 14 billion years of chemical evolution. We take pride in it. It's almost spiritual (metaphorically!).

IronDonkey said...

To the same Anonymous I addressed last time:

Dice or Calculator is really a silly argument to have. In either case the result is much the same. I will use the two more or less interchangeably, though I think a calculator with a built in set of dice may be slightly more accurate of the common materialistic attitude. The question of how much is random and how much is determined, even if it's 100% one way or the other, does not really make much difference in regards to this discussion though.

Forgive me for some slight repetition here, but to emphasize: As a materialist, all there is is the material. All explanations are material. All questions can be answered either by running the numbers or waiting for the dice to fall. The fact that we ourselves may not be able to run the numbers is immaterial - after all we don't really exist as people as such, so what do our capabilities matter?

It does not matter that you don't see science as stagnant. You say that chance as I have defined it is not real, but I have left the matter open. Chance, hidden causes, some system so complex we cannot even begin to imagine just turning out results - it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that our understanding is incomplete, or that what we call science, which is really just our attempt to understand this mechanism that is in place quiet independently of us (for remember, we are nothing, what does the universe care if we know what is going on?), is constantly evolving. That just means we're not finished figuring it out yet. And if we can never finish figuring it out, if there are things that will always be hidden from us, then that just means we're stupid and we haven't figured it out yet and possibly can't. It's still the calculator and the dice, and if we can't figure out how the calculator works, or figure out what rules if any influence how the dice will fall, or even if we figure it all out perfectly, it's still just the calculator and the dice.

As for what you mean by worship - well perhaps you could put it that way. But the ceremonies, the subservience, and all that is a secondary attribute. Those are the symptoms rather than the disease, if you will. You may see a person sneezing and say he has a cold, but it isn't the sneezing that is the cold. It is, of course, just semantics, but let me get to the heart of the point I was trying to make:

The idea of Christian worship, at least as I understand it, is best rooted in the Exodus revelation: Moses asks God for His name, and God replies "I Am Who Am", which could perhaps be rephrased "I am that which is".

That's more than telling Moses to stop asking stupid questions, and it's not just a cryptic remark meant to sound nice. It is God saying that He is the fundamental source of everything. He is the sheer act of being itself. He is the source, measure, beginning, and end of all things. This fact is at the basis of the Churches and the ceremonies and the bowing and the altars. All of that is just our somewhat pitiful way of trying to recognize who He is, how He relates to us, and what that means. The root cause though, is Who He Is, and He is He "Who IS".

But if you prefer to call the symptoms the worship rather than the cause of it, I won't fight over word choice. It doesn't really matter.

But as a materialist, you put the calculator and the dice in the same place we put God. Different symptoms, but same root position. Everything depends only on them, whether we know how they work or not. Your beginning and your end are ordered by the dice. If you choose not to bow to them physically, you surely do mentally, because by the very fact that you describe yourself as a materialist you are saying that there is nothing beyond the material, nothing beyond the reach of the dice, and no thought that tries to address anything that would have to beyond such reach can be valid.

Bow physically or not as you will. There is no God and life is absurd. It makes no more difference than anything else.

Angry Jason said...

If you give chance enough time, nothing will create everything. Just you watch :)

Anonymous3 said...

All of the discussions of "chance" so far have been off-base. The issue is not what degree of randomness exists in the universe. If the universe is entirely deterministic then that determinism is according to some prior principle. If there is ANY non-randomness in the universe, then there is a principle determining the amount of non-randomness in the phenomenon of the universe. If the standard model of particle physics, or the standard cosmological model, determine the action of higher order phenomenon, then they are not principles. At their root, even "behind" Higgs bosons or some other postulated or discovered elemental particle or force, must be a principle that serves as the cause "being" Higgs, or whatever force, particle or law is at issue.

Science measures phenomenon, and scientific laws are deduced from the phenomenon. Science cannot directly see the principles, only the effects. So, while chance or determinism (the effects of the prior and underlying principles) is a scientific or phenomenological question, the principles are by their nature a philosophical question. Ultimately one ends up agreeing either with Stephen Hawking and the self-caused universe of his M theory (Sky Calculator), or some other kindred philosophy, or believing in a Supreme Cause, whether Aristotle’s philosophical First Cause or the God of Judeo-Christian revelation.

Anonymous said...

I will make one last reply to Mr. Ferrous Ass, since he has proven to a far less interesting intellectual opponent than I'd hoped; and my original intent was to stir the blog creator, who is far more content to continue on in his inter-Christian echo chamber.

First off, Mr. Donkey, no one is arguing about your diction (calculator/dice) except you. As far as I'm concerned what you call it is your own choice, as neither of them work as particularly well as a metaphor, but I've stopped expecting those from Christians.

Secondly, if you are going to try showing that you're opponents' views lead to absurd conclusions you need to understand your opponents' views. I do believe in some inherent randomness, as I've been trying to get you to understand for several posts now. I also believe that the scientific method can lead to models that allow us to accurately predict things, anyway. For a massively glaring example you're using right now to read this, quantum mechanics is a highly accurate, probabilistic system. I guess you could call these models "calculators," and since they have no obvious physical components outside of our brains they can also be considered "invisible," as far as I am concerned. SO if that is the sense in which you believe I "worship an invisible sky calculator/dice/god," then yes, I do in fact believe that the scientific method produces models that we can rely on to make predictions. I don't think you'd be as brazen as to disagree with that. But to compare that relationship with how Christians, or how any real religion, views their God? Sir, you are trying to square a circle. It's laughable that you'd quote the Hebrew Bible to affirm any kind of relationship with God other than fear, subservience, and subjugation. A much better example of worship is Abraham being called and willing to sacrifice his own son for the sake of his relationship with God. Maybe we both 'worship.' But I do not love, fear, adulate, revere, or design pomp and circumstance around science. If you do not love, fear, adulate, or revere your God, then yes, you can use the same word in both situations. I also don't think it is "better" than me (seriously, tell me you think you're god's equal). Only in the utterly narrow (and grossly inacurate by anyone else's standards) definition of worship meaning 'to place or accept as fundamental or universal' are we both worshiping something here. Seriously, think about this for two seconds. We are not the same. If you feel the same way about God that I do about either science or the theories it unveils, you are not a good Christian. If you have any kind of evidence supporting your definition of worship, go for it, captain. But again, this is of course, all semantics.

And for the last time HUMAN BEINGS give meaning to things. If it means something to you, it has meaning. It might be different from the "meaning" it has for me, or Mr. O'Brien, and we might not eve have a truly objective or critical way of comparing these meanings. They could be entirely situation dependent. Stop being so arrogant as to look for personal meanings in everyone's universe. The idea that we need a god to have meaning is presuppositionalism, and you will find yourself in great philosophical company should you take that world-view.

Anonymous said...

Basically, what you are trying to say is that I believe there is only predictable matter, which means life has no meaning, and that I do in fact worship this matter. As I hope to have done, the idea that I am worshiping anything by an acceptable definition of worship is asinine and wholly antithetical to the skeptical fallibilist paradigm. I am in fact a materialist, so I guess I do admit the first charge. We are all insanely complex but still probably predictable matter, there is no greater teleological meaning to our existence (that we are ever likely to understand in a meaningful way), and we are completely free to decide what things mean to us. Now Mr. O'Brien and others will call this "moral relativism," which he loves dearly. I myself am perfectly fine with this, for many reasons I won't go into.

But since my challenges to you to actually find an instance of an atheist worshiping, as I could go find hundreds of thousands of millions of photos, videos, recordings, etc of bizarrely dressed yahoos parading around a giant "t" while chanting none sense.

My goal here was the raising of pertinent issues involving the quality of this blog, not to draw the babblings of some first year philosophy student with horrible taste in handles.

The Heathen Rages On

Joey Higgins said...

It glosses over all the ugly details of killing those who have no say in the matter - like Terry Schiavo

I will probably always have difficulty understanding how it is ethical to stop giving someone food and water - even if they cannot eat it themselves. Even if the person would never wake up - starvation of a being because we don't want to take care of them seems - wrong.

The number of people who came out that claimed starvation was a euphoric experience didn't really change the meaning to it, either.

IronDonkey said...

To the anonymous poster who thinks that rudeness is cool:

Clearly, you are not following what I am saying. We speak different languages. Our words mean different things. Therefore, we must define what our words mean, and stick by them.

You are using the very common and very predictable method of argument by pretending my words mean whatever naive simplistic impressions you have of those words, and therefore arguing against those impressions. But let me address your two points, and I will be as clear as I can:

1) The reason for the messing with the terms "dice" and "calculator" is because you seemed to think that the degree to which chance played any role or some other aspect of science was actually important to this discussion. It is not. All of your discussion about the nature of physics is as useful as the distinction between dice and calculator, ie not at all. That was the point. You got the second half but missed the connection.

2) I don't give a ratus' donkey (see what I did there? almost as clever as yours) whether or not you or any other atheist ever participates in any ceremony or what you think of Christian ones.

My point, which you have kept on ignoring or protesting by saying "but I don't worship anything11!!1" is simply this: that place in our understanding of things where we have God, you have the physical order. Not science as we understand it now, even you admit that that's not complete. But that the physical is all and all is physical. If you don't believe that then you're not a materialist.

Since meaning and the like can't come from the physical, then if all there is is physical then there is no meaning. If you don't like this, tough. Read some of your own classical atheists, they had it figured out. It's only recently that people have started pretending that they can have meaning because they really, really want it to be there.

Call it proto-worship if it makes you happier. Our treatment of God is a direct consequence of the fact that we view Him as a sort of First Principle of everything. Obviously, if you put something else in that spot you will have different reactions. But it's still the same spot.

3) And finally, to quote a rather wise anonymous poster I argued with on a post about invisible sky dice once, "if you are going to try showing that you're opponents' views lead to absurd conclusions you need to understand your opponents' views." You have so far demonstrated zero understanding of anything that has been said, by me or by the author of the blog post. Get past that, and we might be able to discuss something.

Love,

Someone with a better handle than "Anonymous"

(and who doesn't remember how he came up with that handle 10 years ago, and who knows very well that it's ridiculous and uses it anyway)

Anonymous said...

i'm content to allow this exchange to stand for itself, with one exception.

i do not believe "rudeness is cool." i find witty wordplay at the expense of lesser minds amusing.

you're free to speculate on whether there's a difference.

IronDonkey said...

Fair enough. Allow me one last exception as well then: refering to those whose points you disagree with (presumably in any case, having never addressed them) lesser minds is not witty, and is rude. I'll allow you to speculate on whether or not this makes you uncool.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear Raging Heathen,

Asserting that a metaphysical concept, in this case "randomness" or "chance", controls everything and that our lives should be in accord with this universal metaphysical principal is a creed. It may be an atheist creed, but it is a creed.

If you object to my saying you "worship" this metaphysical hypothesis, which itself is not physical, but whose "effects" you can observe in the physical realm, then I will gladly recant and say you don't "worship" it.

But it is a creed you live by.

As is, for me, the Invisible Sky-Man. He too is a metaphysical assertion, known only indirectly by His effects. I think the effects demonstrate teleology, for one thing, more than a lack thereof, and this is one of the reasons I live my life by your creed and you live your life by yours.

Even if we simply call our creeds "philosophies", we cannot deny that our philosophies dictate how we live; and both are projections of a metaphysical principal onto a universal stage.

This does not touch on who is right or who is wrong; but it does take away the charge that an Invisible Sky-Anything is by its nature ridiculous. All assertions of a universal truth are Universal Sky-Assertions; there's no way around that for either the atheist or the theist.

As to the rest of you, I have not yet had time to read your comments, but I'm glad we've got a healthy combox battle going! Thanks.

Kevin O'Brien said...

More here - http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/2012/08/invisible-sky-anything-oh-and-also-bad.html

JustSaying said...

The craziest thing in this blog post is the $5 latte. Around here they cost at least $6.50.

Joey Higgins said...

The second straw man, and to me the far more important one to expose, is that skeptics or atheists worship anything at all.

Definition you posted from Oxford:

To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies.

I don't know if you are being purposefully myopic with your explanation and application of this definition or if it's just a product of imprecise language in the definition, but I don't believe you have applied that definition correctly. The "supernatural being or power" is only one of the options listed here - you can revere something else - really anything else.

If we remove the "supernatural being" part:

To honour or revere as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies.

People do this all the time and I don't believe you can escape that reality by attaching the "well educated" label to a person and state that they do not worship. People revere/venerate/worship things all the time. Some money, looks, drugs, gambling, rhetoric, arguments, etc. I believe that is the primary reason why so many people are unhappy - especially celebrities and excessively wealthy people - they worship the wrong things and are not fulfilled by them.

In that sense, Atheists absolutely worship - they just don't have a centralized, organized religion.

eyount said...

I’ll indulge the writer of this blog post not by arguing with him, but by providing an explanation behind why he said what he said.

Kevin O’Brien is upset because he realizes that the “atheist crowd” (whatever that is – probably a paranoid psychological projection on his part) has won such a massive intellectual victory over the theists that these atheists are no longer bothering to even waste their time formulating any more arguments, instead drumming up catch-phrases like “Invisible Sky-Man” as a quick way of reference “that old argument that we won and moved past.”

I think Mr. O’Brien’s persnickety tone in this entry is just another lame attempt on the part of theists to tease more atheists out – via all this poking and prodding – for another round. Quite frankly, I’ve moved on, and apparently many others have too -- as exhibited by O'Brien's desperate attempt at finding more contenders. Some of us have more-important, time-pressing concerns to attend to and aren’t interested in knocking back the weeds yet again. The difference between him and me is: while O'Brien will fester in frustration over wishing that he can persuade and “convert” someone like me, I really have no need of persuading him of anything. Go ahead and keep believing in Jesus, if you need a crutch so badly.

For the record, not every atheist is a so-called “New Atheist.” This term I think also springs from a Christian-based paranoia that “all atheists are ganging up to get them;” lying around spying, as it were, waiting to strike out and wreck good ol’ Christianity. This simply is not true. What’s wrecking Christianity is how poor and inconsistent and sickly and life-denying its ideas are.

Joey Higgins said...

Quite frankly, I’ve moved on, and apparently many others have too -- as exhibited by O'Brien's desperate attempt at finding more contenders. Some of us have more-important, time-pressing concerns to attend to and aren’t interested in knocking back the weeds yet again.

"I don't care what anyone thinks of me," exclaimed the man loudly. And he was right to do so too, for how would people know that he didn't care what they thought of him if he didn't tell them!

Joey Higgins said...

This term I think also springs from a Christian-based paranoia that “all atheists are ganging up to get them;” lying around spying, as it were, waiting to strike out and wreck good ol’ Christianity. This simply is not true. What’s wrecking Christianity is how poor and inconsistent and sickly and life-denying its ideas are.

Are you a fan of Harvey Danger, because it seems you enjoy projecting paranoia or at least have a penchant for it. What about all of the billboards, lawsuits, and proselytizing that the "reason" crowd does/participates in? If there isn't a sizable or at least extremely vocal and media savvy minority that is trying to disarm Christianity, where are all the lawsuits and billboards coming from: Christians creating an enemy to rally against? If Christianity is terrible and is imploding on it's own, are you just a bystander so stricken with schadenfreude that you have to proclaim that fact to its dying practitioners?

A1 said...

"Kevin O’Brien is upset because he realizes that the “atheist crowd” (whatever that is – probably a paranoid psychological projection on his part) has won such a massive intellectual victory over the theists that these atheists are no longer bothering to even waste their time formulating any more arguments, instead drumming up catch-phrases like “Invisible Sky-Man” as a quick way of reference “that old argument that we won and moved past.”"

I think this is quite... ridiculous.

"massive intellectual victory"?!

Ah! This is delusion talking... godless delusion I suspect.

I think most atheist, are hardly winning any intellectual battle. In fact atheists are those LEAST committed to their ‘faith’ or ‘non-faith’ if you prefer, as atheism often is incoherent… hey even some honest atheist thinkers have claimed that!

Their knowledge of science, philosophy and especially the philosophical foundations of science is usually extremely poor.

They resort to fallacious straw-man and name calling PRECISELY because they fail to bring forth a coherent and logical argument. Someone who had an ‘intellectual victory’ would not need to resort to such tricks, I am sorry to say.

If they really had a good argument they would not try to use the same straw-man over and over and over and over again, I am sorry.

I think the fact that atheists, old or new, are mostly still drumming the same stupid fallacious arguments like broken records rather indicates that atheism is LOSING the intellectual battle, especially since the foundations of atheism itself are often incoherent and do not stand up to scrutiny.

So dear anonymous atheist, I think your statements are either delusional or a bleak attempt to stimulate an emotional reaction.

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“whether or not there are fundamentally unexplainable aspects of our universe is THE question of science.”

Not really… it’s a question for the philosophy of science regarding science’s limitations.

Science is basically an empirical tool, to put it in a few simple words, that works within a set of a priori suppositions about the world that surrounds us.

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A1 said...

“Not only is worship an inappropriate term for my feelings toward the scientific process, I believe you misrepresent the nature of science. It is not a giant clock to be checked and measured. It is a living, evolving process, involving many component parts and theories designed to be the most rigorous standard of truth available. It is not something to be worshiped, it is a tool to be used to interrogate nature. This kind of relationship is completely alien to the relationship a Christian believes he or she has with god.”

So you believe ion a mystical evolving process that surrounds us? Sounds like worshipping to me! Ha! Ha..!

Also: is it a living thing or a tool? Make your mind up? Or are atheists believing in the great living screwdriver who lives in its heavenly tool shed? Ha!

(you see? Straw man :P)

Jokes aside:

Science is indeed a process, which is rather refining itself rather than evolving.

Science does NOT evolve because it has remained the same since Galileo and Newton. Sure the theories have changed and have been updated, the math has evolved and refined, but the basic principles are still the same, with the same advantages and disadvantages.

We observe. We repeat the observation. We create a statistic of all that we measure and from that we build a mathematical model.

(or sometimes we make a model and measure until it comes ‘true’… but that’s another story).

From that that model SOMETIMES we can also derive physical truths at an ontological level (like that atoms have a nucleus and electrons as a ‘cloud’ around such nucleus).
Other times we can only make epistemological statements (like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle).

Basically science has become nothing but expressing observations through an (abstract) mathematical model, that can make “predictions” about events in the universe (e.g. trajectory of a particle, or the energy bands in a semiconductor), but that do not necessarily reveal us the fundamental truths of the universe.

This is fine as long as our aim is technology. Building something that give always output B if we set input A.

If our aim is fully understanding of the universe, this approach is not always the best one.

THE PROBLEM is indeed that many people do not realize this. Especially atheist committed to a positivist mindset.


Indeed, as a scientist myself, I think most of my colleagues do not even think about the philosophical foundations of science, let alone understand them. They just take things for granted and drone on, even those (or sometimes especially those) who seem to come up with some ‘wild’ or ‘revolutionary’ idea (that in most cases is indeed a fluke)


” and theories designed to be the most rigorous standard of truth available”

Right.. in THEORY perhaps… in practice most scientist are not THAT rigorous… not even (or especially maybe) theoreticians, since I have heard quite a few whoppers in recent years… non to mention a few books that came out lately…

Or let’s think about Hendrik Schon… that was very rigorous! :P



“Not only is worship an inappropriate term for my feelings toward the scientific process”
“This kind of relationship is completely alien to the relationship a Christian believes he or she has with god.”


Perhaps… some people treat science like the ultimate truth and although it is not the same as ‘Christian worship’ it IS a kind of worship. A far worse one, that limits a person to the constrictions and fallacies of scientism.

So atheism is indeed not a true religion: it’s a religion stripped from all the good things, a sort of spiritual and, indeed, intellectual vacuum.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, I've only seen the last of Joey's comments. I haven't had the time or the heart yet to read the others. It's probably because I secretly realize the atheists are right. At least that's what they'd say. (Why do you guys argue like that? Let's try to keep this a bit more mature. Even if there is no god, let's avoid arguing like children.)

Anyway, Joey is completely right that modern men are utterly confused about the philosophy of science. Science is a great gift, but it has nothing to do with the question of God or even of being - don't believe theists when they tell you that it does, and don't believe atheists when they tell you that it does.

I will record and air a fully produced version of my one-man Fr. Jaki show, and that explains much about the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method.

The whole point of my original post is seen in this confusion. You can't jettison metaphysics on the one hand, and then assert metaphysics on the other. You can't say that only scientific truth is valid - the measurement and prediction of matter and energy - and then say that this very physical enquiry proves a metaphysical point - that all existence is material only. If science must ignore metaphysics (and in its application it must), then science can not assert metaphysics - it can neither prove nor disprove any question that is not of a physical or quantitative nature.