There are three thousand word comments that deserve trashing. Then there are comments of the same length that deserve fervent applause from those of us who respect reality, truth, evidence, reason, and the scientific worldview.
That's why I'm sharing another lengthy comment from "Appreciative Reader" below.
As you'll see if you read the following comment published on my Why neither unicorns nor God are to be believed in post, Appreciative Reader absolutely demolishes the religious perspective of another commenter, Spence Tepper.
If this were a boxing fight, it'd be called after the second or third round because too much damage is being done to the weaker opponent.
Or, as Appreciative Reader points out below, the referee would warn Tepper to stop constantly retreating and refusing to engage in a fair fight. I share the frustration of Appreciative Reader, because I frequently encounter the same tactic by religious believers.
You point out the absurdity of a belief. You ask for evidence in support of it. You question why anyone should take that belief seriously when there's no reason to do this. You say that if this religious tenet is to be accepted, then why not accept every other unproven notion offered up by the thousands of world religions.
And the response is... ducking and weaving. Running away. Failing to engage. Spouting nonsense words that mean nothing but are filled with the fire and fury of a threatened religious believer.
So I'm grateful for what Appreciative Reader has done in his repeated attempts to get Tepper, and others, to respond in a reasonable fashion to the nonsensical world view of those who cling to beliefs that have no foundation in reality, yet comfort the believer and so are very difficult for the religious person to give up.
Hey, I've been there and done that. I spent many years, decades actually, clinging to a religious worldview. It met needs that I had at the time, so my mind wouldn't allow me to see the many contradictions, absurdities, and plain weird ideas promulgated by the teachings of Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
It's a lonely task, doing what Appreciative Reader has done in his comment exchanges with Spence Tepper. Religiosity is the dominant worldview of most people in the world. Science, reason, open debate -- these are under challenge.
Recently I read that about 50% of people in the United States either believe that President Biden wasn't elected in a free and fair election, and/or believe that Covid vaccines aren't effective. Both beliefs are false. The evidence is overwhelming that Biden won fairly and that Covid vaccines are effective.
Thus the Appreciative Reader - Spence Tepper debate isn't just about religious belief. It also is about the danger of large numbers of people believing stuff that clearly isn't true, going so far as to stage an insurrection at our nation's capitol in an effort to keep Trump as president, and Republicans urging people to not get a Covid vaccine, thereby causing needless illness and death.
Reality is too important to discard. Thank you, Appreciative Reader, for standing up for truth and the scientific worldview. I've been inspired by your comments and I know that others have been also, even if you mostly get responses from religious believers.
Here's the comment from Appreciative Reader.
Spence, I’m sorry to say our discussion has devolved to bizarre levels now. I really hadn’t expected you of all people to descend to desperately clutching at straws in this manner.
You keep ignoring the points I raise, and insist on straddling your soapbox instead. You keep conflating the actual conduct of scientific experiments with a scientific worldview. You keep ignoring the implications of the burden of proof. You betray (or at least, you project) zero understanding of the entire discussion around the functional equivalence of “accepting” and “not-rejecting”.
In discussing the dragon/unicorn thought experiment, you keep repeating you will try to find out more about the beast, despite having been told at the outset that it is impervious to all means of detection available to today’s science and technology; and you keep veering off into non sequiturs, like saying you’ll try to test whether the person making the (dragon/unicorn/religious/mystical) claim is of sound mind.
I don’t see this discussion really going anywhere, what it is doing is lurchingly retracing its own already trod steps, but still, I’ll try to address here, in one single post, the issues you raise in your last three or four posts that you addressed to me. The result is likely to be a lengthy post, I’m afraid, and so as not to make it even longer I’ll simply title out the main themes that you’ve written on (and that I’ll respond to), rather than actually quoting your words.
DISPROVING SPECIFIC GOD IDEAS : YOUR CHALLENGE
This is the part that I find truly bizarre. The part where you keep insisting, in the face of all rationality and reason, that no god ideas have ever been disproved by science, despite clear instances of such having been promptly presented.
Recall two of the most conspicuous contortions you had to resort to in the course of your last few comments.
First, when in response to your challenge I presented you with two specific examples of God ideas having been disproven, you turned around to demand of me how I know those are real Gods. Can you really, even now, not see the absurdity of even asking that question?
Some theist has presented very specific God ideas, and I have shown how a scientific worldview clearly refutes those ideas; whereupon what do you do? You demand of ME how I can be sure those are valid God ideas!! (And, when the entirely bizarre nature of the thought process that can think up this objection is pointed out to you, what do you do? You simply ignore it, and move on to talk of other things.)
And second, you then do the typical goalpost-shifting thing that theists seem to specialize in.
I’m going to address your “challenge” one more time now. Despite the fact that I’ve done it twice already, and despite having little real hope of piercing through any better this time. (And all we have on wager is your clear admission that your challenge has been met.)
ONE: The thurder-and-lightning producing Gods, Thor, and Odin, and Zeus, and Indra, and Varun, and whoever and whatever else that specializes in this superpower. Modern science has shown us the exact mechanism of these phenomena, and that mechanism has no need at all for any God entities.
(That is, to spell it out, we have no need to resort to hypothesize Gods in order to understand those phenomena as well as we do, ergo following Occam's Razor we have no need to posit any Gods, and we can safely not accept, or reject, the God hypothesis as superfluous and unnecessary in respect of those specific phenomena, and therefore those specific Gods.)
Further, we do have a means of directly falsifying the god claim as well. Believers in these Gods claimed that propitiating them by praying to them and sacrificing to them can help turn these elements in one’s favor, and angering them attracts their wrath.
No one does that these days, and yet we are not visited by some terrible wrath of these Gods, as represented by these elements wreaking some terrible disaster on us. To not see this as debunking is, I’m sorry to say, to harbor, despite an education in science, a decidedly irrational and anti-scientific worldview.
TWO: The God of the Bible, that people did believe in literally in vast numbers in times past, and in not negligible numbers even today. Showing that the creation myth presented in the Bible is erroneous, by showing that the mechanism of how the universe arose has no need of invoking a God, is enough to debunk this claim. Directly showing that the age of the universe is far older than claimed by the alleged Word of God, as recorded in the Bible, is direct falsification as well.
THREE: The sun-god in Norse legends that is driven in a chariot by two horses (or, in other versions, by one horse, whatever). As well as the sun-god of the Aztecs, that, unless propitiated with human sacrifice, will not appear to us again and will abandon us to eternal darkness and death. The "how" of the sun apparently going around the earth has been explained clearly enough by science, and none of that has need to invoke either Gods or chariots or horses.
And the claim has been directly falsified as well, because no one sacrifices human hearts to the sun-god any more, and yet the sun rises in the east every single day..
Spence, you aren’t by any chance spoofing me, are you? Pulling my leg, playing a trick on me, by putting me in the distinctly ridiculous position of solemnly holding forth on these elementary things in all earnest like this? If that is the case, then I applaud you, because you did take me in completely so far, and even now I have no more than a very tentative suspicion that your arguments might be no more than a practical joke. So that if the idea was to play a practical joke on me, you’ve been entirely successful.
To claim in all seriousness that your challenge hasn’t been met, despite these clear examples having been presented (and plenty more can easily be thought of), is to either be completely oblivious of the implications of a scientific worldview, or, if that is not the case, then it is to be literally delusional. Unless of course this is all a joke.
In claiming that your challenge hasn't been met satisfactorily, the arguments you employ are the equivalent of asserting that science cannot debunk the claim that the moon is made of cheese. Sure, you won’t find actual peer-reviewed papers, describing elaborate experiments conducted, that clearly tell you that the moon isn’t made of cheese.
But to latch on to that as some kind of justification for a worldview that claims that science does not directly refute clearly and DEMONSTRABLY absurd claims like that the moon is made of cheese (or that the sun is drawn around the earth by horses, and will abandon us unless we sacrifice to it; or that lightning and storms are caused by gods who will wreak destruction on us unless they are propitiated; or that the world was created six thousand years ago by a psychotic but immensely powerful god that will annihilate us and/or consign us to hell if we don’t abide by his commandments and his prophets’ and son’s instructions) is to have simply seen and maybe even to have participated in science, but to have come away with no more than a cargo-cult impression of what science actually is and what a scientific worldview actually entails.
WHAT YOU SEE AS THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS IN ATHEISM (OR AT LEAST, IN THIS PARTICULAR VERSION OF ATHEISM)
Let me quote you first on this, before likewise enumerating my response :
“Here is the fundamental flaw. I'll state it in three ways.
1. What science hasn't tested science cannot comment upon.
2. Evidence that has not been gathered is not non-existent.
3. The unknown is not non - existent. It is the basis of scientific inquiry.”
(1.) “Science” does not comment on anything. People do.
The scientific method is a tool that people use to suss out what is reasonable to believe, and what not. Thereafter, it is people who arrive at positions on different claims and issues.
We’ve been through this already, the difference between the scientific method and a scientific worldview. You’ve ignored that last discussion, and gone on with your inner monologue without referencing our past discussion on this.
To imagine that a scientific worldview entails referencing the scientific method only in such instances where there has been some formal scientific study, and in everything else either believing any random thing that one likes, or else not taking any position at all, is to arrive at some cargo-cult version of “science”.
The core of the scientific method is that one will not accept any hypothesis that one cannot back up with evidence. Any position --- and that includes the God question as well (or at least, some versions of it, that is to say, some specific abstract God-ideas) --- that cannot admit of direct evidence, it is simply not “scientific” to believe at all.
It is not that no evidence equals we have carte blanche to believe whatever we want, or that we must necessarily suspend any conclusion at all (which suspension of all conclusion is in practice sometimes/often simply not even feasible, in any case). It is that no evidence equals we have no reason to hold that position as true, no reason to accept it.
(2) “Evidence” refers to some support for some proposition or some hypothesis. Therefore, if evidence has not been “gathered”, it is literally not evidence at all.
Sure, whether we self-important humans catalog something or cogitate on something does not in any way impact the underlying reality. That is understood, obviously. Not once have I suggested otherwise.
The point is, in as much as evidence has not been “gathered”, it may perhaps exist, but in as much as we do not yet know of it, it is entirely and wholly fallacious to base any conclusion on such evidence. In as much as some conclusion that you seek to support via such not-yet-gathered evidence is fallacious, such conclusion we are constrained to not accept, that is to say, we reject such conclusion.
This is entirely straightforward. And your views on this are entirely mistaken.
(3) Similar to above. Agreed, the unknown is not non-existent, and, rather than saying “it is the basis of scientific enquiry”, I think it may be more precise to phrase it thus, “It can be the basis of scientific enquiry if we should choose to make it so.”
Anyway, minor nitpicking aside, I have not once suggested otherwise. But the question isn’t what does exist; the question is what do we believe, what belief or claim do we accept. If something is unknown then we can’t go around believing random things about it.
(Which, mind you, is what you are doing. You’re claiming there are no grounds to do science on God. And you take that as carte blanche to go ahead and believe in God --- which you have every right to --- but where you err is in claiming that such an attitude comports with a scientific worldview. The fact is it doesn’t.)
Nor is it that what is technically unknown, as far as formal science, we will necessarily suspend all judgment on. That science hasn’t explicitly considered and tested whether the moon is made of cheese, or whether the sun is drawn by horses around the earth, or whether the sun will not rise unless propitiated with sacrifice, does not mean that we will necessarily suspend all judgment on such.
(And I don’t mean idiosyncratic personal judgment, I mean a conclusion that comports with a scientific worldview.)
We know the approximate composition of the moon, so we can certainly conclude that it isn’t made of cheese. And what is more such conclusion will be fully in agreement with a scientific worldview, even though there are no papers published specifically on the subject, “Is the moon made of cheese?” Ditto questions about whether the sun is a God that is drawn by horses around the sun, or whether the universe was created by a psychotic and decidedly unpleasant God six thousand years ago.
Those aren’t flaws in atheism, as you claim they are. They are flaws in your reasoning and your own POV.
YOUR POST ON THE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE OF “NOT ACCEPTING” VIS-À-VIS REJECTING A CLAIM
What you argue here is no more than yet more contortions, Spence.
That the hypothesis is not accepted (and, for that matter, not rejected either) by the people carrying on the experiment and for the duration of the experiment and analysis, that hardly needs pointing out. In any case, it *has* already been pointed out, more than once, in a separate context, which would be the context of distinguishing between the POV appropriate to the scientist researching some specific hypothesis, vis-à-vis the POV appropriate for everyone else. That is an out and out non sequitur as far as this particular discussion.
Should the experiment not bear the results the hypothesis predicts, then in the setting aside of the hypothesis there is no universal distinction between “not accepting” and “rejecting”, as you suggest. To speak of this in the context that you do is to not understand what was said at all, not even a little bit (hint, repeated for the third or fourth time already: refer back to Osho Robbins’s analogy of “Not guilty” vis-à-vis “Innocent”); or else it is to resort to deliberate disingenuity.
Here’s a concrete example that will make the distinction clear, using the overtly formal scientific setting that you seem to imagine imparts some especial sanctity that everyday examples don’t.
(It doesn’t, actually, and everyday examples are equally as effective, provided you grok the actual underlying implications of the scientific method. Nevertheless, I’ll try to accommodate your apparent fetish for examples from formal science.)
Contrast the Ether theory with the String Theory. The former is an example of a hypothesis rejected, while the latter is an example of a hypothesis not (yet) accepted. The experimental results in the case of the former clearly refuted the prediction that the ether theory had thrown up. It clearly showed that, rather than there showing up a difference in the speed of light, instead the speed of light remained the same.
That is direct refutation, leading to rejection. As far as the latter, there has been no direct refutation, at all, so far. But nor has there been any evidence that bears it out, no evidence that justifies bypassing Occam’s Razor. In as much as no evidence has been found, the theory is not accepted.
(Disclaimer: This example focuses only on the difference between “not accepting” and “rejecting”, and not on the actual promise that string theory holds out, or the fact that people are still working on string theory while no one works on ether theory. Don’t focus on that part of it, I clearly recognize that in that specific respect this analogy/example is imperfect. That string theory is not, as a result of yielding no evidence, tossed right out the window as the ether theory has been, is because it is early days still, and because it otherwise explains our observations so very completely. No doubt if in another fifty or seventy years string theory still does not bear out any evidence [that isn’t explained equally well by other, simpler hypotheses], so as to justify its far more complex structure, then it might be relegated to the museum or the trashcan as well, conceivably.)
Come on, man. Do I really need to spell this out like this all over again in words of one syllable? Have my many posts on this, already presented in this thread, as well as the many discussions elsewhere (including one whole thread we’d both participated in that was on this very subject) not made the distinction between the two amply clear, that you should compose the post you did just preceding, that betrays zero understanding of the difference between the two (and indeed between soft atheism and hard atheism)?
You know what it looks like to me? You’re not actually reading my posts. You’re basically focused on your soapboxing, while going through the motions of responding to my posts, all with the aim of somehow passing off your theistic worldview as somehow not anti-scientific.
Otherwise you wouldn’t so blatantly misread and/or misrepresent this part so completely so late into this discussion; and you wouldn’t keep on repeatedly and totally missing the point of the unicorn/dragon thought experiment (and keep raising tangential non sequiturs around it rather than actually addressing the meat of the argument presented via that construct); and you wouldn’t keep raising these wild objections to these very obvious and simplistic God-ideas having been clearly debunked by science (even as some more subtle God-ideas admittedly remain beyond the reach of such easy and direct debunking).
Apologies, Spence, if some of what I’ve said here seems rude. I really truly hope this thread will not sour the general regard we have for each other.
But … how do you even begin to hold a coherent conversation with someone who insists, in the teeth of all reasonable argument, that such blatant irrationalities like the Olympian Gods and the Aztec Sun God and Biblical God and the Norse Gods as literally depicted --- as well as, presumably, the moon made of cheese --- are not ruled out by a scientific worldview?
With someone who, at the end of a detailed discussion (indeed, more than one detailed discussion) around “rejecting” and “not accepting” (and soft atheism and hard atheism) comes out with an elaborate post that betrays either zero understanding of what was being said all along, either that or else it deliberately seeks to misdirect?
I’m going to walk away now from this discussion, but without the hope that I’d held yesterday of arriving in future at closer agreement and better understanding, because how on earth do you even address this bizarre state of affairs, where on one hand there is familiarity with (some of) the techniques of science, but on the other hand there is complete cluelessness as to its implications?
And I’m going to walk away more resolutely this time than I was able to yesterday, because although it started out promisingly enough, what this discussion has now devolved into is an apparently endless exchange of comments that is neither illuminating nor, at this point, particularly pleasurable. Again, my apologies.