promoting science

35


Discussion by: siwel.trebor@bighpond.com
I just saw the RD representative on our show Planet America here in Australia  I am fighting mad.  I do not believe in religion but would never stop anyone from having a personal belief in god.  This does not mean that I think anyone has the right to preach to me.  My daughter  is  a born anew christian and I love  her as a father but she denies evolution and says Obama is the devil.  As a youth I had religion  suddenly thrown at me.  My grandkids are in the same boat .  It is my opinion that blind religion gives the believer an excuse to shirk all moral obligations (I have no choice, god is guiding me) and to avoid having to think for themselves (the bible tells me all I need to know).  The damage this does to the progress of science and world peace is born from ignorance and the (very) human concept of  “we are the only inportant thing in the Universe”.  I would like to hear from anyone who has advice on how to counteract the rising power of the forces of darkness. Please do not judge me till you have walked much of the planet for 69 years in my shoes. Thank you.

35 COMMENTS

  1. There are some topics where discussion has focused on “how to bring up my child as an atheist”. Maybe that puts it too simplistically but close enough. Do you have anything to offer on this, given the wide difference you describe between your eeligios attitude and your daughter’s?

    For those who don’t see Australian TV programs, could you explain more about the offense?

  2. Are you saying that, in fact, your daughter and grandchildren actually do shirk all moral obligations?

    If they do, that would be a serious indictment about the way they been brought up and educated. If they don’t – where is the problem?

    “Blind” religion is as bad as, though not worse than any blind attitude or opinion. Christianity, as I know it, is not a cause of blindness; Maybe you are referring to the historically recent phenomenon of Fundamentalism in the USA. Are you?

  3. ” …but would never stop anyone from having a personal belief in god. “

    There’s your problem. Sure, people are entitled to their own personal beliefs, even insane beliefs, without fear of criticism or ridicule – until they open their mouth. Once they do that, they are making a claim about how the universe works (and usually pretending to know what some stupid sky leprechaun thinks). At that point you are entitled (some, including me, would even say duty-bound, if you want to stand up for truth and civilisation) to open your mouth and make a counter-claim. It’s called freedom of speech and it works both ways. If the counter-claim offends them or implies that their beliefs are stupid then tough shit. They are the ones trying to push their opinions onto you, and pollute your daughter’s education. Defend yourself and your family, man.

    • In reply to #3 by Dave H:

      Sure, people are entitled to their own personal beliefs, even insane beliefs, without fear of criticism or ridicule – until they open their mouth. Once they do that, they are making a claim about how the universe works (and usually pretending to know what some stupid sky leprechaun thinks).

      This kind of remark is no better than the Fundamentalist telling you that you are a cold, soulless atheist who is going to burn in Hell forever.

      In my experience, religious people are more concerned about with talking about why the universe is the way it is, and not how it came to be that way. Most I know are as thrilled as I am with the discoveries of astronomers and cosmologists.

      Of course, whatever is discovered, the believer will always say “….and God did it.” Where is the harm in that.?

      I am not convinced that the “tough shit” approach serves any useful purpose in a civilized society.

      • In reply to #8 by quilisma2013:

        In reply to #3 by Dave H:

        Sure, people are entitled to their own personal beliefs, even insane beliefs, without fear of criticism or ridicule – until they open their mouth. Once they do that, they are making a claim about how the universe works (and usually pretending to know what some stupid sky leprechaun thinks).

        This kind of remark is no better than the Fundamentalist telling you that you are a cold, soulless atheist who is going to burn in Hell forever.

        Not really! Facts do actually exist in the physical world, whereas delusions only exist in believers’ brains – to the detriment of interactions with reality. “I’ve make up or copied this crap from bronze-age writings and it is TRRrrrooo and correct because the god-delusion in my brain says so”, is no answer contradicting scientific evidence. It is just arrogant know-it-all-ignorance, which deserves no respect.

        You can make up your own views, but you cannot make up your own facts and then expect other well informed people to accept them!

        In my experience, religious people are more concerned about with talking about why the universe is the way it is, and not how it came to be that way. Most I know are as thrilled as I am with the discoveries of astronomers and cosmologists.

        Answers to “WHY” are really “HOW” answers, personal objectives, or simply fiction ancient or modern.

        In the material universe there is no “WHY?” ! All honest enquiries eventually lead to, “We do not know beyond this point”.

        Of course, whatever is discovered, the believer will always say “….and God did it.” Where is the harm in that.?

        The harm is in large numbers of them thinking this an answer to questions about reality on which community decisions need to be responsibly taken.

        I am not convinced that the “tough shit” approach serves any useful purpose in a civilized society.

        Diplomacy can work on occasions, but there are times when the assertive ignorant need to be told they do not know better than well evidenced expert advice. All opinions are NOT equal!

      • And I am certainly sure bullshit should be allowed to pass as fact.

        It is not the mindset of adding “god did it” that is the problem. It is the mindset of forcing belief into classrooms and diverting time and funds to the needless discussion of meaningless nonsense.

        As for the “tough shit” approach, ask a believer about telling people tough shit. Gay’s want to get married? Tough shit. Atheists want representation in gov’t? Tough shit. Enforcement of the constitution re separation of church and state? Tough shit…. Need an abortion to save a mother’s life? tough shit.

        How about a civilized society depending of things that can be proven and work???

        In reply to #8 by quilisma2013:

        In reply to #3 by Dave H:

        Sure, people are entitled to their own personal beliefs, even insane beliefs, without fear of criticism or ridicule – until they open their mouth. Once they do that, they are making a claim about how the universe works (and usually pretending to know what some stupid sky leprechaun thinks).

        This kind of remark is no better than the Fundamentalist telling you that you are a cold, soulless atheist who is going to burn in Hell forever.

        In my experience, religious people are more concerned about with talking about why the universe is the way it is, and not how it came to be that way. Most I know are as thrilled as I am with the discoveries of astronomers and cosmologists.

        Of course, whatever is discovered, the believer will always say “….and God did it.” Where is the harm in that.?

        I am not convinced that the “tough shit” approach serves any useful purpose in a civilized society.

        • In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

          How about a civilized society depending of things that can be proven and work???

          Like people saying “Tough shit” to each other? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody modify their beliefs by being told “Tough shit.”

          Did you know that when you claim to be “certain” about any kind of “fact”, whether it concerns bosons or Beelzebub, it “isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us.
          The importance of being aware that certainty has involuntary neurological roots cannot be overstated. If science can shame us into questioning the nature of conviction, we might develop some degree of tolerance and an increased willingness to consider alternative ideas — from opposing religious or scientific views to contrary opinions at the dinner table.”

          and

          What does it mean to be convinced? This question might sound foolish. You study the evidence, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. If the evidence is strong enough, you are convinced there is no other reasonable answer. Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.
          But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason.

          (http://www.rburton.com/index.htm)

          • Your second post has a lot of merit. I do not think I really have a problem with any of it. Your first post gave me pause to comment. The tough shit tactic drives many many people away from religion. So, the modification is going on, but gradually, slowly…

            I just think resource and time should be dedicated to developing things that work. Like cell phones and vaccines… resources and time should not be wasted… That’s all.

            In reply to #11 by quilisma2013:

            In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

            How about a civilized society depending of things that can be proven and work???

            Like people saying “Tough shit” to each other? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody modify their beliefs by being told “Tough shit.”

            Did you know that when you claim to be “certain” about any kind of “fact”, whether it concerns bosons or Beelzebub, it “isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us.
            The importance of being aware that certainty has involuntary neurological roots cannot be overstated. If science can shame us into questioning the nature of conviction, we might develop some degree of tolerance and an increased willingness to consider alternative ideas — from opposing religious or scientific views to contrary opinions at the dinner table.”

            and

            What does it mean to be convinced? This question might sound foolish. You study the evidence, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. If the evidence is strong enough, you are convinced there is no other reasonable answer. Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.
            But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason.

            (http://www.rburton.com/index.htm)

          • “The tough shit tactic drives many many people away from religion.”
            Do you have any statistical evidence for the effectiveness of the tough shit tactic?
            Take a look at the Converts Corner, or ex-Christian sites. You will find that people do not renounce their beliefs because somebody told them “Tough shit”. Was that how YOU became an atheist?

            There is usually a combination of a painful emotional background and the appeal of the materialistic world view.
            Don’t ask me how I know. I was an atheist for most of my adult life.

            I hope you realize that what I’m doing here is just asking you to be more rigorous in your reasoning.

            Thank you.

            In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

            Your second post has a lot of merit. I do not think I really have a problem with any of it. Your first post gave me pause to comment. The tough shit tactic drives many many people away from religion. So, the modification is going on, but gradually, slowly…

            I just think resource and time should be dedicated to developing things that work. Like cell phones and vaccines… resources and time should not be wasted… That’s all.

            In reply to #11 by quilisma2013:

            In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

            How about a civilized society depending of things that can be proven and work???

            Like people saying “Tough shit” to each other? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody modify their beliefs by being told “Tough shit.”

            Did you know that when you claim to be “certain” about any kind of “fact”, whether it concerns bosons or Beelzebub, it “isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us.
            The importance of being aware that certainty has involuntary neurological roots cannot be overstated. If science can shame us into questioning the nature of conviction, we might develop some degree of tolerance and an increased willingness to consider alternative ideas — from opposing religious or scientific views to contrary opinions at the dinner table.”

            and

            What does it mean to be convinced? This question might sound foolish. You study the evidence, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. If the evidence is strong enough, you are convinced there is no other reasonable answer. Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.
            But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason.

            (http://www.rburton.com/index.htm)

          • There is usually a combination of a painful emotional background and the appeal of the materialistic world view.

            Ah-HA! Outed. This is a very old canard. “What bad experience did you have that made you an atheist?” This isn’t the reason for the vast majority of de-conversions. It’s a fiction invented by christians to allow them to dismiss a more truthful position by assigning the reasons for that position to irrational, emotional factors. It’s akin to the delusion going around that atheists know there is a god, but don’t want to have to follow any rules.

            Don’t ask me how I know. I was an atheist for most of my adult life.

            “Don’t ask me how I know”? Are you serious? Can you possibly believe that you can protect a flimsy rationalization with this? This is a grade-school argument tactic.

            I hope you realize that what I’m doing here is just asking you to be more rigorous in your reasoning.

            No, you’re not. You’re asking us to come to your conclusion, because you feel it’s so obviously right. You’re not arguing in good faith. We have been more rigorous than you in our reasoning from the beginning, and were you assessing both positions with any degree of objectivity, you would have realized the flaws in yours. That you are unwilling to consider the implications of these flaws, after they’ve been so exhaustively pointed out, tells me that you’re not interested in real discussion at all. You’re hoping to convert others to your way of thinking without ever having to consider that you might be wrong and thus risk changing your own position.

            If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong website.

          • In reply to #11 by quilisma2013:

            In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

            How about a civilized society depending of things that can be proven and work???

            Like people saying “Tough shit” to each other? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody modify their beliefs by being told “Tough shit.”

            There are people who are not open to rational discussion, so being told assertive ignorance is rubbish is the honest answer from informed people. If they don’t respect honesty – “Tough shit.”

            Did you know that when you claim to be “certain” about any kind of “fact”, whether it concerns bosons or Beelzebub, it “isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us.

            As we are discussing promoting science, we need to get back to the scientific method of peer review and repeat testing.

            All opinions are not equal. Certainty is elusive, but there are matters known to very high levels of probability. The “mental sensations” as an explanation, is a simplistic generalisation which lumps together all decision making processes regardless of proven effectiveness! In rational people it may well be a conscious choice.

            The importance of being aware that certainty has involuntary neurological roots cannot be overstated. If science can shame us into questioning the nature of conviction,

            Science encourages critical and logical thinking, as a matter of routine. The “neurological roots” and psychological biases are well known, as is false confidence based on ignorance. Generalisations cannot be applied to all thinking processes.

            we might develop some degree of tolerance and an increased willingness to consider alternative ideas — from opposing religious or scientific views to contrary opinions at the dinner table.”

            “Tolerances of views” is an entirely different issue to objective critical thinking and scientific methodology checking “facts”. Science works in the real world.

            Fanciful thinking does not produce useful or dependable results! Tolerance of it should be judged on the basis of its effects – particularly any detrimental ones.

            Many religious views are irrational or anti-rational, so tolerating them in posing as having equal in status with scientific evidence, is just silly!

            What does it mean to be convinced? This question might sound foolish. You study the evidence, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. If the evidence is strong enough, you are convinced there is no other reasonable answer.

            There often there is no other reasonable answer, if the evidenced premises, testing and mathematical calculations are valid and the logic sound. Many people however are convinced by confirmation biases without ever understanding evidence or reasoning!

            Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.
            But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process.

            This seems very strange! Do you have some evidence for this claim?

            Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason.

            They certainly can arise from non-rational processes and emotional reactions, but scientific training tries to avoid these misconceptions by multiple independent checking processes.

          • Alan 4Discussion: You ask “Do you have some evidence for this claim?”

            That rather surprised me, because I was quoting an atheist neurologist, and I provided a link. You obviously missed it, so here it is again.
            http://www.rburton.com/index.htm

            I am no scientist, so I make no scientific claims. But, just as I did here, I quote experts in the relevant disciplines. I thought I had formatted my post in such a way that it would be evident that I was quoting somebody else. If I failed to do that – my bad.

            Sorry.

          • In reply to #21 by quilisma2013:

            Alan 4Discussion: You ask “Do you have some evidence for this claim?”

            That rather surprised me, because I was quoting an atheist neurologist, and I provided a link. You obviously missed it, so here it is again.
            http://www.rburton.com/index.htm

            I eventually found the quote on a sub-link. It appears to be from reviews in various magazines, rather than from Burton, although they are quoted to promote his book on his website.

            I have however found this information which suggests that the information is from books, rather than peer-reviewed scientific papers, although there are reviews of his books.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert-A.-Burton

            Robert A. Burton is an American physician, novelist, nonfiction author and columnist. His writing career includes three critically acclaimed novels, the nonfiction books On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not and A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves, and a column at Salon.com on neuroscience and culture, entitled Mind Reader His medical career includes being the chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion UCSF, and Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences

            I am no scientist, so I make no scientific claims. But, just as I did here, I quote experts in the relevant disciplines. I thought I had formatted my post in such a way that it would be evident that I was quoting somebody else. If I failed to do that – my bad.

            Sorry.

            The quote is talking about tricks of memory and false confidence.

            If biology underpins human thought, can we still think for ourselves? By David Pizarro
            (excerpts)

            …Burton investigates the sources of the feeling of certainty. Why are people so sure of themselves despite overwhelming evidence that they are often wrong?

            A neurologist by training, **Burton mounts a scientific argument for skepticism **of a very deep sort. By presenting a broad set of findings, ranging from the disciplines of neurobiology to social psychology, Burton argues that the feeling that we know something is most likely a biologically-based, involuntary, and unconscious process that cannot be trusted as a reliable marker that we are right. For Burton, the feeling of certainty is simply “…not a biologically justifiable state of mind….

            Confidence (rather than certainty) is generated in terms of scientific or engineering capability, by learned behaviour and technical expertise – not “gut feelings”!

            Burton is talking about belief against the evidence and reasoning, not because of it.

            Bridges and buildings do not stand up rather than fall down, because of the “love or anger, functioning independently of rationality or reason”, and neither are space-craft designed to fly by these processes. Scientific confidence in carefully researched laws, theories and projects, does not arise from some emotive brain woo, although I would not be surprised if the asserted ignorance of “knowing what we know” (when we don’t – with false confidence) arises out of primary brain mechanisms, at a subconscious level.

            Burton himself makes this point:-

            Kirkus Review November 15, 2007

            How, then, can we tell the difference between feeling right and being right?

            The answer, Burton argues, lies in accepting the limits of our ability to know and in “playing by the rules of scientific method”—believing we are right if empiric evidence and testing give us reason to do so, but accepting that subsequent evidence may one day prove us wrong.

            As I pointed out @17, Scientific methods are designed to overcome these individual human failings, which is why we can have confidence (usually with indicated levels of probability – laws, theories, hypotheses, speculations etc.) in checked scientific information which has been subject to empiric repeat testing. We need to know where the boundaries of knowledge and probabilities lie.

            False confidence based on ignorance and “gut-feelings”, has been well known for a long time.

            Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999, Dunning and Kruger quoted Charles Darwin “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”

            I hope this clarifies the difference between reliable information arising from scientific methodology, and false confidence in tricks of memory or whimsical beliefs.

          • In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

            I hope this clarifies the difference between reliable information arising from scientific methodology, and false confidence in tricks of memory or whimsical beliefs.

            There was never any need for such a clarification. Whimsical beliefs are, well, whimsical, and tricks are tricks. The gut feeling of certainty impacts what we do, how we act out those beliefs. That is why it is important to understand the mechanisms of certainty.

            You “felt certain” you could argue against my comments, you equipped yourself with the necessary quotes,and your own confirmation bias did all the rest. You now feel certain that you feel certain.

            Don’t worry – you are not alone. No-one escapes from their brain and/or their world view. You and I both are perfect examples of that.
            However (there had to be an “however” didn’t there?) I would like to quote another famous atheist (one of your team) Michael Shermer, writing in “WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS : PSEUDOSCIENCE,SUPERSTITION, AND OTHER CONFUSIONS OF OUR TIME”

            “most of us most of the time, come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning (that, presumably, smart people are better at employing). Rather, such variables as genetic predispositions, parental predilections, sibling influences, peer pressures, educational experiences, and life impressions all shape the personality preferences and emotional inclinations that, in conjunction with numerous social and cultural influences, lead us to make certain belief choices. Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational belief, regardless of what we previously believed. Instead, the facts of the world come to us through the colored filters of the theories, hypotheses, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through our lifetime. We then sort through the body of data and select those most confirming what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that are disconfirming.”

            People in these Forums endlessly extol the virtues of Reason and Evidence, and then Michael Shermer spoils the party by saying, “Well, actually guys….”

            For the anecdote, I remember being rendered speechless with amazement when I quoted this ( Shermer – an expert, atheist source) in a radio debate. My atheist opponent just waved his hand and said, “That might be true for other people, but not for me.”

            OK. Thank you. Next please?

          • In reply to #25 by quilisma2013:

            In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

            I hope this clarifies the difference between reliable information arising from scientific methodology, and false confidence in tricks of memory or whimsical beliefs.

            There was never any need for such a clarification. Whimsical beliefs are, well, whimsical, and tricks are tricks. The gut feeling of certainty impacts what we do, how we act out those beliefs. That is why it is important to understand the mechanisms of certainty.

            Clearly there was and still is a need for such clarification, as you have missed the point!

            You “felt certain” you could argue against my comments, you equipped yourself with the necessary quotes,and your own confirmation bias did all the rest. You now feel certain that you feel certain.

            I have already explained the philosophical difference between “certainty” and “probability”, but you persist in asserting a strawman of “certainty”!

            This is an example of your psychological projection:

            Psychological projection
            is the psychological phenomenon where someone denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes and assumes instead that everyone else is doing or thinking so instead.

            This shows that you entirely missed the point, that ALL thinking does NOT work on confirmation biases, and then failed to read and understand my quote (of the difference in using scientific methods) from the link which you had previously cherry-picked according to your confirmation bias, claiming all thinking processes are the same.

            I was confident BECAUSE I had read the expert opinion you linked, and realised you had cherry-picked and misunderstood it: – so I quote the extract again.

            Kirkus Review November 15, 2007

            How, then, can we tell the difference between feeling right and being right?

            The answer, Burton argues, lies in accepting the limits of our ability to know and in “playing by the rules of scientific method”—believing we are right if empiric evidence and testing give us reason to do so, but accepting that subsequent evidence may one day prove us wrong.

            The difference is that I read and understood the detail of the expert opinion which was presenting two contrasting methods of thought, while you simply picked a bit out of context according to your confirmation biases.

            Don’t worry – you are not alone. No-one escapes from their brain and/or their world view. You and I both are perfect examples of that.

            Err no! You as you say are not a scientist, so missed the point about scientific methodology guarding against confirmation biases, where I have been using this methodology for decades. As I said earlier. All opinions are not equal. Informed expert opinions trump uneducated guesses.

            However (there had to be an “however” didn’t there?) I would like to quote another famous atheist (one of your team) Michael Shermer, writing in “WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS : PSEUDOSCIENCE,SUPERSTITION, AND OTHER CONFUSIONS OF OUR TIME”

            It would seem likely that he is dealing with the same issues of confirmation biases being used as an alternative to scientific investigation and checking.

            “most of us most of the time, come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning (that, presumably, smart people are better at employing). Rather, such variables as genetic predispositions, parental predilections, sibling influences, peer pressures, educational experiences, and life impressions all shape the personality preferences and emotional inclinations that, in conjunction with numerous social and cultural influences, lead us to make certain belief choices.

            These are indeed involved in learning processes, so I am fortunate in having various scientists as role models when I was a child.

            Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational belief, regardless of what we previously believed.

            … Unless we are well versed in scientific methods and critical thinking.

            Instead, the facts of the world come to us through the colored filters of the theories, hypotheses, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through our lifetime. We then sort through the body of data and select those most confirming what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that are disconfirming.”

            That is indeed a definition of the confirmation biases which scientific thinkers guard against. Those lacking scientific training and capabilities regularly fall-back on such thinking – some almost exclusively. I have debated with many such people here.

            People in these Forums endlessly extol the virtues of Reason and Evidence, and then Michael Shermer spoils the party by saying, “Well, actually guys….”

            Not really! You seem to have misread him! He is recommending the same critical thinking and scientific scepticism, evidence, and reasoning, promoted here, – while explaining the pit-falls of cognitive biases and Dunning-Kruger effects.

            For the anecdote, I remember being rendered speechless with amazement when I quoted this ( Shermer – an expert, atheist source) in a radio debate. My atheist opponent just waved his hand and said, “That might be true for other people, but not for me.”

            If he had been explaining science he was probably right, but anyone CAN fall into confirmation biases – as you have just done.

            OK. Thank you. Next please?

            Then thinking they have produced a rational evidenced point, having cherry-picked and misunderstood a few scraps of information, which other posters have known and understood for years.

            You seem to be illustrating the fallacy of

            The Backfire effect
            A similar cognitive bias found in individuals is the Backfire effect. Backfire effect illustrates the situation that some people tend to hold their views and positions even stronger when they face opposing evidence.

            It is well known in those who use “faith-thinking”, in face of scientific evidence – often used in conjunction with the fallacious thinking, that casting doubt on an opposing position will somehow prove a point!

            (Most commonly – “Science cannot explain everything with total certainty – therefore god-did-it” -as total certainty)

  4. I am confused as to what you are mad about. Are you mad because of the appearance (or something said) of the RD representative on your TV? Or, are you mad about your daughter’s choice to be born again?? Before we can converse on any meaningful level, I think you need to clarify.

  5. I don’t know anyone who wants to ban the belief in a god.
    The problem with religion in this world is laws made to discriminate against non-believers or those of other faiths, and when those who follow ‘The Truth” lie through their teeth to support their goals.
    For example, “homosexuality is un-natural” is a common claim from the religious, totally ignoring the clearly observable fact that many animals will have sex with anyone or anything, of either sex or even a different species (think of your dog & your leg).
    Another is that you can’t be good without god, despite the fact that the evidence seems to point the other way.
    The only way to counteract these lies is to educate people and to be open about your non-belief.

  6. “Planet America,” eh? As an American, I’d like to see that! Are you “fighting mad” at the damage blind religion has done to the progress of science and world peace? That seems to be what you’re saying, and I agree with you. As other commenters have noted, you need to exercise your freedom of speech with your family, friends, and especially your elected politicians. When people’s religious beliefs affect laws and public policy, we must take action and speak out. For example, as you probably know, the religious right here in America is doing everything they can to get creationism taught in our public schools’ science curricula under the guise of “intelligent design.” This is not science! We are constantly fighting our state board of education about this.

  7. “It is my opinion that blind religion gives the believer an excuse to shirk all moral obligations (I have no choice, god is guiding me) and to avoid having to think for themselves (the bible tells me all I need to know).”
    The Bible is full of moral obligations. Even though it is obvious that a man’s claims of divine inspiration are not an acceptable basis for a moral code (or for any other supposed truth), that does not make the code bad by definition, and the Christian code has historically been admired by non-Christians and retained by wavering or ex- Christians. I wouldn’t go as far as Thomas Jefferson, but there is something in what he wrote (pace Professor Dawkins):

    “We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

    Of course, Jefferson’s view is not based on acceptance of Biblical authority, but on measuring Christian ethics against his own judgment. Bottom line: you are right to be deeply concerned if your daughter thinks judgment is unnecessary. But if she insists on being a Christian, don’t let her off the hook when she fails to follow the code. Jefferson realised that lots of Biblical passages contradict the benevolence and charity of Jesus. Don’t let her pastor off the hook either. Does he drive a late model car, have a big house, etc? Not in the code. Does he spend most of his time among “righteous” rather than caring for “lost sheep”? Not in the code. Does he condemn and demonise Obama? Not in the code.

  8. Just to clarify my “tough shit” approach and possibly keep the context from spreading too much. I agree with Alan4discussion that the diplomatic approach should be used as a first pass. The “tough shit” approach should only be used on points on which a person is absolutely unwilling to compromise, and that is the context in which I used it. To quote:

    “If the counter-claim offends them or implies that their beliefs are stupid then tough shit.”

    In other words, I am absolutley unwilling to compromise on the point that if a religious person gives their opinion then I get to give mine. That’s all. Trying to shut me up by taking offense won’t work. Trying to stop me presenting facts that embarrass them or show their delusions for what they are won’t work.

    The right to speak is equivalent to the right to offend, as no matter what I say, there is probably someone, somewhere on the planet who won’t like what I say and would take offense if they heard it. It doesn’t mean that I go around purposely offending everyone; it only means that if I do offend someone, then so what? The “tough shit” approach, as applied to the uncompromising right to give an opinion even if it’s repulsive to some, is at the very core of freedom and civilised society.

    I didn’t use “tough shit” for my opinions, I only used it for my right to give my opinion. Regarding the opinions themselves, I’m open for discussion and consider it my right and duty to change my mind as my understanding of the facts change. As crookedshoes pointed out, the xtians are the ones who apply an uncompromising “tough shit” approach to the opinions themselves, using their own interpretation of the bible as the last word and tough shit for any opinion or fact that they think contradicts it.

  9. I became disenchanted with religion while watching my Grandmother die. She was a daily mass attending catholic. This meant that she was responsible for a daily money contribution. When she fell ill, she stopped attending mass. I approached her priest about administering extreme unction and he checked the records of her donations and made a fuss about how long it had been since she had been in mass. He refused her last rights because of money. You want to talk about “tough shit”?

    BTW, this is not why I am atheist. I have been an atheist since i was able to think for myself and not need any crutches or safety nets. I attended mass and received 4 of the sacraments as a total non beleiver. I think religion is bullshit practiced by bullshit artists. Things that do not make sense and have no evidence are superfluous and needless, and well…. bullshit.

    I also do not mind your asking me to be more rigorous and I do not, in fact, know of any statistics on “the tough shit” policy causing people to lean towards atheism. You are well within reason to demand of me the things I demand of others. So, my statement is suspect because i do not have a statistic to back it up.

    I will tell you this though, there has been a huge spate of Catholic school closings in my area. My family is heavily involved in the church. I communicate with many of the people who have had their schools closed and the church has essentially told them “tough shit” your school is closing.

    A large number of them are driven away from Catholicism, seeing it for the money grubbing sham that it is. They may not become atheistic, but they certainly distance themselves from the church. You seem to be conflating renouncing your beliefs with becoming an atheist.

    • I see that your disenchantment with religion stems more from your unpleasant experiences with catholics – human beings. I can truly sympathize with that. The incident you relate is nothing less than repulsive.

      I am always in admiration of people who claim not to need crutches or safety nets. I don’t actually know any, personally, be they atheist, Christian or whatever. As the old song says, “Everybody needs somebody….”

      If we took the time to look closely at the your life (which we shall not do) we would find that you, too, have your crutches and safety nets. We all do. Some of them are rooted in money or financial gain, some in reality-denying bullshit, and many more in the security of a state of denial. Blinkers, if you like.

      But we ALL need and have them.

      At the age of 66 I can openly admit my vulnerability and fragility as a human being. That doesn’t make my beliefs true or false, any more than your claims to not needing safety nets or crutches confirms or falsifies your belief structures.

      My belief structures accept and respect your rejection of all things religious. Also, on a personal level I can say “been there, done that” for most of my adult life. However, all my life I have liked people and been interested in them. And since we are animals of communication, this is what I like to do. I am not sure that “bullshit” or “tough shit” language enables truly effective communication.
      I do believe that respect and intellectual rigour clear the path for exchange and communication. But only from personal experience. I can quote no experiments, or statistics which prove it to be so.
      If you disagree, that is your right, but it also means the end of communication – with me at least. And i’m sure that will be no great loss to you.

      In reply to #16 by crookedshoes:

      I became disenchanted with religion while watching my Grandmother die. She was a daily mass attending catholic. This meant that she was responsible for a daily money contribution. When she fell ill, she stopped attending mass. I approached her priest about administering extreme unction and he checked the records of her donations and made a fuss about how long it had been since she had been in mass. He refused her last rights because of money. You want to talk about “tough shit”?

      BTW, this is not why I am atheist. I have been an atheist since i was able to think for myself and not need any crutches or safety nets. I attended mass and received 4 of the sacraments as a total non beleiver. I think religion is bullshit practiced by bullshit artists. Things that do not make sense and have no evidence are superfluous and needless, and well…. bullshit.

      I also do not mind your asking me to be more rigorous and I do not, in fact, know of any statistics on “the tough shit” policy causing people to lean towards atheism. You are well within reason to demand of me the things I demand of others. So, my statement is suspect because i do not have a statistic to back it up.

      I will tell you this though, there has been a huge spate of Catholic school closings in my area. My family is heavily involved in the church. I communicate with many of the people who have had their schools closed and the church has essentially told them “tough shit” your school is closing.

      A large number of them are driven away from Catholicism, seeing it for the money grubbing sham that it is. They may not become atheistic, but they certainly distance themselves from the church. You seem to be conflating renouncing your beliefs with becoming an atheist.

      • In reply to #18 by quilisma2013:

        You are right about some stuff in your post and most assuredly wrong about other stuff. i also was right and wrong at the same time. Allow me to elaborate.

        First the stuff you are wrong about:

        If you disagree, that is your right, but it also means the end of communication – with me at least. And i’m sure that will be no great loss to you.>>

        It would be a loss to me. you are clearly a valuable (and although new), important voice and I respect your posts and am actively thinking about them. This is awesome to me and I relish the opportunity to interact with people that I can converse with. And, disagreeing doesn’t have to end conversation. Unless that is part of your psyche. it is not part of mine. i will gladly disagree and remain “friends”.

        Now what you are right about:

        If we took the time to look closely at the your life (which we shall not do) we would find that you, too, have your crutches and safety nets. We all do. Some of them are rooted in money or financial gain, some in reality-denying bullshit, and many more in the security of a state of denial. Blinkers, if you like.

        But we ALL need and have them.>>

        I could not agree more. You are expressing what I think is a universal bit of humanness.

        Where i am right… Bullshit is bullshit is bullshit is bullshit….. We have coined these words exactly because they are effective in communicating an idea. Bullshit is bullshit. Say it with me. Bullshit is bullshit. It is liberating and when you take this simple realization out into the world with you it allows you to cut through the bullshit.

        Where i am wrong…. Saying I do not need crutches and safety nets. After considering your excellent commentary, i must amend that statement to “I do not require religion as a crutch or safety net…” But, i most assuredly do require safety nets and crutches. Bullshit is just not where i find my solace.

        So, thanks for taking the time to hang out and talk. i have enjoyed it so far and hope it continues.

  10. Thank you to everyone for the feed back. Part of the problem is that I am fed up with the bull about god that I hear everywhere.
    For whiteraven: I dont want to bring the grandkids up as athesists. I want them to see where religion falls down and so reject it as a model of reality. The particular offense is simply spreading bull dust, a trait not limited to Australian TV. My daughter rejected clear thinking, rebeled and finally accepted religion. Her choice of course but it pains me to see her spread her brand of nonsense to her kids and others and to see her waste her life. Thanks for the chance to expand my original comment.
    For Quilisma2013: No, though it seems I could have worded it a bit better.They are moral. Perhaps I should have said that originally the morals taught by the church might have been adequate independently of religion for a society to function but that they have been corrupted by the present religious leaders. I accept that the question needs some thought. Yes, the fundamentalisim of religion and not just in the USA but in the Mid. East as well.
    For DaveH: Yes, I can see that I have a problem there, The problem is that I can’t have a discussion with her. She either turns off her attention, listens without responding or twists my words around to suit herself. We have agreed to disagree but do I catch it if I try to reason with my Gkids. But, yes I do have to overcome the problem. Thanks.
    For crookedshoes: Mad that the religious leader on the show was so sure of his religion that he couldnt see reality when it was placed in front of him., In short the narrow minddness of god believers.
    For Chris Roberts:Very True. It is the educating others that I have trouble with, I have never been very good at that. I have never really been sucessful at opening closed minds.
    For RJ Khan. The RD representative I refer to is the person who was presenting the views of Richard Dawkins.
    For Marathonjon: You could possibly down load it over the net. I dont usually watch it but I think it is either on Australian TV at ABC1, ABC2, SBS1 or SBS2 one night a week. And Yes, I am angry at the damage it has done to science over the years but then I would be angry with arostotle too for his veiws of the physical world. Believe me, I feel much better for having read all the feed back, It all has helped.
    Thanks to all the rest of the responses. I would have answered sooner but I have been sick and away from the computer for a few days.

    • In reply to #27 by siwel.trebor@bighpond.com:

      For whiteraven: I dont want to bring the grandkids up as athesists. I want them to see where religion falls down and so reject it as a model of reality. The particular offense is simply spreading bull dust, a trait not limited to Australian TV. My daughter rejected clear thinking, rebeled and finally accepted religion. Her choice of course but it pains me to see her spread her brand of nonsense to her kids and others and to see her waste her life. Thanks for the chance to expand my original comment.

      Actually, hadn’t given them any thought but seems you’d prefer that to what;s going on. Reading between the lines, I surmised that you may have tried it with your daughter and the effort had not been well rewarded. I thought your experience might give you something to contribute on the subject of brining up a child as an atheist.

      Proposed solution for forces of darkness: light them up.

  11. I feel almost the same as you, I am very disappointed our nation is yet to wake up to the threats coming from increasingly right-wing and fundamentalist religion, namely Islam and Christianity. I get super annoyed our mainstream media are too gutless to call a spade a spade. We always here of ‘sectarian violence’ which is code for ‘religious violence’ – but they scarcely ever say so openly and directly. Oh no..that would be ‘disrespectful’ to religion…gosh…we could not do that.

    We here about the constant ‘middle east tension’, or Israeli v Palestinian et al tensions but never what it really is – Islam v Jewish v Christian ‘religious violence’.

    Here in Australia the most grotesque things are going on by religions and they get a complete get out of jail card for all of it.

    A.C.E. – Accelerated Christian Education is mad and cruel and flourishing here in Oz

    Our stupid governments continue to redirect the public safety nets of education, healthcare, public and family services towards Evangelical Christian movements.

    Hillsong is permitted to indoctrinate by the hundreds of thousands using the ploy of soft-rock concert mixed with an evangelical Christian ‘message’, a very powerful indoctrination technique.

    All out food is now Halal Certified (taxed) by Islam – raising hundreds of millions for Islamic causes.

    Multi-millions are snatched out of the public school system so the Christian schools can afford more and more electronic billboards to advertise their faith schools, meanwhile our is asking for a donation from parents to pay for paper.

    The Australian public are forking out minimum $30,000,000,000 (billion) a year (and it’s very likely a heck of a lot more) in tax dollars by way of not taxing religions. Many of these religions own multi-millions in businesses that the taxed versions then have to try to compete with. They own staggering amounts of land and other investments they do not ever have to account for – never have to declare.

    If, like I have you have read a lot of New Atheist books and materials, you’ll know that over the centuries in most regions of the world governments and religions have tended to work together in a sort of symbiotic way to control populations. Govts support the powerful religions who in turn support the current power, leaving the public as pawns in the middle. This goes on regardless of democracy, communism, regimes and in kingdoms.

    We are starting to see measurable change especially in America, but here and in England – we are woefully behind. In fact, I feel we are sinking lower towards the soft-theocracy several of our Australian atheist writers and academics say we are.

    I’m very disappointed in our local atheists groups. All they seem to want to do is hold monthly ‘chat-fests’, in a pub. I don’t want that -I want to participate in activism and public education.

    To answer your question about what to do:

    Teach your grandchildren critical thinking skills. Religion cannot survive critical scrutiny. It does not sound from your RDF comments, that it’s much use taking on your daughter in respect of her children in any direct challenging way, so I say teach them critical thinking.

    You might get away with reading to them from Richards Dawkin’s The Magic of Reality.

    Another thing you can do is become involved with The Secular Party of Australia. See secular.org.au for the details. I vote for them every year because to me, it makes no difference which of the big 2 are in power – this pandering to religion is never going to stop until we have true secular government, and that won’t happen by playing the current 2 party game. That game belongs to them – the big 2.

    Learn all you can, grow your atheist library, talk to friends and family and co-workers – education, education, education. Wear the red A symbol like I do – I wear it everywhere. Stand up – and stay stood up. Say no! Don’t go to church funerals, don’t go to church weddings, christenings and such – say no and tell them why.

    Another thing I like to do is deploy my saved 500 character arguments out into the Youtube comments. I get into a lot of arguments with them – I keep going until they give in. I never ever give in – but keep going until they do. I don’t simply bicker though – I educate with good material that I know makes sense – hence the library.

    That’s the beauty of being well read in New Atheism – you have the facts at hand. People start to see the idiocy and the harm of religion in when you can run off 10 very harmful aspects in quick succession – it really hits home. It takes a firm and continued effort to weaken the indoctrinated – but is does work. If you listen to The Thinking Atheist and watch The Atheist Experience,, you’ll hear time and again from their previously religious guests, thanking them for rescuing them from religion.

    Take heart, the general trend in the west is growing against religion and towards more and stronger secular humanism, it’s a slow journey that seems to be picking up a healthy pace now. The best thing you can do is join in and participate everyday as I do.

    Above all – have fun with it. It is after all a very interesting topic, and it does feel damn good every time I know a religious person or an agnostic accepts a point I’ve made.

  12. On the topic of certainty, and how can I be certain, and is my certainty any better than your different certainty…

    When I first encountered computer programming, I was delighted to find a field of endeavour that was immune to bullshit. The computer did what I told it to do, not what I intended, no matter how certain I was that I’d got it right, and shouting at it or blaming someone else didn’t cut it. The shouters and blamers went into different lines of work (unfortunately including management of computer projects, but that’s another story.)

    Engineering in general is like that. Bridges stay up, cars start, planes land on schedule, the gadget on your dashboard (mostly) gives you the right directions. There’s an overwhelming amount of everyday evidence for the things we can truly be certain of. Beyond that is opinion and shouting and bullying and con tricks all built on bullshit. Religions are conspicuously full of it, but they’re not the only ones.

    With some practice, you can develop your feeling of certainty, so that you only experience it when you have cross checked the facts, and given the thing you are certain about a test-drive in the real world. In my example, it was seeing a computer program give the desired result, not just rubbish, or freeze up or crash. Or rather, it was having someone else see the result, confirming that it I had indeed done what I intended. Then I felt certain, and it felt good.

    Or you can go the lazy way, and get a “certainty buzz” out of, say, believing every word some charismatic sweet talker tells you. That’s not too far away from getting pleasure from shooting up with a needle, IMNSHO, so “harmless” isn’t the first word that springs to my mind.

    As for the “born again” responsibility shirkers, I’ve met enough of them to be reasonably certain they’re simply full of it, and cannot be depended upon for anything.

  13. to GoldenRule rules: thank you for a very informinant bit of feed back. I shot through to the secular party web site that you included and this does seem to offer some hope. It is always good to find out that you are not the only one fighting the battle. I will be giving it some serious thought but as a retired city worker living in the heart of the National Liberal stronghold I cant see much scope here. However Adelaide is only a few hours away and they have a branch there that I may attened a meeting at. You make some very pertinent points. In fact thanks to everyone who responded. It has certainly saved my sanity and I think I have now a much clearer picture of how to proceed. Also it is so nice to know that I am not alone Thanks to you all.

  14. quilisma2013: has provided a prime example of anti-science cognitive bias and psychological projection of these biases on to others.

    The attempt to use quote Robert-A.-Burton and Michael Shermer as authorities for a false claim that scientists use “cognitive bias” as a means of arriving at god-refuting conclusions, shows the reversal effect of theist blinker-specs!

    The authors and works quoted explain THEISTIC COGNITIVE BIAS, and how to avoid this by using scientific methodology, but quilisma2013, tries to use them as a false authority argument for the opposite position!

    quilisma2013@25 You “felt certain” you could argue against my comments, you equipped yourself with the necessary quotes,and your own confirmation bias did all the rest. You now feel certain that you feel certain.

    I thought this was a gem of fallacious thinking! – “You are confident of refuting my argument – therefore I win!”
    Clearly any resemblance to evidenced reasoning would be totally coincidental!

    quilisma2013@25 – quote – Michael Shermer, writing in “WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS : PSEUDOSCIENCE,SUPERSTITION, AND OTHER CONFUSIONS OF OUR TIME”

    People in these Forums endlessly extol the virtues of Reason and Evidence, and then Michael Shermer spoils the party by saying, “Well, actually guys….”

    This is an absolutely comical example of psychological projection: – quoting Michael Shermer’s examples explaining why scientific method trumps cognitive bias, – to claim scientists use cognitive bias as a way of reasoning!

    quilisma2013@25 – For the anecdote, I remember being rendered speechless with amazement when I quoted this ( Shermer – an expert, atheist source) in a radio debate. My atheist opponent just waved his hand and said, “That might be true for other people, but not for me.”

    In a radio debate, there would not be time to check on the quote-mining as I have done, so dismissing the reversed false claim would be the available option.

    Surprise surprise! An atheist understands Shermer’s explanation of how to avoid biases by using scientific thinking, while quilisma2013 responds with gob-smacked incredulity that others may use alternatives to his biased thinking!

    quilisma2013 -OK. Thank you. Next please?

    .. .. . and then is deluded into thinking he has won a debate, by quoting those experts (who demolished his arguments) as authorities supporting his position!!! (The projection is strong in this one!!)

    It is the old pretence (denying comparable probabilities), that all views are uncertain and equally uncertain (science tons of evidence – gods none), combined with the fallacy that if doubt can be cast on evidenced science, unevidenced god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic, somehow becomes credible!

    This is illustrated by quilisma2013 implying god-claims by attacking atheism/science, while avoiding making any specific god-claims to discuss or defend!

  15. In reply to #6 by RGKahn:

    “I just saw the RD representative on our show Planet America here in Australia.” what does RD mean? Don’t know that abreviation at all.

    Well… Maybe “Research and Development” ? Or maybe maybe….. Richard Dawkins ! [ as far as he would have "(permanent) representatives", over there, in Australia ?? ** ]

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