Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 40)

Thunderf00t at his best:


Aron Ra: Regarding the Most Hated Woman in America

In Canada, we are now debating the proposed legislation in Quebec on the restriction of in-your-face religious symbols in government owned spaces.

I am on record with my unease in permitting a government – any government – in legislating how sovereign citizens may or may not dress…while at the same time, I am also on record with my reservations about permitting individuals who are acting as ‘agents of the state’ to display overt religious symbols as we, as a country of immigrants, are bound to have some citizens who have come to Canada to escape the oppression of every single religious group ‘out there’…..and if an agent of the state, WHILE acting as the agent of the state, displays that religion’s symbols, the individual citizen will have been, in my never-humble-opinion, alienated at best and oppressed by the state at worst.

I have never claimed that I know where the balance lies!!!

Indeed, I do not.

Yet, I do think it is essential that we have this discussion honestly, without the fears that Cultural Marxism with its doctrine of ‘political correctness’ and the fear to speak honestly about our own desires and fears – so that our fellow citizens can honestly understand them, however irrational they may be – can happen.  Only when we understand this can we go back to the first principles (self ownership) and reason out the least harmful solution…our fellow citizens deserve nothing less than that!

The following video offers a bit of that – much less than that in some respects, much more in others.  I think it brings some factors to this discussion that we all ought to keep in mind when we consider the wider implication of any legislation which would seek to define what the boundaries of the outward expressions of one’s religious faith ought to be:

Musings on the existence of God – and of Richard Dawkins

A few days ago, Walker Morrow had a fun, humorous bit : Is there evidence for the existence of Richard Dawkins?

In it is embeded  this link to a video (scroll down a little) which, in what I am told is a humorous manner, mocks Dawkins’s way of questioning the existence of God to question the existence of Richard Dawkins himself!

The flippant answer would be, of course, that I’ve seen a YouTube video where Thunderf00t interviews Richard Dawkins, and, when I see a video of Thunderf00t interviewing ‘God’, I’ll believe in ‘God’, too!

But, of course, my real answer is a little wordier….and weirder!

I do not know that Richard Dawkins exists!

And, making that realization is essential!

OK – perhaps this is the Aspie in me, or perhaps it is the scientist in me – or, some combination thereof.  But, by the time I was 13 (I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, so I had no access to philosophical or theological writing of any kind – this was just my simple, peasant-brain reasoning), I realized that I could not objectively prove that I myself exist!

My original formulation was very clumsy and I have not really refined the wording much, just shortened it a bit (OK – a lot) :

  1. The only way we learn about/observe/get data from our surroundings is via our senses.
  2. Our senses are demonstrably subjective (I could demonstrate this to myself, as my right eye perceives colours quite differently than my left eye does…but only just  before the onset of a migraine headache.  So, I concluded that our senses necessarily colour (pun intended)  our perceptions, making them definitely ‘not objective’.)
  3. Since the only information reaching ‘us’ about our surroundings is subjective (through the senses), it can be manipulated and we cannot make any objective conclusions based on it…like, say, to assert that any self-awareness we think we perceive is ‘our own’.

OK – so the argument is a bit ‘rough-around-the-edges’, but, you get the gist of it.

Some people think this is pointless prattle –  nothing but what Scott Adams would have called ‘mental masturbation’…

I beg to disagree!

Before a scientists makes any observation, she/he calibrates the instruments to be used.  This is important, because it sets the ‘baseline’ against which any results can be evaluated:  how good were the instruments, the accuracy of any measurements, the error margins, and all that.  If, for example, a thermometer measures temperature to the nearest degree, it will not reliably show variations of one-thousandth of a degree, and so on.

Similarly, if we are aware that all our perceptions are subjective and that we cannot even prove that ‘we’ are the bit we think of as our ‘self’, that we cannot objectively prove anything ‘absolutely’, not even our own existence as we perceive ourselves to be, it ‘calibrates’ our credulousness of what we perceive – so to speak!

Thus, if we are ‘objective’ in our reasoning, we are forced to admit that we  lack the capacity to ‘accept anything as absolute truth’ – or, if you will, as a tenet of faith.   To do so regardless would be irresponsible, to say the least.

Therefore, I ‘do not believe that Richard Dawkins exists’, any more than I ‘believe that I exist’!

It is essential that we understand that this ‘calibration’ does not mean that I can assume any such foolish thing as ‘I do not exist’ or ‘I do not need to behave as if I exist’ – not in the least.  The absence of belief in something does not imply the belief in the non-existence of it!   That is an important distinction – one too often lost on people not trained in logic.

It simply alerts me that everything has an ‘error margin’ and that nothing ought to be accepted ‘absolutely’, without reservations, without an implied error-margin.

Perhaps this is the manifesto of the ever-questioning skeptic….  Still, it prevents me (and many others like me) from being able to just ‘believe’ things, to have ‘religious faith’ – of any kind.

Radicalization of religions

This is indeed the threat facing us today:  radicalization of religions.

And any set of prescribed ‘truths’ which are ‘unquestionable’ by its adherents is a religion.  In keeping with the original meaning of the word ‘religios’, it is a belief system which ties effects to specific causes.  These causes need not be supernatural, but they may be.

We are used to thinking of ‘religion‘ as ‘worship’ of ‘supernatural god/creator/force/consciousness’, but this is only one face or ‘religion’.  Rather, it is the fact that there exist some certain ‘tennets’ or ‘beliefs’ or ‘principles’ that are seen as powerful, influential or important enough to be singled out for ‘special attention/worship’ and which may not be questioned that turns a simple ‘belief system’ or philosophy into a religion.

So, it really does not matter WHAT the particular religion teaches.  It does not matter whether this religion is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Secular Humanism, or Global Warming Alarmism.  The  teachings/beliefs themselves are really not the point…

It is the RADICALIZATION bit that is the problem.  It is the WAY in which the ‘radicalized believer’ truly and honestly believes that unless they impose their own beliefs on others, regardless of the cost, the whole society will come to an end/be punished/destroyed.  It is their depth of conviction that they are the only ones who are right and that it is their duty to institutionalize their beliefs which poses the real danger.   

THAT is radicalization, and THAT is the problem.  We need to stop confusing ‘symptoms’ with ’causes’…. 

Nature of ‘Faith’

In the last two posts, I looked at an alternate explanation of some statements in the Bible.  As the feedback showed, some Christians believe these statements literally, others figuratively.  And they are all happy holding onto their very different beliefs, even though all of them are inspired by the same passage in Genesis.   That is great!  

People ‘hold on’ to their ‘profound beliefs’, regardless of what others think of them or anything else – and I would not want it to be any other way.  This is called ‘faith’.  I have learned about this phenomenon.  I do not comprehend it, but I am ready to accept that some people are capable of it.

Yet, people often ‘hold on’ to ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ on trivial or non-profound points which are demonstrably unsupportable.  I have tried, but I really don’t understand this aspect of human nature.  Personally, I have a hard time with this 100% one way, or 100% the other way mode of thought…..perhaps because I’m not ‘wired just right’…but I don’t think there is anything I’ve invested a 100%, non-conditional ‘belief’ in.

No, I’m not talking about everyday life things, like knowing I love my kids and so on….emotional investment is NOT what I am talking about.  Nor am I talking about the ‘ought to’ kind of belief, as in “I belive all humans ought to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”

I mean ‘factual’ stuff:  like physics, chemistry, history…that ‘stuff’…. and global warming, political implications, someone’s culpability in something, superstitions, trust in actual physical institutions …that ‘stuff’, too.  For example, when driving over a bridge, I am reasonably convinced that the probability that the bridge will collapse under me is so low as to be negligible – or I would not have driven onto it.  Yet, I do not believe that it will not collapse….there is a difference!

OK, I ‘know’ gravity is a ‘force’ – yet, if someone presented me with substantiated evidence that it wasn’t a force, but rather an aspect of, say, space, I would be sceptical, yet I’d want to know what they based their claim on.  They’d need solid evidence, but….I could be convinced by it.   Knowledge, conclusions, opinions – these are all subject to change as more information comes in.  I get that!  I understand that process, and have experienced it many times.  What I don’t get is ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.

Perhaps this is a characteristic of us Aspergers’ people:  I recall some friends cutting out a comic strip in which a teacher is handing back a math test.  She reads one of the answers out loud:  “provided both trains are travelling in straight line, with no hills or curves, provided there are no accidents that slow them down along the way, provided we neglect to account for the curvature of the Earth, provided the clocks in both stations are synchronized, and that the whole path is along same height above sea-level and so no time diallation occurs, the trains’ average speed is XXX. ”  She hands the test to a boy, and he wonders:  “How did she know this was my paper?  I forgot to put my name on it!”

For some reason, my friends thought this was hillarious and wanted to show it to me….something about the comic basing a character on me… 

It seems many people have as much problems with ‘my’ processing of information into conditional conclusions as I do with ‘faith’.    This truly shocked me….after all, does not EVERYONE state the obvious limits under which any conclusion is valid?  Why do many people percieve such qualifications as ‘waffling’?  It certainly is not so!  Would not presuming such things be an oversimplification, to the point of error? 

Yet ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ seemed more natural to many people than my ‘conditional conclusions’!

What is it that allows one person to ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’, while another cannot even commit to a math-problem answer without stating all the assumptions and limitations?  Which one is the ‘normal’ one, and which the ‘anomaly’?  Or is this like a spectrum, where there are no discrete breaks, just a continuum….with my ilk falling squarely at one extreme?

These questions have haunted me, ever since I can recall formulating their cognitive pre-cursors in nursery shool.  Even back then, I simply could not understand the motivations and expected goals behind other children’s games – and when I asked, I got blank stares or the old ‘index-finger-making-circular-motion-by-the-temple’ gestures in return.  I can understand both the process and the motivation/expected goals behind a calcualted risk, problem analysis, conditional conclusion, that sort of thing….  But, for the life of me, I cannot understand either the process nor the motivation/expected goals behind ‘belief’ and faith’ – both profound and mundane.

Is this just another aspect of my ‘faulty wiring’, one that makes me so very Aspergers?  Or, are ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ simply a label for ‘I don’t understand and am not worthy/willing to think about’?  Or is there something entirely different at play here?