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Understanding What Science Is PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

The United States is a funny place, full of self-contradictions. We know that science education is getting slammed, and has been for years. Yet in surveys (admittedly from a few years back) we also know that people love science news, and want to hear more about it. Many people understand that science has a big impact on their lives, but have a limited understanding of how science works, or even what it is.

And, of course, the past few years we've seen an unprecedented attack on it, both from government and from self-styled "think tanks" where thinking appears to be the last thing on their minds.

There's a clear need for us – scientists, educators, hobbyists, and just plain old lovers of reality – to do more to educate people. And more than that: we need to excite them. Science isn't just another topic to learn from a dusty book or a dry website, it's an aspect of the Universe itself to be experienced and to revel in.

Enter Understanding Science. It's a website designed to get people started in, well, understanding science. And as if they were sending a message straight to my heart, this is what they say about science:

Science is, in one sense, our knowledge of ... all the stuff that is in the universe: from the tiniest subatomic particles in a single atom of the metal in your computer's circuits, to the nuclear reactions that formed the immense ball of gas that is our sun, to the complex chemical interactions and electrical fluctuations within your own body that allow you to read and understand these words. But just as importantly, science is also a reliable process by which we learn about all that stuff in the universe. However, science is different from many other ways of learning because of the way it is done. Science relies on testing ideas with evidence gathered from the natural world.

The emphasis above is mine, because this is something I tell kids all the time. They think of science like a dictionary: a bunch of facts to memorize. But science is also the way we know those things. It's a method.

But it's far, far more than that. It's discovery, it's understanding, it's trying, it's thinking, it's asking, it's investigating, it's questioning, it's being clever, it's doubting, it's wondering, it's solving, it's uncovering, it's finding things out.

It's us, being curious. That's science.

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written by BillyJoe, January 16, 2009
I loved science when I was a school, but all my kids hate it. Something must have happened to science, because my kids are all like me...inquisitive, sceptical...intelligent smilies/cool.gif

BJ
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The Importance of Science
written by Josh111485, January 16, 2009
Science is a way of knowing and understanding the world. It's served humanity well thus far and if anyone has a better method of understanding how the real world works I'd like to know what it is. smilies/grin.gif
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written by bcoppola, January 17, 2009
That's a hell of a great site. I'm an instructional designer in the biz world (when I"m working) and the clear writing and presentation (loved the animated flowcharts that recapped the scientific process in the Alvarez/KT boundary presentation) really are first rate. I wish a lot of the corporate Web-based instruction I see was half as good.

Gazing into my crystal ball, I predict that thousands of K-12 teachers will bookmark the site as soon as they find out about it. If my wife were still teaching 5th grade (she's retired) she'd be all over it.
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Thanks for the great links.
written by Mully410, January 17, 2009
Nice post, Phil. I'll be refreshing my memory about science at that website.

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Science sure is swell, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
By your reasoning, we would have to find the single most important problem in the world in need of a solution, devote all our money, time, and manpower to it untill it was solved and then move onto the next single most important problem.
I hope you see the...um...problem here.
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
To augment BillyJoe's response, define 'get our life on Earth in order'? I certainly hope that this isn't a plea to divest ourselves of technology and instead 'live off the land' in simplistic idealism.
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written by Bruno, January 17, 2009
The chap above calling himself "K Söse" neatly exemplifies the image problem science has. Ever since the publication of the Frankenstein novel, science has been perceived as experiments done with complicated equipment on things that are at best wholly irrelevant to the world mere mortals live in and at worst dangerous to it. Why is it that novelists and moviemakers can turn to reality when they want to write historical or political drama, but can't manage to take even a cursory look at actual science before inserting the stock mad scientist in their script? If ethnic minorities were similarly treated by the arts, no cinema or bookstore would be left standing.

Mr. "K Söse", how do you suggest that we obtain the facts needed to fix the world? Other than science? Revelation? If you think that NASA's already meagre and steadily shrinking budget funds all of science done today, you wouldn't have a car to drive, a computer to write silly messages on or movies to borrow your nickname and your broken ideas of science from.
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written by Rogue Medic, January 17, 2009
I will have to look around the site some more, but it looks good.

I've already put up a link on my blog.
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written by Jon Nelson, January 17, 2009
Thanks Phil, for the science website.

However, I wonder what you think of something that I think is a misrepresentation of science that many people have, including James Randi and the above science website:

I think engineers are getting the shaft on many of their accomplishments. People point to things like diesel engines and solar panels (both examples are in the above website) and say, or at least imply, that we owe science for these great things. Sure, there is a grey area between science and engineering, with engineering results helping scientists, and conversely scientific results helping engineers, but a lot of these so-called 'wonders of modern science' are really the accomplishments of engineers. Let's give them credit.

On the other side of the coin, people point to the Manhattan project and say that this was a dark side of science. As I understand it, physicists had a pretty good understanding of nuclear fission before the bomb. The bomb project was just a big engineering project that made use of the recent scientific knowledge of fission. I know scientists were involved, but my point is that they were doing engineering, not science.

In my view, and at least in some dictionaries I've consulted, science is about understanding the world, not making better devices. If I mention my science research to someone (thunderstorm electrification and cloud physics), their response is often 'So, what are the applications?'. Once when some of my research was written about in the popular press, someone commented on an online forum, 'What good is that? Our tax dollars should not be wasted on stuff like that.' Well, that is not the point of science at all. I believe all pure scientific research has nothing to do with applications - it is all about trying to understand something.

Of course, when scientists ask for a huge amount of public money for some project, they are compelled to try to forge some link to a practical application. But just once I'd like to review a proposal in which the authors state "This probably has no applications in the near future. We simply think it would be good for humanity to know how this thing works."


Anyway, that is my beef, and I wonder how other people feel about it.

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written by Skeptigirl, January 17, 2009
Great resource.

I'm going to voice continued disagreement, however, with the claim that "Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."

Does science contradict the existence of 'mythical' gods such as Zeus, Pele and Thor? And yet in order to not offend, to not challenge strongly held beliefs, to not alienate god believers and to accommodate god believing skeptics and scientists, the official stand of the scientific community is, we will avoid addressing politically correct magical thinking by simply defining it as something else.
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written by Skeptigirl, January 17, 2009
@J Nelson:

Science and engineering are married. It's not a gray area so much as it is an overlapping continuum between them.
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written by Adam_Y, January 17, 2009
@Skeptigirl
Hasty generalization fallacy. In a lot of ways engineering is more married to mathematics than it is to science.
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
In my opinion, science, mathematics and technology are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without both of the other two. In fact everything is linked to everything else, which goes to the heart of Sose's problem of trying to limit growth in knowledge while we all spend time and resources solving the immediate obvious problems.

You just never know where solutions are going to come from. If Fleming and everyone else had been attending to sick patients instead of mucking about with moulds....
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written by Skeptigirl, January 17, 2009
Back @ AdamY

Why would those two marriages be mutually exclusive? Science and engineering both rely heavily on math.
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written by Son of Rea, January 17, 2009
Skeptigirl,

Just because science doesn't specifically denounce religious beliefs, doesn't mean it's accommodating them. Science deals with evidence. It deals with what is observable, testable, and probable. It is not science's obligation to refute untestable claims.

Should science specifically denounce the existence of ghosts? Bigfoot? Alien abductions? Psychics? Any other crazy belief that has no supporting evidence?

A wise scientist would be willing to acknowledge the possibility of a god, because wise scientists know that they don't know everything.
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
I agree with those who have science and engineering closely related. Engineering may have been around much longer but that doesn't mean that the process wasn't in ways scientific in learning things like how to build pyramids, arches, flying buttresses, make and use concrete and so on. The difference is that they learned more by trial and error than by applied research like science. Science showed us ways to engineer confidently rather than haphazardly. The Ancient Egyptians didn't build the Giza pyramids on the first attempt at building pyramids. It took hundreds of years and hundreds of attempts to arrive at the masterpieces of Giza. That is science at its best, if not slowest - even if they didn't realize it was 'science'.

Engineering, especially electro-mechanical, is almost entirely dependent upon science. Where would we be without Newton's Laws? Still using wheels, levers, and screws. That is applied science at its most magnificent. Our entire modern world is built by legions of scientists working alongside or independently of engineers over the past three or so centuries.

Bah...
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
Science and religion are not "non-overlapping magisteria" as Gould was fond of saying. There are many religious ideas for which there is no supportive scientific evidence and many religious ideas for which there is a great deal of contrary scientific evidence.

Like skepigirl, I'm sure that statement is in there for two reasons: a small percentage of scientist, including some prominent scientists, believe it to be true; and so as not to alienate these scientists and the public at large.

BJ
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written by Adam_Y, January 17, 2009
@Kuroyume
Its a bit more involved than just knowing the laws of science. Electrical engineering is one such field where you can flip flop from pure math to a combination of both. Signal processing, information theory, and control theory all lean towards being mathematical constructs. The later is particularly interesting in that it is useful in almost every single discipline of engineering and only recently have scientists realized that it is also useful in studying evolution and biology.
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
Okay... but the 'mathematical constructs' come from scientific experimentation and hypotheticizing which led to the 'models' represented by mathematical formulas. Science isn't just guys in white labcoats mixing flasks of chemicals or pulling levers to start up Tesla coils (eh hem, Tesla being a physicist!). For every scientific theory, there is a mathematical model that is integral to it (really). Einstein didn't just make shit up with his gedanken experimenten. He backed it up with a (very) complex mathematical model (which took much longer to flesh out than the conceptual model).

Signal processing, information theory, and control theory are all scientific theories with mathematical constructs (as required). They would be mathematical laws if strictly mathematical. Theories are scientific models. Get it yet?
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
Before being lambasted, yes, there are mathematical theories such as Set Theory or Number Theory but these completely involve formal systems independent of any relevance to reality or observable phenomena. A few (very few) pure mathematical theories happen to find relevances in reality and observable phenomena (such as Chaos Theory). But these usually have dual influences: the purely esoteric realms of formal systems and observation/experimentation (scientific underpinnings). It can get muddled pretty quickly here. We have idealistic circles and spheres which show us a unitless proportion 'pi' which works in the real world as long as we're talking about things that approximate circles and spheres. But wasn't the original conception, Geometry by the Ancient Greeks, supposed to be a formalization of the world around them: i.e.: science. It ended up as mathematics but was thought to embody reality in some way (a model).

I look at it this way:

ScienceEngineering
^ ^
+-----------+------ mathematics

You can't say that engineering, something that involves the use of real things, is not related to science, something that involves the study of real things, and vice versa.
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written by K. Söse, January 17, 2009
Apologies. I wish to extend my humble apologies for my recent post. It was poorly written and did not express my point accurately. As I read the other posts, I saw how rude and “silly” it was in comparison. I need to improve my critical thinking abilities and hope to do so by visiting the informative JREF site.
As for the use of the name Söse, it is from a movie, but coincidentally, the name of one of my ancestors in my family tree.
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written by Adam_Y, January 17, 2009
@ Kuroyume
You really don't know about the mathematical law that affects everything from digital cameras to your cell phone. Nyquist-Shannon was proven using a three line mathematical proof.
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
You really don't know about the scientific laws that affect everything from computers to aircraft flight. I'm an E/M engineer and computer programmer who is self-taught in science and mathematics besides over several decades. Let's agree to vehemently disagree. ;P
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written by Kuroyume, January 17, 2009
Nyquist-Shannon has to do with digital sampling. That isn't exactly 'reality', is it? That is binary mathematics (being a COMPUTER programmer, guitar player, and MIDI user on ocassion, that is exactly where it belongs!). Someone at Bell Labs first encountered the phenomenon that was linked to the theorem - in real tests. Watch your applications here.
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misconceptions about science
written by MadScientist, January 17, 2009
@Jon Nelson:

I think your statement shows a problem with people's ideas of science. There were many people branded as "inventor" or "engineer" who really were scientists. There is no reason an engineer cannot be a scientist (or a scientist an engineer). Scientists generally improve knowledge in a field via careful observation, experimentation, and analysis. Many engineers may simply peek in books looking for formulaic solutions to problems and this may be the general idea people have of engineers, but it isn't quite the right picture either; some engineers do in fact engage in scientific research. I'm a scientist but for the past 8 years I haven't been doing any original research because I've been busy designing and building instruments for other scientists and industry groups. With any luck I'll be able to get back into research in a few more years (after building the equipment I need).

Other scientists don't necessarily make new fundamental discoveries; for example there are numerous scientists dedicated to the calibration and processing of satellite data - that's not the sort of thing I'd expect engineers in general to be able to do. Some scientists do make discoveries (also not necessarily fundamental) based on the data they get from the scientists who design and maintain the instrumentation.

For over 80 years people have had a habit of making a distinction between an 'experimental scientist' (Michael Faraday, Copernicus) and 'theoretical scientist' (Richard Feynman, Johannes Keppler). Even that distinction is somewhat arbitrary and contrived; there were many people like Millikan, Michelson, Crick and so on who were/are adept both at theory and instrumentation/experimentation.

The Manhattan Project was much more than an engineering job; there was an awful lot of scientific research and without that research it simply wouldn't have been possible to build successful bombs.
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
K Sose,

That was pretty disappointing.
We were gearing up for bit of a fight.
Please pick up that towel.

BJ
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written by Bruno, January 18, 2009
K. Söze, no probs. You'll find this site and other skeptical sites like csicop.org enlightening. IMHO skeptical web sites do a much better job explaining how practical, relevant and down-to-earth science can be compared to popular science news sites which indeed tend to overemphasize the "tech edge" and the "factoids" while completely failing to explain what science really is about (just like cnn.com never manages to explain what politics is about).
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There is no conspiracy of science not to offend religious believers
written by SkepticReport, January 18, 2009
Science doesn't contradict the existence of any gods. Science can contradict the existence of god phenomena.

Something can exist without science having detected it - yet.

Where claims of gods have been made, science may have shown that the god claims were not true: E.g., thunder isn't Thor's hammer, but an electronic phenomenon. However, that does not mean that science has contradicted the existence of Thor. Just as we have misunderstood various phenomena (and still do, until we get a better understanding from science), the vikings also misunderstood lightning.

There is not a conspiracy of silence in the scientific community in order not to offend, challenge strongly held beliefs, alienate god believers or to accommodate god believing skeptics and scientists.

To think that is to fundamentally understand what science is, and what the scope of science is. Science doesn't limit itself to accommodate anyone's beliefs. Science investigates the physical world, period.

Has science shied away from investigating religious miracles? Not at all: E.g., the Shroud of Turin turned out to be a (magnificent) fake. However, it is arrogant to argue that science has found the end answer to all god claims. There are plenty of things in the religious realm that science does not yet have an explanation for.

But it isn't always that science is allowed to investigate freely, as it should. Churches may seek to limit what science can look at, but that is not science's fault, but solely the religious people.

It certainly isn't because the scientific community is afraid to investigate. Far from it.
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written by Bruno, January 18, 2009
Skeptics who claim science has nothing to say about the existence of God are assuming that said God is not falsifiable. This is not necessarily true. Gods can be said to be positively falsified if:
*their proposed properties are not logically consistent or
*their proposed properties are not consistent with known fact (i.e. they make actual predictions that are demonstrably incorrect).

Given the way religions evolve (ha! the irony), it is most unlikely for anyone to believe in a God who has no detectable impact on the universe whatsoever. Religions exist because people feel them to be relevant. For anything to be relevant, it has to be falsifiable. Unfalsifiable Gods (e.g. god of the gaps) are intellectual creations of "sophisticated" believers who want to keep them outside scientific inquiry. However, you can be quite sure that the God they pray to is not the unfalsifiable God they publicly profess to believe in.

Believers positing a zero-footprint God and skeptics believing believers believe in such a God is PC in action.
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written by BillyJoe, January 18, 2009
Science has not disproved the god hypothesis, but has relegated it to a position of irrelevance.

I'll bet they won't state that simple fact on their website.
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Clarification on my points about science and engineering
written by Jon Nelson, January 18, 2009


I thank Skeptigirl for the comment about science and engineering being 'married' and MadScientist for the comments about people's conception of science and the relation between doing engineering and science.
When I wrote about a 'grey area' between science and engineering, the examples I gave could more properly be called a relation between the two. So, there is both a connection and a relation between science and engineering, and a lot of research involves a mixture of science and engineering. There are even fields like applied physics that lie in the grey area between science and engineering. I agree with these things.

My main points were that 1) engineers deserve more credit for their work (instead of giving the credit to scientists or to science), and 2) scientists should not be expected to produce practical results. Do you agree?

(Of course, one could fairly say, well then, if scientists aren't expected to produce anything practical, then they shouldn't feel entitled to public money. In this sense, the sciences can be viewed like the arts; indeed at many universities science and art are in the same college: the college of arts and sciences. Other universities lump the sciences with engineering into the college of science and engineering.)

Sure, many, if not most, of the engineers who work on a diesel engine probably know the science of thermodynamics and use thermodynamics, but they are not exactly doing scientific work. They are using both scientific and engineering principles to get a project done, but the goal is not to better understand nature. Now if they were researching some current problem in thermodynamics, which is a way to better understand nature, and just happened to stumble upon a great design for an engine, then I would say OK, that engine did result from science - serendipity at work.

This is why I think referring to a diesel engine and refering to solar panels in a website about science can misrepresent science and take credit from engineering. It fails to acknowledge the hard work of engineers and it puts a burden on scientists to only do practical things.

MadScientist referred to people's misconception of science. I agree. But what I'm suggesting is that the above misrepresentation may be one of the factors leading to this misconception. Moreover, even scientists and very knowledgeable people may be contributing to the misrepresentation.

Just because there is a big grey area, a mixture, and various connections between science and engineering doesn't mean we shouldn't try to distinguish between the two activities.


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written by Rogue Medic, January 18, 2009
Is there a need to differentiate among theoretical science, applied science, engineering, and mathematics?

Science without math is, at best, limited.

Science is how we obtain knowledge/understanding. Sometimes we also learn from the application of knowledge/understanding.

Shouldn't we work more toward integration, rather than disintegration/balkanization?
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About Rogue Medic's question
written by Jon Nelson, January 18, 2009
Concerning the question
”Shouldn't we work more toward integration?"

I don't know. But I'm saying that scientific activities and engineering activities have different goals. Certainly, it is good to keep one's goal in mind when working on something. 

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written by Skeptigirl, January 18, 2009
Without changing the discussion to one of irrelevant Deist gods and falsifiability of omnipotent gods I return to the quote from the science site Phil wrote about.

"Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."

Zeus is a supernatural entity as is Pele. Ghosts are supernatural entities. Life after death? Supernatural. If we address the claims made about these things, science finds no evidence of the existence of these things and better explanations for the phenomena claimed to be evidence of these things. So why create a separate category for a few special god beliefs? If there is no evidence for a Christian god answering prayers, why claim some special category for that belief at the same time one is happy to show a Hindu statue doesn't really drink milk?

Science cannot support or contradict the existence of gods? Excuse me? The evidence overwhelmingly contradicts the existence of gods. You have to create a special definition of 'gods' as existing outside of the realm of science in order to claim science cannot address the existence of gods. And for the record, a god which doesn't interact with the Universe (because any interaction should be testable) is a god which we therefore should have no means of being aware of.

Creating an exclusion for god beliefs may be politically expedient, but it means you're accepting a double standard. It's OK for science to demonstrate volcanic eruptions result from natural causes, supporting the conclusion Pele is a mythical god those 'native' peoples who lacked modernity believed in. The evidence is clear Zeus was a mythical god. Ancient people's god beliefs can be called mythical. The current god beliefs of a New Guinea bush people can be called mythical. And depending on your level of political correctness, the god beliefs of people who pour milk into the mouths of statues or who believe paintings drip oil and the Sun moves if you see it from the grotto at Medjugorje can be called mythical.

But modern god beliefs within our culture? Those are supposedly not within the realm of science to address. It's a needless double standard. I suggest the scientific community at least change its stand to say science can address claims made by believers in gods. Surely we can use science to address the claims made by Pat Robertson that God sent a hurricane to destroy New Orleans because the city's occupants were too gay.

Why should we take the defensive stand? It is the god believers' false claims that science is biased against god beliefs that the problem originates from. Rather than making up a special category for god beliefs being outside the realm of science, how about a statement of neutrality regarding scientific evaluation of the evidence? Science is not at war with religion. The scientific process is neutral about the existence of gods. Science deals with the evidence whether it does or does not support the existence of gods. Sometimes people who are not happy with what the evidence supports attack the process. It is the evidence they need to address if they want to make the claim scientists are biased against any conclusion whether it offends political or religious beliefs.
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written by Skeptigirl, January 18, 2009
SkepticReport
Something can exist without science having detected it - yet.
Yes, but this is a different issue. The claim gods are outside the realm of science is not the same as saying we have yet to see evidence for the existence of gods.

We have evidence that claims of god effects which have been tested have yet to show evidence of god effects.
We have evidence that god beliefs are common across cultures and throughout recorded history.
The conclusion that people originally made up god beliefs is more consistent with the evidence than the conclusion god beliefs originated from human encounters with actual gods.

Given the evidence, if the above applied to anything except god beliefs we wouldn't say that thing was outside the realm of science. We would say no evidence has been found to support that conclusion and there is a better explanation for the evidence than that conclusion. Future evidence may result in a different conclusion but the current one is....

No special category needed. Science is neutral. Why should we make up this special category to avoid offending believers? In the short run, maybe that will let a few more god believers in the door. I'm concerned incorrect conclusions must be unlearned before correct conclusions can be learned. At some point we are going to have to purge the special category of god beliefs from our vocabulary. 'Faith-based beliefs' are no different from 'non-evidence based beliefs'. There is no such thing as 'spiritual well being' there is simply 'well being'. You don't need god beliefs to get there.

The problem isn't that the scientific process does not address the existence of gods. The problem is god believers claim the scientific process is biased against god beliefs. By not confronting that root cause we allow the real issue to continue unaddressed, while we give a pass to the people who created the straw man. Perhaps we offend a few less people, but the trade off may be that we are allowing many more to continue believing science is biased against god beliefs.

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written by Cuddy Joe, January 19, 2009
All the god believers want is for science to lower its standards for evidence enough to make proof of god possible. This lowering of standards would need to be about, oh, 99.9%.
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Confusing things
written by danieljref, January 19, 2009
I may be confusing a lot too, but some people aren't making much sense.
Some are confusing science with technology. There is no need to know anything about gravity, air resistance, atoms, molecule structures, etc. in order to build a car, for example. So, most of the things that exists today are a product of techonology, not science.

I see people talking about religion, but I seriously doubt they ever read a (serious) work on the subject they are talking about. I usually see, what it seems to be, religious positions (and their rebutals) taken from people that come out of sunday mass instead of serious religion thinkers. This is like talking to the general public about science and based on their knowledge (which surely is faulty) say that science is worth nothing.

And I think the problem is not (has never been) between science and religion. It is about scientists and religious people. This should be clear by now. Both have their good and their bad sides. Unfortuantely the bad side of both are up nowadays.

Science has not disproved the god hypothesis, but has relegated it to a position of irrelevance.


Sorry, but I don't see it. Could you elaborate?

And it may be ironic, but it is really strange to see the position of some scientists towards religion (mainly the Church) when it was religious institutions that made most of today's science possible.

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ad hom subs for substance
written by Skeptigirl, January 19, 2009
@Daniel

That's a good one. Opinions which differ from yours must come from the uninformed, because if people were informed, naturally, they'd all agree with you.

As for science making the god hypothesis irrelevant, I'm not sure if you are refuting the claim or saying you don't get it. Science has made the 'god explanation' for things in the Universe unnecessary. The comment says nothing about the social implications of god beliefs if that was your concern.

But the god of the gaps hypotheses are useless in understanding the nature of the Universe. And adding a 'god did it' layer to things which lack an explanation such as, what occurred before the Big Bang, only adds an irrelevant layer. It reveals no relevant information. Unless you can explain where gods came from, saying gods created the Universe offers no more relevant insight than saying we don't know what existed prior to the Universe's existence.

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written by Skeptigirl, January 19, 2009
Sidetrack: Why do some positive votes show + and others nothing?
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 19, 2009
"Sidetrack: Why do some positive votes show + and others nothing?"

Those without a + indicate the approval of fellow posters, while those with a + indicate God's approval.

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My comments posted at the site
written by Skeptigirl, January 19, 2009
smilies/grin.gif

I posted the following in the 'request for comments' at the science resource website:

Re this section:
"Misunderstandings of the limits of science
* Science contradicts the existence of God. [snip].... Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God. ...."

Science should not be concerned with political correctness. It should be concerned with evidence. To say, "studies which show prayers have no effect greater than placebo, cities with higher % of gay populations do not have an increased incidence of hurricanes, and there have been no healed amputations at the Medjugorje grotto do not contradict god beliefs", is disingenuous.

The better approach to the misconception that science is at war with religion is to address the root of the problem: people with beliefs which are not supported by the evidence sometimes make the false claim science arbitrarily rejects evidence which supports the existence of gods. The truth: Science is neutral about the existence of gods. If there is evidence which is inexplicable (so called supernatural or paranormal) science seeks the explanation which best fits the evidence. That those explanations happen to favor natural causes is the result of the evidence, not the result of a bias against supernatural causes.

Creating special categories such as some magical existence outside the realm of science should be limited to what there is evidence of. Currently science cannot investigate events prior to the Big Bang and things outside of the Universe. If there were a god outside of the Universe, or if a god created everything but did nothing after, then science cannot test for the existence of such a god. But you cannot then ignore the other aspect of such a god, no one would have any way of being aware of such a god.

If gods and ghosts were outside the Universe, or if a god created the Universe but then let nature take its course, then we would have no way of being aware of such things. If we are aware, then these things are within the Universe and within the realm of science.

Trying to take the politically expedient way out of the dilemma that religious beliefs are not often supported by the evidence by claiming science doesn't go there leads to a more important dilemma, the evidence does go there. It creates a double standard to say "faith based beliefs" differ from "non-evidence based beliefs". If you define gods as untestable, what do you do with claims made about gods? Do you pretend these two have no related significance?

At the same time, it is hypocritical and leads to confusion to address through science, all the myths and god beliefs throughout cultures, throughout history EXCEPT those god beliefs deemed not politically correct to address.

Is it outside the realm of science to test claims that prayers have an effect? Is it outside the realm of science to explain a spontaneous natural tumor regression? These answers could significantly impact medical care be it in resource allocation or cancer cures. Yet a person of faith might well view such studies as science trying to disprove a god exists. The attempt to be politically correct by claiming science doesn't test god hypotheses is revealed to be dishonest.

I think more than a few scientists would be ecstatic if a new discovery supported a fantastic explanation such as the existence of gods or ghosts. If people believe in a god, encourage them to look for the evidence rather than giving the dishonest reply that science promises not to contradict their beliefs. Remind them though, that science does have a bias toward rigorous process. They can't claim there is evidence by ignoring the rules such as the reliability of radioisotope dating.

We don't need to be on the defensive because people have attacked the messenger (science) because they don't like the message (the evidence). Science is not about political correctness. One is respectful of others' beliefs by how one delivers the message, not by changing the message. The message is, science is neutral about the existence of gods. If the evidence supports the existence of gods, great, if it doesn't, then it doesn't. No war, no bias even if people unhappy the evidence does not support their beliefs think science is at war with religion.

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written by Cuddy Joe, January 19, 2009
Girl, yer goin' to hell.
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written by danieljref, January 19, 2009
@Skeptigirl

That is one of my points. Everybody is giving "opinions". They don't know (or look like it) anything they are talking about, so they only say what they "feel" like right without ever studying the subject. I'm not claiming I know or am more informed than anyone else (although it is true in particular cases), but the tone and arguments I read are very different from the ones I read from people that DO know what they are talking about.

You are a good example.

But you cannot then ignore the other aspect of such a god, no one would have any way of being aware of such a god.


This is a logical fallacy to say the least. You're simply saying that if science cannot measure it, it cannot exist or manifest itself. I'm not an expert on the subject, but people can be aware of such a God through revelation, intuition. If you knew what you were talking about you would at least address this issue. But instead, since the "science" (as you call it) does not have a way to deal with this, then your conclusion is that it can't be known (where did you get that from. I know the scientific method doesn't stipulate this).

Science is just as neutral as the scientists want it to be.

As for the God hypothesis, I simply don't get it. How has science excluded the God explanation? All you have are unproven theories and mathematical entities, which even if proven would not exclude the God explanation. Most of what I see is that science only change the explanation of HOW God did it (if I take a religious point of view), not IF he did it. Religious people are still people. They can be as wrong as scientists. And if by god hypothesis, you only mean the specific cases of what you call "god of the gaps", then a misread the comment.

And I'm not concerned about social implications. I leave that to the religious people, who I think have a point in fighting against scientists that want to get rid of their God just to put a new God (Science) in its place, even if they refuse to acknowledge it.

Unless you can explain where gods came from


Have you ever read anything about God, other than George Carlin jokes? Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, christian, jewish, islamic, buddhist, hinduist philosophers? Is it wrong to throw the Anthony Flew card now?

Just for starters. Bring an honest concept of God and refute it, instead of saying these things.

Maybe this double standard is exactly what people don't like about science. You exalt that science can be wrong (and usually IS) but you are never wrong about God (but you are always cautious not to say it outloud). You say that science is neutral about God, but you use every data you have to deny its existence. You claim that science cannot disprove God, but you are sure that it doesn't exist and when confronted with this you quickly run to say stuff about probability and not certainty (and an obnoxious relativism), while avoiding any resemblance to what may be a "faith" in non-existence and wrap an argument from personal ignorance with fancy scientific words while striving to know if you believe God doesn't exist or if you don't believe that God exists.

Science and religion is not a problem because they deal with different issues. The problem is people from both sides trying to ignore this and making a dispute for nothing but power.
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written by Bruno, January 19, 2009
Science seeks the explanation which best fits the evidence. That those explanations happen to favor natural causes is the result of the evidence, not the result of a bias against supernatural causes.

I've never seen it put more succinctly. The painful thing is that many scientific thinkers do literally say that science limits itself to finding "natural" causes (whatever that may be) thus perpetuating the bias myth. Of course, come to think of it, science doesn't distinguish between "natural" and "supernatural" causes. There are only causes, and they tend to be exceedingly prozaïc. Yup, and all these very prozaïc causes make up a pretty amazing universe, which is totally lost on them because they're always looking for That One Single Thing.

@danieljref: You say Skeptigirl should provide an honest concept of a God. I think you can greatly expediate the discussion by doing so yourself. Please postulate a specific God which you think can exist, and describe the properties of said God. Then we can discuss whether indeed such a God is
1) Internally consistent
2) Consistent with known facts
3) Meaningful to anyone wishing to worship a God.

Revelation would be an acceptable way of obtaining insight only if the revelations different people have received are consistent. The fact that religions do not agree about the supernatural entities as revealed to each others followers, shows that revelation is not reliable.

To suggest that skeptics should read serious religious books is a nonargument. It may or may not be true. If I want to understand nuclear physics, I read books by nuclear physicists. If I want to understand why children believe in the Tooth Fairy, I do not consult works by toddler toothfairyists.
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written by Bruno, January 19, 2009
Re Skeptigirl's side track: When you vote on a message the script changes the number on your screen straight away without reloading the page. Apparently the routine that does this is different from the one that displays the vote count when the page is first loaded, and by oversight of the programmer doesn't add the "plus" sign. So the ones you see with no plus in front are the ones you just voted on.
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written by BillyJoe, January 19, 2009

Bruno,

You beat me to it. That is exactly what happens. I was puzzled about it for only a second or two when I first observed this, but I quickly realised what the problem was. Clever? Well, let's just say that I am happy to know that I am more intelligent than Skeptigirl because she has impressed me on many occasions, including in this thread.

And I suppose everyone has also noticed that if you submit a post it will appear immediately after the last one on the page you downloaded - in other words, any posts submitted after you downloaded that page will not appear. If you click the refresh button these post will now appear ahead of your own post. If you haven't noticed that, well then I have one up on you also.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, January 19, 2009
daniel,

When Skeptigirl says science is neutral about the existence of gods, she means that science handles the god hyopthesis just like any other hypothesis - by letting the evidence do the talking. If there is evidence for a hypothesis, it is (provisionally) accepted. If there is evidence against a hypothesis, it is (provisionally) rejected. If there is no evidence for or against a hypothesis, it is neither accepted nor rejected but relegated to a position of irrelevance.

The other way of looking at this question is that the only god that science cannot investigate is "god of the gaps" or the "deist god" (who creates the universe and then goes awol). But such an god is accessible to no one and hence nothing at all can be said about such a god. In fact, it is as if such a god doesn't exist.

BJ
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 20, 2009
Another way of looking at it is that, so far, nothing we've observed and studied in nature has emerged as being explainable only by the agency of a god.

God believers could help this situation by:

1. Defining God
2. Defining God's powers.
3. Defining God's limits of power, if any.
4. Defining the difference between an act of God and an act of nature
a. Without defining an act of God as "anything we don't have a natural answer for."

It is exceedingly hard for science to ascribe anything to the acts of or powers of any god without some definition of god, acts of god, powers of god, etc.
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written by BillyJoe, January 20, 2009
You will find that god believers are very reluctant to do this because the deistic god is the only god for which there is not, and cannot be, any refuting evidence and, considering that such a god does not, by definition, play a role in anyone's lives, and considering that such a god does not imply the existence of an afterlife, it is not one that many wish to defend, except perhaps a few scientists who refuse to give-up the final vestiges of their original belief in god.

BJ
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 20, 2009
Actually, my request was tongue in cheek. There is and can be no consistent definition of God or his powers. Each believer has his or her own definition. The very concept is unscientific.

To define God is to kill God.

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written by Skeptigirl, January 20, 2009
danieljref, January 19, 2009:
...They don't know (or look like it) anything they are talking about, so they only say what they "feel" like right without ever studying the subject....the tone and arguments I read are very different from the ones I read from people that DO know what they are talking about.

Or, it could be you didn't understand the concept being discussed. You might be trying to fit what was said into your preexisting conviction that one doesn't need evidence to believe in a god. Regardless of why, you missed the actual point that was made.

You are a good example.
But you cannot then ignore the other aspect of such a god, no one would have any way of being aware of such a god.

This is a logical fallacy to say the least. You're simply saying that if science cannot measure it, it cannot exist or manifest itself.

That is not what I've said. But I can see why you've misunderstood. So allow me to explain.

We don't have any evidence of what occurred before the Big Bang. At this point in scientific thought it is a recognized fact that there is no way to currently collect any evidence about things that occurred before our Universe time began. And we also cannot collect any evidence of things outside of the Universe. Either there is an outside of the Universe or there isn't one. Either there was time before the Big bang &/or something existed, or, there wasn't. We have no way of detecting anything prior to the beginning of our space-time.

Those are 2 things which are outside of the realm of science.

If one defines one's god as being outside of the realm of science, one is saying there is no way to detect such a god. There is no way to know if there is or there isn't such a god. That is what being outside the realm of science means.

You are confusing this concept with the concept of believing without evidence, or believing there is evidence but it cannot be detected by 'scientific' exam.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but people can be aware of such a God through revelation, intuition. If you knew what you were talking about you would at least address this issue. But instead, since the "science" (as you call it) does not have a way to deal with this, then your conclusion is that it can't be known (where did you get that from. I know the scientific method doesn't stipulate this).

I'll ignore your faulty assumption that I don't know what I'm talking about for the moment and continue.

'Revelation' and 'intuition' are knowable, testable, and well within the realm of science. For example, if you believe through intuition God answers prayers, we can test if prayers have any effect. If Pat Robertson has a revelation God sends hurricanes to punish a city that supports homosexuals, we can see if hurricanes hit more gay populations than would occur randomly.

As more and more beliefs about God fail to be confirmed by the evidence, some people ignore the evidence and others change their definition of God. On the extreme end of changing one's definition of God, Deism was adopted by some believers. By definition, a Deist god initiated the Big Bang and then takes no further action.

If such a god indeed takes no further action, then all the praying and believing one wishes will have no effect. If it had an effect, even if it were all part of God's plan from the beginning, the effect would be detectable. If believing and praying have no effect, then believing and praying are irrelevant. Much as you'd like to, you cannot have it both ways.

(continued)
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written by Skeptigirl, January 20, 2009


That leaves the matter of a god which makes its presence known by thought waves or whatever, started the Universe but takes no further action, and is awaiting your arrival in heaven. How could science address this evidenceless god concept? Well there is one scientific concept that applies here which is often left out of the discussion in order to leave the god question conveniently unanswerable. That is the scientific concept one follows the evidence to the conclusion, one does not try to fit the evidence to an existing conclusion.

The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that god beliefs originated within human imagination. There is no evidence god beliefs originated because ancient people had contact with real gods. We have no trouble recognizing the vast majority of god beliefs as myths and no evidence the ones not relegated to myth differ in any substantial way. IE if it looks like a duck it probably is a duck.

God beliefs permeate human history. They exist in all early cultures. We have even observed them forming such as the Cargo Cult did in the last century. The god beliefs are incompatible with each other so that suggests they are not all manifestations of the same god belief. And by far the vast majority of them are currently accepted as myths. Nothing distinguishes current god beliefs from past ones. Modern religions can be traced to their origins within individual cultures and there is no evidence any single culture or god belief is unique.


But now here's the important part:

You are not likely to agree with these conclusions or like them. And nothing in science compels you to reach the same conclusion as I have. But the idea the scientific process cannot be applied to the question, "Do gods exist?", ignores the fact science is used to address all sorts of god beliefs all the time.

The sciences of geology and meteorology have revealed the nature of natural disasters thus demonstrating the belief gods control these events is magical thinking. The science of psychology has demonstrated magical thinking is a common human thought process and biologists have described the functional organization of the brain which results in magical thinking. Evolutionary biologists can demonstrate the evolution of behavior in non-human primates that led to our brain function that seeks patterns when interpreting incoming data. It appears magical thinking is the result of these processes. The science of anthropology has been applied to the phenomena of the Cargo Cult demonstrating how god beliefs may have developed in ancient cultures, thus one is able to actually test the hypothesis of how humans developed god beliefs.

The point is, if one tries to place god beliefs outside the realm of science, one has to arbitrarily pick and choose which gods to give a pass to and which gods to define as mythical beliefs and address via the scientific process.

Pele, Zeus, Jesus, Hercules, Joseph Smith, L Ron Hubbard, ... if you are going to apply evidence to some but not all, then one needs to support that decision. One cannot just arbitrarily say Zeus is all myth but Jesus isn't. Lots of people today fool other people with fake miracles. It is arbitrary and not scientific to simply claim Jesus' miracles were real but the ones we observe people doing today are all fake. Claiming Joseph Smith was inspired by God which we have no evidence of but Hubbard's extra-terrestrials are fake because we have no evidence is a problem for science.

(continued)
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written by Skeptigirl, January 20, 2009
Science is just as neutral as the scientists want it to be.

No, the scientific process and the scientists are two different things. The process is neutral. Clearly human scientists are not. But that's OK because beliefs don't change the evidence (quantum mechanics aside) and the process continually self corrects. I myself, am trying to push scientists toward a correction here. I want to correct the temptation to apply political correctness to science in lieu of critical thinking.


As for the God hypothesis, I simply don't get it. How has science excluded the God explanation? All you have are unproven theories and mathematical entities, which even if proven would not exclude the God explanation. Most of what I see is that science only change the explanation of HOW God did it (if I take a religious point of view), not IF he did it. Religious people are still people. They can be as wrong as scientists. And if by god hypothesis, you only mean the specific cases of what you call "god of the gaps", then a misread the comment.

And I'm not concerned about social implications. I leave that to the religious people, who I think have a point in fighting against scientists that want to get rid of their God just to put a new God (Science) in its place, even if they refuse to acknowledge it.

Unless you can explain where gods came from

And now we get to your rationalizing: Scientists just follow a different Bible therefore your beliefs are just as good as anyone else's.

You as a person have equal worth, equal rights, the freedom to choose. But science has at least 2 things over religion and religion has at least one thing over science.

1.) Science has evidence based beliefs. These are testable. The knowledge base grows and self corrects.
2.) Science is successful. Modern medicine cures where prayers do not.

1.) Religion has magical thinking. While this is a drawback in many instances, it is comforting to believe in life after death and reuniting with loved ones who've died.


Personally, I'll take the benefits of science over the benefits of magical thinking. I can see the temptation to ignore the fact the evidence supports god beliefs being mythical, and maintain the best of both worlds. One just needs to suppress that cognitive dissonance that creeps into one's consciousness on occasion. I can't do that. I've thought to carefully about this subject to ignore the evidence. And I don't find the benefit of magical thinking about life after death outweighs the disadvantage of all the other magical thinking that goes with god beliefs.

(continued one more post, my apologies)
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written by Skeptigirl, January 20, 2009
Have you ever read anything about God, other than George Carlin jokes? Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, christian, jewish, islamic, buddhist, hinduist philosophers? Is it wrong to throw the Anthony Flew card now?

Just for starters. Bring an honest concept of God and refute it, instead of saying these things.

Now you are just thrashing around. I ask you if you've ever really read the Bible? That's a pretty atrocious god if that's the one you believe in. ... But I digress.


Maybe this double standard is exactly what people don't like about science. You exalt that science can be wrong (and usually IS) but you are never wrong about God (but you are always cautious not to say it outloud). You say that science is neutral about God, but you use every data you have to deny its existence. You claim that science cannot disprove God, but you are sure that it doesn't exist and when confronted with this you quickly run to say stuff about probability and not certainty (and an obnoxious relativism), while avoiding any resemblance to what may be a "faith" in non-existence and wrap an argument from personal ignorance with fancy scientific words while striving to know if you believe God doesn't exist or if you don't believe that God exists.

Science is successful. You confuse self correcting progression toward more and more knowledge with being "usually wrong". Think of science as a method by which knowledge grows and grows but the focus is frequently adjusted. If one goes a bit off course, the evidence is there and the process of continuing to gather and test it continually refocuses the results. The direction continues upward regardless of any wobbling.

Science is neutral about god. But the evidence is not neutral. The evidence is what it is. Science cures cancer. Prayers do not. That is evidence. Science doesn't prefer that medicine works and prayers don't. It is the evidence you have a beef with, not the science.


Science and religion is not a problem because they deal with different issues. The problem is people from both sides trying to ignore this and making a dispute for nothing but power.

Power? You've lost me here.
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written by BillyJoe, January 20, 2009
Power? You've lost me here. 1

daniel thinks you feel superior (powerful) when you use science to relegate god to a position of irrelevance.
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Concept of God
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
If you don't know against what you're fighting, don't try to turn the table around and demand from me a concept that you should have before talking about it. Apparently Cuddy Joe has one (or several) and it's rebuttal, but he doesn't want to share. Too bad for me, I was expecting to see it.

To define God is to kill God.


I heard this before. Could you explain why this is so?
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@ Skeptigirl
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
I didn’t expect an essay on the subject. I’ll try to be brief. My apologies if it looks rude or too blunt.
Or, it could be you didn't understand the concept being discussed.

It couldn't. At this point, I was talking in general of people that only give opinions. In your case, opinions about God and religion.
If one defines one's god as being outside of the realm of science, one is saying there is no way to detect such a god. There is no way to know if there is or there isn't such a god.

You are proving my point. You are still thinking that if it doesn't fit the scientific method, there is no way to know. This is pure scientism. Yes there are (or so I've been told) ways to know or to prove if there is or is not a God. The fact that these ways are not "accepted" by the scientific method does not make the scientific method the ultimate judge of reality.
I'll ignore your faulty assumption that I don't know what I'm talking about

And yet you prove my assumption was right. What you are calling revelation or intuition is (if that much) a faulty explanation of someone's belief. If it weren't for intuition, no advancement in science would be possible. And yet science can only so far as say that it happened without ever saying WHAT actually happened. And again I'll have to assume a religious point of view, which is not my own, just to once more show you that you do not understand what you are talking about. Believing and praying is not a demand on God. Just because somebody pray or believe does not mean that God will answer.
As more and more beliefs about God…

This is true intellectual dishonesty. You reduce the concept of God to something that take no action whatsoever and only acted at an undefined moment of “time”, pronounce it is evidenceless and go up against it. Ever heard of Straw Man?
There is no evidence god beliefs originated because ancient people had contact with real gods.

Explain to me what is “real gods” and I’ll again show that you have no idea what you are talking about (if that isn’t enough). You only relegate god beliefs to myths, because you never understood the beliefs, teachings, myths, or whatever you want to call it.
The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that god beliefs originated within human imagination.

Of course it looks like it. The human MIND is the few “godly properties” present in the body.
The god beliefs are incompatible with each other

Again you are proving my point. There are people studying “Compared Religions” and showing that different religious traditions have very much in common even though they have no “common ancestor”, except for transcendence.
there is no evidence any single culture or god belief is unique.

That is because you do not understand religion. Think of it as different paths to get to the same place.
You are not likely to agree with these conclusions or like them. And nothing in science compels you to reach the same conclusion as I have.

I’m not even beginning to examine agreeing or disagreeing with you. For that to happen, I’ll need that you first understand what you are talking about, which clearly you don’t.
But the idea the scientific process cannot be applied to the question, "Do gods exist?", ignores the fact science is used to address all sorts of god beliefs all the time.

Yes. And when science doesn’t have an answer, a duly excuse is promptly created. And as far as I know, philosophers proved the existence of God, why you don’t accept that?
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@ Skeptigirl pt. 2
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
The point is, if one tries to place god beliefs outside the realm of science

It is God, not the beliefs that are outside the realm of science. And again, I have no issue with evidence, but I don’t understand what anthropology, geology, meteorology has anything to do with God. If you will, religious people are not wrong, they are just self correcting themselves. They thought they understood some aspects of reality but they don’t. That is the greatness of science. The problem is trying to extend it to fields that are not of scientific concern.
if you are going to apply evidence to some but not all, then one needs to support that decision.

If you don’t understand anything about religions or God and throw everything in the same bag without any criteria and demand all must be subjected to the same examination, you are literally doing what Randi constantly warns scientists about. If you take magic tricks as real scientific phenomena, most scientists will agree that the “magic” is real because they are not treating them as they should. Magic tricks.
But science has at least 2 things over religion and religion has at least one thing over science.

So I’ll assume that the moral code that guide scientists to constantly search for truth, the analysis of logical basis and arguments that should have a firm basis (usually transcendental) and in exalting human values, which are the same used to evaluate the absurdity, atrociousness and undesirability or certain situations or events constantly used to deny God all come from science?
Science is successful

As contrary to what? Religions are not, because they did not create the society you live in and the institutions used to develop science?
Modern medicine cures where prayers do not.

Of course it does. That is why it was invented. Did you also know that cars take you faster to places where prayers do not? Prayers are not pills. Never were. (See what I mean, when I say you don’t understand what you are talking about…)
Religion has magical thinking

Yes. That is the best feature of Religion. To hell with white bearded guys carrying commandments.
I'll take the benefits of science over the benefits of magical thinking.

Does that mean that if I show more benefits of “magical thinking” you will change your position, or does science benefits are all that you need?
I ask you if you've ever really read the Bible?

So, No. You never read anything about God other than George Carlin jokes. Good to know (is that enough for proving my assumption?). And what do you mean by “really read”. Read like scientists and religious fundamentalists that cherry pick whatever they want and give a literal meaning to that?
You confuse self correcting progression toward more and more knowledge with being "usually wrong"

So it self corrects because it is usually right? And what does science curing cancer has anything to do with God explanation (which was the beginning of all this)?
Science is neutral about god. But the evidence is not neutral.

Is that a variation of “I hate the sin but not the sinner”?
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@ Skeptigirl. Final
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
Look, I have nothing against science. What ticks me is scientists going on in this “magical thinking” (I had to do it) that science can resolve everything and that it is always right even when it’s wrong (and especially so). That whatever is outside science does not exist (even though it is not supposed to be said out loud) and everything that does not go through a scientific method is immediately declared as bogus. Especially arguments by scientists that never read anything about religion or God, never studied what they are fighting against and still feel cocky enough to dismiss whatever they do not approve. Would a true scientist ever get respect and recognition if he kept on bashing Richard Dawkins’ explanations for evolution without ever reading any of his (Dawkins) works and understanding his position, basing his arguments on things said by creationists? Then why in hell (or in a straight line in a curved space if you will) should any scientist get respect and recognition if he keeps bashing on God and religion if he never read any religious/philosophic work on that subject and bases his arguments on things said by atheists?

Power? You've lost me here.

What I meant is that the debate on who’s right only serves for either religious people to dictate whatever they want and that all humanity should do as they say without question or scientists to dismiss everything religion says so they can dictate whatever they want and that all humanity should do as they say without question. I think examples for the first case are not needed, but for the second here they come: Prohibiting commercials of cookies for children; of alcohol and smoking; demanding obligatory actions because of Global Warming; Demanding obligatory actions because of whales, or trees, or tiny little Jamaican fleas; saying that all culture has no “rational” basis so you can “adjust” the rationale to even allow killing of children and so on.
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written by Kuroyume, January 21, 2009
And as far as I know, philosophers proved the existence of God, why you don’t accept that?


Because philosophers don't use evidence, they use reasoning which happens to be an entirely human construct, subjective, and very fallible when compared to any reality over which it is supposed to reside. Natural philosophers back in Ancient Greece determined that the Earth is the center of the universe, possibly flat, has four main elements (air, earth, water, fire), time doesn't exist, and we shoot sight rays out of our eyes to see. So much for using reason instead of science to describe the world. On the other hand, Eratosthenes preformed some well designed measurements and calculated the circumference of the Earth with an error of less than 1% more than two thousand years ago.

Science is indeed fallible. But it isn't an entirely human construct (a formal system). It is a system involving formal systems (logic, math, reasonsing) but which requires that the formal systems be 'put to the test' against what the idea is via evidence. And not just by the idea's originator showing how correct he/she is. That person must provide an evidential system which is able to be scrutinized and replicated so as to show that the idea agrees with the evidence. Science has corrective mechanisms whereas reasoning is just a train of thought supposedly drawn from a line of logical truisms which leads inexoribly to the conclusion. Without careful examination of those steps and the conclusion and then putting the conclusion to a reality test, reasoning remains philosophical rambling.
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Oh gee!
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
@Kuroyume
Because philosophers don't use evidence

Exactly. Like religious people, if the facts don't integrate with your beliefs, they must be wrong.

Want a example? Scientists only work with hard facts. Evidence as you call it. And they make mistakes. Constantly. You say so yourself. But philosophy, since it doesn't use evidence (an assertion that is simply ridiculous), should (apparently) not make mistakes. And if it does, then it is wrong, and subjective, and fallible and whatever. Philosophy must have improved by natural selection then...

And without philosophers, science as you know it, would never exist. You wouldn't have even an explanation to why evidence is important in the first place. The whole scientific method is based on reasoning and cannot be explained by science itself. Where do you think falseability comes from?
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written by Kuroyume, January 21, 2009
Science, unlike dogmatic, stuck-in-the-mud, archaic religion, changes and is a self-correcting methodology. Scientists make mistakes but that the overall practice of science has shown to be very stable, progressive, and useful cannot be doubted (just look at your computer or Apollo 11 for instance).

No. Science didn't depend upon philosophers. It depended upon reasoning with application. And 'the whole scientific method is based on reasoning' is false. It is based on reasoning followed by objective application and verification. That's the step that the Greeks (for the most part) and those who followed up until the early Renaissance never made. While Eratosthenes was out measuring and finding real world information, Aristotle was blowing hot air about how he 'thought' the world worked (from his amazingly big brain) without ever checking (measuring, testing, verifying).

Time for 'Science 101 - kindergarten':

1. Reasoning and philosophizing are subjective. Whether or not the conclusion jives with experience/evidence/reality is not of interest. There is no part of these methodologies that attempts to be objective.

2. Science is objective. It requires that the system works independently of the observer/reasoner (scientists doing the same experiment independently, for instance) and has predictive value applied to the real world (a model that can provide information that was previously unattainable).

To reiterate, one more time, again: Science replaced natural philosophy because it worked and the other did not.

I like this quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...philosophy

An important distinguishing characteristic of science and natural philosophy is the fact that natural philosophers generally did not feel compelled to test their ideas in a practical way. Instead, they observed phenomena and came up with 'philosophical' conclusions.


Sound familiar at all?
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written by Skeptigirl, January 21, 2009
It's clear, Danieljref, you are not trying to understand the discussion so let me simplify things rather than repeating what was clearly stated in my posts,

Explain how modern medicine through rigorous scientific process (aka evidence based medicine) cures theists and atheists alike while prayer and belief in any god (take your pick) cures no one.
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written by BillyJoe, January 21, 2009
Daniel,

If it weren't for intuition, no advancement in science would be possible.

It may be helpful to put aside the words science and religion for a moment. Instead consider the words intuition and evidence.

Take the example of your friend who develops oral cancer. You know him well and know that, all his life, he used mouth wash after every meal. Your intuition tells you that the mouth wash caused his oral cancer and you come to the conclusion: Mouth wash causes oral cancer.

One of your friends who aslo knew him all his life, remembers that every dasy he ate a handful of almonds. His intuition tells him that the almonds caused his cancer and he comes to the conclusion: Almonds cause oral cancer.

Who is right?
Are they both wrong?
The only way to find out is to collect evidence on both questions.

Stopping at intuition could be characterised as having a religious point of view on this subject. Calling this intuition an hypothesis and then collecting evidence to confirm/discomfirm that hypothesis could be characterised as having a scientific point of view.

So, I will just ask you: do you have a religious point of view (do you rely totally on intuition?) or do you have a scientific point of view (do you use intuition as a starting point only?)?

BJ
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There's nothing magical about 'intuition'.
written by Skeptigirl, January 22, 2009
BillyJoe has given examples of what "intuition" really is. There is a common false conclusion that intuition is some magical thought process just as there is a common false conclusion morals and aesthetic preferences are magically determined. The more accurate conclusion is all involve thought processes which may include subconscious determinations, but are not magical in origin.

A nurse whose intuition tells him or her that a patient doesn't look right recognizes things such as facial expression, skin color, breathing rate and so on. But that recognition does not have to be consciously recognized and analyzed in order to know 'intuitively' the patient is in trouble. The skill which is labeled 'intuition' is developed through experience. From that developed experience an instantaneous assessment is made. That is what intuition is, not some magical brain process.

What one believes is moral is simply an instantaneous assessment of criteria one has developed over time. There is evidence in the animal world and in abnormal human behavior that the valuation of beauty and morality are both the result of nature and nurture. It isn't inexplicable that one recognizes right and wrong any more than it is inexplicable one recognizes a tree despite never having seen that species of tree before. Our thinking is organized. Instantly one recognizes a trunk, branches and leaves are what trees are categorized under in our brains. You see the aspects of the new thing and you recognize it is a tree. But you don't say, "hmmm trunk, branches, leaves that is a tree". The assessment occurs subconsciously. And with beauty and morals you don't say to yourself what the aspects of beautiful and moral are. You make that assessment instantaneously and subconsciously as well.

We can test the aspects by which we make such judgments against an individual's beliefs and discover what the specifics are. One person values free speech, one values government security and will give up free speech under certain conditions. We could tease out these specifics if we wanted to. But when the person decides what is right or wrong, they typically make this assessment instantly, thus are not always aware criteria have been evaluated. One knows supposedly by 'intuition' what is right or wrong. In reality that intuition is simply instantaneous assessment of criteria our brains have previously set up to analyze new experiences with.

If your intuition tells you there is a god, in reality this is a function of the accumulation of experiences and learning that determine your current thought processes. That does not mean those thought processes are correct or incorrect. It means our brains have organized and categorized information over time and it affects how we organize and categorize new information. Danieljref appears to think his belief in a god (or gods) was simply magically instilled into his brain. It wasn't. He learned that belief just as I leaned that belief was false.

So if we both learned our beliefs, how do we know which one is right? The evidence only supports one of those beliefs. And we know the evidence is reliable because we can test it via the scientific process and that process consistently gives us successful results.

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written by Skeptigirl, January 22, 2009
written by danieljref, January 21, 2009
... And without philosophers, science as you know it, would never exist. You wouldn't have even an explanation to why evidence is important in the first place. The whole scientific method is based on reasoning and cannot be explained by science itself. Where do you think falseability comes from?
The scientific method developed over time as humans began to recognize how to best observe the Universe in order to get those successful results I've been speaking of.

For example, ancient people recognized there was a connection to the patterns they saw in the sky and the seasons which in turn affected food production and related information needed for survival: animal migration, when to expect good and bad weather and so on. Lots of mistakes were made. A casual observation that a child born in the Spring had a certain personality looked reasonable. But with time we learned that these sorts of apparent patterns were not reliable. Scientific methodology took time to develop.

Good scientific methodology in medicine is barely a century old. In astronomy it developed much earlier. As technology advances, scientific methodology has advanced exponentially. What we previously thought was good science in medicine is turning out to need a lot of tweaking. We've made some incorrect assumptions along the way that we are getting better at recognizing. Yet in anthropology and paleontology, technological advances in genetic research confirmed much of the earlier work was correct. There is no reason not to expect improvements in scientific methodology will advance our knowledge base just as collection of more information will.

What is philosophy? It is a branch of knowledge just as chemistry and astronomy are. According to the Wiki description:
Philosophy is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument.[3] The word philosophy is of Ancient Greek origin: φιλοσοφία (philosophía), meaning "love of wisdom."[4][5][6]
Reason and logic are part of the scientific process. So is systematic approach to observation of the evidence. How would a philosopher determine a logical argument? Because the outcome would be reliable, repeatable, and successful.

The philosopher did not determine the concept of falsifiability based on some magical wisdom placed in his/her head by a god. It came from identifying the elements of the scientific process. The philosopher would have merely pulled out and identified just what the elements were in the process of testing an hypothesis. He/she would have looked at the qualities of an hypothesis that made it testable or not testable. All the concept of falsifiability is, is an identification of just what is being tested via the scientific process. The same way I can determine what is really underlying a moral choice by looking at the subconscious elements that are behind that choice, one can look at the scientific process and identify the elements involved. Falsifiability is the name of a concept. Things are more easily understood when they are identified and identification results in a name.

Still no magic here, Danieljref.

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Still no conspiracy of silence...
written by SkepticReport, January 22, 2009
So what if people create special definitions of god in order to claim science cannot address the existence of gods? So what if some people's god doesn't interact with the Universe?

That has nothing to do with with science, and has nothing to do with whether or not there is a conspiracy of silence in science not to alienate god believers.

The harsh fact is that there is no conspiracy of silence. Scientists do not take a defensive stand at all, when it comes to religion: Religion is simply outside the scope of science.

If a religious person makes a testable claim about his god(s), then science - and skeptics - can investigate that claim. If there are no testable claims, then it isn't anything for science - or skeptics.

Exactly what area are scientists afraid to investigate, in order not to alienate religious people?

It must be so easy to just mention a few, since this fear of alienating religious people is so widespread.
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Staring you in the face...
written by BillyJoe, January 23, 2009
SkepticReport,

How can you not see that this quote from your post...

The harsh fact is that there is no conspiracy of silence. Scientists do not take a defensive stand at all, when it comes to religion: Religion is simply outside the scope of science.

...is directly contradicted by this quote from your post:

If a religious person makes a testable claim about his god(s), then science - and skeptics - can investigate that claim. If there are no testable claims, then it isn't anything for science - or skeptics.

The only non-testable claims are those concerning the deistic god...that impersonal, non-interventional god who offers no promise of an afterlife.

BJ
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written by SkepticReport, January 23, 2009
Religion is about believing in and worshiping supernatural being(s). It is only when religious people make testable claims that those claims are within the scope of science.

But not all religious people make these claims.

That is a very important point to remember: Just because you are religious does not mean you think all religions, and all miracles, are equally true.
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Lots of stuff.
written by danieljref, January 23, 2009
@ Kuroyume
Whether or not the conclusion jives with experience/evidence/reality is not of interest

Go back to kindergarden. If your assertion were remotely true, no philosopher in the world would ever be wrong. Since many of them are/were wrong, your assertion is false.

@Billy Joe
I think you agree with me or vice versa, so I’m not really sure where you’re going with your questions.
I never said intuition alone will solve anything. It’s even contradictory. If I didn’t have the evidences you mentioned (mouth wash after every meal), there would be nothing to work with.
I would’ve already collected some evidence to have an intuition. But that is precisely my point about intuition which is not explained by the scientific method. If I just look at the evidence, they tell me nothing. I would always see meal, mouthwash and cancer. Nothing more. Only intuition gives me the “knowledge” that maybe these things are connected. Everything I do after that would only be worth to confirm or discard a knowledge that I already have, i.e., a knowledge that was not given to me by the scientific method. This was my point in the line that you quoted. If you never have intuition, you will never have any knowledge to test. You will never advance in science.

I think your question is answered, but just so as it doesn’t go unnoticed, your definition of religious point of view (stop at intuition) and scientific point of view (intuition as starting point) is incorrect – but I don’t think it matters for now.

@Skeptigirl
Beforehand, let me just say that I never said intuition is magical. So I have no clue from where you got this idea. And since you wrote big posts under the assumption that intuition is magical, I’ll ignore your posts. I may come back to them because of some incorrect things you said about philosophy, but I’ll leave that for later.

Explain how modern medicine through rigorous scientific process (aka evidence based medicine) cures theists and atheists alike while prayer and belief in any god (take your pick) cures no one.

First: It cures as much as it kills. See iatrogenics diseases and deaths (huge number) and also check that most cancer treatments fail.
Second: I already told you. They invented medicine for precisely that. What is so amazing about it?
Third: Explain what happens with diseases that are “self-cured”? I’m talking cancer, not colds. And don’t tell me they just happen. This is not an explanation.
Fourth: Tell me what belief and prayer “is” or “is supposed to do” and again I’ll confirm what started all this. You don’t know what you are talking about when you talk about God and religion. You only give opinions (most of them poorly grounded).
Just another example: you reduce everything to “My Name is Earl” karma. Do good and good things happen, do bad and bad things happen.
Fifth: I don’t know about you, but the discussion I entered was “People give opinions about things they don’t know and pretend they know what they are talking about”. Unfortunately, I quoted one line of yours as an example. You still haven’t proven me wrong. But you keep drifting the discussion aside, to say stuff about medicine and prayer.
Sixth: Most of the modern medicine (which you arbitrarily reduced to evidence based medicine – homeopathy is “modern medicine” – I’m not debating if it’s effective or not. I’m just stating a fact), only happens because of government enforcement and it is constantly under scrutiny to see if it actually works and this is so because of principles that were not given by the scientific method.

And just to end it for the moment. I don’t believe in God or gods. What I “believe” is in intellectual honesty. If I’m supposed to talk about God or religion and science in a serious manner, I should devote the same time and effort I give to serious scientists to serious philosophers, theologists or whoever studies the subject. And since you guys like evidence, here are two: Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scott, Francisco Suarez, Descartes, Leibniz, Copernicus, Kepler, Husserl, Voegelin, Zubiri, Fritchof Schuon, Rene Guenon, Charles Taylor, Seyyed H. Nasr. All these guys (and they are just a small group) are/were geniuses and all of them believe(d) in God. I haven’t been able to formulate a list of atheists that is comparable to these guys. So I give them, at least, the benefit of the doubt, instead of calling all believers stupid and I spend some time reading them. Second: Although there are many compelling things, I have never found a PROOF that God does not exist. So my atheism, as much as I deny it, has nothing more than small leap of faith.
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written by Kuroyume, January 23, 2009
Go back to kindergarden. If your assertion were remotely true, no philosopher in the world would ever be wrong. Since many of them are/were wrong, your assertion is false.


What I said (many times it seems) is that they don't confirm their conclusions. They may have arrived at a conclusion by observation and made good or bad conclusions. The point is that philosophers do not follow that up with evidence. This is why, yes indeedy, they can be wrong. They can be wrong in the first part - their conclusion of an observation - and in the second - verification of their conclusion. In the first part, it is someone else who finds either a logical flaw or shows a counterargument or counter-example that invalidates the conclusion reached (i.e.: this is not science just philosophical argumentation). In the second part, not just counter-examples but actual TESTING of the proposal and conclusion may invalidate the conclusion (i.e.: this IS science).

Philosophers don't use scientific methodology. If one does, he is a scientist (even if she labels herself a 'philosopher').

I just refuted your philosophical conclusion. It is incorrect.
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written by BillyJoe, January 23, 2009
SkepticReport,

Religion is about believing in and worshiping supernatural being(s). It is only when religious people make testable claims that those claims are within the scope of science.

But not all religious people make these claims.

You missed my point: the only religious people who do not make these claims are deists...about 0.000...1 % of the population.
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written by Steel Rat, January 23, 2009
"Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."


Really, there can't exist anything that is supernatural. If it exists, it's natural or composed of natural compounds. If a god exists, it's natural. "Supernatural" is an oxymoron.
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Appeal to popularity
written by SkepticReport, January 23, 2009
It makes absolutely no difference how many deists there are. A claim is independent of how many people make it.

Incidentally, the only "supernatural" in the Danish Protestant Church is the resurrection of Jesus, and that (supposedly) happened 2000 years ago. Science can't test that.
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Sorry, you are not making sense..
written by BillyJoe, January 23, 2009
It makes absolutely no difference how many deists there are. A claim is independent of how many people make it.

Okay, I've tried twice now, so I'll just give up in the face of your obviously poor comprehension skills.

smilies/cool.gif

regards,
BillyJoe
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@ daniel
written by BillyJoe, January 23, 2009

I never said intuition alone will solve anything.

Good, then please don't ask me to listen to religious ramblings and revelations as a source of truth.

If I didn’t have the evidences you mentioned (mouth wash after every meal), there would be nothing to work with.

That is not evidence, it's an observation.
What you need is evidence that your hypothesis that "mouth wash causes oral cancer", based on your observation that "my friend (who developed oral cancer) used mouth wash after every meal" is true.
This is the scientific part.

I would’ve already collected some evidence to have an intuition.

You don't understand what is meant by an intuition.
The underlying mental processes that leads to an intuition is making connections between apparently unrelated facts stored in your subconscious. They are not based on "collected evidence". That comes next - the collection of evidence to support the hypothesis that you have formulated as a result of your intuition about the connection between mouth wash and oral cancer

But that is precisely my point about intuition which is not explained by the scientific method.

You only have a point if you don't think intuition is part of the process of formulating scientific hypotheses and if you don't think science has a perfect explanation for the basis of intuition as I've outlined above.

If I just look at the evidence, they tell me nothing. I would always see meal, mouthwash and cancer. Nothing more. Only intuition gives me the “knowledge” that maybe these things are connected.

Again you are confusing evidence with observation. And intuition is not knowledge (even in "scare" quotes) it is nothing more than a guess or hunch which needs confirmatory evidence to order to enter the world of knowledge.

Everything I do after that would only be worth to confirm or discard a knowledge that I already have, i.e., a knowledge that was not given to me by the scientific method.

All you have before the application of the scientific method is a guess or hunch. Certainly not knowledge. I wonder if perhaps you are using words like Alice in Wonderland whose words mean exactly what she wants them to mean.

This was my point in the line that you quoted. If you never have intuition, you will never have any knowledge to test. You will never advance in science.

For a start, intuition was not needed in order to discover the existence of the planets, the solar system and other galaxies. Pure observation was sufficient.
Secondly, how does intuition offer support for religious ramblings and "revelations" which was your original point.

just so as it doesn’t go unnoticed, your definition of religious point of view (stop at intuition) and scientific point of view (intuition as starting point) is incorrect

It was not meant as a defintion, but an important, indeed crucial, point of difference between science and religion.

regards,
BillyJoe
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@Billy Joe
written by danieljref, January 24, 2009
I've noticed that your issue is mainly with religion, so I'll leave the revelation part aside since its not important for now.
That is not evidence, it's an observation.

You are just analyzing the case from different perspectives and saying they are totally different. You are confusing the act of what I'm doing with what those things represent.
The underlying mental processes that leads to an intuition is making connections between apparently unrelated facts stored in your subconscious.

You are simply saying that you have no idea what happens. You are just saying that something happens. I already acknowledged that intuition is making connections that are not given by hard facts. You are also differentiating observation and evidence simply on the quantity of data (one or two hundred fingerprints in a crime scene is evidence all the same), which is nothing more than to analyze the quality of the evidence, but not its nature.

And I never said intuition is knowledge. I said intuition is a source of knowledge and not only the scientific method. It seems to me, that you are only giving credit to the amount of data you have, which in any way change what I'm saying.

I don't see how I'm being "Alice in Wonderland". A guess happens when I have no evidence at all. Which means, I see my friend with oral cancer and I guess that it was caused by mouthwash, without even knowing if he uses it or not. In the example you gave me, that was not a guess. I have already seen that he uses mouthwash after every meal everyday. And if I accept your definition of knowledge, what do you call it when later on (with new tests) you find out that it was wrong?
For a start, intuition was not needed in order to discover the existence of the planets

Nor did I say anything of the sort. I have no idea what is your point here.
And if you keep calling it religious ramblings, it's really hard to explain what happens and what I meant.
It was not meant as a defintion, but an important, indeed crucial, point of difference between science and religion.

Science and religion are different. I never said anything on the contrary. But the difference is not the one you just stated.

Regards,
Daniel
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written by BillyJoe, January 24, 2009
daniel,

Evidence and Observation:

You'll have to explain to me how the observation that your friend (who has oral cancer) uses mouth wash every day is evidence that mouth wash causes oral cancer. Hey, he also uses toothpaste, eats cheese, bites his nails every day - is that evidence that toothpaste, cheese and biting your nails causes oral cancer?

Intuitions:

No, science has a pretty clear idea about how intuitions happen - as I said it is the result of a process of making connections between apparently unrelated facts residing in your subconscious.
Certainly there is no evidence that it is a direct link to god (or whatever else you have in mind seeing as you want to leave religion out of this)

Quantity of data:

If you still think that the fact that one friend who has oral cancer uses mouth wash every day is evidence that mouth wash causes oral cancer, there is not much else I can say except to explain to you what evidence would be in this situation: Evidence would be analysing the personal habits of people who have oral cancer and finding that a statistically significant greater percentage of people with oral cancer use mouth wash compared to a matched control group.

Knowledge:

I hope you can see that your knowledge base has increased when, and only when, you have completed your scientific research. The intuition, itself, has not increased your knowledge base one iota.

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by danieljref, January 25, 2009
@ Billy Joe

Evidence and Observation:
It is insufficient evidence, but it is evidence all the same. Yes, if he does all the other things they are evidence that they may cause cancer. May not be sufficient nonetheless.

Intuitions:
You're still on the key that science acknowledges that intuition happens. I said so myself. But you're not explaining how it happens. For instance, is everything connected to everything and the brain only recognizes these connections (and if so, how?) or is there no real connection and the brain virtually creates them (and if so, how?) or a variation between the two?
I already stated that I'm no expert on this so I can't honestly answer if it is a direct link or not. You'll have to check with a philosopher or a theologists, I don't know. My only point was. Scientific method is not the only source of knowledge.

Quantity of data:
Again, you are debating the quality of the evidence. After the study you would have more convincing evidence. But you would never determine for sure that my friend's mouthwash caused oral cancer (even if you got an unrealistic 100% correlation between mouthwash and oral cancer). So, we're just debating the quality of the evidence we have, not its nature.

Knowledge:
The issue is with "only when". You don't think that "seeing" another possibility, that no one saw before you increases your knowledge? You don't think that, v.g., watching a planet increases your knowledge?

Regards,
Daniel
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written by Skeptigirl, January 25, 2009
written by SkepticReport, January 23, 2009
Incidentally, the only "supernatural" in the Danish Protestant Church is the resurrection of Jesus, and that (supposedly) happened 2000 years ago. Science can't test that.

First, if a Deist claims to believe there is a god, then they need to explain the paradox, if that god contacted them in some way to make its presence known, it no longer meets the definition of a Deist god.

Second, while we cannot test a 2,000 yr old event directly, neither can we test a lot of things directly. That does not mean there is no evidence which can be assessed and which can support a conclusion. For example, there is almost no mention of an historical Jesus anywhere but the Bible and at least one mention of said Jesus outside the Bible is a suspected fraud, while another is unlikely to be refering to the same Jesus as the Biblical Jesus. That's pretty substantial given the claims made about Jesus in the Bible.

See "The God Who Wasn't There" for more examples.
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written by Skeptigirl, January 25, 2009
@danieljref
You don't seem to understand what I mean by magical thinking. BillyJoe tried to explain it to you when he called what you referred to as intuition, "religious ramblings and revelations as a source of truth". You used the term, intuition, as if it was a source of truth. I merely pointed out intuition was simply an evaluation of the evidence you have learned about over time.

Intuition does not exist as some inexplicable revelation that comes to people out of nowhere. We can identify what it is a person bases their intuition on. Intuition is based on evidence from past experiences. Intuition is learned. All the evidence and learning that builds one's conscious experience results in intuition. The process involves volumes of brain synapses that fire off nearly simultaneously giving us thoughts which we don't think about consciously but which we use to process our thoughts and new things we experience.

If you see a new species of tree, you know it is a tree because you have learned that trees consist of certain elements. You don't have to think about it. You see it and you know 'intuitively', that is a tree.

However, just because you have come to believe certain things, such as believing in the existence of gods, does not mean that is truth. So intuition is not a source of truth. It is an accumulation of learning.

We can examine the evidence and confirm or refute if your intuition was correct that the new object you are encountering is a tree. But when it comes to god beliefs, there is no evidence. There is, however, learning which built that god belief in your mind. You call it intuition, but it is nothing more than something you learned.

That leaves the question, how did you learn it? You seem to think that because you have come to believe it, you know it is true 'intuitively'. But the evidence does not support your conclusion. The evidence supports the conclusion you were told a god existed and that is what you have based your belief on. You may have also come to believe a certain sensation or emotion is evidence a god exists. But that also is only evidence you have drawn a conclusion about your sensation or emotion. It is not evidence your 'intuitive' conclusion a god exists is truth. It is only evidence you learned to believe a god exists. Intuition is not truth. Evidence is truth. We can test it. Using evidence we are successful. Prayer is not successful.


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written by Skeptigirl, January 25, 2009
@danieljref
As for medical science killing as much as it cures, that is nonsense. Yes, people die from medical errors and the treatments sometimes cause additional problems, even death. But to imagine this balances out to no net gain is preposterous. Look at the life expectancy of people with and without access to good medical care. It will be decades longer with good medical care. Compare that to different god beliefs which have no significant effect on life expectancy.

An incredible number of cancer treatments succeed. How sad you are so poorly informed. We've almost eliminated death from the most common childhood leukemia. Many breast cancers and HIV infections have gone from always fatal to chronic diseases with the possibility of an excellent quality of life. Hepatitis B vaccine can eliminate close to 100% of primary liver cancers. And are you forgetting that vaccines eliminated smallpox in the human population, are close to eliminating polio, deaths from measles, tetanus, rabies and so on. You cannot do that with prayer.

We are closer to understanding spontaneous cancer remissions through genetic and molecular research. It appears the body's immune system recognizes the tumor and attacks it. Scientists are beginning to harness the immune system to do just that. Monoclonal antibodies are being developed that attack tumor cells.

The idea that because we don't understand how something works is evidence for god doing it is called the god of the gap theory. As science discovers more and more, those gaps are getting smaller and smaller. We know now that god explanations are going to be wrong. The people from ancient times believed the gods controlled lightning and volcanoes. Your belief a god controls tumor remissions is no different than people thousands of years ago believing Zeus controlled lightning.

When someone's amputated leg grows back, I'll reconsider the god hypothesis. But spontaneous tumor regression, no, we have a pretty good idea how that happens.

Homeopathy is not evidence based and guess what? It also doesn't work. I told you, evidence based medicine works, it's simple. If it is not based on evidence then either it has not yet been tested in which case we don't know if it works, or it doesn't work. If it works, then that's what the scientific evidence shows. Homeopathy has been tested, it doesn't work.

I'm not sure how you are thinking that something could work or not work and we wouldn't be able to test that.

As for thinking I am changing the subject, no, you claim I and others here do not know what we are talking about. We are just explaining to you why we do know what we are talking about.
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The Rat made my point in a nutshell:
written by Skeptigirl, January 25, 2009
written by Steel Rat, January 23, 2009

"Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."

Really, there can't exist anything that is supernatural. If it exists, it's natural or composed of natural compounds. If a god exists, it's natural. "Supernatural" is an oxymoron.
Exactly. smilies/grin.gif
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written by Skeptigirl, January 25, 2009
written by Kuroyume, January 23, 2009
What I said (many times it seems) is that [philosophers] don't confirm their conclusions.
This is an excellent explanation of the difference between science and philosophy.
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Daniel
written by BillyJoe, January 25, 2009
I think SkeptiGirl has about covered it.
Just one thing...

Scientific method is not the only source of knowledge.

For instance...
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@ Kuroyume
written by danieljref, January 27, 2009
It is a little late and I’m sorry, but I may have skipped your post the first time I checked.

I just refuted your philosophical conclusion. It is incorrect.


If what I did was a philosophical conclusion, then yours, in order to refute it, is of the same nature (I didn’t see any TESTING). And considering that philosophy (what you and I just did) has no bearing with experience, evidence or reality, how am I incorrect?

I think this settles the case, don’t you?
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@ Skeptigirl
written by danieljref, January 27, 2009
Up until now, I was trying to have a good conversation, but, honestly, reading you is starting to irritate. As new posts come along, the signs of intellectual dishonesty just accumulate to a point where I may have to stop in order not to become insane. You become so self involved in your denials and parallel subjects, that you start to get angry at things I never said, demand explanations of things I never mentioned, issues I never discussed, making arguments that don’t make sense and still thinking that non of this is happening. I don't even know why I’m going on with this.

So initially, let me be the first to congratulate you in winning the “Dodge my Assumption” Award. It really requires some skill. I’ll consider the “God and religion” issued settled. Here is the case. Up until now, you haven’t showed me any knowledge about God (take your pick), religion (take your pick) or anything related to both. All you’re doing is barfing out a lot of stuff that contradicts your childish notions of this subject. Going on.
You don't seem to understand what I mean by magical thinking.

I do understand. I’m simply saying (again) that what you’re saying has nothing to do with me. I have never said any of the things you’re attributing me, except that intuition is a source of knowledge (actually my point was: Scientific Method is not the only source of knowledge there is. I just mentioned two examples that came to mind at the time). I never said intuition is the same as revelation; I never said intuition is religious ramblings; I never said revelation is religious ramblings; I never said intuition is totally inexplicable, etc.
Intuition is learned.

Definitive proof: Is it learned by the scientific method? If not, I rest my case.
If you see a new species of tree, you know it is a tree because you have learned that trees consist of certain elements. You don't have to think about it. You see it and you know 'intuitively', that is a tree.

Yes (I’ll accept your description for the time being), but does the tree exist or not?
However, just because you have come to believe certain things, such as believing in the existence of gods, does not mean that is truth. So intuition is not a source of truth.

Am I on “Punk’d”? You are equating intuition with belief (which, AGAIN, I never did); Saying that a belief may be true or not (because, by your definition, it does not mean that is false either); Taking only the second part and turning into a certainty; And thinking that you are making a point? Or worse, a valid conclusion?
You seem to think that because you have come to believe it, you know it is true 'intuitively'.

If, as you said, intuition is “an evaluation of the evidence you have learned about over time” and if “there is no evidence of God”, who was the first person to teach anyone about God (“intuitively”) and how did he learn about God?
Yes, people die from medical errors

You talk like they were a couple of exceptions instead of one of the highest cases of diseases and deaths. And it is OK for you that your “evidence based modern medicine” kills people that would have lived longer if it weren’t for it.
And suddenly, I’m the one who’s preposterous.
Look at the life expectancy of people with and without access to good medical care.

Are you serious? So much for correlation and causation. Places with good medical care, have higher standard of quality of life, are safer, people have more information on what they can, can’t, should or should not do. Where is medicine in this? I’m not saying that medicine does nothing, as your intellectual honesty will advise you, but there a lot more than just “evidence based modern medicine”.
An incredible number of cancer treatments succeed.

Is an incredible number equal to most?
You cannot do that with prayer.

Oh, really?! Ahhh…. If only I had acknowledged that sooner… other than the one hundred previous times…

The last part of the post is excellent to show you how you change a subject and start saying the most nonsensical things. Where did I say that God acted in any way to cure diseases (And before you start talking bs again, the explanation for self-cured diseases was not a test for anything related to God, it was only to show you that some cures happen regardless of any modern medicine procedure)? Where did I endorse Homeopathy or say that it works or that it is evidence based? I only said it is modern.

And as for changing the subject, well… you already won an award. I can’t beat that.
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written by Kuroyume, January 27, 2009
...

If what I did was a philosophical conclusion, then yours, in order to refute it, is of the same nature (I didn’t see any TESTING). And considering that philosophy (what you and I just did) has no bearing with experience, evidence or reality, how am I incorrect?

I think this settles the case, don’t you?


Didn't read that thoroughly at all, did you?

There are two ways to refute a philosophical argument and its conclusion. And one of them doesn't require evidence/testing/science, eh hem. You stated that philosophers could never be incorrect according to the way that I said that they never reach a final conclusion based upon evidence/testing. That is abjectly incorrect. They can be wrong if their argument is shown to have logical flaws or other observations relevant to the argument break the chain of logical steps towards the conclusion. These are NOT scientific methodologies. They are strictly logical arguments, counterarguments, and proofing. Your argument was therefore incorrect as it was logically flawed in considering that philosophical arguments can only be invalidated by scientific evidence. FALSE! Philosophers regularly get their arguments trampled by the wit and keen reckonings of other philosophers. smilies/smiley.gif
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One Point at a Time
written by Skeptigirl, January 27, 2009
@ Skeptigirl
written by danieljref, January 27, 2009
I'll ignore the ad homs.

Skep: "You don't seem to understand what I mean by magical thinking."
Dan: "I do understand. I’m simply saying (again) that what you’re saying has nothing to do with me. I have never said any of the things you’re attributing me, except that intuition is a source of knowledge"
(emphasis mine) If you understood, you would not have said intuition is a source of knowledge. Because that is magical thinking. No one is quoting you with these descriptions of what you are calling intuition. We are trying to get you to see that your description of what intuition is has some serious flaws.

What is intuition? You have said it is a source of knowledge. Is it genetic? Is it a god communicating too you? Does it come from pixie dust? The meaning of referring to intuition as a magical source of knowledge is simply stating that the way you describe intuition leaves the reader with no understanding of what the source of the knowledge is.

Perhaps if you are unable to see why others are describing your explanation of what intuition is the way they are describing it, you might instead tell us, what do you think intuition is?

Dan: (actually my point was: Scientific Method is not the only source of knowledge there is. I just mentioned two examples that came to mind at the time). I never said intuition is the same as revelation; I never said intuition is religious ramblings; I never said revelation is religious ramblings; I never said intuition is totally inexplicable, etc.
So what is intuition according to you? You've said what it is not. Tell us what you think it is.

Skep:Intuition is learned.
Dan: Definitive proof: Is it learned by the scientific method? If not, I rest my case.
Actually, you are more likely to have correct intuition if you use critical thinking skills including the scientific method and rules of logical analysis to construct the basis of your intuition.

There is no guarantee one's intuition is correct. That is why intuition is not a source of knowledge, it is the accumulation of knowledge one builds throughout life.

People often believe intuition is some kind of innate knowledge. "His intuition told him the person was lying." But in reality, a person who believes he/she knows someone is lying is not doing so based on nothing, IE the conclusion is based on an assessment of evidence perhaps at an unconscious level. A glance away, a head nods yes while the voice says no, a smile cracks, just barely, that is incongruous with the words spoken. These are examples of the evidence a person whose intuition tells them someone is lying is actually assessing to come to that conclusion.

Intuition is no more than the brain drawing conclusions based on evidence that is evaluated at not quite an obvious conscious level.

Intuition is the result of the brain processing evidence. The better one is at processing evidence, the more accurate one's 'intuition' is going to be. And we have learned through experience that critical thinking, scientific analysis, logic, and so on, give us correct assessments of the evidence be it from an intuitive or not quite conscious assessment or be it a fully conscious formal assessment one uses in scientific research.

Those who rely on 'gut feelings' aka poorly constructed intuition are no more likely to get it right than someone choosing random answers. "My intuition tells me to pick 123 in the lotto," will not win me a lotto game more often than a random generated computer pick.



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written by Skeptigirl, January 27, 2009
@Kuroyume,

Goodness. All these years only kind of understanding what philosophy was and you've brought more clarity to it in two short posts than all those years.

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. I suppose I had to have a lot of background understanding before your descriptions made as much sense as they do.

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written by Skeptigirl, January 27, 2009
@ Skeptigirl
written by danieljref, January 27, 2009

Skep: "You seem to think that because you have come to believe it, you know it is true 'intuitively'."
Dan: "If, as you said, intuition is “an evaluation of the evidence you have learned about over time” and if “there is no evidence of God”, who was the first person to teach anyone about God (“intuitively”) and how did he learn about God?"
The historical evidence along with recorded events in recent times (Cargo Cults, for example), along with what we have learned from the evidence about how the brain structures input (brain looks for relationships, cause and effect) all overwhelmingly support the conclusion god beliefs developed to explain natural phenomena and to attempt to control natural phenomena. In addition, a desire to not lose all ties with dead loved ones (ancestor worship, elaborate 'communication with the dead' rituals, etc.) and manipulation of groups of people by leaders using religion to control populations contributed to the development of god beliefs and religion.

People started with oral traditions passed from person to person that became more elaborate constructions after generations. Rituals developed to control events humans had no ability to control. Now we have science and technology. No need to pray for rain if you understand the weather cycles.
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written by Skeptigirl, January 28, 2009
written by danieljref, January 27, 2009
Skep: Yes, people die from medical errors
Dan: You talk like they were a couple of exceptions instead of one of the highest cases of diseases and deaths. And it is OK for you that your “evidence based modern medicine” kills people that would have lived longer if it weren’t for it.
And suddenly, I’m the one who’s preposterous.
(emphasis mine) Seems my post with 3 citations of leading causes of death wasn't approved. Not sure why. It certainly wasn't spam.

Anyway, in lieu of spoon fed help, danieljref, I suggest you simply Google "causes of death" and see if you can even find where medical errors and treatment side effects fall on the hierarchy of leading causes.

Skep: Look at the life expectancy of people with and without access to good medical care.
Dan: Are you serious? So much for correlation and causation. Places with good medical care, have higher standard of quality of life, are safer, people have more information on what they can, can’t, should or should not do. Where is medicine in this? I’m not saying that medicine does nothing, as your intellectual honesty will advise you, but there a lot more than just “evidence based modern medicine”.
It's not like specific examples are hard to find. Your dismissal of reality is foolish.

Here's a quote from masskids.org

Religious Exemption Laws Lead to Cruel Deaths, Mislead Parents
... over the past 25 years there have been over 150 reported deaths of children whose parents chose to rely on faith healing rather than medicine.


Skep: An incredible number of cancer treatments succeed.
Dan: Is an incredible number equal to most?
Skep: You cannot do that with prayer.
Dan: Oh, really?! Ahhh…. If only I had acknowledged that sooner… other than the one hundred previous times…
If you measure success in cancer treatments by full cure, it is not going to be >50%. If you measure success by at least prolonging life, cancer treatments are close to 100% successful.

There is no evidence prayers led to miracle cures of 100 people so I am not sure what your bizarre claim is here. The evidence is what it is. You cannot change it by fantasizing it to be something else.



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We don't apply critical thinking by using non-skeptical methods
written by SkepticReport, January 29, 2009
First, Deists claim to believe there is no testable god. No paradox for them to explain.

Let's criticize religious people if they make testable claims. Not what we want them to claim.

Second, that there is no evidence of Jesus does not mean there is evidence that he didn't exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Let's not fall into the trap of using logical fallacies.

Third, Google searches do not constitute evidence. If that were true, then googling for "UFO Evidence" would prove that aliens visit Earth all the time.

Let's not do what some superstitious people unaccustomed to critical thinking do.

Fourth, attacking the arguer and not the argument is not skeptical. At all.

Let's not do what some superstitious people unaccustomed to critical thinking do.
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written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
Skeptigirl,

I tried reposting the links you posted. I received them by email, but I suppose that their SPAM filter automatically removes comments with at least X number of links. I would guess that X=3. I am reposting the rest of what I wrote without the links you included.

The number 100,000 has been commonly used since the 1999 Institute Of Medicine report - To Err Is Human, Building A Safer Health System was released. This was based on two studies from the early 1990s.

Improving Patient Safety — Five Years after the IOM Report
Drew E. Altman, Ph.D., Carolyn Clancy, M.D., and Robert J. Blendon, Sc.D.

A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) featured a now-familiar statistic: 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year because of preventable medical errors, making hospital-based errors alone the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of breast cancer, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents. Regardless of debate about these estimates, they remain the standard for describing the scope of the nation's problem with medical errors.


This range has often been rounded up to 100,000, which would place iatrogenic death around number 8 on causes of death. This IOM report is something that has been referred to repeatedly by CAM proponents, although they conveniently ignore the IOM's call for an evidence based approach to CAM. A typical CAM method, apply the evidence that comes from Evidence Based Medicine (or Science Based Medicine), but never apply evidence, or science, to CAM. There are some trying to find evidence to support CAM in NIH, but the results tend toward the The Journal of Irreproducible Results, rather than the headlines positive results would encourage.

An example is the current post from Respectful Insolence - Can we finally just say that acupuncture is nothing more than an elaborate placebo? Can we?

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/01/can_we_finally_just_say_that_acupuncture.php

There are many criticisms of the way the numbers were arrived at, but iatrogenic (caused by doctors) death is a reality. The questions we should be asking are less about the specific numbers, but about the ways to decrease the numbers. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services takes a wrong approach in presuming that JCAHO helps reduce problems, but that is a whole different topic.

Iatrogenic death is a reality in conventional medicine. Conventional medicine recognizes this, although there are plenty of denialists in conventional medicine. conventional medicine continually seeks to eliminate the problem.

What is often ignored, most likely because of a lack of data, is the iatrogenic death from CAM. CAM is a multi-billion dollar industry with no quality oversight. Do they kill thousands? Do they kill tens of thousands? Do they kill hundreds of thousands? Do they kill millions? How do you determine which patient would have survived with conventional treatments, but died due to CAM?

The deaths due to conventional medicine exist. The numbers are debated. These deaths do not argue against science, but show how science attempts to identify its own shortcomings. In contrast, CAM does not do this.
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written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
And I forgot to include the source of the quote:

The New England Journal of Medicine
Volume 351:2041-2043November 11, 2004Number 20

I tried to find an article that is free. The IOM allows you to read the report online for free, or at least to skim the publication.

http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9728#toc
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Leading Cause of Death isn't denominator for comparing the good and bad of medical care
written by Skeptigirl, January 29, 2009
While the serious problem with medical errors is not something I take lightly, I assure you, medical mistakes are not the 8th leading cause of death. The IOM stat with such a huge range is obviously a vague estimate, not to mention as you said, the high end of the estimate is always what gets quoted.

But in the context of this discussion, that number needs closer scrutiny. Why? Because it includes errors of OMISSION and WRONG DIAGNOSIS. Those are people we failed to save, not people we killed!!!

http://www.iom.edu/Object.File/Master/4/117/ToErr-8pager.pdf
Types of Errors:
Diagnostic Error or delay in diagnosis
Failure to employ indicated tests
Use of outmoded tests or therapy
Failure to act on results of monitoring or testing
Treatment Error in the performance of an operation, procedure, or test
Error in administering the treatment
Error in the dose or method of using a drug
Avoidable delay in treatment or in responding to an abnormal test
Inappropriate (not indicated) care
Preventive Failure to provide prophylactic treatment
Inadequate monitoring or follow-up of treatment
Other Failure of communication
Equipment failure Other system failure


But regardless of the absurdity of claiming medical errors represent the 8th leading cause of death, the comparison is risk-benefit. How many person years has modern medical care added vs how many person years has medical care subtracted. Not many people are foolish enough to pray in lieu of seeking modern medical care when they are seriously ill. Danieljref's premise is absurd.

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If you are aware of it, it interacts with the Universe
written by Skeptigirl, January 29, 2009
@Skeptic Report
Deists claim there is a god. Deists claim they are aware of such a god. That is not consistent with a god who does not interact with the Universe. In addition, the claim a god created the Universe but there is no evidence of that fact is a claim that is unsupportable.

I don't have to disprove the existence of anything there is NO EVIDENCE for in the first place. I merely pointed to the illogical claim one could be aware of something that there is no evidence for.

As for my atheist conclusions, the evidence supports the conclusion god beliefs are fabricated within human imagination. That is what the evidence supports. God believers would prefer I try to fit the evidence to the conclusion, "gods exist prove they don't". That is not how the scientific process works.
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written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
@Skeptigirl,

As for the numbers, Lucien Leape estimated the iatrogenic death rate at 200,000 per year. Although the high end of the range, then rounded up, is usually what is given, that does not mean the number cannot be higher.


I have no problem including misdiagnosis in the number of people killed by medicine. I do not feel a need to candy coat this. The only way we are going to improve medical care is if we look at all of the ways that we kill patients.

Saying those don't count, because it was not a direct action that killed the patient, allows us to pretend that there is no obligation to appropriately assess and treat patients. Using your logic, homeopathy is the safest medicine out there, since their medicine is just a small amount of inactive water.

I disagree. Homeopathy kills patients by depriving them of appropriate medical care. Medical care that should have prevented the deaths of the patients. I refuse to hold conventional medicine to a lower standard. I refuse to absolve CAM of their killing.

I agree that conventional medicine is a significant net positive. Ignoring, or covering up, the flaws of conventional medicine will only make it more like alternative medicine. That would be bad. We already kill too many patients. We need to work at killing fewer patients, not at creating categories of acceptable killing.
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You are speaking to a different topic, Rogue.
written by Skeptigirl, January 29, 2009
No one is lowering standards here. The debate was, which was a better bet if you were ill or injured, praying or getting medical care?

And, Danieljref tried to claim modern medicine was a wash because it killed as many people as it saved. If I fail to give you medical care because of an omission that is not saying medical care killed you, it is saying you died because you didn't get medical care.

Are you supporting Danieljref's premise that you are equally well off praying or seeking medical care?

As for the 200,000 figure, I can pull numbers out of my you-know-what too. It's nonsense. I am a frequent complainer about medical errors. I work in a specialty so I'm in a position to see providers who miss the basics in my area of expertise. I also have over 30 yrs experience in multiple health care settings, in 3 states. The vast majority of medical errors have no significant negative outcome, even errors deemed serious. And of the errors with horrendous outcomes such as surgery on the wrong body part, they aren't all fatal. For 200,000 people to be killed a year from iatrogenic causes means that would represent a mere fraction of the actual errors and significant side effects of treatments. I'm confident there is no basis for such a conclusion.


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written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
I haven't been paying attention to your debate. I get emails and if something looks interesting, I may read the whole thing. You seem to be discussing scientific proof/refutation of god. I haven't taken any position on your argument, because I don't care. I only responded with information about the iatrogenic deaths.

Are you supporting Danieljref's premise that you are equally well off praying or seeking medical care?


I wrote,
Homeopathy kills patients by depriving them of appropriate medical care. Medical care that should have prevented the deaths of the patients. I refuse to hold conventional medicine to a lower standard. I refuse to absolve CAM of their killing.

I agree that conventional medicine is a significant net positive. Ignoring, or covering up, the flaws of conventional medicine will only make it more like alternative medicine. That would be bad. We already kill too many patients. We need to work at killing fewer patients, not at creating categories of acceptable killing.


I see prayer as just another form of CAM.

When I write that, I agree that conventional medicine is a significant net positive, it should be obvious that I am pointing out the positives of conventional medicine, in spite of the iatrogenic harm.

You wrote,
As for the 200,000 figure, I can pull numbers out of my you-know-what too. It's nonsense.


I was wrong. The figure was actually 180,000. Sorry, it has been a while since I looked at the research. No pulling out of orifices was required for me to obtain the research. If this is where you get your data, you may want to reconsider your methodology. smilies/smiley.gif

http://student.bmj.com/back_is...1098r2.htm

Please provide evidence that this is nonsense.

Perhaps if you actually read what I wrote, you would not have to ask if I am supporting prayer. I believe that I was clear in my support of conventional medicine. Supporting conventional medicine and ignoring research criticizing it are entirely different things. If I were to do that, I would be no different from defenders of CAM.

In case I am being too subtle for you - CAM kills.

CAM usually kills by omission, but I feel that is an unimportant distinction to the dead patient. Claiming that a death by omission should not be attributed to conventional medicine is no different from the argument that CAM is safe, because it is ineffective.

Conventional medicine does kill patients. How many is unknown. Claiming that any number is too low, or too high, without evidence is not EBM (or SBM).

If a patient with a sudden onset of hypertensive pulmonary edema is treated with furosemide (Lasix), because that is the way things have always been done. Rather than treatment with high-dose nitrates, ACE inhibitors, and CPAP, it will not be a surprise if the patient has a bad outcome. There are still emergency departments in the US, that treat patients this way. True, they are not following EBM, but have switched to worshiping a traditional treatment, that has been shown to be ineffective, or harmful, for half of the patients with sudden onset of hypertensive pulmonary edema. Other physicians should change this practice. Since they do not, conventional medicine is also to blame. This is just one example of patients being treated with old time religion conventional medicine, rather than current conventional medicine. It is something that is more of an omission, unless the furosemide alters the electrolytes and fluid balance enough to kill the patient directly.
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written by BillyJoe, January 29, 2009
SkepticReport,

First, Deists claim to believe there is no testable god. No paradox for them to explain.

Deists believe in a non-interventionist god who simply triggered off the universe and then left it to evolve according to the laws he instilled within it. By implication such a god is not testable ( I can think of one exception but nevermind).

Let's criticize religious people if they make testable claims. Not what we want them to claim.

Let's critise religious people if they make untestable claims.

Second, that there is no evidence of Jesus does not mean there is evidence that he didn't exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

So? It is up to the person making the claim to provide evidence for that claim not for others to disprove their claim. In other words, we are under no obligation to disprove a claim for which no evidence is provided.

Let's not fall into the trap of using logical fallacies.

Or misusing them.

Third, Google searches do not constitute evidence. If that were true, then googling for "UFO Evidence" would prove that aliens visit Earth all the time.

They do if you google for scientific researches and trials, for which sound methohology is documented and the conclusions reached are consistent with the results obtained.

Fourth, attacking the arguer and not the argument is not skeptical. At all.

And if you perceive that the arguer is not being rational, or logical, or shows no understanding of scientific methodolgy or of the topoic under discussion, or repeatedly show signs of non comprehending the argument? Is pointing that out an "ad hominem" argument?

BillyJoe

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written by BillyJoe, January 29, 2009
I haven't been paying attention to your debate.

Don't be surprised, then, if you are misunderstood. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
BillyJoe,

Touche.
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To criticize something, one must first understand what it is
written by SkepticReport, January 29, 2009
A Deist god does by definition not interact with the Universe - at least not in a way we can detect today. It is simply outside the scope of science.

I can claim that something exists and that I am aware of it - but it doesn't have to really exist.

Does existentialism exist? Does Harry Potter exist?

Neither exists in the physical sense, but nobody said that something has to be physical to exist. Least of all Deists, when they talk about their god.

I haven't seen any Deist who want people to disprove the existence of their god. That, in itself, would be a contradiction, since Deists do not claim that their god can be proven to exist.

So, again: Let's criticize people for what they actually believe in, and not for what we want them to believe in.

Such an argument is called a straw man. A rookie error, when one is not used to critical thinking.

Repeating a straw man ad nauseam does not make it any more right. That is merely closing one's mind and insisting that one is right, regardless of the facts - a method only fundamentalists use.

We do not convince people by resorting to the methods of our credulous opponents.
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written by BillyJoe, January 29, 2009
SkepticReport,

A Deist god does by definition not interact with the Universe - at least not in a way we can detect today. It is simply outside the scope of science.

Outside the scope of science and inside the scope of the imagination.
You have to decide what you want, reality (despite what you may have heard, there is only one) or fantasy (as many as there are people)?

I can claim that something exists and that I am aware of it - but it doesn't have to really exist.

If it doesn't really exist then your claim that it exists is false and your claim that you are aware of it is false.

Does existentialism exist? Does Harry Potter exist?

Do you understand materialism....

Neither exists in the physical sense, but nobody said that something has to be physical to exist. Least of all Deists, when they talk about their god.

...no, it seems you do not.

I haven't seen any Deist who want people to disprove the existence of their god. That, in itself, would be a contradiction, since Deists do not claim that their god can be proven to exist.

And you haven't seen anyone here who claims deists "want people to disprove the existence of their god" or that deists "claim that their god can be proven to exist". That word strawman is overused but you're getting really close.

So, again: Let's criticize people for what they actually believe in, and not for what we want them to believe in.

And let's criticize people for what they actually say, and not for what you want/think/imagine them to have said.

Such an argument is called a straw man. A rookie error, when one is not used to critical thinking.

Does your bathroom have a mirror?

Repeating a straw man ad nauseam does not make it any more right. That is merely closing one's mind and insisting that one is right, regardless of the facts - a method only fundamentalists use.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

We do not convince people by resorting to the methods of our credulous opponents.

One day you are going to say something really profound. I just know it. But today is not your day.

regards,
BJ
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written by SkepticReport, January 30, 2009
The easiest task in the world is to say "It isn't so - neener, neener!"

It is much harder to explain why it isn't so.
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written by BillyJoe, January 30, 2009
SkepticReport,

I think you should stop trying to teach us and respond in a meaningful manner to those who could possibly teach you a thing or two, without trying.

regards,
BJ
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written by BillyJoe, January 30, 2009
...or was that an attempt at profundity? smilies/grin.gif
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False Assumptions
written by Skeptigirl, January 30, 2009
To criticize something, one must first understand what it is
written by SkepticReport, January 29, 2009


And when one disagrees, it can be rather pompous to assume lack of understanding is the reason.

Avoidance of an issue, on the other hand, easier to demonstrate.

1) How can a god make its presence known to a person without "interacting with the Universe"?
2) Claiming a god exists: that's a claim.
3) Claiming said god initiated the process and then sat back: that's a claim.
4) Excusing oneself for said beliefs by claiming said claims are untestable: That depends on the answer to question #1.
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Off Topic
written by Skeptigirl, January 30, 2009
written by Rogue Medic, January 29, 2009
I haven't been paying attention to your debate.

And I've been trying to tell you that. I didn't say you were supporting prayer, I was trying to point out that your comments demonstrated you were not paying attention to the discussion.


I'll take you up on the debate about iatrogenic cause of death if you'd care to take the discussion to the JREF Forum.

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written by Rogue Medic, January 30, 2009
Skeptigirl,

My comments were only directed at the accuracy of the statements on iatrogenic death. Does their accuracy somehow depend on the topic of conversation?

If you would like to debate iatrogenic death, just tell me where, what topic.
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written by BillyJoe, January 30, 2009
Sceptigirl, if you do, please leave a link here.
I would be interested in following the discussion.
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written by Skeptigirl, January 30, 2009
written by Rogue Medic, January 30, 2009
Skeptigirl,
My comments were only directed at the accuracy of the statements on iatrogenic death. Does their accuracy somehow depend on the topic of conversation?
If you would like to debate iatrogenic death, just tell me where, what topic.
There are 2 issues here.

1) What is the real rate of iatrogenic death?
2) Does that rate support danieljref's position that modern medicine kills as many people as it saves?

Because you think the argument is about #1, you missed the discussion which was about #2.

Any chance now that you are involved in this discussion you might bother to read what it is you butted in on?

Is iatrogenic disease a problem? Of course. I'm not an uninformed idiot.

Does the rate of iatrogenic disease support danieljref's proposition that modern medicine kills as many people as it saves? Answer the question that was under discussion, please.

Do we disagree on the numbers in the studies of iatrogenic disease? Apparently, but that is not what this conversation was about.

You say you were only trying to address iatrogenic disease. Fine. But you took the discussion completely out of context and started an argument against a straw man.

Please answer the question in this discussion, does the rate of iatrogenic cause of death equal the rate of deaths prevented by modern medicine?

After you answer the question relative to the discussion here, feel free to discuss your assertion that the claims about iatrogenic deaths in the studies you cited are accurate on the JREF forum. Here is a link to the medicine forum on JREF:

http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=5
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No avoidance at all
written by SkepticReport, January 30, 2009
There is no "avoidance of an issue" when it comes to Deism. The "issue" is nothing but a straw man.

1) A god does not have to make its presence known to a person in order for that person to believe in such a god. Lots of people believe in God (even an interacting one) without having seen any miracles.

2) Claiming a god exists but does not interact with the Universe is indeed a claim. However, it isn't a testable claim, which makes it outside the scope of science.

3) Claiming said god initiated the process and then sat back is indeed also a claim. However, it still isn't a testable claim, which again makes it outside the scope of science.

4) Deists do not "excuse" themselves by claiming said claims are untestable. The claims are untestable.

In order for these 4 points to be a valid criticism against Deism, one needs to demonstrate:

1) How something has to make its presence known to a person in order for that person to believe in it.

2) How an initiating but non-interacting god is scientifically testable.
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written by BillyJoe, January 31, 2009
SkepticReport,

There is no "avoidance of an issue" when it comes to Deism...
1) A god does not have to make its presence known to a person in order for that person to believe in such a god.

Since you are talking about the deist god...
What you are saying here is that a deist god cannot reveal himmself to the deist(and therefore this cannot be the reason a deist believes in the deist god).
Similarly, when Skeptigirl said "How can a god make its presence known to a person without interacting with the Universe?" she is also saying that the deist god cannot reveal himself to the deist.
Disagreements: 0

2) Claiming a god exists but does not interact with the Universe is indeed a claim. However, it isn't a testable claim, which makes it outside the scope of science.

And I hope you don't think skeptigirl would disagree with that statement.
Disagreements: 0

3) Claiming said god initiated the process and then sat back is indeed also a claim. However, it still isn't a testable claim, which again makes it outside the scope of science.

Ditto.
Disagreements: 0

4) Deists do not "excuse" themselves by claiming said claims are untestable. The claims are untestable.

Skeptigirl was obviously using a bit of poetic licence with her use of the word "excuse". What she is obviously saying is that deists cannot (and do not, if you will) justify their belief in their god by saying that their belief is untestable. Add that to point (1): deists cannot justify their belief in their god as a result of revelation....
...well, they are left with an emperor without clothes.
Disagreements: 0 or 1?


The best argument against the deist god is that he is totally and completely irrelevant.
The universe would be no different if there was a deist god. The deist god does not explain anything about the universe that does not involve an even greater mystery. The deist god does not imply the existence of an afterlife.

regards,
BillyJoe
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Final Thoughts
written by Skeptigirl, January 31, 2009
Couldn't have said it any better, BillyJoe. That little problem of logic is, however, being dismissed by SkepticReport, that you cannot have both awareness and no interaction at the same time.


For the god believer who also recognizes the value of the scientific process, defining a Deist god as outside the realm of science allows that believer to dismiss the problem of cognitive dissonance. That is understandable.


For the agnostic atheists who love touting a Deist god to support their position, one cannot disprove the existence of gods, I take a different approach. I view the concept in science of not being able to disprove things for which the tests needed to prove a negative are infinite and therefore unachievable, as just that, a scientific principle. It is not a defense for god beliefs. Those are two separate things.

Since it is not a defense for god beliefs, why constantly drone on defining gods as untestable? Why make up constructs for untestable gods and faith based beliefs? The only purpose for such exercises is to 'excuse' god beliefs from critical analysis. Do people seriously waste this much time proposing that we cannot disprove the existence of invisible pink unicorns? No. Why not? Because there are no believers in IPUs that we need avoid confronting the beliefs of.

Need we make the claim that anything we imagine cannot be disproved as long as we imagine there is nothing testable about it? Such imagined things have no relevance. But I take that one more step. God beliefs are not imagined to be irrelevant. Deism only evolved to avoid the little problem of confronting god beliefs which were being disproved by science right and left. Creating the concept that faith based beliefs differ from non-evidence based beliefs, and, the concept science addresses the 'material' world and god beliefs the 'spiritual' world is unnecessary and creates more problems than it solves.

For one, you have the logic problem we are discussing here. For two it excuses a set of beliefs from critical analysis. It leaves science out as a tool for examining god beliefs, when in reality, science is used to examine all sorts of god beliefs, we just call them myths. And most importantly you forgo an important principle in science. One that is just as important as, not proving the negative. That principle is, one follows the evidence to the conclusion. Creating special categories for god beliefs is an attempt to fit the evidence to the conclusion. If you start with the evidence, (god beliefs, how they evolved, what they consist of, what is there apparent purpose), the evidence supports the conclusion god beliefs originated in human imagination. If you start with the conclusion, (there actually are gods), then you need to create special categories, (faith-based beliefs, untestable Deist gods, spiritual needs), in order to fit the evidence to your conclusion.
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Errata:
written by Skeptigirl, January 31, 2009
3rd line from bottom, 5 words in: "their apparent purpose"
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Ignoring pertinent questions does not make them go away
written by SkepticReport, January 31, 2009
In order for the 4 points to be a valid criticism against Deism, one needs to demonstrate:

1) How something has to make its presence known to a person in order for that person to believe in it.

2) How an initiating but non-interacting god is scientifically testable.
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written by BillyJoe, January 31, 2009
SkepticReport,

We heard you the first time.

It is, by definition, impossible to demonstrate that "a non-interacting god is scientifically testable".
It is also obviously not true that "revelation is a necessary pre-requisite for belief".

But we have shown you a valid criticism of deism that does not involve having to achieve either of the above two impossible tasks.
The next move is for you to show us how that criticism is not valid.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, January 31, 2009
This may help to clarify the problem a little...

The deists' justification for belief in their god:
1) Revelation
2) Scientific evidence
3) X

Fill in the 'X'

------------------

A NOTE:
To put it into words, deists have closed off revelation as a source of their belief and they have simultaneously closed off the even the possibility of obtaining scientific evidence for belief in their god, so what other justification for belief in a deistic god is there?

-----------

ANOTHER NOTE:
The only thing I can think of that a deist might possibly place at X is "personal choice". They just choose to believe in the deist god. But "personal choice" must be based on something. And this something is a scientific explanation for their choice.

So even belief in a deistic god, the last refuge of the God Of The Gaps believer, is not immune from the reach of science.

-----------

A FINAL NOTE:
I wonder if this may be the source of your confusion: I am not claiming that science can disprove the deist god, I am saying that science certainly has something to say about belief in the deist god.

regards,
BillyJoe
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Of doubtful help, but you never know.
written by Skeptigirl, January 31, 2009
Adding to what BillyJoe has already said....

I've already addressed defining a god as 'untestable' for the sake claiming one cannot test the negative. This is a poor example of the principle and is more likely being misused with the implication it supports evidence-less god beliefs.

Can I challenge your beliefs on the sole basis you have a belief? Or do you have to propose 'why you believe' something and I can only challenge the 'why' aspect, but not the belief?

One Deist argument is they choose to believe because it is comforting and need no other reason, therefore there is nothing to challenge. But why is this god belief comforting in the first place? An irrelevant god cannot provide anything, including comfort. At every avenue one finds the claim, "a Deist god is not a contradiction", to be a contradiction.

It boils down to this, those presenting the argument Deism is compatible with science are proposing a person can have beliefs that are based on 'nothing'. If that isn't a definition of magical thinking, I don't know what is.

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How I wish I had more time for this - part 1
written by danieljref, January 31, 2009
@Kuroyume

Are you really not seeing it? I’ll repeat what you said: “Philosophy does not integrate its analysis or conclusions with experience, evidence or reality. It is entirely subjective.” (not an exact quote, but those are the things you said) Then I said, that if this were true, philosophy would only be a debate of opinions (or tastes if you will). If it is entirely subjective, I don’t have to accept any logic, any logical law or anything else, but my own reasoning (even if it’s entirely contradictory). There would be not even an assessment of right and wrong. If there is a logical flaw (as you yourself asserted) it’s because part of it (logical correctness) exists somewhere outside my reasoning and is applied to all “reasonings”. And this outside must be either evidence, experience or reality. You even acknowledge it, but still seems completely blind to it. What do you mean by “other observations relevant…”? If it’s not an observation of reality, to say the least, what are you observing? And I never said philosophical arguments can only be invalidated by scientific evidence. This is the conclusion of YOUR argument, not mine. And yes! Philosophers get their arguments trampled by other philosophers, because other philosophers observed evidence, experience or reality more thoroughly. How can you not see, that if these other philosophers had no connection with experience, evidence or reality (like you stated - or else they would be scientists) they could never make their case, but only say that they have a different opinion?

@Skeptigirl

First: Here is another thing I found out you don’t know: Ad hominem arguments. I don’t know you. I never met you. I have no idea of what you do or did in your life. How could I possibly use an ad hominem against you? Pointing out that you don’t know a subject and that you are making confusions, are putting words on my mouth, and are drifting away from the subject is not ad hominem. It is a statement of fact. You think prayer is a form of pill or medicine to cure people. This is wrong. And pointing it out is not ad hominem. But lets move on.
If you understood, you would not have said intuition is a source of knowledge

You have a serious problem in understanding the difference of a definition and a property of something. Saying that an apple is a source of nutrition is not defining an apple. Do I need to be clearer than that?

You are the one that is claiming that intuition is magical thinking. And I have no idea where you got this from. I have no clue of how you get from the premise that “intuition is a source of knowledge” to the conclusion that “that is magical thinking”. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
What I mean (so far) by intuition is that it provides you with information that you did not have before it happened. If you want a definition, go to a dictionary. Try dictionary.com, here’s one of the definitions:
–noun
1.direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.

Does this suffice you? And by the way, where does your definition of intuition comes from? Your “common sense”? Because it seems like your calling “intuition” when you should be really saying “feeling” (like when you say – his intuition told him the person was lying). Do you need a dictionary to know the definition of “feeling” too?
Actually, you are more likely to have…

Again, you are dodging the subject. YOU said intuition is learned. Not me. Then tell me how is it learned? At this point, I don’t care what critical thinking do (improve or disprove) about intuition, or the description of intuition. This is your claim, not mine. Either you admit that you were wrong or that someone can learn (i.e. gain knowledge) through something other than the scientific method. But probably it’s an ad hominem pointing out that you’ve written six paragraphs and in neither one of them you answered my question: How is intuition learned?
The historical evidence along with recorded…

Once more you are avoiding the subject (or ad hominem according to your standards). I’m not asking about Cargo Cults or brain structures. I’m asking you to make sense of your own words. You said intuition is “an evaluation of evidence”, that “there is no evidence of God” and that people know God intuitively. Well, then how do you intuitively (i.e. evaluate evidence) know something (God) which has no evidence? The only thing I could think of is that there was someone to “teach” this intuition. Do you have another explanation for your own words or were you wrong again?

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How I wish I had more time for this - final (I think)
written by danieljref, January 31, 2009
Judging by other posts, I think iatrogenics is a settled question, and you are just in denial (again!). And, of course. When you are shown wrong, it is another discussion. The discussion is only the same when you are right. Are you one of those PhDs that Randi talks about in his lectures?

Your dismissal of reality is foolish.

Ok. I’ll show you my dismissal of reality. Much of the diseases were reduced thanks to public health measures that was able to get rid of vectors (rats, birds, insects, unsanitary places and conditions).That has nothing to do with medicine. Most of the accidents (injuries, deaths) were reduced because of public regulations towards heavy machinery, driving permits, safety work measures, well structured cities, signs, warnings, education. That has nothing to do with medicine. Much of other injuries and deaths were reduced because of public safety leading to fewer robberies, thefts, murders, fights. That has nothing to do with medicine. Places with good medical care usually have good public safety, health, regulations, etc. Places with bad medical care have bad public safety, health, etc. So, again, medicine does its part but it’s shared with many things that have nothing to do with medicine. Claiming that “evidence based modern medicine” does most of it by itself (as you make it look like) is an overstatement. Yeah, this is a real “dismissal of reality”.
And about my “absurd” premise that modern medicine saves as much as it kills, let’s put it in perspective. It was a rhetorical argument. Of course it is not identical. I’m sorry I said it. I was wrong. If I knew your brain functioned on such low standards, I would’ve never said it. Here is what I meant. Iatrogenics being one of the highest cases of diseases and deaths along with the fact that many diseases and deaths are avoided (or reduced) by non-medical measures (some examples were stated above) show that modern medicine (evidence based) is not on such a higher ground. It has its merits, which are several, but it’s not a supreme thing that solves all the issues as you made it look like.
... over the past 25 years there have been over 150 reported deaths

I honestly hope that you forgot to paste the word “thousand” somewhere, otherwise this is simply ridiculous. Over 25 years only 150 deaths? That’s 6 deaths a year! As a "common sense guess" I think the number of people that died because of “evidence based pills” that were sold on the market (and later removed) is, at least, the same. I must be REALLY dismissing reality here. I never thought religion could cure people, but you’re starting to make me doubt myself.
If you measure success in cancer treatments by full cure…

If you change any word to fit the definition that best suits you, then you can just simply wrap all your arguments up in the phrase “I win”. And your answer should be: “No. Unfortunately, an incredible number is not equal to most. You were right (again! – this word comes a lot, don’t you think?).
…I am not sure what your bizarre claim is here.

I’m sorry if I’m rude, but I ran out of options to get this through your thick skull. Prayer is not a pill. Medicine was invented to cure people. And because of that, medicine cures more than prayer. I’ve already said that a thousand times (this is a figure of speech, in case you don’t know).
Are you supporting Danieljref's premise that you are equally well off praying or seeking medical care?

Please, SHOW ME where in hell did I made any such claim! I never said such a thing! I even stated word by word that medicine cures more than prayer because that is why it was invented. And since this is a flat out LIE, I’m again showing your intellectual dishonesty towards another issue. This is not ad hominem. This is a pure statement of fact! And I really wished to be mad about all this, but since it’s coming from you, a person that has shown time and again not only to be ignorant about some of the issues it addresses (I’m still waiting about your knowledge – other than your childish confusions - about God and religion or anything related to that), but that avoid those issues when shown wrong, make ridiculous and nonsensical arguments, put words on my mouth, redefine every word that makes you look wrong and always drift away claiming a lot of bs about me or what I’ve said, it’s really something that I already expected. Or maybe this is all another "ad hom". Man, do I dismiss reality or what?! (Oh... this is called sarcasm).

Hope you improve next time.
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written by Rogue Medic, January 31, 2009
written by Skeptigirl, January 30, 2009

written by Rogue Medic, January 30, 2009
Skeptigirl,
My comments were only directed at the accuracy of the statements on iatrogenic death. Does their accuracy somehow depend on the topic of conversation?
If you would like to debate iatrogenic death, just tell me where, what topic.


There are 2 issues here.

1) What is the real rate of iatrogenic death?


We do not know. We can look at the research that has been done on the topic. The most discussed references are the ones by Leape and the IOM report. The numbers in these differ dramatically.


2) Does that rate support danieljref's position that modern medicine kills as many people as it saves?

Because you think the argument is about #1, you missed the discussion which was about #2.


No. Reread what I wrote from 01/29/09. If you cannot see that most of what I wrote addressed #2, I can cut and paste my original post for you.


Any chance now that you are involved in this discussion you might bother to read what it is you butted in on?


I did read it. I have nothing to change about what I posted. I wrote a little bit on #1, then I added much more on #2.

If you read all of my post, I clearly and repeatedly pointed out that EBM (SBM) saves lives. You seem to have focused only on the negative numbers. That is the way the causes of death statistics work, they only look at the negatives. I do not see anything in what I wrote that supports anything other than conventional medicine, that is EBM (SBM).

You stated that you were unaware of the numbers that have been published in reputable peer review journals, or at least that you did not believe they would put iatrogenic death in the top causes of death. I was pointing out the numbers that you stated that you could not find. I was not criticizing conventional medicine.


Is iatrogenic disease a problem? Of course. I'm not an uninformed idiot.

Does the rate of iatrogenic disease support danieljref's proposition that modern medicine kills as many people as it saves? Answer the question that was under discussion, please.


I have already answered that question several times. In several posts.


Prior to my post, you stated,
Seems my post with 3 citations of leading causes of death wasn't approved. Not sure why. It certainly wasn't spam.

Anyway, in lieu of spoon fed help, danieljref, I suggest you simply Google "causes of death" and see if you can even find where medical errors and treatment side effects fall on the hierarchy of leading causes.


I posted information to help you find the information you stated that you were not able to find by your search methods. I was not using Google, not even Google Scholar.


Do we disagree on the numbers in the studies of iatrogenic disease? Apparently, but that is not what this conversation was about.

You say you were only trying to address iatrogenic disease. Fine. But you took the discussion completely out of context and started an argument against a straw man.


No. I addressed the question. You have chosen to focus on the iatrogenic deaths. I did not.


Please answer the question in this discussion, does the rate of iatrogenic cause of death equal the rate of deaths prevented by modern medicine?


Each time I have posted the same thing. In my initial post, only a very small part of what I wrote addressed iatrogenic death. I also included a cite for numbers relevant to what you stated you could not find. Then I wrote a much longer defense of conventional medicine. I think I understand why you missed the majority of my post. You are the one focusing on the iatrogenic death data.


After you answer the question relative to the discussion here, feel free to discuss your assertion that the claims about iatrogenic deaths in the studies you cited are accurate on the JREF forum. Here is a link to the medicine forum on JREF:


Again, allow me to suggest that you read my original post, where I did answer your question. If you disagree, perhaps you could point out where I stated otherwise. Perhaps you could point out where I was less than clear.

http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=5


I am not familiar with the forums. What is the title of the thread? I did not see anything that seemed to be on the topic of iatrogenic death/iatrogenic illness/leading causes of death.
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The danger of hijacking science
written by SkepticReport, January 31, 2009
Of course a person can have beliefs that are based on "nothing".

Lucas and Spielberg totally made up the Jedis - yet, Jediism is now an official religion in the UK, and has many followers in numerous other countries as well.

Deism is not incompatible with science and skepticism. No amount of logical fallacies or verbal contortionism can change that.

What business is it of ours if we don't see how such a god can be comforting to others? We cannot dismiss the "comfort value" of a religion, just because we can't see it. It is not only wrong, it is also incredibly arrogant to do so. Skeptics are not the sole arbiter of which religions comfort those who believe in them, and which do not.

Let's be careful not to enforce our own prejudices on other people in the name of science. That makes us no different than the worst religious fundamentalists.
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written by BillyJoe, January 31, 2009
SkepticReport,

I see you have not even attempted show how the above argument is not valid, even when I've made a special attempt to make the argument crystal clear. So, I'm not sure that it is worth going on, because your last post is nothing but... a strawman argument!

Of course a person can have beliefs that are based on "nothing".

There is always a reason for a person to hold a belief. For example, you mention "comfort" below.

Lucas and Spielberg totally made up the Jedis - yet, Jediism is now an official religion in the UK, and has many followers in numerous other countries as well.

And you think they don't have a reason?

Deism is not incompatible with science and skepticism

What I have said is that a belief in a deist god is not justifiable from the point of view of revelation and scientific evidence. You haven't outright identified 'X', but I think you're going for "comfort". They choose to believe beacuse it comforts them to believe. And that is a scientific explanation for why people hold these beliefs.

No amount of logical fallacies or verbal contortionism can change that.

Perhaps you can point out what exactly you believe to be "logical fallacies and verbal contortionism".

What business is it of ours if we don't see how such a god can be comforting to others? We cannot dismiss the "comfort value" of a religion,

Whoever has done that on this thread???
Please point out who and where.

just because we can't see it.

Speak for yourself.
I am well aware of the comfort value of religion.

It is not only wrong, it is also incredibly arrogant to do so.

Yeah, well, if that was actually what we were doing, you would have a point.

Skeptics are not the sole arbiter of which religions comfort those who believe in them, and which do not.

WHAT???

Let's be careful not to enforce our own prejudices on other people in the name of science. That makes us no different than the worst

You talked about strawmen before. smilies/wink.gif

BJ
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written by Skeptigirl, February 01, 2009
Imagining up a nice sci-fi story in no way suggests 'belief' in the existence of the characters. It's a totally false analogy and does not support your position, SkepticReport. And I'm not reluctant to pass judgment about evidence-lacking beliefs. You may do as you see fit.

Danieljref, I read nothing new in your post. Time to call an end to Pete and repeat.

RogueMedic, you are arguing straw men and an out of context position. If your comments are germane to the discussion, then please put them in context. If they are not, then please start a new discussion in the forum. For your review, the context is, "Does the rate of iatrogenic death make modern medical care a wash? Are you equally well off praying as you are seeking medical care?" Any disagreement about the specific rate of iatrogenic disease is not relevant to the discussion unless it means prayer is just as beneficial as modern medical care. That was the discussion, not your side issue.

Reading danieljref's post reiterates the problem. He repeats the BS antivaxers claim supports their belief vaccines had no impact on disease: sanitation supposedly explains the end to measles deaths and polio cases.
Ok. I’ll show you my dismissal of reality. Much of the diseases were reduced thanks to public health measures that was able to get rid of vectors (rats, birds, insects, unsanitary places and conditions).That has nothing to do with medicine.
It is an unsupportable position one hears time and time again in circles of the ignorant and uninformed. Whether iatrogenic causes of death are X or Y does not change the fact danieljref's dismissal of the benefits of modern medicine is baseless. That is unless you buy his claim, the benefits of modern medicine are negated by the risks.
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written by BillyJoe, February 01, 2009
I was trying to stay out of the arguments against medicine in this thread, but I feel for Sketigirl in her frustration with the poorly informed opinion doing the rounds in this thread.

Skeptigirl is correct...

There are third world countries where certain infectious diseases have been eliminated or virtually eliminated by vaccines and whose public health measures are as good as non-existent that give the lie to the premise that the efficacy of vaccines have been exaggerated...

Smallpox has been eliminated WORLD WIDE!
Do you not understand the implications of that fact?

Daniel, educate yourself, because you are an embarrassment. Really. You have no idea.

And that's the first and last thing I'll say on the subject except this: what chance do we have when even our fellow sceptics mindlessly echo the nonsence repeatedly put out by the anti-science, anti-medicine, pro-religion liars and idiots, take your pick.

BillyJoe

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daniel
written by BillyJoe, February 01, 2009
And about my “absurd” premise that modern medicine saves as much as it kills, let’s put it in perspective. It was a rhetorical argument. Of course it is not identical. I’m sorry I said it. I was wrong. If I knew your brain functioned on such low standards, I would’ve never said it.

You've just impaled yourself on your own stupidity.
And did I mention you are an embarrassment.

BJ
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Passing judgment should be based on fact, not personal likes/dislikes
written by SkepticReport, February 01, 2009
It is not skeptical to pass judgment about evidence-lacking beliefs, if said beliefs are judged to be unskeptical.

Deists make no testable claims, therefore it is not unskeptical to be a Deist.
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written by Rogue Medic, February 01, 2009
Skeptigirl,

Only you understand what I meant. Only you know what the topic is. Silly of someone to use the title Understanding What Science Is for this post.

I was foolish enough to point out information that disagreed with a statement you made, even though I did not disagree with your concept. Correcting ignorance is actually an important part of science, but apparently not something that you agree with, unless you are doing the correcting.

You made an ignorant statement. I pointed it out. You have been defending your ignorant statement, even though it was only the ignorant statement that I contradicted. I have stated that conventional medicine is a significant net positive, but you keep ignoring that.

I cited some research. What was I thinking, bringing research into a topic called Understanding What Science Is. You responded with:

But regardless of the absurdity of claiming medical errors represent the 8th leading cause of death, the comparison is risk-benefit. How many person years has modern medical care added vs how many person years has medical care subtracted. Not many people are foolish enough to pray in lieu of seeking modern medical care when they are seriously ill. Danieljref's premise is absurd.


I have no real interest in what Danieljref's premise is. He seems to think that you misrepresent it, but that is between you two. You are the one continually returning to the numbers. You get upset about them, then complain that they are off topic. The relevant topic is whether science based medicine is a net positive. Here is my response, from my second post, since you did not seem to get it from my first post.

I agree that conventional medicine is a significant net positive. Ignoring, or covering up, the flaws of conventional medicine will only make it more like alternative medicine. That would be bad.


I have never suggested otherwise. To do so would be unscientific.

I have answered your question. Again and again . . . . You refuse to accept it when I write,
I agree that conventional medicine is a significant net positive.
You are the one creating straw men, but as long as you keep making that accusation, you seem to feel vindicated.

You write:

Any disagreement about the specific rate of iatrogenic disease is not relevant to the discussion unless it means prayer is just as beneficial as modern medical care. That was the discussion, not your side issue.


Apparently you will keep whining until I say what you want me to say in the way you want me to say it. Only you decide what science is. Must be cool to be you.
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What is your definition of skepticism?
written by BillyJoe, February 01, 2009
SkepticReport,

It is not skeptical to pass judgment about evidence-lacking beliefs, if said beliefs are judged to be unskeptical.

If anyone can make sense of this self-contradictory statement, please let me know.

Deists make no testable claims, therefore it is not unskeptical to be a Deist.

It seems I cannot pursuade you to tackle the counter-argument, so perhaps we could approach this from another angle.
What is your definition of scepticism?

Here is mine:
Scepticism is believing in only those things for which there is supportive evidence (the degree of belief being in proportion to the amount of supporting evidence).

By this definition, belief in a deistic god is not a sceptical position.
But I would be pleased to hear your definiton and how it fits in with a belief in the deist god.

BJ
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I think I see where the problem is, RogueSkeptic
written by Skeptigirl, February 01, 2009
I don't see why you are so reluctant to just start a new discussion in the JREF forum, but I do see why you are confused about my replies to you here.

This item is now on page 5 of the JREF blog. As such, very few people are likely still reading it. It is not very productive to carry on an indirect side discussion in a blog reply column. We are missing the input from many interested and interesting people.

The blog entry was not a general science category for discussing everything science related. It was about a science resource web site Phil found that he wanted to share. This discussion emerged from comments I posted about something on the recommended web page.

I see you are not registered (as RogueMedic anyway) on the JREF forum. While it may be easier for you to carry on this discussion here, it is not the best place. Register for the forum and take the discussion to the proper place, "JREF Forum » General Topics >> Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology".
If you don't want to that's fine. But if you do, you will find your being miffed I don't want to carry on your discussion here is misplaced.
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written by Skeptigirl, February 01, 2009
It is not skeptical to pass judgment
Oh the irony. smilies/cool.gif
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written by Rogue Medic, February 01, 2009
This discussion emerged from comments I posted about something on the recommended web page.


Almost as if I did not respond to comments I posted about something on the recommended web page.

Why bother?
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written by Rogue Medic, February 01, 2009
Ack, that should read:
Almost as if I did not respond to "comments I posted about something on the recommended web page."
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What does Off Topic mean?
written by Skeptigirl, February 01, 2009
If you want to discuss this sidetrack, Rogue, I'll be happy to on the forum.

Yes, your sidetrack addressed a link I posted. But not within the context of the discussion unless you saying the rate if iatrogenic death is relevant to the discussion of prayer being equal to medicine in terms of healing success. You think I'm insulting you when I am only trying to point out what the topic of discussion is here.

Here is the discussion track.

Phil recommends web page.
Skeptigirl likes web page but disagrees with this statement on it:

"Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."

Skeptigirl thinks this is a big deal and has addressed this double standard applied to god beliefs many times before. The reason is:

"If we address the claims made about these things, science finds no evidence of the existence of these things and better explanations for the phenomena claimed to be evidence of these things. So why create a separate category for a few special god beliefs? If there is no evidence for a Christian god answering prayers, why claim some special category for that belief at the same time one is happy to show a Hindu statue doesn't really drink milk?"

Danieljref, being a god believer himself, wants to believe in special categories outside of science so he can ignore the problem created when the evidence contradicts his god beliefs. He agrees with the statement on the web site and said:

"Science and religion is not a problem because they deal with different issues."

For Skeptigirl, this is the crux of the problem. The difference between science and religion is not that religion deals with different issues. The difference is that science is evidence based and religion is not. The claim that 'lack of evidence' and 'faith' are essentially different things is an unsupportable claim.

Skeptigirl used an example she is familiar with, healing. Evidence based beliefs lead to healing, not using evidence (aka faith) based beliefs fails to heal.

Danieljref made the unsupportable claim, iatrogenic disease meant evidence based healing did not work because it kills as many people as it heals.

In showing this claim was an obvious absurdity, Skeptigirl referred to multiple sources of evidence refuting Danieljref's assertion.

RogueMedic went off on a side track challenging one aspect of one of those multiple sources of evidence. The challenge did not impact the fact Danieljref was full of it. In fact, Danieljref went on to post additional easily refuted claims about the failures of medicine. These were briefly addressed but are trending off topic as well.

The topic: evidence based beliefs can be demonstrated to work, non-evidence based beliefs including faith based beliefs can be demonstrated not to. Faith and science do not address two different things. Science is successful, faith is not when it comes to knowledge about the Universe as is demonstrated by the fact evidence based medicine is successful, faith based healing is not.

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Liar, Liar, pants on fire.
written by danieljref, February 01, 2009
Daniel, educate yourself, because you are an embarrassment.

I agree 110% with that. I'm a real embarrassment. I'm one of the few here to be honest in a discussion. I don't change subjects. I don't put words in other people's mouth and then pretend I never did it. I do not make up lies and when caught red handed turn to another topic or say it is off topic. I gladly say that I'm not an expert on subject, but know as much as to say when someone is talking bull, instead of fabricating faulty definitions, straw man, inventing what ad hominem means. There is no bigger embarassment than a person that continues to argue against such ridiculousness.

For example:
I say: You don't know anything about God or religion.
Answer: Oh, I do know a lot about God. Modern medicine works. It saves everybody. therefore God does not exist.
I say: Well modern medicine does not save everybody. It does has some problems i.e. iatrogenics and lack of cancer cure methods.
Answer: Oh, so now Modern medicine cures as much as prayer?! And yes, modern medicine cures cancer, if by cure you accept my made up definition of cure.
I say: No. Modern medicine cures more, why do you think prayer would work any better? Do you know what prayer is supposed to do?
Answer: Oh yes I know! Your claim is just ridiculous. Modern medicine does not kill the same number of people it saves.
I say: I never said they were equal.
Answer: He has an absurd premise that it cures as much as it kills. He's a God believer.
I say: You are lying. I never said that. And I'm an atheist.
Answer: You are just repeating what I'm saying, you God believer.

And I'm not even mentioning the ability to dismiss studies just because "someone doesn't agree with the results". Talk about religious irrationality.

And just so it doesn't go unnoticed...
Danieljref made the unsupportable claim, iatrogenic disease meant evidence based healing did not work because it kills as many people as it heals.]
Never made that claim, but then again I don't know how to deal with mythomaniacals.

Another embarassment of mine:
There are third world countries where certain infectious diseases have been eliminated or virtually eliminated by vaccines...

Yes. But were you also educated to know that some african coutries are reducing the number of cases of AIDS by preaching Christianity?
what chance do we have when even our fellow sceptics mindlessly echo the nonsence repeatedly put out by the anti-science, anti-medicine, pro-religion liars and idiots, take your pick.

Well, so your solution is for skeptics to stop being skeptical about anything that seems to be against God or religion, and put everything "they think" is a better solution (until a better one is found) with the nonsense notion that the consequences doesn't matter, because even if you make a huge mistake your answer is that "that's how science works".

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written by Rogue Medic, February 01, 2009
Skeptigirl,

Danieljref, being a god believer himself, wants to believe in special categories outside of science so he can ignore the problem created when the evidence contradicts his god beliefs. He agrees with the statement on the web site and said:


I do not know what he believes. I do not know what he wants. You seem to be more insistent on these things than he is. You keep telling people what they mean. You know what he writes. This may be what he thinks, then again you may be misinterpreting what he writes as much as you seem to misinterpret what I write.

Of course, he does write this in the post right after your OFF Topic comment:

Answer: He has an absurd premise that it cures as much as it kills. He's a God believer.
I say: You are lying. I never said that. And I'm an atheist.


I can choose to take his word for it, that he is an atheist. I can choose to take your word for it, that he is
a god believer himself
. Or I can choose to not worry about it. Of course, I do wonder about your claims to know more about his beliefs than he does, but what do I know? SkeptiGod, tell me what to believe.


Skeptigirl used an example she is familiar with, healing.


Well, you do seem to have demonstrated that you are not as familiar with the example as you thought.


RogueMedic went off on a side track challenging one aspect of one of those multiple sources of evidence. The challenge did not impact the fact Danieljref was full of it. In fact, Danieljref went on to post additional easily refuted claims about the failures of medicine. These were briefly addressed but are trending off topic as well.


I was not posting about any of the
multiple sources of evidence
. I tried to post them for you, since I never saw them on the site. I received an email about a new comment, although I never saw the comment on this site. You started off that comment with this statement:

As for the medical care, Danieljref, if you really believe medical interventions and errors have one of the "highest cases of diseases and deaths", you couldn't be more off the mark than that.
from Jan 27.

You appeared to be stating a lack of familiarity with the relevant information. I provided some information that showed where the 8th leading cause of death figure comes from. You still seem to have ignored everything else I have written. You keep claiming that I have sidetracked the discussion, but I was just pointing out your lack of familiarity with the science. Your lack of familiarity with the science you seem to have been claiming proved your point. Not that it seems to matter to your point, but you keep returning to it.

You can try to have it both ways. Use science when it helps you. Ignore the science when you do not like it. Just don't call that approach scientific.

Much more important - that was only a small part of my comment. The majority of my comment was on topic, but you have continued to ignore it. Perhaps because I do not specifically acknowledge your portrayal of Danieljref's premise. You keep changing the topic to being about one place you have led the conversation, rather than the other place you have led this conversation. You have kept dragging the conversation over the same topic - "Are you now, or have you ever been a supporter of Danieljref's premise."

It would be foolish for me to accept your rules of conduct, because you are acting in a way that is completely contrary to what science is about. Science is about getting at the truth. You seem to keep denying anything that is not what you want it to be.

You are using your redefinition of his point, constantly criticizing it as Danieljref's premise, Danieljref's position, Danieljref's proposition, and Danieljref's assertion, rather than stating what the premise/position/proposition/assertion is. You seem to be making this as personal as you can. Your comments are examples of the misuse of science.


The topic: evidence based beliefs can be demonstrated to work, non-evidence based beliefs including faith based beliefs can be demonstrated not to.


Funny. From the first comment, I have been making that statement, just worded slightly differently. You keep denying that I am answering your question. You reply that this is off topic. You keep going off on tangents about what should be part of the discussion, apparently so that you can control the conversation and get the result you like.

The topic is Understanding What Science Is. As far as I know, you did not write the original post, so why would you get to decide what the topic is? If this is not your post and this is not your blog, then why would you get to make the rules?
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The forum awaits you
written by Skeptigirl, February 01, 2009
@ danieljref:
I see you are not registered by that name on the forum but if you would care to register, I'd be happy to discuss that little claim, God is saving people from HIV in Africa there.


It's not that I answered your claim that I knew very little about god, by changing the subject. You don't know zip about my experience and education. I never gave your baseless statement the time of day.


Here is the claim you made. It amounts to a straw man argument:
"You're simply saying that if science cannot measure it, it cannot exist or manifest itself."

I didn't nor do scientists make any such claim. My premise here is that faith based beliefs and beliefs which are not based on evidence are not substantially different. I object to making one category for those things you describe as not measurable which you base your god beliefs on and another category for things you describe as not measurable which really don't exist. I don't expect you or other theists to accept this premise. It seriously challenges your beliefs.


You haven't presented a case for why religion and science address 2 different things. All you have said is they do and people who don't agree just don't know what 'God' does for you. That is what a lot of believers say, but in order to be convincing you have to demonstrate that. From what I've seen, its like the emperor's clothes. Believers are sure they can see them.

I asked you to, "explain how modern medicine through rigorous scientific process (aka evidence based medicine) cures theists and atheists alike while prayer and belief in any god (take your pick) cures no one."

I can't quite follow your "Answer/I say" examples there. Those are not quotes and they do not reflect what was said. However, I can empathize with being misinterpreted. That is a common problem with these kinds of discussions. We read what is said, but interpret it based on what we know.

I presented healing as an example of evidence based science vs non-evidence based god beliefs. If I misunderstood the reason you made the following unsupportable claims, by all means make the point you think was missed:

"It [modern medicine] cures as much as it kills. See iatrogenics diseases and deaths (huge number) and also check that most cancer treatments fail."

"Most of the modern medicine (which you arbitrarily reduced to evidence based medicine – homeopathy is “modern medicine” – I’m not debating if it’s effective or not. I’m just stating a fact), only happens because of government enforcement and it is constantly under scrutiny to see if it actually works and this is so because of principles that were not given by the scientific method."

"Much of the diseases were reduced thanks to public health measures that was able to get rid of vectors (rats, birds, insects, unsanitary places and conditions).That has nothing to do with medicine."

While that last one is true, it doesn't negate the roles both medicine and science played in reducing disease. Nor does it support your case religion does anything making it different from just plain old non-evidence based beliefs.


If you don't believe praying to God does anything, just say so. If you have a different example which shows religious beliefs differ from other beliefs for which there is no evidence, then present the example. Surely the medicine example has run its course.

You gave the example, "if “there is no evidence of God”, who was the first person to teach anyone about God (“intuitively”) and how did he learn about God?"

That's the closest you came to making a case. But it fails. One can show how our brains are hardwired to look for relationships and to draw conclusions. There is also something to be said about a tendency toward ritualized behaviors being innate. These traits were naturally selected over thousands and thousands of years as we evolved into human beings.

The first god beliefs appear to have been ancestor worship. When good or bad things happened people drew false conclusions that the dead could still affect the world from the grave. So people started performing rituals which they believed resulted in favorable influence. A good anthropology book will reveal current theory about how god beliefs developed. There's lots of evidence to examine. smilies/wink.gif

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written by Kuroyume, February 01, 2009
Are you really not seeing it? I’ll repeat what you said: “Philosophy does not integrate its analysis or conclusions with experience, evidence or reality. It is entirely subjective.” (not an exact quote, but those are the things you said) Then I said, that if this were true, philosophy would only be a debate of opinions (or tastes if you will). If it is entirely subjective, I don’t have to accept any logic, any logical law or anything else, but my own reasoning (even if it’s entirely contradictory). There would be not even an assessment of right and wrong. If there is a logical flaw (as you yourself asserted) it’s because part of it (logical correctness) exists somewhere outside my reasoning and is applied to all “reasonings”. And this outside must be either evidence, experience or reality. You even acknowledge it, but still seems completely blind to it. What do you mean by “other observations relevant…”? If it’s not an observation of reality, to say the least, what are you observing? And I never said philosophical arguments can only be invalidated by scientific evidence. This is the conclusion of YOUR argument, not mine. And yes! Philosophers get their arguments trampled by other philosophers, because other philosophers observed evidence, experience or reality more thoroughly. How can you not see, that if these other philosophers had no connection with experience, evidence or reality (like you stated - or else they would be scientists) they could never make their case, but only say that they have a different opinion?


This is getting ridiculous. Logic is a formal system invented by HUMANS. It may have indicators from reality (in some small part) but is not driven by it. The system simply attempts to codify what HUMANS think is a formal system which can be used to make determinations about the truthfulness or falsity of a premise at arriving at a conclusion. Nothing more.

'Observation' and scientific methodology (for your information!!) are NOT the SAME thing. I observe many things. That does not make them scientifically verified or even real. If I drink enough alcohol, I may 'observe' pink elephants. Does that make them real? Do you get it? I repeat (to drill into your dense skull) - do you get that!?!?!?

Philosophers are wrong on two general counts (with the aforementioned two sub-counts):

1a. They did not objectively verify their conclusions from their premises. Addendum: even if others' 'observations' were used in the process of invalidating conclusions, this is not science defeating philosophy. It is strictly subjective, yes. Even if many subjective 'observations' are used to contradict the conclusion, still not science. Science has a strict methodology which gathers objective data to arrive at models (not conclusions based on reasoning) and then tests the models in two ways: against other data and in predictive power.

1b. Any conclusion that can be shown to have logical flaws is defeated by logic (not science, not reality, not observation, etc.). Next you'll tell me that mathematical systems are all based on reality and should be included as 'scientific methodology'. Try me...

2. Philosophical conclusions that are put into scientific models, tested, and invalidated occur mainly because philosophy doesn't use scientific methodologies. Once in a 'blue moon', a strictly philosophical conclusion might happen to agree with later scientific models either because the philosopher was very observant and reasoned well or got lucky. But, for the most part, philosophical conclusions fail since philosophers do not test the conclusion against reality in a rigorous manner (i.e.: the scientific method).

Just to be precise here: (OBSERVATION != SCIENCE) && (OBSERVATION != REALITY). FYI: That's in Boolean logic (C++). Observation only equals science when a hypothesis is proferred, the hypothesis is tested in a very, very, very rigorous way by many independent tests, and is shown to be the best explanation of the observation available. That is the BIG difference that YOU don't GET. smilies/smiley.gif Observation isn't the end of reality. The model (explanation) that continues to agree with observation and can even provide a prediction of the outcome of observations which fall under the model is the CRUX of science.

Please, go away and learn.

Robert
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written by BillyJoe, February 01, 2009
Daniel,

"modern medicine cures as many as it kills"

You made that statement with out any qualification, and now you are asking us to believe that you were "speaking rhetorically". Well, I see no reason to believe this is anything more than a failed attempt to get you out of that giant hole you dug for yourself by using a statement that is usually made by anti-vaccination liars and the alternative health self-deluders and their ilk and which was most likely picked up from them by yourself and that you initially accepted at face value and repeated parrot like on this thread. I challenge to repeat that statement on any forum you wish and find just one person who thinks that you didn't really mean that.


Public health measures V modern medicine

Did "public health measures" eliminate smallpox, and as near as eliminate polio in both first world countries AND third world countries where such measures are virtually non-exsitent? Or was it vaccination?

Is a drop in "public health measures" the cause of the periodic outbreaks of vaccine preventable infectious disease in first world countries? Or is it the drop in vaccination rates caused by lies spread by anti-vaccination propagandists?

Is it because of a failure of "public health measures" that we still have the common cold in both first and second world countries. Or is it because there is no vaccine for this disease?

What does this tell you about the effectiveness of vaccines as opposed to "public health measures" in reducing and eliminating these diseases


Religion and AIDS in Africa

No doubt you are referring to the faith based initiatives. So I have to ask you where did you read this nonsence and accept it at face value?

Was it abstinence or the 250 million condoms that where shipped to Zambia, Rwanda, and Ethiopia that prevented AIDS cases in Africa.

The same abstinence program on which 130 million dollars was spent promoting "The Pledge" amongst America's youth not to have sex before marriage and which was an abject failure with no difference in the abstinence, pregnancy and STD rates amongst those who took the pledge compared with those who did not.


I am an atheist

You are a curious breed of atheist who seems to want to bend over backwards to accomodate religion and alternative medicine to the point that you swallow their rhetoric without further question or research. Sceptic? Nope. You are not an embarrassment, daniel. To sceptics and to yourself.


regards, though.
BillyJoe.
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@Skeptigirl part 1 of 2
written by danieljref, February 03, 2009
I see you are not registered by that name on the forum but if you would care to register

I appreciate the invitation (if that’s what it was), but I’ll decline it. I hardly have time to type under these topics and there are two problems that will arise: 1. Discussions will keep on for too long (because of my lack of time); 2. On forums, to much people get in the middle and correlated subjects appear all the time. I’ll not only take too much time to answer a specific question, but when I do there will be tens of other people asking correlated questions and thousands of correlated subjects, that in due fairness I’ll have at least to read.

And again you are missing my point (and putting words on my mouth). I didn’t say God saves people from HIV (I have no clue for saying either way). I was just stating a fact that in some places changing the way of life of a population helps prevent some diseases. As apparently you do not seem to know, religion is a way of life. My remark does not say that medicine is worthless. It does not say that God saves people. It simply says that some issues (in this case medical issues) can be worked out (or helped) without medicine.
My premise here is...

Here is your quote that originated the response I gave you: “But you cannot then ignore the other aspect of such a god, no one would have any way of being aware of such a god.”
I believe you said that, after saying that something was not testable. Before answering and in order to avoid any further confusion, here is (or was) my thought at the time. I understood from your quotation that: if something is not testable, no one can ever be aware of it. I thought I was just summing up what you said. I never intended to debate beliefs, because I saw no mentioning of it in the quotations I pasted. Was I wrong, i.e., did you not say that if something can’t be tested then it can not be made aware to anybody?
All you have said is they do and people who don't agree just don't know what 'God' does for you.

I said science and religion. I never said God. There are religions that don’t even address the existence or inexistence of God, so stop comparing different things as if they were the same (which you probably did because you know a lot about God and religion…).
You haven’t presented me any knowledge about God or religion (or presented a case for why do you think religion address the same thing as science), which I believe I asked first. But since I’ve already thrown your intellectual honesty to the toilet, I’ll present what you asked for, even though I never intended to debate it nor did you ever asked me to say anything about it (up until now – probably because this isn’t another change of subject).
Science is a term that can have different meanings (broad or narrow), so I’ll focus on the one that I think you are using (natural sciences). Science deals with parts of reality. It performs a “methodological cut” on reality in order to address specific issues. For that, science develops a specific methodology in order to analyze the object it chose beforehand and extract from it all the information it can. Religion (which also has definition problems) is designed (originally) to be a “re-link” to something that transcends the earthly realm, which was “forgotten” by men. In order to do that it addresses three main issues: The Absolute, Justice and Death. Religion ends up describing a way of life that you will have to follow if you choose to reach or be linked again to this “Transcendent”, which can not be altered by men but that can alter men. All religions say that this (transcendence) is an intrinsic part of every human being and, therefore, is needed by human beings. (That is not a full account for both of them, but I think it’s a start). With all this in mind, I think the difference is pretty obvious. Please address again if it’s not. (and before you change the subject again, only address if you understood the difference, not if you agree with what I said – which we can leave for later.)
Now, show me why religion and science deal with the same thing.
I asked you to…

Your explanation is in the question you made. If you have any idea of what the belief in God or a prayer is or is supposed to do, you would already have an answer. Since I noticed that you clearly have no idea about that, I chose to remain simple and tell you that: Medicine was invented to cure people (even “more than prayer”), so it is no surprise that it does cure people. What about this you cannot follow?
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@Skeptigirl part 2 of 2
written by danieljref, February 03, 2009
While that last one is true, it doesn't negate the roles both medicine and science played in reducing disease.

Nor do (or did) I negate their roles. Until that point, I’ve repeatedly asked you to provide any knowledge about God, religion or anything related to that. Not only did you not answer, but you came out demanding an explanation for something that wasn’t even in discussion (medicine curing more than prayer) and seemed absolutely ridiculous (if you ever knew anything about prayer). I just wanted to cut you short and smash what seemed like a deification of modern medicine, showing that it makes a lot of mistakes (Are you thoughtlessly willing to accept a pill that will cure all existing diseased people but as a side effect will send to death a huge number of them, even the ones that are not on a death corridor? I’m not.) and that it twists words to make it sound more appealing (cure is not the same as increasing the statistical life-span of someone with a disease while keeping the disease). This was not intended to say that medicine is worthless (I literally acknowledged that it cures more than prayer – which I thought would suffice you, but apparently it didn’t), that it never did anything good or that you could just throw all of it away and nothing would change. It was simply intended to bring you back to reality (which you seemed a little off) and accept that even though it made great achievements, it is still far to paint it with “divine colors” as you did. And just a reminder of your intellectual honesty. You maliciously included the word “science” in your last text, which was not only out of the debate but also contradictory to what I said, because some of the public policies that I mentioned could only happen because of science and while medicine is a science, not all science is medicine. But besides all this, I’ll gladly take the blame that I said “modern medicine cures as much as it kills”.
If you don't believe praying to God does anything, just say so.

I have no stance on this point, nor was it ever a point in the discussion (I’ll keep ignoring the fact that I already said I’m an atheist), but I would be glad to hear why you “don’t believe praying to God does anything” or, in better terms, can you prove that they don’t do anything (or if you are too lazy for that, can you assert that if no one else can show that it works, it means that it doesn’t work.)
One can show how our brains are hardwired to look for…

I was not making a case. I wanted you to explain yours, which I was not following. You said some people “know God intuitively”. You said that intuition is an “evaluation of evidence” which the brain uses to draw conclusions. But you also said that there is “no evidence of God”. So I just asked you how could you come to a conclusion (God) drawn from the evaluation of evidence that does not exist. Even if I accept the explanation you gave on the rest of the paragraph that I just quoted, I still cannot put those things together. Either your description of intuition is wrong, or your assertion that people know God intuitively is wrong, or your assertion about evidence of God is wrong. Which is which?
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The End is near
written by danieljref, February 03, 2009
@ Kuroyume
No. This was ridiculous. Now it’s just something that deserves a word that probably only exists in german.
You cannot jump from the definition of a word and go to a figure of speech and pretend that you are talking about the same thing. When you say you made an “(relevant) observation”, you are saying that you apprehended through your eyes something from the external world (reality). You cannot just jump from that to say that you “observed” pink elephants and pretend they are the same, because this is only a figure of speech and the pink elephant was never on the external world. Do YOU get that??!!
And you are reducing philosophy to logic (and I dare say, mathematical logic) which is just a part of it, attacking one and thinking you are attacking the other. And do you want ME to learn something?
How would you INVENT logic without philosophy?
Logic is nothing without the principle of identity, which comes from evidence/reality. You cannot construct logic if you do not have that one thing. I even dare to say that all logic is based on two words: YES and NO. And these cannot be defined by logic because any definition would be tautological. Philosophy is NOT the SAME as logic! Do you GET that??!!
And if you need something to warm up your brain, think about the phrase: “I’m a liar” and tell me what logic would have to say about that.

@Billy Joe
…and now you are asking us…

I’m not asking you anything. Specially to believe. You can do whatever you want.
I challenge to repeat that statement…

Uhh… A Challenge! Do I get a million dollars in money that is not money but is as good as money if I make my case too? If not, I pass.
Public health measures V modern medicine

Where did I say vaccines are useless? Where did I endorse alternative medicine? Is this about me, really?
And if you think the examples you gave are worth something for this discussion, please tell me about some non-vaccine-preventable disease that is prevented by vaccination. Or tell me how many lives and injuries does vaccination prevent on work related accidents, on traffic accidents, murders, rapes, fights and robberies. After that you will understand how ridiculous you sound and then “What does this tell you about the effectiveness of "public measures" as opposed to vaccines” on all other cases and not just “these diseases”.
Religion and AIDS in África

The countries you named invested mostly on condoms. Namely Uganda was the one that besides condoms invested in programs that preached abstinence and monogamy. And Uganda has one of the best results for reducing AIDS in Africa.
“What does this tell you about the effectiveness… oh wait, for you, probably nothing. When religion comes in, THEN you become skeptical.
And this must be a joke. I don’t endorse these kind of programs, but 130 million dollars on abstinence? Do you have any idea how much the pornographic industry makes in the same place? An adult film star fart costs more than that. (and you can challenge me to post this in a forum and ask me to say that I didn’t mean it either).
You are a curious breed of atheist…

Well, you finally got something right.
I’m the breed that thinks for myself. The kind that feels that my atheism is a personal thing and shouldn’t be spread by force to the population, obliging them to be “educated” in my “science”. My skepticism tells me that if I want to argue against somebody I must first understand what they say. So in order to criticize homeopathy, for example, I should know homeopathy well enough that I could even be able to defend it honestly against scientists and then know science well enough to defend it honestly against homeopaths. And after that I could make my own mind.

My atheism is not a stupid adolescent stance against reality (like “Why would a loving God kill a puppy? Tell me! I demand an explanation! I cannot believe in an All-Loving God that let my tiny puppy die! Bwaaaaa!!”); or a religious sect that need stupid propagandas like “God probably does not exist” and claiming that teaching (“other”) religion to a child is worse than rape; or that need to call people from “other beliefs” stupid and that try to justify this by saying that “mine is an evidence based belief”; or that expects me to keep repeating stupid mantras (science–scientific method–is it peer reviewed?– I only believe in evidence) to be accepted in their group; or that need atheist zealots or people that I idolize because they “showed me the light” and that I’ll follow wherever they go because I know that when I need they will come in my defense.
I honestly feel glad when I become an embarrassment. It shows me that I’m not just another sheep in the herd (whatever it is).
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Daniel
written by BillyJoe, February 04, 2009


I’m not asking you anything. Specially to believe. You can do whatever you want.

Let's just say I find it hard to believe that the statement "Modern medicine kills as many as it cures" was originally meant by you as hyperbole.

Where did I say vaccines are useless?

Where did I say you did?
I gave you a vey popular instance instance of where "public health measures" are given the credit in place of medicine.

Where did I endorse alternative medicine?

Where did I say you did?
I did not once mention alternative medicine in my reply to you.

please tell me about some non-vaccine-preventable disease that is prevented by vaccination....

Well, this is just bizarre.
You made the claim that "public health measures" should get the credit. In response, I gave you an example of where "public health measures" are often given the credit for the benefits of Modern Medicine pointing out the fallacy in that argument. And now, instead of defending your claim about "public health measures" you want me to write a book proving the benefits of modern medicine.
I would respectfully suggest that the shoe is very tightly on the other foot.
I'm reminded of Monty Python: "What did the Romans ever do for us?"

Namely Uganda was the one that besides condoms invested in programs that preached abstinence and monogamy. And Uganda has one of the best results for reducing AIDS in Africa.

This is not a clear cut case. The ABC program (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms) was successful, but which of the A, B, or C was responsible? The truth is that it is impossible to tell as they were all introduced simulataneously. However, when the program shifted from ABC to the US-backed Abstinence only program, the number of HIV infections actually rose marginally. Not proof, but add to that the failure of the abstinence only "Pledge" amongst american youth and your platform looks a little shaky don't you think?

“What does this tell you about the effectiveness… oh wait, for you, probably nothing. When religion comes in, THEN you become skeptical.

You have not even introduced religion yet!!!
Unless you think ABC was a religious program!

And this must be a joke. I don’t endorse these kind of programs, but 130 million dollars on abstinence? Do you have any idea how much the pornographic industry makes in the same place?

And what, pray tell, are these good christian youth doing watching pornography?
Joking aside, though, that was 130 million dolars for a religious program that failed to have any effect at all. It would have purchased a lot of condoms though.

Well, you finally got something right.
I’m the breed that thinks for myself. The kind that feels that my atheism is a personal thing and shouldn’t be spread by force to the population....blah, blah, blah

Thanks for elevating of yourself to the sainthood.smilies/cheesy.gif
Usually the pope does that. smilies/wink.gif

My atheism is not a stupid adolescent stance against reality (like “Why would a loving God kill a puppy? Tell me! I demand an explanation! I cannot believe in an All-Loving God that let my tiny puppy die! Bwaaaaa!!”);

It's an ALL-loving god and it is a valid argument.
But I'm not going to defend unless and untill you defend your prior claim that it is a stupid adolescent argument.
I'm not going to be trapped a second time.

or a religious sect that need stupid propagandas like “God probably does not exist”

You have nothing to say about the numerous religious advertisements that have appeared daily on television radio and billboards for may decades all over the world?
Only a single mention about one advertisement in one media outlet in one Country in one year.

and claiming that teaching (“other”) religion to a child is worse than rape;

If you are referring to Richard Dawkins than I will simply correct you:
Brainwashing children with religious propaganda is a form of child abuse. (Teaching about religion is not seen as a problem at all.)

or that need to call people from “other beliefs” stupid and that try to justify this by saying that “mine is an evidence based belief”;

Really? Science is just another belief system? Are you a post-modernist by any chance?

or that expects me to keep repeating stupid mantras (science–scientific method–is it peer reviewed?– I only believe in evidence) to be accepted in their group;

Stupid mantras???
Pray tell, how do you shift the wheat from the chaff, fact from fantasy? What is your modus operandus
Please, I would really like to know.

or that need atheist zealots or people that I idolize because they “showed me the light” and that I’ll follow wherever they go because I know that when I need they will come in my defense.

Please, would someone translate this for me, because I have no idea.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, February 04, 2009
Please, would someone translate this for me, because I have no idea.
Okay, I get it, he used first person instead of third person.
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Defining concepts
written by Skeptigirl, February 04, 2009
Like it or not, you have misunderstood much of the discussion, Dan.
Dan thinking this paraphrases Skep: "if something is not testable, no one can ever be aware of it"
No, I said nothing of the kind. You have taken two separate issues and drawn the false conclusion they are related.

The concepts below may help you make more sense of the discussion.

Regarding "awareness of existence", the discussion was about awareness of Deist gods. I believe you confused 'the possibility of being aware of something' with 'the possibility of something existing'. The distinction is important.

If one claims there is a god which created the Universe but then does nothing else, (a Deist god), it is an impossible paradox. If a god doesn't interact with the person (aka does nothing), then there is no way for the person to be aware of that god. If the god does make its presence known, then it no longer fits the definition of a non-meddling Deist god.

The Deist god concept was invented in an attempt to explain the potential for a god to exist that no one could detect. Such a god could exist, but if it did, no one would have any way of being aware of it.

Being testable is a separate concept. Actually, the term is falsifiable. This is a concept in science that one applies to an hypothesis in order to test it using the scientific process.

One cannot test for things which are in the 'supernatural' realm because they supposedly exist outside of the Universe. Such things would not be falsifiable. No one can say if these things exist or not because being outside of the Universe means there is no way to examine them.

Some of these things are reasonable to consider, though we can draw no conclusions about them. We have no way to detect what occurred before the Big Bang because space-time began with the BB. But it is reasonable to consider there was something before it. We cannot detect anything outside the Universe. The Universe may be all there is, or there may be something outside it. We have no way of knowing, but it's reasonable to consider the possibility there may be something outside of our Universe.

Some things are not so reasonable to consider such as things we just make up, but for which there is no evidence, nor any logical reason to consider. Invisible pink unicorns, invisible dragons, and flying spaghetti monsters are often referred to as examples of things in this category.

So where does one put god beliefs? It's not reasonable to consider gods existing outside the Universe because it would simply be adding a meaningless layer. Where did the Universe come from? Gods made it. Great, where did gods come from? Or, Where did the Universe come from? Invisible pink unicorns created it out of dragon spaghetti. These are meaningless scientific concepts (not to be confused with the usefulness of god beliefs and religion) where the concept of something existing before the BB or outside the Universe are not meaningless scientific concepts.

Belief in gods can also be better explained by looking at the evidence. The evidence supports god beliefs are myths and that they are all of similar origin: people imagined them. There is no evidence people ever interacted with real gods. And if gods were interacting with people, those gods would no longer be outside of the Universe. Any interaction between gods and people would be falsifiable.

'Falsifiability' is different from but a related concept to 'evidence'. One need not apply the scientific process to evidence so falsifiable is not the same as saying something exists. However, once there is evidence for something, it becomes falsifiable.

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written by Skeptigirl, February 04, 2009
It is reasonable to consider things might or might not exist which are not falsifiable.

This is where the scientific community splits.

When some in the scientific community deal with god beliefs they create a 3rd category. Instead of calling god beliefs, non-evidence based beliefs, they call them faith based beliefs.

I have been trying to point out the problems this approach results in:

1 One cannot provide an adequate definition of faith based belief which distinguishes it from non-evidence based belief. The web site Phil was recommending, and indeed many in the scientific community, avoid confronting the fact most religions are based on myths by segregating religious beliefs, but not all religious beliefs, into a special category. So which god beliefs belong in the faith-based and not the standard non-evidence based belief category? The ones I don't want to challenge, of course.

2 Many people misuse the concept of not being able to falsify gods as 'evidence' for gods. If I claim my god is beyond the reach of scientific testing, then you cannot claim my god belief is false. Not being falsifiable is not evidence for something.

3 The most important reason for encouraging the scientific community to drop the category of faith based beliefs is the fact that the evidence for the origin of god beliefs overwhelmingly supports the conclusion gods are as imaginary as invisible pink unicorns.

The scientific argument there is reason to overlook a handful of god beliefs as being outside of the realm of science is unsupportable. Rather, one is tainting one's scientific position for political considerations. I recognize the political problems this creates. But then lots of scientific positions create political problems. That is not a reason to create a special evidence category.

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Intuition is not a source of knowledge
written by Skeptigirl, February 04, 2009
Dan: I was not making a case. I wanted you to explain yours, which I was not following. You said some people “know God intuitively”. You said that intuition is an “evaluation of evidence” which the brain uses to draw conclusions. But you also said that there is “no evidence of God”. So I just asked you how could you come to a conclusion (God) drawn from the evaluation of evidence that does not exist. Even if I accept the explanation you gave on the rest of the paragraph that I just quoted, I still cannot put those things together. Either your description of intuition is wrong, or your assertion that people know God intuitively is wrong, or your assertion about evidence of God is wrong. Which is which?
I certainly never said people know god intuitively.

When you referred to intuition as a "source of knowledge" we challenged you to be more specific.

Is that source of knowledge genetic? Are you born with it?
Does it come to you through magic? Does a god give it to you?

The reason this is important is believing 'intuition' is a source of knowledge, you are essentially saying that knowledge enters (or develops within) the brain by magic. In other words, you cannot say how that knowledge got there. Did you say it got there by magic? No. You think we are misquoting you but we were asking you how did the information get there? Was it magic? If not, then tell us where that knowledge comes from.

What you call intuition is not a source of knowledge. Intuition is simply the brain weighing the evidence it has accumulated and coming to a conclusion.

Often people are unaware of all the evidence the brain is weighing because much of the process is instantaneous. It isn't 'intuition' that lets you identify a tree when you see one. It is the evidence your brain has accumulated over time. The evidence was placed into categories. The tree category has certain elements that when you see them, you know you are looking at a tree.


Enter science. Science is a process whereby we can determine what are true conclusions and what are the false conclusions our brains are making. The scientific process is a proven successful means of coming to correct conclusions. Rather than assuming the instantaneous conclusions our brains make of the accumulated evidence, the scientific process puts that evidence in better order.

With religious beliefs, there is no systematic careful observation, no verification, no testing if conclusions are correct. Instead, people just assume their brains are naturally organizing and processing the information accurately (or as you call it, using their intuition).


Dan: I said science and religion...Now, show me why religion and science deal with the same thing.
If you meant to discuss the difference between what science and religion deal with, you didn't understand what the discussion was about. The web page Phil presented said:

"Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities — like God."

This has nothing to do with the purpose of scientific or religious beliefs which obviously have different purposes. Your discussions are full of misunderstandings.
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What is the purpose?
written by SkepticReport, February 07, 2009
It is pure nonsense to accuse scientists who don't challenge non-evidence based beliefs of not wanting to challenge those beliefs.

It has nothing to with wanting, but everything to do with not being able to. No scientist is able to challenge claims for which there is no evidence claimed.

If scientists are challenging non-evidence based beliefs by using methods that do not belong in science, then they are crossing the line from being scientists to being scientists with an ideological agenda.

That is the worst possible place for scientists to go.

This is not about scientists trying to create a "special evidence category". This is about a transparent attempt of vilifying those who refuse to let themselves be used as ideological tools for someone who clearly are using this argument for some reason.

The question is, what is that reason? Why would anyone want to attempt to (ab)use science as an ideological tool? For what purpose?
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To Skeptic Report
written by BillyJoe, February 07, 2009

I see you have retreated back to your ivory tower.
I do't blame you.
It's a great place to feel unchallenged from.
Close the windows and shut the blinds.
Repeat the mantra.

If scientists are challenging non-evidence based beliefs by using methods that do not belong in science then they are crossing the line from being scientists to being scientists with an ideological agenda.

Yes, they should damn well shut up about the historical evidence that "man created God and, in his image, created he Him".
They should shut up about the fact that most of the claimed attributes of God and Religion ARE claims that can be challenged by science.
And they should shut up about the fact that the only god belief about which science has nothing to say is the concept of the deist god except that he has been relegated to a position of total irrelevance

And we should damn well shut up pointing this out to you, because you're not hearig it, sitting all smug and warm in your ivory tower.

regards,
BillyJoe
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Some hear only what they want to hear
written by SkepticReport, February 07, 2009
I have been very clear about the distinction between beliefs that are claimed to have evidence, and beliefs that are not claimed to have evidence.

If evidence is claimed, then those claims should be investigated. And they are.

If no evidence is claimed, how to investigate those claims? They can't be.

For some reason, this doesn't sink in with some. Can they not read, or do they simply not want to understand? Or perhaps they are not able to?

Fundamentalists are found in every camp. Some fight for their own reasons. Others are less imaginative, and have to create one.
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written by BillyJoe, February 07, 2009
Do you agree that
1) The only god concept that is beyond the reach of science is the concept of the deist god?
2) Do you agree that the deist god has been relegated to a position of total irrelevance?
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Always do the homework
written by SkepticReport, February 07, 2009
Jainism does not make testable claims either.

In order to criticize a point, one must first do one's homework. In this case, it means learning about the religions of the world, at least those with a substantial following.

Science investigates the physical world, period.



So what if people create special definitions of god in order to claim science cannot address the existence of gods? So what if some people's god doesn't interact with the Universe?

That has nothing to do with with science...



Deists claim to believe there is no testable god. No paradox for them to explain.



A Deist god does by definition not interact with the Universe - at least not in a way we can detect today. It is simply outside the scope of science.



...nobody said that something has to be physical to exist. Least of all Deists, when they talk about their god.



Deists do not claim that their god can be proven to exist.



Deism is not incompatible with science and skepticism.



What business is it of ours if we don't see how such a god can be comforting to others? We cannot dismiss the "comfort value" of a religion, just because we can't see it. It is not only wrong, it is also incredibly arrogant to do so. Skeptics are not the sole arbiter of which religions comfort those who believe in them, and which do not.

Let's be careful not to enforce our own prejudices on other people in the name of science. That makes us no different than the worst religious fundamentalists.



Deists make no testable claims, therefore it is not unskeptical to be a Deist.



All things which I have previously said. If that isn't understood by now, then no amount of repetitions will make it any clearer.

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Oh well....
written by BillyJoe, February 08, 2009
Still no acknowledgement of the criticisms given here against your view or any attempt to answer those criticisms.

Just repeating a few statements with which I have previously informed you I do not disagree, repeating a statement against a view which I have previously told you I do not even hold, repeating a few mistatements, implying a prejudice on my part that you haven't established as even existing.

Windows shut and curtains drawn.
Repeating the mantra.

BJ

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Some hear only what they want to hear, indeed.
written by Skeptigirl, February 09, 2009
written by SkepticReport, February 07, 2009
I have been very clear about the distinction between beliefs that are claimed to have evidence, and beliefs that are not claimed to have evidence.
You have been clear you make a distinction, but you are apparently unaware this is a philosophical distinction, not a factual distinction.

If evidence is claimed, then those claims should be investigated. And they are.
If no evidence is claimed, how to investigate those claims? They can't be.
One cannot investigate a faith based belief heaven exists. That does not mean science can have nothing to say about the concept and belief of heaven.

For some reason, this doesn't sink in with some. Can they not read, or do they simply not want to understand? Or perhaps they are not able to?
It is not whether this has 'sunk in' nor is it that your position is 'not understood'. So let's at least get that out of the way.

The difference of opinion here is your philosophy that making no claims about the evidence for a belief excuses a person from having their beliefs challenged. Your philosophy is that a belief need not be evidence based. This is a philosophical difference, SkepticReport, not a difference of fact.

My problem with your view is twofold.

1) LOGICAL PROBLEMS INHERENT IN THE PREMISE: You refuse to address the logic problem a belief without evidence creates. In the case of a Deist god, you refuse to address the logic problem created by someone being aware of a god which doesn't interact with the Universe, because by definition, such a god cannot make its presence known as that is interacting with the Universe.

2) ARBITRARY SELECTIVE APPLICATION OF THE PHILOSOPHY: You are selectively applying this philosophy only to a Deist god belief. This is my objection to the scientific community taking the same position one can arbitrarily exclude beliefs from scientific scrutiny by creating special categories of non-evidence based beliefs.

a) Faith based beliefs
b) Beliefs in the "Supernatural" or "paranormal" or some other terminology identifying something outside the natural world
c) Beliefs that are not claimed to have evidence

I see no real definable difference between those categories themselves, or, between those and any other non-evidence based belief.

I recognize that you make a distinction between "beliefs that are not claimed to have evidence" and the other categories. Many scientists are comfortable claiming "faith based beliefs" are a unique category. And some in the scientific community have the philosophy, science need not address beliefs which are not testable such as a belief in heaven, gods, ghosts, and so on. Just as before the Big Bang is untestable and outside the Universe is untestable, why not just toss other untestable claims in that category and ignore them from a scientific standpoint?

The reason I don't buy your concept of a belief where no claims of evidence are made is the revealed when you cannot address the impossibility of being aware of something one cannot, by definition, be aware of. Being aware of a Deist god is a claim which can be challenged by a mere logical analysis of the claim. My philosophy is that all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind. That is a simple fact of how the brain comes to have a belief in the first place. And that is where our philosophies diverge. And I will go so far as to say the 'fact' of how the brain functions supports my philosophy and does not support yours.


This theme actually underlies all three categories I listed above. Does a person need to provide a reason they believe something? Your position is they do not need to and unless they do, then there is no reason to apply the scientific process or critical thinking to their beliefs. My philosophy is that all these special categories of non-evidence based beliefs are arbitrary and based on the desire for science to be politically correct. You can't have a belief based on nothing. It is not possible unless you believe these thoughts were magically instilled in your brain. Perhaps you want to join Danieljref with his claim that, "intuition is a source of knowledge". I don't.

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Ignoring the forest.
written by Skeptigirl, February 09, 2009
What is the purpose?
written by SkepticReport, February 07, 2009


(Minor editing to group related concepts together, reply in 2 parts)
It is pure nonsense to accuse scientists who don't challenge non-evidence based beliefs of not wanting to challenge those beliefs...

...This is not about scientists trying to create a "special evidence category". This is about a transparent attempt of vilifying those who refuse to let themselves be used as ideological tools for someone who clearly are using this argument for some reason.
I said that the "special evidence category" cannot be defended based on anything other than political grounds. I also said that such a category cannot be adequately defined and results in arbitrarily assigning some beliefs and not other 'separate but equal' beliefs to the special categories.

Your statement reveals that you do indeed see challenging god beliefs as political. I have said nothing about accusing scientists of not actively challenging beliefs or vilifying anyone who holds such beliefs. Rather, I have merely said we should not be concerned about political reasons when defining evidence or the lack of it. If you want a special category of untestable, unchallengeable evidence, then one should be able to defend that position on scientific rather than on political grounds. You cannot do so.

I understand that by my saying, "the evidence does not support god beliefs", this implies god beliefs are false. That conclusion has political implications. But the evidence is all that science should be concerned about here. The political implications can be considered when one communicates science. Political considerations can be applied to whether or not one remains quiet or speaks out about what the evidence does or does not support. Scientists can ignore theism. Scientists can ignore the cognitive dissonance and believe in all the gods and heavens they want to.

But the scientific community should not cave to political considerations when adopting the philosophical position that faith based beliefs differ from non-evidence based beliefs unless they can support that philosophy on scientific grounds.

It has nothing to with wanting, but everything to do with not being able to. No scientist is able to challenge claims for which there is no evidence claimed.

If scientists are challenging non-evidence based beliefs by using methods that do not belong in science, then they are crossing the line from being scientists to being scientists with an ideological agenda.

That is the worst possible place for scientists to go.
Your assumption one can only challenge a claim on the terms the claimant spells out is a false assumption. Just because one says there is no claim of evidence doesn't mean there is no claim. You would leave a lot of evidence out of the analysis using this approach and it certainly wouldn't be applied to most 'beliefs' people hold.

The Deist god belief can be challenged on the basis of the claim being logically impossible. It can be challenged on the evidence that brains don't have 'magical' beliefs. 'Intuition' is not a source of knowledge. Beliefs are the result of a process where the brain uses anatomy and physiology (aka nature) and evidence (aka nurture) to come to a conclusion. There is plenty of evidence that no conclusion (aka belief) is formed in the brain without the brain processing some evidence (aka input).

There is a lot for science to test and investigate with claims of god beliefs and with the supposed existence of the supernatural. For starters, the scientific process is to follow the evidence to the conclusion, not fit the evidence to some pre-established conclusion. Following the evidence for god beliefs leads one to the evidence based conclusion that people invented god beliefs. Following the evidence that leads to belief in the supernatural results in the conclusion that these are natural phenomena that are being misinterpreted. If you have evidence supporting a different conclusion, science would have no problem with that.


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written by Skeptigirl, February 09, 2009
The question is, what is that reason? Why would anyone want to attempt to (ab)use science as an ideological tool? For what purpose?
It's the other way around. I recognize science is allowing politics to affect the science. The evidence is what it is. That is not something the scientific community needs to be making excuses for.

Compounding that matter is is the underlying problem which led the scientific community to see a need to make a statement like, "science is not against theist beliefs". The scientific community has been accused by some in the religious community of being biased against their beliefs. Some in the religious community have made the false accusation that when any evidence comes up supporting specific theistic beliefs, the scientific community excludes conclusions that support those theist beliefs.

Is it the best approach or does it feed into this straw man when the scientific community denies they are drawing any conclusions about the existence or non-existence of gods? "The Bible is rife with scientifically unsupportable claims, but hey, that doesn't mean I'm challenging anyone's belief in the Biblical God." And can you say with a straight scientific face, "Zeus, Thor, Pele, and all the rest of the historical gods people no longer believe in are mythical gods but that evidence cannot be applied to any conclusions one might draw about the existence of any god people currently believe in because science doesn't go there."

If faith based beliefs really were different from other non-evidence based beliefs and if science really never did have anything to say about the existence or non-existence of gods, then this should be an easy scientific argument to make. But one can only make such an argument using arbitrary definitions, blinders on, and lots of political sidestepping.

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errata
written by Skeptigirl, February 09, 2009
Line 3: "It is" not is is.
4 lines from bottom, ? is missing from italicized sentence.

You know, a five or 10 minute editing window would be nice for we pedantic folk. smilies/cool.gif
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Before it comes up..
written by Skeptigirl, February 09, 2009
I said above,
If you want a special category of untestable, unchallengeable evidence, then one should be able to defend that position on scientific rather than on political grounds. You cannot do so.
Before anyone gives the scientific grounds for something being untestable, I already addressed this above. While one can define 'outside the realm of science' on scientific grounds, some things are reasonably in this category such as 'outside the Universe' and 'before the Big Bang'. But it is less reasonable to consider invisible pink unicorns for which there is no evidence and no logic leading one to consider such an entity existing outside the realm of science. There is no evidence and no logic for considering anything supernatural, including gods, and, there is a better explanation for beliefs in both. While something outside the Universe could exist and would be outside the realm of science, that is not a scientific reason to put anything one wishes to believe in into this category.
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Skeptic Report: your mission should you choose to accept it...
written by BillyJoe, February 09, 2009


I'm not sure if Skeptic Report is still following this thread and, if he is, if he is prepared to stop merely restating his position and tackle the argument against it, as encapsulated by the paragraph quoted below. I would be really interested to see how he would do so. Or anyone else for that matter.

Written by Skeptigirl:
There is a lot for science to test and investigate with claims of god beliefs and with the supposed existence of the supernatural. For starters, the scientific process is to follow the evidence to the conclusion, not fit the evidence to some pre-established conclusion. Following the evidence for god beliefs leads one to the evidence based conclusion that people invented god beliefs. Following the evidence that leads to belief in the supernatural results in the conclusion that these are natural phenomena that are being misinterpreted. If you have evidence supporting a different conclusion, science would have no problem with that.


And the more specific argument against the deist god...

The Deist god belief can be challenged...on the evidence that brains don't have 'magical' beliefs. 'Intuition' is not a source of knowledge. Beliefs are the result of a process where the brain uses anatomy and physiology (aka nature) and evidence (aka nurture) to come to a conclusion. There is plenty of evidence that no conclusion (aka belief) is formed in the brain without the brain processing some evidence (aka input).


BJ
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Lots of talk. Time for the test.
written by SkepticReport, February 12, 2009
I am not a Deist, nor am I defending Deism, so criticism of Deist beliefs should be addressed to those who actually hold that type of belief.

It may be that some Deists refuse to address logical problems, but that is beside the point: Which religion is claimed to rely solely on logic? Isn't the very idea of a religion, be it evidence-based or not, to believe in something that is against logic? Therefore, it is misplaced to criticize someone for not addressing something logically, when the belief is acknowledged not to rely on logic.

A Deist god is argued to have made its presence known, since the universe exists in the first place. But that's not an arbitrary selection - that is the premise of the belief. No, it doesn't make sense to me or others, but that is entirely beside the point. It is not up to anyone to bang people on the head with science, if those people aren't making claims that are within the realms of science. That's just misplaced fanaticism.

There is in fact a definable difference between faith based beliefs and beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal: The supernatural and paranormal are claimed to have evidence: It is a supernatural claim that miracles happen. But, we can test those. Similarly, it is paranormal to claim that psi exists. Yes, we can test that as well.

I am certainly not alone in making the distinction between testable claims and non-testable claims. That is very much a factual distinction - and is also the way science works: It tests testable claims, and leaves the rest to philosophy. But it is not "my" concept. That's the way science works.

It really is that simple.

Whatever science has to say about the concept and belief of heaven is, and has to be, solely dependent on what claims are being made. Once science is forced to make statements on a specific philosophy, it stops being science and has become a political tool to oppress those who don't agree with the politics.

Because there are dire consequences to forcing science to do what it isn't equipped to do: Once we start deciding "scientifically" that non-testable claims can be tested scientifically, we open up a can of worms the size of Jupiter.

There are many other areas than Deism and Jainism (to pick two religions with no testable claims) where non-testable claims are also made.

One is politics: Which political agenda is the scientifically right one? Is the Democratic platform more scientific than the Republican?

Another is art: Which school of art is scientifically the right one?

Another is music: Is Bach scientifically better than Mozart?

Others have tried to claimed that their own prejudices are scientifically backed. Ayn Rand tried, with very funny results. Hitler and Stalin tried to prop up their political ideologies with claims that they were backed by science (racial theories and Lysenkoism).

But that's not science. That's scientism: The idea that science determines everything, even the untestable.

So, enough words. Let's put the argument to the test:

If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached.

So, which is scientifically more sound, the Republican platform or the Democratic platform?
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written by Rogue Medic, February 12, 2009
Skeptic Report,

Neither of those choices.

The closest to scientific might be the Libertarian Party. smilies/wink.gif
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Refining one's concepts
written by Skeptigirl, February 12, 2009
SkepticReport: I am certainly not alone in making the distinction between testable claims and non-testable claims.
And this is not the issue. I specifically referred to 2 untestable claims, before the Big Bang and outside the Universe.

Whatever science has to say about the concept and belief of heaven is, and has to be, solely dependent on what claims are being made. Once science is forced to make statements on a specific philosophy, it stops being science and has become a political tool to oppress those who don't agree with the politics.
I addressed the philosophical position one takes in science regarding evidence vs claims. I said nothing about science judging anything except the evidence.

You have stated your philosophical position. That position is, "Whatever science has to say...[is]...dependent on what claims are being made".

My philosophical position differs. It is, whatever science has to say is dependent on the evidence.

The rest of your argument is a straw man that, in my opinion, is the result of your preconceived false belief that I have a political agenda behind my philosophical position. I have an agenda, but the agenda is taking the politics out of what science has to say about religious beliefs, not inject politics into the science. It is political to avoid addressing the evidence because it offends god believers. Creating special categories of non-evidence based beliefs to exclude them from scientific scrutiny cannot be justified on scientific grounds.


As for the categories you have put forth as examples, you've made an apples and oranges analogy.
Another is art: Which school of art is scientifically the right one? So, which is scientifically more sound, the Republican platform or the Democratic platform?
Which is better, a cat or a dog? Vitamin A or vitamin C? Fed-Ex or UPS?

Science needs criteria to judge any "which is better" question. When one judges which is better, Mozart or Bach, one simply uses without conscious thought, criteria established by nature and nurture in our brains. Give those criteria to a researcher and the researcher can use the scientific process to answer that question based on the criteria.
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Putting those concepts into context
written by Skeptigirl, February 12, 2009
The Deist argument which you and some other skeptics have accepted as valid based on the 'no testable claims' philosophical position has problems. I previously pointed out the main problems with this philosophical position.

1) Claiming a god doesn't interact with the Universe is then, by definition, a god which cannot make its presence known. You cannot have it both ways regardless of pretending to by ignoring that little detail. Logic has its place in the scientific process.

2) One need not make claims before science addresses the evidence. Your premise is a Deist god belief is based on no evidence, therefore there is no claim made. But believing in a god is a claim. Describing a god is a claim. Defining a god is a claim.

The fact one chooses to keep one's religious beliefs segregated from one's otherwise scientific approach to the nature of the Universe is a personal choice. But what science has to say about the belief in, or the existence of, a Deist god is based on the evidence and not based on someone's preference not to have one's beliefs challenged.

Saying no testable claims are made with the belief in a Deist god is akin to saying faith based beliefs differ from non-evidence based beliefs. You cannot make a scientific case for that philosophical position.

You can make a case for untestable claims. If a god existed that was outside the Universe, science would not be able to test for the existence of that god. But once I start defining that god and 'claiming' that god exists, even if I 'claim' you cannot disprove that god because I say 'claiming' the god exists is not a 'claim', now you are in irrelevant fantasy territory.

Multiple Universes, Branes, and other untestable concepts are useful to ponder. But one doesn't claim these in fact, exist or that one believes in them. Changing one's god belief to a Deist god concept is simply an attempt to define one's belief as untestable. It doesn't negate the fact there is overwhelming evidence god beliefs are fantasies people made up. It doesn't negate the fact the evidence supports Deist beliefs are yet another attempt to fit the evidence to the belief rather than follow the evidence to the conclusion. And, there is a tendency to want to say, being unable to disprove the existence of untestable gods is evidence for their existence. That is an abuse of the concept in science of being unable to disprove things for which infinite testing would be required to disprove them.

It's not based on politics to say, follow the evidence, don't fit it. It's not based on politics to say, there are no scientific grounds for distinguishing between faith based and non-evidence based beliefs. It is not based on politics to say there are no scientific grounds for distinguishing one god belief from another in terms of their mythical nature. It is not based on politics to conclude the evidence overwhelmingly supports all gods are mythical. The fact one cannot disprove the existence of a Deist god is no reason one cannot draw a conclusion based on the evidence that a Deist god is as mythical as any other god. Absolute proof is not required to draw an evidence based conclusion.

If a person is comforted fantasizing about gods and heaven, let them fantasize. Ignoring the fact the evidence supports the conclusion all gods are mythical so one can assist in that fantasy or avoid confronting it is also perfectly acceptable. But creating special categories and claiming science does not address said special categories for the sole purpose of excluding selected beliefs from scientific scrutiny is based on political and not scientific grounds and should not be an official position of the scientific community.
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No, no, no, no. Enough waffling, please.
written by SkepticReport, February 12, 2009
If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached.

So, which is scientifically more sound, the Republican platform or the Democratic platform?

Let's hear the answer.
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written by Rogue Medic, February 12, 2009
Skeptic Report,

Why do people assume that you must choose a lesser of two evils? I choose neither evil.
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Science, not liking
written by SkepticReport, February 12, 2009
It isn't a question of which political platform people like.

It is a question of which political platform is the more scientifically sound.

If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached. Precisely like we can investigate a claim that Medicine(A) is better than Medicine(B).

So, let's hear the scientifically backed answer.
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written by Rogue Medic, February 12, 2009
Sorry SkepticReport. I ignore both parties. They both spout idiocies, so I tend to stop listening pretty quickly. Therefore, I am not familiar enough with them to be able to decide which party is worse.

Of course, it does not help your argument that I do not care if one is better than the other.
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No, no ,no, no, you still don't get it do you?
written by BillyJoe, February 12, 2009
Isn't the very idea of a religion...to believe in something that is against logic? Therefore, it is misplaced to criticize someone for not addressing something logically, when the belief is acknowledged not to rely on logic.

And paedophilia?
Isn't the very idea of paedophilia...to believe in something (having sex with children) that is against the moral code? Therefore it is misplaced to criticise a paedophile for not addressing the act's moral standing, when the belief is acknowledged not to rely on the moral code.

It is not up to anyone to bang people on the head with science, if those people aren't making claims that are within the realms of science. That's just misplaced fanaticism.

To rephrase that in the pattern of your first claim above:
It is not up to anyone to bang people on the head with science, if those people are making claims that they claim are not within the realms of science. That's just misplaced fanaticism.

You are repeating your claim that these people are making claims that are not within the realms of science. Yet you have been offered arguments why this claim is false and still you have not addressed these arguments.

Once we start deciding "scientifically" that non-testable claims can be tested scientifically, we open up a can of worms the size of Jupiter.

And rephrasing that in the pattern of you first claim...
Once we start deciding "scientifically" that claims that are claimed to be non-testable can be tested scientifically, we open up a can of worms the size of Jupiter.
See what nonsense this is?

I am certainly not alone in making the distinction between testable claims and non-testable claims.

And you are also not alone claiming that these particular claims are non-testable, against all the arguments that have been given against this view. Arguments that you still have not addressed.

BJ
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Easy task
written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
If claims really are testable, it should be an easy task to describe a test.

No, not repeated talk about how claims are testable. But actually describe a test.
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Make a claim first.
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009
What specific claim do you claim is not testable?

I'm not interested in your diversions into art, music and politics, so please pick a religious claim that, in your opinion, cannot be tested. And, for simplicity, let's stick with the christian/muslim/jewish religions which are really what those scientist are being politically correct about on that site about(in my opinion).

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009
...sorry, erase that last line.
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Learning requires repetition.
written by Skeptigirl, February 13, 2009
written by SkepticReport,
Easy task - If claims really are testable, it should be an easy task to describe a test.
No, not repeated talk about how claims are testable. But actually describe a test.
It's unfortunate you ask to have your assertions responded to AGAIN without having made any effort to address the preceding responses.

You are asking the wrong question. So let's start there. If you look at the problem, "do gods exist", what evidence do you have and how can you test that evidence? You are looking at the problem as if gods DID exist and you need to test that hypothesis. But we have no evidence gods exist, instead we only have evidence people BELIEVE gods exist. So you should be starting with asking, what, where, when, why and how did human belief in gods originate? Did these beliefs originate because humans had actual contact with real gods or does the evidence support another hypothesis?

Two hypotheses, human god beliefs originated in human imagination, and human god beliefs did not originate because humans encountered actual gods, are easily falsifiable and therefore both testable claims.

Once you follow the evidence to its conclusion, you are left with a non-evidence supported 'claim', god(s) exist. It is no different than a claim invisible pink unicorns and invisible garage dragons exist. These are equally untestable claims but so what? We've already shown that the evidence supports god beliefs originated in human imagination.

We can conclude the evidence supports Deist gods are myths because all the evidence supports all god beliefs are myths. ALL the evidence supports myth, NO evidence supports any gods, including Deist gods, exist. The fact we cannot test every single god one can imagine is not evidence supporting the existence of gods. Disproof is not necessary. The scientific method is to follow the evidence, not fit it to a conclusion.

And more germane to this discussion, there are no scientific grounds to put god beliefs in a special, "faith based" "untestable claims" category. God beliefs are ordinary non-evidence supported beliefs.


written by SkepticReport,
If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached.
The second issue you continue to ignore previous replies to is your assertion a belief is not a claim. You are confusing 'testing for the existence of gods using the scientific process' with the myriad of means people use to draw conclusions and establish beliefs. In addition, you seem to be confusing the reliability of evidence and the question of evidence supporting a conclusion with the evidence itself.

The evidence supports our brains are structured and function to collect evidence (aka data, aka neuro-sensory input) and draw conclusions from that evidence. This says nothing about the evidence being properly collected or supporting the conclusions drawn according to scientific methodology. And it says nothing about the quality of the evidence the brain's conclusion relies upon.

You have two choices, the god belief got in one's head via 'nature' either genetically or magically; or, the god belief was formed from 'nurture' and is based on evidence inputted into that brain after the brain formed. I'm pretty sure there is no evidence people are born believing in gods. So that only leaves god beliefs as conclusions drawn on learned evidence.

Which evidence went into any specific individual's conclusion is potentially discoverable. One would clearly then be able to test that same evidence and see if it supported the conclusion a believed-in god existed. And I'm pretty sure you'd find that early indoctrination was the 'evidence' that formed the basis of the vast majority of god beliefs. And I am certain you would not find any evidence real gods are the source of any individual's god beliefs.
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written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
Just describe a test.
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Still waiting for the answer...
written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached. Precisely like we can investigate a claim that Medicine(A) is better than Medicine(B).

We are still waiting for the scientifically backed answer.
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written by Kuroyume, February 13, 2009
Test: Find evidence of a young person, say in Tibet and under 10, who independently came to become a Rastifarian or believes in Norse gods. No books, internet, or other influences can be involved. This must have happened from complete ignorance to realization (lit. revelation from the gods themselves). Best of luck!

Note: there is one 'CLAIM' of such an ocurrence with a tribe but it is dubiously doubtful of any authenticity whatsoever.
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written by Skeptigirl, February 13, 2009
written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
Just describe a test.
I did.

Until this post I thought you might actually be in on the discussion. Unfortunately you display the key trait of dogmatic thinking, staying on a message steadfastly without regard to new information.
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Do you actually understand the arguments against your position?
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009
Unfortunately you display the key trait of dogmatic thinking, staying on a message steadfastly without regard to new information.

Meaning not even making an attempt to understand arguments contrary to you own, let alone making any attempt to respond to them.

However, it is also possible that you do not understand the arguments that have been put to you. If this is the case, just say so and I'm sure someone here will clarify the arguments for you.

If you do understand the arguments against your position, please explain why you reject them by addressing those arguments directly.

Do not simply restate your own position and ask questions based on that position that we reject.

regards,
BillyJoe
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On the other hand, I think we can also play your game...
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009
If all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind, then that evidence can be scientifically investigated and a conclusion can be reached.
We are I am still waiting for the scientifically backed answer.

And I am still waiting for you to state precisely what belief you want us to provide evidence for.

[sound of crickets?]

BJ
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One way or another, we get the answers
written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
No: We can not see a description of a test of Deist claims.

No: We can not hear the scientific conclusion of which is scientifically more sound, the Republican platform or the Democratic platform.

Even though it was claimed that all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind.

Sniff test: Failed.

And no amount of verbal diarrhea will remedy that.
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So which of the following four words do you not understand?.
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009

Clearly state your claim.

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Put up or shut up.
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009

Clearly state one specific religious claim that is, in your opinion, not evidence-based and is therefore a claim about which science has nothing to say.

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Concrete thought (differs from dogmatic) is hard to get through to.
written by Skeptigirl, February 14, 2009
written by SkepticReport, February 13, 2009
No: We can not see a description of a test of Deist claims.
You cannot see the description. I do believe I can.

Your position was addressed in a manner you either don't recognize, or don't have the confidence/ability to address. I don't expect that to change. But in case anyone else is still reading this exchange besides BillyJoe, me and you, I will persevere.

Deist claim #1: Because I make no claims my god does anything, you cannot directly test for the presence of said god.

This is correct. And, I addressed this. I cannot test for things which existed before the Big Bang and outside the Universe. These untestable things can be pondered, but nothing can be known about them. The two untestable conditions I note here are reasonable to ponder. While we have no evidence anything existed before the Big Bang and outside the Universe, the rest of our knowledge (things within the Universe generally do have conditions outside them and before them), makes these two untestable conditions reasonable to ponder.

It is less reasonable to ponder untestable things outside the Universe or before the Big Bang for which there is no evidence and no current knowledge suggesting potential existence. This category includes invisible pink unicorns, invisible garage dragons, and gods.

Belief such things exist is not evidence they exist.

Which brings me to Deist claim #2: A god exists.

This is the claim you and some Deists for that matter, avoid acknowledging is a claim.

I addressed testing this claim. You dismissed my test on the grounds (I assume) the test could not reach absolute certainty, and because the test approached the claim indirectly. But indirect, short of proof investigations compose a large body of our scientific works.

The Deist claim, "a god exists" can be addressed with equal validity stated as, "the Deist believes a god exists". Now I can test the claim by asking, is that belief based on interaction with a real god or is that belief the result of other factors? And asked in that format, it is a testable claim.

Once the claim of belief is tested, you are left with a non-evidence based claim that a god exists. I have shown the evidence we do have, (and there is a lot of it), overwhelmingly supports the conclusion, all god beliefs, (which would include the Deist god belief), do not result from an interaction with a real god.


Just because I say something exists and then say you can't disprove it is not a reason for the scientific community to create a different category for non-evidence based beliefs. Whatever exists outside the Universe or existed before the Big Bang CANNOT BE KNOWN. That includes a Deist's claim that a god exists. The Deist cannot know there is a god outside the Universe anymore than I can know there isn't one. The argument, a god does exist outside the Universe because one could exist, gives weight to one of two answers of something that cannot be known either way.

On the other hand, the evidence supports god beliefs originated as myths, not from interaction with real gods. That does provide weight that god beliefs are non-evidence based beliefs. I don't care if gods exist outside the Universe anymore than I care if invisible pink unicorns exist outside the Universe. There is not simply a lack of evidence, there is no reason to care.

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The issue here is how science treats religious beliefs
written by Skeptigirl, February 14, 2009
There is no reason to make a special category for faith based beliefs. Such beliefs are equally non-evidence based as other non-evidence based beliefs.


No: We can not hear the scientific conclusion of which is scientifically more sound, the Republican platform or the Democratic platform.
I answered this as well. Give me the criteria you want compared and I will use the scientific process to evaluate this question.

How do you decide the answer without criteria? Moral preferences, aesthetic preferences, and any other preference whether you are using the scientific process to determine or you 'just know in your head', are made based on criteria. The criteria originate from nature and nurture. This discussion is way off topic here and a non sequitur to this discussion.

But you are using this as an example of non-evidence based beliefs so I will address that, again.
Even though it was claimed that all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind.
I asked you to tell us, if not evidence, then what? Magic? Genetics? Or?

This does bring up a semantic point, however. Perhaps I need to change 'non-evidence based belief' to 'misinterpreted evidence based belief'. Oh the tediousness of language. smilies/cool.gif I must resort to two definitions of evidence, drat.

Evidence based belief: Logical, follows scientific principles, testable and is confirmed to be supported by the evidence.
Non-evidence based beliefs: Incorrectly interpreted, unsupportable, testable but fails to be confirmed.

Beliefs/conclusions by their nature have to be based on something. You have 3 choices including a combination of the three. Feel free to add anymore you consider possible that I am not listing.

Magic, out of nowhere, inexplicable
Genetic (nature)
Evidence and learning after the brain is formed (nurture)
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No, no, no, no....
written by SkepticReport, February 14, 2009
A Deist does not claim to interact with a Deist god. A Deist only claims to speak to a Deist god - one who listens, but who doesn't answer.

Try again. Deal with the actual claim. Not what is imagined being claimed.
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Ignoring the claim doesn't change it.
written by Skeptigirl, February 14, 2009
You are going to great lengths to avoid examining your own beliefs, SkepticReport.

Speaking is not interacting?
Existence is not a claim?
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written by Skeptigirl, February 14, 2009
Heck, I'm speaking to you now and you are not answering. Until you quit reading the posts, that still qualifies as an interaction.
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WHAT?
written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009
No, no, no, no....A Deist does not claim to interact with a Deist god.

I'm lost for words.
Here are a couple of direct quotes from skeptigirl...

I have shown the evidence we do have, (and there is a lot of it), overwhelmingly supports the conclusion, all god beliefs, (which would include the Deist god belief), do not result from an interaction with a real god.

the evidence supports god beliefs originated as myths, not from interaction with real gods.


BJ
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Please try.
written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009
Aw, I know it might be a little subtle for you, SR, but it doesn't help if you're trying desperately to pluck out bits to criticise instead of spending the time trying to understand what is written.



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Clearly state the claim
written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009
Try again. Deal with the actual claim.


I will try again.
Please...

Clearly state your claim.

Until you do so, there is no further purpose to responding.
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A little help with your claim...
written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009

I have a suggestion what your claim might look like:

I, Skeptic Report, claim that science can have nothing to say about a religion whose adherents believe that a being they call God simply created the universe and nothing more, because that belief is faith-based, not evidence-based.

Is that fair enough?
I'm trying to resolve this argument through a correct but simple, concise, all-inclusive, nothing superfluous statement of your claim.
How did I do?

BJ
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written by Skeptigirl, February 14, 2009
because that belief is faith-based, not evidence-based.
...and no distinction can be made between these two conditions.
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Psychics can really interact with the dead!
written by SkepticReport, February 14, 2009
If speaking to means to interact, then anyone can interact with goblins, fairies and other such creatures. Psychics really do interact with dead people, because they speak to them.

It should be obvious to most why that is an utterly ridiculous argument.
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Why am I not surprised....
written by BillyJoe, February 15, 2009
...you did not state your claim?

Because you are afraid that, if you actually engage in a discussion, you might find that your claim is untenable. Well, I don't blame you, because that is exactly what it is.

The second thing I was going to ask you to do was to state clearly what you think it is that scientists do.

The answer to this question, would have provided the argument against your claim. But, nevermind, your have made up your mind and it is now closed and the cognitive dissonance tightly locked away.


However, if you preach to me again, I'm sending over my friend, Maxwell. If words have no effect on you, perhaps a silver hammer will get through your thick skull. smilies/wink.gif

Over and out,
BillyJoe
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Taking a sidetract when no answer can be found
written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
Psychics can [claim to] really interact with the dead!
written by SkepticReport, February 14, 2009
If speaking to means to interact, then anyone can [claim to] interact with goblins, fairies and other such creatures. Psychics [claim they] really do interact with dead people, because they [claim to] speak to them.
It should be obvious to most why that [side track from the actual discussion] is an utterly ridiculous argument.
([bracketed] dialog is mine)

The persons speaking are 'claiming' to interact. That is the premise, not that they did actually interact.

If the being exists, then listening to or reading what a person says/wrote is an interaction. The listener/reader need not reply. If you read a book are you interacting with something within the Universe? The question is not about an exchange between two living speaking organisms, it is about an existence solely outside the Universe (the untestable premise), or interaction of any kind within the Universe.

You continue to go to great lengths to avoid acknowledging that there is more than one way of looking at the problem of belief in gods.

I recognize your premise. I don't disagree with the essence of it, one cannot test something that is outside the Universe. I disagree with the premise that belief in a god is not a claim. The claim is that a god exists.

If one cannot test something outside the Universe, then they cannot know anything exists there either. A Deist claims to know a god exists outside the Universe on the premise one could exist and not be detectable. Such a claim has no basis.

You've chosen to go along with the, "you can't prove my belief wrong therefore leave me alone" request of the Deist. That much I have no issue with either. It's when you then say that science has nothing to say about the evidence for or against a Deist god that we part philosophies. And it is this point on which you ignore everything in this discussion and instead simply deny a belief is a claim. A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. And now you are in a pickle because it is difficult to challenge one's own beliefs, especially in a public forum.

According to your philosophy, if a person believes in gods, ghosts, fairies, visiting ETs, or the Loch Ness monster but doesn't claim to have any evidence, science has nothing to test and therefore nothing to say.

According to my philosophy, science has a lot to say about the existence of these entities by looking at the evidence for people's belief in them, (following the evidence we have), rather than assuming they exist and trying to disprove or saying we cannot disprove their existence, (fitting the evidence to the conclusion).


I acknowledge your philosophy but am confident mine has more merit. If you are truly a critical thinker, (you are taking the position of many critical thinkers so I think you might be), then you should be capable of at least recognizing there is a field of scientific inquiry examining human belief in the existence of gods which is separate from the field of scientific inquiry examining the actual existence of gods.

From there it is only a step further to recognize if one explains belief in gods, the question of the existence of gods is truly left with no evidence to test. The Deist's beliefs have been explained by the scientific process, and a real god is not part of the explanation.


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An excellent summary
written by BillyJoe, February 15, 2009
If I may generalise....

God beliefs have been explained by the scientific process, and the actual existence of a god is not part of that explanation.

Skeptic Report obviously has a different idea entirely of what is meant by the scientific process.

BJ

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Test time, then.
written by SkepticReport, February 15, 2009
Deists do not claim to interact with their god. Deists claim to speak to their god.

The former is a strawman, the latter is reality.

How can science test something that isn't even claimed to be there? It is a major shift for science to be able to do that.

Therefore, it deserves far, far more exposure than this venue. Write the article for some publication, and argue that it can. Get on stage at TAM and argue that it can. Put a name to the claim, and let's test that idea to see how it is received by a wider audience. A skeptical audience.
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@SkepticReport
written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
See post: "Taking a sidetrack when no answer can be found" (ignore misspelling in original)

Please don't ignore my posts because BillyJoe keeps posting after me.
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@BillyJoe
written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
I appreciate that your views reflect mine and you have every right to post your views. But SkepticReport is replying to your one-line summaries of what I've said and from what I see, subsequently ignoring my posts. I would like him to read what I've written, in it's entirely, not a summary of it. Thanks.
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Special category, indeed
written by SkepticReport, February 15, 2009
It is demanded that Deists' claims are tested, even though they aren't claiming anything that can be tested.

So, the scope of science is broadened, to also include non-testable claims.

But when a wider publication of that is suggested, it is a side track.

Such hypocrisy makes it clear what the game is really all about: The charge applies only to those non-evidence based beliefs that are religious.

All other beliefs go free. All other claims go free.



Who was creating a special category again?
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written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
And you continue to deny that claiming "a god exists" is a claim.
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@Skeptigirl
written by BillyJoe, February 15, 2009
I appreciate that your views reflect mine and you have every right to post your views. But SkepticReport is replying to your one-line summaries of what I've said and from what I see, subsequently ignoring my posts. I would like him to read what I've written, in it's entirely, not a summary of it. Thanks.

I could have sworn he was ignoring my posts completely. smilies/cheesy.gif
Which is why I signed off the post before last. But I couldn't resist one more go, sorry.
Anyway, over to you Skeptigirl....

Regards.

Over and definitely out,
BillyJoe
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written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
I've started a forum thread related to this discussion.

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=4438755#post4438755
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written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
Forgot I could make it a link.

http://forums.randi.org/showth...ost4438755
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@BillyJoe
written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
@BillyJoe
Thanks for not being offended. Perhaps we are both annoyed what we've posted is going unaddressed.

@SkepticReport
When I started the forum thread and reviewed the discussion, it dawned on me you are equating "no testable claim" to "no claim". So, SR, if you are still in this discussion, how about moving past that issue and addressing the main one:

Why not test the "belief in god" instead of "the existence of god"? Testing the existence assumes a conclusion, "gods exist", and tries to fit the evidence to it. Deists in this case have come up with the ultimate 'fitting' exercise, they've simply defined god as not testable as if that supported the existence of a god.

But following the evidence supports the conclusion, god beliefs are imaginary beliefs. That conclusion includes Deist gods. I don't need to test for the existence of something the evidence supports is imagined to conclude it doesn't exist. And I don't have to test every single god belief to draw that conclusion. I can support the conclusion that all god beliefs are imaginary with overwhelming evidence by looking at a sufficient number of god beliefs and finding no variation from the conclusion.



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Special category, indeed
written by SkepticReport, February 15, 2009
"A god exists" is indeed a claim. But in the case of Deism, it isn't a testable claim. I have been adamantly clear about that from the beginning: I have repeatedly pointed out that a claim is not necessarily a testable claim. To claim otherwise is admitting that my points have been ignored throughout this debate. Or distorted deliberately, of course.

To each his own, I guess.

If all claims are testable, then we are right back to the question of which political platform is the more scientific, Republican or Democrat. But since that question is dismissed because it isn't within the scope of science, then it is clear what is being attempted here:

To create a special category for a certain group of religious believers who are derided for making testable claims even though they aren't making any.

The question that is still unanswered is, why? Why is it necessary to contort science in a way that makes it true that psychics really communicate with dead people, merely because they talk to them?

It sounds very much like Michael Behe's attempt at defending intelligent design by expanding the definition of science to the effect that astrology is also a science. Astrology as taught in the 14th century, that is. Behe hadn't realized the consequences of such an expansion of the definition of science would lead to. Likewise in this case. Hence, the hand-waving, arm-flailing, and other forms of stalling.

Let's hear the argument for broadening the scope of science in the broadest possible venue: Let's see that argument being defended in an article in a publication, or a presentation at TAM. Let's see what happens when we don't sit behind our computers, but get out in real life.

It is telling that this is avoided like the plague. Having the courage to stand up for one's beliefs is not for all.
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Communication breakthrough, not there yet
written by Skeptigirl, February 16, 2009
SR, you wouldn't move from 'not a claim' to 'is a claim that isn't testable'. That was a thought-blocker in this discussion. Rather than address the issue, is the claim 'a god exists' testable, you blocked dealing with it by repeating, Deists make no claims.

Now that you recognize saying one believes in a god is indeed a claim, we can move on.

If all claims are testable

This is another thought-blocker. I have not said, all claims are testable. I've mentioned examples of untestable claims numerous times. I think you can move past this thought-blocker as well.

I've been saying, there is more than one way to look at the problem (claim). Just because Deists have said they make no testable claim, I don't have to accept their word for it, and I don't. They are making no testable claim that their god does anything. I accept that.

That still leaves the possibility of testing the claim, 'a god exists', by looking at evidence supporting whether it is based on real or imagined evidence. If I can determine the Deist belief is of an imaginary nature, I no longer need to continue looking for that being to be able to draw a conclusion the being is imaginary.

Whether a schizophrenic's claim, they hear a voice, is due to a real or an imaginary sound, is testable. It can be determined if that voice was generated from misfiring in the auditory pathway of their brain, or if an actual sound occurred.

Once I establish a pattern, determining the sound was an hallucination also determines the sound did not exist externally. I can test the claim without looking at any direct evidence of the external sound. If a schizophrenic states Jesus told them something, I can say with reasonable certainty it was an hallucination. The fact I was not around and can't be 100% certain someone didn't claim to be Jesus and trick the schizophrenic does not stop me from testing the claim, 'Jesus spoke to the schizophrenic', based on the evidence which established the pattern my current conclusion is now based on.

Whether a belief is based on real or imagined events/entities is testable. Beliefs based on imagined events/entities, by definition, mean those events/entities did not occur/exist. If I determine the event/entity was imaginary, I also determine the event/entity did not occur/exist.

What bothers me about the position, science doesn't deal with god beliefs, is it does. Science routinely addresses god myths. That side of the god claim is ignored when making the statement, "within science the existence of a god is an untestable claim". It is a double standard to take all the evidence that god beliefs have been consistently shown to be myths and say that evidence cannot be applied to the claim, 'but this one god is different and this one god exists'. The evidence shows that is a baseless claim, not a special category faith-based claim.

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Which side is affected by the bias here?
written by Skeptigirl, February 16, 2009
To create a special category for a certain group of religious believers who are derided for making testable claims even though they aren't making any.
(emphasis mine)

These comments are full of your unscientific bias. It is that very bias I am addressing.

Fear of offending a group of persons in this case, is leading the scientific community to overcompensate. Ignoring all the evidence god beliefs are based on imaginary evidence (or whatever you want to call the stuff we base imaginary beliefs on) is the true bias going on here. Your claim is false that acknowledging the evidence that mythical god beliefs are consistent with current god beliefs means one is "deriding" those beliefs. Ignoring the evidence is where the bias occurs.

I merely ask the scientific community to separate the politics from the science. We don't need an artificially created special category of god beliefs in order to not offend god believers. It is not up to science to fit the evidence, or, in this case to fit the scientific process, to the desired politically correct conclusion.

This has no bearing on how I address theists. There is no need for confrontation, no need for derision of non-evidence based beliefs, just a need to not bias the science with political considerations.


Your second false claim reflects your distortion of what was said earlier and not what was actually said.
The question that is still unanswered is, why? Why is it necessary to contort science in a way that makes it true that psychics really communicate with dead people, merely because they talk to them?
(emphasis mine)

I already addressed this. See the post above with the embarrassing misspelled title corrected here:
Taking a sidetrack when no answer can be found
written by Skeptigirl, February 15, 2009
Psychics can [claim to] really interact with the dead!
written by SkepticReport, February 14, 2009
If speaking to means to interact, then anyone can [claim to] interact with goblins, fairies and other such creatures. Psychics [claim they] really do interact with dead people, because they [claim to] speak to them.
It should be obvious to most why that [side track from the actual discussion] is an utterly ridiculous argument.
([bracketed] dialog is mine)

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Again, let's see some evidence.
written by SkepticReport, February 16, 2009
Allow me to quote myself, yet again:

If a religious person makes a testable claim about his god(s), then science - and skeptics - can investigate that claim. If there are no testable claims, then it isn't anything for science - or skeptics.


It is only when religious people make testable claims that those claims are within the scope of science.


There are more, of course, but I think it makes it clear that I have been consistent in my argumentation the whole time. I have not refused to move from 'not a claim' to 'is a claim that isn't testable', because I have never said the former. It's a cheap tactic that is easily countered with evidence.

I find it odd that one can at first argue against that all beliefs are not based on evidence of some kind, even going so far as to claim that a test was described, and then claim that it wasn't even argued in the first place that all beliefs are based on evidence of some kind.

"Well, you're wrong, and here's why...Oh, and I did provide an argument against yours."
...
"By the way, I never claimed it."

People are not stupid.

If the scientific community is to separate the politics from the science, can we get some names? Just who is it in the scientific community who do not separate the politics from the science? Why do they speak for the scientific community? Where do they claim to speak for the scientific community?

Let's have some concrete evidence, instead of this McCarthy "I have a list of 57 names in my pocket" ruse.
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more communication barriers
written by Skeptigirl, February 16, 2009
testable claims


I have no doubt this is what you think you were communicating. You've been using that position to ignore the whole discussion here.

You are still making two false assumptions, one, that I didn't get that concept, and two, that my motives here are anything but taking the politics OUT of the science, not injecting politics into the science.

You are not the only person who has taken the position you have, that since a god can be defined as not falsifiable science can happily live side by side with god beliefs. From where I stand, scientists can live happily side by side with god believers, but science must consider the evidence from a position of neutrality, not a position of double standards.

When the evidence consistently shows a pattern, 'people invented mythical gods throughout history', and there is no evidence any of these mythical gods were ever real gods, that evidence has something to say about god beliefs today.

The evidence consistently shows people believe in the existence of imaginary beings. If specific imaginary beings are consistently shown to indeed be imaginary and not real, that evidence has something to say about the likelihood that specific imaginary being exists when the next person claims to believe in it.

If the person who believes in the being that the evidence supports is imaginary, claims one cannot disprove the imaginary being exists because the believer describes the being as "untestable", that does not negate the evidence of a previous consistent pattern. Science can evaluate the evidence of the previous consistent pattern and apply that to the question, does the imaginary being exist?

It is political and not scientific to ignore the evidence of the past consistent repeating pattern, and instead take the position none of that past consistent repeating evidence applies to the question, is the being imaginary, because the believer claims they've made no testable claims that the being does anything.

The believer has made the claim the being exists. The evidence applies to the imaginary nature of the being. And imaginary being, by definition, does not really exist.



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Just provide the evidence, please.
written by SkepticReport, February 16, 2009
Names, please.

And why they speak for the scientific community.

And where they claim to do so.
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written by Skeptigirl, February 17, 2009
You have to be related to CFL. No one else I've seen uses this particular style when persistently ignoring the discussion as the going gets rough.
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Just the evidence, please
written by SkepticReport, February 17, 2009
Names, please.

And why they speak for the scientific community.

And where they claim to do so.
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written by Skeptigirl, February 17, 2009
I'll be happy to answer your questions, Skeptic Report, only after you actually reply to the comments I've taken considerable time to post. Otherwise, I'll take it that your asking questions not germane to the main discussion is just a common example of avoidance behavior.
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I should have checked sooner
written by Skeptigirl, February 17, 2009
I knew your arguments and avoidance behaviors were familiar.

http://www.skepticreport.com/general/index.htm

At least Billy Joe and I have been honest about who we are. Of course, I don't blame you. People who know you know not to invest energy in a discussion that is going nowhere from the beginning.
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More stalling
written by SkepticReport, February 17, 2009
Criticism of scientists claiming to create a special category, while claiming to speak for the scientific community, cannot be addressed unless we have evidence that this actually occurs.

Let's have the names of these scientists.

And why they speak for the scientific community.

And where they claim to do so.

Without this information, it is nothing but a strawman. A cheap, transparent attempt of creating a problem.

For some reason or another.

Side issue: It can hardly be a surprise under what memberID I post at the JREF Forum. My avatar there has always referred to "SkepticReport".

So let's not try to fool people, hm?
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You first
written by Skeptigirl, February 18, 2009
Told you, you address the discussion and I will address your sidetrack. Otherwise, no dice.
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It's very, very simple
written by SkepticReport, February 18, 2009
Why should anyone address that scientists claiming to create a special category while claiming to speak for the scientific community, if there is no evidence presented that this actually occurs?

Is the discussion entirely hypothetical?
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Because that's what the discussion was about
written by Skeptigirl, February 18, 2009
The discussion is about the position statement on the web page in the blog entry. This is the last time I am going to reply to you unless you contribute to the main discussion. Your attempt to change the subject to one of whose opinion the web page statement represents is not relevant to the discussion.
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written by SkepticReport, February 18, 2009
Entirely hypothetical, then.

And a waste of time.
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