God Agrees with Me, Or the Ultimate Confirmation Bias

Researchers at the University of Chicago have done a series of experiments looking at how people regard God's intentions about issues. As the study notes:

Religion appears to serve as a moral compass for the vast majority of people around the world. It informs whether same-sex marriage is love or sin, whether war is an act of security or of terror, and whether abortion rights represent personal liberty or permission to murder. Many religions are centered on a god (or gods) that has beliefs and intentions, with adherents encouraged to follow ‘‘God’s will’’ on everything from martyrdom to career planning to voting. Within these religious systems, how do people know what their god wills?

Well, it turns out that God generally agrees with each individual believer. The researchers find:

Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber that reverberates one’s own beliefs.

The scientists conducted a number of studies, but one of the more fascinating was an fMRI brain scan in which they looked at which parts of believers' brains were activated when they were asked about what they believed, what other people might believe, and what God believes about ten different moral issues. It turns out that thinking about what God believes activates the same brain areas as thinking about one's own views. 

The researchers conclude:

[T]hese data provide insight into the sources of people’s own religious beliefs. Although people obviously acquire religious beliefs from a variety of external sources, from parents to broader cultural influences, these data suggest that the self may serve as an important source of religious beliefs as well. Not only are believers likely to acquire the beliefs and theology of others around them, but may also seek out believers and theologies that share their own personal beliefs. If people seek out religious communities that match their own personal views on major social, moral, or political issues, then the information coming from religious sources is likely to further validate and strengthen their own personal convictions and values. Religious belief has generally been treated as a process of socialization whereby people’s personal beliefs about God come to reflect what they learn from those around them, but these data suggest that the inverse causal process may be important as well: people’s personal beliefs may guide their own religious beliefs and the religious communities they seek to be part of.

Finally, these data have interesting implications for the impact of religious thought on judgment and decision-making. People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.

Talk about confirmation bias!

Go here to read the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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  • Some Guy||

    Man is certainly stark raving mad. He cannot make a worm, yet he makes gods by the dozens.

  • Climategate Denier, Al Gore||

    The religion is settled!

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Is it that people simply pick religions that conform to their moral beliefs, or that their moral beliefs are shaped by the faith that in they are raised?

  • Society c'est moi!||

    Some of each, I think. This study is chasing its own tail. Socrates and Euthypro already discussed this question millennia ago: whether a thing is right because a god says it's right, or the god says that it's right because he knows that it is right.

    With the Creator God, I'd say a thing is right because God created morality that particular way. Hypothetically, God could have created a world where charity is wrong and murder is right, but that's not the particular world in which we live.

    To look at the same question from a different perspective, Rosseau had a ridiculous belief that man is a "noble savage" born inherently good and it's just society that's corrupting him. Obvious objection: how can society have corrupted the noble savage if society is composed of the very humans who started off noble savages? Equally obvious counter-argument: society is bad because we are bad. We were all born wicked savages, and society has done nothing more than concentrate what was already present in every individual.

  • DBN||

    Rousseau may have been ridiculous, but that's because he went to far in rejecting the prevailing view that man was innately evil. If I had to choose between the two extremes, I would go with Rousseau.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    With the Creator God, I'd say a thing is right because God created morality that particular way. Hypothetically, God could have created a world where charity is wrong and murder is right, but that's not the particular world in which we live.


    That is my belief.

    Are you aware that according to Jewish theology (and the Christian theology which inherited its moral tradition) genocide is not always wrong? (1 Samuel 15)

  • ||

    Jesus Ron. It is not confirmation bias. It is called self justification or rationalization. It is what humans do. In fact, it is exactly what you would expect them to do from the Christian perspective. Humans are fallen and sinful beings. They are confused and in the dark about the truth because they are without God. So of course they do things like seek out beliefs and religions that confirm whatever sin or action they want to take. They just can't help themselves.

    I really don't see how this study is surprising or says anything about the existence or non-existence of God.

  • ||

    It says, man creates god in his own image.

  • ||

    I think it just refers to a conscience.

    OTOH, people do seek justification for their actions. If they want to do something, they'll seek a way to rationalize it.

    In my experience, the smarter a person is, the better they are at rationalizing.

  • JB||

    No, it says man projects his own bullshit onto God.

    Basic psychology.

  • Medic001||

    A fat furry man wearing tightie-whites sitting on a couch drinking pop and watching wrestling?

    Disgusting.

  • Society c'est moi!||

    In other news, Pope Ratzinger reiterated today that the sky is blue and the grass is green except when the sky is gray because it's cloudy and the grass is brown because there's a drought and it's dead.

  • DBN||

    I think it's interesting that we activate different sections of the brain when asked to think about what we believe compared to what we think others believe, and the same section when we compare our own perspectives to that of the deity. As far as our brains go, we don't really seem to think of gods as external agents.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Well, of course everyone believes that their god believes as they do... one needs a study to prove it?????

    It would be a weird cognitive dissonance to believe that the imagined deity that one worshiped would have different opinions on matters of morality than oneself.

    Just another piece of evidence that people are irrational and cannot reason for themselves. Studies like this make me so happy that I am an atheist.

  • Piltdown Man||

    Just another piece of evidence that people are irrational and cannot reason for themselves. Studies like this make me so happy that I am an atheist.

    Talk about confirmation bias!

  • ||

    Ha! Seriously, with an Oh SNAP!

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It would be a weird cognitive dissonance to believe that the imagined deity that one worshiped would have different opinions on matters of morality than oneself.


    Then where does morality come from?

    Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

  • ||

    Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

    The guy with the biggest stick/wallet.

  • ||

    In that case, any action is justified.

    Hitler had a pretty big stick. Are you saying that if he hadn't lost WWII, his actions would "right?"

  • The Gobbler||

    History goes to the victors.

  • Society c'est moi||

    As a matter of fact, that's exactly what he's saying. It's a more common belief than many an atheist wishes to admit. In the old days, our ancient ancestors were a lot more blunt about it: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

    Of course, power has to do with more than mere physical or military strength; stealth and the ability to conceal one's activities from others is also a kind of power, as demonstrated in the philosophical discussion of the ring of Gyges which gave him the power of invisibility. If morality is merely the fear of punishment and the desire for a reward for doing good, contended one of Plato's friends, then people would think anyone who didn't use it to steal anything he wanted and rape any woman he wanted and generally do as he pleased to be a great fool, though they would continue to praise his restraint publicly for fear of being raped or robbed themselves.

    That, of course, is why atheists are always quick to contend that though they don't believe in the Great Lawgiver we can still have moral laws; to which I reply: the thing to be in such a world is a thief among honest men, and he who says otherwise does so only for fear of being robbed himself. He who praises people for adhering to a morality even as he admits that morality has no foundation is certain to abandon that morality the moment doing so is convenient, and therefore not to be trusted.

  • zoltan||

    Ah yes, because we see how much restraint those of religion have compared to those without. ::fingerpoint Islam::

  • ||

    I have a personal rule...never turn your back on a christian.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The guy with the biggest stick/wallet.


    According to Christian theology, that would be God, who can condemn His enemies to Hell, where they will be tormented with fire and brimstone, the smoke of their torment ariseth forever and ever, and they shall no rest day nor night.

    God is great!

  • ||

    Warty.

  • Warty||

    Do what thou wilt is the whole of my law.

  • ||

    Thelemite?

  • Warty||

    Only Australians eat that shit.

  • Society c'est moi!||

    What I want is to kill dopey New Agers like you. Better watch your back.

  • ||

    How immoral.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Ethics does not need to be based on religion.... the golden rule "Do unto others..." remains valid regardless of whether it is being said by the supposed son of the sky god or not.

    If one were to base one's morality on the Bible then one could accept slavery, stoning of witches, etc etc as moral. Surely you cannot believe that "morality" comes from the writings of Bronze Age people. It comes from current societal guidelines and ultimately from empathy.

    Do not kill, steal, etc is simply an extension of what we all know to be correct and proper. Religion is not the basis for that obvious truth. And if history is any guide it has not been.

  • ||

    "what we all know to be correct and proper."

    Morality by consensus? I like how it's not good enough for healthcare care or AGW, but it's perfectly fine for morality.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    "Morality" has been in flux over time and across cultures for all of recorded history. Our current cultural values dictate what we deem moral. I think Jim Crow laws were immoral but for supporters of the same, they thought the mixing of the races was immoral. Who's right?

    Christians pick and choose which parts of the Bible constitute moral behavior: that very much supports the notion that morality is divorced from religion per se and is more a reflection of culture.

  • Society c'est moi||

    The real question is, if morality is and ought to be "in flux" as you contend, what's wrong with Christians if they embrace relativism? Moreover, why should anyone think of you as anything but a great cantankerous fool for condemning others when you admit that the morality by which you condemn them is baseless?

    Atheists held slaves when slavery was legal. Atheists in the Jim Crow era thought mixing races was wrong. Atheists (Hobbes, for one) publicly approved of executing people found guilty of witchcraft back during the witch craze. Yet now atheists have the incredible effrontery to condemn people for doing these things! Since atheists have historically been on both sides of every issue, why should I believe you when you say the Golden Rule is valid? Why shouldn't I eschew it for the Bully Rule instead? (That's "Prey on those weaker than yourself and suck up to those stronger than yourself" in case you were wondering.)

    Also, to hell with consensus! I could introduce you to whole forums of pedophiles right now who'll gladly explain to you how the consensus that condemns them as child molestors also once condemned the homosexuals for perverts, and that since the previous consensus was wrong according to your current consensus, the current consensus is wrong according to a future consensus too and we should all be open-minded and accepting of pedophilia as another alternative lifestyle. In other words, anyone who disagrees with what "everybody knows" right now isn't wrong, just ahead of his time. The ethics you contend exist independently of an Ethics Maker aren't worth a warm pitcher of tobacco spit.

  • ||

    *applause*

    That was well written, thank you.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    I am sure there have been atheists who have done all those things but even so never justified so doing because it was god's will.

    You help prove my point that morality (or ethics) exists separate and apart from religion and has not been a constant thing no matter how old one's belief system may be.

    Children cannot consent and therefore having sex with them is rape. Of course we can change the age of consent but as it stands it is unethical/immoral. And using pedophilia is too easy.

    What about consumption of pornography? Is that immoral? Many would say so and I am not certain that there is a consensus that would not have it significantly restricted if it came to a vote. Now that's a moving target that 100 years ago would have been -- by consensus -- deemed immoral and, largely, illegal. Used to be that depictions of penetration in magazines was against the law because it is considered immoral.

    How about sex toys in any number of states in the deep South where they are banned? Are they immoral? Is there an absolute?

    At least I am willing and able to judge such things wholly free from the guidance of scripture without which we would have more freedoms in this country and those freedoms would have come sooner.

  • ||

    Children can't consent? Since when? My kids consent on a regular basis. They consent to cleaning their rooms, eating their vegetables, and to watching Penguins of Madagascar. Just because the state determined that there is a legal age of consent doesn't mean that that is somehow a moral absolute, and a moral precept off of it still has no basis that can't be argued against.

    You are carelessly mixing social agreement with the idea of morality. You can certainly claim that the only basis for morality is consensus, but it doesn't seem as though that is what you are doing.

  • ||

    There is evidence of chimp morality. Whether it can be said that chimp morality can be pointed to as evidence of a natural human morality with any validity is open to debate.

    I do believe in a natural morality that is available to us if we are observant and contemplative.

    Consider: If you as a hunter/gatherer are a diligent and watchful steward of your local food supply, you might take measures that to other less thoughtful people would seem outrageous or exhaustive, such as moving over more terrain or being highly selective in the animals you take as prey. where others may exhaust an area, you might be driven to manage it sustainably. This might even affect your reproductive habits and your concepts of property, self defense, abortion, and war. All of these modes of operation can and do employ morality as part of the equation.

    I see zero reason for a god to enter into such a picture.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    If one were to base one's morality on the Bible then one could accept slavery, stoning of witches, etc etc as moral. Surely you cannot believe that "morality" comes from the writings of Bronze Age people. It comes from current societal guidelines and ultimately from empathy.


    And how are societal guidelines determined?

    Is there anything that prevents societal guidelines from justifying killing people because they are Jews, or raping girls because they are pretty?

  • ||

    Obviously the correct answer is a long dead group of desert nomads.

  • Not To Be A Dick, But||

    More accurately--The mistranslated writings of a long dead group of desert nomads.

  • ||

    Who thought it was morally acceptable to own slaves and have sex with their parents.

  • ||

    The term "Atheist" is affirming a negative. Meaning that you are saying absolutely that God doesn't exist. In order to do that, you would be required to have infinite knowledge of the universe - which is impossible and seems a little irrational.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Incorrect. I assume you do not believe in Zeus or Poseidon. I view the current most popular version of the deity to be no more valid a construct that either of those two. I disbelieve in that version just as I assume you disbelieve in Thor.

    There is zero evidence that there is a god. And science continuously raises doubts about the validity of core beliefs of religion. The Earth is not 6,000 or so years old, there was no Adam and Eve, the world is not flat, it circles the Sun, etc etc etc.

    It is more irrational to believe in something for which there is no proof that to disbelieve it. If you were to tell people that eggplants talk to you and offered no proof you would be deemed irrational and those who disbelieved that eggplants talked to you would not.

    It's the same thing. You believe in a non-existent entity and I do not. I do not need omniscience to be fairly certain that eggplants do not talk to you.

  • Eggplant||

    FUCK YOU, SPECIESIST!

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    I said nothing about eggplants posting comments to blogs since, of which, we now have some evidence. :)

  • ||

    The difference is that you use the word "believe" which does not require empirical proof.

    The term "atheism" literally means "there is no God"

    There's no belief involved in that. It's an absolute statement. Bertrand Russell realized that the philosophical position of atheism was indefensible for this very reason, and quickly retreated to agnosticism.

    The foundation of theism isn't the first 6 chapters of genesis. I also don't believe Genesis says anything about the world being flat or not circling the sun.

    Yes, people would probably think I'm crazy if I claimed that eggplants talked to me. But by the rules of epistemology, you couldn't prove that I was wrong. It's just like the scenario where everyone in the world is color blind except one person. People would also think he's crazy for claiming the color green exists...

    "I do not need omniscience to be fairly certain that eggplants do not talk to you."

    You just proved my point. You can be fairly certain, but omniscience would be required to make the absolute statement "Eggplants never talk"

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    My comment about 'flat earth' and 'circle the sun' had less to do with the assertions of writ than that they had -- at one time -- been articles of faith held by certain religions. I could have mentioned the planet being formed in 7 days or that all animals descend from a select 2 that sailed about on a boat. That everyone is descended from the captain of that boat .... etc etc

    From your perspective then nothing can be proven either true or false and all is belief. You may want to live in a world of no absolutes that's your choice. But if you are in the "I believe in God" camp, then you are making an assertion that something is true when you've already said nothing can be proven. It's silly to believe that rocks might be able to do calculus or that trees might have tea parties during the full moon. Maybe you are on LSD, but it's much more sensible to state clearly that those things simply do not happen.

    Me, I want proof. Provide some and I will consider your position. Without it I will disbelieve.

    And eggplants never talk.

  • ||

    "And eggplants never talk. "

    Prove it.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    You don't think that it's odd that your argument boils down to my having to prove something that is obvious -- namely that eggplants never talk. The very definition of talking would seem to leave eggplants without the ability.

    And your argument that there is a god because I cannot prove that there is no god also leaves open the possibility that Thor, Odin, Mabd etc do exist.

    That's some strong stand you're taking there....

  • ||

    "And your argument that there is a god because I cannot prove that there is no god also leaves open the possibility that Thor, Odin, Mabd etc do exist."

    I never made that argument. I'm arguing that the philosophical position of atheism is indefensible.

    In order for you to prove, absolutely, that eggplants never talk. You'd have to gather every eggplant that ever existed into one room and then listen to them for eternity.

    To prove, absolutely, that God does not exist, you'd have to everywhere at once going "yep, no God here."

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Then absolutely no different from your argument that there is, indeed, a god since you also have as little proof as I do.

    I will take as evidence of my stand (no god) the fact that there is no evidence in favor of yours (god).

  • ||

    As I've tried to explain somewhere on here. My evidence for the existence of God is my personal experience.

    I, apparently, have had a different experience than you. I don't have as little proof as you do, I have a good deal more than that.

    I'm not trying to cop out. I just believe that religion is a personal experience. Just as you can't touch an idea, it's going to be difficult to put God in an excel spreadsheet.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    I assume that this thread is dead...

    You had a personal experience that proves to you that god exists. I have seen some pretty crazy things on hallucinogens but I do not claim to have any great proof or insight that such things are/were real.

    So you suffer(ed) from a delusion. Good for you.

  • ||

    Who are you to say that I'm delusional? What exactly gives you that right?

    If you have the exact same experience that I had, you might change your position.

    I'm merely pointing out that just as with everything else, religion is a choice based on personal experience.

    I can respect philosophical arguments counter to mine, but I don't respect the current movement led by people like Dawkins that characterizes theists as delusional, insane, and in need of some kind of cosmic hug.

  • ||

    The term "atheism" literally means "there is no God" There's no belief involved in that.

    That's not quite right. "Atheism" means "the belief or doctrine that there is no God."

    You can be fairly certain, but omniscience would be required to make the absolute statement "Eggplants never talk"

    True, but so what? It's still more rational to believe that eggplants don't talk (in the sense that we "talk") than to believe that they do or that they might. Absolute certainty is not required for rational belief or for knowledge.

  • ||

    James, you are free to fear whatever imaginary beings you wish to fear.

    I am free to point at you and laugh.

  • ||

    Yes you are.

  • Fixed||

    Incorrect. I assume you do believe in atheist ethics and morality. I view the current most popular version of those social constructs to be no more valid than any that came before them. I disbelieve in your version just as I assume you disbelieve in the Tooth Fairy.

    There is zero evidence that there is no god. And science continuously raises doubts about the validity of core beliefs of atheists. The Earth is not 6,000,000,000 or so years old, there was no Piltdown Man, time is not necessarily linear, the speed of light is not constant, etc, etc, etc.

    It is more irrational to disbelieve absolutely something for which there is evidence than to believe it tentatively. If you were to tell people that sex is just meat slapping meat and then act hurt when you found out your wife has been cheating on you, you would be deemed a hypocrite and also an easy mark for other opportunists.

    It's the same thing. You refuse to believe in the creator of a world of order and design even as you act as if the world has an ethical code by which we are to be constrained. I do not need omniscience to be fairly certain that atheists are fool and some version of God is out there somewhere to be found.

  • ||

    Not at all. Atheism means "without gods". Disbelief in no ways requires "infinite knowledge." Do you believe a herd of pink unicorns frolic joyfully on the Moon? No? Do you have infinite knowledge? I didn't think so, so you must be totally irrational.

    If that sounds like a foolish argument it is, but no more so than your assertion. I would venture to say that everyone is a least partially an atheist. Do you, James, believe in Zues, Hera or how about Vishnu? No. Than you are an Atheist. Disbelief in a Christian god is no more impossible or irrational than not believing in Pink Lunar Unicorns.

  • ||

    See my response to I, Kahn O'Clast.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    See my response to your response.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Oh and by your response are you saying that Thor may well exist? Do you believe it to be so, or that it might be so? Do you not feel a little silly saying so?

  • ||

    "From your perspective then nothing can be proven either true or false and all is belief."

    Let's start with this. As human beings, reality must be seen through the lens of our senses. We can taste, see, hear, smell, and touch the world around us. As such, our senses have limits - our eyes can only see a small portion of the EM spectrum, etc.

    To sum all that up, our view of reality is shaped by our personal experience. I believe that absolutes exist, however our world is imperfect. Absolute right and wrong exist, but it's not always obvious to us which is which. It's very similar to Plato's Allegory of the Cave. We can conceive of the idea of a perfect circle, but no one can actually create one.

    Religion is a personal experience. My relationship with God is ineffable - as in, the limits of language keep from describing it to you. Just like the world of the color blind scenario - you, or any atheist, hasn't experienced the color "green", God, so it's going to be next to impossible for me to describe it to you. You also have no reason to believe the color "green" exists.

    You can call me irrational, etc, but my view of reality is different than yours because I have evidence that you don't.

    Just like with AGW and everything you experience, you have to decide whether the "proof" present to you is valid enough that you believe it.

    Religion, just like science, is an explanation of reality. Science doesn't conclusively prove anything, it simply make generalizations about reality that we can than apply. It's based on repetition. I can offer evidence of the existence of gravity by repeatedly dropping a pencil to the floor. I can do this millions of times, but it doesn't prove with 100% certainty that it will drop to the floor the next time - it might fly towards the ceiling.

    Mathematics, OTOH, proves things conclusively. You can take a mathematically property and right a proof for it, and it will apply to all numbers from negative to positive infinity.

    While I don't believe in Thor - because I don't have the personal experience to justify it - I can't, from an epistemological point of view, say conclusively that he does not exist.

    From Elk,
    "Absolute certainty is not required for rational belief or for knowledge. "
    I agree, but absolute certainty is required to make absolute statements, which was my point about the philosophical position of atheism. OTOH, Theism requires evidence, but evidence doesn't have to be empirical. I can see the color green.

  • ||

    absolute certainty is required to make absolute statements

    Well, yes, absolute certainty is required to justify a claim that you are absolutely certain about your beliefs. But it is not required for the belief itself (whatever the belief may be) to be rational or to be the best belief of a set of competing beliefs.

    All of the following are absolute statements that are perfectly rational beliefs (and more rational than their negations)despite not being absolutely certain: No human can swallow a standard refrigerator in one gulp. There are no transparent adult whales. E = mcsquared. Black holes exist. I can see the color green. We can conceive of the idea of a perfect circle, but no one can actually create one. We can taste, see, hear, smell, and touch the world around us.

  • Pink Lunar Unicorns||

    Whoa Whoa, this isn't about us. This is about you!

  • ||

    Atheism means "without gods"

    I went to the grocery store atheism this past weekend. It sucked because they had my list.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    WARNING the link is a PDF.

  • Piltdown Man||

    Not surprising coming from a bunch of fundie Scientism-ists.

  • ||

    The article suggests that people's moral beliefs agree with those of their gods because they choose a religion that agrees with them on those beliefs. It seems to me equally likely that sometimes people modify their moral beliefs to conform with the teachings of their religion. For example, I can think of a number of people who, left to themselves, would have absolutely no problem with fornication, masturbation, and a whole set of other sexual practices condemned by the Catholic Church as violations of the 6th Commandment, but who decided that if the Church really taught that, and if the Church really was a moral teacher established by Christ, then maybe it ought to be them who changed their thinking on the subject rather than the Church. (Others, of course, resolve the tension by concluding that it's the Church that's all wet and that God has no real problem with them wanking and swiving as they wish; they, too, end up concluding that God's views on morality conform with their own.)

  • nobody||

    Ooooooooh! I've got a dianetics banner on the left and a Scientology banner on the right. Exciting! Sure, it's no carpet humping guy, but c'mon.

  • ||

    Is this not the most benile study ever? Think about this for a second. You start off in life with no real idea what morals are or what the state of the universe (God and such) is. So you at some point have a bit of existential anxiety and start looking for some kind of metaphysical truth. Now there are lots of metaphysical truth out there to be had. Of course you are going to gravitate to the metaphysical truth that agrees with your experiences and beliefs. Why wouldn't you? To do otherwise would be pretty irrational.

    Posts like this really make me wonder if Bailey has any understanding of religious experience. In order for this study to be surprising or noteworthy, you would have to believe that religious belief and experience is completely irrational. That people come to their religious beliefs, not by rational thought and contemplation, but by some kind of Moses on the mountain moment where a bush talks to them or inspiration strikes them making them a fanatical convert. This may be news to Bailey. But that is not how it usually works.

  • Zeb||

    You may be right about Bailey. As someone who has no understanding of religious experience, I thought that the study was interesting as well.
    I have a very hard time understanding how otherwise apparently rational and intelligent people can believe in religious stuff. But there seem to be a lot of such people about. So anything that gives some insight into how and why people believe the mumbo-jumbo that they do interests me.

  • ||

    If you think it is just mumbo jumbo that no rational person could ever believe, you really don't understand it or are too narrow minded to try. There are any number of highly rational and well thought out arguements for the existence of God in general and the truth of Christianity in particular.

    Now you may not find those arguments convincing. Lots of peopld don't. But to write them all off as completely irrational and unserious just shows your ignorance.

  • Zeb||

    I don't write them all off. I accept it as a hole in my knowledge and understanding of people and the world. I realize that people who believe in religious things are not necessarily irrational idiots. If I thought they were all idiots, this would not be an interesting thing to me.

  • God||

    There are any number of highly rational and well thought out arguements for the existence of God in general and the truth of Christianity in particular.

    No there aren't.

  • ||

    John you are free to fear whatever imaginary beings you wish to fear.

    I am free to point and laugh.

  • Chris||

    "I have a very hard time understanding how otherwise apparently rational and intelligent people can believe in religious stuff."

    So then only people that believe what you believe are rational? It's not any more irrational to believe some invisible monster made the world than it is to believe that life is meaningless. Both require assumptions about reality that can't be proved in any way. It just comes down to one's assumptions about reality, and all world-views are built upon assumptions.
    I'm an atheist as well, by the way.

  • Thor||

    John and Chris, follow me.

  • Chris||

    Only if I can borrow your hammer.

  • ||

    Those of us who worship Thor find that very offensive. Please insult christians and other misguided folk and leave the True Faith alone.

  • Zeb||

    "So then only people that believe what you believe are rational?"

    That is not what I said. I simply said something about myself and what I have a hard time understanding. That doesn't mean I think that there is not something there worth understanding.

  • Chris||

    You equated belief in god as irrational and unintelligent. I presumed this was because you don't believe in God and you consider yourself rational and intelligent. You're right, you didn't say it explicity, but neither have you countered the inference.

  • Zeb||

    You are right that I do not believe in god and I think that I am rational and intelligent. But I do see that there are plenty of rational and intelligent people who do also profess a belief in god. Why or how they believe what they do is interesting to me because I believe them to be intelligent people worth understanding. If I just thought religious people were a bunch of ignorant idiots, I would not be very interested.

  • ||

    "But I do see that there are plenty of rational and intelligent people who do also profess a belief in god."

    Impossible.

  • ||

    ^^^^ idiot.

    One of the most valuable traits in gaining wisdom, is to know your own limits. Knowing that you can know nothing with absolute certainty, is part of that.

  • ||

    ^^^^ Incapable of detecting snark.

  • ||

    Based on your previous statements in this thread, there was no reason to assume snark. But if that's your claim, I can roll with it.

  • ||

    You miss the part where they say, "Think what person X would do" and they try to think from a different person's point of view. However, if it's "What would God think is right?" they go to the "what do I think" part of the brain.

  • ||

    Sometimes I think people comment without even reading the fucking article. Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Mo, because even a cursory reading of the article should have made your point unnecessary.

  • ||

    I'm not a scientist like Batman, but it seems from the article that these two ideas would register identically on the scans:

    "I believe this is right because God believes this is right."

    "God believes this is right because I believe this is right."

    Very different conclusion than the UC researchers came away with.

  • ||

    It would be a weird cognitive dissonance to believe that the imagined deity that one worshiped would have different opinions on matters of morality than oneself.

    I can think of any number of examples where that is untrue. There are few interpretations of the Bible and the teachings of Christ that are consistent with God being okay with abortion and divorce but that does not seem to have much influence on substantial numbers of Christians.

  • ||

    It doesn't have much influence on them because most of them disagree with the interpretations. That is not cognetive dissonance. They just disagree.

  • T||

    No, they think they're an exception to rule because they're special. But other people shouldn't do those things.

  • ||

    I misunderstood the post. You are right. They just rationalize it in the most base way.

  • ||

    Read up on Catholics for Choice.

    Catholic support for legal abortion is grounded in core principles of Catholic theology, which respect the moral agency of all women.

    I see that as neither disagreement nor rationalization, it is full-scale delusion. They are the apotheosis of cafeteria Christians.

  • ||

    Trying again:

    Catholics For Choice

  • ||

    I agree. I misunderstood your original post. They are like Nuns who swear they have a right to tell the Pope to go screw himself and still be Catholics.

  • ||

    I know a lot of christians who are divorced and remarried and don't consider themselves adulterers. They just figure Jesus "will understand".

  • d||

    As others have hinted, all this study definitively shows is that believers' personal views are in line with what they think God's views are. Duh! They're believers, dummy! Of course, they have aligned their personal views with their view of what God wants. It's possible that their views of God's will are shaped by personal views, but then it would be a huge coincidence that there are enough people to even constitute a coherent religious viewpoint the size of a small church congregation.

    Oh, and the other thing it shows is that psychologists should be forced to take more courses in philosophy and lay logic.

  • Thor||

    As others have hinted, all this study definitively shows is that believers' personal views are in line with what they think God's views are.

    I think everyone is missing the key piece of the study. The brain scans showed that when people thought about God's (gods') views they used the same part of the brain when thinking of their own personal views. It's very God is within us, and I think a significant nuanced difference from just 'God believes what I do/I believe what god believes.'

  • Chris||

    But if they believe they have learned God's views, of course they'll reference their own since they are identical. Is the brain activity supposed to be observed in God's brain in order to be considered valid? I'd like to see what part of the brain was activated when asked what the opposing team believed. Perhaps the same, since we also tend to assume those that disagree with one or two of our beliefs disagree with the entirety of it. Perhaps we use the same part of our brain when thinking of anyone's beliefs, each time referencing our own in some way.

  • ||

    1. fMRI #1: LoneWhacko is scanned while professing the bliss that is bestiality. A graphical image of his brain activity is taken.

    2. fMRI #2: LoneWhacko is asked if his god would support his prolific porking of innocent cuddly animals and he agrees that his god would bless it. A graphical image of his brain activity is taken.

    3. The pictures are identical.

    CONCLUSION: There are two options. Either a god who supports animal rape exists and LoneWhacko is his faithful believer, -OR- , LoneWhacko is a goat-raping sicko who helpfully conjures a god that confirms his hamster-gagging dysfunction.

  • Thor||

    Yes, but you're missing the point.

    4. LoneWhacko is asked if someone else who he knows to approve in partaking in the "porking of innocent cuddly animals" agrees. and a picture is taken.

    This picture is not identical. It has nothing to do with the belief in this case, only with who is holding the belief. LoneWhacko views his diety as himself, not as another being (at least when thinking about what said diety believes).

  • ||

    People's faith and their beliefs align - what a shocker!

    Its a chicken and egg problem, since people are generally raised in whatever faith they profess. I don't think the causality arrow really points either way, to tell you the truth.

  • ||

    Chicken and egg? Eggs came first as chickens are creatures that evolved from egg-laying reptiles.

  • Neu Mejican||

    And this helps us with the question at hand how?

  • ||

    Well, now I know what car Jesus would drive.

    WWJID?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    God always seems to be wagging His finger at me. I wonder what that means.

  • Piltdown Man||

    The scientists conducted a number of studies, but one of the more fascinating was an fMRI brain scan Hemodynamancy in which they looked at which parts of believers' brains were activated when they were asked about what they believed, what other people might believe, and what God believes about ten different moral issues.

    Divination,tsk tsk.

  • T||

    The 14 year old in me can't help but be amused by the usual abbreviation for the publication: PNAS.

  • ||

    Was this study published in Modern Phrenology?

  • Piltdown Man||

    If not it should have been, it ain't science without peer review!

  • Spartacus||

    Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber that reverberates one’s own beliefs.

    I'm totally shocked.

  • ||

    Sometimes it's just painful to see what kind of "studies" for which people will waste money. This is another one of those "I could have told you that" moments. It's old news.

    I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony

  • raf_oh||

    The point of experimentation, if done correctly, is to validate or reject hypotheses.

    I would consider it another example of confirmation bias to not attempt to verify beliefs through experiment.

  • Mad Max||

    From the beginning of the paper:

    'This research does not in any
    way, however, deny the possibility that the inverse process of
    reflection (using God’s presumed beliefs as a guide to one’s own)
    may operate in contexts where people’s own beliefs are uncertain
    or unknown.'

    The paper goes on to describe that respondents were more likely to agree with the views they imputed to God than to agree with the views they imputed to the likes of George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Katie Couric, and 'the average American.'

    Am I missing anything?

  • ||

    Since God doesn't usually talk to people and make his current views on topics known and George Bush and Katie Couric do, why is it a surprise that people think God agrees with them?

  • Mad Max||

    So if a person reports himself as agreeing with God, that means he projected his views onto God, *unless* his personal views were 'uncertain or unknown,' in which case he projected God's presumed views onto himself. And having uncertain or unknown views means that you're willing to defer to what you think God wants.

    And the circle is complete.

  • ||

    You guys have this all wrong. What this study proves is that since God shares all my beliefs, I am God.

    Oh shit, that means that I don't exist! Fuck!

    (disappears)

  • ||

    "And Charlie... light a match!"

  • ||

    "Now, technically, that stain did appear to me. Also, I am familiar with carpentry, and I don't know who my father is, so...am I the messiah? I don't know. I could be. I'm not ruling it out."

  • ||

    All right, all right, you unbelievers in SCIENCE. ;-)

    Another of the experiments, which I did not blog, asked subjects what they thought of the death penalty, what people like Bill Gates and George Bush think of it, and what God thinks of it. Then they were asked to give speeches on the death penalty opposite to what they believed, and subsequently their views shifted. This is a standard psychological result of such experiments.

    What's interesting is that after giving the speech, their views of what George Bush and Bill Gates think of the death penalty did not change, but their views of what God thinks of it did shift in the direction that they argued in their speeches. God still agreed with them on the death penalty even after they shifted their views.

    I suggest that you read the whole study, it's really interesting and it may shift your views. ;-)

  • Mad Max||

    Don't you think they left a big loophole with this disclaimer:

    'This research does not in any way, however, deny the possibility that the inverse process of reflection (using God’s presumed beliefs as a guide to one’s own) may operate in contexts where people’s own beliefs are uncertain or unknown.'

    That's certainly relevant to people who argue themselves out of their previous view on the death penalty. That leaves the possibility that they did not have full certitude in their beliefs, potentially opening up the 'uncertain or unknown' loophole.

  • ||

    "Another of the experiments, which I did not blog, asked subjects what they thought of the death penalty, what people like Bill Gates and George Bush think of it, and what God thinks of it. Then they were asked to give speeches on the death penalty opposite to what they believed, and subsequently their views shifted. This is a standard psychological result of such experiments. "

    I hope they were well compensated. Giving speeches isn't easy.

  • ||

    "What's interesting is that after giving the speech, their views of what George Bush and Bill Gates think of the death penalty did not change, but their views of what God thinks of it did shift in the direction that they argued in their speeches. God still agreed with them on the death penalty even after they shifted their views."

    Ron that is not interesting or surprising at all. Think about it for a second. Unless they are Pegans, when people say they believe in "God" they are saying that they believe in an omnipotant, infallable monotheistic God. So when people change their views, of course they are going to change their views of what God thinks about the subject. If they didn't, they would be saying God is wrong and thus not omnipotant and infallable.

    Since God doens't talk to any of us, we spend our lives trying to piece together what God actually beleives on things and by definition what is right and wrong. So, when we change our position on what is right and wrong, we by definition change our belief in what God thinks. No one ever sits around and goes "you know God is really full of shit on the death penalty issue". Instead, they say "you know I was wrong about the death penality, this is the right answer and therfore what God beleives"

  • ||

    So then they're right that God isn't a very good moral compass?

  • ||

    No. God by definition is the perfect moral compass. The problem is we don't always get a clear view or sometimes have a mistaken view of where the compass is pointing.

  • ||

    Yeah, like in the OT where God commands people to go into villages where a single disbeliever existed and kill them all, the men, the women, the children, smash everything, burn it all to the ground.

    "God by definition is the perfect moral compass."

    God is a psycho piece of shit.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Yeah, like in the OT where God commands people to go into villages where a single disbeliever existed and kill them all, the men, the women, the children, smash everything, burn it all to the ground.


    Where in the Bible is it recorded that He commanded such a thing?

    God is a psycho piece of shit.


    Had you said or wrote that in Israel, you would have been put to death.

  • DBN||

    An accurate compass you can't reliably read is still a pretty shitty compass.

  • ||

    In the absence of a divine reference, there can be no absolute moral right or wrong.

  • Chris||

    Only if you define morality as issuing only from divine decree. History has plenty of examples of the irreligious behaving in a way that even the religious would consider moral. In any case, not having an absolute right or wrong is probably a good thing. Just think of all the damage that's been done by people who claimed to be absolutely right, religious or otherwise.
    But since you only made a statement and didn't express an opinion about it, I'm not sure what your thoughts are on the matter.

  • ||

    I said ABSOLUTE morality. Certainly, you can find a basis for other morals - as in a system to determine what's right or wrong. I don't believe the Judeo-Christ system of ethics directly translates into telling me whether or not it's morally "right" for me to drive 70 mph in a school zone.

    Yes, people have done terrible things in the name of religion. Specifically with Christianity (I'm defining the word as meaning "following the teachings of Jesus Christ"), the crusades were certainly justified as being the "Christian" thing to do, however Jesus Christ never condoned raping and pillaging for materialistic gain. Every violent, murderous act committed in the NAME of Christianity was contradictory to what Jesus actually taught.

    OTOH, you'll find that all the genocides in the 20th Century were a direct outworking and application of nihilistic philosophy. Hitler justified the Holocaust on the basis of Nietzsche's Superman - as well as his superior race and eugenics programs. Then take a look at Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. All of them were anti-religion because it didn't allow them to justify their actions - so instead they justified it by saying "I'm carrying the biggest stick."

    If you can think of anything in this world that you would consider "evil", that implies there must be such a thing as "good", which implies there must be an absolute method for differentiating between "good" and "evil", which implies an moral law giver, ie a divinity.

    Without an absolute method for determining "good" and "evil", then all morals are relative and any action can be justified based on culture, environment, the way a person was raised, etc.

  • Chris||

    Nice reply, man. A couple of things, though:
    Hitler based the holocaust on many things, not just his (mis)reading of Nietzsche. Plus, I thought he wasn't an atheist. I could be wrong, though.
    Also, not ALL genocides were the result of nihilistic philosophy. In fact, I would argue that NO genocide was the result of a nihilistic philosophy, as Pol-Pot, Stalin, etc based (justified) theirs on other ideologies or gilded calves (communism, for example, or the State). The various genocides in Africa are definitely NOT based on a nihilistic philosophy. On this note, the arguments for justification are almost never representative of the actual motivation.
    Anyway, I personally don't believe anything in this world to be evil. That said, what if you considered everything to be evil? Good isn't implied to exist, then. Or perhaps the would would be evil and slightly less evil. Shit, look at Schopenhauer or H.P. Lovecraft. Those dudes were definitly AGAINST life. The dichotomy of good and evil is a false one. Believing in one doesn't necessitate belief in the other. For instance, I think life can be pretty shitty a lot of the times, but it's not so bad. It can be enjoyable, too. I don't see either one as being indicative of the other. That said, I've used the word 'evil' before in conversation, and it had no religious context whatsoever. It was based on my perspective of things. So even if I believed in evil, it doesn't necessarily have to be defined in terms of God in Heaven. With this view of good and evil, it is really a matter of opinion (even if it is an objective fact that all people will have the opinion that specific things are good or evil [which I'm not saying it is]) and thus the "moral law giver" would be myself. This leads me to the last argument about moral relativism. Unless a person has directly had a chat with the Lord of Hosts, he can have no certainty that what he believes is God's word is really God's word (even then, certainty is illusive for the self-honest, as one must concede that one might be crazy). Consequently, his morality is as subjective as anyone elses...it just happens to be based on a code he believes to be absolute fact. But this belief can only be belief. His actions and morals are relative to this belief, even if God actually exists.

  • ||

    To sum up, you would say that there is no absolute morality, and the only valid basis for morality is ones own convictions.

    I, as a Christian, choose to believe, based on the evidence that I have, in the God of the bible. As such, I have chosen, as an imperfect being to believe that there is an absolute morality that is defined by God's character. But, as an imperfect being, I readily accept that I can't comprehend that morality in all it's facets, completely. Therefore, my personal morals are imperfect, and even as such, still out of reach of my actions. This is no basis for which to decide that there is no absolute moral standard, only that we can't know it with absolute comprehension or certainty.

  • Chris||

    Well worded. My point, though, is that even if God exists, and His word is the absolute moral code of the cosmos, the religious are still in the same boat as the irreligious: their moralist is relative to their subjective beliefs. The fact that you believe your beliefs to be based on an absolute morality given by God doesn't mean the dynamics of your beliefs are different.

  • Chris||

    "their moralitst is..." = their morals are

  • ||

    Yeah, I'm not really disagreeing there. The best of us are simply doing the best we can with what we're given. I've known some atheists that were better people than I have managed to be. I guess the underlying justification I have is that in my experience, and based on the best thinking I can do on the subject, an individual following a higher code, is in general more likely to hold themselves to a higher moral standard than someone that simply makes it up as they go. Whether Christianity is truth or not, it does tend to promote behavior that is beneficial to society, and I believe the believing individual.

    And yes, I'm a bit of a pragmatist.

  • Chris||

    I agree that one should follow a higher moral code, but I don't think this excludes "making it up as we go." What if my higher moral code includes being spontaneous and situationally creative since the universe itself as well as my perception of it is always changing? Sometimes adhering to static principles can get in the way of doing what is best for a particular situation.

  • ||

    Which is why the actual Christian moral code is relatively simple. In fact it can be summed up as simply as love God more than other things/people, and love others as yourself. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and spontaneity. The rest of it is peoples attempts to make this more specific and concrete, and as such are generally imperfect.

  • ||

    "In fact, I would argue that NO genocide was the result of a nihilistic philosophy, as Pol-Pot, Stalin, etc based (justified) theirs on other ideologies or gilded calves (communism, for example, or the State). The various genocides in Africa are definitely NOT based on a nihilistic philosophy. On this note, the arguments for justification are almost never representative of the actual motivation."

    Let me put it this way. Nihilistic philosophy does not condemn these genocides. Under nihilism the people committing these atrocities are perfectly justified to do so simply because they have the physical ability to do so.

    Also, I find it truly hard to believe that Hitler was anything other than a genuine atheist seeing how his actions don't correspond to ANY religion - maybe Aleister Crowley.

    "Anyway, I personally don't believe anything in this world to be evil.'

    If I brought a baby, tied it down to a table, and proceeded to carve it into pieces in front of you, you wouldn't have a problem with that? You don't categorize the Holocaust as "evil?"

    If everything is "evil", then "evil" is meaningless - it literally has no definition. If things are evil and less evil, then you've categorized things again and given "good" another name.

    "and thus the "moral law giver" would be myself."

    EXACTLY, this is what Nietzsche's God is Dead speech is about. Now that man has killed God, who/what is going to take God's place. Since we've killed the only thing higher than ourselves, the only logical choice is that Man becomes God, the moral law giver.

    Hence, in the absence of a divine reference, Man becomes the moral law giver, morals become relative, any action can be justified.

    "Unless a person has directly had a chat with the Lord of Hosts, he can have no certainty that what he believes is God's word is really God's word (even then, certainty is illusive for the self-honest, as one must concede that one might be crazy)."

    I admit, I haven't had dinner with God recently. However, seeing morality through a blurry lens is better than being blind.

  • Chris||

    "Let me put it this way. Nihilistic philosophy does not condemn these genocides."

    I see.

    "If I brought a baby, tied it down to a table, and proceeded to carve it into pieces in front of you, you wouldn't have a problem with that? You don't categorize the Holocaust as "evil?" "

    No, it's not evil. It's fucking terrible, but it's not evil so long as evil is supposed to presuppose the existence of God.

    "If everything is "evil", then "evil" is meaningless - it literally has no definition. If things are evil and less evil, then you've categorized things again and given "good" another name."
    No, I've just turned evil into a spectrum. If the less eveil is then turned into good, that's because you suppose the dichotomy exists in the first place and are thus willing to call what is evil good.

    "Man becomes the moral law giver, morals become relative, any action can be justified."
    That's a leap of logic. Why would any action be justified? I don't justify any action to myself just because I don't believe in God. I have a sense of morality. I just don't attribute it to a god of any sort.
    "However, seeing morality through a blurry lens is better than being blind."
    That's exactly what I'm doing.

  • ||

    "No, it's not evil. It's fucking terrible, but it's not evil so long as evil is supposed to presuppose the existence of God. "

    Would you consider it wrong? If something is "terrible", can things be "great?" Can you think of anything that doesn't have an opposite? If you're creating an "evil spectrum", then if "really evil" is one side what's on the other? You've still created a moral system - a set of rules to determine whether something is "really evil" or a "little evil."

    When morals are relative, there's no personal responsibility. If Tarzan comes to New York, and kills some guy for taking his sandwich, then Tarzan can say "Morals are relative, where I come from, killing over food is acceptable." The same thing applies to stealing, rape, etc. Any action can be justified because everyone's morality is equally valid. Thus, there is no absolute right or wrong.

    "That's exactly what I'm doing.
    reply to this"

    Christian morality has an ideal to aspire to, it's a law based on something perfect, something higher than ourselves. Atheistic moral systems are a product of imperfect man. Back to Plato's Allegory of the Cave again...

    Atheists can create moral systems, but there's no way to claim that it's any better than anyone else's. Again, morals would be relative.

  • Chris||

    "Would you consider it wrong? If something is "terrible", can things be "great?" "

    Yes, I think it's wrong. But if a guy is taking the time to slice up a baby in front of me, he must think it's not so bad. Is it objectively bad? I don't know. My point is that you can't know, and because of this there is no going beyond relativism, even if there is an objective moral code out there. Any argument against relativism is relative to beliefs against it. Frankly, I don't care if there is an objective moral code. If all I can know of it is what I perceive, it's just as well to trust myself and my own inclinations.

    "You've still created a moral system - a set of rules to determine whether something is "really evil" or a "little evil." "

    Not my point. My point was that if everything is evil, then the least evil still isn't good. Nothing was mentioned about a moral system in that context. In any case, that was just a side example. I don't personally believe everything is evil. But some people might. That's all I'm saying.

    "When morals are relative, there's no personal responsibility."
    I don't follow your reasoning here, specifically because I consider myself to be personally responsible while still believing morals to be relative.

    " If Tarzan comes to New York, and kills some guy for taking his sandwich, then Tarzan can say "Morals are relative, where I come from, killing over food is acceptable.""
    Then he'd be tried and prosecuted because of the laws of this country. What's your point here?

    "Christian morality has an ideal to aspire to, it's a law based on something perfect, something higher than ourselves. Atheistic moral systems are a product of imperfect man. Back to Plato's Allegory of the Cave again...

    Atheists can create moral systems, but there's no way to claim that it's any better than anyone else's. Again, morals would be relative. "

    If you can't know this perfection absolutely, then your interpretation of it is subjective. Thus your morals are subjective, and relative to what your interpretation of this principle is. Belief that your morals are based on an objective code doesn't mean that they spring directly from it. I personally base my morals on my experience and whatever feels 'right' at the time. And if following your interpretation of what you believe to be a moral code also feels right for you, then we're operating under the same principle here.
    In any case, my point is that it is not objectively wrong to chop up babies, but even still I wouldn't do it, and I would try to stop it whenever possible, should such a thing become a fad. Ultimately, one doesn't need absolutes of good and evil to make moral judgments.

    "Can you think of anything that doesn't have an opposite?"

    The ocean. Birds. The sun. Electrons. Even matter and anti-matter aren't perfect opposites because there is a remainder of a photon after their mutual destruction. Can you think of some opposites that aren't relational (up and down, etc)?

  • ||

    "Yes, I think it's wrong."

    Then you adhere to a moral system. My argument is that without a divine reference, there can be no absolute moral system. If God did not exist, we wouldn't even be talking about right vs. wrong. For an atheist, there is no "problem of evil" because evil doesn't exist to an atheist.

    "there is no going beyond relativism, even if there is an objective moral code out there."

    Think of a perfect circle. It can't be created, but the idea exists. What's closer to a circle? A square? or an octagon?

    The point is that we can conceive of an ideal perfection, the perfect circle even though it can't be created and therefore never observed. We can also look at different shapes and make a judgment about which is most similar to the ideal.

    The same applies to absolute morality. Because we can conceive the idea of "good" and "evil" the ideals exist, therefore we can look at different actions and make a judgment. So yes, we can go beyond moral relativism. Yes, it comes down to some subjectivity between individuals, but we can still get pretty darn close to the ideal. My point is without God in place, there's no ideal.

    "Any argument against relativism is relative to beliefs against it."

    This is the same as saying "Absolutes don't exist." If you say that, you've just stated an absolute and negated your statement. By definition, relativism assumes that all views and arguments are equally valid. The argument against relativism is one of those views, so they are contradictory and mutually exclusive.

    "My point was that if everything is evil, then the least evil still isn't good."

    So "good" exists, it's just not on your spectrum and we aren't capable of it? This is like the number line stopping at 0. "On a scale from 0 to 10, how "evil" is this act?" implies that the act is evil on some level. Now there's a false assumption. If there is "evil", there must also be "not evil."

    "Nothing was mentioned about a moral system in that context."

    It wasn't mentioned, but you'd have to have a method or set of rules for determining how evil an act was. Otherwise, the spectrum is meaningless.

    "Then he'd be tried and prosecuted because of the laws of this country. What's your point here? "

    Laws are not morals. He might be convicted based on laws, but no one could legitimately say that what he had done was morally wrong in the absence of an absolute moral system.

    "If you can't know this perfection absolutely, then your interpretation of it is subjective. Thus your morals are subjective, and relative to what your interpretation of this principle is. Belief that your morals are based on an objective code doesn't mean that they spring directly from it."

    You're interpretation of the morals are subjective. The morals themselves are not. As outlined in the perfect circle argument above, with an absolute morality, we have a goal to shoot for. Without an absolute moral system, there no way to determine who's moral system is more valid than anyone else's.

    "Can you think of anything that doesn't have an opposite?"

    My point here is that once you define something, you automatically create a negative definition. Therefore, "evil" can not exist without "not evil"

  • Chris||

    "Then you adhere to a moral system. My argument is that without a divine reference, there can be no absolute moral system. If God did not exist, we wouldn't even be talking about right vs. wrong."
    All of this and a lot of what follows is an assumption that it requires God to have a moral ideal. I seem to have been unable to get my point across. I'll try again. Even if there is a God and an absolute moral system, you cannot know it with certainty. Your ideals therefore derive from a subjective interpretation of what you are told these ideals are. Your circle isn't perfect. This ideal is still subjective, just like mine, which does not derive from God. We both have ideals, then. You just think that yours is based on an absolute. But this idea of an absolute is itself derived from your assumptions about reality. Your ideology, like all ideologies, are butressed above the void of ignorance. If there is an absolute, you and I are forever sundered from it. You say that without God there can't be ideals. But you have God just about as much as I do, which is another way of saying you don't have him. You can only have your perception of him and his will. Your perception doesn't negate mine.

    "Without an absolute moral system, there no way to determine who's moral system is more valid than anyone else's. "
    Yes there is: by me. Or by you. If I thought yours was more valid, I'd believe it. The fact that I have the values and morals I do means that I have found a sort of morality that suits my beliefs, otherwise I wouldn't hold them. It is true that there is no objective way to determine one as being better than another, but since objectivity is denied us, who cares? Whatever certainty we have that ours is the best way to go, this certainty is derived only from our set of assumptions. Your absolute exists in your head as a justification of your beliefs *even if it is really true*.

    "This is the same as saying "Absolutes don't exist." If you say that, you've just stated an absolute and negated your statement."

    Okay, okay. Absolutes PROBABLY don't exist. There probably isn't a god, and there probably isn't an absolute moral code. But you can only say the contrary, still using 'probably', and this is my point. We can't know. We can't even know that we can't, probably. This cloud we find ourselves in is complete. Any interpretation about what's real can only be an interpretation, which is hardly a good argument for knowing the Absolute Moral Code.

    "Laws are not morals. He might be convicted based on laws, but no one could legitimately say that what he had done was morally wrong in the absence of an absolute moral system. "
    You're right, laws aren't morals. But people can certainly say if he's right or wrong. Not with CERTAINTY, but so what? If we waited for certainty before we believed anything, we'd die pretty quickly after leaving the womb. Certainty has nothing to do with morality, and the fact that people often think it does is probably why people need to believe that their beliefs are in line with some absolute or other, or that the world is as black and white as 'good and evil'.
    Excuse the snark. Just driving the point home.
    Anyway, our differences seem to be epistemological. You believe we can know what the absolute ideal is. I believe that even if there is an absolute ideal, we can never know it, and any perception of it is still relative to the individual, thus all moralities are subjective and relative. Or at least that's how it seems to me.

    You're right about the evil thing, by the way. I didn't look at it that way. So forget the example. I retract it. But to make myself clear, I don't believe in good or evil, but I do tend to find things good or bad.

  • ||

    I think the one thing we can agree on is that an individual's perspective of reality is subjective. I think there might have been a shorter way to reach that conclusion.

    It's difficult explaining the Christian world view adequately, and I haven't had much practice with it yet.

    Good talking to you.

  • Chris||

    Likewise.

  • ||

    Any action would/could be justified because the only thing you have to substantiate your objection to anothers actions are ideas within your head. Unless it's a matter of law or social norms. And who's to say that the ideas of morality you hold to should take precedence over anothers views? Which is part of why above, I stated that I choose to believe in a higher power. It gives me something other than myself to appeal to. It gives my something higher than man, and something with a highly discussed and documented system which I can actually be proven wrong about.

  • aelhues||

    "It gives me something other than myself to appeal to"

    And I appeal to intuition, which takes place outside of my ego and is thus not myself either. Can you know anything outside your head? When you appeal to a higher power, are you sure it's not a projection of what's inside you? Is the necessity of an objective moral code an objective one, or one you need to justify your actions to yourself?
    Once again, though, well worded response.

  • Chris||

    The previous is my post. Not sure why I put your name in. Sorry.

  • ||

    Hehe, np. To answer your questions:

    No
    No
    No, I just believe that is has greater utility, and strength.

    It seems to me that we think mostly alike, however we came to different conclusions. Interesting, isn't it.

  • Chris||

    Yeah, this usually happens. Oh well. It's at least interesting to see where the paths diverge.

  • robc||

    certainty is illusive for the self-honest

    If you ever find a christian who claims to never have doubts, you either have found one who isnt very honest (self or otherwise) or isnt very bright.

  • ||

    Agreed. All the kids at my church went to a christian high school, so their views were challenged. They had a Bible Class. I took philosophy and epistemology.

  • ||

    I went to both Christian HS and college. My views were challenged quite a bit in the religion classes I took. Of course in addition to those, I took many other philosophy classes, including studies of other religions. I certainly have known Christians that have never faced any serious challenges to their core beliefs. In fact I know a large number that didn't fair well in college because they weren't happy at all at having their beliefs questioned.

  • ||

    Why is your god so special as to have a lock on the whole "one true moral compass" thing? People have used the divine and righteous moral compass handed down from on high since the beginning of recorded history, and often these commands have conflicted leading to disputes and wars between religions. Yet through it all we (humans) still behave in a manner very similar to the ethics observed within chimpanzee cultures. Perhaps chimps have received a few commandments themselves, but far more likely morality evolved as a beneficial behavioral adaptation for life within large social communities of intelligent animals. The core "don't murder, don't steal, altruism and group cooperation" seem to ring true within many animal groups. Do they all have gods to thank? Doubtful.

    Your god being the perfect moral compass is no more valid than saying that a band of chimps are the perfect moral compass. While chimps often go out and fight, kill and rape other chimps, at least they have the common decency not to claim that their doing so at the behest of their god, savior and perfect moral compass.

  • ||

    You may be right. Maybe chimps do. In which case shut the fuck up about morals because if there is no God, then no one has any better claim to morality than anyone else. If you want to live by the consiquences of that have fun. It is at least consistent and respectable. What is not respectable is the typical dipshit atheist who runs around pretending that there is no an abyss.

  • Benjamin||

    Just as morals arise from cultural and societal norms, which are in many ways the creation of man (but also arise from evolutionary imperatives), so to your dreaded abyss comes forth only when narrow minded theists want to scare people into believing their particular brand of mysticism. People behave in horrible and terrifying ways...of this I have no doubt. But they also show the most loving acts of kindness imaginable.

    Which means we behave in accordance to evolution which dictates that we behave in a manner just good enough for our species to survive and reproduce...or we are governed by the laws and rules of some bi-polar sicko god that loves to see human joy mixed with a large amount of pain and suffering just for its own personal kicks.

    Nice moral compass you have there.

  • ||

    So, your argument is because people occasionally do terrible things to each other, god must be a bi-polar sicko that gets off on mixing our joy and pain? That's just weird.

  • Benjamin||

    No, I'm saying that if you believe that humans only behave in a moral fashion because of a set of divine laws, than conversely the behave amorally because god also allows for that. When you give all the credit to some omnipotent creator you can't have it both ways. Either god knowingly allows for human suffering or god is not really omnipotent. Of course you could just go with "most likely there are no gods" and be done with the foolish need for some supernatural middle man.

  • ||

    No. God knowingly created man who has free will. Since God gave us free will, he has to live with whatever awful thing we do. If he created us in such a way as we were only capable of doing good (whatever that is), we wouldn't have free will. We would just be robots. God is not responsible for what we do. We are. All he did was create us. It is not his fault we make horrible choices.

    But that is pretty decent explination of the problem of evil. You have a little less slober running down your mouth than the typical atheist on here.

  • ||

    No one here claimed that "humans only behave in a moral fashion because of a set of divine laws". That is entirely different from claiming that without divine morality, there is no objective justification for morality, outside of corporate decisions, or personal preference.

    As far as the problem of suffering, of course God allows suffering. Suffering is a natural and necessary cost of free will. If you can only imagine a good God that runs a world of perfect automatons, I hope someday you can realize the limits you place on your understanding of reality.

  • ||

    "In which case shut the fuck up about morals because if there is no God, then no one has any better claim to morality than anyone else."

    Bullshit. If you are out stuffing jews into an oven just for being jews and I am not, I certainly have a better claim on morality than you.

  • ||

    "Bullshit. If you are out stuffing jews into an oven just for being jews and I am not, I certainly have a better claim on morality than you. "

    Really? Because you say so? Maybe the Germans liked putting people in ovens and it made them happy. Or maybe doing so helped with the survival of the species. Or maybe the death of millions makes the earth a better place by reducing pollution. Who knows. You say it is wrong to do it. And I agree with you. But in the end, you have no reason to say that it is wrong other than you say so.

  • ||

    "In which case shut the fuck up about morals because if there is no God, then no one has any better claim to morality than anyone else."

    I agree with this. If there is no God, then you can't say that anything's "evil" or "wrong." So in the absence of a God, stuffing jews into an oven couldn't be considered "wrong."

    Moral relativism blows.

  • ||

    Based on...?

  • Benjamin||

    While some behavior is relativistic (saying yes please or no thank you) there is strong evidence within the fields of cultural anthropology and other behavioral sciences that suggest there is a strong moral coded ingrained in the the majority of individuals within the species of higher mammals. It has been said on this forum and elsewhere that morals arise from god and without such supernatural guidance there is only the chaos of moral relativism. I don't think the science supports that contention.

    @John - Thanks...I think. My wife is Catholic and I don't hate on religion. It got my grandfather through the hard times when my grandma died and i know it is very important to many people. I just don't like when people make grandiose claims that only a strong belief in their particular version of god can produce a good a decent person.

    Everything humans do and say, define and believe is shaped by our perception within the natural universe. We create such ideas as moral relativism, liberty, piety, atheism and all the others. Yet as a good scientist will tell you we can't really prove anything. Humanity is not omnipotent. We work within our limits and struggle on the best we can. I just think think that adding in a god or two is a major cop-out. It's not good or bad, but it does add to the confusion.

  • Piltdown Man||

    All right, all right, you unbelievers in SCIENCE. ;-)

    I prefer the pejorative Denialist thank you ;-)

  • ||

    Eureka! They've discovered Protestantism!

    Some of us have known about the Priesthood of Believers for a long time.

  • ||

    Protestantism? I don't think they study included progressive dinners.

  • ||

    No, seriously. They've got this religion, right here in America, where people read the Bible and interpret it for themselves... I've seen 'em do it!

    They get together on an almost weekly basis with other likeminded Christians, they do it all the time!

    I know! I thought these Christian thingies just hated on whatever the Pope told them to hate... You know it's really hard to make generalizations about people sometimes--it's like they just flat out refuse to conform to preconceptions!

    So, anyway, yeah, it turns out these Christians have biases and preconceptions, and those are in turn influenced by perspective and culture...

    Who'd a thunk it?!

  • Mad Max||

    Another study from a social-science study proves that the soft social sciences are just as good as hard sciences, and that social scientists deserve to get just as many government grants. Also, social scientists are sexier.

  • Thor||

    This makes perfect sense for some of us for whom god and I are the same.

  • ||

    Not exactly earthshaking insights. People who leave the religion they are raised in will obviously gravitate toward a belief system that fits their personal views.

    "Wow. Buddhism is complete horsepucky. I'll go be a Buddhist." doesn't happen very often.

    A better study might have been done on the motivations and beliefs of people who stay in religions that they disagree with profoundly.

  • Barak Obama||

    I know! I know!

  • Reverand Wright||

    Not god bless Obama. God damn Obama.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    There are any number of highly rational and well thought outinternally consistent, but non-falsifiable arguements for the existence of God in general and the truth of Christianity in particular.

    Which is fine: whatever it takes to get through the day, 'ya know. Whatever tools your need to find you internal strength and (hopefully!) goodness. God or lack there of go with you. Live long and prosper.

    But believing doesn't make you good or special, or add anything that wasn't there before. 'Course not believing doesn't make you good or special, or add anything either.

    The only other thing as annoying as a proselytizing believer is a proselytizing nonbeliever.

  • Jesus||

    I'm glad that these scientists have confirmed what I already taught on the subject, specifically, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
    Matthew 7:3

    I look foward to the outcome of the study on camels passing through eyes of needles too.

  • Chris||

    I believe they are in the process of constructing larger needles.

  • ||

    I have heard it said that "the eye of a needle" refers to the small gate into a city that is used at night. When it got dark, the rest of the city's gates were closed leaving "the eye of the needle" as the only way in. It was guarded and the camels had to crouch down in order to get through. It prevented night raids on the city.

  • Jesus||

    Nah, I was talking about ordinary needles.

    I mean, come on, the rich can enter on the kingdom of heaven if they stoop a little bit? Does that sound like something I'd say? I sure hope not.

  • ||

    Yes, in fact it does. Just put aside your pride, bow to your savior, and you may enter.

  • ||

    I swear to Thor, I saw a bumper sticker once that said "If it ain't King James, it ain't Bible."

    Quadruple-checked for typos. That's actually how it was printed.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Enjoy Every Sandwich's Anthony quote is right on target. But it's also true that the teachings of any given religion never stopped its adherents from engaging in behavior they wanted to engage in. The rationalizations and justifications come later.

  • VM||

    the priests molesting all those boys is an example that comes to mind of this type of rationalization

  • MNG||

    "read the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

    The national academy of sciences? Why would anyone believe what they say? After all they endorse AGW! Surely the CRU flap has proven that everything the NAS says now is false.

    http://dels.nas.edu/climatechange/index.shtml

  • ||

    Should you be fucking yourself at this time of day?

  • MNG||

    Here we need a Sarah Palin fanboy to educate us on science.

    He's releasing his report on Witchcraft very soon...

  • ||

    You must be profoundly stupid. I have been posting here for more than a year and as most every other regular here knows, I am no fan of Palin. I defy you to provide a single link at H&R where I commend her for anything.

    Two-bit moron.

  • Piltdown Man||

    You must be profoundly stupid.

    New here?

  • ||

    That two-bit moron is a self-described Doctorate in Political Science.

    I know what you're thinking, "So what? that's harldy a doctorate at all!", and you'd be right.

  • ||

    I resent your notion that Political Science doctorates are useless. Pol Sci PhDs have given us many wonderful things, chief among which is this website: http://www.poliscijobrumors.com/

  • ||

    Stop burning the straw men MNG. The NAS is a political organization. They have endorsed bad science in the past. ANd good science for that matter. Regardless, their endorsement says nothing one way or another about the validity of AGW or the problems associated with climate modeling.

  • MNG||

    As I said John we should ignore them right? What do they know?

  • ||

    At best it is argument by appeal to authority. Further, being the NAS, they are a multidiciplinary group. It is not like they are out re-creating the research. At best they are basing their opinions on the peer reviewed literature, which we know now has been deeply compromised.

  • MNG||

    Right John, we should ignore them. It's for people like you or me, or columnists for the National Post to say.

  • MNG||

    And the GPU, and AGS, and the AMS, etc., they're multidisciplinary too, right John.

    And John, are'nt you multidisciplanry, at best?

  • ||

    Wow. Get off it. Disagreeing with the interpretation of possibly shaky data by somebutnotall scientists on a particular subject is not a wholesale rejection of science altogether. This is a pathetic line of attack to base a weeklong meme on.

  • MNG||

    But SF, it's ok to take the NAS et al seriously on something like this, but not on AGW.

    Surely you can explain why.

  • ||

    Who's taking it seriously? We are all debating the merits and parameters of the study and casting doubt on the conclusions, or at least deriding their obviousness.

    All you want to do is shut down debate on a subject you feel is settled. That's more against the principles of scientific inquiry than anything your fantasy science-deniers are doing.

  • MNG||

    It's not shutting down debate, it's ignoring irrelevant debate. You and I debating on climate science is insanely stupid as we don't know a fraction of what is needed to have expert knowledge on the subject. The debate should rage on between people who have some training and education in this area. It has gone on. And we know how that has worked out so far.

    If the GPU, the AMS, the NAS et al., concluded AGW was bunk today I would be the first one to agree with them.

  • ||

    "It's not shutting down debate, it's ignoring irrelevant debate."

    Yeah that is one way to put it. Yet, we are the denialist. You have now added arguement by tautology to your previous argument by appeal to authority. You are on a roll today MNG.

  • ||

    Really. Please. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

    Hey Reason, can we get a filtering option here? Maybe you can trade the English Only option for it.

  • MNG||

    SF: Me have solid principle for whether scientific opinion is correct or not. If me agree with it, it correct. If me not, it is not.

  • ||

    Good job. Your joe impression is spot on. Don't read and respond to what I'm saying, just make up a position for me and argue against it.

    You had almost stopped being an asshole troll, but I guess reversion to form is just too tempting.

  • MNG||

    SF, don't get sand in your vagina...I replied to you seriously above @ 11:52.

  • ||

    No, you didn't. You haven't responded to anything I've actually said, just the position you want me to have so I can be discounted.

    I don't have a sandy vagina, I was attempting to engage you on the subject like I can Neu Mejican. I was just trying to debate in good faith and you just want to argue by proxy with John.

    I'm not pouting. I'm disappointed in you.

  • ||

    MNG, you are a known troller on this issue. If you want people to take you seriously, stop trolling and start admitting that there is at least a problem. Appealing to authority and saying that "we are not shutting down debate just 'irrelevent debate" doesn't cut it.

  • MNG||

    I mean, it's better for people like you and me to figure out what is going on with scientific claims than the NAS, the Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Meterological Society, etc...

    I'm just trying to keep you consistent in the principles you espouse.

  • ||

    yes, argument by appeal to authority is so convincing. The fact that you have to resort to it, shows how deeply wounded AGW is.

  • MNG||

    John
    Argument to relevant authority is a well recognized part of informal logic. Please progress past your Logic 101 knowledge of what a logical fallacy is.

  • Mad Max||

    MNG, why do you insist on hijacking an unrelated thread to promote your pet causes? ؟

  • MNG||

    I'm hoping that's ironic, as you are the King, well let me make that Pope, of threadjacking.

    Seriously though, on AGW sites we hear "Who cares what the NAS says." I'm just making sure everyone who says that is consistent. I mean, who cares about that groups study upon which this thread is based? What do they know, right?

  • Mad Max||

    'I'm hoping that's ironic'

    Good guess! What clued you in? ؟

  • ||

    Just a point, but if you'd read most of the posts, you'd know that people were mostly pointing out how this was in fact irrelevant. So, your point was completely without merit from the beginning.

  • ||

    MNG,

    Appeal to authority is the least pursuasive form of argument. This is especially true when the debate is over the validity of the authority itself. The debate is whether the science is any good. Appealing to the NAS on that subject is like appealing to the authority of the Pope on the subject of the divinity of Jesus.

  • Neu Mejican||

    There is a nice study done...can't seem to locate it quickly today, that shows people are more likely to believe the conclusions of a study if that study includes fMRI data...whether or not the fMRI data has anything to do with the questions at hand. This was found to be true both for experts in the field and for laymen.

    It was the first thing I thought about reading the abstract to this study.

  • ||

    The old hard science vs. soft bias?

    Which is a bit silly, because while the imaging data might be objective, the interpretation of it is decidedly subjective.

    (No, this is not a AGW stalking horse.) :-)

  • rst||

    I cannot speak for religion as a whole, but I've never found in any part of the Christian bible any justification for the belief that its god speaks to issues, rather than people. In fact, the message seems to be that if you can't be faithful and upright even in downtown Gemorrah, the Almighty would just as soon turn you to a pillar of salt.

    Translation: your "salvation", such as it is, is not Obama's responsibility, it's yours.

  • Bob #2||

    I hate to admit it, but I do agree with some of their signs. If there is a god, he does hate loud, obnoxious Harley riders.

  • ||

  • ||

    Uganda really reeally hates them. Enough to execute them.

  • ||

    You know I like having sex with women, but if the US passed a law making sex with woman a capital offense, I'd likely give it up.

  • Chris||

    Look at this like someone fixing their hair in a funhouse mirror. If the mirror changes convexity or concavity, the image of themselves will change, and they'll fix their hair in relation to this change. They are looking at themselves the whole time, but the nature of the mirror changes. So if God is the image of oneself reflected upon one's experience (the mirror), and one's experience changes one's view of God, what is changed is also one's view of oneself, and so one adjusts one's morals (hair) appropriately.

    Personally, I prefer to skip the middle man, but to each his own.

  • Mad Max||

    I would be interested in seeing the responses of the people who reported themselves as disagreeing with God, or who started believing that they agreed with God but argued themselves into a position they believed to be contrary to God's.

    'Sure, I know God supports medical marijuana. I mean, he created those dumb pot plants, and that hippie Son of His was always into healing . . . but I want to keep the criminal penalties on the books.'

    'I know God will send me to Hell for this, but Amy Grant's music just sucks! Sorry, God, your musical taste is just appalling.'

    Did these guys interview Christopher Hitchens? From his work, he seems to wish he could believe in God, just so he can tell the Almighty where to stick it.

  • Julian Jayne's Ka||

    Read my book!

  • Frater Perdurabo||

    Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

  • Fixed||

    ...in Hell.

  • Morris||

    We do, of course, classify libertarianism as a religion. Talk about echo chambers! Radley Balko's babble about SWAT teams is confirmation bias writ large.

  • Warty||

    I thought you only hated Jesse Walker and Ron Paul, Edward. I thought everybody liked Radley.

    What happened, were you gang-raped by a roving pack of libertarians as a child? Are you ashamed that you enjoyed it thoroughly?

  • ||

    He has nothing substantive to say. His mind is a useless as that pale and flaccid worm that lies shriveled against his empty scrotum.

  • Vm||

    Let's submit Morris's post to the H&R Drinking Committee Award For the Most Transparent Attempt to Get Us to Start Drinking Earlier than Normal.

    betcha he'd get top three for 2009.

  • ||

    Speaking of God, I'm reading a book called The Trouble with Physics (by physicist Lee Smolin), which critiques the many problems with string theory, including the academic and funding biases towards string theory research. Very interesting, and I think it's instructive for thinking about other "popular" areas of research where experimental predictions, etc. are lacking. I'm not just making a veiled reference to climatology--I think this is a problem in other areas that are studying matters of great complexity.

    One point he makes that I think is generally known but not always considered is how much data anomalies drive scientific revolutions. For instance, perhaps dark matter and dark energy are going to turn out to be flaws in the standard model, not actual physical attributes of the universe.

  • Warty||

  • ||

    That is a really good book. I read it right after I read Brian Green's book on string theory. I found Green's book totally unconvincing. He admits up front that many of the things in it will never be confirmable through experiment or observation. If it is not confirmable, how is it science? And more importantly, how is his claim that strings are doing this or that any different than someone else's claim that God is doing it?

    It reminded me somewhat of the AGW science. Every time I ask a beleiver to show me an experiment and a prediction that confirms the theory, the believer responds that I just don't understand science. Really?

  • ||

    Speaking of flaws in the standard model, there does seem to be a bias,
    whether it be in theology or string theory, to treat internal consistency as proof.

    But internal consistency doesn't count in your favor, it just doesn't count against you. Fairy tales can be internally consistent.

  • ||

    That is to my thinking the big con of string theory. In absence of experimental data, its adherents fall back on the idea of mathmatical elegance. The idea seems to be whatever the most eligant and simple sollution to a problem is the answer to that problem.

    Who ever said nature has be live by our notions of ellegance and simplicity?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Smolin's book is great, but I think you misread his point if you are applying it to AGW...his complaints about string theory have to do with the untestability of the theory. AGW is not, in principle, untestable.

    As for the internal consistency thing...string theory is an attempt to put together an elegant piece of mathematics...and they have failed even on that front. In its current form it is hogwash even on that level.

    If you are equating an empirically driven enterprise like AGW with String Theory you are off base, it seems to me.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Read "Not Even Wrong" for more on this issue

    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/

  • ||

    I'm not equating the two, just making a point. More significant and directly analogous to me was what he said about the vogueness of string theory almost clearing out funding and research opportunities for those pursuing other approaches, like quantum gravity.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Prolib,

    My comment was aimed more at John's comment.

    Indeed the issue of funding fads is an important one in any field of science. For climate research, it seems to me, this manifests in terms of a bias towards research that focuses on human/climate interactions, but given the political debate that surrounds these kinds of questions, I don't see it as likely that a particular study would not get funding because it goes against the prevailing view. There is money ready for anyone who wanted to disprove the IPCC position.

  • ||

    AGW is alledgedly testable, yet no one can ever point to an instance where they correctly predicted where the climate is going. Indeed, that is one of the bigger scandals of the GRU e-mails. In some of them, Jones and company are admitting that their methods for reconstructing past temperatures don't work when applied to years where the temperature is known.

    It is similiar to string threory in two ways. First, its testability is dubious. Second, it shows how a particular theory can become such a fad that it takes over an entire field of study at the expense of everything else.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I disagree strongly with your first point. Even if you feel the current attempts to test the theory have failed so far, it is a theory that make many testable predictions.

    As for climate predictions, you may not be comfortable with the precision of the predictions, but the IPCC predictions over the last few decades have panned out pretty much as expected. Actual climate has stayed within the margin of error for IPCC predictions follow the trends predicted by their models. There seems to be a tendency for observations to stay at the upper ranges of these predictions for most parameters, but very few fall outside the confidence range. This would be expected as consensus panels like the IPCC tend to be conservative in their conclusions as they include individuals from across the spectrum of views on an issue.

  • ||

    I'm forced to wonder if you have any clue what real temperature trends in our recent history are.

    I'd respond further, but I'd prefer to stay on topic.

  • ||

    It's not just the funding, though I question whether the vast majority of research dollars are available to anyone working on anti-AGW research.

    I think the bigger issue is getting published or getting an academic position, let alone tenure, if you're too far off the reservation. I don't think this is as absolutely political as many skeptics believe--after all, there's not much of a political reason for a similar problem to occur with physics research.

    The road to the truth ain't easy--we're built to screw it up, apparently.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Prolib,

    I still say that there is no issue with finding funding for research that would go against the dominant postion. That said, I agree with you on all the rest of those points.

    aelhues,
    Your question is a bet vague to address.

    Here is a nice discussion of the issue. http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot......rends.html

  • ||

    It may very well be that we can't really unify all of our theories. Not that it isn't possible at some level, just that it isn't possible for us. Sure hope not.

  • ||

    Sure hope that it isn't impossible, I mean.

  • ||

    Why? We have known for nearly a hundred years now that our experience of reality and logic do not apply at the quantum level. It is not very surprising given that, that we cannot come up with a mathematical theory or explination for the world as it is. If things are beyond our ordinary experience, why can't others be beyond even a mathematical explination?

  • ||

    I'm not ready to accept that we've reached the end of physics. In fact, I think we've still got a long ways to go.

  • ||

    I don't think that we have reached the end of physics. I just think that we have long since reached the end of the idea that nature in any way conforms to our experience and expectations.

  • Skeptic||

    Theoretically, though, if you could unify all your theories, wouldn't that mean you're at the end of physics then? I mean, that's where a lot of the medieval philosophers thought they were with Thomas Aquinas: they'd finally corrected Aristotle's works, this new synthesis explained everything about the world, and now all they had to do was apply this to all their observations and they would know everything there was to be known.

    Then some smart-alecks came along and discovered huge inconsistencies between how observable nature actually worked and how Aristotle and Aquinas thought it worked, and the whole paradigm collapsed. Then whole new schools of thought arose to seek out some new paradigm. Those schools remain at odds with each other to this day.

    Given that we keep on finding out things about this huge universe of physics and metaphysics of ours that contradict previous findings, doesn't it stand to reason that not only do we not know all that there is to know, but that we never will know it all simply because there's an infinite amount to know? Wouldn't an infinite amount of truth to be discovered actually be a good thing?

    To put it another way, isn't there something oddly comforting about the possibility that our scientists and philosophers have permanent employment, especially if you happen to be a scientist or philosopher?

  • VM||

    [Doctor Evil voice]
    Really.
    [/DEV]

  • ||

    That's a no-brainer

  • ||

    I am proposing a new church: The Church of Warty.

    There are some of the tenants of my god Warty.

    1. Snorting thy coke off a hookers ass is good.
    2. Snorting thy line of coke off Warty's ass gets thyself into heaven automatically.
    3. Thy masturbation is an Olympic event.
    4. If thoust ist invited to a gangbang, thou shall bring your own lube.
    5. Thou shall not bogart.
    6. Thous shall kick every catholic priest in the balls when you see one, after all, they don't need them.
    7. Thou shall properly shower before teabagging.

  • Warty||

    I'm not the God, I'm a god. And apparently I'm Dionysus. Can I be Tyr instead?

  • ||

    Sure, let me get my cleaver. Which hand do you like less?

  • Warty||

    You have to be Fenris the wolf to bite off Tyr's arm, if I remember right. And it's the right arm.

  • ||

    I bet G-d likes these hot female triplets:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/S.....e/ShowFull

  • ||

    Wow. Israel is a just a volcano of hot chicks.

  • Mad Max||

    Turn-ons: long walks on the beach while sweeping for mines and guarding the coastline from terrorist infiltrators

    Turn-offs: anti-Semitism, Islamic extremism, mullets

  • ap||

    god creates dinosaurs. god destroys dinosaurs. god creates man. man destroys god. man creates dinosaurs

  • Benjamin||

    Jeff Goldblum's acting career; proof that god hates man.

  • Robert Enders||

    BELIEVER: Yippee! I got into med school!
    GOD: Change of plans. I want you to blow up a bus.
    BELIEVER: Ah shit, do I have to?
    GOD: Do it and I shall grant you virgins.
    BELIEVER: But I'm into cougars.

  • ||

    I know many atheists abide here, but surely everyone accepts the existence of this god.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    That is to my thinking the big con of string theory. In absence of experimental data, its adherents fall back on the idea of mathmatical elegance. The idea seems to be whatever the most eligant and simple sollution to a problem is the answer to that problem.

    Who ever said nature has be live by our notions of ellegance and simplicity?

    We are, of course, not entitled to simplicity or elegance out of the universe. But we have pretty good luck with the whole "simplest theory that fits the facts to date" thing.

    As I've written before the things you need to create a string theory are 1) the "simplest" group that has the requisite symmetries and 2) a minimum distance assumption to get rid of those nasty and unrenormalizable infinities.

    This is not dumb, as such.

    The problems 1) as you note, no remotely realizable tests are foreseen, 2) an embarrassing number of new, unconstrained parameters of no immediately obvious significance and 3) (a consequence of #2) it is not one theory but a whole class encompassing roughly a bajillion distinct domains.

    Sciencey? Yes.

    Science based? Yes.

    Science? Maybe someday.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Indeed, with a big emphasis on the MAYBE.

  • ||

    FWIW, IMHO, we are in a simulation. This guy John Walker has some interesting points here, here,
    So, Warty is nothing more than a very efficient hedonist algorithm, and God is probably some kid and his science fiar project.

  • ||

    and here ...scroll down to Signature in a Cell.

  • ||

    shit, I Sugar'd that last link. Click on "Most Recent" on the left, then scroll down to signature in a Cell.

  • ||

    I think, therefore I am a player, not an NPC.

  • anonymous||

    If you were a player, you would be fully aware of the true reality. At best, you're an avatar.

  • ||

    That doesn't even make sense. Avatar for what? A player, of course. I'm just using the full-immersion headset to dampen my perception of the other reality, which, of course, is also a simulation. In fact, it's simulations all the way down.

  • ||

    You are an immortal, but unconscious soul trapped in a cage of flesh and doomed to suffer in a world made by a corrupt, in competent and hateful Creator.

    Gnosticism 101.

  • ||

    That's a little light and optimistic for you, isn't it?

  • ||

    Well, I'm not a Gnostic, so...

    But, if this world was created, I don't think much of the architect. If this is the best of all possible worlds, the other ones would have to be mighty fucked up.

  • ||

    Who said anything about it being the best of all possible....

    Christian history teaches that the earth was created as a paradise, and that that was changed when we disobeyed God. At that point, people and the earth were changed to introduce struggle and hardship.

    In my estimation, if we are allowed free will, God has chosen to constrain Himself in order us room to be truly free. A perfect world is one without free will.

  • ||

    Who said anything about it being the best of all possible....

    Take it up with Gottfried Leibniz. It was his (insufficient, in my opinion) solution to the problem of evil (which is all about theological Free Will.)

    The insufficiency of arguments to solve the problem of evil is one of the main sources of my atheism.

  • ||

    SF,

    As I outline above, admitting that there is actually a problem of evil doesn't jive with atheistic thought.

    If there is no God, there can be no evil.

    Saying "How can God exist and allow a tragedy such as a tsunami kill all those people?" already implies God's existence.

    No other religion besides Christianity would be asking that question. The Muslim would say "God's Will" and move on. The Buddhist would say "Kharma." The atheist would have no answer other than "Sucks for them."

    If you are really an atheist, you wouldn't be curious about the "problem of evil" because evil doesn't exist to an atheist.

  • ||

    Evil is human suffering. Suffering exists independent of a belief in God. Either your God was unable to construct a world without suffering or unwilling. Either he doesn't exist or he is flawed to the point of incompetence or he somehow enjoys or is indifferent to human suffering.

    Good and evil exists to atheists. Morality and ethics exist to atheists.

    Your bigoted and hate-filled definition of what I believe is irrelevant.

  • ||

    It wasn't meant to be hate-filled or bigoted. My apologies if it was taken that way.

    I'm certainly not arguing that atheists can't be good people.

    I'm trying to make the point that the existence of evil, pain, suffering whatever doesn't disprove the existence of God.

    Here's why:
    1. Evil exists
    2. God couldn't allow Evil to exist
    3. Therefore God can't exist
    4. But I'm still experiencing suffering
    5. Suffering must therefore be inherent to the system I live in.
    6. So how can it be considered "bad" or "evil" if suffering is simply an affect my environment has my person.

    Suffering becomes a simple fact of life. Without a God, there is no "problem." Suffering and evil just are. It's not "wrong" or "right", it just IS.

  • ||

    I personally think this is sad, but probably the best argument for disbelief in God. I tend to blame the issue on the vast number of Calvinists, and others of similar beliefs.

    They would likely consider me a heretic because I actually believe that God changes his mind, and didn't know from the beginning of time that I was going to have pop tarts for breakfast this morning. I tend to assume that if the omniscient, all powerful God knew something about me then it would necessarily come to pass, leaving me with no ability to choose. Which it follows then that if that were true, any evil I commit, isn't actually me, since I didn't choose it, but God.

    I will and have stated that if that is the only God that is taught in the bible, then I am his enemy, not his worshiper. However more accurately, I'd be his automaton, since all of my "choices" were decided before the beginning of time.

    Fortunately I think the verses that they use to justify their beliefs don't fit my interpretations based on the whole story of the bible, nor the context, culture and seeming intent of the authors.

  • ||

    I've given a lot of thought to this problem as well. Currently, I think that free will and determinism aren't mutually exclusive.

    For example, if I have to choose between an apple and an orange, and Bob, a random bystander, already knows which one I'll choose. Does the fact that Bob knows which fruit I'll choose make my "decision" determined even though I still have to actually "make" the decision?

    In other words, does God's knowledge of the decision mean that He's controlling us? Or do we still have to struggle with the decision, and God just happens to know about it?

    Kind of like the Matrix thing: "You've already made the decision, now you have to understand it."

  • ||

    Think about it--high school students across Europe and North America, to this day, read Voltaire's book insulting Leibniz. I mean, has any insult ever reached so many for so long?

    I make it a point to use Newton's calculus rather than Leibniz's.

  • ||

    I think the barbs tossed between Athens and Sparta might have. Spartans managed to make "Philosopher" a "lover of wisdom" into an insult.

  • ||

    Nah, there weren't that many Athenians or Spartans.

  • ||

    "A perfect world is one without free will."

    I would say that a perfect world is one in which God's Will is obvious. Eden was perfect, yet humans still had free will.

    The choice of "God" or "not of God" must always exist for us to have free will. Without free will, the relationship between God and Man is meaningless because we are simply slaves.

  • ||

    But as soon as that free will was exercised in an undesirable manor, the entirety of reality was changed.

  • ||

    True. That was the consequence of Man's decision. Adam/Eve exercised free will before they ate of the tree. It's just that up until then, they always chose "God", and then there was that one time when they chose "not of God."

    Reality changed as a consequence of their decision. The existence of consequences doesn't restrict free will, you just have to ready to accept the consequences.

  • ||

    Actually, the rest of us are in on the gag, being buddies of God. This whole universe was created to make fun of you.

  • JB||

    "it's simulations all the way down"

    lol!

  • ||

    god is on the side of those w the bigger army.

  • Classicist||

    Tell that to Croesus.

  • ||

    Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems unlikely that the Lydian army was bigger than the Persian one.

  • VM||

    man oh man. get with the program. He dropped that name for Jean Bart. changed that to a bunch of others, and now is "Seward".

  • ||

    Religion is Man-made where Relationships are God-made. Do not put your faith in man as these post show that we are lost but put your faith in Him. Think about it.

  • ||

    "Religion is the wreckage of human attempts to tame God."

    -Ken Thorley

  • anonymous||

    I think anybody who is or has been religious, and has a tiny bit of perspective, would concede that this is true (ie, that our concept of divine morality/justice is linked to our conscience). But that said, it's good for someone to explicitly show it.

  • ||

    A great discussion about god...

    http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php

  • Paul||

    It informs whether same-sex marriage is love or sin, whether war is an act of security or of terror, and whether abortion rights represent personal liberty or permission to murder.

    Or why people who fly airliners into buildings.... or why people blow themselves up in busy cafes...just sort of, you know, found that omission interesting.

  • ||

    War? You're response is meaningless in the context of his post.

    You can attempt to equate Islam with Christianity all you want, but that doesn't at all make them similar, or of the same utility. I don't know something about the command to give unbelievers the choice of whether to convert, submit or die.

  • VM||

    same "god". nuff said.

  • Paul||

    Maybe it is... I read over the basic post without going to the original article, and I felt it was a bit of a dog-bites-man story. Surprise! Religious people feel god is on their side!

    In the snippet, I just found it interesting that (to me), the writer seemed to be corralling the GOP in his example. A good example to be sure, but religious fervor isn't unique to the GOP.

    And for the record, there was no attempt on my part to "compare Islam with Christianity". Not sure where you got that. This was a post about God and religion, no?

  • word of God||

    I have no idea what God thinks about abortion or homosexuality or war or the Army-Navy game, but I do know he absolutely hates threaded comments on Reason. They are an abomination and a crime against nature for which you must repent now!

  • ||

    Well, that goes without saying. It's natural law.

  • VM||

    but the indentations are finite...

  • Paul||

    God is on your side... I know it.

  • VM||

    but for how many indents, man? mein gott! how many indents?

  • Paul||

    If God is against threaded comments, who could be for them?

  • VM||

    kommunists. atheists. who are kommunists. and islamofascisterrorist*gasp*evuldooers

  • VM||

    AND HUGH JACKMAN

  • ||

    Some sort of anti-God, I suppose. A force for evil.

  • Gallery||

    Amen, brother! Tell us the word!

  • ||

    Zod?

  • Guy Smiley||

    [T]hese data provide insight into the sources of people’s own religious beliefs.

    Um... No, it doesn't.

    However, the non-sequitur conclusions drawn from it provide insight into the irrational atheism of the researchers.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz books series either as collectible or investment at www.RareOzBooks.com.

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