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Can Science Test the Validity of the Supernatural? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Matt Lowry   

Those of us who consider ourselves skeptics and supporters of science, and most especially those of us who are involved at some level in defending good science from the efforts of creationists to water down (or even eliminate) the teaching of evolution, will be familiar with this question. I think the answer is not simple and is much thornier, both philosophically and practically speaking, than many people (including many skeptics) would like to admit.

Let me first take a few minutes to outline some basics of the philosophy of science that are relevant to this discussion. This has to do with the nature of naturalism in science; more specifically, we need to make a very clear distinction between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.

Methodological naturalism is the practice of naturalism in science; in other words, as it is most commonly stated, there are naturalistic answers sought for scientific questions, and the question of potential supernatural answers (“miracles” if you will) is not even considered. It was the application of methodological naturalism in what was in the 19th-century still referred to as natural philosophy, which helped to define and distinguish modern science as it is currently practiced. In the view of many scientists, science as practiced doesn’t necessarily speak to the validity or non-validity of the supernatural precisely because it is constrained to seeking only natural causes for the phenomena we observe in the universe. In the view of pure methodological naturalism, science is agnostic on such matters, and this gives many believers in the supernatural an “out” for accepting science while retaining their beliefs.

By contrast, philosophical naturalism is usually defined as a philosophical position that there is no such thing as the so-called “supernatural” because the natural world is all that exists. This view assumes, a priori, that there is no separate realm of existence, which is distinguished from the natural world. Thus, in this view, anything, which is claimed to exist within the “supernatural” realm, either doesn’t exist at all or is being confused for some other kind of natural phenomenon which isn’t necessarily well understood by the claimant. It should come as no surprise that in the world of the philosophical naturalist there is no such thing as a miracle and there are no gods per se. There is no comfort for the supernaturalists in the worldview of philosophical naturalism.

Having laid that foundation, let us now get back to the specific case of the entire evolution-creationism discussion, where we can see this distinction between the methodological and philosophical view of naturalism on display. There are many pro-science groups, such as the National Center for Science Education, which take the view usually credited to the late Stephen J. Gould called non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) when discussing the thorny issues of science, religion, their intersection, and their conflicts. Basically NOMA takes a kind of modified position of methodological naturalism and is described by Gould as follows: "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)." [1]

Even the National Academy of Sciences in the United States takes a viewpoint based upon NOMA, wherein, in regards to the evolution-creationism issue, they state: "Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each." [2]

Note that in the cases of taking the NOMA stance, there is nothing said one way or the other regarding the existence or non-existence of gods, miracles, or any kind of supernatural phenomena. However, there are many for whom the position of NOMA is rather unappealing, most notably because it seems to have the effect of stacking the deck in favor of what are considered unfounded beliefs and claims. For example, while the Catholic Church can tell its followers that the science for evolution is ironclad and therefore acceptable, that same religious institution routinely turns its back on science and completely ignores it regarding questions related to the authenticity of supposed religious relics such as the Shroud of Turin (which is, in case you didn’t know, a fake). This is merely one example where the believers and purveyors of the supernatural will try to have their cake and eat it too, the critics of NOMA would say, as they with one hand embrace science while with the other hand reject it.

Such inconsistencies and intellectual laziness have spurred a number of critics of NOMA to speak up in recent years, among them Richard Dawkins, Susan Jacoby, Sam Harris, and Victor Stenger. I would like to focus specifically upon Victor Stenger, a particle physicist and philosopher of science, because I like the manner in which he approaches a variation of this question in his book God, the Failed Hypothesis.

Stenger starts off by carefully defining “God” as the monotheistic god of fundamentalist Christianity (and Islam and Judaism) which many creationists invoke as the creator of the universe (no evolution required, they claim). Stenger then notes that the very believers in this God themselves often make a number of claims about his supposed powers that manifest themselves in the natural world around us. In effect, they are making empirical, naturalistic claims for something which is supposed to be supernatural and therefore beyond nature; and it is this blurring of the line between the natural vs. supernatural by believers which is one origin of the “having their cake and eating it, too” criticism. Stenger contends, and I agree with him, that if these believers are going to throw around empirical claims, then they have clearly thrown down the gauntlet and those claims can and should be tested empirically (i.e. using science). He then goes on in God, the Failed Hypothesis to show that modern science shows the monotheistic god of the fundamentalist Abrahamic religions doesn’t exist (though he holds out the possibility of a deistic creator god).

Going beyond Stenger’s work, let us just take a look at the decades of work performed by many prominent skeptics. For example, James Randi has made a career out of testing supernatural claims, most famously through his Million Dollar Challenge. In addition, just look at any number of supposed “miracles” that have been clearly shown to be anything but by skeptical investigators such as Joe Nickell and Ben Radford over the decades. I would think that all of these skeptics, and many more besides, would agree that if the believers are going to claim some sort of empirical basis for their belief in the supernatural, then those claims are fair game for scientific analysis and testing.

So, where do I stand on all of this? As I’ve probably implied, I appreciate and agree with much of the stance adopted by Stenger, Randi, Nickell, and many others who are more than eager to apply scientific scrutiny to those empirical claims of the supernatural. And I say that precisely because of those believers who want to try to abuse NOMA for their own ends: they wish to claim empirical science for their purposes when they think it works for their belief system, yet they spurn (and even attack!) empirical science when they think it challenges that same system. This is, as I like to call it, “heads I win, tails you lose” argumentation.

However, that said, I am not willing to completely abandon NOMA, because while I do not believe in any gods or other aspects of the supernatural, I cannot definitively say it does not exist (though I’m willing to bet my non-existent soul that it doesn’t). For NOMA, what I will say is this: I am willing to allow the believers their illusions, so long as they don’t make empirically-based claims as to their validity here in the real world. Once those claims are made: game on!

 

Matt Lowry is a high school & college physics professor with a strong interest in promoting science education, skepticism and critical thinking among his students and the population in general. Towards these ends, he works with the JREF on their educational advisory board, and he also works with a number of grassroots skeptical, pro-science groups. In what little spare time he has, he blogs on these and related subjects at The Skeptical Teacher.

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Yes and no
written by kdv, February 15, 2012
I think the answer is not simple and is much thornier, both philosophically and practically speaking, than many people (including many skeptics) would like to admit.


All right, it's almost 4am here, and my insomnia is at it's peak, so I'm in a perverse mood. I think the answer is not thorny, and is much simpler than most philosophers would like to admit. In fact, terms like methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism sound to me like something philosophy professors use to ensure they go home at the end of the week with a nice healthy pay packet, much like "subluxations" do for chiropractors. Well, I guess chiropractors have the healthier pay packets on reflection.

Ultimately, the question in science is "can I test it?". If you tell me you have fairies at the end of the garden that have no interaction whatsoever with our universe, then they are either non-existent or supernatural, and science can't tell between those two alternatives. If, however, every so often, one of them belches ( I was going to say something else, before remembering we have a refined audience here ), then they are not supernatural, and science can test them.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Now, how am I going to get some sleep? I have quite a busy day tomorrow. I already took they homeopathic sleeping pills......
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Creationism still the most viable option......., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by I-Wonder, February 15, 2012
Davis, you’ve tipped your hand that you're ready to stretch out another long, tiring exchange of posts hopping from one ignorant misunderstanding of fact, theory and evidence to the next. For you, a "viable theory" will only be "viable" when each living cell on earth has an iron-clad pedigree, and the behavior of each particle can be traced to its origin - which you know will never happen. How lucky for you and your superstitions. The next cell which has yet to be pedigreed is all the refuge you need to persist in your ignorance. That’s not a good faith effort worthy of engagement by denizens of the 21st century, or by the naturalists of any era. I reemphasize you lacking a good faith effort, far worse than being merely wrong.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. This excellent article cogently discusses the concepts of naturalism and supernaturalism; after digesting this you say that you’re a creationist “…until a more viable theory comes along..”? Excellent! You have a viable theory! What is your creationist theory – hypothesis, even - explaining the existence of, and the alignment between, both the fossil record and the genealogy of the DNA of certain species?
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@ I-Wonder, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by Willy K, February 15, 2012
One can no more convince a creationist that the universe does not need the understanding, or even the existence of Humans, to function than one can convince a schizophrenic in the throes of auditory and/or visual hallucinations that what they're experiencing is only in their brain, the lights and sounds do not exist!

Belief in the supernatural is first and foremost ignorance. As a Human brain reaches the late teens and early twenties, it major cognitive processing structures are complete, subsequent neural restructurings are subtle refinements, sometimes called "wisdom."

Humans who have reached this stage and have had modern educational training and still believe in supernatural explanations are simply cognitively disabled. In other words they are simply incapable of understanding that the Universe is not shaped by their limited thinking.

Most people that I've met are also emotionally unable to acknowledge their mental limitations, their ego's are too big to allow it.

It took me a long time to realize that my brain is functionally unable to process higher mathematics, anything more advanced than simple algebra induces a somnambulistic state!

One can easily be cognitively disabled in different areas of the brain. Nobel laureate John Nash was capable of comprehending extraordinarily complex mathematical constructs, yet his brain was "telling" him that his delusions were real. The same kind of problem can manifest itself in people from all walks of life.

Now I step down from my detergent container. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Caller X, February 15, 2012
written by Davis, February 15, 2012
I assure you I have neither the interest nor the time to "stretch out another long, tiring exchange of posts." I just find it astounding that atheists are more than willing to allow the most ridiculous of odds and chance when it supports their world view but completely refuse to allow for the more possible idea of a Creator.


How do you calculate the "more possible" part? I'm curious. Don't get me wrong, I'm with you, as long as you're willing to allow for the eminently possible scenario that this is all the dream of Vishnu rather than the Judeo-Christian Creator. That this material world is a product of the mahat-tattva, which is a state of the Lord's dreaming condition in His yoga-nidrā mystic slumber in the Causal Ocean, and yet the whole creation appears to be a factual presentation of His creation. As he sleeps, a lotus grows out of his navel, and within the center of the lotus will soon grow the lord Brahma, creator of a new universe.

If you're cool with that, I can back your play.


James Randi himself has said on this very site that given enough time, one billion Chinese each flipping a coin would eventually all get heads or tails AT THE SAME TIME. That is absurd to say the least.


You're right, it is absurd to say it would happen, but it would not be absurd to say that it could happen.
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written by Stanfr, February 15, 2012
Davis, why is so hard for you to accept that a billion Chinese could end up flipping heads at the same time? Surely you'd have no problem with 10 Chinese all flipping heads. A billion is no different in principle, just requires a heck of a lot more time on average to end up with all heads. In theory, it could end up all heads on the first flip--that outcome is just as likely as any other outcome! Why postulate an intelligent being outside the realm of science when you can achieve the same result within the realm? The latter is a much simpler postulate--just takes more time, and no one is rushing the universe (or universes...)
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Caller X: what part of IMPOSSIBLE dont you understand, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@Stanfr
written by Davis, February 15, 2012
Am I in the twilight zone?? If creationists used the "Chinese flipping coins" example they would be laughed out of town- and rightfully so. A billion people flipping coins would NEVER all land on the same side. Are you serious?
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written by Caller X, February 15, 2012
Caller X: what part of IMPOSSIBLE dont you understand
written by Davis, February 15, 2012
A statistical impossibility is a probability that is so low as to not be worthy of mentioning. Sometimes it is quoted as 1X10^-50. The probability is so low that it does not bear mentioning in a rational, reasonable argument.

If you choose to hitch your wagon to impossible theories then theres not much to discuss.



Wow, Davis. I tried to throw you a lifeline. Sorry that you know jackshit about Probability 101.

You broke the cardinal rule. As Robert Downey Jr. said in Tropic Thunder "Everyone knows you never play full retard".

You, Sir, played full retard. Read a math book. Meanwhile, in the long term, Indra chuckles in your general direction, and in the short term, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

"In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."

But seriously, read a math book.

.
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written by Caller X, February 15, 2012
A statistical impossibility is a probability that is so low as to not be worthy of mentioning. Sometimes it is quoted as 1X10^-50.


Seriously dude? What book did you NOT read that in?
.
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written by Caller X, February 15, 2012
A billion people flipping coins would NEVER all land on the same side. Are you serious?


They came from the Dog Star.

Each time I reread your words my mind is newly boggled.

Never? Seriously, dude?

.
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Caller X, Lowly rated comment [Show]
Nice point
written by billbrowski, February 16, 2012
I never thought about that like this way.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
Yes

You've really lifted a veil here.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
Chinesa and coin flips; what Randi said once – somewhere; conceptual fumbling with statistics. You’re in nirvana again aren’t you - the refuge I spoke about earlier. You’re like the 9-11 truther who says, in 2012, “yeah, but I know a guy who found a red stapler on the ground up at West 57th street that afternoon! You can’t explain that away without military grade demolition explosives being involved…..dude.” We could spend a week arguing and then convincing you that stapler fell of a truck, but, with you, conveniently, there will always be another office accessory to be found on the ground somewhere. Ahhhh, so soothing.

Please tell about us the creationist theory you favor that explains the spectacular alignment of the observable biostratigraphic record, carbon dating, and the DNA pedigree of species. You said that you have one that you find more probable than Evolution. I hope you’re not embarassed to talk about your beliefs in public. You shouldn't be so inhibited.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
Sorry. I'm asking our friend Davis that question.
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@ I-Wonder
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
"conceptual fumbling with statistics"? Please explain how. If anyone is guilty of conceptual fumbling with statistics, its you. And conveniently you evade the statistical impossibility question by questioning MY beliefs. Do you accept statistical impossibility? If so, do you think our coin flip scenario qualifies?
Also, I never said creationism is more probable than evolution. I was referring to abiogenesis- an entirely different subject. Evolutionists seem to make all make this mistake so dont be embarrassed.
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Pennies for your thoughts
written by clgood, February 16, 2012
Davis, if two people were in a room flipping fair coins forever, do you think they would eventually either flip both heads or both tails?
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Oops, you did it again...
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
I'm genuinely shocked at the skeptics/atheists/creation-deniers who took the creationists' troll bait in this thread. Where is the intelligent discussion of the premise of the article? Where is the open-minded, rational, informational content that moves the discussion forward rather than in a circle? I'm going back to skeptic.com ... at least the commenters there think before they feed the trolls.
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cognitive impairment?
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
Willy K: I find your assertion that belief in the supernatural is a sign of localized cognitive disablement or impairment. I have often been challenged that I would be a Muslim if I was born in an Muslim country; my Christian faith is an artifact of the time and place of my birth. Can you make a rational argument that defends your lack of faith against this argument or your charge of "cognitive disability"?

I find it amusing that you claim "other people" are unable to accept a viewpoint different from their own due to their egos -- in the same post where you have assigned the vast majority of the human race to a category inferior to yourself. Yet cognitive impairment and lack of self-awareness is limited to believers?
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amendment to the above...
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
It appears there's no way to edit comments here after posting. Somehow the first sentence of my reply to Willy K above was fragmented... I think I was going for a parody of Darth Vader's veiled threat "I find your lack of faith disturbing", but hit the "Add Comment" button before completing the thought. Hopefully my point is still communicated effectively-enough by subsequent statements.
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@clgood
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
I sure hope your making some type of lame joke but I will assume you are serious. If a billion people each flip a coin from now through eternity it would always end up with roughly 500,000 heads and 500,000 tails, give or take a couple of thousand. This is a fact. Even if this number were way off there is absolutely no way all one billion would ever be the same. That this is not ackowledged by anyone but me on this site is truly astounding.
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Agnostic vs. Atheist
written by clgood, February 16, 2012
Matt:

Your conclusion reminds me of how Penn Jillette got me to stop calling myself agnostic. If you ask what I know, I have to say I'm agnostic because god is an untestable hypothesis. If you ask what I believe, as in how do I live my life, then the answer is atheist. So, it seems to me, as a practical matter your conclusion is that science cannot test supernatural claims because those claims, by definition, exist outside of nature.

I do agree that any time believers make testable claims that they should be tested. Thanks for the nice post, and apologies for feeding the (highly entertaining) troll.
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Davis, please...
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
For the love of Mike, please stop. You're just making things worse for yourself. I say this as a fellow believer and former zealous creationist like yourself. Please stop arguing nonsense.
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@dasirrine
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
Troll bait? I think its been a good discussion over all. Whats wrong with a little friendly disagreement? I did like your comment to Willy K, however.
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Still feeding the troll
written by clgood, February 16, 2012
Well, Davis, your hilarious refusal to answer my simple question pretty much tells me how resistant you are to education. But, since someone else may come along and read this thread, now seems like a good time to bring up The Gambler's Fallacy. http://www.ask.com/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy.
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dasirrine, please...
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
"fellow believer and former zealous creationist". This is a paradox. If you believe in a creator then you must believe in creation!
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@clgood
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
OK, I'll bite. Yes, I believe if two people were in a room flipping fair coins forever, they would eventually either flip both heads or both tails.
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@davis, against my better judgment...
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
OK, I'll take the bait just this once, if it might help. You're trolling because your comments are unrelated to the article; the author was not inviting creationists to come out swinging in defense of creationism. If you haven't noticed, the JREF is populated by smug atheists who look down on believers; if you're wading into shark-infested waters with only a lucky rabbit's foot to defend yourself, you're going to get slaughtered.

If you want to contribute to thoughtful, informative, engaging discussion about the article, *say something about the article*. Claiming that creationism is "still the only viable option" on an article on an organization sworn to drive creationism to its grave is trolling. However, my guess is that you don't really have anything to add, because the article doesn't make any claims that can be logically refuted. In a nutshell: NOMA is unsatisfying; materialism is a workable method for doing science, but shouldn't be confused with philosophical naturalism; believers shouldn't make empirical claims and then cry foul when they're tested empirically. These are all well-reasoned statements based on fact.

So I'll ask directly -- Do you have something specific to add or challenge, or are you just trolling?
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@davis -- not a paradox
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
Davis, this isn't the time or place to discuss the distinction between a born-again believer in Christ and a rabid young-earth creationist, but suffice it to say there A LOT of the former who are not the latter. If you need clarification, please add @cox.net to my username and email me privately. Thanks.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
The opening salvo, written by Davis, February 15, 2012

"I'll continue go the creationist route until a more viable theory comes along. Getting quite tired of (a) we cant know (b) it doesnt really matter (c) we're getting closer to knowing, etc.
If anyone can offer an a more logical explanation for this vast universe (not to mention life itself which is far too complex to have come from an explosion) then I am truly all ears. Anyone?"

And later, dismissing support for evolution"...rather than allow for the more possible idea of a Creator"

You stepped up and made specific and interesting claims (copied just here). Now you don't want to talk about them anymore and I'm wondering why. Changing the subject (like to coin flips) is bad form, especially after you opened with these claims. Randomness, chance and the Anthropic principle are subjects you will come to later in your education, so you should avoid leaping ahead in the syllabus right now. Let us just hear more about your theory. Though I am questioning your conduct, I’m not yet questioning (challenging?) your beliefs; beyond the initial tease that you are “going with the creationism route..”, you won’t tell us what your origin theory is. Don’t leave us guessing any longer; it hurts!
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Double Down
written by clgood, February 16, 2012
Excellent, Davis! So two people flipping coins would eventually flip all the same face. Correct.

How about four people?
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@clgood
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
Yes, four people would also. To speed this up you think regardless of how many people are flipping a coin there is a point in time where every single person would flip the same face. Correct?
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@I-Wonder
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
You've got me convinced. Creationism has been proven 100% to be a hoax. What alternative should I go with now?
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012

".... I'm going back to skeptic.com ... at least the commenters there think before they feed the trolls."

(Love and support Skeptic.com, etc.) We ]i]could go off to the corner pub and just give fellow skeptics pats on the back and wait it out; shut down Youtube with Hitchen's and Harris' debates, etc. But James Randi created the most amazing, and effective portal for introduction into the world critical thinking yet devised. We should respond to people like Davis, but with the care and sense of responsiblity warranted by the knowledge that many spectators are just dipping their toes in the critical thinking waters here at the JREF. Us skeptics know what's going on. The next evolutionary step for us is to recognize this is educational theatre and act accordingly; behave responsibley. I'm working]/i] at it...
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written by Willy K, February 16, 2012
@ dasirrine
It is should be extremely clear that my post was about the supernatural, I made absolutely no mention of any religion. Trying to frame my post as an argument between two religions is ludicrous. Are you trying to be a troll? smilies/wink.gif

You put the words “other people” in quotes as if I had used that phrase, I did not. I did not say, or imply, that “unable to accept a viewpoint different from their own due to their egos” or “you have assigned the vast majority of the human race to a category inferior to yourself.” Please re-read the fourth and fifth sentence of my post.

You said “I think I was going for a parody of Darth Vader's veiled threat I find your lack of faith disturbing." Are you making a veiled threat? smilies/tongue.gif

The disturbed feeling you have sounds to me like cognitive dissonance.
From Wiktionary: cognitive dissonance - (psychology) a conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistencies between one's beliefs and one's actions or other beliefs.

Have a happy, rational day! smilies/grin.gif
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Congratulations, Davis
written by clgood, February 16, 2012
You got it, even though you may not like it. If it works for 2 or 2^2, it works for 2^20. It will just take longer. But, as the song goes, forever is a long, long time.

My work here is done.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
@I-Wonder
written by Davis, February 16, 2012

You've got me convinced. Creationism has been proven 100% to be a hoax. What alternative should I go with now?


You are, once again, not acting in good faith, much worse than being merely wrong (which we can't judge because you aren't being forthright)

written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012

.....an organization sworn to drive creationism to its grave
..


To steal from, and paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, I'm not working to drive creationism to its grave, I'm working to drive ignorance to its grave.
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written by I-Wonder, February 16, 2012
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012

About the JREF


.....an organization sworn to drive creationism to its grave
..


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Herpderp
written by Maphreal, February 16, 2012
Any non-zero probability extrapolated across an infinite number of chances equals mathematical certitude that it will happen. Your application of statistical impossibility is wrong - that's meant for practical real life applications; not hypothetical situations of infinite chance. Crack open a quantum physics book; it blows up when you misapply your formula for statistical impossibility. Unless you can prove the most accurate theory known to man wrong, I'd suggest you drop the argument or admit your wrong and *gasp* learn!
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written by Will.Z, February 16, 2012
In a world where people have the right to believe what they want to believe your article gives people something to think about. Some of the comments though are somewhat cruel for a site that has a pretty refined audience, so to speak. If someone believes in science over creationism then they simply refuse to engage faith but just because someone does believe in creationism does not make them stupid. I hope that you will continue to provide these great articles.

 

 

There are many ways that people try to disclaim the existence of a wizkid and some will go very far in that quest but some will just present both sides.

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@Willy K and The Cognitive Disability, part 1
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
Once again, I find your post amusing -- you've accused me of having trouble with reading comprehension and cognitive dissonance in the very post where you blatantly display the same. Since you're apparently unable to parse my criticism without direct quotation, I'll break it down for you in bite-sized portions with direct reference to your original post.

["Belief in the supernatural is first and foremost ignorance."]

Please cite your sources. As many in the evolutionary psychology and neurology field have asserted, belief in the supernatural actually seems to be hardwired. Archeological data shows that superstition and ritual emerged almost as early as tool use and tribalism (although the evidence may be circular, given the fact that archeologists often use religious icons or paraphernalia as a sign of early civilization). Statistical evidence shows that a majority of humans who ever have and are currently living hold some sort of supernatural belief. Your assertion is what has been called "chronological snobbery": that you and your fellow Brights who live right now know more than anyone who has ever lived, and that you have arrived at the height and fullness of understanding that will ever be possible. Put that way, hopefully you can see how laughably absurd your criticism of the entire human race (except for you and your fellow elites) is.

"As a Human brain reaches the late teens and early twenties, it [sic] major cognitive processing structures are complete... Humans who have reached this stage and have had modern educational training and still believe in supernatural explanations are simply cognitively disabled."

Since you later give an example of how you've come to realize that you're impaired in certain innocuous areas, it's clear you're implying that you too used to suffer from cognitive impairment in the area of supernatural (religious?) belief, but that maturity and wisdom drove it from you. Bravo sir, I applaud your maturity and wisdom that makes you mentally and emotionally superior to the rest of us.

"Most people that I've met are also emotionally unable to acknowledge their mental limitations, [sic] their ego's [sic] are too big to allow it."

Bravo again for being such an enlightening, humble, and graceful person that you're able to proudly admit your superiority over most everyone else you've ever met. Truly, your mental limitations are on display here. (Incidentally, I inserted the term "sic" to point out your failure to understand and/or properly use punctuation you should have learned in grammar school. Perhaps higher math is not your only weakness?)
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@Willy K and The Cognitive Disability, part 2
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
Now that I've dealt specifically with your nonsense, let me parse my original reply for you:

[dasirrine: I have often been challenged that I would be a Muslim if I was born in an Muslim country... Can you make a rational argument that defends your lack of faith against this argument or your charge of "cognitive disability"?

Willy K: It is should be [sic] extremely clear that my post was about the supernatural, [sic] I made absolutely no mention of any religion. Trying to frame my post as an argument between two religions is ludicrous. Are you trying to be a troll? ;-)]

To wit sir, you are the one who pitted one form of belief about the supernatural against the other; I merely challenged you to defend your lack of belief from the charge that one's outlook on religion (or supernaturalism, if you prefer) is a byproduct of one's culture and upbringing rather than a demonstration of one's maturity and/or cognitive disability. To put it more directly, please show how your environment and life experiences did not and could not have produced your atheism, whereas those of us who suffer cognitive disability in our "belief" cortex are just unthinking animals who are victims of our own ignorance. (Please note the preceding is a paraphrase and not a direct quotation.)


[Willy K: You put the words “other people” in quotes as if I had used that phrase, [sic] I did not. I did not say, or imply, that “unable to accept a viewpoint different from their own due to their egos” [sic] or “you have assigned the vast majority of the human race to a category inferior to yourself.”]

Once again, you have hilariously demonstrated your ego while implicating others for theirs. Can your highly evolved atheist mind understand that quotation marks serve multiple purposes, and even when used as a direct quotation, might not involve or include you? No, you didn't use the phrase "other people", you said "most people that I've met". I was paraphrasing and summarizing your comments, specifically that you have been educated and gained wisdom such that you no longer hold supernatural beliefs (which itself could easily be disproven) yet "most people" you have met are not as educated, enlightened, and/or self-aware as you. I simply extrapolated your superiority over those you've met also to those you haven't; since the human race was comprised almost completely of "believers" for hundreds of thousands of years, and most humans still claim some sort of religious or superstitious belief (including luminaries such as Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins), then I concluded that you, sir, must be the finest example of an enlightened human being ever to walk this earth. Or perhaps simply the most humble.
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@Willy K and The Cognitive Disability, part 3
written by dasirrine, February 16, 2012
[Willy K: Please re-read the fourth and fifth sentence of my post.]

Respectfully, please re-read your entire post, then my entire post. Afterward, you'll probably need to read this post again, then maybe a little Hitchens, then some Wikipedia, followed by a nice, hot bath. I also recommend the hot beverage of your choice while doing so. We'll wait here in the meantime.

[Willy K: Are you making a veiled threat?]

No, I'm making a subtle allusion, which is clearly an area of cognitive disability for you.

[Willy K: The disturbed feeling you have sounds to me like cognitive dissonance.]

The disturbing comments you've posted sound like... hold on a moment... [sound of flipping through the DSM IV]... "narcissistic personality disorder." Also note above my informal diagnosis of chronological snobbery.

In summary, you seem to believe that those who hold any form of supernatural belief are ignorant and/or mentally impaired; that the average person is blind to his own ignorance and/or impairment due to his ego; and that you suffer from no such lack of self-awareness or education, due to your highly developed maturity and wisdom. I will be thrilled to hear how I've misconstrued your comments, and if I have, how what you said could not be misconstrued as condescending and insulting to practically the entire human race.
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...
written by Willy K, February 16, 2012
@dasirrine

In summary, you seem to believe that those who hold any form of supernatural belief are ignorant and/or mentally impaired; that the average person is blind to his own ignorance and/or impairment due to his ego;
You are correct sir!

and that you suffer from no such lack of self-awareness or education, due to your highly developed maturity and wisdom.
Your are incorrect sir!

I stopped "believing" in a supernatural being named Santa Claus when I was about four or five. There were no other supernatural beings that I ever believed in, even though I was surrounded by a culture that professed to believe in them. I never claimed to be superior to anyone or everyone, I just have the balls to admit that I am not. Do you?

I will be thrilled to hear how I've misconstrued your comments, and if I have, how what you said could not be misconstrued as condescending and insulting to practically the entire human race.


My original post was not about you whatsoever yet you take it upon yourself to speak for all. Your ego is so inflated that you now believe you speak for the ENTIRE Human race! Oh my!

Seriously though, you are one [sic] puppy. smilies/tongue.gif Yup, that's an ad hominem, please forgive me. smilies/grin.gif

Have a nice rational day!

PS. Please, please, please make a six part post of how you refute everything I say or what you imagine I'm saying. We all need a laugh!
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...
written by Caller X, February 17, 2012
written by Davis, February 16, 2012
Not sure, but it appears you dont believe in "statistical impossibility". If so, you have some major issues my friend. And if you do, then you contradict yourself by saying a billion folks flipping coins would eventually have them all land on the same side. And if you do, then you contradict yourself by saying a billion folks flipping coins would eventually have them all land on the same side.


You incredible retard. You are like the amplifier in This Is Spinal Tap that goes up to eleven. You have gone beyond full retard.

What I said, you hideous mongoloid, was "You're right, it is absurd to say it would happen, but it would not be absurd to say that it could happen."

And why did you say the same thing twice? Drinking?

Why don't you take a page (the last page) out of David Carradine's book?

.
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written by Caller X, February 17, 2012
written by Davis, February 15, 2012
I assure you I have neither the interest nor the time to "stretch out another long, tiring exchange of posts."


Liar.


written by Davis, February 16, 2012
"conceptual fumbling with statistics"? Please explain how. If anyone is guilty of conceptual fumbling with statistics, its you. And conveniently you evade the statistical impossibility question by questioning MY beliefs. Do you accept statistical impossibility?


No. There is no such thing. Something is either possible or not possible.


written by Davis, February 16, 2012
I sure hope your making some type of lame joke but I will assume you are serious. If a billion people each flip a coin from now through eternity it would always end up with roughly 500,000 heads and 500,000 tails, give or take a couple of thousand. This is a fact. Even if this number were way off there is absolutely no way all one billion would ever be the same. That this is not ackowledged by anyone but me on this site is truly astounding.


Dude, how many times do you want to fail Probability 101? I'll say it in all caps just so you'll notice. YOU ARE WRONG.

written by Davis, February 16, 2012
OK, I'll bite. Yes, I believe if two people were in a room flipping fair coins forever, they would eventually either flip both heads or both tails.


"Eventually"? Oh, Corky.

.

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...I should have known better
written by dasirrine, February 17, 2012
...but I thought it might actually help to take your views seriously and follow them to their logical conclusion so you could see how ridiculous they are. Incidentally, I posted 3 parts because the comment system wouldn't let me post the entire response at once; I later determined it was due to some special characters, although there was no warning message.

The next time you call the entire human race mentally deficient, it might be helpful if you don't start by explaining how you used to be but got over it, or how your deficiency is much less innocuous than the rest of us poor souls who have faith in something bigger than ourselves.

My entire point was that we're hardwired for belief, so calling believers brain damaged just makes you look silly. Sorry I wasted the time to be thorough about it. I would still love to explore any sources you might have for your uneducated opinion that belief in the supernatural is a result of ignorance and/or cognitive disability.
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I find it rather funny...
written by dbantner, February 17, 2012
That most people who do not believe in God, try to find some way to destroy those who do believe. I understand the wanting to debunk those who are being fraudulent or taking advantage of those who are easily fooled. However, most people who believe in God or 'a God' are there for there own personal reasons. Whether those reasons are to make life more bearable, or to help others who need help, or to just find a 'family' or group to be a part of and get involved in, to feel needed and/or wanted/loved.

But yet those who want to debunk God and the church seem to only point out the small percentage of those supposed Christians who do wrong. Not all cars are Yugos or Gremlins.

But in regards to science and fact, I find it hard to believe that science can tell me what was going on 2 billion years ago, based on data that has only been gathered properly, for a couple thousand years.

Randomosity... this point of flipping a coin... bah. 50/50? Maybe, but you'll never know. A 50/50 ratio is only true if you have a set number of flips. Ratios and percentages can only be based on set numbers, or defined beginnings and ends. If something continues for all time, how can you possibly say, without a doubt, that something truly is or is not. You can not see the end, nor were you there in the beginning. You have no idea what circumstances led up to the beginning, and you will never know the consequences of he end results will be.

Can pure randomosity make a perfect sphere? No, yet most bodies in the sky are in this form. Can randomosity form equality/symmetry? No, yet we have up and down, positive and negative, male and female, good and bad.

You want to discount all of us who believe in something we can not see, yet know is there. Yet you believe more in gravity and time then you do in God.
I believe in science and God. I think science is cool, but I can only love 1, and I choose God. If there is a Heaven, which I believe there is, only God can get me there, science can not. If there isn't a Heaven, then when I die, I'll never know.
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And on a side note...
written by dbantner, February 17, 2012
Technology/Science has actually verified statements made in the bible. The latest one:
http://singularityhub.com/2012...ound-why/

Why Humans can't live past 114 years of age.

And in the bible? Genesis 6:3- And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

Can science explain why they knew it back then and why it is only mentioned in the Bible and no other text?

Just food for thought.
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written by I-Wonder, February 17, 2012
written by dbantner, February 17, 2012
Just food for thought.


Like vodka is just food for fish.

Put that impressive amount of research effort into a freethinking search for the truth, and for an understanding of how humans fool themselves, rather than a post hoc analysis of iron age text searching for (ugh...)"support" for the foregone conclusions of your tribe.
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written by Willy K, February 17, 2012
...I should have known better
written by dasirrine, February 17, 2012


Finally! Something we can both agree on. smilies/grin.gif

Have a nice rational day my dear dasirrine.
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@ Dbanter
written by Stanfr, February 17, 2012
I have to bite, cause as a former believer turned agnostic (I will probably never label myself an atheist) I can sympahtize with your delusions.

Can science explain why they knew it back then and why it is only mentioned in the Bible and no other text?


Are you for real? Aside form the fact that 120 does not equal 114, and the fact that people thousands of years ago were just as aware how long we live as we are today, and the fact that future medical advances (that can repair free radical damage) may extend our lives well beyond 120 years, you are aware that the bible quotes all sorts of timne frames--the best known being Methuselah living 969 years...

Can pure randomosity make a perfect sphere? No, yet most bodies in the sky are in this form. Can randomosity form equality/symmetry? No, yet we have up and down, positive and negative, male and female, good and bad.


No one has ever claimed that 'randomosity' is involved--the laws of physics aren't random. A common misundertanding among theists...

You want to discount all of us who believe in something we can not see, yet know is there. Yet you believe more in gravity and time then you do in God.
I believe in science and God. I think science is cool, but I can only love 1, and I choose God. If there is a Heaven, which I believe there is, only God can get me there, science can not. If there isn't a Heaven, then when I die, I'll never know.


How do you know any of this? Cause the bible says so? You are aware that the bible was writtne by fallible humans, no? I'd much sooner trust something that is objectively verifiable than the ramblings of some stranger of eons past. A "heaven" without a God is just as likely as one with a God, neither has any evidence, but there's no reason some supernatural realm couldn't exist outside of some supreme authority--in fact it might make more sense without one! I would agree thqat at some point you have to trust your own logic and emotions--but I get the sense that you are too trusting of your own senses. Your the type who would be easily persuaded by magic tricks if you weren't aware that it was magic. Our senses are easily fooled. Science, not so easily.



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