Joplin’s Jane Doe And The Fight Against Fundamentalism

Let me tie together four recent news stories related to religious fundamentalism and the nasty nonsense associated with it. But before I do so, I should say something about my view of religion and religious belief.

I don’t have any knowledge as to whether there is or isn’t a God. I used to think there was and I used to think I knew his name(s). Now I don’t know if there is and even if I thought there was, I wouldn’t know what to call such a being. But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either. Okay? That’s where I’m coming from. Now to the stories.

First up is Franklin Graham, son of Billy, the famous evangelist. Graham has recently been making his way around the country in a bus. I’ve seen him on television more than once being interviewed about his mission, which is summarized on Facebook this way:

“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Gbilly graham bus tripraham is traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’ll be urging Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Graham has said during interviews that his efforts are not partisan. He says he has no faith in either political party, that only God can save the country. Now, this is the same non-partisan guy who, after Obama was reelected in 2012, said the country was on a “path of destruction” and he explained why to Newsmax:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Yes, according to one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the entire country, Barack Obama is responsible for every ungodly act, every offense against God that may force Him to bring us to our collective knees, communicating His divine displeasure to us by unleashing horrific suffering via an “economic collapse.” Funny thing, as I’ve pointed out before, non-partisan Graham had no bad words for Republican George W. Bush, who, as an evangelical himself, actually presided over a real economic collapse, as opposed to the one imagined by Graham four years ago. And it is funny, too, to think that since Graham made those comments, the economy has enjoyed some rather ungodly improvements. Apparently God either decided not to bring us to our knees or he decided to send Donald Trump to do the job instead.

In any case, let’s move on from a partisan conservative evangelist to a partisan conservative judge in Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley. She was recently elevated to her state’s Supreme Court by evangelical governor and presidential dropout Scott Walker, who was filling a vacancy. Now she is facing voters for what would be a full 10-year term. But she has sort of a problem. It has been revealed that while in college at Catholic Marquette, Bradley authored some God-inspired opinions as a columnist for the student paper, opinions like the one she offered about president-elect Bill Clinton in 1992:

We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.

And she gave some wise advice to those thinking about getting sick during the then-upcoming Clinton administration:

One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Clearly, these and some of this young woman’s other nasty, bigoted opinions could only have been produced by a mind under the influence of some form of fundamentalist religion, some sort of poisonous dogmatism, which, like in the case of Franklin Graham, makes one think and act in such obviously thoughtless and callous ways. And this same kind of dogmatism can and does affect our public policy debates, which leads me to the next story.

Here in Missouri, the State Senate, after Republicans broke a 37-hour Democratic filibuster, advanced a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution that if passed by voters would, essentially, allow Christian cake bakers and wedding planners to only bake and plan for King James Version-approved nuptials. In other words, even though Bible-believing bakers and piety-promoting planners here in Missouri operate their businesses using public roads and services partly paid for by gay people, they don’t want to serve those taxpaying gay people because Jesus and God and Franklin Graham hate gay people, or, to be kinder, they hate the things gay people do, like, uh, being gay.

Obviously, all of this nonsense is related. From the bigot-protecting activity in the Missouri State Senate to the young Marquette kid who hated gays and Bill Clinton in the 1990s to the phony bus tour of a very partisan and dishonest evangelical leader, it’s all a product of zealot-producing cultural hardware and software: fundamentalism. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches and their affiliates are the hardware, and a literally-interpreted, allegedly God-inspired Bible is the software. But we non-fundamentalists are not without weapons. There are some things we can do to, if not stop it, at least slow it down, which leads me to my final story.

This is a local story about courage. In May of 2015, here in Joplin, a group of students at North Middle School were bussed over, during school hours, to a place called Victory Ministries and Sports Complex. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of place this is. On its “What is Victory” webpage, we find that its purposes are, among other things, to “Exalt victory field tripJesus” and “Expand the Kingdom of God.” Expanding the Kingdom of God in this case means, of course, indoctrinating children with fundamentalist views. And what better way to reach impressionable, unchurched kids than a Middle School field trip to a Christian gym with a “Jesus is worthy of it all!” banner proudly hanging on the wall?

It turns out that a courageous mom of one of the students in the class in question alerted the American Humanist Association, whose legal director tried to stop the field trip before it happened. The AHA “forewarned” the Superintendent of Joplin Schools in an email exchange, saying the trip was a violation of the Establishment Clause and threatening litigation if the trip wasn’t called off. It wasn’t. So, there is now an ongoing lawsuit.

The mom in this case is courageous because this kind of thing isn’t easy. Even though she is using the name Jane Doe in order to remain anonymous, she has good reason to. Joplin is a small town, and she and her children would likely be singled out for harassment, if the general public knew who they were. But by putting herself out there to stop fundamentalists from indoctrinating not just her kids, but other kids, Joplin’s Jane Doamerican humanist associatione is a champion of secularism. And she is a fighter against the kind of religious dogma that makes people irrationally hate other people and call down the wrath of God on innocents.

Fundamentalism is nasty and socially destructive. And whether it is practiced mostly without violence under the American flag—although we must not forget those abortion-related crimes—or whether it is expressed with unspeakable violence somewhere under the black flag of ISIS, it needs to be confronted.

Kudos to Joplin’s Jane Doe for doing her part. And if you want to do your part, maybe you could contribute to or become a member of the American Humanist Association. An introductory membership is only $35.

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59 Comments

  1. I may have mentioned this before, but I joined the local humanist group back in 2006 – The Humanist Association of Tulsa (HAT) — an affiliate of the American Humanist Association. After as few meetings and listening to the hate speech made in the name of Humanism, I complained about the militancy, the mockery, the ridicule, and the grade school mentality aimed at the religious. My complaints were rewarded when they made me president of the organization.

    During my term we had Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, come to town for an atheist lovefest. Annie Laurie (you better not call her just Annie) spewed her venom of disdain, bordering on hatred, of the god-fearing folk.

    That was my breaking point. I resigned and terminated my relationship with HAT as well as AHA and the Secular Humanists.

    The problem with the Humanists, the Atheists, the Freethought organizations and their ilk is that they tend to do exactly what they accuse the religious of doing – railing against The Other. (For more on this see https://thehumanistchallenge.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/ahas-consider-humanism-campaign-a-critical-review/)

    All that said, I certainly would back Ms. Doe in any way possible. There used to be a group in Joplin called the Freethinkers. In fact I know one of founders. But it looks like from their website, they may have disbanded or at lease gone inactive — http://www.meetup.com/Joplin-Freethinkers/ — They are also on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/joplinfreethinkers/ – but again, no new posts.

    But this group, like HAT, have this animus toward religion that I see as unhelpful and self-destructing.

    More later on God and the U.S. as a Christian nation.

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    • Herb,

      I agree that there is a lot of vitriol coming from too many atheists. Many of them strike me as arrogant and callous and I am sure some of the worst of them don’t know any real, earnest believers in God. Such displays of arrogance and callousness and ignorance do not help their cause and, in some ways, can be called sort of an atheist fundamentalism. No one can possibly really know with unchallengable certainty whether there is a God or there isn’t. Period.

      Because of my particular history, my arrows are aimed at religious fundamentalism, not religion in general. I don’t have a problem with people believing in God-Allah or Jesus or Buddha or anything they want, so long as they don’t try to wedge their beliefs into public policy or into our schools or other public institutions. Besides the utter nonsense associated with fundamentalist certainty, my big problem is with the way evangelicals and fundamentalists, who see the minds of children as fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of Iron Age ignorance and bigotry and hatred, try to get to kids very early, using things like the Joplin gym in question or summer Bible camps, and so on. As a former evangelical, I know how this stuff works and it is very disturbing.

      Duane

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      • What I was trying to say – with too many words as usual – is Joplin’s Jane Doe probably can’t find any support – positive support – from any of the atheist groups. There is one organization of which I am still a member which is more of a support group for nonbelievers than an attack group on religion. It’s called the Brights’. They are based in Britain and for anyone interested in more information, the website is http://www.the-brights.net/

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        • They’re not using Facebook, they have meetings using another website. The university here also has a Secular Student Association that encourages people from the area to join in.

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  2. Religious fundamentalism is driven by paranoia, which is the us-vs-them or in-group-vs-out-group mentality. It’s political involvement began with the civil rights era. It’s very important to understand that before civil rights, evangelicals were content to keep out of politics. JFK was elected in spite of being a Catholic. Political evangelicalism is without a doubt a response to racism, but strategically built on anti-abortion rhetoric. The issue of abortion itself is really irrelevant to them, but it is the focal point they use to motivate the voting base.

    In the beginning fundamentalists voted for Republicans so that they would stop abortion, but the politicians did nothing about it. After many, many years people forgot that abortion was the trojan horse and started wondering why they should keep voting Republican if the Republican politicians didn’t stop abortion.

    In the early ’90’s fundamentalists struck a bottom-up takeover of the Republican Party by bogging down the nomination meetings until moderates got tired and left. This is how the Republican party has worked since then and Democrats do not have any motivational equal to it. The churches provide a voter support and motivational infrastructure for the right-wing that doesn’t exist on the left at all. What this means is that it doesn’t matter if anyone on the right doesn’t feel very motivated to vote, church resources will be made available to them to vote anyway and it’s almost impossible to refuse such an offer, and their polling place will probably be at their church on top of it all.

    Republicans were still not able to stop abortion, not even partially until 2003. Lately state governments in fundamentalist dominated states have been very successful at shutting down abortion providers by cutting their funding. So really that was their peak, the high water mark of the Christian Right. Even though abortion is technically legal, widespread lack of service means that women just can’t get one. Thus, the Deal is done.

    So, now that the deal is done, what reason do Christians have to vote? Well, remember that this all started with the civil rights movement and abortion was always just a trojan horse, so the natural tendency is to revert the issue back to racism. Obama did them this huge favor by being black and so they could focus on him. But now Obama’s term is up, though some of them think he’s going to find a way to extend his term, all Republicans have now is unfocused racism.

    Racism wasn’t enough to stop Obama from being elected twice now, so it’s sure as hell not going to have any effect when there are no black candidates. Drumpf is the prime racist candidate, they’re all racist, but Drumpf was a well-known birfer and so he’s in the same deck with anyone who is or was a birfer, unlike Cruz or Rubio or whoever else is left who wasn’t on the radar during the birfer era.

    When I say that the Republican Party is dead, when I say Drumpf can’t win, this is what I’m talking about, their raison d’etre is used up. The abortion trojan horse has already been opened and the racism inside has already come out and been defeated. It’s a surprise turnabout.

    The last people to know about this are the anti-abortion racists. That’s the reason why they’re desperate and acting out right now. They don’t have a clue what’s happening right now or what’s supposed to happen next for them. At least until they figure that out, Democrats have an opportunity to do some good. But some people would prefer to elect a right-leaning money grubber instead because they somehow think that less Republicans will vote against her because I guess they’ve never heard of Fox News or something.

    When a Christian gets bussed to their church to vote Republican, and they go into that booth, they’re not going to be thinking about the Democratic candidate, nobody really does. They’re going to be thinking about whether or not their own candidate is going to actually do anything they want or prevent anything they don’t want. The opposition candidate is only a means to show that they are not satisfied with their own candidate. The worse they perceive the opposition candidate the more extreme their expression.

    Personally, I’ve grown a little tired of it being the end of the world for 17 years in a row and I expect lots of Christians feel the same.

    Anyway, probably a lot of fear is based in not understanding the concept of alienation. Christians are the biggest victims of alienation. Their behavior and actions are a response to fear and isolation, specifically the fear that the world they live in is under attack by outsiders and shrinking as a result. Drumpf’s naked rhetoric about making America white again really only appeals to people who are still butthurt over civil rights. It doesn’t speak to anyone who actually feels alienation. What exactly would the Republican party be doing if civil rights weren’t an issue? Since Republicans are comically extreme right-wing, they have no choice but to move left. ANY candidate seemingly left of the current candidates would be okay.

    With that move, the next election ALL of the Republican candidates will stumble left-ward searching for new normal. Whether this looks comical or not really depends on which Democrat becomes president. Clinton will leave the field very narrow, but Sanders will leave it wide open. The wider it is the more difficult it will be for Republicans to find a sweet spot and the longer Democrats will have before Republican are able to reunify their weak divided party. All the decades of empty rhetoric can’t just be forgotten so quickly. The Republican Party is severely marred and damaged by it. But what Clinton can do is help Republicans ride it out because the name Clinton has been baked into Republican rhetoric from the beginning and has proven great mileage.

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    • You are right that evangelicals have taken a bottom-up approach, in terms of taking over the machinery of the Republican Party. And this has been most effective at the state level. Locally, we have the head of the Jasper County GOP, evangelical John Putnam, who has practically written a manual on how to start at the bottom and work up to control the state party. It has been quite effective here in Missouri.

      I don’t think I agree with you that 2003 was “the peak” for the Christian right. I think it was 2010, which after that devastating anti-Obama election, saw many religious fanatics in power, not just by capturing the House of Representatives but in taking over various state legislatures and governorships all over the country. After that election is when those onerous anti-choice laws began to proliferate. 

      I also don’t think I agree with you that the movement against abortion was merely a Trojan horse. I know these folks. I used to be one of them. I know how sincere they are about the issue, even though much of what they think they believe about abortion is contradicted by what they are not willing to do: blow up every abortion clinic in the country. If people really believed that abortions are baby-killings, if they actually believed they are equivalent to infanticide, then there would be widespread violence designed to stop such carnage. Having said that, though, I can tell you from personal experience that anti-choice folks really do believe in the cause and they have seen real progress in the last six years.

      There is, without a doubt, latent racism in the Republican Party. I have also seen a much smaller amount of it in the Democratic Party. But the biggest difference between the two parties is that white people, anxious about losing their cultural privilege, see the GOP as their last, best hope against the hoards of pigmented people, either via immigration or via “breeding,” coming to take away their jobs and dominance. 

      As for what you said about the role of the church in GOP politics, you can’t ignore that the black church plays a very big role in Democratic politics. It has since the civil rights era and it is still crucial today. Without the organization that the black church brings to the Democratic Party, we wouldn’t win so many national elections.

      Finally, I continue to disagree with your “sweet spot” theory. You claim that a Clinton nomination would help Republicans. I don’t see it. In fact, what I see is Republicans doing everything they can to get Bernie Sanders the nomination. They are spending tons of money against Hillary at this moment. Why do you think that is? Do you think they don’t know what they are doing? They know exactly what they are doing. They fear a Clinton candidacy because, eventually, she will be able to solidify her credentials among all classes and ages of Democratic women, and because, given the likely GOP nominee, she will even get some significant number of Republican women to vote for her too.

      Duane

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      • >I don’t think I agree with you that 2003 was “the peak” for the Christian right.

        I didn’t meant to imply that 2003 was the peak, only that it took until 2003 for them to pass any serious anti-abortion legislation. The peak was actually in the past year or so when the abortion clinics starting closing down rapidly. That’s what they thought they wanted all this time and in lots of places it’s already done. Getting what you want causes a state of depression to set in as you must then find a new something that you want.

        >Having said that, though, I can tell you from personal experience that anti-choice folks really do believe in the cause and they have seen real progress in the last six years.

        The issue of abortion is and always has been a trojan horse superficially for anti-feminism but actually racism, but the average conservative is unaware of this fact because it’s better for them not to think about anything. The hive-mind does not oppose abortion on any principled grounds, they only blindly accept an emotionally motivating framework. Honestly I don’t believe you can listen to someone defend “pro-life” and not recognize their contempt for women, but the contempt for any white woman who undermines the white race takes a little more depth.

        >I have also seen a much smaller amount of it in the Democratic Party.

        Racism is actually much bigger than just a few people. Political correctness disguises racism and allows it to fester among progressive people. I would actually assume that people are racist until they demonstrate otherwise.

        >the black church plays a very big role in Democratic politics.

        Churches are fairly well segregated and your statement wouldn’t make sense otherwise. The chief motivation of black churches is the racism of the Republican party in general. The Democrats have done virtually nothing to earn black support.

        >I see is Republicans doing everything they can to get Bernie Sanders the nomination.

        Citation.

        >They are spending tons of money against Hillary at this moment. Why do you think that is?

        Clinton’s name is ingrained in Republican rhetoric from the beginning, since the end of the Fairness Doctrine. They couldn’t stop attacking Clinton even if she wasn’t running. There is no mind there.

        >she will even get some significant number of Republican women to vote for her too.

        Conservative women almost always vote against their best interest. You should know, you’re in a union.

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        • 1) I don’t know if you have ever personally and intimately known anyone who is anti-choice, but I have known a lot of them. I used to be one of them. And I can assure you that although there are a lot of mixed motives for someone holding any belief, most of the people I know who are anti-choice are anti-choice not because they have “contempt for women” or because they are racists but because they conceptualize a fertilized egg as a fully-formed human being. They really see it that way. You are arguing that “the average conservative is unaware” of the “fact” that the abortion issue is a cover for “anti-feminism” and “racism.” No, the average conservative who opposes abortion rights does so out of a conviction that God is the author of life and that even a zygote is life that God has authored and that no one, including the mother of the “child,” has a right to take away what God has created. Not everything is a Trojan horse for something else.

          2) You said, “I would actually assume that people are racist until they demonstrate otherwise.” That is a rather strange assumption to make. How does one demonstrate he or she is not a racist? By saying nice things about black people? By contributing to the NAACP? By having black friends? I could do all those things and still be a racist. The default assumption for me is that people aren’t racist until they demonstrate it in some way. Like saying bad things about black people generally. By calling the NAACP a terrorist organization. By an unwillingness to interact with black people as equals.

          3) You said, “The chief motivation of black churches is the racism of the Republican party in general.” When I was in college, one of my good friends at the time was a very bright African-American girl who happened also to be very religious. She invited me to her church and to her wedding. That was my first direct interaction with the black church. Through the years I have known other folks who were very involved in the black church. All I can say is that what I saw is that these folks are primarily motivated by their belief in God. Because the church is such a central institution in many black communities, naturally it also is a place from which those communities can speak out against racism. Today it is racism associated mainly with the GOP. But until the 1960s, it was racism associated with the Democratic Party.

          4) You said, “The Democrats have done virtually nothing to earn black support.” Oh, yeah? Then you must think 90% of black voters are stupid, since that’s how much support they give the party nearly every election these days. It is utterly ridiculous to say Democrats haven’t earned black support. Since the 1960s, they have clearly earned it. Remember, it was the Democratic Party that got rid of George Wallace, the Donald Drumpf of his day.

          5) Citation for Republicans helping Bernie? I will only bother to look up one: Republicans are trying to help Bernie Sanders win, and it’s not because they like his message. In that Daily Kos article you will see an example of how it works. They send out emails during debates that defend a Sanders position. And they are also augmenting Bernie’s message by spending lots of money on “Hillary is in the pockets of Wall Street” ads and so on.

          6) Finally, you wrote, “Conservative women almost always vote against their best interest.” Yes. That is certainly true. But there are degrees of conservatism. Here in Missouri I campaigned a little bit for Claire McCaskill when she ran against Todd Akin. Guess what? I actually ran into Republican women out there who said they would hold their noses and vote for Claire because of Akin’s extremism. Turned out, that’s what happened here. It was a landslide. So, with a Drumpf or a Cruz or a Rubio candidacy, Hillary could get some support from Republican women. Drumpf is a misogynist, and the other two are have-your-rapist’s-baby nutjobs. If the long shot Kasich wins the GOP nomination, then Hillary obviously wont’ do as well in peeling off some Republican women.

          Liked by 1 person

          • >because they conceptualize a fertilized egg as a fully-formed human being. …out of a conviction

            They also believe, out of conviction, that Jesus died on the Cross for their Sins. This is irrelevant. Things don’t happen in the real world as a result of delusions, only as a result of human choice and action. These beliefs and convictions are instilled in ignorant people in order to motivate them to perform prescribed actions.

            >You are arguing that “the average conservative is unaware” of the “fact” that the abortion issue is a cover for “anti-feminism” and “racism.”

            This is a truism. These are the true motives which write the script which the anti-abortionists blindly follow.

            >Not everything is a Trojan horse for something else.

            Perhaps you don’t understand what the meaning of a trojan horse is or what it means in this context. As far as I’m concerned, anti-abortion Christians are just as much victims as anyone else. Abortion was presented *to them* and accepted by them as their raison d`etre, but inside it is racism. The racism has already spilled out so you can’t really continue to be blind to it. After the trojan horse is open you can’t put the soldiers back in and pretend nothing happened.

            >How does one demonstrate he or she is not a racist? … Like saying bad things about black people generally.

            Racism is NOT defined by which words we use or who we happen to associate with or what music we listen to. For the past couple of decades political correctness has maintained in the public view that racism is nothing but words and by suppressing speech racism would therefore be suppressed. The reality is that racism is institutional and that by suppressing speech only allowed racism to fester and grow. Right now what’s happening is that political correctness is being overturned and two different voices emerge which were silent before. The racists mistakenly believe that they are the ones responsible for breaking down PC and that their voice is the one which was being suppressed, but we broke PC because our voices have been suppressed for decades and they are merely riding a free train and being jerks about it. The average person has to be educated and shamed into voting against institutionalized racism, sexism, and classism. Very few people have any understanding of how racism manifests in real life, even black people. People resist education and they vote racist out of denial of the possibility. “I am NOT a racist.” This is the cry of the racist in denial.

            >All I can say is that what I saw is that these folks are primarily motivated by their belief in God.

            Black people are an oppressed group. Oppressed people perform specific actions in order to both resist oppression and deny that oppression is occurring. Black churches are completely institutionaly segregated from white churches because of the oppressor-oppressed paradigm. What a black church does could be considered a good thing ONLY because of its status. Black churches really only effectively speak to black people and so it is virtually impossible for them to have any meaningful impact on racism in any way, the only thing they can really do is organize bloc voters and help people cope with the burdens of racism. The belief in God is totally irrelevant. We are only just now starting to see black people realize this now that the PC cone of silence is being lifted. Fighting racism can only be achieved by reaching outside the segregated community, to white anti-racists, to feminist women. Womens’ rights in the black community are far worse than for white women and this fact is probably the most influential right now.

            >Then you must think 90% of black voters are stupid, since that’s how much support they give the party nearly every election these days.

            >Remember, it was the Democratic Party that got rid of George Wallace, the Donald Drumpf of his day.

            What are you talking about? Wallace became moderate in his later years even appointing black people to his cabinet. He didn’t get booted out of the Democratic Party. The reason black people switched to the Democrats was because of the Republican Southern Strategy, nothing that the Democrats did. When you only have two choices, you’re going to choose the side that doesn’t want you strung up.

            >opposing political party in each case thinks the man in question is the weakest possible opponent and thus is trying to boost his chances to win his own party’s primary.

            I only find it amusing because you essentially believe what Republicans believe, particularly in an election which they set out knowing they would lose. That’s what this is really about isn’t it? You’re believing the Republicans instead of observing them.

            >…they would hold their noses and vote for Claire because of Akin’s extremism. Turned out, that’s what happened here.

            That was the point, yet in the exact same situation again, you’re insisting the equivalent of Akin would win. Every one of the Republican candidates is Akin this election, especially Drumpf. The “powers that be” in the Republican party shuffle their nominees in desperation. Kasich is a vain attempt to look moderate, but he’s not actually moderate by any stretch, none of them are. But you can see, they’re starting to see that they have to do what I predicted. And as time goes on, inevitably, but probably not until after this election, Republicans are going to start getting into centrist and even left-wing territory because the extreme right alone can’t ever win. Three or probably four presidencial cycles in a row will be too much shame to bear. The next Republican president will be centrist without a doubt. None of these guys. And since it won’t be any of these guys, there’s no point just handing the presidency to an annointed candidate.

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            • I’m just going to address a couple of your points, since it is apparent we will not agree with each other’s overall analyses. You think, for what I consider to be unsound reasons, that Republicans can’t possibly win in November. I think they can. In any case, here we go:

              1. About Todd Akin, you wrote, “Every one of the Republican candidates is Akin this election, especially Drumpf.” First, John Kasich is not Todd Akin. He could never have been elected in Ohio if he were, even though I agree that he is a real right-winger. Second, Drumpf is nothing like Akin, either. Akin was a religious zealot and a true conservative ideologue. Trump doesn’t give a damn about religion in the sense that Akin did and has no consistent ideology to which he is moored.

              2. You wrote,

              The reason black people switched to the Democrats was because of the Republican Southern Strategy, nothing that the Democrats did. When you only have two choices, you’re going to choose the side that doesn’t want you strung up.

              Huh? Are you kidding? I will show you just one graph, from an excellent article by Philip Bump, that shows how wrong you are.

              That first steep rise (in the late 40s) in blacks voting for Democrats was in response to Harry Truman’s “explicit appeal for new civil rights measures from Congress, including voter protections, a federal ban on lynching and bolstering existing civil rights laws.”

              And, of course, you can see the rise before and after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which was pushed by Lyndon Johnson. Nixon and his Southern Strategy was yet to come. So, your “nothing that the Democrats did” claim is completely wrong. Black people aren’t stupid. They know which party fought for their rights in the middle 20th-century.

              Finally, I can’t believe you wrote this: “Very few people have any understanding of how racism manifests in real life, even black people.” I don’t even know what to say to that.

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              • >we will not agree with each other’s overall analyses.

                This is a common attitude I see from people who won’t change their minds no matter how much evidence they are presented with. Not only that it’s just a pathetic attitude, passive aggressive but mainly because it’s pathetic.

                >You think, for what I consider to be unsound reasons, that Republicans can’t possibly win in November. I think they can.

                I count reasons as those things which people think when they mark their ballot. The Republicans lost the last two presidential elections using the exact same predication they are using this time. Drumpf took the muffler off the exhaust pipe, but other than that they’re still listening to the exact same noise. Meanwhile the abortion engine has run completely out of steam. Looking at congress and the states, they’re at maximum speed because they’re at the bottom of the hill. Objectively abortion and racism alone will never reach plurality in a two party system.

                >First, John Kasich is not Todd Akin. He could never have been elected in Ohio if he were, even though I agree that he is a real right-winger.

                You’re trying to say that Todd Akin lost because he is or is not an ideologue or is or is not a religious nut? Or that any of these Republican nutjobs could win because they are or not either of those things? George W. Bush won because people thought they could have a beer with him. Every single one of the Republican candidates is scary to average people for the same reason that Todd Akin is, or what I said before, they alienate people. Sanders actually doesn’t alienate people. I don’t think you understand what that feeling feels like. For example, it doesn’t have anything to do with feeling like you should move your savings to an offshore bank account. More like you feel like you have to take a shower after shaking the person’s hand.

                The whole problem with the Republican party today, right now, is that they literally believe they’ve pushed the overton window all the way to the right. And you believe that too. I said this already. Your problem is that you believe the Republican estimate of their state of affairs. If their estimate of their own state of affairs was accurate Obama would not have gotten a second term, let alone a first. The Republican Party as a whole is in the toilet right now and pretty much anyone who’s done any analysis agrees with that assessment. They are in the position where they have to rebuild entirely from scratch and the only people who vote for them are those who vote for the party name not what it stands for because voters can’t have any idea what they’ll get from such a choice, especially with Drumpf whose platform is a yuge question mark. While a lot of their congressional seats are secured by gerrymandering, that doesn’t actually guarantee they will hold any of them under these specific conditions.

                >Drumpf doesn’t give a damn about religion in the sense that Akin did and has no consistent ideology to which he is moored.

                The Republican ideological compass is in the proverbial bermuda triangle. Meanwhile, Drumpf DOES care about religion in that he’s convinced that he has to at least look like an obviously fake Christian, but at the same time knows that most right wing Christians are also racists, more racist than religious. But again, racism alone will not pull in a plurality under ANY circumstances. You think that statement is unsound?

                So in terms of soundness, I haven’t heard you express one reason at all why anyone would vote Republican beyond these ones which won’t cut the mustard.

                >I will show you just one graph

                NOTHING THE DEMOCRATS DID IN THE PAST FORTY FUCKING YEARS. I honestly don’t understand how you can be so dense?! Name me ONE THING the Democrats did in the past FOUR DECADES to earn the black vote. Can you honestly tell me you didn’t understand that? Black people today, here and now, vote Democrat because of goddamn Harry Truman!?!? I’m voting for Hillary because of what Truman did?! It’s no wonder nothing you post to your blog makes sense.

                >Finally, I can’t believe you wrote this: “Very few people have any understanding of how racism manifests in real life, even black people.” I don’t even know what to say to that.

                But I already knew you were a racist. I honestly thought you would at least try to convince me otherwise. You could have said something simple, like any cut to any social program hits black people first and hardest despite the fact that they’re a minority. The majority of people mistakenly believe that black people benefit unfairly from social programs, especially those programs which were originally developed to try to mitigate the effects of racism. A lot of programs wouldn’t be necessary ONLY if racism wasn’t a factor and lots of people mistakenly believe that racism is a minority view and therefore insignificant due to the effects of political correctness. Racism is full of sick irony and obliviousness.

                Like

                • Tige,

                  I had my suspicions from the start, but I tried to have a civil conversation with you. Now, you reveal yourself to be someone whose tactics remind me of so many right-wingers I have argued with over the years.

                  You say I have a “pathetic attitude” because I don’t agree with your convoluted analysis of the political scene playing out before our eyes. Really? That’s the best you can do? Jeez. It has become impossible to reason with you. So, there are just a couple more points I will make before I call it quits.

                  First, I demolished your argument about blacks and voting for Democrats. Just look back at what you claimed. But you won’t admit that. Instead, you call me “dense” and say “nothing you post to your blog makes sense.” So, after that response, it is rational to conclude there is no purpose in continuing our discussion and no reason for you to read anything else I post after this.

                  You said, “The Republican Party as a whole is in the toilet right now and pretty much anyone who’s done any analysis agrees with that assessment.” Oh, yeah? Who? We’ve gone over this before, but you refuse to acknowledge basic facts. If you are speaking of the party’s ability to win a general election, that is one thing. But as I have tried to tell you, the GOP “as a whole” is not in the toilet. If words won’t convince you of this fact, then perhaps this graph will, although you seem not to pay any attention to those either:

                  Just put your peepers over on that 2015 bar. Then tell me the Republican Party “as a whole” is in the toilet. You say I haven’t expressed “one reason why anyone would vote Republican beyond these ones which won’t cut the mustard.” All I know is that plenty of people, as the graph demonstrates, find all kinds of reasons to vote for Republicans. You’ll have to ask them why they do so, but the fact that they are doing so all over the country is not even debatable.

                  Finally, I suppose it was inevitable. I marveled that you could make the ridiculous claim that “even black people” don’t “have any understanding of how racism manifest in real life,” and you responded by saying, “I already knew you were a racist.” That pretty much does it for me.

                  But before I go, I want to tell you that you, judging by the spirit with which you conducted yourself during our discussions here, are one of the reasons that people vote Republican. Your arrogance and mean-spiritedness scares a lot of otherwise rational folks.

                  Duane

                  Like

                  • >Now, you reveal yourself to be someone whose tactics remind me of so many right-wingers I have argued with over the years.

                    Literally, “I know you are but what am I.” You are the one who has repeatedly told me that we can’t change each others minds. Your words, not mine. Minds that do not change are “winger” minds.

                    >You say I have a “pathetic attitude” because I don’t agree with your convoluted analysis of the political scene playing out before our eyes.

                    I’m only here because of your attitude, not your politics. You don’t even seem to care about the politics, just about winning. That’s what I consider pathetic. I have to remind you where you started this.

                    >It has become impossible to reason with you.

                    What reasoning are you presenting? This is only about your attitude, nothing more.

                    >before I call it quits.

                    The champion.

                    >First, I demolished your argument about blacks and voting for Democrats.

                    You did? So, when exactly did you show that blacks vote for Democrats for any reason other than the fact that Republicans are a bunch of blatant racists? It’s the same argument that blacks voted Republican because of Lincoln up until Truman despite the fact Republicans did nothing for them in the intervening decades. Present day Democrats do nothing to earn black votes. This is the fact that I presented to you. You did not destroy it. You did not touch it and you will not touch it. Even as a black man sits in the white house he will not do anything for black people because it would look like blatant self-interest to all racists.

                    Your graph is a representation of the delayed peak of a cyclic wave. You are telling me that you don’t know what the graph you are showing me means, you don’t know the math, and election results are NOT determined by the math, they’re determined by voter motivation, we only see the effects in these graphs of motivation we knew about in the past. The current wave of activity in state legislatures is telling me what I already know. Their positions were at their peak due to anti-abortion/racist motivations and they were looking down at a crash. That is when you get desperate and pull out all the stops, but when you get to the bottom you’re going full speed and can’t steer, crash is inevitable. Now the whole anti-abortion trojan horse game is played out, they have nothing left going into this election. It’s all just racism now, they come and shout it at us, no “plenty of reasons”. This is the only point you needed to see. It’s not convoluted.

                    >That pretty much does it for me.

                    You only drive my point home. You think that your identification as a racist is an insult to you. It’s all about you. When you start to see that racism is not about you, then I will consider that you might not be a racist. You literally have nothing to say about anything that matters.

                    Like

                    • You wrote:

                      You think that your identification as a racist is an insult to you. It’s all about you. When you start to see that racism is not about you, then I will consider that you might not be a racist. You literally have nothing to say about anything that matters.

                      Yes, calling me a racist is an insult. Imagine that. And that part is all about me. You don’t know the slightest thing about me and obviously you haven’t read almost 7 years of my writing and my fights, on this blog, with real racists.

                      Finally, and I mean finally, when you say I “literally have nothing to say about anything that matters,” then I’m sure you won’t mind it when I ignore your ridiculous and arrogant rants from now on. Okay? Good. And goodbye.

                      Duane

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • Pointing out that you are a racist was never intended to be an insult, it was intended to get you to open your eyes. Almost everything you say reinforces the fact that you don’t want to look at the facts.

                    You have too thin a skin to publish your thoughts on the internet. Even if, or especially if, you were actually right about anything, people would attack you far worse than me. I’ve only ever been interested in getting you to see the problem with your own attitude.

                    But consider this, when Bill Clinton was elected he took time to oversee the execution of a black man. Today, Hillary Clinton is still in support of the death penalty. Death row is our modern lynching.

                    https://www.schr.org/our-work/death-penalty/in-the-south

                    Black people vote in droves for Clinton because they are bloc voters, not because they understand the issues, not even racism.

                    Like

    • Tige, just a couple of thoughts on abortion if you don’t mind. First, as far as when life begins, the Christian bible says it begins with the first breath – God blew breath into Adam and he came alive. There are many other references in the bible to life beginning with the first breath. Any self-righteous, bible-thumping Christian should know that. Otherwise, they are going against God’s word.

      And when the Republicans, as the self-appointed keepers of our moral code, talk about pro-life, they are actually talking about pro-birth. To that point, Christopher Hale, executive director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, in a January 22, 2015 article in Time Magazine, “Pro-Life Is More Than Being Pro-Birth,” writes:

      “To be truly pro-life, we cannot simply support a child’s right to be born, but also the right of the mother to expect substantial support from her community and from her government. We can’t be pro-life and anti-woman. It doesn’t work. And we can’t be pro-life and anti-government. It doesn’t work.

      “If today’s anti-abortion movement transforms into tomorrow’s pro-life movement, it can transcend the ideological divisions that plague our nation and proclaim a simple truth that can bind our people — especially the young — together: that everyone deserves a life, a family, and a future. But to do so, this pro-life generation must protect every person’s right to live, not just be born.”

      Like

      • This is someone struggling to find an actual ideal in an ideology and in doing so he misrepresents the ideology. After 40 years all of a sudden someone realized the movement sounds like it was actually supposed to be about saving babies. Why didn’t anyone say anything before?

        “Pro-life” is a euphemism for anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-sex education, anti-sex, and ultimately anti-women, all traditional religious anti-values, but what really got it started as a movement was the success of the civil rights movement which is its antithesis. The racists lost the civil rights fight and after a few years when Roe v Wade came they were desperate and latched onto the notion that abortion was a concept people would rally against with the same fervor that they had against blacks, but seemingly without targeting anyone in particular (just women!). In fact they’re proud to say that they prevent abortion of black babies as much as whites without realizing the differential economic impact.

        Anti-abortionists tend to be a sick sort of people who love to show off pictures of blood which fits into the hardcore Christian fundamentalist obsession with the blood of Christ.

        But obviously what it’s all about is that women are supposed to be pure, for their husbands and for their God. Sex is only for procreation. The consequences of sex are entirely and exclusively a burden and fault of women, even in the case of rape.

        The followers of ideology tend to be imbeciles, so they blame doctors (and politicians and judges) for abortions instead of the women who seek abortions. Asking simple questions of abortion opponents quickly proves the point. Abortion is a great tool to motivate masses of bigots.

        If you actually care about preventing abortion, everything that the “Pro-Life” movement advocates has to be chucked in the trash. They are not at all interested in preventing abortion, only causing women and poor people, especially poor black people, to suffer. The portion of the movement actually interested in stopping abortion is a very minor fringe.

        On an international scope, outside of developed countries abortion isn’t even an option, people just kill the babies (usually girls!) after they’re born, or dump them in the trash alive. But hey a small fringe of the anti-abortion movement cares about that too, they just have no clue what to do about it like everything else.

        Like

  3. At the beginning of this post you write, “But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either.” Well, this is one of those issues we could spend the next decade discussing and probably wouldn’t agree if we did.

    But briefly (you knew there was a “but” coming didn’t you?,) when discussing what the term God means in western civilization, there is the assumption that it refers to the Judeo-Christian God of the bible. And that God is understood as a personal one rather than a collective one. The first case, there is a one on one relationship; that is it’s all about God and you. A collective god is something like the Great Spirit of the Native Americans; it’s about all of the people.

    Now, as to the ontological question of God’s existence, we would have to wade through the arguments of a bunch of philosophers over the last 500 years or so to try and tease out an answer.

    Rather than do that, I just go back to my theme that there can be no uncaused cause – you can’t get something from nothing unless nothing is something. Or, to say it another way, God cannot exist unless circular logic is invalid. To the extent there are other possible explanations for the creation of the universe, and for evolution, then the argument for the existence of God is a false dilemma, a.k.a., false dichotomy. On that basis then, in modal logic, God is contingent and therefore unnecessary.

    In short, there is no proof of the existence of the Judeo-Christian God in nature or in an external reality. God can only exist in the anthropocentric mind. In either case, it’s hard to prove a negative.

    Back to your point, and from the foregoing and much more, I can say honestly and with confidence that I do know to a moral certainty that God does not exit other than as a product of the human imagination.

    Like

    • Herb,

      You might say honestly and with confidence that you “know to a moral certainty that God does not exist,” but of course that doesn’t mean your alleged knowledge actually corresponds to reality. If I were to ask you to prove to me that your knowledge about the non-existence of God corresponds with reality, you would might say it’s hard to prove a negative. Well, if you can’t prove a claim, then I have no reason to accept it as valid knowledge, unless there is some evidence convincing enough to bring it to that level of moral certainty you assert. To know something, to really know it (which is what I was discussing), one has to have some evidentiary foundation. Otherwise, it is an assumption to some degree.

      Obviously, some negatives are easy to prove. Let’s say that I confidently claim I know that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, doesn’t now exist. I can easily prove that claim to a high degree of certainty, enough to qualify as knowledge. There is evidence I can gather that would prove I was right, at least to a mind open to a rational weighing of evidence. Because there is no such evidence in the case of the non-existence of God, you can’t do the same thing. Once you make a positive knowledge claim, you have the burden of proof. You can’t credibly prove, with the kind of certainty I was talking about in the piece, that you know such a being exists only “as a product of the human imagination.” You can say it is unlikely that God really exists, even highly unlikely, which is what I gather you mean by saying you believe it with “moral certainty,” which appears to be a statement of probability.

      All I’m saying is this: a claim can be true or false. But it can also be in a position of ambiguity, possibly because enough evidence hasn’t been gathered to support or refute it, or because it appears to be impossible to ever gather enough evidence to support or refute it. My position embraces those last two states, especially the last one, on the question of God’s existence or his non-existence. And because of that, I can assert with confidence that actual true/false knowledge of God’s existence is, at this time, impossible.

      Duane

      Like

      • Actually, I did say it was hard to prove a negative. But not impossible. I’m not 10 feet tall and I can prove it, just as you can prove the nonexistence of Lincoln. But those are empirical proofs. Anyone with the necessary information can determine them. With the idea of God however, there are no empirical proofs.

        Virtually all the claims in the bible of God doing something or making something happen have all been debunked by science. We – we being those who believe in the God of the bible — attribute the idea of “miracle” to events for which there is no known explanation and use God as the default cause (sometimes called the “god of the gaps.”) But over time the causes of those events have been explained by natural phenomena; i.e., with empirical proof and God’s interventions become less and less, smaller and smaller.

        So, for myself, I came to see that none of the actions of an external invisible force called God were real, only imagined. Then I read Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett plus related sections of Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy to get all the arguments down, ready for battle with the fundamentalists.

        All that considered, therefore, I think it is reasonable to conclude that absent any empirical proof to the contrary and given the rules of logic, the idea of God, specifically the Judeo-Christian God, can only exist as nothing more than a human concept, not as an external free-standing entity.

        Even if there were a God somewhere out in a parallel universe, it is powerless and has no effect on us, our planet, our galaxy or our universe. So, the question of the existence of God is moot and unambiguous.

        It’s the concept of god and how we humans have manipulated and represented that fundamental idea that has caused a lot of mischief over the millennia – right up to today.

        By the way, I do believe in parallel universes. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have some socks that were sucked up by one. And the portal is in my dryer

        Like

        • Herb,

          One last thing I’ve been thinking about since you made me think (!). It occurs to me that theists have at least a psychological advantage over atheists.

          Consider the statement, “There is a personal God.” Now, there can be only 4 possible ways to evaluate that statement.

          1. It is true.
          2. It is false.
          3. There is not enough known to determine its truth value.
          4. There will never be a way to determine its truth value.

          Now look at something. We can conceive of the possibility of the statement being proven true. God could make himself clearly known to us in some way that no rational person would be able to dispute. That is possible and thus it is possible that the statement could be true.

          But the statement could never be proven false. Ever. It could always be the case that God, for whatever reason, has hidden himself from us and we would never know that he actually existed. Thus, the statement about God is never going to be falsifiable.

          So, let’s turn it the other way. Let’s make the statement, “There is no personal God.” Again, we have:

          1. It is true.
          2. It is false.
          3. There is not enough known to determine its truth value.
          4. There will never be a way to determine its truth value.

          You can see that the statement can be proven false. As in the first example, God could appear to us in such a way that rational people would be convinced of his existence. And you can see, just as in the prior example, that the statement can never be proven true. God could always be hiding from us and we would never know for certain if he existed or not, and could not, except by making a probabilistic argument, say that he doesn’t exist. We could never be certain.

          My point in all this is that the theist has the psychological comfort (and the hope) that his position affords the best peace of mind: The existence of a personal God can’t be proven false and it could be proven true, and the hope is that it will be proven true if not in this life, then in the next. And that psychological comfort may at least partly explain why the absolute certainty that God exists, in the face of contradictory evidence, has persisted even through our modern, scientific times.

          Duane

          Like

          • With regard to your truth tables, I would just borrow from Bill Clinton: It depends on what “is” “is.” If you say there IS a personal God, then this must mean that a personal God exists. The same issue applies to the statement “There IS NO personal God,” which means a personal God does not exist. So, we’re talking about the existence of GOD, as understood by monotheists.

            Now, I’m not sure we want to go down the rocky road of ontology to find the nature of being, existence, or reality. But for purposes here, I would just argue that nothing (no thing) can exist outside of nature. If there is, then it is unknowable. However, if we uncover more knowledge of nature, then those discoveries, themselves, are integrated into and become part of nature. So,

            1. God is said to exist outside of and independent of nature (supernatural).
            2. Nothing exits outside of and independent of nature.
            3. Therefore, God does not exist.

            Of course, the nonexistence of God does not stop the a priori belief in God. But belief is not proof. Believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy or the Mad Hatter or Tinker Bell does not make any of them real.

            But what makes God seem real – and personal — is what’s called the “felt presence of God.” We’ve all seen the scenes of fundamentalists speaking in tongues, or rolling in the hay, or similar demonstrations. But these are emotions and emotions are not proof. Besides, the so-called felt presence is not felt universally. the Buddhists, the Taos, the Quakers, and most indigenous peoples do not have a personal God and, although they certainly have strong feeling generated by their particular beliefs, they are not the same as the felt presence of the God of the bible.

            Well, I could go on, but I’ll stop here. IMHO, the lynchpin for all the arguments concerning the existence of God is a logical and scientific understanding of nature. Dreams and magic and hallucinations are not real. But they are personal.

            Something that only appeared 6,000 years ago, and is missing several billion years of provable existence, is certainly more myth than fact.

            I just leave you with this:

            “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
            Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
            Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
            Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
            – Epicurus

            Like

            • Herb,

              I will, just for the hell of it, try to challenge a claim or two you made, my friend. You wrote,

              I would just argue that nothing (no thing) can exist outside of nature. If there is, then it is unknowable. However, if we uncover more knowledge of nature, then those discoveries, themselves, are integrated into and become part of nature.

              Then you presented a syllogism:

              1. God is said to exist outside of and independent of nature (supernatural).
              2. Nothing exits outside of and independent of nature.
              3. Therefore, God does not exist.

              First, you are admitting that if there is something outside of nature, it is “unknowable.” That’s my point. You can’t prove there is no God outside of nature. Such a being’s existence will always remain a possibility.

              Second, your definition of nature is sort of a tautology. It is equivalent to saying, “nature is everything there is and everything there is is nature.” According to your always expanding definition of nature (since you admit there may be things we do not now know about it but would be incorporated into it with future knowledge), one might include a God of some kind. In fact, nature could just be a physical manifestation of the thoughts in God’s mind for all we know. Therefore, based on your definition of nature, I think your first premise is flawed.

              Third, you are making a grand assumption with your second premise. I see no logical reason why I am compelled to accept it as true, unless I hold it as a foundationalist or properly basic view (which I can accept). But it can’t be proven.

              Thus, since I think your premises are flawed, so is your conclusion.

              Finally, you said, “Dreams and magic and hallucinations are not real. But they are personal.” Hmm. Dreams and hallucinations are quite real, since they actually occur inside our heads and thus are part of nature. If they aren’t real, neither is what we see when we are awake or in our right minds, since those things are also processed inside our heads. This is why a definition of nature, as the one you suggested, could include the existence of God, since God could be dreaming or hallucinating our existence!

              Take that!

              Duane

              Like

              • King Beauregard

                 /  March 16, 2016

                Somewhere, in a Monopoly game, the shoe and the race car are discussing metaphysics. The shoe believes that The Creator has to roll dice any time it wants to move. The race car disagrees — to the extent that The Creator can throw the dice unerringly and get whatever number is desired — but both are nevertheless certain that The Creator collects $200 every time it passes Go.

                My roundabout point: any logical / natural law arguments we might want to make about God are based on the laws WE are subject to. It does not follow that the creator of those laws would necessarily be bound by any of them, not even base assumptions like identity.

                Like

                • Yes, all of our argumentation is based on the laws we understand. But God would also seem to be bound by laws like non-contradiction, just as we can clearly see that God could not make, say, a square circle. In fact, some use this as an argument against God’s omnipotence (and thus his ontological status as “God”), since he would seem to be subject to something outside himself, something higher than he is.

                  By the way, just to make it clear: I’m not arguing logical necessity. Only logical possibility. I just fail to see how it is impossible for God, if he existed and if he were willing, to demonstrate to our rational satisfaction that he in fact exists. In other words, I’m not making an argument for his existence, only for the possibility of his existence. And my argument is based on the fact that it is logically impossible to prove he does not exist. That’s all I’ve tried to say from the start.

                  Like

                  • King Beauregard

                     /  March 17, 2016

                    ‘But God would also seem to be bound by laws like non-contradiction, just as we can clearly see that God could not make, say, a square circle.’

                    i certainly couldn’t imagine a square circle, but is that a function of my brain that is meant to function within the bounds of this physical universe?

                    I get that you’re saying you can’t disprove God (or prove him either). I just think the whole effort is even more futile than people give it credit for because our basic assumptions about logic do not necessarily hold. Side note, standard Christian theology since 325 AD holds that basic assumptions about logic most certainly do NOT hold, since the three persons of the Trinity are simultaneously identical and distinct.

                    Like

                    • Oh, my God! That is hilarious. It reminds me of how many countless hours I spent, many years ago, studying theology books trying to figure out this nonsense! Wish I would have had this short video at my disposal. Thanks for sharing it!

                      Like

              • OK, you challenge my little syllogism by saying, “First, you are admitting that if there is something outside of nature, it is “unknowable.” Ah contraire my friend. My first premise is “God is SAID to exist . . .” And that’s exactly what I meant. I have admitted nothing, I am merely stating what SOME SAY about a particular deity in a particular religion. I disagree. And that’s why there is the second premise.

                Next you say, “your definition of nature is sort of a tautology. It is equivalent to saying, “nature is everything there is and everything there is is nature.” Well, I think you’re right. My communication skills slipped on that one for sure. What I was trying to say is that, given the four dimensional space-time we live in, nature is all there is, and to say there is “some thing” outside of nature, especially some thing that was invented by the Abrahamic religions, some thing that is not universally known, not felt, is just flat arbitrary. So, God is just a simple meme.

                Again, the God we are talking about is the God of the Bible – New and Old Testaments. We are told that that God can manipulate nature – make burning bushes talk, flood the world, cause a trumpet blow down walls, create plagues, turn people into salt, etc. etc. To do all these things God must be able to manipulate nature itself. But science tells us that there are other forces in nature that can account to God’s supposed actions in the bible. God’s alleged interventions are therefore pure fiction.

                And, by the law of non-contradiction, God cannot be both natural and supernatural at the same time. 2 + 2 = 4, or 2 + 2 = not 4, but it’s one or the other, not both.

                Now, to say that God is supernatural, existing in some other universe or whatever, and must be acknowledged as such is nonsense. For all we know, it’s really the Flying Spaghetti Monster living there. Or Zeus. Or Apollo. Or the Great Spirit. Or my mother. Or my socks. Point is we could make up all kinds of stuff that we can say exists outside of the nature we know. And there is no justification, no compelling reason, for making a claim that some unknown entity exists as something supernatural. So to say that we must give any credence to “some thing” that human beings wrote about 3,000 years ago as a means of establishing law and order is ludicrous.

                Finally, you says dreams and hallucinations are real because they exist in our minds and our minds are part of nature. And you conclude with, “This is why a definition of nature, as the one you suggested, could include the existence of God, since God could be dreaming or hallucinating our existence!” Could! Could! Could!. Yes anything is possible in your head. How about the Devil hisownself dreaming or hallucinating our existence? Should we then the take the giant leap and make the Devil a supernatural entity worthy of acknowledging as being part of nature?

                Time for a drink.

                Like

                • Ah, it is time for a drink! Especially since the NCAA tourney is on! But I want to finish where I started: my only point is that it is impossible, absolutely impossible, for you or anyone to prove God (and I have never been talking about the strange God of the Bible, by the way; just theism in general) does not exist. You can’t do it no matter how hard you try, or how clever you frame the argument. The possibility, no matter how infinitely small, will always remain that there is a God who has always existed. But I loved this discussion, my friend. Now, go Jayhawks!

                  Like

      • The question of the existence of God is a trail of breadcrumbs going back thousands of years but which does not lead to an actual god. In the here and now when people discuss God, they are not referring to anything but a nebulous concept which is a product of language advanced beyond the minds of the people using it.

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        • Believe me, when committed Christians (the ones with whom I have spent most of my life) discuss God, they aren’t referring to “a nebulous concept which is a product of language advanced beyond the minds of the people using it.” They are referring to the God of the Bible, mostly the New Testament portrait of Jesus, a portrait painted for them by the simplistic theology taught to them every Sunday from the pulpits of fundamentalist and evangelical churches. If you don’t understand that, too these folks, God is more than a concept (they talk to him, for instance), then you don’t understand what motivates them.

          Like

          • They talk to God, but God does NOT talk to them. Their leaders talk to them. Their behavior and actions are not dictated by God, they are dictated by the same powers that influence the leadership of the Republican party. Money plays a singular role. Lots of other things contribute to effectively impressing the message. For powerful people racism is more useful than just something they believe in. Drumpf is plainly not a powerful man and is really new to the evangelical model of obtaining and using power. He believes in racism in a sort of cream of the crop way.

            In any case, if it weren’t for the semantic load of the word “God” the churches in general wouldn’t have survived this long. It doesn’t matter than half of them don’t get it. It’s irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that the haystack is big and anyone who wants to look through it is welcome to. Meanwhile, we’re going to light it up.

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  4. Not so fast, my friend. You changed the rules. I’ve made it clear that I’ve been talking about the God of the bible all along, and now you’re talking about some generic, monotheistic God! So, you apparently agree with my arguments concerning the God I defined.

    Then you end with the premise you started with, “The possibility, no matter how infinitely small, will always remain that there is a God who has always existed.” Well, in logic, this is called the Argument from Ignorance: The fallacy that since we don’t know (or can never know, or cannot prove) whether a claim is true or false, it must be false or that it must be true. You think your argument is true and I think your argument is false. So, we’re both ignorant and cancel each other out.

    We can also parse the meaning of “possibility.” There is a difference, philosophers tell us, between the meaning of possibility in a concrete world (a posteriori) and the meaning of possibility in an abstract world (a priori). I have tried to be clear that I was talking about a concrete world and went through all the stuff about nature and supernatural and science, etc. With that as the basis for my analysis of the question of God’s existence (in a concrete world), I concluded that there is no (concrete) evidence to support even the remote possibility of God’s existence. And you have not provided any proof to dispute that conclusion.

    You, on the other hand, want to argue for the possibility of God existing in an abstract (a priori) world. But that just gets you into circular logic – God possibly exists because God possibly exists.

    As you wrote somewhere above, “Well, if you can’t prove a claim, then I have no reason to accept it as valid knowledge, unless there is some evidence convincing enough to bring it to that level of moral certainty you assert.” Right back at ya, my friend.

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    • My bad, Herb.

      I assumed, after writing critically about the God of the Bible for 7 years, that you knew I would not even attempt to defend that version of theism (actually, I’m not defending any version of theism; I’m only asserting that a personal God cannot be completely ruled out).

      To be clear: I have been openly hostile to a) God, as presented in the Old Testament and b) aspects of Jesus, as portrayed in the New Testament. So, my bad for assuming you knew that.

      As for the argument from ignorance, I can’t be guilty of that fallacy. Why? Because I’m not saying that any proposition about God is true or false. I’m saying that the proposition that God does not exist cannot be proven false. That is much different. In fact, I have explicitly told you that I take an agnostic position, that either there is not enough known to make a judgment or there can never be a definitive declaration of truth or falsehood, as far as whether God exists. That in itself liberates me from the fallacy you claim.

      In fact, I am not making a truth claim at all. It is you who is trying to make a truth claim: that God cannot exist. At least that’s the way I have interpreted what you have written so far. And, as far as I understand you, it is you who is committing the argument from ignorance fallacy in that you seem to be asserting that the proposition that God exists is false because it hasn’t been, or cannot be, proven true.

      You wrote,

      I have tried to be clear that I was talking about a concrete world and went through all the stuff about nature and supernatural and science, etc. With that as the basis for my analysis of the question of God’s existence (in a concrete world), I concluded that there is no (concrete) evidence to support even the remote possibility of God’s existence. And you have not provided any proof to dispute that conclusion.

      I completely agree with that. I have never been disputing the “conclusion” that in this “concrete” world there is no evidence to support the existence of God, remote possibility or otherwise. What I have been arguing, and I think I have been clear about it, is that just because there has been no evidence to support the existence of God in our “concrete” world, that doesn’t mean God does not exist. Absence of evidence is, indeed, evidence of absence, but it is not ultimately conclusive evidence. Evidence for something does not prove it absolutely true, if there are still unknowns out there. And there are still unknowns out there. That is all I have been saying from the start.

      And this is not circular logic. It’s not a matter of “God possibly exists because God possibly exists.” It is a matter of “God possibly exists because his existence cannot be logically ruled out.”

      Finally, you end with my quote and a touché:

      “Well, if you can’t prove a claim, then I have no reason to accept it as valid knowledge, unless there is some evidence convincing enough to bring it to that level of moral certainty you assert.” Right back at ya, my friend.

      I don’t know why you can’t see that I’m not making a claim about the existence of God. I’m making a claim that his existence cannot, logically, be ruled out. And that claim can be defended via some commonly accepted ideas about inductive logic. You can say his existence is highly improbable, but you cannot say his existence is impossible.

      Finally, this all leads me to an old argument about the validity of inductive reasoning itself, which includes the kind of circular reasoning on which the “scientific method” is based. From Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

      The original problem of induction can be simply put. It concerns the support or justification of inductive methods; methods that predict or infer, in Hume’s words, that “instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience” (THN, 89). Such methods are clearly essential in scientific reasoning as well as in the conduct of our everyday affairs. The problem is how to support or justify them and it leads to a dilemma: the principle cannot be proved deductively, for it is contingent, and only necessary truths can be proved deductively. Nor can it be supported inductively—by arguing that it has always or usually been reliable in the past—for that would beg the question by assuming just what is to be proved.

      So, we see that the scientific method (induction) that you and I both rightly adore has a fundamental problem: the principle behind the method is not deductively provable, and to the extent we try to prove it, we have to rely on induction itself.

      Now, back to my alcohol. This is much more fun when I’m drinking!

      Duane

      Like

  5. I’m not equipped with enough education in philosophy and logic to be a contender in this interesting discourse, but I can’t resist putting my 2 cents in either.

    It seems to me that the mere use of the word God immediately dooms the argument to failure either way because to merely utter the word binds the discussion to the biblical context, and that is scientifically discreditable. It would be better, I submit, to discuss a prime cause, or Cause. Something caused nature. After all, isn’t that the motivation for even discussing theology? Why is there anything?

    Reality defies logic because the mere fact that anything exists implies a cause, but then, where did that cause come from? Thus, it is logical that the Cause must be independent of time as we know it. I can accept that concept because Einstein proved that time is not an independent thing. It is a part of spacetime, and that is malleable.

    Nature exists. Why it exists appears to be unknowable, but I see no reason for there to be a purpose for it. The words “why” and “purpose” imply an anthropocentric creator, but I can well imagine that there is no purpose and no creator. I can imagine that it simply is. It is only natural that human beings, being capable of abstract thought, should invent theology because to live and die without purpose is inconsistent with what makes us tick, i.e. the pattern of evolution, the survival of the fittest.

    Depressing is what it is. But interesting nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim, don’t sell yourself short. You’ve got lots of philosophy and logic in your genes; more than you might think. In fact, IMHO, your reflection above on this discussion is one of the best and well-stated summaries of the God issue I’ve ever seen. Your two cents is worth a hellava lot more than that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jim,

      I agree with Herb. You are well-equipped to chime in on this or any topic.

      I also agree that the use of the term “God” does, in most minds, invoke the God of the Bible. I sometimes forget that fact. When I use the term in discussions like this one, I am not thinking of the God of the Bible at all. I am thinking of a personal being (because any other conception that doesn’t involve a personality seems useless to even talk about) whose attributes are unknown, if not unknowable, to us. 

      As far as time goes, I know there are people who say that asking what happened before the Big Bang is a meaningless question. Time, it is supposed, didn’t exist until our universe came into existence. Einstein did tie space and time together, which was a remarkable achievement. But I’m not sure that necessarily means that something like time, at least something accounting for one event following the other, didn’t exist before (uh-oh) our universe came to be. The idea that it didn’t exist seems counter-intuitive to me, although I recognize it probably seems that way because I am a creature of time. 

      Again, I agree with you that it’s not at all necessary to posit a purposeful universe. We can imagine one that, as you put it, “simply is.” But what bothers me a lot is when people state, with utter certainty, that there is no purpose for the universe. That certainty is unsupportable. The evidence seems to be against it, to be sure. But there is a theological argument that our purpose-seeking nature is a clue that we are part of a meaningful universe, one that is created by a God with an interest in us. Granted, that is a thin argument, but it is not falsifiable. What I have argued is that such an idea could be true, but can never be proven to be not true.

      And I guess I agree with you that the whole thing is a little depressing. It would be nice to know for sure either way, wouldn’t it? 

      Duane

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      • The points you make here are all valid to me, Duane, except perhaps the one about the universe likely being purposeful because of our own purpose-seeking nature. That seems like circular logic to me, particularly since that nature can be explained as a necessary aspect of abstract thought, probably our species prime survival trait.

        I find satisfaction,even delight, that there are honest and intelligent people like you and Herb who are willing to discuss this subject candidly. If it were not for you guys and a very few others, I would feel very much alone about it. Thanks.

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        • No, thank you, Jim (and Herb).

          I want to clear up something, though. Our purpose-seeking nature is sometimes used, by theologians, as an indication that we have within us such a nature because it is God whom we are seeking and God designed us that way. To seek him. I’m not saying that is my position. I only brought it up to say that such an idea is not falsifiable, which, as I recall, was part of the original disagreement Herb and I had (so long ago!).

          Thank you, again, my friend.

          Duane

          Like

      • Duane,

        Couple things. (Are we ever going to stop discussing this stuff???)

        But all seriousness aside, I think of time as a measure of motion. One second, for example, is so many gazillions of oscillations of a cesium atom. If I say I drive the speed limit of 60 miles, That doesn’t make sense unless I say 60 miles per hour.

        In Einstein’s famous equation, “c,” the speed of light — 300,000 kilometers per second – is perhaps the most critical part because neither E nor m would exist without it. Or to say it another way, without time there would be no motion, and if there is no motion, then the forces of nature collapse and there would only be “nothing,” which, in this unique case is something. But that only applies to our universe.

        In fact, it could be that other universes, indeed other dimensions, may exist that have different values for time. (I wonder if we’ll have enough time to find out?)

        Also, time is an anthropocentric concept. The universe doesn’t need time, it’s we frail little humans that do. Of course, the ideas of purpose and meaning are also anthropic. So far as we know, we are the only life on this planet, not to mention the entire universe, that is given to such self-imposed dilemmas.

        Finally, this discussion reminds me of a quote by the British scientist J. B. S. Haldane, “Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose.

        Herb

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        • Okay, Herb. I’m biting. I’m a sucker for this stuff.

          You said,

          without time there would be no motion, and if there is no motion, then the forces of nature collapse and there would only be “nothing,” which, in this unique case is something. But that only applies to our universe.

          Then you said,

          The universe doesn’t need time, it’s we frail little humans that do.

          Now, maybe it’s just me, but I find those two ideas contradictory. If motion is conditioned on time, and if our universe would collapse without motion, then why doesn’t our universe need time?

          Duane

          Like

          • Duane,

            What I said about time and motion and the universe not needing them is purely rhetorical. The universe knows nothing about physics or chemistry or biology or mathematics, it’s we humans who, because of our evolutionary status, know these things. The universe worked just as it was supposed to before we humans arrived on the scene, and it will work just as it’s supposed to after our species leaves the building. The universe doesn’t care about Beethoven or the Beatles, or about who wins the NCAA basketball championship. In short, the universe doesn’t have a brain, much less a mind. (If a tree falls in the forest . . . )

            Enter religion. Religion serves several purposes. It provides a worldview, a code of conduct, a coping mechanism, and a promise of immorality (an afterlife.) But because of our ability to reflect and question, and with a need for security, we must invent a higher power or a supernatural being to give our lives meaning. Of course, different religions take different paths so that they are often in conflict; e.g., make war.

            Of course, to the existentialist, of which I count myself as one, meaning and purpose do not come from a belief system, they come from what each of us does with our lives, the culture we’re born into, the decisions we make, and to a high degree, our genetic predispositions.

            Point being that time and motion, religion and belief, and meaning and purpose, are merely constructs that help explain to us, and only us, what constitutes nature. That is my recurrent theme, that all we know and can ever know is anthropocentric and useful only to we anthros.

            Herb

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            • Herb,

              You are reifying the universe in one way and I could reify it in another way. You say “The universe doesn’t care about Beethoven or the Beatles, or about who wins the NCAA basketball championship.” Oh, but it does, if by “universe” you mean the consciousness of many human beings here on earth. Essentially, one could argue that the universe now is coming to know itself through our brains.

              Leaving that aside, we’re sort of back to where we started. You said, “that all we know and can ever know is anthropocentric and useful only to we anthros.” That statement, “all we can ever know” is still problematic for me. Nobody knows whether that is true. As I have said, the statement can be proven false, but it can never be proven true. There will always be some chance, however small, that God, in any form you want to imagine, could reveal his, her, or its existence.

              Duane

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              • Duane,

                Are we having fun yet? Me too.

                OK, when I say “The universe doesn’t care . . .,” you say, “Oh, but it does, if by “universe” you mean the consciousness of many human beings here on earth.” But I absolutely DO NOT mean the universe has consciousness, whether of human beings or elephants, or my little boxer named Layla.

                That should be obvious when I said,” The universe worked just as it was supposed to before we humans arrived on the scene, and it will work just as it’s supposed to after our species leaves the building.” That is, the universe can’t just suddenly have a conscious when conscious animals appear on an insignificant planet in an insignificant star system in an insignificant galaxy.

                You also challenge my statement, “that all we know and can ever know is anthropocentric and useful only to we anthros.” You write that such an assertion “is still problematic for me. Nobody knows whether that is true. As I have said, the statement can be proven false, but it can never be proven true.” Actually I would reverse the truth and falsity and say that my statement is true if it includes the fact of language and of the right brain, left brain attributes, which it does.

                It seems you justify your position as a matter of reification. I see it as a matter of reality. It is reasonable to assume, if the laws of science are correct, that the universe was around long before life began on our planet, by some 8 billion years or so. And scientists also tell us that the universe will continue to exist even after our sun becomes a red giant and incinerates our planet and everything on it. So you are taking an extremely brief segment of time between the birth and death of an intelligent animal species – us — and projecting it onto the whole universe. I see that more as wishful thinking and a denial of reality.

                Therefore, our disagreements, as I see them, are between my view of the objective nature of the universe using the proof of science, and your view of the subjective nature of human beings as projected onto the universe. If we can’t reconcile those different mind sets, this discussion is probably over.

                I will now go out and kick the dog.

                Herb

                Like

                • Herb,

                  First, my apologies to your dog.

                  Second,  you said “the universe worked just as it was supposed to before we humans arrived on the scene.” “Supposed to”? I’m not sure what that means but it sounds teleological to me. I don’t think you want to go there, do you? Then you explained by saying, “the universe can’t just suddenly have a conscious when conscious animals appear on an insignificant planet in an insignificant star system in an insignificant galaxy.” Why not? To begin with, you call this an “insignificant planet.” My point is that you cannot prove that statement to be true. You don’t know if it is or it isn’t. You are merely assuming it is because of the vastness of the universe. But that is only an assumption, not proof. Then there is this: If consciousness is an emergent property of our brains, and our brains are a product of evolution in the universe, it seems perfectly appropriate to argue that consciousness, whether you say it appears “suddenly” or not, belongs to the universe.

                  It’s sort of like stages in human development. You once were a zygote without consciousness, then somewhere along the line, whether it was before you were born or sometime after, consciousness emerged. And if I consider you, Herb, as a whole person, I am right to say that you, Herb, possess consciousness, even though I am referring specifically to something that emerges from your brain chemistry and not from, say, your digestive system. Thus, Herb is a conscious being, although the part of Herb that is really conscious is just one organ in his skull, not the rest of him, all of the other parts being without consciousness. Thus it is with the universe some could, plausibly, argue. In other words, just because the universe’s consciousness is located in one particular creature (as far as we know) in one particular place (as far as we know), doesn’t mean you can’t say the universe is without consciousness. And that would make the part of the universe where consciousness exists rather significant, like your brain in your skull.

                  Third, you object to these arguments (you keep saying they are “my” arguments; but I’m just making the point that the arguments exist and have some plausibility, not that I necessarily agree with them) by saying your arguments are superior because you are being “objective” and scientific and I am being “subjective” and framing the universe in terms of that human subjectivity. You call the arguments I have pointed out to you “wishful thinking and a denial of reality.” But the truth is, neither one of us can objectively define “reality.” You think you can because you believe you think your concepts derive from science. But science itself is a product of human consciousness. Is science, therefore, subjective or objective? That is essentially a philosophical question, not a scientific one. That’s part of my point about all of what we have been discussing.

                  Some studies of human consciousness demonstrate that what we think is “reality” is a product of the way neurons behave in our brains. Some drugs can alter the way those neurons behave and completely change our perceptions of reality. That’s why, I suspect, I like to drink. My experience of reality is often quite different when I have had a lot of alcohol. Isn’t yours? And if you admit it is, you are admitting my fundamental point: that our conclusions about “reality” can never be final ones. There always has to be some room for the possibility that our perception of reality is mistaken, that we might be wrong, whether we say there is a higher being behind the universe or we say there isn’t. Nobody knows, with complete certainty, whether there is or isn’t. What I am saying is that to the extent you certainly conclude there isn’t, or someone else certainly concludes there is, both of you are using an illusion of certainty. Your illusion can never be proven true, only falsified by the appearance of a higher being. The other guy’s illusion could be proven true by that same appearance.

                  Now, take it easy on your dog. His perception of reality, for all we know, may be superior to ours.

                  Duane

                  Like

                  • (I’m bringing this out to a wider margin. Getting a little squeezed for space.)

                    Duane,

                    According to my word processor, I’m up to 3,310 words in my various responses to you on this subject. But, what the hell, I’m retired and I can whip out another 3k words any time. Well, after a nap.

                    But, back to the topic at hand, which I’m actually not sure what it is. First off, you challenge my contention that “the universe worked the way it was supposed to,” by responding, ““Supposed to”? I’m not sure what that means but it sounds teleological to me. I don’t think you want to go there, do you?”

                    Well, to the extent “teleological” means design and purpose in the material world, then, no, I don’t think there is an invisible, unknown agent designing the universe. That would contradict what I’ve been trying to say all along, that we humans have discovered certain physical behaviors and interactions, most of which have been tested and falsified and which can be and have been tested and falsified over and over producing the same results every time. They are called “laws” but they are really only approximations of what we can observe. If gravity ceased to exist tomorrow, a lot of laws would be broken. Any “design” or “purpose” doesn’t apply. Those are descriptions of intent. Science gives us some explanations to our observations without imbuing them with some imaginary “intent.”

                    Next up is my contention that our little planet et al are insignificant. You say, “ . . . you cannot prove that statement to be true. You don’t know if it is or it isn’t. You are merely assuming it is because of the vastness of the universe. But that is only an assumption, not proof.”

                    Well, based on the information we’ve uncovered about the universe so far, which includes proofs, my assumption is logical, informed and rational. Give me a logical, rational and informed argument that I am wrong.

                    Then there is the issue of consciousness. You say, “just because the universe’s consciousness is located in one particular creature (as far as we know) in one particular place (as far as we know), doesn’t mean you can’t say the universe is without consciousness. And that would make the part of the universe where consciousness exists rather significant, like your brain in your skull.”

                    That’s a Straw Man argument and a false dichotomy. Consciousness is a mental state. The universe does not have a mental state and consciousness does not explain our observations of physical events. You can argue that the universe does indeed have a conscious because we are part of it, but to what end? With all due respect, such an assertion is meaningless.

                    And that gets me back to the idea of projection. The Anthropic Principle and its variants say that, gee, if it weren’t for humans being around to observe it, the universe wouldn’t even exist! It seems to me that you and your like-minded brethren and sistern are simply projecting human characteristics onto the universe, thereby anthropomorphizing it. But, as I have tried to point out many times, the universe existed many billions of years before we came on the scene and there is no evidence of any anthropomorphizing was going on. Now try to imagine a universe without us. Thanks to physics and chemistry, have a pretty good idea of what it was. That’s why I say, the universe was just fine before we showed up and will be fine long after we’re gone. The universe doesn’t need us!

                    Now we get into the hairy controversy of what reality is (or is not.) Wikipedia says that, “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined (from the OED.) In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still broader definition includes everything that has existed, exists, or will exist.”

                    To this, you respond, “There always has to be some room for the possibility that our perception of reality is mistaken, that we might be wrong, whether we say there is a higher being behind the universe or we say there isn’t. Nobody knows, with complete certainty, whether there is or isn’t.”

                    Here you are talking about the “other worlds” theory of reality. Again from Wikipedia, “. . . all possible worlds are as real as the actual world. In short: The actual world is regarded as merely one among an infinite set of logically possible worlds, some “nearer” to the actual world and some more remote.”

                    So, the “other worlds theory” you espouse is an abstraction, an exercise in logic and, again, not very useful. You can argue that there is the possibility that certain things exist and I can argue the opposite. But, we’re both guilty of the “argument from ignorance.” There is just not enough information to support those statements. That means we’re both wrong and both right at the same time, which, of course, is a violation of the law on non-contradiction.

                    Time for some scotch. Maybe I’ll share it with the dog.

                    Herb

                    p.s., I just added another 824 words

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                    • Herb,

                      4000 words? Man.

                      In any case, you said you’re assumption about the insignificance of our planet (or us) is rational. I don’t dispute that at all. It is totally rational. What I am disputing is the fact that your assumption has the character of certainty attached to it. It clearly, and I mean clearly, does not. It is a probabilistic assumption you are making, which is rational, but not necessarily true. Lots of assumptions are like that. If I can’t convince you of that by now, I suppose I never will.

                      About consciousness you make the same mistake as above. You say: “Consciousness is a mental state.” I tend to agree with that, of course, but, again, I can’t be certain that consciousness is, or merely is, a mental state. How could I be certain since it is consciousness that  I use to examine the question? For all I know, what I perceive as consciousness is actually a portal to another dimension, like a spiritual dimension? I don’t believe that, but I can’t falsify it with certainty. It, or some other explanation, is always a possibility, albeit an unlikely one. And that’s the only point I am making about any of this.

                      Finally, I can’t seem to get you to understand something that seems so easy to understand about our discussion. You say, “It seems to me that you and your like-minded brethren and sistern are simply projecting human characteristics onto the universe, thereby anthropomorphizing it.” I have repeatedly told you that I don’t necessarily subscribe to any of the arguments I have tried to say are out there. I am a firm believer in science and its methods. But I recognize the possibility, remote as it is, that there is more to this universe than science can reveal. There could be a God, however one defines it, and there is no way you can, with the certainty you began this discussion with, rule it out. To say you can, with certainty, rule it out seems to me to be a form of faith in the unknown or unknowable not too much unlike the faith I used to have that God does exist.

                      Duane

                      Like

                    • Duane,

                      This will be short. I promise. Or at least shorter.

                      You write, “There could be a God, however one defines it, and there is no way you can, with the certainty you began this discussion with, rule it out.”

                      Well, actually, it depends a great deal on how “one defines God.” And that is part of the whole problem here. We’re just talking past each other; shooting at different targets.

                      I’m saying categorically and “with certainty” that it is NOT possible for a supposed being, like god or some unknown but intelligent force that can affect the universe, to exist is because, as I’ve said many times, such a thing is a product of the human mind. And you have provided no evidence to give even a tiny tinny smidgen of a hint that “it” is other than a product of the human imagination. I have ruled out the “possibility” of real beings called Santa Clause, or Superman, or Wiley Coyote, to exist for the same reason.

                      And I agree that our ignorance of nature leaves open the “possibility” that something may exist that we can only speculate about. But that leads to the circular argument that something is possible because something is possible. It also fails the principle of sufficient reason. But surely we have to stop short of saying “anything” is possible. It is not possible for me to grow to 10 feet tall and it’s not possible for you to jump off a tall building and fly; at least not without a lot of pain.

                      For your insistence on possibilities to make sense, it has to be done in context. We started out with the biblical god and we ended up with some nebulous, fuzzy, nondescript “force,” for lack of a better word. Now, if you say there is a possibility that other dimensions exist, or that other universes exist, or that something can go faster than the speed of light, or that there was no big bang, then I accept and embrace those possibilities. But when if comes to the possibility that something exists as part of the universe, external to us, that has human motives and emotions, then, in the words of Bush 41, “not gonna do it, not gonna do it.

                      As Carl Sagan once declared, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” You’ve made an extraordinary claim, now give me some extraordinary evidence. Who knows, I might change my mind.

                      See, this is only 381 words.

                      Herb

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Herb, (436 words!)

                      No, I’m not shooting at any particular target. I don’t have a definition of God that I am defending (“we” never started out with a biblical God, by the way; you inferred that and I didn’t correct you quickly enough). What I am arguing against is your claim of certainty that God, in whatever form you want to imagine, doesn’t exist. I’ll say it yet again: you simply can’t be certain.

                      I think it is fair to distill your arguments, at least as I understand them, down to this: Science has progressed so much that it can explain the universe in a way that makes the existence of God untenable. I think that goes too far. Science has progressed so much that it can explain the universe in a such way that makes the idea of a God unnecessary. But as to God’s existence, that’s a different matter. Science will never ever be able to prove there is no God, thus there will always be a way to defend his existence, even if the evidence for it is flimsy and you would be quite justified in rationally rejecting it.

                      Again, you say God “is the product of the human mind.” Certainly you are right if you are talking about certain conceptions of God that we are familiar with. But you can’t say that some “intelligent force” or something like that (which people commonly call “God”) does not exist. You can say its existence isn’t necessary to explain the way the universe works or that it is quite improbable, but you can’t completely rule it out no matter how hard you try. And that is not a circular argument like you said. It is not simply saying that “God’s existence is possible” because “God’s existence is possible.” It is saying that God’s existence is possible because it cannot completely be ruled out by inductive reasoning, which appears to be the reasoning you were initially relying on when you first brought up what we have learned from science (since science relies heavily on induction).

                      You say I have made “extraordinary claims.” I have not. The only claim I have made is that you cannot, with real certainty (as opposed to certitude, which is something different and something you have every right to possess), say there is no God (as defined above). There isn’t anything extraordinary about that claim at all. In fact, it is quite extraordinary to argue against it, with all due respect.

                      “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” –Winston Churchill

                      Duane

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                    • Duane,

                      Well, looks like we’re at a dead end in this fun discussion. I have put forth a number of arguments which you have dismissed out of hand. You want me to say there is the possibility something exits, but you won’t tell me what. That is pretty clever though. Nobody can win an argument when there is no premise to start with.

                      “What I am arguing against,” you say, “is your claim of certainty that God, in whatever form you want to imagine, doesn’t exist. I’ll say it yet again: you simply can’t be certain.” So, you’re asking me to be “certain” about a possibility? I though the idea of possibility carried with it the notion of uncertainty. You want me to be certain of an uncertainty?

                      Anyway, I’m done. I could fill cyberspace with thousands of more words but I don’t I think we would be any further than we are now.

                      It would be nice to get a third party opinion here from those who have been, like Jim, following this back and forth. But I don’t want to unnecessarily bog down your blog.

                      You Godless friend Herb

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                    • Fun it has been!

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                  • Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
                    ― Albert Einstein

                    Gee, thanks Al. That’s clear as mud!

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              • “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” — Albert Einstein

                In other words, God is Mother Nature.

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              • Guys, maybe this point has already been made (how could it not have been?), but I’ll say it anyway. If there is a God, the anthropomorphic one who made man in his own image, it’s abundantly clear to me that He does not intervene. (Bad things happen to good people and Donald Trump wins primaries.)

                So, if He gets no jollies from interaction, what was His motive? Amusement? An experiment? Both have to be possibilities. If so, we must be giving Him fits. He has made a very imperfect species that seems bent on its own destruction. Not much to show for several billion years’ work.

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                • Jim,

                  I once read an argument that, if anything, the evidence in the universe does argue for a God, but a malevolent one, a cosmic fiend. Your response made me think of that. When you think about it, it’s not a bad argument, given what we see in our tiny corner of the universe.

                  Duane

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