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Posts posted by Prometheus

  1. There is someone that is always watching what you do. That person is you. You don't need God to be watching you because you are capable of thinking. In addition, it's technically not altruism if they are only acting altruistically to appease an enforcer of some rules, real or imaginary.


    The real problem arises from what I explained earlier and will explain again. Both belief in god and belief in moral codes lack evidence, but moral codes seem to be exempt from the requirement of evidence. However, if there are some beliefs in gods that are exempt from the requirement of evidence, how can we say that such believers are any less broken than those who believe in moral codes?

    I am hoping Prometheus can support my argument by explaining the reasoning behind this statement:


    I think you've answered this question for yourself?


    I would only add that not only is belief in morals quite unlike belief in god, it is the very pinnacle of humanity, our crowning achievement. A man who wouldn't kill me lest his god watches him is but a shadow compared to the man who would not kill me because he watches himself.


    The serpent was our friend as he tempted Eve.



    If a moral code can't be objectively judged by evidence then I wouldn't think it is a moral code. A good health code prevents sickness. A good criminal code controls crime. They can be judged by their effectiveness.


    Does anarchy benefit society? Does nihilism advance the species? In so far as humanity has an objective ability to judge evidence we can answer questions like these.


    Never really understood this argument. So if god made morals, what makes them necessarily right, compared to man made morals? They were both made.


    Regardless, based on my readings of holy texts, man's moral are far superior to god's.



    How to avoid the worst possible harm for everyone.


    This is from from Sam Harris, and seems to be the launchpad for his arguments. I generally agree with Sam Harris, but i haven't gone through the talks in detail yet. However, even the above statement is a value judgement with no objective root. That in no way lessens its value, and from this premise a good system of morality could be devised. If we accept this premise we have something by which we can 'objectively' measure our, and others', behaviour.






  2. Your point that the "usual" definition of god can't have supporting evidence... it is admittedly painful, but could you read 1 Kings 18:18-39 and see if Elijah's definition of god was verifiable?


    A god that regularly performed miracles would be verifiable. Remember only that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.




  3. ...they make this claim based on faith alone, and they are quite broken for doing so.


    So the criterion for being broken is accepting something as true based on faith alone?



    If people are broken for holding unproven beliefs then people who believe in God and people who believe in the big bang are both broken.


    There is a difference in these two 'beliefs'. Belief in god, by the usual definitions of god, can have no supporting evidence (personal experience not being evidence of anything but personal experience), while the big bang theory can theoretically be demonstrated to be untrue. The former then, is only amenable to faith, the latter is also open to empirical verification.


    This might change depending on more subtle definitions of god, but i think most of us a using the Abrahamic model of god.







    Anyway, there are a couple of points i made earlier i feel have not yet been addressed with regard to people believing in god being broken.


    1). 'Broken' implies a teleology to evolution, that there is a particular way humans should think. Rather, there is no 'should' in evolution, and people cannot be broken simply for being evolutionary products.


    2a.) Most people believe in god(s). It is the norm in human society (i think we all agree, even if we don't like it). When regarding people as broken (in the context of regarding 'broken' as a mental illness) the former statement contravenes the latter statement by most definitions of mental health. This doesn't apply if the criterion for being broken is accepting something as true based on faith alone (unless it is claimed that also constitutes mental illness).


    2b). Further to the above statement i would further extend that the majority of people believe things on faith alone, including scientific facts. Most people are willing to believe in god if all their lives people have said god exists. Most people will believe in black holes if all their lives people have said they exist. While it is clear that these two things are not in the same category for evidence (there being no evidence that could disprove god), most people simply don't care and will believe what they are told, when they are told, so long as they have food on the table, can get drunk and vote on x-factor (or am i just cynical?).

  4. Not my field but, IIRC there is an example of scientific thought in the old testament.

    Joseph was accused of seducing the wife of Potiphar.

    He claims (honestly) that she was the one taking the lead.

    He points out that his clothes were torn but hers were not and this, of course, supports his story.


    But the facts are ignored and he gets jailed anyway.


    That reminds me, i think there is example of some sort of scientific method in the bible. If i remember correctly there is some doubt as to the best method/crop/field to produce the most abundant yield, and so someone in the bible (i don't think it was Jesus though) says why not plant the same crop in both fields (or some such) and see which does best. Just been looking, but i can't find the passage unfortunately, so i might be making it up.

  5. The closest scripture i know of comes from the Buddha in the kalama sutra:


    "It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain;uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them

    However, it is not the scientific method, it is not meant to be a tool for empiricism, but for self reflection.


    As for Christ, i've not heard any. Muslims often claim there are many examples of 'science' in their holy books - any one know any of these claims?

  6. The reason I lump all the religions together is that there only seems to be one universe.

    It can have had no more than one creator.

    Whatever name and other features you ascribe to the hypothetical creator doesn't really matter since there's no evidence He exists anyway.


    Just a technical note: not all religions postulate a creator being(s).

  7. Appolinaria,


    You seem to be arguing that people who believe in god are not broken by changing the meaning of the word god and then trying to supply evidence of it. While i disagree with Inow's analogy of calling a table an apple is equivalent to the various definitions of god in general, it probably is equivalent to calling god an amino acid carrying asteroid. If you want to use another definition for god, i think it only fair you use a more commonly held one, such as the Hindu concept, or some such (i find it very boring that on science forums the Abraham god is predominantly discussed).


    I think a more fruitful approach might be take the definition of god as creator of the universe, which thereafter has no input what-so-ever. There is no logical contradiction in believing in this god so long as you do not attempt to give any attributes to such a god - only that it created. Neither is there, nor can be, any evidence in favour or against this god (since by definition we have said this god is outside, and only outside, our universe - and the scientific method can only explore what is in our universe).


    In case any one's wondering i'm actually an atheist. Reason i don't personally believe in the god i've described above is that the god is essentially empty - we can attribute nothing to this god, other than 'it' caused the big bang. It might have been a big crunch from another universe, or whatever - we can't know.


    However, not knowing has never stopped humans speculating and if people wish to believe in this god, it does not mean they are broken, any more in my believing that the big bang was caused by a big crunch.

  8. Also http://en.wikipedia....n_in_the_pigeon after all tell me the difference between religion and superstition.




    To my mind this experiment suggests that reason and superstition would develop together. I imagine that as humans began to reason about things, they came to an understanding that when something happens, something caused it to happen. Without the reasoning abilities of a modern human though, the causes were 'river god made the river swell' (after all they knew nothing of the melting glacier miles away) and such. Religion, in this context and as an extension of superstition, could be seen as an early attempt to identify causes.


    Funny, when Derren Brown recreated this experiment (for entertainment, not actual science) for humans, they fell into the same pigeon thinking.



  9. I'm going to weigh in on Thomas Kelly guessed's side. I want the practice, and i think he'll appreciate some help. I will have to, however, disregard everything thus far said on this thread, as i don't understand a word. Sorry about that, but i'm not sure it's my fault.


    So, i understand the contradiction in question is that if god is all loving and god is all powerful, then these two qualities are at odds with each other, given we see so much evil in the world?


    This rests on the assumption that just because god is all loving he will therefore always prevent evil from happening (which is in his power). This is akin to the mollycoddling parent, denying a child the full spectrum of life, including the bumps and bruises. By denying us exposure to evil, we would be denied an opportunity to practice goodness and to develop.


    Regardless of god's motive, i suggest that because god is all loving does not necessarily mean he would intervene whenever evil occurs. Therefore, the two are not mutually exclusive.

  10. I have to say this thread has helped me make certain distinctions with regard to how reason is used. Faith in a concept has no rational basis due to a complete lack of evidence. Faith is literally pretending to know something for certain I can't possibly know for certain. Hope, however, is based on at least some evidential support. I can hope that a concept will prove true based on what I've learned about it. Trust is what I consider to be accepting the explanation with the most evidence to support it. I can trust a concept validated by the scientific method because it represents a great deal of testable, predictable, observed reality. Faith, hope and trust are all part of a belief system for me, and I now have these distinctions to help determine the strengths of the foundations of my beliefs.


    Useful distinctions. As a side note, i have far more respect for people who simply claim they have faith in their god, rather than the people who claim there is evidence for it.


    Given proper upbringing, all children ( with a few unfortunate exceptions who can be thought of as "broken" for this discussion anyway) are able to learn to use rational thought.

    Those who lost that ability (even if it's just in respect of some facts) are broken.

    The norm is to be able to tell fact from fiction.

    The norm is to learn that fairies are not real. The norm is to recognise that there are no unicorns.

    Believing in a God is a departure from that norm.



    But few children are given 'proper' upbringings. Most are raised to believe in a god. We all know how important are our formative years. These teachings are so part of childrens' make-up by the time they get to adulthood all the reason the world only makes for a few atheists. Apparently.



    Is not the norm to use reason prior to accepting claims as true, especially extraordinary claims like the existence of god(s)... and to require adequate empirical evidence prior to believing something, and to reject things as baseless, unfounded, or based on wish thinking alone when they truly are? Deviations from that are broken since we did/do once have that.


    I'm starting to think i'm using a different meaning for the word norm than you guys. Take a look around, take a look at the statistics. The norm (i.e. most common) is for people to believe in god. Even in our age of reason, there are plenty of people who believe not only in god(s), but unicorns and mystics and astrology and space-faring dolphins (no sh*t, i've come across people who believe this) and UFOs and...



    But it seems that reasoning predates religion in our evolutionary history. There is no clear evidence of religion in apes, although some people speculate (e.g. "Chuck Blanchard"), and you might find some early examples of religion if you bend the definition. In contrast, we now know that apes can reason and have some surprising mental skills (e.g. chimp eidetic memory), and it's obvious that these mental skills, including reasoning, were advantageous. Thus, it seems obvious that, when reasoning and religion conflict, we should follow reason.

    In conclusion, religion shouldn't impede reasoning because, whatever adaptive functionality religion had or has, reasoning clearly has more adaptive functionality.


    Interesting. I guess this is where the gene/meme admixture makes things complicated. A couple of objections though. It is unclear whether apes will go on to develop human-level intelligence, and if they do what their 'beliefs', if any, would be. If they do, just because apes followed one evolutionary path to this end, it does not follow that humans followed the same path. And (sorry to any anthropologists), this type of research cannot be as tightly controlled as the physical sciences, and so will never have the same level of accuracy. It can only ever be suggestive, rarely reaching firm conclusions from which predictions can be made.


    I agree, when reasoning and religion conflict, we should follow reason. I'm not a religious apologist. But what is at issue here is what is, not what should be.




  11. The fact that many many people share the problem does not mean it's inappropriate to call them broken. It just means that many many people are broken.


    In itself that's fine. If a majority of people had heart failure, we'd still call them sick. However, this is slightly different. If everyone had sickle cell disease, would we still call them sick? No, it'd be a norm, something we just grew up with (as a species), but lowers our chance of catching malaria, i.e. an evolutionary trait. We have evolved to believe in god, whether it be by genes or memes (now that'd be an interesting discussion). For better or worse it's a human trait, for now. It was, and still is, the norm. Broken suggests deviation from this norm. Broken suggests we once had reason, then lost it.




  12. Earlier in the thread, "broken" was defined as a mental defect in the ability to reason rationally.


    The loss of function in a given lifestyle is often attributed to significant changes in in thinking, feelings or behaviour (from http://ispsuk.org/?p=312 ,international society for psychology...), so my definition similar in some regards (i.e. mental causes).


    If you all agreed to accept 'broken' as a mental defect in the ability to reason rationally, then fair enough, but i would take issue with it. Utmost is the term 'broken' implies that rational reasoning is the norm for humans. I would argue it is the exception, and so the vast majority of us are broken. If belief in god(s) renders one broken, then the vast majority of humans are broken. I would say a definition for some kind of mental disability which renders the vast majority broken, is itself broken.


    Edit note: Sorry if this discussion's already been had, just point me there.

  13. I will try to argue that people who believe in god(s) are not broken, by using means not yet used (at least as far as i can tell). This argument will take the existence of god(s) to be irrelevant, and so a definition of belief or god is not required.


    A definition of broken, though, is required. If we take 'being normal' as being the ability to function in a given lifestyle, then to be broken is the inability to function in a given lifestyle. The given lifestyle here refers to whatever society brought you up.


    For whatever reasons our species, and society, have evolved beliefs in gods. This is normal, and certainly does not hinder people who believe in god from functioning in any given society i can think of. An ability to function, here, is the crux.

  14. As i understand it there are two theories bandied around as top why acupuncture works (both, of course, assume it works).


    One, it works on the gate-control theory of pain (the generally accepted theory of pain in medicine). By this theory acupuncture should work about as well as rubbing an injury (which does work).

    Two, acupuncture somehow releases endorphins and enkephalins, natural opiates.


    I've not looked into either, but can try to dig out some articles if you like. But as i understand it, most studies suggest it doesn't work beyond placebo (is there a cochrane review?).

  15. I'm pretty sure that for the most part, this is pure nonsense. CPR can certainly keep a person alive until proper help arrives assuming it's done correctly, but it can't bring people back from the dead. If I'm wrong, somebody convince me.


    It would depend on how death is defined. In the UK, and most western countries i assume, it is defined as brain stem death. Japan has it as cessation of cardio-respiratory function. By these differing definitions one might have been kept alive in the UK but was brought back to life in Japan, both via CPR. Timo answered the rest.


    Kind of related, found this article arguing individuals should be allowed to define death for themselves: http://jme.bmj.com/c.../3/146.abstract

    Interesting implications for organ donation and 'do not attempt resus' orders.

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